While Tom Jones may have provided an ode to the sex bomb, it seems the George W. Bush era was a debt bomb.
But beyond those times, it took Barack Obama to raise our debt bomb to high fashion.
And yes, Barry dropped a bomb on
Because things that can’t continue forever don’t, an important issue to every man, woman, and child in America—and beyond—is this: Where will you be, financially and otherwise, when the music stops?
But if a low growth (or no growth) future is… the future, how will government, which has become all things to all peoples at all times, keep everyone happy?
The answer is they can’t. It starts with bread and circuses to delay the inevitable and ends… poorly. Poorly like no bread and seizures.
Is it too early to start brushing up on the sustenance skills?
The economy grew at an anemic 0.4% in the fourth quarter. But that’s the good news; it was only expected to grow 0.1%.
As such, economic giants like Paul Krugman and Brad DeLong can rightly claim that growth was 400% greater than expected.
Expect a public service announcement from Organizing for America touting the same—the 400%, not the 0.1%—to be released at 1PM Eastern Time.
The worst economic crisis since the Great Depression is the so-called recovery under President Barack Obama. The Obama “recovery” has been actually been worse than the Bush “recession.”
The state of our union is this: Incomes are lower today than they were when Barack Obama was first sworn in as president. True, he became president during a recession, and incomes dropped 2.6 percent during the recession. Since the end of the recession, they have dropped another 4.8 percent — which is to say, incomes have fallen almost twice as fast during President Obama’s so-called recovery than they fell during what he (inaccurately) called “the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.”
North Korea has Dear Leader. We have Dear Reader. Iran has the Ayatollah, we have President “I-just-told-ya.” Libya had Khadafy, we have “Hillary, get me a coffee.” France has a rich, clueless, socialist poser as its president; America has a rich, clueless, socialist poser as its president.
If America succeeds—and the trend line is not encouraging—it will be in spite of President Obama and not because of him. Even Bill Clinton (once he’d lost the House and the Senate) knew enough to get the government out of the American economy’s way.
So how to explain the President’s not-stellar-but-not-as-bad-as-you’d-expect approval ratings? Easy: You can fool some of the people all of the time.
From the ‘separated at birth’ files: the Saudi dude who vowed to keep oil below $100 a barrel is actually
a) Bono playing a Saudi dude,
b) the late Peter Sellers playing a Saudi dude.
c) the late John Cazale playing a Saudi dude.
d) the late Nobel peace prize winner Yasser Arafat playing a Saudi dude.
e) the late Nobel peace prize winner Yasser Arafat playing Ringo Starr playing a Saudi dude.
Regardless, is the Middle East all down to Goodnight Vienna?
The befuddling clueless of the Obama Administration begins at the top. Again, it must be asked: does the man actually believe the blather he says, or is he just attempting to get an effect (reelection)? Unlike the run-up to the 2008 elections, Obama can no longer credibly play the ‘trust me’ card; America has seen what he’s done to the country and he no doubt feels the situation must be addressed in some manner.
(Note: I set up my own Obama-like straw man with the above question because there is no reason it has to be an “either or” question. It can be an “and” question, that is, that he believes his own blather and is trying to get a reelection effect.)
Consider three consecutive paragraphs from his speech in Osawatomie, Kansas:
Today, even higher-skilled jobs, like accountants and middle management can be outsourced to countries like China or India. And if you’re somebody whose job can be done cheaper by a computer or someone in another country, you don’t have a lot of leverage with your employer when it comes to asking for better wages or better benefits, especially since fewer Americans today are part of a union.
Today, the only unions that are making a go of it seem to be those organized by employees of the government, that is, teacher unions and government employee unions at every level. Obama’s double-down on class warfare as an early campaign theme is self-evident, but I’d bet if you asked the President and he replied truthfully, he’d say he believes in Darwinism: self-selection, beneficial adaptations, and survival of the fittest… except as it applies to economics.
In the case of the economy, he’d offer that massive government intervention is not just useful, but that it’s necessary. The President probably has a whole shelf full of trophies, plaques, and ribbons from his childhood which say “Participant,” which he incorrectly equates with “Winner.” The lesson, to me, and I may be a voice crying in the wilderness, is that there are winners in China and India and America needs to be able to compete in the marketplace, and as Darwin might say, or die.
Next, it is politically useful to try and co-opt the name of a revered member of the opposition, and having tried to use Ronald Reagan and Dwight Eisenhower in the past, Obama now attempts to draw on Teddy Roosevelt (never mind that TR could be thought of as the very opposite of Obama’s own crony capitalist meme, yet in other regards, it seemed TR was as economically intrusive as were “conservative” Richard Nixon’s wage and price controls. With Nixon, and of course, Carter, perhaps Obama truly shares more).
Now, just as there was in Teddy Roosevelt’s time, there is a certain crowd in Washington who, for the last few decades, have said, let’s respond to this economic challenge with the same old tune. “The market will take care of everything,” they tell us. If we just cut more regulations and cut more taxes — especially for the wealthy — our economy will grow stronger. Sure, they say, there will be winners and losers. But if the winners do really well, then jobs and prosperity will eventually trickle down to everybody else. And, they argue, even if prosperity doesn’t trickle down, well, that’s the price of liberty.
“There is a certain crowd” is one of Obama’s favorite straw men. He must have a nearly unlimited supply of straw men given his nearly unending use of “Some say (something ridiculous) but I say (something profound).” While that’s merely disingenuous, a bigger problem seems to be Obama doesn’t think the market will take care of much of anything, and that’s why it has to be massively regulated by the government. However, the lessons of history show when the market takes care of nothing, totalitarianism, black markets, and human suffering follow. It’s practically mathematical in its precision, even though the timeline varies.
At this point, Obama provides more evidence of his truly dizzying intellect:
Now, it’s a simple theory. And we have to admit, it’s one that speaks to our rugged individualism and our healthy skepticism of too much government. That’s in America’s DNA. And that theory fits well on a bumper sticker. (Laughter.) But here’s the problem: It doesn’t work. It has never worked. (Applause.) It didn’t work when it was tried in the decade before the Great Depression. It’s not what led to the incredible postwar booms of the ‘50s and ‘60s. And it didn’t work when we tried it during the last decade. (Applause.) I mean, understand, it’s not as if we haven’t tried this theory.
This is where the true befuddling cluelessness of Obama stands alone. Parsing out his statements (scripted, staffed, coordinated, and read from a teleprompter), you can derive this: he doesn’t think that we should have a healthy skepticism of too much government. You can also see Obama ignores or dismisses many economic elephants in the living room and other inconvenient truths: postwar, much of the world (except the U.S.) lay in ruins, incapable of even feeding itself; there was massive pent-up U.S. demand following the war. Finally, the “boom” of the ‘60s was fueled by deficit government spending: emerging transfer programs; the Vietnam and Cold Wars; the space program. In the ‘70s, we reaped the whirlwind of such foolishness and given the President’s lame ideas, appear ready again today.
Merging the befuddling cluelessness and inexperience of the President with the Chicago-style politics of Obamaland means the diet always starts tomorrow. Two obvious issues are that 1) problems seldom age well and 2) Obama’s methods are unsound.
By PAUL RUGRAT
(If you must, read Paul Krugman’s original column here. Based on his writing, I sometimes wonder if he isn’t actually some sort of self-parody genius.)
Last month President Obama finally unveiled a serious economic stimulus plan — far short of what I’d like to see, but a step in the right direction, including a call for the government to seize all sources of production. Republicans, predictably and sadly, have blocked it. But the new plan, combined with the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations, seems to have shifted my office conversations. We are, suddenly, focused on what we should have been talking about all along: creating more deficit-fueled government jobs.
So what is the G.O.P. jobs plan? The answer, in large part, is to poison the environment, where President Obama, in his normal non-partisan and non-strawmanish manner, recently revealed that Republicans want to make us both poorer and sicker.
Now it would be wrong to say that all Republicans see increased pollution as the answer to unemployment. Herman Cain says that the unemployed are responsible for their own plight. We know from a study our interns created that the unemployed are the responsibility of the Republicans while anyone with a job is the responsibility of the Democrats (but don’t expect this finding to be met with wild applause at any presidential debates).
Both Rick Perry and Mitt Romney have, however, put poisoning America at the core of their economic proposals. Mr. Perry has put out a specific number — 1.2 million jobs — that I think is based on a study released by the Texas Tea Institute, a trade association, claiming favorable employment effects from removing restrictions on oil and gas extraction. The idea that the county could benefit from sending less money overseas for our energy needs is simply absurd, and was proven by the administration’s approval to guarantee a half-billion dollar loan for Finland to build electric cars.
But does this filthy, dangerous, and radical oil-industry-backed study actually make a serious case for weaker environmental protection as a job-creation strategy? No: only Republicans would do that.
Part of the problem is that the study relies heavily on an assumed “multiplier” effect, in which every new job in energy leads indirectly to the creation of 2.5 jobs elsewhere. The truth is, only government jobs are capable of creating this type of multiplier effect.
You might want to compare these numbers to the Bush-caused 14 million unemployed, and the one million to two million jobs that independent estimates from fifth graders in Newark which suggest the shovel-ready Obama plan would create, not in the distant future, but by next Tuesday.
More U.S. energy production, then, isn’t the route to increased employment. Additionally, what about the longer-term economic case for less environmental protection? It isn’t there: comprehensive economic analysis from a separate fifth grade class in Bayonne says that we need more protection, not less.
The important thing to understand is that the case for pollution control is based on an aesthetic distaste for industrial society (the Luddites were ahead of their time). Pollution does real, measurable damage, especially to human health and it’s why Americans are living shorter lives than ever before.
And policy makers should take that damage into account. We need more Democrats who support environmental controls on coal-fired power plants, despite warnings that the plant might be closed, because “I will not sign onto jobs or create government jobs that kill people.”
Actually, that was Barack Obama, back in 2003 — who boldly voted “present” on important anti-energy legislation.
How big are these damages? A new study by middle school science clubs near Yale and Middlebury College brings together data from a variety of sources to make up a dollar value on the environmental damage various industries inflict. The estimates are far from comprehensive, since they only consider air pollution, and they make no effort to address longer-term issues such as the IPCC’s settled science of manmade global warming or the costs of removing drowned polar bear carcasses from the seas. Even so, the results are stunning.
It turns out that every for-profit inflicts environmental damage that’s worth more than the sum of the wages they pay and the profits they earn — which means, in effect, that they destroy value rather than create it. The only jobs that don’t poison the environment: government (and government favored) jobs.
Democrats know that increased regulation is the only way to put the economy back on track following the disastrous Bush-caused recession. Republicans, meanwhile, have strong incentives to claim otherwise as earth-destroying industries are concentrated in the for-profit sectors, which with the exception of Wall Street, overwhelmingly donates to the G.O.P.
The reality is that more Republican pollution wouldn’t solve our jobs problem. Even the children know all it would do is make us poorer and sicker.
More brilliant metaphors along the lines of ‘the world is flat’ and ‘let’s make Uncle Sam into a world-class cage-fighter.’ If you must, read the original here.
IT BECOMES clearer every week that our country faces a big choice: we can either have a hard decade or a bad century. But thanks to the President’s new “green magic 8-ball” program (GMEB, jointly funded by the NASA climate science program and DARPA), our knowledge of both the next decade and the next century is now omniscient. But we’re cantankerous human beings: will we submit to the wisdom of the green magic 8-ball?
The GMEB says we must either tie our shoes and do what’s needed to overcome our post-cold war excesses with creative, new excesses, or we can just keep tripping on our untied shoelaces into the future. Given this dilemma, the green magic 8-ball says our politicians will rise to the challenge only through compromise on massive, fair, and credible government intervention.
Over the next century, the GMEB says there are three elements a serious government intervention plan will have: cuts (in defense), increases (in taxes), and growing investment in the sources of our strength (our precious bodily fluids and more). But that, alas, is not what we’re getting, which is why there remains an opening for an independent Third Rail candidate, a Fourth Estate candidate, or even a Fifth Column candidate for the 2012 campaign.
The Republicans have not addressed the three-element challenge because the G.O.P. is no longer a “conservative” party, offering a conservative formula for American renewal. The G.O.P. has been captured by a sad and radical freedom, antitax, and small government agenda, and the party’s leaders are too afraid to challenge it. What would “real” conservatives be offering now?
They would understand, as President Nixon did, that at this point in history we cannot just be about cutting. We also need to be “investing” in the sources of our greatness: China (obviously); our precious bodily fluids (obviously); infrastructure (think Big Dig); education (it’s for the children); immigration (who else will take your order at Taco Bell?); and, government-funded research (on manmade global warming). Dangerous, radical conservatives are now suggesting you cannot simply print more money for government programs, despite the self-evident benefits of these programs, to include the aforementioned green magic 8-ball program.
A real conservative like Nixon would understand we cannot maintain our vital defense budget without tax increases on our most productive Americans. He’d understand the benefits of a state-managed economy with much-needed interventions like wage and price freezes. Real conservatives would know we can get rid of all the special-interest giveaways and still keep important subsidies for Mohair, ethanol, LightSquared, Solyndra, and firearms for Mexican drug lords. Finally, real conservatives would understand that the Tea Party is really the Tea Kettle Party; unhappy people letting off steam (which is actually the vaporized form of their own precious bodily fluids).
However, flying in the face of both the green magic 8-ball and “real” conservatives, the Washington Post reported: “The latest Obama speech ‘didn’t produce any savings,’ said Maya MacGuineas, the president of the bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. ‘He reread it and repackaged it and replaced one gimmick with another but it doesn’t do squat.’ The most disheartening development was Obama’s decision to count $1.1 trillion in “savings” from the drawdown of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan toward his debt-reduction total. Because Obama has no intention of continuing war spending at last year’s elevated levels, that $1.1 trillion would never have been spent.”
While they may have a point, my trust is still in the green magic 8-ball and my hope is that “real” conservatives will come to their senses and engage Obama in a Grand Bargain. However, my fear is that the Republicans have a massive leg-up in their 2012 campaigns. If my fear is true, my only desire is that I may remain a public service in providing pithy and pertinent witticisms and metaphors even as I’m a hostage to my own inexplicable fortune, the orphan of a political system gone mad, and hunkered down in a palatial green bunker for a bad century.
The President’s much-needed approach to fixing the federal deficit (if you must, read the original here)
This time, President Obama did not have his left hand compromise with his right hand, or put out a half measure in hope of luring nonexistent Congressional support. This time, he issued an unabashed and bold call: the use of economic fairies to cut the federal deficit.
And this time, in the Rose Garden on Monday, he seemed to read directly to a public that has been parched for his far side leadership. The two troubling notes of the day were Mr. Obama’s failure to provide all the specifics of how the economic fairies will work, and the House’s inexplicable continued faith in the American people.
Still, the president’s plan for the fairies to fix the economy over the next 10 years is an excellent start. It’s thought to entail about 60 percent of the fairies magic be centered on unwinding an insolvent Social Security and Medicare effort that George W. Bush is to be blamed for, with 40 percent on tax increases for evil spirits.
Fairies will thus find a way to pay for the President’s desperately needed jobs talking paper sent to Congress last week without more mindless hacking at pure and much-needed benevolent government programs. Fairies are a much better alternative to the $1.2 trillion in across-the-board spending cuts that loom if Congress does not pass a debt plan this year.
Republicans will, of course, mount obdurate opposition since they have no faith in the magic of economic fairies and have no intention of allowing the fairies to cast their spells on the nation’s evil spirits. Even before the plan was announced, GOP leaders had rolled out their rusted artillery, calling Obama’s fairy plan “idiotic” and insisting that it would be a waste of time.
For once the president did not let that predictable line of argument stop him, and even had a good rejoinder: “This is not class warfare between the clean and unclean spirits, voodoo economists (the President then gave a shout-out to Paul Kurgan, seated in the front row), or other small forest creatures. Instead, it’s good old fairy-based liberal pragmatism. The money is going to have to come from someplace and asking fairies to fix the government is a good start for the nation.” Hopefully the president will be bold enough to constrain all evil economic spirits with a spell he’ll soon introduce to Congress.
Obama suggested the fairies strategy will be to make everyone rich (now defined as those households making over $200,000 per year), a powerful move to broaden our tax base. The fairies will then take everyone’s ill-gotten gains and pay down the national debt, make Social Security and Medicare solvent, and create jobs. Obama made it clear he would veto any plan that cut government and instead called for Congress to rewrite the tax code to ensure that the new-rich pay taxes, unlike the Orifice of Omaha whose Berkshire Hathaway owes the Treasury $1 billion in taxes. “It’s time liberals fought as hard against evil spirits and Orcs,” he said, “as liberal lobbyists fight for not-for-profits and green jobs.”
That’s the kind of language Mr. Obama needs for the campaign trail next year, to draw a strong comparison with Republicans who may well start to be seen as fighting for the interests of wicked gnomes and scary ax-wielding trolls.
White House aides have said the fairies are open to other magical methods, but Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner (who has experience with the fairies; they solved his pre-confirmation tax problems) said the administration did not want to give Congress any details for fear such ideas may be mocked and ridiculed by so-called realists.
In one area not using magic, Mr. Obama also asked military retirees to pay huge increases for their own health benefits, bringing that expensive system more in line with private-sector plans. The fairies’ plans will likely take a sensible approach towards Medicare and Medicaid by increasing effectiveness to over 98 times its current level and using “well-spells” to improve the health of ordinary Americans. All told, the elderly, women, minorities, and the poor will see the greatest benefits.
After nearly three years of destructive compromise and concession on the budget, the fairy-based plan was far too late in coming. But the public seems ready for more of the Obama magic seen in 2008 and has demanded shared sacrifice. However, the burden is now on the fairies to ensure Mr. Obama isn’t the one sacrificed.
Good jobs are needed to make America right
By CHARLES BLOWS (If you must read the original, it’s here)
My instincts, which mirror those of the Administration, tell me we may need to pay more attention to jobs and the economy.
Even so, the President’s new jobs proposal is already being nickeled and dimed from the right — and because I’m a thoughtful, unbiased member of the media, the left. Yes, I use nickels as a metaphor for millions of dollars and dimes as a metaphor for billions of dollars, but at least this is a start; a long-overdue follow-up to the earlier and much needed $800-billion plus stimulus package which saved America from sure economic ruin.
To understand how overdue a government jobs creation effort is, look at the dreadful data issued this week by the Census Bureau about the increasing numbers of people falling into poverty. No matter how you slice it, it’s bloody.
There are now 46.2 million poor Americans, most with enough food, reasonable housing, satellite or cable television, one or more cell phones, one or more vehicles, and air conditioning. Even so, it’s still bloody and unfair and our national band-aid should be the President’s new government jobs program, paid for by much-needed tax increases.
But the poverty numbers obscure the true nature of the challenge, which is getting working America to transfer money to the non-working. We’ve really lost our way here: remember ‘from each according to the government’s ability to take and to each according to their ability to beg the government’? I do, and it wasn’t that long ago.
And it’s not that many of these poor don’t work. Instead, for most, it’s that they don’t have the kind of jobs that pay enough to get that second flat screen, third Xbox, or fourth cell line.
This raises an important point — not only do we need to have the government create more jobs, we should also have the government increase the number of good jobs. And we can’t let good jobs become a skirmish between warring political ideologies because it’s going to be an international war. At least that is the way Jim Clifton frames it in his fascinating — and frightening — new book, “The Coming Jobs War.” (I like to use ‘frightening’ in my writing because it carries with it the implication of a government-led solution.)
According to Clifton, “the coming war is for good jobs.” (He defines a good job, also known as a formal job, as one with a “paycheck from an employer and steady work that averages 30-plus hours per week.”) Simply stated, this is frightening.
In the book he makes this frightening statement: “The primary will of the world is no longer peace, freedom, democracy, family, God, nor property. The will of the world is first and foremost to have a good job. Everything else comes after that.” The frightening problem is that there are not enough good jobs to go around.
Clifton explains that of the world’s five billion people over 15 years old, three billion said they worked or wanted to work, but there are only 1.2 billion full-time, good jobs. Therefore his shocking and frightening conclusion is that “the world will be led by economic force — a force that is primarily driven by job creation and quality G.D.P. growth.” And China is vying for the lead. Frightening.
And I must say, we don’t appear to be poised to fight this war. In education we’ve gone from overachieving to underachieving (we need more schools, more teachers, and better teacher pay), our infrastructure is literally crumbling around us (even as it’s shovel-ready for improvement), and our politics have succumbed to paralysis (even though I’m an unbiased media member, the Republicans are evil obstructionists).
A widely-cited 2009 study from McKinsey, “The Economic Impact of the Achievement Gap in America’s Schools,” found the recent American educational achievement gaps — between black and Latino students and white ones; between low-income students and the rest; between low-performing states and the rest; and between the United States as a whole and better-performing countries — costs trillions. A first step in the solution should therefore be obvious: out of literally thin-air we can and should create trillions of dollars worth of value by simply changing the definition of ‘low-performing.’
According to a recent report by the Urban Land Institute and Ernst & Young, China has “about 9 percent of G.D.P. devoted to infrastructure, compared with less than 3 percent in the United States.” All other things being equal, clearly 9 percent is more than 3 percent. And the Report Card for America’s Infrastructure graded by the Society of Engineers For Good Jobs In America was so full of F’s and incompletes that it looked like Rick Perry’s college transcript (I have every confidence that should the President someday choose to release his transcripts and standardized test scores, they’ll be above average, just as all of America should be).
Furthermore, Clifton points out that 30 percent of America’s students drop out or do not graduate on time. He concludes, “If this problem isn’t fixed fast, the United States will lose the worldwide, economic, jobs wars because our teachers and administrative staff might be unemployed or underemployed.”
And, a recent Rand Corporation study found that “between 1999 and 2009, total spending on health care in the United States nearly doubled, from $1.3 trillion to $2.5 trillion. During the same period, the percentage of the nation’s gross domestic product devoted to health care climbed from 13.8 percent to 17.6 percent. Per person health care spending grew from $4,600 to just over $8,000 annually.” This is the one area where we can proudly say our economy is growing, although more government regulation and bureaucracy are still needed to create more good health care jobs, jobs that are difficult to export.
Clifton has 10 areas America will have to master to “lead the world” but at the top of the list is understanding that the world has a shortage of good jobs and every decision of every good American government leader must be dedicated to increasing those jobs. Clifton puts it this way: “The war for global jobs is a war to rule the big blue marble. If the United States allows China or any country or region to out-enterprise, out-job-create, out-grow its G.D.P., everything changes and we could lose the marble. This is America’s next final war for everything.”
Sounds frightening, doesn’t it?
Nothing can be unsaid, so here it is: this is a parody. If you must, read the original here.
While Obama has dug himself a bit of a hole (an executive branch facing an enduring crisis of competency, confidence, job uncreation, unemployment, regulatory strangulation, foreign policy, deficit spending, and more) that doesn’t mean all is lost. Far from it.
President Obama’s unfavorable rating of 50 percent may be awful, but he still leads every major Republican candidate in the field (note my use of the qualifier “major”), according to a new survey. While this gives me hope, it should also make me wonder (but it doesn’t; I live in what’s called cognitive dissonance) about the accuracy of such polling and the conclusions that can be drawn given the dismal state of the economy.
Median (for my recurring readers, that’s a statistical term) household income declined in real terms during the first two years of Obama’s presidency, the only ones we have data for. According to a new Census study, real median household income at the end of 2010 was down 6.4 percent since 2007 (i.e., before the Bush-designed recession). Unemployment stands at 9.1 percent (and that’s with the new definition of “unemployed,” which doesn’t count those who have given up and quit looking for work). The poverty rate went up during Obama’s first two years, and it now stands at 15.1 percent. So even though the economy is in the toilet and many look at Obama as the face of these failures, I declare him to be unbeatable (did I mention where I live?)!
According to this one poll I have chosen to embrace as possessing unchangeable truth until the 2012 election, Obama beats Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich, and Michelle Bachmann. With the exception of Romney, every one of these Republican clowns has negatives as high as or higher than the high Democrat clown. That the Republican clowns in this one poll are unable to capitalize on the miserable state of the economy harkens me back to the Democrat clown running against John McCain, 2008’s version of 1996’s Bob Dole. The lesson? All Obama has to do to win in 2012 is to be thought to be less-bad than the opposition.
In these dark days of Obama’s presidency, his biggest electoral problem is that these numbers might make him overconfident. How lucky can you get?
And as I often say, it’s better to be lucky than to be good.