Memorial Day Message: U.S. Troops are Unmatched
Looking beyond the backyard barbecues and Memorial Day celebrations, Heritage Foundation President Edward J. Fuelner writes: “While we celebrate the holiday and honor the past, we must also remember to honor those who are willing to give the ultimate sacrifice every day. The men and women in America’s armed forces are unmatched. Each of them has given of themselves and volunteered to fight the nation’s wars. Many of these soldiers will spend this Memorial Day in the mountains of Afghanistan or in the deserts of Iraq and Libya far from their families and friends. Their sacrifice and courage should remind us of our commitment to support them not just today.”
Cato: House Should Vote for Restraint
The House of Representatives will soon vote on a $700 billion military spending bill. Over at the Cato Institute, analysts are saying that the United States should re-craft its foreign policy in order to both preserve military might — and yet spend less than it has been spending to fight three wars in the Middle East. They say that “a principled, constitutional view of ‘defense’… does not include defending others who can and should defend themselves. … If we adopted a strategy of restraint, we could responsibly make significant cuts in military spending, deliver the savings to American taxpayers, and remain the safest and most secure country on the planet.” Read the full article here.
FreedomWorks: Five Standout Senators
FreedomWorks has analyzed the work of all 100 U.S. senators on the issues of the budget, the deficit and taxes and has found exactly five Republicans who have worked diligently to cut spending against the backdrop of a $14.3 trillion national debt. They are Sens. Rand Paul, Jim DeMint, Mike Lee, David Vitter, and Tom Coburn. Says analyst Julia Rubicam, “Though courageous action in the Senate is harder to find, several Republican senators have managed to separate themselves from the rest and champion bold legislation that addresses our government’s fiscal irresponsibility and lack of restraint and accountability. We commend these senators for their actions and we urge them to promote even bolder legislation.” Click here to read the list and the details.
Today in Opinion:
- The mainstream media seems to be particularly fond of the word “unexpected” when it comes to the Obama administration’s economic promises not panning out. Michael Barone looks at this trend and asks why the media is so confident in Obama’s policies — and why the same problems continue to be “unexpected.”
- With Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney running as prominent candidates in the 2012 GOP race for the presidential nominated, Larry Elder worries that neither is truly Republican enough to run the party and stand up to the incumbent, President Barack Obama.
- President Obama’s recent speech on the Middle East has been widely questioned and argued across media and politicians who support and oppose Obama. The most controversial portion, Tony Blankley says, had to do with the 1967 Israeli-Palestinian borders.
- The United States’ most urgent priority, according to Lawrence Kudlow, is to grow the economy. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor agrees — he has laid out an economic growth agenda that aims for a 5 percent growth target.
- By granting waivers from Obamacare to companies and organizations that lobbied to pass the health care law, Michael Barone says that the Obama administration is failing to follow the “rule of law.” Instead, the administration appears to be rewarding its friends and punishing its enemies.
Pro-Obama Media Always Shocked by Bad Economic News
As megablogger Glenn Reynolds, aka Instapundit, has noted with amusement, the word “unexpectedly” or variants thereon keep cropping up in mainstream media stories about the economy.
“New U.S. claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly climbed,” reported cnbc.com May 25.
“Personal consumption fell,” Business Insider reported the same day, “when it was expected to rise.”
“Durable goods declined 3.6 percent last month,” Reuters reported May 25, “worse than economists’ expectations.”
“Previously owned home sales unexpectedly fall,” headlined Bloomberg News May 19.
“U.S. home construction fell unexpectedly in April,” wrote The Wall Street Journal May 18.
Those examples are all from the last two weeks. Reynolds has been linking to similar items since October 2009.
Mainstream media may finally be catching up. “The latest economic numbers have not been good,” David Leonhardt wrote in the May 26 New York Times. “Another report showed that economic growth at the start of the year was no faster than the Commerce Department initially reported — ‘a real surprise,’ said Ian Shepherdson of High Frequency Economics.”
Which raises some questions. As Instapundit reader Gordon Stewart, quoted by Reynolds on May 17, put it: “How many times in a row can something happen unexpectedly before the experts start to, you know, expect it? At some point, shouldn’t they be required to state the foundation for their expectations?”
One answer is that many in the mainstream media have been cheerleading for Barack Obama. They and he both naturally hope for a strong economic recovery. After all, Obama can’t keep blaming the economic doldrums on George W. Bush forever.
I’m confident that any comparison of economic coverage in the Bush years and the coverage now would show far fewer variants of the word “unexpectedly” in stories suggesting economic doldrums.
It’s obviously going to be hard to achieve the unacknowledged goal of many mainstream journalists — the president’s re-election — if the economic slump continues. So they characterize economic setbacks as unexpected, with the implication that there’s still every reason to believe that, in Herbert Hoover’s phrase, prosperity is just around the corner.
A less cynical explanation is that many journalists really believe that the Obama administration’s policies are likely to improve the economy. Certainly that has been the expectation as well as the hope of administration policymakers.
Obama’s first Council of Economic Advisers Chair Christina Romer, whose scholarly work is widely respected, famously predicted that the February 2009 stimulus package would hold unemployment below 8 percent. She undoubtedly believed that at the time; she is too smart to have made a prediction whose failure to come true would prove politically embarrassing.
But unemployment zoomed to 10 percent instead and is still at 9 percent. Political pundits sympathetic to the administration have been speculating whether the president can win re-election if it stays above the 8 percent mark it was never supposed to reach.
Administration economists are now making the point that it takes longer to recover from a recession caused by a financial crisis than from a recession that occurs in the more or less ordinary operation of the business cycle. There’s some basis in history for this claim.
But it comes a little late in the game. Obama and his policymakers told the country that we would recover from the deep recession by vastly increasing government spending and borrowing. We did that with the stimulus package, with the budget passed in 2009 back when congressional Democrats actually voted on budgets, and with the vast increases scheduled to come (despite the administration’s gaming of the Congressional Budget Office scoring process) from Obamacare.
All of this has inspired something like a hiring strike among entrepreneurs and small businessmen. Employers aren’t creating any more new jobs than they were during the darkest days of the recession; unemployment has dropped slowly because they just aren’t laying off as many employees as they did then.
In the meantime many potential job seekers have left the labor market. If they re-enter and look for jobs, the unemployment rate will stay steady or ebb only slowly.
We tend to hire presidents who we think can foresee the future effect of their policies. No one does so perfectly. But if the best sympathetic observers can say about the results is that they are “unexpected,” voters may decide someone else can do better.
COPYRIGHT 2011 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER
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Gingrich vs. Romney — Will the Republican Please Stand Up?
Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney make me think of Dorothy Jones.
“Aunt” Dorothy, my mom’s closest friend, was a warm, smart, comedienne-quick funny woman from a large family. Unlike my mom’s other friends, Dorothy was single and remained so until she died. I once asked her, in the rude way only children can, why she never married.
“You know,” she said while pointing, one by one, at four imaginary men lined up in front her, “if you took the best qualities from all my sisters’ husbands and rolled them up into one man — you’d still come up short.”
This describes how it feels when trying to find a GOP presidential candidate. What are we small “L” libertarian, tea-party-type, low-tax, low-regulation, serious-about-entitlement-reform voters looking for?
For starters, how about someone who believes that the Constitution means what it says and says what it means, and won’t abide the “principled” Republican politician who wanders off the page in search of “compromise” to “get things done” to “do the people’s business”? Not too much to ask.
This brings us to the declared and confused GOP presidential candidate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and the soon-to-be declared, and confused, GOP candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
Gingrich masterfully engineered the 1994 GOP takeover of the House. He came up with the Contract With America, and once called Sen. Bob Dole, the party’s 1996 presidential candidate, “the tax collector for the welfare state.” He is bright and knowledgeable, which makes some of his positions all the more indefensible.
Did Gingrich really write off Wisconsin Republican Rep. Paul Ryan’s gutsy Medicare reform idea as “right-wing social engineering,” after having praised Ryan’s debt and deficit reduction ideas just two months earlier? Yes, he did.
Did Gingrich come out in favor of ethanol and the federal boondoggle that pays farmers to convert farmland producing edible corn into land devoted to corn for ethanol — a product that, but for mandates and subsidies, would have no market? Did Gingrich support ethanol even after Al “Mr. Environment” Gore renounced his previous support and admitted that he only supported ethanol to secure the 2000 farm vote? Yes and yes.
Did Gingrich team up with the Rev. Al Sharpton to tour the country to raise awareness of the education race gap? Did Gingrich team with the man who not only opposes vouchers — a serious attempt to provide alternatives to and competition against government schools — but who calls vouchers “racist”? Yes, he did.
Romney, for his part, ran in 2008 as a fiscal conservative elected in a liberal state and who, therefore, represents someone who “can reach across the aisle” and appeal to independents and “conservative Democrats” — whatever that means. Unfortunately, his signature achievement is the statist Romneycare, a Bay State “universal health care program” that includes a mandate. It served as a model for Obamacare.
Believers in limited government, to put it mildly, intensely dislike Obamacare and reserve a special place in hell for the mandate that forces every man, woman and child to purchase health insurance or pay a penalty. The Wall Street Journal and Investors Business Daily point out that Romneycare fails to control premium costs, exceeded budget projections and “works” only because of money from the federal government.
Many Republicans encouraged Romney to call Romneycare a blunder, and use it as an object lesson of yet another well-intended but wrongheaded government intrusion that produced unintended and hurtful consequences.
Did Romney not only refuse to apologize for Romneycare, but praise it as a “state solution”? Did Romney defend the Massachusetts mandate while criticizing Obama’s federal one? Did Romney thus support the concept of allowing government to force people to purchase health insurance or face a fine, so long as it does so at the state level? Does Romney therefore disagree with conservatives who call Romneycare a disaster that other states emulate at their own peril? Yes, yes, yes and yes, he does.
So much for Gingrich and Romney. Now what?
What about Thomas Sowell? The economist/writer/philosopher/limited government/free-market advocate, the most clear-headed opinionator in America, is 80. The 80 is not the problem. It is the clear-headed part that made Sowell double over in laughter when he was asked about running for office.
What about Margaret Thatcher, the 85-year-old fiscal conservative British ex-prime minister? Could we persuade her into renouncing her citizenship and running for president here in the States? Alas, that requires an amendment to the Constitution, which currently allows only a “natural born citizen” to become president.
What would Aunt Dorothy do?
COPYRIGHT 2011 LAURENCE A. ELDER
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Mideast Communications Chaos
The president’s speech on the Middle East, which was described by the White House in advance as a speech intended to reach out to the Muslim world, will probably go down as one of the least-understood major presidential speeches in modern memory. Confusion concerning the president’s words and intent cut across the lines of Jews, Christians and Muslims, Democrats and Republicans, neocons and paleocons, friends and foes of Israel, and friends and foes of the president.
For many serious commentators, the confusion lies in what the president meant by his statement that “We believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.” Was this a shift of policy, no shift or a critical increase in U.S. presidential pressure on Israel in future peace negotiations?
A few days before the speech, the president’s press secretary said reference to the 1967 borders would not be in the speech. A day before the speech, the Israeli prime minster was privately informed by the administration that it would be in the speech. He privately informed Secretary of State Clinton — before the presidential speech — of his profound opposition to that statement — and publicly condemned it after the speech and as he was getting on his plane to fly to Washington. The remarks stayed in the speech, but were placed just a few paragraphs from the end of a speech that was mostly about the “Arab Spring” and President Obama’s current view of it.
At the White House photo op after the two-hour meeting between the prime minister and the president, Netanyahu severely chastised the President for his reference to 1967 borders. Many supporters of Israel both in the U.S. and abroad (including the Canadian government) echoed Netanyahu’s grave concern about the 1967 borders statement. Even George Mitchell, the president’s Mideast peace envoy (and not considered pro-Israel) said that the 1967 border emphasis by the president was wrong.
However, seeing — or claiming to see — vindication of their efforts, former foreign policy aides to President Bush (and conservative commentators who supported Bush’s “freedom initiative” in the Middle East) rushed out to congratulate Obama for switching from his “realist” policy of befriending Muslim dictatorial regimes such as Iran’s to what they claimed was Obama’s endorsement of the Bush Middle East policy.
Yet other supporters of Israel were indifferent to the 1967 borders statement but gravely concerned about the central part of the speech concerning Muslim “outreach.”
Distinguished scholar Barry Rubin’s statement is most noteworthy: “President Barack Obama’s speech on Middle East policy did more damage to U.S.-Israel relations than anything said by any previous president during the almost forty-year alliance between the two countries. Yet, ironically, the speech wasn’t intended to be on Israel at all; Obama apparently thought he was being friendly toward Israel; and the point that created the biggest controversy (1967 borders) was something that the president didn’t even say.
“The crisis, then, was caused by three factors: The ignorance of the Obama Administration over the issues involved; Obama’s chronic lack of friendliness toward Israel; and his refusal to recognize the threat from revolutionary Islamism.
“His speech mainly focused on a totally uncritical evaluation of the current upheavals in the Arab world. The idea that Egypt is about to become a radical state, that the Egypt-Israel treaty is jeopardized, and that Israel is now facing the prospect of a renewed enemy to its southwest with twelve times its own population simply has not entered Obama’s calculations.”
Harsh criticism of a yet different perception came from The Washington Post — a vehement endorser of Obama for President 2012. The Post editorial after the speech identified Obama’s intention as “to persuade Mr. Abbas to give up his U.N. bid and return to negotiations with Israel. To do so, he endorsed one of the conditions Palestinians have tried to set for talks: that they be based on Israel’s 1967 border lines, with swaps of land to accommodate large Jewish settlements in the West Bank. This is not a big change in U.S. policy. Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, along with previous Israeli governments, have supported the approach.
“But Mr. Netanyahu has not yet signed on, and so Mr. Obama’s decision to confront him with a formal U.S. embrace of the idea, with only a few hours’ warning, ensured a blowup. Israeli bad feeling was exacerbated by Mr. Obama’s failure to repeat past U.S. positions — in particular, an explicit stance against the return of Palestinian refugees to Israel.
“Mr. Obama should have learned from his past diplomatic failures — including his attempt to force a freeze on Jewish settlements in the West Bank — that initiating a conflict with Israel will thwart rather than advance peace negotiations.”
On the president’s speech to AIPAC, the major media generally characterized it as shifting tone, more conciliatory, clarifying, more explicitly supportive of Israel, etc., than the president’s main speech.
The question that remains unanswered for many is whether the president understood the diplomatic and political impact of his words (in which case, his tonal backpedaling at the AIPAC speech was anticipated and all part of a shrewd master narrative) or whether the impact of his words was inadvertent and based on inexperience or poor judgment. Fascinatingly, both the president’s friends and foes are on both sides of those questions.
COPYRIGHT 2011 CREATORS.COM
Eric Cantor’s 5 Percent Growth Strategy
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor turned the policy temperature down on austerity last week by rolling out a strong economic-growth agenda. Headlined by a 25 percent top tax rate for individuals and business, the Cantor package includes regulatory relief, free trade and patent protection for entrepreneurs. It’s job creation and the economy, stupid.
Sounds Reaganesque? Well, Eric Cantor has a lot of Reagan blood in him. Back in 1980, while Cantor was still in high school, his father was the Virginia state treasurer of the Ronald Reagan presidential campaign. So the apple never falls far from the tree.
In fact, it looks like Cantor is restoring the supply-side incentive model of economic growth. Forget tax-the-rich class warfare. Throw out wild-eyed government-spending stimulus and dollar-depreciating Fed money-pumping. Make it pay more after tax to work, produce and invest. Go for a growth spurt, something the economy badly needs. And — my thought — crown such a growth strategy with a stable King Dollar relinked to gold.
When I interviewed Cantor this week, he made it clear that faster economic growth was crucial to holding down spending, deficits and debt. As scored by the Congressional Budget Office, every 1 percent of faster growth lowers the budget gap by nearly $3 trillion from lower spending and higher revenues. “Grow the economy,” Cantor said. “It will help us manage-down the deficit, and it will help get people back to work.”
This is not to say that spending cuts and structural entitlement reforms aren’t necessary. They are. But it is to argue that lately the GOP has forgotten the growth component that is so essential to spending restraint and deficit reduction.
The GOP should say: In return for substantial federal-spending cuts, we’re gonna more than make it up to you with large tax cuts. You will win. Big government will lose.
I suggested to Cantor that the GOP adopt a 5 percent national growth target, which President John F. Kennedy had when he launched his across-the-board tax cuts in the early 1960s. “That is a fantastic goal,” he told me.
Cantor’s growth plan is very timely, as the U.S. economy is once again sputtering. In what is already one of the weakest post-recession recoveries in the postwar era, first-quarter GDP came in at a tepid 1.8 percent. Many economists believe the second quarter will be no better.
And consider this: Between 1947 and 2000, average real economic growth registered 3.4 percent yearly — an excellent prosperity baseline. Yet over the past 10 years — amidst boom-bust Fed policy, a collapsing dollar and soaring gold — the stock market on balance hasn’t moved, as the economy has averaged only 1.7 percent annually. Because of the ongoing slump, actual real GDP growth from the early 2000s through the first quarter of 2011 has dropped nearly 17 percent below the long-run historical trend. That translates to a massive output gap of $2.7 trillion.
In order to close that gap in five years, the economy would have to grow 7.3 percent annually (roughly Reagan’s two-year recovery rate in 1983-84). To close the gap in 10 years, the economy would have to grow near 5.3 percent annually.
All right, so why not establish a national economic growth target of over 5 percent? That might wipe out the current spirit of economic pessimism and decline.
A 5 percent growth target might give some hope to the roughly 15 million unemployed. Or the 12 to 15 million homeowners who can’t meet their mortgages, are in foreclosure or have upside-down property values. Or the disappointed investors who haven’t made any real cash in 10 years. Or the families who are suffering from rising gas and food prices.
A 5 percent growth target might wipe out the sense that we can’t seem to right the economic ship.
For all these reasons, according to the polls, jobs and the economy are the No. 1 political issue today. Entitlements are going to have to be fixed. But that day of reckoning is nearly 20 years away. Right now, folks want work and income to pay the bills.
The brilliance of Cantor’s effort is his attempt to move the GOP back to the economic-growth high ground. It is our most urgent priority.
COPYRIGHT 2011 CREATORS.COM
Obama Skirts Rule of Law to Reward Pals, Punish Enemies
Question: What do the following have in common? Eckert Cold Storage Co., Kerly Homes of Yuma, Classic Party Rentals, West Coast Turf Inc., Ellenbecker Investment Group Inc., Only in San Francisco, Hotel Nikko, International Pacific Halibut Commission, City of Puyallup, Local 485 Health and Welfare Fund, Chicago Plastering Institute Health & Welfare Fund, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee, Teamsters Local 522 Fund Welfare Fund Roofers Division, StayWell Saipan Basic Plan, CIGNA, Caribbean Workers’ Voluntary Employees’ Beneficiary Health and Welfare Plan.
Answer: They are all among the 1,372 businesses, state and local governments, labor unions and insurers, covering 3,095,593 individuals or families, that have been granted a waiver from Obamacare by Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius.
All of which raises another question: If Obamacare is so great, why do so many people want to get out from under it?
More specifically, why are more than half of those 3,095,593 in plans run by labor unions, which were among Obamacare’s biggest political supporters? Union members are only 12 percent of all employees but have gotten 50.3 percent of Obamacare waivers.
Just in April, Sebelius granted 38 waivers to restaurants, nightclubs, spas and hotels in former Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco congressional district. Pelosi’s office said she had nothing to do with it.
On its website, HHS pledges that the waiver process will be transparent. But it doesn’t list those whose requests for waivers have been denied.
It does say that requests are “reviewed on a case by case basis by Department officials who look at a series of factors including” — and then listing two factors. And it refers you to another website that says that “several factors … may be considered” — and then lists six factors.
What other factors may be considered? Political contributions or connections? (Unions contributed $400 million to Democrats in the 2008 campaign cycle.) The websites don’t say.
In his new book, The Origins of Political Order, Francis Fukuyama identifies the chief building blocks of liberal democracy as a strong central state, a society strong enough to hold the state accountable and — equally crucial — the rule of law.
One basic principle of the rule of law is that laws apply to everybody. If the sign says “No Parking,” you’re not supposed to park there even if you’re a pal of the alderman.
Another principle of the rule of law is that government can’t make up new rules to help its cronies and hurt its adversaries except through due process, such as getting a legislature to pass a new law.
The Obamacare waiver process appears to violate that first rule. Two other recent Obama administration actions appear to violate the second.
One example is the National Labor Relations Board general counsel’s action to prevent Boeing from building a $2 billion assembly plant for the 787 Dreamliner in South Carolina, which has a right-to-work law barring compulsory union membership. The NLRB says Boeing has to assemble the planes in non-right-to-work Washington state.
“I don’t agree,” says William Gould IV, NLRB chairman during the Bill Clinton years. “The Boeing case is unprecedented.”
The other example is the Internal Revenue Service’s attempt to levy a gift tax on donors to certain 501(c)(4) organizations that just happen to have spent money to elect Republicans.
A gift tax is normally assessed on transfers to children and other heirs that are designed to avoid estate taxes. It has been applied to political donations “rarely, if ever,” according to New York Times reporter Stephanie Strom.
“The timing of the agency’s moves, as the 2012 election cycle gets underway,” continues Strom, is prompting some tax law and campaign finance experts to question whether the IRS could be sending a signal in an effort to curtail big donations.”
In a Univision radio interview during the 2010 election cycle, Barack Obama urged Latinos not “to sit out the election instead of saying, ‘We’re going to punish our enemies and we’re going to reward our friends who stand with us on issues that are important to us.’”
Punishing enemies and rewarding friends — politics Chicago-style — seems to be the unifying principle that helps explain the Obamacare waivers, the NLRB action against Boeing and IRS’s gift tax assault on 501(c)(4) donors.
They look like examples of crony capitalism, bailout favoritism and gangster government.
One thing they don’t look like is the rule of law.
COPYRIGHT 2011 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER
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