Archive for the ‘Thinking Points’ Category
Victor Davis Hanson
Abandoned farms, Third World living conditions, pervasive public assistance — welcome to the once-thriving Central Valley.
The last three weeks I have traveled about, taking the pulse of the more forgotten areas of central California. I wanted to witness, even if superficially, what is happening to a state that has the highest sales and income taxes, the most lavish entitlements, the near-worst public schools (based on federal test scores), and the largest number of illegal aliens in the nation, along with an overregulated private sector, a stagnant and shrinking manufacturing base, and an elite environmental ethos that restricts commerce and productivity without curbing consumption.
During this unscientific experiment, three times a week I rode a bike on a 20-mile trip over various rural roads in southwestern Fresno County. I also drove my car over to the coast to work, on various routes through towns like San Joaquin, Mendota, and Firebaugh. And near my home I have been driving, shopping, and touring by intent the rather segregated and impoverished areas of Caruthers, Fowler, Laton, Orange Cove, Parlier, and Selma. My own farmhouse is now in an area of abject poverty and almost no ethnic diversity; the closest elementary school (my alma mater, two miles away) is 94 percent Hispanic and 1 percent white, and well below federal testing norms in math and English.
Here are some general observations about what I saw (other than that the rural roads of California are fast turning into rubble, poorly maintained and reverting to what I remember seeing long ago in the rural South). First, remember that these areas are the ground zero, so to speak, of 20 years of illegal immigration. There has been a general depression in farming — to such an extent that the 20- to-100-acre tree and vine farmer, the erstwhile backbone of the old rural California, for all practical purposes has ceased to exist.
On the western side of the Central Valley, the effects of arbitrary cutoffs in federal irrigation water have idled tens of thousands of acres of prime agricultural land, leaving thousands unemployed. Manufacturing plants in the towns in these areas — which used to make harvesters, hydraulic lifts, trailers, food-processing equipment — have largely shut down; their production has been shipped off overseas or south of the border. Agriculture itself — from almonds to raisins — has increasingly become corporatized and mechanized, cutting by half the number of farm workers needed. So unemployment runs somewhere between 15 and 20 percent.
Many of the rural trailer-house compounds I saw appear to the naked eye no different from what I have seen in the Third World. There is a Caribbean look to the junked cars, electric wires crisscrossing between various outbuildings, plastic tarps substituting for replacement shingles, lean-tos cobbled together as auxiliary housing, pit bulls unleashed, and geese, goats, and chickens roaming around the yards. The public hears about all sorts of tough California regulations that stymie business — rigid zoning laws, strict building codes, constant inspections — but apparently none of that applies out here.
It is almost as if the more California regulates, the more it does not regulate. Its public employees prefer to go after misdemeanors in the upscale areas to justify our expensive oversight industry, while ignoring the felonies in the downtrodden areas, which are becoming feral and beyond the ability of any inspector to do anything but feel irrelevant. But in the regulators’ defense, where would one get the money to redo an ad hoc trailer park with a spider web of illegal bare wires?
Many of the rented-out rural shacks and stationary Winnebagos are on former small farms — the vineyards overgrown with weeds, or torn out with the ground lying fallow. I pass on the cultural consequences to communities from the loss of thousands of small farming families. I don’t think I can remember another time when so many acres in the eastern part of the valley have gone out of production, even though farm prices have recently rebounded. Apparently it is simply not worth the gamble of investing $7,000 to $10,000 an acre in a new orchard or vineyard. What an anomaly — with suddenly soaring farm prices, still we have thousands of acres in the world’s richest agricultural belt, with available water on the east side of the valley and plentiful labor, gone idle or in disuse. Is credit frozen? Are there simply no more farmers? Are the schools so bad as to scare away potential agricultural entrepreneurs? Or are we all terrified by the national debt and uncertain future?
California coastal elites may worry about the oxygen content of water available to a three-inch smelt in the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta, but they seem to have no interest in the epidemic dumping of trash, furniture, and often toxic substances throughout California’s rural hinterland. Yesterday, for example, I rode my bike by a stopped van just as the occupants tossed seven plastic bags of raw refuse onto the side of the road. I rode up near their bumper and said in my broken Spanish not to throw garbage onto the public road. But there were three of them, and one of me. So I was lucky to be sworn at only. I note in passing that I would not drive into Mexico and, as a guest, dare to pull over and throw seven bags of trash into the environment of my host.
In fact, trash piles are commonplace out here — composed of everything from half-empty paint cans and children’s plastic toys to diapers and moldy food. I have never seen a rural sheriff cite a litterer, or witnessed state EPA workers cleaning up these unauthorized wastelands. So I would suggest to Bay Area scientists that the environment is taking a much harder beating down here in central California than it is in the Delta. Perhaps before we cut off more irrigation water to the west side of the valley, we might invest some green dollars into cleaning up the unsightly and sometimes dangerous garbage that now litters the outskirts of our rural communities.
We hear about the tough small-business regulations that have driven residents out of the state, at the rate of 2,000 to 3,000 a week. But from my unscientific observations these past weeks, it seems rather easy to open a small business in California without any oversight at all, or at least what I might call a “counter business.” I counted eleven mobile hot-kitchen trucks that simply park by the side of the road, spread about some plastic chairs, pull down a tarp canopy, and, presto, become mini-restaurants. There are no “facilities” such as toilets or washrooms. But I do frequently see lard trails on the isolated roads I bike on, where trucks apparently have simply opened their draining tanks and sped on, leaving a slick of cooking fats and oils. Crows and ground squirrels love them; they can be seen from a distance mysteriously occupied in the middle of the road.
At crossroads, peddlers in a counter-California economy sell almost anything. Here is what I noticed at an intersection on the west side last week: shovels, rakes, hoes, gas pumps, lawnmowers, edgers, blowers, jackets, gloves, and caps. The merchandise was all new. I doubt whether in high-tax California sales taxes or income taxes were paid on any of these stop-and-go transactions.
In two supermarkets 50 miles apart, I was the only one in line who did not pay with a social-service plastic card (gone are the days when “food stamps” were embarrassing bulky coupons). But I did not see any relationship between the use of the card and poverty as we once knew it: The electrical appurtenances owned by the user and the car into which the groceries were loaded were indistinguishable from those of the upper middle class.
By that I mean that most consumers drove late-model Camrys, Accords, or Tauruses, had iPhones, Bluetooths, or BlackBerries, and bought everything in the store with public-assistance credit. This seemed a world apart from the trailers I had just ridden by the day before. I don’t editorialize here on the logic or morality of any of this, but I note only that there are vast numbers of people who apparently are not working, are on public food assistance, and enjoy the technological veneer of the middle class. California has a consumer market surely, but often no apparent source of income. Does the $40 million a day supplement to unemployment benefits from Washington explain some of this?
Do diversity concerns, as in lack of diversity, work both ways? Over a hundred-mile stretch, when I stopped in San Joaquin for a bottled water, or drove through Orange Cove, or got gas in Parlier, or went to a corner market in southwestern Selma, my home town, I was the only non-Hispanic — there were no Asians, no blacks, no other whites. We may speak of the richness of “diversity,” but those who cherish that ideal simply have no idea that there are now countless inland communities that have become near-apartheid societies, where Spanish is the first language, the schools are not at all diverse, and the federal and state governments are either the main employers or at least the chief sources of income — whether through emergency rooms, rural health clinics, public schools, or social-service offices. An observer from Mars might conclude that our elites and masses have given up on the ideal of integration and assimilation, perhaps in the wake of the arrival of 11 to 15 million illegal aliens.
Again, I do not editorialize, but I note these vast transformations over the last 20 years that are the paradoxical wages of unchecked illegal immigration from Mexico, a vast expansion of California’s entitlements and taxes, the flight of the upper middle class out of state, the deliberate effort not to tap natural resources, the downsizing in manufacturing and agriculture, and the departure of whites, blacks, and Asians from many of these small towns to more racially diverse and upscale areas of California.
Fresno’s California State University campus is embroiled in controversy over the student body president’s announcing that he is an illegal alien, with all the requisite protests in favor of the DREAM Act. I won’t comment on the legislation per se, but again only note the anomaly. I taught at CSUF for 21 years. I think it fair to say that the predominant theme of the Chicano and Latin American Studies program’s sizable curriculum was a fuzzy American culpability. By that I mean that students in those classes heard of the sins of America more often than its attractions. In my home town, Mexican flag decals on car windows are far more common than their American counterparts.
I note this because hundreds of students here illegally are now terrified of being deported to Mexico. I can understand that, given the chaos in Mexico and their own long residency in the United States. But here is what still confuses me: If one were to consider the classes that deal with Mexico at the university, or the visible displays of national chauvinism, then one might conclude that Mexico is a far more attractive and moral place than the United States.
So there is a surreal nature to these protests: something like, “Please do not send me back to the culture I nostalgically praise; please let me stay in the culture that I ignore or deprecate.” I think the DREAM Act protestors might have been far more successful in winning public opinion had they stopped blaming the U.S. for suggesting that they might have to leave at some point, and instead explained why, in fact, they want to stay. What it is about America that makes a youth of 21 go on a hunger strike or demonstrate to be allowed to remain in this country rather than return to the place of his birth?
I think I know the answer to this paradox. Missing entirely in the above description is the attitude of the host, which by any historical standard can only be termed “indifferent.” California does not care whether one broke the law to arrive here or continues to break it by staying. It asks nothing of the illegal immigrant — no proficiency in English, no acquaintance with American history and values, no proof of income, no record of education or skills. It does provide all the public assistance that it can afford (and more that it borrows for), and apparently waives enforcement of most of California’s burdensome regulations and civic statutes that increasingly have plagued productive citizens to the point of driving them out. How odd that we overregulate those who are citizens and have capital to the point of banishing them from the state, but do not regulate those who are aliens and without capital to the point of encouraging millions more to follow in their footsteps. How odd — to paraphrase what Critias once said of ancient Sparta — that California is at once both the nation’s most unfree and most free state, the most repressed and the wildest.
Hundreds of thousands sense all that and vote accordingly with their feet, both into and out of California — and the result is a sort of social, cultural, economic, and political time-bomb, whose ticks are getting louder.
What Spending to Cut
If the 2010 election produced any conservative mandates, they are to create jobs and to rein in soaring spending and deficits. Republicans should begin implementing this agenda by extending the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts and paring back a government that now spends a staggering $30,000 per household annually.
Despite liberal claims to the contrary, rising spending — not declining revenues — drives America’s long-term deficits. Once the economy recovers, revenues are projected to return to their historical average of 18 percent of the economy — even if all tax cuts are extended. Federal spending — rising from its historical average of 20 percent of the economy to a projected 26 percent by the end of the decade — is the moving variable.
Nearly all of this new spending will come from Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and interest on the debt. Combined and adjusted for inflation, these annual expenditures will rise from $1.6 trillion to $3 trillion over this decade. Therefore, budget reform must include putting Social Security and Medicare on a fixed long-term budget with a capped growth rate.
Yet major entitlement reforms would be phased in slowly. In the meantime, Congress should enact government-wide spending caps that gradually return spending to 20 percent or less of GDP.
After a $727 billion spending increase since 2007, there is no shortage of programs to cut to meet that 20 percent target. The 112th Congress should target programs based on their economic impact, their cost, and the feasibility of reforming them. It should build credibility with the public by including cuts in the federal government’s spending on itself, unpopular earmarks, and even traditional conservative spending programs. Conservatives could begin with the following twelve projects:
One. Freeze and reform federal pay. Before Washington asks Americans to tighten their belts, it must tighten its own. While some federal employees are undercompensated, the average federal employee receives 30 to 40 percent more in total compensation than the equivalent private-sector worker; all this extra pay adds up to $47 billion. Lawmakers should freeze federal pay until it can be fundamentally reformed.
Similarly, Congress should cut its own budget and salaries to 2008 levels, pare back the surging federal travel budget (not every federal conference has to be in Maui), suspend acquisition of federal office space, competitively outsource more federal work, and require federal employees to fly coach domestically.
Two. Ban earmarks. These symbols of waste and corruption cannot be salvaged. Taxpayers will never accept Social Security and Medicare reforms if they believe the savings will go toward bridges to nowhere. Beyond costing $20 billion annually — a non-trivial sum, even if it’s just under 1 percent of the federal budget — earmarks encourage lawmakers to vote for budget-busting bills and divert their attention from higher priorities.
Republicans should not leave unelected Washington bureaucrats to distribute federal dollars to fund local projects in place of earmarks. Rather, grants can be distributed by formula to state and local governments, which are in a much better position than Washington, D.C., to decide where to put their streetlights.
Three. Ban corporate welfare. Even before bailing out Wall Street, Washington spent more on corporate welfare than on homeland security. The public will not trust conservatives to reform middle- and lower-income entitlement programs unless they are also willing to stop granting special favors to their friends in business. A free market means that businesses rise and fall on their own, without politicians’ picking winners and losers.
Most corporate-welfare spending is buried in obscure projects with harmless-sounding names like the “Technology Innovation Program.” Rather than terminate each program individually, Congress could ban subsidies for (but not contracts with) businesses that have gross revenues above a certain level.
Four. Reform farm subsidies. The $25 billion farm-subsidy system is a case study in economic illiteracy. It subsidizes growers of five crops (wheat, cotton, corn, soybeans, and rice) even if they’re millionaires while bypassing producers of nearly all other farm products even if their income is meager. It simultaneously pays some farmers to grow more of their crops (through subsidies) and other farmers to grow less (through a conservation program). Overall, subsidies harm small family farms, taxpayers, consumers, the environment (by encouraging over-planting to maximize subsidies), trade (by inviting retaliation against farm protectionism), impoverished nations (by undercutting their farmers), and even our health (by subsidizing corn and soy, which are often used to create sugary and fatty foods, rather than healthier fruits and vegetables). About how many programs can we say that?
The defeat of more than half the members of the House Agriculture Committee presents an opportunity for reform. The policy challenge is not farmer poverty (the average farmer significantly outearns the average worker) but rather income instability (farmers can earn very little in bad years). Replacing farm subsidies with improved crop insurance and new Farmer Savings Accounts (in which farmers can save tax-free in good years, and from which they can withdraw tax-free in bad years) will help family farmers smooth out the fluctuations in their income at minimum taxpayer cost.
Five. Recall unspent stimulus funds. The economic failure of the stimulus has become a political disaster for Democrats. Most stimulus dollars have been spent or obligated, yet perhaps $60 billion could still be recalled in areas including energy, transportation, and state aid. If the president vetoes an outright recall of unspent stimulus funds, Congress could instead use them to offset any new spending the White House requests.
Six. Vote to repeal Obamacare. The president’s inevitable veto should not dissuade conservatives from passing legislation to repeal the recent health-care law. Such a vote would leave no doubt as to where conservatives stand, and would force Democrats to go on the record before the 2012 election.
Conservatives can also attack Obamacare piece by piece, by refusing to fund discretionary bills to implement the law and by offering legislation to block or delay its implementation.
Seven. Repeal CLASS. Buried in Obamacare is a massive new long-term-care program known as Community Living Assistance Services and Support (CLASS). Like Social Security, CLASS will run initial surpluses (a $70 billion surplus in the first decade will be raided to cover up Obamacare’s deficits) before falling into deep deficit afterward.
The Congressional Budget Office, the Medicare chief actuary, and the American Academy of Actuaries have all acknowledged that CLASS is financially unsustainable. Even Senate Budget Committee chairman Kent Conrad (D., N.D.) called CLASS “a Ponzi scheme of the first order, the kind of thing that Bernie Madoff would have been proud of.” (He then proceeded to vote for Obamacare.)
If CLASS is allowed to begin enrolling participants in the next couple of years, it will almost surely collapse within two decades. The resulting taxpayer bailouts could cost trillions.
Eight. Return highway spending to states. Washington collects the 18.4 cent–per–gallon gas tax, subtracts a hefty administrative fee, and then returns the funds to state governments with numerous strings attached. These strings include thousands of earmarks, as well as requirements to divert highway dollars into bike paths, museums, and prevailing-wage regulations. There is no reason for Washington to decide where to build a road in Appleton, Wis.
Congress should eliminate the middleman and allow states to opt out of the federal-highway program. In return for agreeing to maintain their interstate highways, these states could collect and retain the federal gas tax themselves.
Nine. Defund high-speed-rail projects. The Obama administration has provided $8 billion to states for high-speed-rail projects and promised more funding later. Yet high-speed rail is extraordinarily expensive (California received $2.3 billion for a new project that some estimate will cost $81 billion), and cash-strapped states will certainly seek more federal funding. Moreover, these projects are estimated to reduce the average travel time by as little as 30 minutes compared with driving, and to lower auto ridership by as little as 1 percent. Congress should follow the voters’ backlash against these projects by cancelling their funding.
Ten. Trim Pell Grants. After doubling Pell Grant spending from $16 billion to $32 billion since 2008, President Obama proposes to give it entitlement status and spend $52 billion by 2020. Fiscal reality demands that lawmakers instead return funding to 2008 levels.
Concerns about whether students will be able to afford college are unfounded. Over the past three decades, student-aid increases have been one of the causes — not the result — of tuition increases. The more aid students receive, the higher colleges raise tuition to capture that aid.
Higher student-loan limits for low-income families are a fairer way of guaranteeing college access. There is no justification for taxing waitresses and welders so that future college graduates — who will outearn them by $1 million over their lifetime — won’t be burdened by the typical $24,000 student loan.
Eleven. Reduce aid to states. Over the past decade, federal aid to state and local governments has surged, rising 129 percent faster than inflation. Endless bailouts have made Washington one of the top sources of state revenue. These bailouts allow profligate states to delay their inevitable belt-tightening and instead be subsidized by the taxpayers of responsible states.
There is no compelling reason for Washington to finance state-level education, justice, and economic-development expenditures — especially through failed programs such as COPS and firefighter grants. State and local governments should be empowered to address local problems with local solutions — financed and held accountable by local voters.
Twelve. Reduce waste. Although the budget cannot be balanced by cutting waste alone, Congress should not ignore this low-hanging fruit. For instance, Washington runs 342 overlapping economic-development programs, lost $98 billion last year to program payment errors, and recently spent $33 million enhancing the Kennedy family image through the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the Senate, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, and the Rose Kennedy Greenway.
Conservatives should harbor no illusions that cutting spending is easy. However, by carefully selecting its targets, Congress could save as much as $3 trillion over the next decade and lay the groundwork for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid reform.
CHESSER: Never green enough
Lame-duck energy plan first step in job-killing agenda
By Paul Chesser
Bottom of Form
The word on the Web-o-sphere is that a lame-duck Congress could enact a wind- and solar-subsidizing renewable electricity mandate between November and January.
That’s in addition to the billions of dollars in taxpayer “stimulus” that were dedicated to the creation of an alternative energy economy, which the Obama administration touted as a creator of “green” jobs.
But like every other big-spending initiative in which Washington tries to centrally plan the economy, a renewables mandate will fail, just like the stimulus.
The experience in Pennsylvania is instructive. When President Obama took office in January 2009, the state’s unemployment rate was 7 percent – up 2.3 percentage points from a year earlier. Today it stands at more than 9 percent.
But what we heard from the amateur economists in the Keystone State’s environmental movement was that so-called “green” jobs were going to save the day, thanks in part to the passage of the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard. The eco-activist group Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future (known as “PennFuture”), whose motto is “Every environmental victory grows the economy,” said as much in March 2008:
“Clean energy industries are attracted to Pennsylvania because of the work ethic of our people, and because the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards Act in 2004. The guarantee of a market for wind, solar and biomass power drew major solar and wind companies to locate here.
“But now, other states have upped the ante and are seriously competing for clean energy companies. New Jersey and California have hundreds of millions of dollars a year available for solar energy, for example.”
So similar to what President Obama has prescribed with the stimulus, the failure hasn’t been the policy; it’s been that the government hasn’t intervened enough! And fitting an environmentalist economist’s logic perfectly, PennFuture cites New Jersey (a 22.5 percent renewable energy mandate by 2021; 9.6 percent unemployment) and California (a 33 percent renewable energy mandate by 2020; 12.4 percent unemployment) as examples to be followed.
What other pains do alternative energy mandates inflict? According to Pennsylvania’s Public Utilities Commission, the annual cost of ownership for solar energy per kilowatt-hour is over 700 percent more than the cost of coal, and wind energy is almost 23 percent more expensive than coal. Meanwhile, state government provides more than $20 million annually for grants to alternative energy projects, and in 2008, Gov. Edward G. Rendell, a Democrat, signed into law another mandate for an additional $650 million to be given to “green” schemes. Try paying those higher utility and tax bills while fighting to keep your job.
Not surprisingly, those hefty sums for wind and solar still aren’t enough to keep the environmentalists happy, as groups like PennFuture have pushed for even greater mandates and subsidies this year. They won’t be happy until Pennsylvania hits double-digit unemployment as businesses’ electricity costs go through the roof.
Now pull back to the national scene. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, New Mexico Democrat, and Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican, want a 15 percent national renewable electricity standard. Nearly half of America’s power comes from coal, with 20 percent each from natural gas and nuclear, and less than 3 percent combined from wind, solar and biomass. As the Heritage Foundation says, “and this is after decades of existing generous renewable subsidies.”
How much will be enough to make the “green” economy – sparked by renewables mandates – save us all? The answer is, it will never be enough. When it comes to the environmentalists’ agenda, their appetite for subsidies and intervention is insatiable.
The cost of progressivist worship
Obama’s liberal orthodoxy kills private-sector jobs
By Jim Powell
Bottom of Form
Why is it that one government report after another “unexpectedly” bears more bad news about jobs? Last week, according to Bloomberg, “The number of unemployment claims unexpectedly shot up.” Before that, Reuters reported, “Employers unexpectedly cut jobs.” This “unexpectedly” bit has been going on for quite a while, suggesting that journalists continue to be surprised that President Obama‘s progressive agenda has failed to revive private-sector job creation. One might as well say, “Monday unexpectedly will come next week.”
There’s no secret about how to create private-sector jobs. Plenty of experience has shown how to do it, and a great deal has been written about it. The literature on the subject goes back a couple of hundred years, so Mr. Obama can’t say he just missed a tweet.
The first step is to make private-sector job creation a top priority. That’s vital, because the private sector pays all the bills. Government doesn’t have any money other than what it extracts from the private sector. Well, Mr. Obama never made the recovery of private-sector job creation a top priority because he was busy pushing his progressive agenda, including a big “stimulus” bill for government employees, government-run health care, more compulsory unionism, carbon taxes and other policies that have a negative impact on private-sector employment.
Mr. Obama‘s hero Franklin D. Roosevelt never made the recovery of private-sector job creation his top priority, either. He was busy establishing big welfare programs, public works projects, compulsory unionism and the first big U.S. entitlement. He multiplied the number of regulations and tripled federal taxation during the 1930s. Those policies made it more expensive and difficult for employers to hire people – major reasons why FDR’s New Deal was plagued by chronic double-digit unemployment despite the 60 percent expansion of gross domestic product between 1933 and 1937.
If private-sector job creation is a top priority, government must reduce the cost of hiring people and remove other obstacles to employment. Payroll taxes make it more expensive for employers to hire people, and Mr. Obama increased payroll taxes. Minimum-wage laws discourage employers from hiring people who are worth less than the legal minimum because of their limited skills and work experience – Mr. Obama didn’t try to stop last year’s minimum-wage increase. Mr. Obama backs labor unions that obtain above-market compensation and benefits, pricing employers out of markets (autos, steel, textiles, etc.) and destroying private-sector jobs. Obamacare imposes penalties on employers who hire more than 50 people. Mr. Obama is spending trillions of dollars the government doesn’t have, which naturally leads employers to anticipate higher taxes, and they’re reluctant to hire people before they know how high taxes are likely to be. Mr. Obama‘s financial “reform” bill authorizes government agencies to issue hundreds of costly regulations, and the resulting uncertainty further discourages employers from making financial commitments needed to hire people.
Mr. Obama has similarly throttled private-sector investment. He threatened to increase taxes on dozens of the top U.S.-based multinational companies, which would tend to depress their shares that are in individual securities accounts, pension funds, endowment funds and other portfolios. Mr. Obama repeatedly has demanded “soak-the-rich” taxes on private-sector job creators. He raised taxes on interest, dividends, annuities and rents. And of course, Mr. Obama wants the George W. Bush tax cuts to expire at the end of this year, which, in effect, means tax increases, including a top federal income tax rate of 39.6 percent, a dividend tax of 39.6 percent, a long-term capital gains tax of 20 percent, a return of marriage-tax penalties, a return of the death tax (55 percent on estates over $1 million) and a phaseout of itemized deductions for private-sector job creators – all this in addition to applicable state and city income taxes. Bottom line: less private-sector capital available to create private-sector jobs.
Mr. Obama could supercharge the economy if he eliminated all these policies that make it more expensive and difficult for employers to hire people, but that would mean dumping his progressive agenda. Does anybody expect him to do that?
Jim Powell, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, is the author of “FDR’s Folly,” (Crown Forum, 2003).
Dr. David Barton – on Obama
Am I also a bigot? Pols clueless on Ground Zero mosque
By Nat Hentoff
The angry national debate over Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf’ intention to build a mosque two blocks north of the horror of 9/11 at Ground Zero has been further fueled by supporter Nancy Pelosi declaring, “I join those who have called for looking into how … this opposition to the mosque is being funded.”
If one of her sleuths knocks on my door, this opponent will readily state that I need no outside funding as a reporter who is deeply investigating the motivation of Imam Rauf’s choice of this site of mass murder for the mosque. I will add that, of course, all American Muslims have their First Amendment right to exercise their freedom of religion in their place of worship. There have been other mosques in New York City built without opposition. That freedom is not at stake here.
As for Rauf’s inflammable site choice, however, one of a growing number of construction workers pledging they will not work on this mosque (New York Daily News, Aug. 20), Dave Kaiser, a blaster, explains:
“I wouldn’t work there, especially after I found out about what the imam said about U.S. policy being responsible for 9/11.”
Imam Rauf said was interviewed on CBS’ “60 Minutes” (Sept. 30, 2001) by Ed Bradley. (I have the transcript.) Asked how he felt as a Muslim “knowing that people of your faith committed this act,” Imam Rauf spoke about Muslim reaction throughout the world “against the policies of the U.S. government, politically, where we espouse principles of democracy and human rights and where we ally ourselves with oppressive regimes in many of these countries.”
“Are you in any way suggesting that we in the United States deserved what happened?” Bradley asked.
“I wouldn’t say that the United States deserved what happened,” Rauf answered, “but the United States’ policies were an accessory to the crime that happened. … Because (the United States has) been an accessory to a lot of — of innocent lives dying in the world. In fact, it — in the most direct sense, Osama bin Laden is made in the U.S.A.”
Were the heads of government in Iran, Hamas and Sudan is also “made in the USA?”
Imam Rauf has refused to call Hamas a terrorist organization and had no comment when, on Aug. 15, Mahmoud al-Zahar, its co-founder, strongly supported the Imam’s mosque near Ground Zero, saying, Muslims “have to build everywhere” (Associated Press, Aug. 16). Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said the support by Hamas of the Imam’s mosque carried no weight because “Hamas is a terrorist organization.”
Why, yes, it is, Imam Rauf, with its suicide bombers and endless rockets into Israel. How else can suicide bombers be characterized?
This imam — widely lauded in much of the press as “a moderate” Muslim — is not reticent, however, in his firm commitment to Sharia (Islamic law), which regards women as far less than fully human. In the Dec. 9, 2007 Arabic newspaper Hadi el-Islam, Rauf insisted:
“Throughout my discussions with contemporary Muslim theologians, it is clear an Islamic state can be established in more than just a single form or mold. It can be established through a kingdom or a democracy. The important issue is to establish the general fundamentals of Sharia that are required to govern.”
I would greatly appreciate it if Imam Rauf explained, maybe Pelosi will ask him, more fully what he meant in his 2004 book, “What’s Right With Islam is What’s Right With America.” In it he declares: “American Constitution and system of governance uphold the core principles of Islamic law.” Rauf says Sharia law is a core principle of Islamic law. Does that also include a core principle of our Constitution?
This 2004 book’s title in the English-language edition yields to a different title for non-English-speaking readers in Malaysia, reports Andrew McCarthy (“Rauf’s Dawa from the World Trade Center Rubble,” nationalreview.com).
This alternate title in Malaysia brings us right back into the civil war here about the imam’s mosque near Ground Zero: “A Call to Prayer from the World Trade Center Rubble: Islamic Dawa in the Heart of America Post-9/11.”
What does “dawa” mean? McCarthy explains: “Dawa, whether done from the rubble of the World Trade Center or elsewhere, is the missionary work by which Islam is spread. … The purpose of dawa, like the purpose of jihad, is to implement, spread, and defend Sharia. … through means other than violence and agents other than terrorists.”
As of this writing, Imam Rauf is on the State Department tour (financed by us) of Arab nations in the Middle East. He has been on four such State Department tours — two under George W. Bush. Says State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley (New York Post, Aug. 20):
“I wouldn’t be surprised if he talks about the ongoing debate within the United States, as an example of our emphasis on religious tolerance and resolving questions that come up within the rule of law.”
Does our State Department include Sharia as being within our rule of law?
At the end of that news story, we are told that Rauf “is not allowed to fund-raise on the trip.” Yet, in the Aug. 18 New York Post, Geoff Earle and Tom Topousis report that “in an interview overseas, he (Rauf) said ‘he would also tap Muslim nations for help.'”
I would not be surprised if Saudi Arabia ultimately becomes a generous contributor, but not quite in the agreement with the State Department’s “emphasis on religious tolerance.”
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg charges that opponents of Imam Rauf’s mosque “should be ashamed of themselves” and are bigots.
Me, too, Mr. Mayor?
If you want to join Speaker Pelosi in investigating me, your honor, I’d be glad to oblige. I’m just doing my job as a reporter. I wish more reporters had gone beneath the shouting on both sides. There’s another part of the First Amendment in addition to the free exercise of religion: The press is free to investigate the reasons for Imam Rauf’s fixation on the 9/11 location of his mosque.
And why does this location make Hamas glow?
Who suffers most from the costs of racial discrimination?
The poor, of course. They’re the ones who can’t get hired, or find customers for their businesses. Actions based on discrimination become less common as income levels rise. Wealthier citizens are, by definition, more keenly attuned to the economic consequences of acting foolishly. Reverend Jeremiah Wright became extremely wealthy running his church of racial hatred, but poured a good deal of his fortune into a splendid mansion in a mostly white neighborhood. Like a successful drug dealer, he’s not stupid enough to overdose on the poison he sold his followers. He doesn’t seem worried that his rich white neighbors will scurry off to their garages to brew a fresh batch of AIDS to infect him with.
The power elite of our statist government are the most completely insulated from the costs of racism… and they have the greatest interest in propagating racist ideals to improve their positions. A vast and wealthy political apparatus, including organizations like the NAACP, depend on the assumption that white people are inherently inferior from a moral perspective. This is the logical conclusion to be drawn from the insistence that white racism is eternal.
If all opposition to unlimited taxation and regulation is racist, as the NAACP maintains, it follows that whites (whom the Left consistently, and falsely, maintain comprise the total population of the Tea Party movement) owe one hundred percent of their time and property to the government. Any portion the State sees fit to leave untouched is a generous gift. If all criticism of Barack Obama by whites is considered racism, it follows that whites have diminished rights to free speech and assembly. If the insistence on border security is due to blind racism, it follows that white Americans have reduced property rights, and cannot complain about the passage of illegal aliens across their land, or the provision of benefits to illegal’s with funding seized from taxpayers. How are these ideas any different from the way Shirley Sherrod describes the treatment of blacks by colonial slaveholders? (Non-white citizens who share these positions are stripped of their racial identity through the sorcery of Leftist ideology.)
Who gains from frivolous lawsuits, filed at taxpayer expense, which serve no purpose but to inflame the racial fears of a targeted minority population? Who profits from the creation of hopeless inner-city neighborhoods, transformed by animosity and paranoia into prisons with open gates, filled with young people who aren’t looking for the exits? Who harvests power from the dependents of the welfare state? Who views rising unemployment as an opportunity to spend more money? Who dismisses uncomfortable questions by insisting people of a certain color have no right to ask them?
Answer these questions, and you have solved the calculus of racism, which endures beyond the natural end of its miserable existence because the architects of the total State have need of it. As Shirley Sherrod put it, they want to stay in power and, whether it’s health care or whatever it is, they’ll do what they need to do to keep that power, you know.
JournoList: ‘Coordinated’ Ideological Bankruptcy
By Arnold Ahlert
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | The next time you hear a liberal scoffing at the idea that the American left has a set of “talking points,” or that they’re “reading from the same script,” tell him to google “JournoList.” Frankly, it is completely unsurprising that 400, invitation-only, members of leftist media, academia, think tanks and political activist associations would be attempting to coordinate their political strategy. When your ideology is bankrupt, the only thing left is strength in numbers. And when you revere the collectivist aspirations of Marxist/socialist all-encompassing government, “group-think” becomes as natural as breathing.
What else do internal emails confirm? That overt hatred and character assassination were perfectly acceptable when it came to protecting Barack Obama from his poisonous associations with America-hating radicals like the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Thomas Schaller, Baltimore Sun columnist, proposed a “coordinated effort” to demonize ABC’s Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos for daring to ask then-candidate Obama why it took him so long to disassociate himself from Wright. “It would create quite a stir, I bet, and be a warning against future behavior of the sort,” wrote Schaller.
Take a good look at that last sentence and understand what a member of the media is advocating. It isn’t, “let’s win the ideological debate by presenting better ideas to the American public.” It’s “don’t mess with our chosen presidential candidate, or there will be hell to pay.”
In Friday’s Washington Post, Ezra Klein, founder of the list, tried to discredit Tucker Carlson’s breaking of the scandal. He claims much of the reporting in Carlson’s “Daily Caller” is “inaccurate” and justifies such by claiming Tucker himself sought to be included as a member of the “club.” Yet his response to Tucker’s request is quite revealing:
“We definitely have friends in common, and I’d have no worries about you joining. The problem is I need to have clear rules, as i (sic) don’t want to be in the position of forcing fine-grained membership tests based on opaque criteria. Thus far, it’s been center to left, just because that was how people wanted it at the beginning in order to feel comfortable talking freely. I’ve been meaning for some time to ask the list about revisiting that, so I’ll take this opportunity and get back to you.”
Translation: if I allow a conservative to join, leftists couldn’t “feel comfortable talking freely.”
Why not? What is it about leftist philosophy that is so fragile it become necessary to insulate it from dissenting ideas? Ideological bankruptcy, that’s what. And the proof is in the pudding: members of the group voted down Carlson’s membership.
Klein noted that the main reason Carlson was vetoed was that JournoList members “worried about opening the archives to individuals who could help their careers by ripping e-mails out of context, misrepresenting the nature of the ongoing conversation…”
There’s a simple solution to that problem, Mr. Klein: publish all of the emails–in the order in which they were written, along with the names and occupations of those who wrote them. Let the American people decide who’s telling the truth here, and what, if anything, has been “taken out of context.”
The emailers’ occupations are critical. Let the American people make the distinction between emails written by typical leftist fire-breathers from academia, think tanks or activist groups–and those people in the media who have been entrusted with providing unbiased news coverage to the public.
Let the people decide if there’s anything resembling a coordinated effort to merely solidify leftist talking points–or a determined effort to slant the news, via selective reporting, outright lying, and/or character assassination.
It is no secret Barack Obama is the least-vetted candidate to ever occupy the Oval Office. And it is now becoming painfully evident that that “lack of curiosity” may have had far less to do with journalistic ineptitude than a pre-meditated effort to squelch information about the mainstream media’s “preferred candidate.”
Here’s the most pathetic part of all: what does it say about leftists that they feel compelled to coordinate information via membership in a fraternity? What does it say about people who have long considered themselves champions of tolerance that allowing one conservative to join that fraternity is a bridge too far? What does it say about those who consider their ideas so “superior” to those of ordinary Americans that anyone who disagrees with them is considered beneath contempt–and open to being labeled racist, sexist homophobic, xenophobic, etc. etc.?
I tell you what it says to me: these people are cowards–and lightweights. People may not like what I write, but I’d be damned before I’d “clear” my work with anyone other than my editor and my wife. I’d laugh out loud if anyone suggested I “coordinate” my writing with anyone else’s. And I’d quit writing altogether before I sat on any information because it might not accrue to my “favorite” politicians.
These people are entitled to do as they please. But any journalist on this list–not opinion-maker, just to be clear–ought to be ashamed of himself. In case no one has spelled it out for you, “coordinating” news is an utter disgrace to the profession. In a better world anyone guilty of such a transgression would be fired. In this world, leftists will likely circle the wagons and protect each other.
Apparently a lot of them need the protection. If this story makes anything clear, most of these people are scared of standing on their own two feet–which is what happens when what you stand for is ideologically bankrupt.
The latest bailout for public unions and spendthrift states.
To treat Washington’s spending addiction, the November elections are the taxpayer’s best chance to stage an intervention. But until then, President Obama and the Democratic Congress are determined to keep pushing strung-out state governments to take one more fix.
Witness yesterday’s 247-161 largely party-line House vote to approve a Senate bill shovelling another $26.1 billion out to state education and Medicaid programs. The White House has promoted the bill as emergency assistance for strained state budgets. But this unique brand of therapy drives states to spend more, not less. The “assistance” is so expensive that several governors were begging for relief even before Mr. Obama signed it into law.
Standing with teachers yesterday in the White House Rose Garden, Mr. Obama said, “We can’t stand by and do nothing while pink slips are given to the men and women who educate our children or keep our communities safe.” Maintaining the salaries and generous benefit plans for members of teachers unions is indeed a top Democratic priority. That’s why $10 billion of the bill’s funding is allocated to education, and the money comes with strings that will multiply the benefits for this core Obama constituency.
Specifically, the bill stipulates that federal funds must supplement, not replace, state spending on education. Also, in each state, next year’s spending on elementary and secondary education as a percentage of total state revenues must be equal to or greater than the previous year’s level.
Governor Haley Barbour of Mississippi did the math and figured out his state will be worse off. Mr. Barbour says the bill will force his state “to rewrite its current year [fiscal 2011] budget. Preliminary estimates of the Mississippi Department of Finance and Administration show that we will now have to spend between $50-100 million of state funds—funds that must be taken away from public safety, human services, mental health and other state priorities and given to education—in order for an additional $98 million of federal funds to be granted to education. There is no justification for the federal government hijacking state budgets, but that is exactly what Congress has done.”
For Texas, and only Texas, this funding rule will be in place through 2013. This is a form of punishment because the Beltway crowd believes the Lone Star State didn’t spend enough of its 2009 stimulus money. Apparently Texas politicians have been clinging to the quaint notion that the government should try to live within its means.
Texans also seem to have an old-fashioned appreciation for the rule of law. On Friday, 22 GOP Members of the state’s Congressional delegation sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “This provision would have Texas violate her own State Constitution,” they wrote. “The Texas Legislature has sole authority to determine State appropriations. Moreover, one Legislature cannot bind a future Legislature. Requiring the State to assure that a future Texas Legislature would commit to spend funds in accordance with these provisions would violate the Texas Constitution.”
Texas Governor Rick Perry is also opposed to this new “assistance” from the federal government. He understands that one-time payments that force permanently higher state obligations are a windfall for government employees. But if given the choice, taxpayers would just say no.
That’s because taxpayers are figuring out that these state bailouts are only making unions more reluctant to share their sacrifice. While Mr. Obama quotes the union figure of 160,000 potential lost teacher jobs, those don’t have to come out of the classroom. According to research by Eric Hanushek of Stanford University, student enrollment grew by 22% from 1990 to 2007, but teacher employment grew by 41%. Since 2000, enrollment has grown by 5% but teacher employment by 10%.
The unions themselves could have prevented some layoffs had they been willing to adjust their rich benefits. In Milwaukee, for example, nearly all of the 500 teacher layoffs announced earlier this year could have been avoided if the unions had agreed to change health plans that cost $23,000 per teacher per year for family coverage. They could have accepted a still-rich $17,000 plan. The unions chose the layoffs, betting (correctly) that Democrats in Washington would come to their rescue.
Keep in mind that this teacher bailout also amounts to a huge contribution by Democrats to their own election campaigns. The National Right to Work Committee estimates that two of every three teachers belong to unions. The average union dues payment varies, but a reasonable estimate is that between 1% and 1.5% of teacher salaries goes to dues. The National Education Association and other unions will thus get as much as $100 million in additional dues from this bill, much of which will flow immediately to endangered Democratic candidates in competitive House and Senate races this year.
So in the name of still another “stimulus,” Democrats are rewarding their own political funders, putting the most fiscally responsible states into even greater distress, and postponing the day of reckoning for spendthrift states. Oh, and Mr. Obama rushed to sign the bill Tuesday, violating his campaign pledge to give the public five days to read legislation online. As we say, the only way for voters to stop such fiscal abuse is to run this crowd out of town.
This one is a few years old but it still applies
Tina Griego, journalist for the Denver Rocky Mountain News wrote a column titled, “Mexican visitor’s lament” — 10/25/07.
She interviewed Mexican journalist Evangelina Hernandez while visiting Denver last week. Hernandez said, “They (illegal aliens) pay rent, buy groceries, buy clothes…what happens to your country’s economy if 20 million people go away?”
That’s a good question – it deserves an answer. Over 80 percent of Americans demand secured borders and illegal migration stopped. But what would happen if all 20 million or more vacated America? The answers may surprise you!
In California, if 3.5 million illegal aliens moved back to Mexico, it would leave an extra $10.2 billion to spend on overloaded school systems, bankrupted hospitals and overrun prisons. It would leave highways cleaner, safer and less congested. Everyone could understand one another as English became the dominate language again.
In Colorado, 500,000 illegal migrants, plus their 300,000 kids and grand-kids – would move back “home,” mostly to Mexico. That would save Coloradans an estimated $2 billion (other experts say $7 BIL) annually in taxes that pay for schooling, medical, social-services and incarceration costs. It means 12,000 gang members would vanish out of Denver alone.
Colorado would save more than $20 million in prison costs, and the terror that those 7,300 alien criminals set upon local citizens. Denver Officer Don Young and hundreds of Colorado victims would not have suffered death, accidents, rapes and other crimes by illegals.
Denver Public Schools would not suffer a 67 percent drop-out/flunk-out rate via thousands of illegal alien students speaking 41 different languages. At least 200,000 vehicles would vanish from our gridlocked cities in Colorado. Denver’s four percent unemployment rate would vanish as our working poor would gain jobs at a living wage.
In Florida, 1.5 million illegals would return the Sunshine State back to America, the rule of law and English.
In Chicago, Illinois, 2.1 million illegals would free up hospitals, schools, prisons and highways for a safer, cleaner and more crime-free experience.
If 20 million illegal aliens returned “home”:
If 20 million illegal aliens returned “home,” the U.S. economy would return to the rule of law. Employers would hire legal American citizens at a living wage. Everyone would pay their fair share of taxes because they wouldn’t be working off the books. That would result in an additional $401 billion in IRS income taxes collected annually, and an equal amount for local state and city coffers.
No more push ‘1′ for Spanish or ‘2′ for English. No more confusion in American schools that now must content with over 100 languages that degrade the educational system for American kids. Our overcrowded schools would lose more than two million illegal alien kids at a cost of billions in ESL and free breakfasts and lunches.
We would lose 500,000 illegal criminal alien inmates at a cost of more than $1.6 billion annually. That includes 15,000 MS-13 gang members who distribute $130 billion in drugs annually would vacate our country. In cities like L.A, 20,000 members of the” 18th Street Gang” would vanish from our nation. No more Mexican forgery gangs for ID theft from Americans! No more foreign rapists and child molesters!
Losing more than 20 million people would clear up our crowded highways and gridlock. Cleaner air and less drinking and driving American deaths by illegal aliens!
Drain on America’s economy; taxpayers harmed, employers get rich:
Over $80 billion annually wouldn’t return to their home countries by cash transfers. Illegal migrants earned half that money untaxed, which further drains America’s economy – which currently suffers a $13 trillion debt.
At least 400,000 anchor babies would not be born in our country, costing us $109 billion per year per cycle. At least 86 hospitals in California, Georgia and Florida would still be operating instead of being bankrupted out of existence because illegal’s pay nothing via the EMTOLA Act. Americans wouldn’t suffer thousands of TB and hepatitis cases rampant in our country-brought in by illegal’s unscreened at our borders.
Our cities would see 20 million less people driving, polluting and grid locking our cities. It would also put the “progressives” on the horns of a dilemma; illegal aliens and their families cause 11 percent of our greenhouse gases.
Over one million of Mexico’s poorest citizens now live inside and along our border from Brownsville, Texas to San Diego, California in what the New York Times called, “colonias” or new neighborhoods. Trouble is, those living areas resemble Bombay and Calcutta where grinding poverty, filth, diseases, drugs, crimes, no sanitation and worse. They live without sewage, clean water, streets, electricity, roads or any kind of sanitation. The New York Times reported them to be America’s new” Third World” inside our own country. Within 20 years, at their current growth rate, they expect 20 million residents of those colonias. (I’ve seen them personally in Texas and Arizona; it’s sickening beyond anything you can imagine.) By enforcing our laws, we could repatriate them back to Mexico.
We invite 20 million aliens to go home, fix their own countries and/or make a better life in Mexico. We invite a million people into our country legally, more than all other countries combined annually. We cannot and must not allow anarchy at our borders, more anarchy within our country and growing lawlessness at every level in our nation.