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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Can I Get an Amen? (The Thinkin’ About a Tea Party Edition)

Via Instapundit, I find this site that hits me as saying precisely what I want to say:

Today’s economic crisis impacts all Americans, not just those who are behind on their mortgages.  Everyone shares concerns over health care, job loss, and the decimation of their retirement savings.  All Americans have made sacrifices over the past year.  The American taxpayer is already on the hook for mismanaged banks, incompetently run auto companies and extravagent stimulus packages.  We don’t need the additional burden of paying for our neighbor’s mortgage.  The bottom line - we believe that being current on one’s mortgage should not be grounds for being put at a financial disadvantage.

That is wildly deserving of an amen.

I find myself wondering how conservatives who bought into the rhetoric of hope and change, who believed that Obama would be governing from a moderate’s position, and who ended up voting Democrat in the elections are feeling about their decision right now? I’m feeling more and more that I voted the right direction: McCain.

Now, the current economic crisis isn’t Obama’s fault. There are a lot of names and administrations that can share the blame for bad regulations, overspending, and refusal to deal with the American economy as something built on money that doesn’t come from the Free Money Fairy. And then there are the people--that is, “we, the people"--who helped by demanding more government services and less fiscal sanity. In fact, we, the people, made it downright difficult for a person to be elected if they threatened our slice of the pie, a fact that has made blue hairs such an important voting block and rational conversation about the future of Social Security such a political hazard.

So, no, it’s not Obama’s fault.

But I remember watching one of the televised debates and hearing McCain promise a spending freeze followed by deep cuts in the budget coupled with a belief that raising taxes on any Americans right now would be foolish and irresponsible. Obama, in contrast, spoke breezily about cutting the budget, but thought that a spending freeze was a bad idea and an increase in taxes on the wealthy (whatever “wealthy” might mean) was a brilliant idea.

I remember thinking that this was one of only two defining issues for me (the other being continued resolution to maintain the most powerful military in the world--surprisingly, continued prosecution of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan was down the list a ways for reasons best discussed in another post on another day). Obama might indeed have intended to govern from the center, but even that night he couldn’t get away from a knee-jerk need by the left to increase taxes (on the right people) and massively increase spending (to the right people).

If the Republicans hadn’t lost the moral high ground on the economy over the last eight years, I imagine that we would be talking about President McCain and his obstructionist tendencies right now.

McCain may have had a hard time leading, given the state of the GOP in both House and Senate, but I think he would have gleefully used his veto pen to kill off this stimulus package and would have forced the Democrats into a fight. Instead, the left pretends at compromise with the complicity of a couple turncoat Republicans and then bulls ahead with whatever the hell it is that they wanted to do in the first place.

Because they won.

I don’t think that trend will last, though, because Americans are already starting to worry about how this latest stimulus package is actually going to help create jobs, foster economic stability, or do much other than run up well over a trillion in new debt. Bush has been criticized, rightly, for the debt that he ran up during his terms in office; a month into Obama’s administration and it’s become apparent that he not only intends to continue down that path, but, indeed, he’ll be upping the ante.

That’s a phrase--"upping the ante"--that I use very specifically. There is an element of the bad gambler to the way our government is handling the crisis, and Obama is cheering on the bad behavior. If you’ve ever seen a guy losing big at the craps tables, you’ll know what I mean.

That guy probably started with relatively conservative bets. He played the come and the pass lines and didn’t place any of the hard ways or other high risk bets. But he was losing--every few rolls of the dice set him back a little bit more until he realized he was down quite a bit. So instead of walking away, he believed the thing that every bad gambler believes: his luck’s going to turn. There were so many bad rolls that a good roll is just bound to be right around the corner.

And when he believes that, the bets get bigger because, when his luck turns, he believes the payout will pull him right out of the hole that he’s dug himself. So he starts betting bigger and he starts betting the high risk/high reward bets. There is luck involved, of course, and he’ll win some rolls. More than that, though, there is simple math: even when he wins a roll or two, he’s dug that hole so deep that he’s still deep down in the dark and he has to keep playing to try to break even.

What he doesn’t realize is that he’s already lost. The money is gone and he needs to be smart enough to step away from the table, go home, and figure out how to rebuild what is already gone.

Our government is that guy: the stimulus plans are getting bigger, the hole is getting deeper, and they believe that one more stimulus bill could hit it big and make those losses go away. Meanwhile, the deficit gets bigger and someone else is going to end up paying the bill because our government has gone way the hell and gone beyond the money that they brought to the table. They’ve borrowed from everyone they know, they’ve maxed the credit cards, they’ve taken out mortgages on our futures--and they’re using it all to place a bad bet that will only take us closer to financial ruin.

And Obama is the one leading us down that path, cheerfully telling us that this is the bet that will make it all better. I don’t believe him.

McCain wasn’t the guy who sent a thrill up my leg.  He wasn’t my perfect candidate and he didn’t mesh with my beliefs on a number of issues. I have a hard time imagining that he would have travelled this particular path, though, and I believe that this path is one that could ruin our nation.

Republicans, libertarians, and all nature of fiscal conservatives will be fighting at a disadvantage for the next few years (at least), but anyone who believes that our salvation is to be found in fiscal responsibility need to start pushing back now. We’re losing the battles right now, but we can’t afford to lose the war.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Can I Get an Amen?

A little laundry list of things:

  1. “It’s now safe to return to the bars of Denver.” That sounds suspiciously like a call for a Rocky Mountain Blogger Bash. To take place on February 18. At an as yet undecided location.

    Or am I reading a little too much into that? Either way, this might be a good time to start RSVPing.
  2. The State of the Union address? A decent speech very well delivered with a few really punchy lines about things I like (line item veto and a pretty tough line directed at Hamas), a few oblique references to things I don’t (general opposition to gay marriage and, it would seem, more than enough spending increases to counter his proposed spending cuts), and a new line of attack on entitlement reform that just might have reinvigorated me for the fight. SOTU addresses aren’t meant to be much more than broad strokes, so this worked well within that context.
  3. The Democrat’s response was even less convincing although delivered as well as any response in recent history. Which is clearing a mighty low hurdle, I have to admit.
  4. Flipping through the cable stations after the speech, I was amused to find Cooper Anderson talking to Arianna Huffington and Andrew Sullivan. A big, bold graphic proclaimed “BLOGGERS REACT” (although it could have been “REACTION"--can’t remember). So, take one foaming at the mouth hard left blogger and one left-leaning (except for his moments of inconsistent hawkishness) writer with a serious and severe dislike of Bush, and there’s your blogger response to the SOTU address. You know: because it’s balanced that way. When Anderson asked if anyone would remember this speech in two weeks, it was utterly hilarious to see two people with such obvious axes to grind stumble over themselves to tell us all just how poor the speech was. And some news execs wonder why the public believes that the news is delivered with a leftist bias.
  5. Tonight, while working on a couple of projects, I’ll be watching Clint Eastwood’s The Outlaw Josey Wales. Good stuff. Gritty, dirty, brutal, bloody, and dark.
  6. Cindy Sheehan is afforded an opportunity to act with dignity and self-restraint; instead she martyrs herself at the altar of her self-obsessed attack on US policy. Without asking her to tone down her rhetoric, I would just note that as soon as the speech was over, she would have had ample opportunity and ample media interest to deliver her own, personal rebuttal. Instead she chose to make an ass out of herself; all it would have taken was one hour of realizing that the spotlight wasn’t going to be on her. The fringe will glory in recounting her oppression; the rest of the country will shrug and wonder why she couldn’t be bothered to act like a grown-up for one evening.
  7. For a good chunk of 2005, the left was gleefully looking forward to a Republican self-immolation. And they sort of got their wish. For the GOP, 2005 wasn’t precisely a banner year. Between rising energy costs, a start-stop stock market that helps to define public opinion of the economy, both good and bad news in the war on terror, corruptions scandals, and a President who couldn’t pull off the most important parts of his own agenda, there has been an opportunity for the Democrats to make headway. Instead, the Democrats have whined their way into being liked even less than Republicans and their activist base--the true believers in the divinity of Kos, for example--are threatening to splinter off since not all of the Democrats were willing to go to war over Alito.

    Amazingly, after such a rough year for the GOP, it’s the Democrats who look like they’re on the run, not the Republicans. Amazing.
  8. Though she doesn’t manage to show even a drop of class or understanding of proper context for her protest, I still don’t think that Sheehan should have been arrested.
  9. Madrugada’s The Deep End. That’s an album all y’all rock fans should own. The best CD you’ve probably never heard of from a band that I’m really starting to love.
  10. What I really don’t get is the Democrat’s backslapping ovation on their own obstructionist tendencies in reference to Social Security reform. Here’s the fact: Social Security (and all of our big, scary entitlement programs) are a serious growing threat to the long-term well being of our country. There should be no celebrating the fact that we couldn’t find the right solution to the problem, there should be a renewed interest in finding the right solution and a disappointment that we couldn’t create the right framework for attacking the problem. Seriously, folks, our growing entitlement spending is as big a problem (and, arguably, it qualifies as a national security issue) as radical Islamic terrorists. It doesn’t have the immediate sense of threat, I admit, but the problem grows more and more difficult to handle with each passing year.

    Unchecked, the bill that comes due over the next few decades could bring this country to its knees more surely than another terrorist attack of 9/11 proportions. It could make us into a younger version of Germany or France and reduce us to standing on the sidelines as even younger, more vigorous economies and political powers shape the future of the globe. Unemployment will rise along with inflation while our political influence plummets. Now is the time to find solutions.

    So, yeah, that celebration of failure is a little disconcerting.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Rock the Vote: Gimme Gimme Gimme Some More

I just spent the last few minutes of my life watching Rock The Vote’s infomercial for higher taxes and resistance to Social Security changes. I am stunned by the one-sided, head in the sand, misleading little bit of propaganda.

In case I don’t have the opportunity to put together an extensive response later tonight, I did want to make sure that everyone had a chance to see this thing and understand that the opposition to Social Security reform isn’t based in anything rational. It’s based in ignorance (no, there really isn’t a problem--honest) and a stunning selfishness (not only is there no problem, but there will always be enough new workers to make sure that we all get paid even more than current retirees).

Sheer idiocy.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

He Beat Me To It…

I was going to blast Krugman’s latest bit of imbecilic analysis. As an aside, that he continues to be paid for his opinions--so regularly wrong, so blatantly partisan--is one of life’s most irritating mysteries. Anyhow, I was going to rip his article apart; while the President’s “plan” (I still consider it a bit much to call the rough outline that we’ve been given a “plan") isn’t above criticism, Krugman’s critique is a confused mess of a thing filled with inconsistencies and fabrications. It seemed a pretty good target of opportunity.

Julian Sanchez beat me to the punch, though, and with style. Sanchez’s initial article is well worth reading, too.

Update: For an alternate view, feel free to read the Democrats.org take on Krugman’s screed.

Friday, April 29, 2005

President Bush, Social Security, and Us

President Bush’s words on Social Security last night worked for me in the sense that I think he’s heading in the right direction. Of course, I don’t think he heads quite far enough, but it’s a good start.

The acknowledgement that the system needs to be means tested was surprising and gratifying, but didn’t go far enough. Social Security, outside of any private accounts that the government may or may not give us, is a welfare program, and it should be treated accordingly. Means testing for a welfare program should exclude anyone who is truly wealthy; there is a principle of fairness involved that makes me uncomfortable with this since even the wealthy have been asked to pay into a “retirement program.” The truth is, though, that the system needs to be modified to reflect the reality: there is no reserve of money to pay retirement benefits and any pay-go system is in reality a welfare program meant to save the least of us from impoverishment in old age.

The Donald Trumps of the world don’t need the monthly government handout that takes the form of a Social Security.

To move to that kind of a system, though, the government must provide private accounts--the portion of your taxes that you or you heirs are actually entitled to, that requires no means testing, and that funnels wealth from one generation to the next.

My biggest curiosity with the President’s proposal last night--short on specifics as speeches must be, it’s hard to consider it a full proposal--are about the numbers involved in keeping the promises that he makes. Everyone maintains at least their current level of benefits (although the indexing for increases is tied to inflation to slow the growth of payments) and the closer you get to the bottom of the economic food chain, the more of a bump you get in payouts. I’d like to see the numbers to back-up the plan.

Before you head over to Michelle Malkin’s site (the link is at the bottom of the post) to see how the left is misrepresenting what the President proposed last night, you might want to acquaint yourself with this bit of wisdom:

The principle of full reserves, indispensable to private insurance, is thoroughly inapplicable to social insurance because governmental insurance programs can never escape being on a “pay as you go” basis. Belief that the maintenance of full reserves will lighten the future costs is utterly without foundation. For while reserves in private insurance are assets because they represent investments in government bonds, private factories, stores, buildings and farms, governmental reserves invested in its own securities are liabilities. Whereas a private insurance company draws interest outside its own policy-holders which supplements its income, the government merely spends the funds as fast as they come and in return deposits only its own IOU notes. Even the interest it sets aside to the reserve account on its ledger consists merely of additional IOU notes.

That brilliant explanation of the futility of describing the Social Security collection as a lock box or as retirement insurance hasn’t lost its edge since the day it was published in January of 1939. Abraham Epstein wrote it for The New Republic (leave a comment with a request and I’ll be happy to forward the PDF) suggesting some of the changes that President Bush was pushing last night.

Fixing Social Security shouldn’t be a partisan issue; it should be a frank discussion about the shortfalls of the current system, a realization of what we can reasonably expect from the system, and then finding a series of solutions that protect current and soon-to-be retirees. The system is broken and has been from its inception; it was and is a flawed design.

Now, head over to Mrs. Malkin’s place to see how people like Josh Marshall and Atrios are fighting the fight against Social Security reform and against the long term economic health of the United States.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Ooo, Oooo, Pick Me!

I know the answer to this one:

Why is it acceptable for state employees to be able to invest all of their mandated retirement savings - amounting to 8 percent of salary from employees and 10.15 percent from the state - into accounts similar to what Bush wants to make available on a much more restricted scale for young workers across the nation? 
...
By the way, several hundred state employees - including lawmakers, top elected officials and some of their staff - have since the late 1990s enjoyed the privilege of choosing between a traditional pension and privately directed accounts. 

Of the 457 officials currently eligible for the pension choice, 221 have opted for self-directed accounts. 

Perhaps critics of Bush’s plan will stop their carping long enough to tell us why state workers can be trusted to make such decisions but the rest of us can’t.

The answer, of course, is that the rest of us are stoopider than state employees.

I mean, it’s obvious, really.

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