In the Mirror
In the Mirror

Obamanomics: Simply Insanity or Crazy Craftiness, Too?

Blog From
September 21st, 2011

(Article first published as Obamanomics: Simply Insanity or Crazy Craftiness, Too? on Blogcritics.) On February 12, 2008, in a campaign speech delivered to a packed, thunderously approving crowd, then candidate Barack Obama provided a glimpse of Obamanomics. As in his later encounter with Joe The Plumber, the first term Illinois Senator preached government control of wealth. The specific example he used on both occasions was wealth redistribution. But, that is merely one type of wealth control. There are others and Obama has also pursued them in his first term. They’ve all failed or we wouldn’t be surveying their smoldering wreckage from our perch on the brink of a double dip recession.

And yet Obamanomics hasn’t changed one whit. No lessons learned, not even a slight course correction. It’s still all about government control of wealth through taxing and spending, regulating, granting unfair advantage to handpicked businesses and industries, etc. Take Obama’s jobs proposal, or Stimulus 2.0, unveiled in his September 7 speech. The payroll tax cut is merely an extension of the current one-year reduction. It won’t improve hiring because it’s not a cause of unemployment. But, it is convenient diversionary dressing around a window the White House can’t break through.

And then there’s infrastructure spending, redux. In 2008 and 2009, Obama preached the importance of shovel ready jobs so much he practically turned it into a religion. But in a September 2010 interview, published the following month, Obama admitted those jobs don’t exist in the public sector. One short year later, he’s pushing them again.

The tax increases in the President’s just announced debt reduction plan are nothing new, either. He’s pressed the issue of increasing taxes on the rich since his first term candidacy days. But, at this juncture, even Democrats are having a difficult time supporting them. The reason is obvious. The economy cannot be fixed by taking money out of it. Increasing taxes on those who invest their incomes in growing businesses is much more than merely foolish.

Obama’s persistence in the face of these failures is very like Einstein’s definition of insanity. That is, doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result. It doesn’t happen in physics and it won’t happen in economics, either. But, is Obamanomics just insanity or is it also the slick strategy of a President desperate to win re-election?  The facts are stacking up in favor of the latter.

From the moment of his first presidential campaign appearance, Obama has clung to the politics of blame like an addiction. Now, in these beginning days of his re-election bid, with his poll numbers tanking faster than the Titanic, he desperately needs a distraction to hype. Anything that will get the electorate more upset with Republicans than with his mishandling of the economy. So, he offers proposals that couldn’t get through Congress with a battering ram in order to contrive blame scenarios.

His jobs plan is a typical example. Before its delivery, he set the stage by characterizing it as ‘bipartisan’, which, of course, is wrong since it takes two parties to create bipartisanship. No matter, in his Saturday address to the nation, Obama stated his intention to extort GOP support for his new Stimulus proposal. His grand scheme is to blame House Republicans for continuing high unemployment if they oppose it. What he’s not saying is that, if Republicans do support his plan, he will include them in a circle of ‘bipartisan’ blame when it fails. Using blame like a flamethrower is what got Obama elected and blame is what he believes will get him re-elected. Meanwhile, we’re getting much too cozy with double dip.

In another favorite blame pitch, Obama pits the “rich” against the “little guy” over the amounts of money they earn and taxes they pay. But, concocting divisions and wielding them like weapons to get re-elected merely underscores his unsuitability for the office he holds. He ignores the fact that the rich pay most of the federal income tax while about fifty percent of wage earners pay zero dollars.

Obama also fails to mention that many in his crosshairs are small business owners who employ the majority of the American workforce. Taking more money out of their pockets leaves them with less to invest, which means businesses stagnate and the unemployment rate remains high. It also depresses tax revenue.

But, it works for Obamanomics, which holds that government, not the private sector, is the engine of economic growth. As if on cue, the Solyndra loan scandal, presently engulfing the White House like a Gulf oil fire, belies that argument. Taxpayers, courtesy of the Obama Administration, guaranteed $535 million in venture capital loans to the handpicked company. One thousand new jobs were supposed to be created in return.

Fourteen months later, the company folded, laying off eleven hundred workers and leaving taxpayers holding an expensive bag. At a cost of over $535,000 per job, the loan guarantee is being criticized as “crony capitalism”. One of the Solyndra investors is a high-profile Obama campaign contributor. Regardless, the whole debacle highlights the inability of a government bureaucracy to drive an economy anywhere but off a cliff.

In an unusual public chastisement, former Clinton strategist, James Carville, scolded Obama last week for not firing his staff and completely changing his direction. Press Secretary Jay Carney responded that the American people know Obama is doing all he can to grow the economy and create jobs. At last, we all agree on something. We know Obama’s doing all he can. And it’s not working.

In that February 2008 speech, candidate Obama promised to remake this country, block by block, precinct by precinct, county by county and state by state. If you’ve had enough of that, get your shovels ready. You’ve got a job to do come November 2012.

See you in the mirror.

Posted in In the Mirror



In the Mirror

Say It Ain’t So

Blog From
August 24th, 2011

(Article first published as Say It Ain’t So on Blogcritics.) In 1919, eight players on the Chicago White Sox threw the World Series to the Cincinnati Reds. They were later indicted and banned from baseball for life. A small boy who idolized the most famous of them, Shoeless Joe Jackson, entreated the star to deny his involvement. The child’s plea, “say it ain’t so”, has come to epitomize both disbelief and the pain of disappointment.  It’s a fitting reaction to the current crop of Republican presidential hopefuls. Each is such an easy target that one can almost discern a plot to throw the election to Barack Obama.

O.k., not really, but a conspiracy might as well exist. With the possible exception of Mitt Romney, none stands a snowball’s chance of living in the White House in 2013. Why? Each has a platform with such narrow appeal the Great Wallendas would lose their balance. Obama is already taking aim at the Republican field although, if he were smart, he’d wait. His attacks might help produce a new contender who defeats him.

The problem with the current GOP candidates is that they’re treating the 2012 presidential election as a one issue race. Each is betting that independent voters fear our desperate economic plight deeply enough to overlook his or her polarizing positions on other subjects. With that bet placed, they are racing to grab the nomination by playing to a narrow segment of the Party with the most apparent influence.

While it’s true that elections are usually a barometer of the way voters believe their lives are going, voting isn’t always just about the economy. With Obama’s divisive rhetoric and thick misdirection smoke screens, solutions for a broader range of issues must be defined. That’s a requirement the current GOP candidates are not up to meeting.

More than at any time in living memory, politics lies in polarized pieces. Politicians have come to mimic players in a TV ‘reality’ show, the more extreme the better. Predictably, the debt reduction plan of the interparty Gang of Six died aborning because it lacked the extremism that made the eventual legislation meaningless.

The fringe in both parties tries to lay exclusive claim to “principle”, reducing party value to brand marketing. But neither labels nor rhetoric solves problems. What does most often are plans with a mix of provisions that, collectively, defy categorization. But that’s a lesson too many choose to overlook.

Take Michele Bachmann, winner of the Iowa Straw Poll, although garnering a whopping 4,823 votes out of 16,892 cast isn’t much of victory. She bleeds Tea out of every political pore from tying the knot to waging war. It won’t get her to the White House. Although she is trying to broaden her appeal, her dye has been cast for much too long.

Ron Paul, the 76-year old Texas libertarian, may be Nostradamus and Edward Cayce combined when it comes to the economy, but he has no chance.  He does have, whether or not deservedly, a crackpot aura, which would be a problem except the media mostly ignores him. As the modern day Harold Stassen, he should save his money and go home.

Rick Perry, the hardline Texas conservative and newcomer to the race, is supposed to threaten the chances of both Romney and Bachmann. But, he has yet to be tested in a national context and his baptism by fire is just beginning. Speaking of baptisms, personal religious beliefs are great but they shouldn’t be showcased as a prelude to a national campaign. It’s bad theater on several levels. If Perry keeps that up, he won’t have a prayer.

And then there are the acknowledged and unacknowledged also rans. Tim Pawlenty, the weakest of the weak, dropped out of the race the day after his poor showing in Iowa. And only Gingrich thinks Gingrich is actually running rather than showing up periodically to pontificate. Santorum and Cain combined would have come in behind Paul in the Iowa poll while “Other” got more votes than Huntsman and McCotter put together. Don’t look for one of these four to be the 2012 breakout candidate.

Even Romney, who has the best chance of victory among the known’s, has flip-flopped himself to the right side of the political frying pan. They all want to outdo each other in staking a claim to the Republican’s most conservative wing. In their rush to be Right, they appear more and more Wrong to independents essential for victory next year.

The GOP’s best 2012 hope is that the election turns out to be a rerun of 2008. With an economy Obama has made much worse and his tanking poll numbers, he’s becoming the reincarnation of George Bush. Either that happens or the convention in Tampa Bay next year brokers a real winner. That last one is a desperate solution, but so are our times.

See you in the mirror.

Posted in In the Mirror



In the Mirror

The Afterglow

Blog From
August 10th, 2011

(This blog is an update of an article first published as The Afterglow on Blogcritics.) It took almost no time at all for the phony afterglow conjured up by Washington’s politicians to be extinguished by the cold winds of reality. In the brief two days between the signing of the debt ceiling increase and the first gust of trouble, the President and Congress were celebrating. Obama, planning a bus tour of the Midwest at taxpayer expense, was busy filling his head with happy re-election thoughts. After all that political posturing, Congressional members fell back exhausted and went on vacation and deeply into denial.

Forty-eight hours after the debt deal was inked, the stock market plummeted 500 points, erasing the gains for the year in a single day. While the crisis in Europe contributed to the plunge, much of the impetus was the grim economic outlook in the U.S. The Dow finished the roller coaster week with the largest five-day drop since October 2008.

On Friday night, Standard & Poor’s downgraded the U.S. credit rating from triple-A to AA+. The historic move means that U.S. Treasury debt is no longer among the safest investments in the world. The action was prompted by the failure of the debt ceiling legislation to address America’s chronic finance problems, a fact many people already knew.

More than one dozen countries now have a higher credit rating than the U.S. Lower credit ratings generally necessitate higher interest rates on the debt instruments in order to attract investors. The interest we already pay on the debt would feed several small countries annually. With higher rates, the national debt will grow at an accelerated pace, compounding our current problems.

The Standard & Poor’s downgrade is the first crack in the timbers supporting our economic viability. In response to its reverberating sound, the stock market plunged again on Monday, this time by 634 points. For the second time in just three short business days, the Dow hit a record rocky bottom. The performance in the international financial markets is bleak as well. And the response from Washington? It’s been nothing short of suicidal, but not from despair. Self-destruction in D.C. is at the hands of politics as usual.

Even with the record levels of political partisanship and acrimony these days, statements emanating from the White House in the last four days are stunning. The response to the S&P downgrade has ranged from meaningless to blaming it on the Tea Party. Regarding the former, Obama says that while markets will rise and fall, the U.S. will always be a AAA country. Seriously? Tune up the orchestra. It’s almost time for “Nearer My God To Thee”.

Meanwhile, Main Street looks like it’s been tossed in a DEA raid. According to most experts, the housing market is now in its second, or double, dip since December 2007 when the Great Recession began. Unemployment remains so huge, you don’t need 20/20 vision to see it.

On that score, the President is disingenuously touting the July jobs report. But, the hundreds of thousands of people who left the job force last month offset the jobs that were added. In fact, the employed-to-unemployed ratio has not been as low as it is right now since January 1984. In looking at the persistent unemployment situation, we’re watching a slow-motion train wreck. Our year-to-date GDP numbers make this sorry situation even worse. At 1.3 percent, economic growth is practically invisible and puts us even farther behind the unemployment curve.

There was some comic relief amid the gloom and doom in the last week. In the World of Weird, a TV ad is currently running that rivals the 2010 Christine O’Donnell “I am not a witch” pitch. In it, viewers can gaze upon the scowling visage of the perpetually self-important Chris Matthews as he extols Obama’s love of country. We can imagine the sustained howls if Fox News featured Bill O’Reilly in an ad supporting a Republican candidate. The double standard is as alive and well as the double dip.

But, there’s nothing funny about Congress and the President refusing to face a difficult balance sheet and come up with rational corrections. Unfortunately, refusal is a script too many of them have been following for the past three years. Harry Reid’s Do Nothing Senate, for example, has done nothing more than raise platitudes to a political art form. And increase the debt by almost 50 percent since October 2008.

To get an afterglow from that we’d need some serious glow in the dark.

See you in the mirror.

Posted in In the Mirror



In the Mirror

The Self-Marginalization of Barack Obama

Blog From
July 27th, 2011

(Article first published as The Self-Marginalization of Barack Obama on Blogcritics.) With each passing challenge, Barack Obama gets smaller and smaller. The limited role he’s defined for himself over the past three and one-half years has turned him into the incredible shrinking president. The latest example may be the one that finally makes him disappear altogether. Will history mark John Boehner’s departure from the debt ceiling negotiation table on Friday night as the effective end of the Obama presidency? Historians aren’t always an agreeable bunch, of course, but, in the full context of his performance as commander-in-chief, that verdict isn’t unrealistic.

We’re not talking about Obama’s failures to keep his 2008 campaign promises, although there have been a whole passel of them. Political promises go unfulfilled so often that only the most naïve among us give them much credence. When we do, shame on us. About the most promises can do is set the tenor of things to come especially when, as in Obama’s case, there’s no record to examine.

We’re talking about Obama’s persistent refusal to lead. When times get tough, he fades into the background, preferring to let anyone else take point even if it means leaving an authority vacuum. If he does appear, it’s most often to chastise and harangue, usually Republicans, but, occasionally, his own Party members.

If not steeped in leadership, how does Obama occupy his time? He’s been busy elevating himself above the process of government, demanding that those beneath him offer up solutions that meet with his approval. By now he’s so far above everyone else, he’s practically invisible. Just look at three examples: Obamacare, the Gulf Oil Spill and the Libyan War.

In the case of his healthcare gem, the President hung back so long during negotiations that they turned into a special interest nightmare for Democrats. The Gulf Oil Spill earned Obama the lowest approval rating of his presidency to that point in time.  The knock was, yes, the inability to handle a crisis.

The Libyan War, problematic for the President from the outset, has degenerated into a protracted morass. But, we can always blame our allies since we’ve conveniently taken one step backward in that conflict. If a bad guy refuses to fall, a fall guy isn’t bad.

What motivates Obama’s non-leadership style? He can’t possibly think, after 30 months in the White House, that self-righteous tongue-lashings are effective. Most people believe he’s just bowing to his base on the left. But, if that’s it, it’s not working. Last week, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt) announced his preference for Obama to run opposed in next year’s presidential primaries. According to Sanders, the President has betrayed his supporters and they deserve an option.

So, why doesn’t Obama lead? There aren’t a lot of choices. Perhaps he doesn’t know how. Or maybe he thinks leadership carries too much political risk. Or, possibly, he sees it as a clever way to throw mud without being hit by any. In a tally sheet somewhere, the answer probably matters, but for those of us on terra firma it doesn’t really. Ignorance and cowardice in this context yield the same result.

Take, for example, his refusal to deal with the walloping national debt in a meaningful way. Since the report issued in December 2010, Obama has failed to endorse any of his own debt commission’s recommendations on how to reduce it.

In February of this year, the President proposed trimming the $14 trillion red monster by a miniscule $400 billion over 10 years. The offering was so ridiculous that the Democrat controlled Senate rejected it by a vote of 97 – 0. His much-ballyhooed budget framework speech in April was so lacking in specifics that the independent Congressional Budget Office couldn’t rate it. Perched precariously on the eve of destruction, his latest plan is to attack those put forth by Republicans.

When the bombastic, self-serving rhetoric is stripped away, only the blinding arrogance of Obama’s dogmatic ideology remains. And that’s just not enough to keep him visible, let alone viable. He’s put himself out of sight, out of mind and, hopefully, out of a job.

See you in the mirror.


Posted in In the Mirror



In the Mirror

Global Warming Finally in the Deep Freeze?

Blog From
July 13th, 2011

(Article first published as Global Warming Finally in the Deep Freeze? on Blogcritics.) It seems like anthropogenic global warming has been a hot topic forever, boiling away on the front burner of plant-fueled stoves everywhere. Proponents have long spoken of its existence as an established fact. Several years ago during an interview on the Today Show, Al Gore roasted the media for giving any print or airtime to contrary views. He continues that harangue today and it’s getting way beyond old. Mercifully, legitimate science should turn the lights out on this man-made drama by fall.

For it is then that the first results of the CERN CLOUD experiment are expected to hit scientific journals. CERN is the European Center for Nuclear Research. Founded in 1954 and located on the Swiss-French border, it is one of the world’s largest and most respected centers of physics research. Through the use of particle accelerators and detectors, CERN physicists discover the laws of nature and their interaction.

The CLOUD experiment tests the 1996 theory of Henrik Svensmark, director of the Center for Sun-Climate Research at the Danish Technical University in Copenhagen. Svensmark and others, including the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Control (IPCC), agree that clouds are a primary influence on climate. However, they disagree on what causes clouds to form.

Svensmark attributes global cloud formation to the interaction of the sun with cosmic rays near the earth’s atmosphere. Cosmic rays are high energy charged particles originating in Milky Way regions outside of our solar system. They travel at nearly the speed of light and strike our earth from all directions.

According to Svensmark, fluctuations in solar magnetic activity regulate the amount of cloud cover through corresponding variations in the sun’s ability to shield cosmic rays. The result is periods of global cooling (higher incidence of cosmic rays in our atmosphere) or warming (lower incidence of cosmic rays). Svensmark’s theory discounts carbon dioxide emissions as insignificant in cloud formation.

The IPCC disagrees with Svensmark regarding the cause of cloud formation. The anthropogenic crowd completely discounts solar activity, insisting that man-made carbon dioxide emissions are the determining factor. They ignore the Dane’s 2006 experiment showing cosmic rays and the sun’s impact on them as the main causes of our cloud cover. CERN did not show a similar disdain. Its CLOUD experiment, which began in 2009, determines the validity of the 2006 research.

Svensmark’s theory links global climate change to the production of cosmic rays during cyclic galactic activity, which explains occurrences overlooked by the IPCC. Like, why Mars, Jupiter, Pluto and Neptune’s largest moon are also warming. Unlike the discredited IPCC hockey stick model, it accommodates Medieval Warming, the ensuing Little Ice Age and the current cooling of Antarctic regions. Perhaps the loudest supporter of Svensmark’s theory to date is Al Gore. His Inconvenient Truth production is conveniently silent on it.

While it is a homerun for science, the CERN CLOUD experiment comes too late to be the first major mugging of anthropogenic global warming. The dismantling of Gore’s expensive altar to man-as-larger-than-nature is already under way, spurred by the sorry state of the economy. Last week’s sure-thing proposal to cut ethanol funding is just the latest hit to the climate change movement and a small one at that.

A much bigger bang is based on the fear of man-made global joblessness from the high cost of renewable energy regulations, supports and taxes. Among those singing the green blues are the British, the Australians, the Mexicans, the Americans, the Spaniards and others.  And then there’s China, the globe’s biggest polluter, a country going happily into that fossil fuel burning night.

What does it all mean? We are facing real issues of pollution and the lack of practical renewable energy technology. But, at the end of the day, those dangers are ours, not the planet’s. It will do just fine without us.

See you in the mirror.

Posted in In the Mirror



In the Mirror

The Two for One Solution

Blog From
June 29th, 2011

(Article first published as The Two for One Solution on Blogcritics.) Al Gore popped up from the ashes of disgrace last week to criticize President Obama’s poor climate change record. In an article in Rolling Stone, he blistered Obama’s Bush-like non-handling of the global warming problem. In a less publicized appearance a couple of days earlier at the eight annual Games For Change Festival, Gore discussed his latest doomsday fear, overpopulation. According to Al, there are so many of us living today that our sheer numbers threaten Mother Earth.

Although he’s less than clear about his overpopulation foreboding, Gore apparently isn’t claiming all that body heat is contributing to global warming. Rather, he thinks we need to reduce our numbers in order to reduce the pollution humans churn out. His answer is for women to be less reproductive.

Al cutting loose on population control theory is a freaky thing to watch and, fortunately, totally unnecessary. He can safely sink back under his pile of ashes because, if there really is an overpopulation problem, Obamacare will take care of it. At least in our little corner of the globe.

The real predicament of health care today is that it makes people live too long. Get a little help from your MD, your body does better and you end up prolonging your stay on the topside of the planet. This unfortunate situation only gets worse as treatments improve, because, when people live longer, the demand for medical services increases. It’s a vicious cycle that ends up pushing costs through the roof. It also keeps too many of us hanging around gobbling up other resources, too.

While this ugly little bit of reality is dawning very slowly on most of us, the government figured it out a while ago. And now we have Uncle Sam’s two for one solution, Obamacare. One of its major missions is to drive down the rising costs of health care. The advertised ways are controlling things like insurance premiums and payments to health care providers, but those approaches are quickly becoming casualties of reality. Obamacare’s real cost savers will be limiting treatment options and rationing health care, which lower the quality of care. Those with life threatening illness who land on the short side of these bureaucratic decision-making processes can look forward to abbreviated futures. As people start dropping so do costs. And so does the overpopulation meter. A health care-climate change win-win.

It’s shades of Soylent Green, of course, but is it a bad thing? Either way, we can’t live forever. Besides, the planet certainly breathes easier when there are fewer of us breathing at all.

If your survival instinct is kicking in about now and you’re resisting the idea of a shorter lifetime, think about this. If we don’t start dying a lot sooner, we’re going to create way too much garbage, which is a major pollution issue itself. Then there’s the food problem. The ‘have’ nations will eat it all up, leaving the ‘have-nots’ to starve. And we know how masses of rotting corpses pump up the global warming thermometer. Not a pretty picture.

On the other hand, is there anything to the overpopulation fear besides a chance to bash Obamacare? Demographic experts fervently deny it. According to one, populations are about to peak. He chastises greenies, like Gore, who even mention overpopulation because the climate change issue is all about over-consumption.

Al isn’t getting any help on this one from his usual ally, the United Nations, either. According to its forecasters, the world’s population is continuing to increase. It is projected to hit 7 billion this year and to exceed ten billion by the end of the century. But, the growth will occur in poorer countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America while populations in the rich nations are declining. It’s the latter, not the former, that create the pollution.

Which brings us full circle. What is Al really trying to say in his overpopulation discourse? If we’re lucky, we’ll never find out.

See you in the mirror.


Posted in In the Mirror