March 31, 2009

Okay Romniacs, Explain THIS

Filed under: Economy,MSM Biz/Other Ignorance,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 4:24 pm

The transcript will follow later (maybe as late as tomorrow).

Here’s the headline and first few paragraphs at the Hill:

RomneyPraisesBHOonGM0309

Note well: There is NOT ONE WORD of criticism in the above, in the full article, or in the video at the link of President ‘Prompter’s heavyhanded, unprecedented, and clearly clearly extra-constitutional intervention in GM’s management.

Why should this surprise anyone? Mitt Romney “don’t need no stinkin’ Constitutions.” They only get in the way of him imposing his will on his peons.

Romney betrayed his alleged core beliefs at least twice while he was governor of Massachusetts, on same-sex “marriage” and tax-subsidized abortions. Both times he falsely cited constitutional constraints that not only weren’t there, but were in fact the opposite of what he claimed. In doing so, he has shown that, like the White House’s current occupant, he is Objectively Unfit to be president.

Romney’s support of Obama’s actions at General Government Motors betrays the likelihood that he would expect similar latitude to do as he pleases as President. What else could possibly explain his willingness to overlook Rick Wagoner’s sacking?

The following is the short list of Romney fans who had about 36 hours to criticize Obama for what he did before Romney went on CNN early this morning. Many have, or are surely about to: Ann Coulter; Mark Levin (I heard him rip into Obama last night), Laura Ingraham, and Sean Hannity (I heard him rip into Obama yesterday afternoon).

If we don’t hear them criticize Romney quickly, and strongly, it will be difficult to continue to take them seriously, or at least not to assume that they operate with a blind spot that is potentially lethal to sensible, constitution-based conservatism as we know it.

Hugh Hewitt, as usual, is keeping his principle-free options open, warning us against “falling into a fever.” This is the same Hugh Hewitt who was okey-dokey with Tax Cheat and Proven Liar Tim Geithner getting the wave-through, and, five years ago, sticking with Arlen Specter, whose support made passing the POS (Pork Over-Stuffed) stimulus bill possible, instead of Pat Toomey in the 2004 Pennsylvania primary. How are those go-along get-alongs working out, Hugh?

Hewitt’s posture is reason to expect no meaningful outcry from mainstream $ocial con$ervatives.

There’s a lot of deadly silence out there. It’s not only on what Obama has done, which is bad enough. But to see the GOP’s second-most recognized figure selling out what we hold dear is really, really hard to take.

______________________________________________

UPDATE, April 1: Here’s a transcript –

Romney: I think a lot of people expected the president just to cave and to write a big check, and just hope for the better. I’m glad that he’s expressing some backbone on this and saying to those guys, “Hey, you’ve gotta get your house in order or you guys are gone. You’re going to go to bankruptcy.” That’s something I think he should have said months ago. There were a numbers of us who said that bankruptcy or a bankruptcy-like process was something that was needed to get GM and Chrysler, y’know, on their feet again. But by the way, kudos to Ford for running itself independently and apparently making a go of it on its own.

CNN Host: Now let me just bring you back to what you were saying about bankruptcy. In fact, you offered to call him on it. You said, quote, “In a managed bankruptcy, the federal government would propel newly competitive and viable automakers, rather than seal their fate with a bailout check.” Do you still think that that’s the best idea, to allow these companies to go into bankruptcy, restructure, then emerge?

Romney: Well it’s clear that just writing checks is not the answer. It really keeps the bondholders and the UAW and other stakeholders from taking the necessary haircuts that allow these companies to be competitive. You either have to go through a bankruptcy process, a pre-packaged bankruptcy, or special legislation giving an entity the power to get these companies through these difficult times. Or, if the parties want to do it voluntarily, great, but if they can’t do that — and apparently at this stage it’s looking like they haven’t been able to — then you’re going to have to have that kind of a club to get these companies to be able to restructure their excessive costs.

CNN Host: A couple of minutes ago, Jon Stewart made the joke about the government backing warranties here. The government’s gotten involved in so many things, backing warranties, guaranteeing bank accounts, buying up toxic assets. There was an interesting line in the New York Times this morning, quote, it said, “It means that the government is not only the ultimate guarantor of saving accounts and insurance policies – it will also cover that blown transmission.” The question that I had, in the next 30 days is, why would anyone but a Chrysler product, and in the next 60 days why would anyone but a General Motors product when they don’t know what the future of these companies is going to be, regardless of whether the government is backing the warranties?

Romney: Well, that’s in fact that’s why a number of folks, myself included, pointed out, said last November, “Don’t just write checks.” Because you’re sealing the fate of these companies, unless you help them restructure. Give confidence to the American people that they’re going to be here forever. If you don’t do that, well, just putting $17 billion into them is going to be wasted, and also, ultimately, seal their fate. You’ve got to get these companies back on a track where it shows that they can be successful and viable. That can only happen if they’re fundamentally restructured. Just writing checks, just saying you’re going to protect warranties, that’s not enough.

CNN Host: …. Mary Matalin thinks you’re going to be run again in 2012. You’re doing some things that many people believe would lay the foundation for a run in 2012. Would you this morning rule out a run for the presidency in 2012?

Romney: That is a horizon too far away to possibly speculate on. I love what Yogi Berra said. I can’t get it exactly right, but it’s something like this: “I don’t like forecasting, particularly if the future’s involved.”

Voting With His Feet: Limbaugh Leaving New York, Illustrates Folly of Static Tax-Receipt Estimates

Rush Limbaugh0309.jpgThe budget put together in Albany by New York State lawmakers, packed with skyrocketing tax increases and new taxes, appears to have picked up some casualties two days before it goes into effect. The casualties are the coffers of the Empire State and the Big Apple, which will not be collecting anticipated tax revenue from talk king Rush Limbaugh very much longer.

Limbaugh announced his departure from the state on his program yesterday (link will work until next Monday afternoon):

….. Now, remember Mayor Bloomberg, who opposed this at one point — I don’t know where he stands on it now, but Mayor Bloomberg way back — said (summarized), “Look, we got eight million people that live here, there are 40 or 50,000 taxpayers — families, what have you — that pay so much in tax that they essentially support the city — and if they start to leave, we’ve got a big problem.” He said, “Even if 5,000 of them leave, we’ve got a huge problem. We just can’t run out there and keep raising taxes on the rich.” The governor, Mr. Paterson, didn’t hear him. “It’s not just people earning over $500,000 a year that are going to get hit. A lower-tier tax increase would increase taxes by 14-1/2 percent for single people between 250 and $500,000 a year, and for married and joint filers earning 300,000 to 500,000. Taxpayers now hit the current top rate of 6.85% when their incomes reach $65,000. The Paterson plan would tax top-tier earners at 8.97%, the second-tier earners at 7.85%.

…..There is no way Governor Paterson’s going to raise $4 billion a year on this. Because, folks, it’s axiomatic: when you raise taxes on an activity, you reduce that activity. People start doing that activity less. In this case: working. When you reduce taxes on an activity, then that activity increases. When you reduce taxes on income, people start working harder to earn more. Governor Paterson needs to cut taxes on people. He needs to spur investment. He needs to get people going and working. It’s just the exact opposite. Governor Paterson is like most other liberal Democrats: zero-sum game. The economy is a pie. It never grows. Somebody gets their slice; somebody gets their slice.

….. I would love to tell this story. I don’t think I should. I don’t think I should get personal, but I would love to tell my tax audit story of New York State and New York City since 1997. It happens every year, but that’s not the point. I have to prove 14 different ways where I am every day of the year. I have to prove 14 different ways, ’cause I pay New York state and city tax on a per diem.

When I am there working I pay whatever, you know, my rate is based on income for that day in New York. And I try to go as little as possible. If it weren’t for hurricanes down here, I would never go up there. New York is the escape valve in case hurricanes are showing up in our area, because of the loss of electricity. So I’ll tell you what I’m going to do. I’m going to look for an alternative studio somewhere outside New York, perhaps Texas — another no-income-tax state — and I’m going to get the hell over there, when a hurricane starts coming our way, ’cause I told Mayor Bloomberg: I’ll be the first to lead the way. You know, this is just… I’ll sell my apartment. I’ll sell my condominium. I’m going to get out of there totally, ’cause this is just absurd, and it’s ridiculous — and it isn’t going to work. It’s punishing the achievers for the mistakes and the lack of discipline on the part of a bunch of corrupt politicians that have run that city and state into the ground for I don’t know how many years — and I, for one, am not going to take the blame for it.

This math is very rough, but based on Limbaugh’s announced deal with Clear Channel and his roughly 15 business days there a year, his allocated income to New York would, if it all has to be considered, at least $1.5 million. The state’s tax take on that at 9% would be about $135,000; the city would also whatever income tax revenue it thought it would collect. If Limbaugh chooses to move what remains of his New York operations elsewhere, the city and state will lose out on taxes from those workers too, at least as long as it takes for them to find other work. And who knows? They might vote with their feet too.

Limbaugh’s example is a microcosm of media failure, in this sense — almost no one in the media ever questions whether rosy forecasts of the revenue that is supposed to come in from tax and fee increases will ever materialize. They usually don’t. Michigan’s 2008 tax-increase story is just the latest example. Of course, press reports, like this alleged Associated Press analysis found at the Chicago Tribune, blame it all on the economy. Sorry folks, that’s not all of it.

I would invite El Rushbo to Ohio, but he’s looking for a no-income tax state. Then again, it seems that Ohio Governor T-Shirt Ted Strickland is planning to do the same thing by moving to no-income-tax Florida when his time is up — hopefully sooner rather than later.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Frank-ly Control Freaks: Congressional Committee Passes Bill Controlling ALL Pay at US-Involved Companies

ObamaAndGeithner0109And to think we were “only” worried about having a known Tax Cheat (and, for the purposes of this blog post and not the one at NewsBusters — a Proven Liar) overseeing everyone’s taxes.

With Barney Frank’s help, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is trying to expand his power (and by inference that of his Dear Leader boss) well beyond that. The “Pay for Performance Act,” which has already gotten out of committee, would give him veto power over salaries at every company into which the government has inserted its intrusive claws.

Besides the utter outrageousness of the news itself, the story leads to the question of how the establishment media will handle it. Whitewash it? Minimize its significance? Ignore it? Given the fact that the news is over a week old, I vote for a continuation of Door Number Three.

Byron York reports the following in the DC Examiner:

Beyond AIG: A Bill to let Big Government Set Your Salary

….. in a little-noticed move, the House Financial Services Committee, led by chairman Barney Frank, has approved a measure that would, in some key ways, go beyond the most draconian features of the original AIG bill. The new legislation, the “Pay for Performance Act of 2009,” would impose government controls on the pay of all employees — not just top executives — of companies that have received a capital investment from the U.S. government. It would, like the tax measure, be retroactive, changing the terms of compensation agreements already in place. And it would give Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner extraordinary power to determine the pay of thousands of employees of American companies.

The purpose of the legislation is to “prohibit unreasonable and excessive compensation and compensation not based on performance standards,” according to the bill’s language. That includes regular pay, bonuses — everything — paid to employees of companies in whom the government has a capital stake, including those that have received funds through the Troubled Assets Relief Program, or TARP, as well as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The measure is not limited just to those firms that received the largest sums of money, or just to the top 25 or 50 executives of those companies. It applies to all employees of all companies involved, for as long as the government is invested. And it would not only apply going forward, but also retroactively to existing contracts and pay arrangements of institutions that have already received funds.

In addition, the bill gives Geithner the authority to decide what pay is “unreasonable” or “excessive.” And it directs the Treasury Department to come up with a method to evaluate “the performance of the individual executive or employee to whom the payment relates.”

The bill passed the Financial Services Committee last week, 38 to 22, on a nearly party-line vote. (All Democrats voted for it, and all Republicans, with the exception of Reps. Ed Royce of California and Walter Jones of North Carolina, voted against it.)

Geez, it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to extend Geithner’s reach to:

  • Any company with a Small Business Administration loan.
  • Any university with students who have borrowed money from the government to attend (i.e., almost every institution of higher learning in the US).
  • Any company whose employees use government services (i.e., an interstate highway or a subsidized mass-transit ride) to get to work.

That is, it’s not a very far trip to controlling everyone’s earnings.

Well, at least the self-employed won’t be affected …. Don’t count on that either. Tax Cheat Tim will probably want to control hourly rates and prices paid to vendors too.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

BizzyBlog exit question: Is it OK to call them Socialists yet? (/sarc)

British Enviro Adviser Calls for Halving UK’s Population; US Media Virtually Asleep

Jonathon-Porritt1108.jpgThere is plenty of evidence that many environmental activists are, at bottom, dangerous extremists who have deluded themselves into believing that the earth’s population must be radically reduced if humanity is to survive. There is also growing evidence that this far-out viewpoint is more widely accepted among so-called mainstream environmentalists than the establishment media would have us believe.

Occasionally, these views surface. Ted Turner, father of five, infamously asserted the need to reduce the earth’s population to 2 billion about a decade ago. He also expressed a stronger personal preference: “Personally, I think the population should be closer to when we had indigenous populations, back before the advent of farming. Fifteen thousand years ago, there was somewhere between 40 and 100 million people.” In the early 1990s, the late Jacques Cousteau suggested that “World population must be stabilized and to do that we must eliminate 350,000 people per day.” More recently, though less famously, at a Psychology Today blog, writer Stephen Kotter asserted “we need to lose 4.4 billion people and we need to lose them fast.”

But I don’t recall seeing an adviser to a government as prominent as the UK’s Jonathon Porritt publicly utter such sentiments. But utter them he has. The UK Times Online took note on March 22:

UK population must fall to 30m, says Porritt

JONATHON PORRITT, one of Gordon Brown’s leading green advisers, is to warn that Britain must drastically reduce its population if it is to build a sustainable society.

Porritt’s call will come at this week’s annual conference of the Optimum Population Trust (OPT), of which he is patron.

The trust will release research suggesting UK population must be cut to 30m if the country wants to feed itself sustainably.

….. Porritt is winning scientific backing. Professor Chris Rapley, director of the Science Museum, will use the OPT conference, to be held at the Royal Statistical Society, to warn that population growth could help derail attempts to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Rapley, who formerly ran the British Antarctic Survey, said humanity was emitting the equivalent of 50 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere each year.

“We have to cut this by 80%, and population growth is going to make that much harder,” he said.

….. Britain’s population is expected to grow from 61m now to 71m by 2031. Some politicians support a reduction.

The OPT’s core belief is on its home page:

The Optimum Population Trust believes that Earth may not be able to support more than half its present numbers before the end of this century, and that the UK’s long-term sustainable population level may be lower than 30 million. Research and policy are summarised on this website and available to all members in the OPT Journal.

The UK has created an independent Sustainable Development Commission (SDC), and Porritt is its chairman (the picture aobve is from that page). Yesterday, the SDC released “Prosperity without Growth? – The transition to a sustainable economy” (136-page PDF that can be downloaded at this web page). Porritt calls it the SDC’s “magnum opus.”

The report opens by telling us that the very idea of economic growth must be rejected:

Every society clings to a myth by which it lives. Ours is the myth of economic growth. For the last five decades the pursuit of growth has been the single most important policy goal across the world. The global economy is almost five times the size it was half a century ago. If it continues to grow at the same rate the economy will be 80 times that size by the year 2100.

This extraordinary ramping up of global economic activity has no historical precedent. It’s totally at odds with our scientific knowledge of the finite resource base and the fragile ecology on which we depend for survival.

….. The myth of growth ….. has failed the two billion people who still live on less than $2 a day. It has failed the fragile ecological systems on which we depend for survival. It has failed, spectacularly, in its own terms, to provide economic stability and secure people’s livelihoods.

That the awfulness of economic growth they so decry has lifted hundreds of millions out of dire poverty in the past 30 years, and that the technological improvements resulting from growth is what enabled them to disseminate their tripe to the rest of the world so quickly, doesn’t seem to register with these people.

But there you have it. At bottom, the “sustainability” wing of the environmental movement is about ending economic growth. Despite protestations to the contrary, declaring an end to economic growth would result in some combination of these three consequences:

  • Those in poverty would stay there, or die off.
  • Governments and/or international bodies would force the well-off to part with some or all of their resources as “the only way” to deal with that poverty (the die-off would occur after all that can be plundered has been plundered).
  • Governments and/or international bodies would impose coercive population controls, up to and including mandatory population reduction.

Despite Porritt’s worldwide reputation, US media coverage has been scant. A Google News search on Porritt’s full name in quotes comes back with only 11 items pegged to the Times Online story. Eight of those are from the US. Fox News excerpts that story. The only other listings inside the US include Rush Limbaugh (story #2 at link); Motley Fool; LifeSite News; Don Surber, who suggests that Porritt “can go first”; Moderate Voice; and two from an odd “news” source, Sustainability Ninja.

Searches on Porritt’s full name (not in quotes) at the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times return nothing currently relevant, nothing, and nothing, respectively.

Media coverage of the beliefs of “respectable” enviros like Porritt (he was director of Friends of the Earth from 1984-1990), and of radical yet clearly influential organizations like OPT, would undermine cap and trade and other environmentalist tax, regulatory, and personally oppressive policy agenda items dressed up as “eco-friendly.” I would suggest that this is why you don’t see very much of it.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Lucid Links (033109, Morning)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 8:25 am

Noteworthy Net-Worthies:

From the New York Times’s David Sanger — “In essentially taking command of General Motors and telling Chrysler to merge with a foreign competitor or cease to exist, Mr. Obama was saying that economic conditions were sufficiently dire to justify a new level of government involvement in the management of corporate America.” That sort of echoes Rahm Emanuel’s (paraphrasing) “Never let a good crisis go to waste” meme, doesn’t it? Translation: Nobody’s safe.

At Mark Levin’s site, probably for the rest of the business day: “What part of the Constitution allows Obama to fire or force out a CEO, as in the case of General Motors? Would the Founding Fathers have endorsed this do you think? If there are no legal limits placed on people, then they have no reason to act right. We have a President and Congress that abuses its power, and it’s anything can go. Finally, when Obama goes to people for advice that have no idea or experience in what they’re supposed to fix, what kind of solution is that?” Somebody tell me why what Obama did is not an objective violation of his oath of office.

This from CNBC’s Jeff Pisani“And for everybody who says why haven’t they fired any more bank CEOs yet – why hasn’t the government done it, wait – they’re going to.” Because the government is so good at running financial schemes …. like Social Security, which in case you haven’t heard, is going to start generating annual deficits in two years or less.

Small victory — Terry Trippany at NewsBusters reports that a well-known domestic terrorist and friend of President ‘Prompter, one who, according to their police union, was allegedly involved in killing a San Francisco cop in 1970, will not be speaking at the Naperville, Illinois public high school where he was originally scheduled to appear. Nor will his domestic terrorist wife.

New York Times Spiked Obama Story” — because it would have been a presidential election “game-changer.” The Obama campaign provided ACORN its maximum donor list, a clearly illegal act, and certainly ironclad proof that the alleged separation between the two was non-existent. Much more background is here.

Kevin at Pundit Review — “Speak for Yourself, MSM, We Weren’t Fooled.”

“(Actress) Angie Harmon is not afraid to come out and say she doesn’t like how President Obama is handling the job — but she’s sick of having to defend herself from being deemed a racist.” It’s only just begun, babe. The worse he does, the worse it will become. This AP piece, noted by Warner Todd Huston at NewsBusters, is an early example of a piece that equates many clearly policy-based criticisms with racism.

At a new web site from our all-caring government — “Economic turmoil (e.g., increased unemployment, foreclosures, loss of investments and other financial distress) can result in a whole host of negative health effects – both physical and mental. It can be particularly devastating to your emotional and mental well-being. Although each of us is affected differently by economic troubles, these problems can add tremendous stress, which in turn can substantially increase the risk for developing such problems as Depression, Anxiety, Compulsive Behaviors (over-eating, excessive gambling, spending, etc.), Substance Abuse.” Gee, maybe Nancy Pelosi, Barack Obama, and Harry Reid should have thought of the possible consequences of their actions before they decided to create the POR (Pelosi-Obama-Reid) Economy during June of last year.

Positivity: Two men catch toddler after 40-foot fall

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 7:10 am

From Lawrence, Masachusetts (HT to an e-mail from Kevin at Pundit Review):

Robert Lemire made a catch of a lifetime last night when a baby girl came tumbling out of a Lawrence window three floors up right into his outstretched arms.

“It happened so fast. I just hoped I wouldn’t miss,” said Lemire, 45, who works as a contractor.“I was on the phone talking to my friend about my daughter’s softball league when I saw the baby dangling … I just freaked out.”

Lemire told the Herald today he saw the baby hanging outside the window after seeing several toys fly out the same window, which he thought seemed abnormal.

Seeing the baby in peril, he ran across busy Haverhill Street, screaming for help as he dodged cars and causing curious 23-year-old Alex Day, who was in the middle of a bible study at the time, to emerge from the first floor of the building and follow the screams to the dangling baby.

Lemire, under the window at the time, had just finished explaining to Day what was going on when the baby fell from the third-story window into the arms of the two men.

“Alex got the top half and I got the bottom half,” said Lemire.

“These two guys are heroes. In this day and age when we are seeing such bad news, this is a great story,” said Lawrence Police Chief John Romero. ….

Go here for the rest of the story.

March 30, 2009

Social Security Surpluses Are Near Their End; Bloomberg’s Hassett Notes After Two-Week Media Slumber

SocSecBrokeCard0309.jpgYesterday, in the process of passing on news that bloggers such as Ed Morrissey at Hot Air and outfits like the Heritage Foundation were onto earlier, Bloomberg’s Kevin Hassett delivered a stinging indictment of the establishment media for being asleep at the switch (the sole exception appears to be a video report at PBS). But while he does a good job identifying the problem and indicting journalists for ignoring the news, his prescription for a solution is badly wanting.

The news? The days of Social Security surpluses are over, six to possibly eight years earlier than was thought to be the case just a year ago.

Here are excerpts from Hassett’s commentary (“Recession Bites Into Social Security’s Surplus“). His first word reveals what he thinks of the nation’s political elites, and of the media that are supposed to be watching them:

Criminals know that people who are distracted might forget to keep an eye on their valuables. It’s just happened to us as a nation.

We have all been so busy whining about bonuses at American International Group Inc. and arguing about the so-called card-check legislation that we forgot to watch the Social Security surplus. While we were looking away, that surplus disappeared, eight years ahead of schedule.

Something extraordinarily important was revealed in mid-March and received almost no news coverage. If you typed in the words “Social Security” on Google’s news service last Friday, the top hit was a New York story about a man who kept his dead mother in a freezer ever since she died back in 2007, just so he could continue to collect her benefit checks.

Almost as gruesome is the news about Social Security’s finances. Social Security has for years been the near-term bright spot in the federal budget. Each year the program has raised $50 billion to $100 billion more in payroll taxes than it paid out in benefits (in some years, the surplus was closer to $200 billion; in fiscal 2008 just ended, it was $180 billion — Ed.). Sure, deficits were expected far off in the future, but the current program was on sound financial footing.

Those days are, for the moment at least, behind us. According to the latest Congressional Budget Office estimate, the Social Security surplus will be only $3 billion in 2010. That number is almost surely too rosy, and the actual realization next year will be a big deficit.

….. Opponents of Social Security reform have tried for years to underplay the problem by stating that the program’s finances are fine. Social Security was, in the most recent report by its trustees, expected to run surpluses all the way to 2017. Why bother to reform something now if the crisis is so far off?

….. (in 2007) Hudson Institute scholar Chuck Blahous, who was leading President George W. Bush’s Commission to Strengthen Social Security, made the compelling case that those predicting a Social Security financing crisis were basing that on sensible assumptions. Blahous was pilloried by the left, but we now know he was far more right than even he could have dreamed.

Hassett goes on to say that those who think Social Security will return to a surplus situation if or when the economy recovers are probably dreaming. I believe he’s correct, because that recovery, even if fairly robust, will be starting from an ever-shrinking base.

The Bloomberg columnist, who is also director of economic-policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, accurately notes that many Americans who are choosing retirement in the current rough economy and beginning to collect Social Security benefits now are not likely to return to the workforce when recovery begins. Hassett didn’t mention that there’s a reason beyond human motivation why that outcome is likely. Unbeknownst to most Americans, who thought the problem was legislated away during the 1990s, the odious Social Security penalty that reduces benefits by up to 50 cents for every dollar earned from work above relatively small amounts is still in place from Age 62 through Full Retirement Age (currently 66 for today’s seniors). Legislation passed in the 1990s only removed the penalty for earnings from work after Full Retirement Age until Age 70.

Hassett’s “solution” is really pathetic:

The only responsible course is to do what reformers have been advocating for at least a decade, a step that worked in 1983: Establish a bipartisan commission to recommend fixes to Social Security, and implement them now. The myth that we can postpone reform because everything is just fine has been exposed as such. The time to act is now.

Hassett should know better. The Greenspan Commission didn’t “work” in 1983. All it did was give political cover to those who wanted to ratchet up the payroll tax rate and its reach into ever-higher incomes, while at the same holding back economic growth from what it could have been. The Greenspan Commission copped out on what would have worked marvelously and would have prevented the sad arrival of huge annual deficits from happening: private accounts. It may very well be that the Left has succeeded in closing the window for full or even partial privatization, but another “bipartisan” commission would be yet another excuse for giant tax increases — as if we aren’t facing enough of them already.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

The Government Takes Over GM, Complete With a Five-Year Plan

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 4:30 pm

(Somewhat whitewashed background of “five-year plans” is here for those who don’t know the history.)

From Marc Ambinder at the Atlantic, who hasn’t grasped that 2014 minus 2009 equals five:

Legacy costs remain unresolved; the government estimates that GM would need to sell 900,000 more cars per year through 2014 in order to meet its obligation.

Elsewhere, the administration has called on GM to fundamentally change its culture. Better brains need to be brought in. Labor/management practices have to change.

All of this is fine. The government is telling GM to be like Toyota. But what if the industry’s infection is just too widespread? No amount of patient self-care… “clean those wounds better!  Eat your vitamins! Get exercise!” and no amount of antibiotics (the billions government’s pouring in) can arrest the death spiral. Was it totally unrealistic to expect GM to find a way to satisfy the government’s demand for positive cash flow by 2014?

Supporting the validity of the historical comparison: “Obama didn’t ask Congress about ousting Wagoner” –

Obama told the members of Congress that Wagoner needed to resign so that the administration could show the public it was making an effort at a fresh start with helping the auto industry, according to Levin.

That’s a totally substance-free reason — in effect, a purge for the sake of a purge.

But really, why go through the trouble and inconvience of consulting with the Politburo (and, it would appear, GM’s Board of Directors) when Dear Leader can just exercise the power preemptively, and unilaterally?

Lucid Links (033009, Morning)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 8:13 am

Noteworthy Net-Worthies:

The Obama administration promised to create “an unprecedented level of openness in Government.” In Obamaland, this means “secret meetings held by subcommittees of President Obama’s economic advisory panel,” including a tax simplification and enforcement ….. panel (that will) “do its work behind closed doors.”

Rick Wagoner has left General Government Motors “at Obama’s behest.” IMO, this was done to make shoveling even more money into one of Detroit’s dying carcasses somehow more palatable. Not that company management did a great job, because they didn’t, but how can the sadly predictable idea of the Punk President and his posse for all practical purposes running things at the country’s largest car manufacturer not be deeply troubling?

Remember that a delegation that reports to Tax Cheat and Proven Liar Tim Geithner first visited GM’s technical center in Warren, Michigan, three weeks ago “to see car and truck models and learn about the technology being developed.” Apparently they learned enough on that trip to be able to run the company. Paraphrasing Instapundit’s sardonic mantra, “GM is in the best of hands.”

On Friday, Bruce Bartlett ripped into the 85 Republicans who supported the 90% AIG-Fan & Fred-TARP money recipients’ bonus taxes. Among them locally, sadly, are Jean Schmidt, Mike Turner, Steve Driehaus and Geoff Davis.

Was Earth Hour, as might be expected, Al Gore’s darkest hour? Not exactly (HT Jeff Poor at NewsBusters).

Code Pink objects to President ‘Prompter’s mini-buildup in what is now “Obama’s War” in Afghanistan-Pakistan. At least Medea Benjamin’s moonbats at Code Pink are consistent. Reports are that MoveOn and others are keeping quiet, not because of any core belief that Afghanistan is “the good war,” but because they don’t want to be seen as impeding Dear Leader. Separately, Michael Yon calls the plan “disappointing.” CBS’s Kim Dozier, who it is great to see working after her serious injuries in Iraq, writes that “no one I’ve spoken to has a clear view of what it actually is, or does. This plan tries to be all things to all people.”

Good news, troubling news — US troop deaths in Iraq, at 7, are as of this morning the lowest in any single month since the war began. This is also true of the number of deaths (4) from hostile action. The previous low was 13 (and 7 from hostile action). The troubling news is that civilian deaths have crept up in the past two months after reaching their lowest point since being tracked by icasualties.org.

Good question — Where was this made?

Needs No Commentary — “(Former DC Mayor Marion) Barry’s Debt to IRS Exceeds $277,000, Prosecutors Say.” I’ll comment anyway: This qualifies Barry to be our next Treasury Secretary.

A Naperville, IL high school is having Obama pal Bill Ayers speak (HT Terry Trippany at NewsBusters). That would be the same Bill Ayers who, along with his wife Bernardine Dohrn, according to the San Francisco police union, are responsible for a “Feb. 16, 1970 ….. bomb placed on a window ledge of Park Station (that) killed Sgt. Brian McDonnell and injured eight other officers.” Phone contacts for the school district are at the link.

Positivity: Teenager who fell unconscious in bath is saved by twin sister’s ‘sixth sense’

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:56 am

From Atherton, in the UK:

Last updated at 10:16 PM on 23rd March 2009

It is common for twins to tell stories that suggest they share a bond so close it is almost telepathic.

But not many can say their apparent sixth sense helped them save their sibling’s life.

When Gemma Houghton got a feeling that her sister Leanne was in trouble she burst in on the 15-year-old and found her unconscious underwater in the bath.

She dragged her out and managed to revive her using skills she picked up on a first-aid course.

Yesterday Gemma told of how she feels dizzy when her epileptic twin sister suffers a fit.

She believes this subconscious link let her know that Leanne was in danger.

‘I just got this feeling to check on her,’ said Gemma. ‘I went up to the bathroom and she was under the water. At first I thought she was washing her hair or playing a trick.

‘But when I lifted her head out of the water she had turned blue. I knew she had had a fit.’

After Gemma hauled her sister out of the water – ‘She weighed a ton’ – she called an ambulance and, remembering her first-aid training, began trying to resuscitate Leanne.

‘She started making some horrible noises, like a truck, and I knew she was coming round,’ she said.

‘Then she said she was going to be sick.’

Paramedic Steve Pearson said that by the time he arrived at the girls’ mother’s home in Atherton, near Wigan, Leanne was returning to consciousness after her sister had given her chest compressions.

‘It’s quite simple,’ he said. ‘If Gemma hadn’t been there, Leanne would have died. She did an excellent job.’ …..

Go here for the rest of the story.

March 29, 2009

Funny. Sad, But Funny

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 7:34 pm

Watch:

Ann Coulter Is ‘Guilty’ — Of Willful Blindness to Mitt Romney’s Dreadful Massachusetts Legacy

Filed under: Life-Based News,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 10:59 am

Sometimes, waiting has its benefits. This is one of those times.

Because I’ve waited, I’m able to post an outstanding video from American Right to Life (ARTL) instead of having to recite particulars about certain of Ann Coulter’s recent interviews I’ve been meaning to get to.

Coulter fans, brace yourselves. The woman has a hang-up, which has led to a few telephonic hang-ups:

Ann Coulter has accomplished a lot. Probably her most important contribution is documenting in layman’s terms the definitive defense and vindication of Joe McCarthy in “Treason” (M. Stanton Evans’s subsequent “Blacklisted by History” is the definitive scholar’s version).

Thus, to hear Ann seemingly lock herself into defending Mitt Romney’s indefensible record on abortion and same-sex “marriage” while he was the governor of Massachusetts, and to attack those of us who have long since proven the obvious about that record, is truly sad. The YouTube clearly demonstrates that Coulter’s position is so weak that, in “response” to legitimate questions about Mitt Romney’s Bay State legacy, she’s forced to alternate between employing attack language she normally reserves for 9-11 truthers and other obsessives, and running and hiding when she’s out of arguments. This is the childish stuff liberals all too often pull when, as is usually the case, they’re on the losing end of an argument.

It also appears that knowledge of Coulter’s hang-ups is no longer limited to a precious few beyond those who happened to be listening to the related interviews at the time they took place. Fox Business News, of all places, is carrying ARTL’s Friday press release, which also announces a related website, www.AnnCoulterApology.com.

Coulter’s current defensive posture on Romney also seems to contradict her response to an e-mail I sent her on January 22, 2008, two weeks before Super Tuesday, at 11:31 p.m.

Keep in mind that this was five days after Coulter, in her syndicated column, wrote that:

….. My thinking was that Romney would be our nominee because he is manifestly the best candidate.

….. The candidate Republicans should be clamoring for is the one liberals are feverishly denouncing. That is Mitt Romney by a landslide.

Here is my e-mail (after one grammar correction from the original):

Ann,

It pains me to see you, a constitutional lawyer, accept the idea that Mitt Romney is a desirable presidential candidate, as your column last Wednesday clearly did.

It’s hard to imagine that you don’t know, or understand, or care, how Romney undermined Massachusetts’s Constitution, violated his oath of office, and did more to legitimize same-sex marriage than any one person in the entire country — all to keep a campaign promise. But in case you don’t, that’s exactly what he did.

And that’s just the start of Mitt Romney’s betrayal of conservative and constitutional principles. If you don’t believe me, PLEASE read for yourself:

Family leaders call Romney ‘disaster’
Why is Mitt Romney Objectively Unfit to Be President?
The Mitt Romney Deception

These are not “fringe” views, Ann — any more than your views of Joe McCarthy. The historical record shows McCarthy was right, and did right. The historical record also shows inarguably that Mitt Romney was wrong, and did wrong.

The historical record has been exposed by people who lived through the Romney Era in Massachusetts. They have seen the truth for what it is, even though most of them voted for him in 2002. They have seen Mitt Romney betray conservatives and clear thinkers time, and time, and time again. That they are betrayals has been confirmed by many clear-eyed constitutional experts who have looked at the situation closely and reached the only conclusions any constitution-honoring person could reach.

Why would you not expect Romney, as President, if faced with a Supreme Court ruling that gun ownership is not an individual right, to do exactly as he did with Goodridge — and unilaterally start confiscating citizens’ guns?

I’m not going to belabor the points made at the links any further. You’re a smart person, Ann; you know the law; and you know separation of powers. I only hope that you will face the truth about Romney and publicly reject his candidacy as the clear and present constitutional danger that it is.

Lest I be accused of breaching presumed confidentiality (a presumption that is dubious in the first place, as no promise of confidentiality was ever made), I’ll limit my description of Coulter’s response, which came 25 minutes later. First, the response was brief, and did not address my e-mail’s specific concerns about Mitt Romney’s record. Second, despite the virtual endorsement in her column (and it WAS interpreted as endorsement), her response to me was NOT complimentary to Romney.

The contrast between that e-mail response, when compared to her five-days-earlier column and her subsequent public actions and statements, is very troubling, on more levels than I can adequately address here.

Face the facts, and the music, Ann. If acknowledging the drop-dead obvious truth about Mitt Romney’s records represents the worst case of an unconditional “I was wrong, I am sorry” confession you ever have to deliver, you’ll be a lucky woman indeed.

Food Stamps for the Well-Off: A National Trend?

Filed under: Economy,MSM Biz/Other Bias,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:53 am

Note: This column originally appeared at Pajamas Media on Friday morning.

A number of commenters at the PJM column have corroborated concerns that the Warren County example cited is not an isolated incident, but a conscious expansion of the program to people who have the resources to buy their own food.

In one of those comments, Weapons of Mass Discussion blogger Matt Hurley informed readers that he subsequently received confidential information concerning two other similar Warren County situations. He chose not to disclose the details of these situations because media reports about the original situation he exposed tied it to Warren County (because Warren County’s commissioners publicly spoke out about the situation). Hurley wanted to protect the privacy of the other Warren County households involved.

___________________________________________

Since when did it become taxpayers’ duty to feed a family with $80,000 in the bank?
___________________________________________

On March 13, Ohio blogger Matt Hurley, who has been running Weapons of Mass Discussion for over five years, received an e-mail from “someone in the business” — specifically, the social services “business” in Warren County, Ohio, just northeast of Cincinnati (typos in original have been corrected):

Subject: Food Stamp Case

One of the workers here just approved an ongoing food stamp case where the family have over $80,000 in bank, own a 2001 Toyota and 2006 Mercedes Benz, and a $311,000 home that is paid for. Monthly benefits of over $500 in FS, received over $300 in expedited.

3 household members–husband, wife and child. Wife recently lost job, husband receives SS benefits.

THERE’S SOMETHING BADLY WRONG WITH THIS PROGRAM THAT ALLOWS A FAMILY THAT KIND OF RESOURCES AND STILL GET FOOD STAMPS.

This is where things have gotten to. I would think the world would want to know about this.

The e-mailer was only partially correct. Southwestern Ohio was interested, as Warren County, and neighboring Butler County, pushed back, promising to resist approving similar future aid applications. A Warren County-based state legislator has drafted a bill to tighten eligibility rules.

But most of the rest of the state has shown little interest, and in the rest of the nation, there has barely been a ripple. I believe that needs to change.

The fact is that many states quietly and significantly liberalized their food stamp eligibility rules last fall. An October 19 USA Today article was one of the very few that even noticed it. But in doing so, the newspaper’s Wendy Koch played down their importance:

Some states are going further to expand eligibility. Last month, California enacted a bill that will allow low-income people to keep some savings and still qualify for food aid. At least four other states — Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Vermont — similarly eased the asset test this year.

“People won’t have to sink to ground zero to get help,” says Paul Fraunholtz, a deputy director in Ohio’s Department of Job and Family Services.

Who knew that $80,000 was “some savings”? Or that it’s barely above what Ohio’s Fraunholtz refers to as “ground zero”?

I have since learned that Ohio’s change does not appear to be as comprehensive as it first appeared; the lifting of asset limits such as not having more than $2,000 in the bank, etc., appears to apply only to certain situations (but note that USAT’s Koch incorrectly gave readers the impression that recipients aren’t allowed to have any savings). Nevertheless, the fact is that the food stamp program’s eligibility rules and benefit structure were just fine before September 30, and that there was no crying need for change. (This issue is separate from whether applicants tell the truth when they apply. That has been an ongoing problem for decades, and there’s no space to address it here.)

For almost two years, advocates of program expansion have been peddling the fiction that food stamp benefits are inadequate to meet participants’ needs, claiming that the average benefit of $21-$23 per person per week is not enough to meet a person’s food and nutritional needs. They have conducted “Food Stamp Challenges” around the country, coaxing activists, journalists, governors, congressmen, and other politicians into trying to buy and try to live on the aforementioned dollar amounts of food for a week. Routinely failing (of course), they have then reached the “obvious” conclusion that the government has to increase benefits to keep people from starving.

There’s only one problem: Actual program benefits for those who have very low incomes and no other resources are much higher. What follows, directly from the USDA’s site, are the Maximum Monthly Allotments (i.e., benefits) for varying household sizes, effective October 1, 2008, accompanied on the right by the weekly costs per person of various ages of what the USDA calls its “Thrifty Meal Plan,” also as of last October (USDA estimates costs at four levels at its “Cost of Food at Home” page: Thrifty, Low-Cost, Moderate, and Liberal. Go here for details):

FoodStampBenesAndThriftyCosts1008

In other words, the benefit levels above give participants the ability to have what USDA calls a “nutritious diet” if they choose to be “Thrifty.” Last time I checked, it was not unreasonable to expect beneficiaries of taxpayer largess to actually be thrifty — or if they’re not, to pay the extra price themselves.

Even getting by on the bogusly claimed $21-$23 can be done. Colorado couple Ari and Jennifer Armstrong proved in August 2007 that they could buy and live on $180 worth of food in a month  — the advocates’ monthly equivalent of the “impossible” $21-$23 a week — and had over $20 left over when they were done. Of course, the Denver media, many of whom attempted, and of course “failed,” at their own “Food Stamp Challenge” attempt, pretended the Armstrongs didn’t exist.

Here’s what those who want to expand benefits don’t want us to know: The average actual benefit is lower because, as USDA states, “food stamp households are expected to spend about 30 percent of their resources on food” (from income, as USDA defines it, and assets). In other words, if you earn enough money to be able to pay for part of your food costs, after appropriately considering other expenses and individual/family circumstances, you should do so. Imagine that.

Further, if you have enough money in the bank to pay for your own food, you should do that before running to the government for assistance. Yet running to the government is clearly what happened in the Warren County case that got the whole controversy rolling. There are now reports of similar examples coming in from other Ohio counties. In theory (but again, in relatively limited situations), there appears to be no reason why an applicant with $1 million in liquid assets couldn’t apply for benefits, and get them.

This is outrageous. Since when did it become taxpayers’ duty to feed people who have more than enough money to feed themselves — even quite well?

I would suggest that taxpayers in the other states mentioned by USA Today, and probably others, should look into what has happened where they live, get past the nice descriptions, and find out what the social services folks have decided to do with what is, after all, your money.

Positivity: God Squad ‘pumping up’ students again this Lent

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 8:26 am

From Wichita, Kansas (HT Catholic News Agency):

(Published March 19, 2009)

Students gather in the morning before school in auditorium for a spiritual workout

Every morning during Lent – Monday through Saturday – teams of Bishop Carroll Catholic High School students gather in the school’s auditorium for their spiritual workout. This Lent marks the God Squad’s fifth anniversary.

Initiated by Father Jarrod Lies, the school’s chaplain, the squad’s intent is “to take the training for spiritual life as seriously as music, sports or other things.” He based the idea on 1 Timothy, 4:7, which encourages us to “train yourself for devotion, for while physical training is of limited value, devotion is valuable in every respect, since it holds a promise of life both for the present and for the future.”

Because Fr. Lies is so involved in sports at the high school, he adopted sports terms for the God Squad’s activities. There are “coaches” (chaplain and teachers) who assist in organizing and arranging God Squad events, and “captains” (students who facilitate small groups) who lead prayers and discussion.
Sunday is referred to as “game day,” and the “arena” or “court” is free will. “Studying the playbook” means meditation on scripture. Other translations include “doin’ ropes” (praying the Rosary), “scrimmage (daily Mass) and “huddles” (student led discussion groups).

Go here for the rest of the story.

March 28, 2009

Live Blog: TIB All-Stars: The Earth Hour Edition

Filed under: Economy,News from Other Sites,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 7:03 pm

From 7PM until whenever tonight, you can listen at Weapons of Mass Discussion (click on the TIB link at the right at WoMD).

We will not go dark during Earth Hour from 8:30 – 9:30 p.m. Far, far from it.

This post will (sort of) track the discussion. A more current tracking is at WMD’s related post.

________________________________________________

7:30 p.m. — Thanks to the POR Economy, the year during which Social Security will go negative (more benefits than receipts) is not 2017 any more. It’s 2011. Because of this, I believe the opportunity to do something about Social Security in terms of fixing it with private accounts is probably over. This is truly sad.

7:35 p.m.N-I-C-E. How Satanic.

7:45 p.m. — Back to SocSec: Here’s are the February 2009 results, showing that it went negative:

SocSecDeficit0209

Oh, and that $2 trillion? Those are IOUs from the rest of the government.

8:00 p.m. — Brunner’s criticism of Voinovich: You can’t make this stuff up.

8:01 p.m. — Food Stamp discussion. Related posts are at BizzyBlog and Pajamas Media.

8:27 p.m. — Human Achievement Hour is coming.

9:30 p.m. — Human Achievement Hour is done. Great discussion. Make sure you check it out at WoMD.