April 24, 2009

The Pre-Weekend April Receipts Scoreboard

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 4:46 pm

Here it is, through Thursday (April 23, 2009; April 24, 2008):

DTScompared042309vs042408

With five business days remaining (vs. four at the same time last year), it appears that April 2009 POR (Pelosi-Obama-Reid) Economy receipts might just get to $260 – $265 billion instead of the $250 billion I thought more likely earlier in the week. Much will depend on non-withheld collections and the size of the final days’ refund checks. Delaying disbursement of said refund checks might be a “clever” way of artificially pumping up the final number (which of course would delay or at least spread out the bad news until next month, and which we’ll be watching for during early May).

This is hardly a cause for cheer, given that it would still be a drop of 35% or so from April 2008′s “Supply Side Stunner” of $407 billion.

WSJ: At 90 Days, Bipartisanship Out, Authoritarianism In

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government,US & Allied Military — Tom @ 10:30 am

From its Wednesday editorial (bolds are mine):

Mark down the date. Tuesday, April 21, 2009, is the moment that any chance of a new era of bipartisan respect in Washington ended. By inviting the prosecution of Bush officials for their antiterror legal advice, President Obama has injected a poison into our politics that he and the country will live to regret.

….. until now, the U.S. political system has avoided the spectacle of a new Administration prosecuting its predecessor for policy disagreements. This is what happens in Argentina, Malaysia or Peru, countries where the law is treated merely as an extension of political power.

If this analogy seems excessive, consider how Mr. Obama has framed the issue. He has absolved CIA operatives of any legal jeopardy, no doubt because his intelligence advisers told him how damaging that would be to CIA morale when Mr. Obama needs the agency to protect the country. But he has pointedly invited investigations against Republican legal advisers who offered their best advice at the request of CIA officials.

“Your intelligence indicates that there is currently a level of ‘chatter’ equal to that which preceded the September 11 attacks,” wrote Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee, in his August 1, 2002 memo. “In light of the information you believe [detainee Abu] Zubaydah has and the high level of threat you believe now exists, you wish to move the interrogations into what you have described as an ‘increased pressure phase.’”

So the CIA requests a legal review at a moment of heightened danger, the Justice Department obliges with an exceedingly detailed analysis of the law and interrogation practices — and, seven years later, Mr. Obama says only the legal advisers who are no longer in government should be investigated. The political convenience of this distinction for Mr. Obama betrays its basic injustice.

….. Just as with the AIG bonuses, he is trying to co-opt his left-wing base by playing to it — only to encourage it more. Within hours of Mr. Obama’s Tuesday comments, Senator Carl Levin piled on with his own accusatory Intelligence Committee report. The demands for a “special counsel” at Justice and a Congressional show trial are louder than ever, and both Europe’s left and the U.N. are signaling their desire to file their own charges against former U.S. officials.

Mr. “Rules for Radicals” may really want all of this after all.

No one who watched during 2007 and 2008 with an open mind could miss the authoritarian streak Barack Obama and his apparatchiks exhibited during the presidential campaign, from the candidate’s petty, seething, grudge-carrying anger (“I’m putting you on notice about my ears”), to harassing everyday people (HT Daily Insults), to intimidating radio stations. So no one should be surprised to see it now that he’s in the White House. That it’s gone beyond things like de facto nationalization of the nation’s largest car company and attempting to micromanage the banking system is, at best, a mild surprise.

Taranto at Best of the Web has correctly identified the seriousness of what were seeing:

What Obama is offhandedly contemplating, then, amounts to a step toward authoritarian government. The impulse behind the push to prosecute is an authoritarian one as well.

…. If those now in power yield to the temptation to use authoritarian means–however well-intentioned their ends may be–they will set a precedent that their opponents, perhaps equally well-intentioned, may one day use against them.

…. It may be that the president can put out this fire only through bold and irreversible action–to wit, by issuing a blanket pardon of former officials and intelligence agents for their actions in the war on terror.

Fat chance. He and his administration won’t even call the War on Terror what it is — or maybe was.

Lucid Links (042409, Morning)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 8:44 am

Noteworthy Net-Worthies:

Great comment by “venividivici” at my “‘Going Galt’ Got Going Last Summer” PJM column“What I’ve noticed in the whole debate about ‘going Galt’ in the real world, as opposed to in Rand’s novel, is that the left seems to assume that ‘going Galt’ is some sort of binary decision, wherein one decides to work or not to work. It’s much more complex than that, as your analysis of the drop in tax revenues shows. Economic growth happens at the margins in a modern economy and in that context “going Galt” for a high earner can literally mean something as simple as billing five less hours a week or taking half a day off on Fridays. Of course the core of the economy remains, but even those small changes kill any growth.” Exactly. Well if they don’t understand the effect of changing marginal tax rates, how do you expect them to recognize the impact of other decisions at the margins? I also notice that the lefties who thought the previous column was the worst ever or some such nonsense aren’t laughing any more — and I know they’re paying attention.

Related — Rose commented here last week that “going Galt” is very relevant to many moms’ decisions to exit the workforce (“Many working moms are finding that their added income becomes a detriment after taxes and as such, it no longer pays to work…so they are staying home”). A couple of PJM column commenters (here and here) reinforce that point. There are lots of good reasons why a parent should consider staying home with younger kids, but punitive taxation stifling a person’s initiative shouldn’t be one of them.

Expect the leftist reaction to this to be muted, and thus hypocritical (HT Instapundit) — “The Obama administration is asking the Supreme Court to overrule long-standing law that stops police from initiating questions unless a defendant’s lawyer is present, another stark example of the White House seeking to limit rather than expand rights” (Wow, the AP wrote this; is the love affair hitting a speed bump?). I happen to believe that if someone, uncoerced in any way, wants to own up to having committed a crime, they should a) be allowed to do so in an open-ended, not-directed statement (otherwise, you’re stifling THEIR right to be heard, right?), and b) whatever they say should be allowed to stand as admissible evidence. But the exact opposite is an article of faith with the trial bar and leftist “civil rights” advocates. There will be perfunctory whining about what Obama and Holder are doing, but that’s it. (Also: See Comment 1 for a clarifier.)

More evidence that April sales at the bailed-out auto companies are horridFirst, “U.S. Said to Seek a Chrysler Plan for Bankruptcy.” I may be wrong, but I thought the plan all along was for a Chrysler-Fiat deal to be done expressly to avoid a Chrysler bankruptcy filing. Second, “GM reportedly to close plants for up to 9 weeks.” The closures will start less than three weeks from now. (Update: It involves 13 of the company’s U.S. plants.) Both stories are telltale signs of rapidly decaying situations. It would appear that no one at Team Obama has considered the possibility that half the American people, if not more, won’t buy a car from a de facto nationalized company. Sadly, it looks like the administration is indeed going to protect UAW members’ pensions and retiree health care benefits to an extent that goes far beyond what is normally done at the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. An ultimate price tag to taxpayers of $100 billion or more grows more likely.

Nancy Pelosi, waterboarding enabler. She denies it. But she was briefed, and “raised no substantial objections.” This is stunning hypocrisy, even for her. Of course, President ‘Prompter and Eric Holder will be sure to prosecute her as an accessory to “torture” along with Bush administration lawyers who wrote the rules (/sarc).

Meanwhile, in an extraordinarily resourceful use of journalists’ precious time, CBS’s ‘Early Show’ hosts evaluated the realism of manufactured paper dolls of President Obama and the First Lady. I’m not kidding.