December 13, 2009

In Record Time: Lib Not Getting His Way Calls America ‘Ungovernable’

ap_obama_pelosi_reid_090203_mnThe last two times I remember this happening — with Jimmy Carter in the late 1970s and New York City Mayor David Dinkins in the early 1990s — it at least took a few years for exasperated establishment media liberals to blame the system for a favored politician’s difficulties in achieving his agenda, and to call the country and Gotham, respectively, “ungovernable.” Afterwards, Ronald Reagan and Rudy Giuliani proved the whiners spectacularly wrong.

Matt Yglesias at Think Progress is years ahead of those prior hand-wringers. A bit less than 11 months into the Obama administration, the Think Progress blogger considered by many to be one of the far left’s opinion leaders is moaning about how tough it has recently become to get anything done. Poor baby.

As Obama’s poll numbers plunge, and statist health care comes down to final pre-Christmas votes, Yglesias reprises the lament that the system is the problem (HT Instapundit and Ed Morrissey at Hot Air):

The smarter elements in Washington DC are starting to pick up on the fact that it’s not tactical errors on the part of the president that make it hard to get things done, it’s the fact that the country has become ungovernable.

…. We’re suffering from an incoherent institutional set-up in the senate. You can have a system in which a defeated minority still gets a share of governing authority and participates constructively in the victorious majority’s governing agenda, shaping policy around the margins in ways more to their liking. Or you can have a system in which a defeated minority rejects the majority’s governing agenda out of hand, seeks opening for attack, and hopes that failure on the part of the majority will bring them to power. But right now we have both simultaneously. It’s a system in which the minority benefits if the government fails, and the minority has the power to ensure failure. It’s insane, and it needs to be changed.

Yglesias’s claim is a real hoot, given that 60 Democratic senators can basically do whatever they want if they all manage to agree. Yet he vents his spleen in unexcerpted material over Mitch McConnell’s behavior.

On a historical note, progressives, the precursors of today’s liberals, got their way a century ago when they said that the Senate needs to be changed. The Founders’ design of the Senate as representatives selected by state legislatures was superseded by the 17th amendment, which mandated their direct election. This eventually resulted in the nationalization of nearly every senatorial election, as interest groups outside senators’ home states largely became their election financiers. It’s hard to see how this has been an improvement over the Founders’ original set-up.

Regardless of one’s view of the 17th Amendment, Yglesias’s angst over how it’s working now is more than a little tiresome. The difficulty of getting things done didn’t seem to bother Yglesias when Bush 43 was trying to get judges confirmed, or when initiatives Yglesias more than likely opposed like drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve failed. But now that things aren’t going his way automatically, “smart elements,” a term which apparently include arrogant elitists like him and excludes anyone who doesn’t simply roll over to their obvious intellectual superiority, have decided that the way things are set up needs to change. Oh the humanity.

What Yglesias is missing, of course, is that during the presidential campaign Barack Obama attempted to position himself as a moderate to the general public while mouthing far-left articles of faith when out of earshot. Thanks to a compliant press, which ignored overwhelming evidence of radicalism in so many areas, from his voting record to his cast of mentors and sponsors, a large enough portion of the general public never got past the David Axelrod-created image to get Obama across the finish line a year ago in November.

Yglesias apparently expected the radical transformation of government that Obama promised true believers on the left without a meaningful challenge. Even though he won’t acknowledge it, what he wanted is largely what we’ve gotten until very, very recently — trillion-dollar debts, private company nationalizations, and all.

Now that the bloom is off the president’s rose, it looks like Obama’s success and the electability of members of his party may very well depend on whether they start doing what the American people want them to do, and stop trying to force things the people don’t want down their throats. The president and the Democrats in Congress seem congenitally unable to do that, and could face dire electoral consequences if they don’t. No wonder Yglesias is so bothered.

It will probably not be long before we see sentiments like Yglesias’s make their way into establishment media commentary, news analysis, and even hard-news reporting.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Globaloney Refuted in One Column

Filed under: Economy,Environment,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:39 am

It’s from David J. Bellamy at Pajamas Media:

Climategate: One Must Ignore 200 Years of Observations to Believe in AGW

Al Gore used …. ice core data to claim that carbon dioxide made the temperature of the world rise, threatening life on earth, because there was a correlation between atmospheric CO2 levels and the world’s average temperature. Yet the data from the much-celebrated Vostok ice cores paints a very different picture: Up goes the temperature, followed by a rise in carbon dioxide.

Effectively flattening Gore’s dreams of hedging his funds.

More troubles lie ahead for the warmists. Independent researchers have pointed out that crucially important pieces of the anthropogenic global warming (AGW) evidence were based on false statistical analysis. For starters, take a look at historical evidence from the last 1,000 years. There was a worldwide Medieval Warm Period — no, not just in Europe — and a few centuries prior to that period it was warm enough for the Romans to produce red wine on the borders of Scotland.

…. Over the past 5,000 years? There was not just one, but three periods when it was warmer than today. And yet life on Earth survived. Climate change is natural, and warmer periods occur without human CO2 emissions being the cause. Just looking at the last decade, world temperature is falling as CO2 rises — big emitters China and India have been stocking up their coal sheds. Increases in CO2 rarely coincide with rises in the Earth’s temperature — so how can CO2 be the driver of global warming, let alone climate change?

…. We have had at least 75 major temperature swings in the past 4,500 years — all in great part explicable by solar cycles, volcanic activity, and those little rascals El Nino and La Nina. Those “warming” oceans? The recent trend is one of cooling, not the warming predicted by legions of modelers and their models. Since 2007, the Arctic ice cap has been increasing in area, heading back towards the norm again. Yes, the Northwest Passage was navigable this year — but it has been that way on a number of occasions, just since 1850. Thanks in great part to prevailing winds changing direction, as they are wont to do.

…. There are now more polar bears dining on seals in the Arctic than when I was filming there some 30 years ago, thanks to good wildlife management. So good, in fact, that the global warmists did their best to lock out the lead manager on that project from an important meeting discussing polar bear population — a matter that Al Gore would use to falsely frighten children across the world.

Sea levels have been behaving themselves, slowly rising ever since the end of the Little Ice Age. However, much to the chagrin of the warmists, they have remained stationary since 2006 — against all their predictions.

…. Today, children are taught that carbon dioxide is a poison. No — it is odorless, colorless, and non-toxic. We drink it in fizzy drinks and lager, and it puts the rise in our daily bread. Most importantly, it is one of the most important components of all life — photosynthesis converts CO2 into oxygen and carbon, life’s main building blocks. As long as plants have sufficient water and nutrients, their growth is enhanced by rising concentrations of carbon dioxide. CO2 is the free airborne fertilizer of the world.

Many experiments prove this fact of a carbon-rich atmosphere, experiments corroborated by millions of farmers across the world who cash in on the use of enhanced carbon dioxide in their greenhouses. Many even burn fossil fuel to boost production. Carbon dioxide plays a vital part in providing the 18 billion daily meals that do their best to feed the growing number of people across the world.

…. This August, right in the middle of the BBC’s promised barbecue summer (which didn’t come to pass), the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit disclosed that it had destroyed the raw data for its global surface temperature records. Despite the fact that they own some of the most powerful computers in the world, the reason they advanced was “an alleged lack of storage space.” The very foundation of the global warming argument was gone forever. Draw your own conclusions — sabotage or desperation? (see “The Dog Ate My Global Warming” — Ed.).

…. Earth’s climate has remained within the limits tolerated by life for several billion years. During this time, the planet has experienced unimaginable volcanic events which liberated huge amounts of CO2. It has collided with extraterrestrial objects, triggering either an increase or decrease of temperature. Even the energy flow from the sun has varied over such a span of geological time.

And yet — here we are! Life remains.

Read the whole thing.

Repeat: “The very foundation of the global warming argument was gone forever.” With the foundation gone, warmists have no credible scientific argument. Period.

Repeal the Social Security Earnings Penalty

Junking this antique would aid an economic recovery.

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Note: This item was posted at Pajamas Media and teased here at BizzyBlog on Friday.

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Inside the Beltway, the world seemingly turned rosy last week. Establishment media outlets got all excited about the Labor Department’s report that the unemployment rate dropped to 10% in November, and that the month’s 11,000 seasonally adjusted jobs lost was the lowest such figure in almost two years.

But a closer look at the not seasonally adjusted job gain/loss numbers during the past three months — that is, what has actually happened on the ground — reveals that the “good news” is more than a little illusory:

BLS1109NotSeasAdjJobs

Comparing 2009′s monthly actuals to the average of 2003-2007, when the economy was doing well, you will see that after some improvement in October, the situation actually worsened in November:

  • September 2009′s 389,000 jobs actually added were over a quarter million shy of the 643,000 average added in September 2003-2007.
  • October 2009 showed significant improvement. The 708,000 jobs added that month were only 81,000 fewer than that month’s 2003-2007 average of 789,000.
  • But in November, virtually all of October’s improvement disappeared. November’s 80,000-job pickup was, as in September, over a quarter million jobs short of the November 2003-2007 average of 331,000.

November’s seasonally adjusted job loss of 11,000 was artificially influenced by how truly awful November 2008′s job loss was in the wake of Obama’s presidential victory. Because the past year or so has been so bad, and because the seasonal adjustment calculations weigh more recent years more heavily, wild gyrations in the reported seasonally adjusted numbers may continue for a while. People who really want to understand what’s going on in the employment market are going to have to pay much more attention to the not seasonally adjusted numbers for the foreseeable future.

Beyond all that, Americans continue to withdraw from the workforce. Since June 2008, at about the time when what I have been calling the POR (Pelosi-Obama-Reid) economy began, after five years of barely budging, what the government calls “the labor force participation rate” has dropped from a seasonally adjusted 66.1% to November’s 65.0%. That may not seem like much, but as a result over 2.5 million fewer people are working or looking for work than if that rate had held steady. (These people are, by the way, not considered in the primary unemployment rate calculation.)

Where did all these people go? Many of them retired for Social Security benefit collection purposes. A December 7 Wall Street Journal article noted that fiscal 2009′s 21% increase in the number of Social Security retirement applications was well above the 15% uptick the Social Security Administration expected. Many who began collecting benefits clearly did so earlier than they would have liked because they lost their jobs and their immediate employment prospects were so grim. Though they did so knowing that they would collect less in monthly benefits, I suspect that many of them had no idea that finding even part-time work might jeopardize part or all of those reduced benefits. But that is indeed the case, thanks to the remnants of an anachronism known as the Social Security earnings penalty.

Though it was much more onerous before it was partially repealed in the late 1990s, the earnings penalty is still a brutal disincentive to new or continued full-time employment. Straight from the Social Security Administration itself, here is how it works against work (FRA, or Full Retirement Age, is between 66 and 67 for most non-retired readers):

SocSecEarningsLimitRule2009

Those affected who are unaware of the penalty and attempt full-time, year-found work experience an effective tax rate of 50% on annual earnings above the small amounts noted above. They also still pay Social Security and Medicare taxes of 7.65% (15.3% if self-employed) on their earnings, as well as any federal, state or local income taxes. Subtract commuting and other related costs, and these people quickly figure out that they’re working virtually for free. So they stop working when they hit the annual limit or shortly thereafter, and try to start over the next year. That’s obviously not a way to keep one’s skills or work ethic sharp.

Repealing the earnings penalty effective January 1, 2010 would encourage early Social Security retirees who want or need to work to find year-round employment that will pay well. It will give employers who are dying to find something they can count on in this uncertain economy a pool of as many as a few hundred thousand proven, productive and talented people who will help businesses and the economy as a whole return to legitimate, sustainable growth. Growing businesses should in relatively short order be able to hire others to do work that needs to be done. It’s even possible that total tax collections at all levels of government could actually increase as result of repeal.

Passing repeal should be a no-brainer. I can’t think of a single credible reason why anyone would oppose this. The only conceivable objection is that it might shut some younger people out of the workforce.

But that objection disappears when you consider the supposed current mindset of Congress and the administration. Despite the evidence presented earlier, they really seem to believe that happier or at least less unhappy days are here again in the employment market. If so, they need to put up or shut up. Getting skilled, experienced people back into the economy will get it moving on a more permanent basis. After that happens, expanded opportunities for the younger and less skilled will come soon enough. Obama, Pelosi, and Reid simply need to set aside enough time from their statist health care machinations and their carbon-based obsessions to kick this relic of the FDR-Depression era to the curb once and for all.

Positivity: Manhattan Declaration comes at a time of ‘important decisions,’ Robert George explains

Filed under: Life-Based News,Positivity — Tom @ 7:41 am

From Washington:

Dec 12, 2009 / 10:47 pm

Robert P. George, a Princeton University professor who co-authored the popular Manhattan Declaration, has explained that the document was intended to speak at a time when “important decisions” are being made concerning the sanctity of human life, the nature of marriage and religious freedom.

Speaking in a Dec. 1 interview with Kathryn Jean Lopez of National Review Online, George said the statement’s backers wanted to bear witness to “three foundational principles of justice and the common good.”

These three principles were the sanctity of human life, the dignity of marriage as the union of husband and wife, and religious liberty and freedom of conscience.

George explained that in the view of the signers, important political and cultural decisions are now being made concerning these principles.

“These decisions will either uphold or undermine what is just and good. There is no avoiding the issues or evading the decisions,” he told National Review Online.

Explaining why the Manhattan Declaration was intended only for Christian signatories, George said that Catholicism, Evangelical, Protestantism and Eastern Orthodoxy have failed to speak with a “united voice” despite their “deep agreement” on moral issues.

“The Manhattan Declaration provided leaders of these traditions with an opportunity to rectify that. It is gratifying that they were willing — indeed eager — to seize that opportunity,” he added.

George clarified that the foundational principles defended in the Declaration are not unique to the Christian tradition as a whole.

In the words of Cardinal Justin Rigali, they are principles that can be “known and honored by men and women of goodwill even apart from divine revelation.”

According to George, so many Catholic bishops signed the document because “they understand the profound truths it proclaims and the urgency of proclaiming them” and they understand the importance of “standing shoulder to shoulder with leaders of other Christian traditions in a common witness.”

He added that signatories are happy to join members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons), Jews, and people of no particular faith who affirm these principles and want to join in defending them.

Discussing characterizations of people as liberals or conservatives, George noted that several signatories are politically liberal and many of those called conservatives today were liberal activists in the 1960s.

“They are today ‘conservatives’ and no longer ‘liberals’ because mainstream liberalism has embraced a combination of statism and moral libertarianism that they regard — rightly in my view — as deeply misguided,” he commented.

Prof. George said he hoped that President Obama will understand the determination of Manhattan Declaration signatories to defend human life, marriage and religious freedom.

“On these issues, they cannot compromise, and they will not remain silent,” he added. ….

Go here for the rest of the story.