May 8, 2011

Grim Milestone: Per CBO, Feb.-April Spending Will Top $1 Trillion; Will This Be News?

Early each month, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) issues its “Monthly Budget Review.” Its purpose is to estimate and comment on the federal government’s budget results for the previous month a few days before the Treasury reports its official results.

CBO’s most recent review, issued on Friday (2-page PDF), estimates that Uncle Sam’s outlays during April amounted to $330 billion. If that number holds up, or overstates actual results by less than $2.2 billion, it will mean for the first time ever that our government officially spent over $1 trillion in a three-month period (an estimated $330 billion in April plus a reported $672.2 billion in February and March combined). Regardless, February through April is certain to eclipse May-July 2009′s previous official all-time high (after TARP-obfuscating accounting adjustments; go here for the detail) of $948.7 billion.

This certainty, the detail behind it, and the federal government’s real long-term track record make mince meat of the following off-the-cuff assessment of why federal receipts and spending go up and down made Saturday by Alan Fram at the Associated Press:

A strong economy brings the government more revenue and lower spending. A weak economy in which the jobless and poor need more support does the opposite.

We wish, Alan.

Spending in nominal terms has increased in every fiscal year since at least 1970, whether the economy has been weak or strong, as seen below (source data mostly here):

FederalBudget1970to2011estd0511

Spending in real terms has declined only four times since 1970. Overall, if the White House’s February estimate of full fiscal year 2011 spending is correct, real spending will have increased by 236% since 1970 (i.e., it will have more than tripled). In the past four years, spending in real terms has increased by just under 30%. Even after the stimulus has been largely spent and was supposed to go away, and even though spending on the jobless and poor is down, the money out the door just keeps going and going and going, now at an annualized rate of $4 trillion a year.

Let’s see if the folks at Alan Fram’s wire service, the New York Times, or any of the alphabet establishment broadcast outlets report the all-time record level of three-month spending. Based on searches on “CBO” and “Congressional Budget Office” (entered without quotes) at AP’s home site, the “Essential Global News Network has not seen fit to take notice of it. I’m betting it will still be one of the best-kept secrets in America at the end of the week, even after the Monthly Treasury Statement is released on Wednesday.

NOTE: The true record (as opposed to the “official” record) for three-month spending occurred in February, March and April of 2010. $115 billion should be added to the official spending in those months of $875.1 billion for a total of $990.1 billion for the March 2010 TARP-related adjustment explained here. If February through April 2011 comes in above this level, which seems almost certain, it will break the true record as well as the “official” one.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

In Celebrating OBL’s Demise, the Kids Are All Right

Some of their elders, not so much.

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Note: This column went up at Pajamas Media and was teased here at BizzyBlog on Friday.

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On the evening of May 1, I was heartened to see crowds of mostly young adults waving American flags and chanting “USA! USA!” in front of the White House, near Ground Zero, and elsewhere to celebrate our military’s killing of Osama bin Laden. Sadly, my sentiments are far from universal.

The next morning, certain of their elders, from perches of alleged moral superiority, began wringing their hands in an ongoing critique which lasted the rest of this week. At the Washington Post, petulant Petula Dvorak called the apparently spontaneous festivities “crazy” and “almost vulgar,” while “Spirited Atheist” (that’s really what she calls herself) Susan Jacoby was “repelled by the scenes of mindless jubilation.” A professor at Iowa State University, where 1,000 students reportedly celebrated on campus, told the Des Moines Register that he found it all “unseemly” and “tacky.”

The topper came Wednesday morning on the “Today Show,” when contributor and psychiatrist Gail Saltz criticized the celebrants for messing with the heads of today’s kids by creating “a contradictory image” of joy in bin Laden’s death, claiming that the revelers “reacted in a way that later on they may not be happy about.”

Let’s talk about kids and trauma, Gail.

On September 11, 2001, grade school and high school children around the country saw giant jets crash into two 100-story skyscrapers. They saw those towers, with thousands of people still inside, collapse one after the other into horrible and previously unimaginable heaps. They saw the carnage at the Pentagon, and they heard about how Flight 93′s heroes died preventing an additional attack targeting either the White House or our Capitol. Children shouldn’t have to see these things, but it was of course unavoidable.

Many of them, especially in and around New York and Washington, either lost relatives or dear friends that day, or know someone who did. Unlike the Kennedy assassination which shook the baby boomers, the September 11 generation saw it all unfold in real time. Unlike the kids who saw the Challenger explosion live in 1986, everyone who witnessed 9/11 in school soon learned that the building takedowns were acts of war perpetrated by an unprecedented type of enemy.

This enemy had and still has no respect for life, not even their own. This enemy was and still is bent on destroying Western civilization and taking the world back to a seventh century existence which would enslave everyone who won’t subscribe to their oppressive Islamofascist belief system. This enemy recognizes no norms of conflict, will kill anyone and everyone they can in the process, and will broadcast and brag about their murderous “accomplishments” in the hope of instilling fear and anxiety in everyone else. Adults can, and thank God we did, push back against this. Kids can only hope that they will.

Once old enough, many of them joined the military to fight the war on terror — a war brought about by their elders’ complacency — in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. Many if not most members of the 9/11 generation outside of elitist circles either know someone who has served during the past decade or know one of their relatives or close friends. The wars largely pinned Al Qaeda down in the Middle East and at least partially distracted it from planning attacks in the Western world. Those who claim that Iraq was somehow not part of the war on terror cannot explain away Al Qaeda’s heavy presence in that war. Now they also cannot deny that the capture of a key AQ operative in Iraq began a chain of events which eventually led to finding and killing bin Laden.

As to the naysayers’ argument that we shouldn’t revel in anyone’s death, Clarence Page (“Welcome to Paybackistan”) has it right: This isn’t about death, it’s about justice. Our special forces killed Osama bin Laden because the actions he orchestrated on 9/11 and in many other attacks around the world cried out for retribution, i.e., “requital according to merits or deserts, especially for evil.”

Evil. I read recently that an English professor of psychobabble doesn’t like the word, and would prefer to replace it with “lack of empathy,” something which “is susceptible to education and treatment.” Surely many in the 9/11 generation, which correctly recognized bin Laden as the very face of evil, would respond thusly: ROTFLMAO.

9/11 was what will hopefully remain a unique generational scar. Osama bin Laden’s richly deserved death doesn’t excise the wound, but it holds significant promise for diminishing it. Gail Saltz, who worries about today’s kids being traumatized by watching people celebrate a significant win for the good guys, should instead be cheering the increased likelihood that today’s and future generations’ children won’t have to witness and live with what has haunted the 9/11 generation for nearly a decade. That would really be worth celebrating.

Victor Davis Hanson on ‘The First-Person Presidency’

Yours truly was willing to cut President Obama some slack for his first-person rendering of the operation that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden. In the intervening days, the administration’s failure to acknowledge the truth about how past decisions and actions Obama and his party virulently opposed when one of theirs was not in the Oval Office have greatly diminished that initial assessment.

It also looks like history won’t be particularly kind, as Victor Davis Hanson, one of America’s preeminent historians, is appalled at the hypocrisy (bolds are mine):

… Most of these first-person pronouns (in the speech) could have been replaced by either the first-person plural (our, we) or proper nouns (the United States, America). But they reflect a now well-known Obama trait of personalizing the presidency.

The problem of first-personalizing national security is twofold. One, it is not consistent. Good news is reported by Obama in terms of “I”; bad news is delivered as “reset,” “the previous administration,” “in the past”: All good things abroad are due to Obama himself; all bad things are still the blowback from George W. Bush.

Two, there is the small matter of hypocrisy. The protocols for taking out Osama bin Laden were all established by President Bush and all opposed by Senator and then candidate Obama. Yet President Obama never seeks to explain that disconnect; indeed, he emphasizes it by the overuse of the first person. When the president reminds us this week of what “over the years I’ve repeatedly made clear,” does he include his opposition to what he now has institutionalized?

Guantanamo proves to have been important for gathering intelligence; Barack Obama derided it as “a tremendous recruiting tool for al-Qaeda.”

Some key intelligence was found by interrogating prisoners abroad; Barack Obama wished to end that practice …

… In some cases we are trying suspects through military tribunals; here again, Barack Obama used to deplore the practice he now has adopted …

… In January 2007 — three weeks after President Bush announced the surge — Senator Obama introduced the “Iraq War De-escalation Act of 2007.” If it had passed, that law would have removed all troops from Iraq by March 2008. Obama derided the surge in unequivocal terms both before and after its implementation …

If one wonders why former President Bush did not attend ceremonies with President Obama this week in New York, it might be because of past rhetoric like this about policies Obama once derided and then codified: “I taught constitutional law for ten years at the University of Chicago, so . . . um . . . your next president will actually believe in the Constitution, which you can’t say about your current president.” George Bush did not believe in the U.S. Constitution?

In sum, Senator Obama opposed tribunals, renditions, Guantanamo, preventive detention, Predator-drone attacks, the Iraq War, wiretaps, and intercepts — before President Obama either continued or expanded nearly all of them, in addition to embracing targeted assassinations, new body scanning and patdowns at airports, and a third preemptive war against an oil-exporting Arab Muslim nation — this one including NATO efforts to kill the Qaddafi family. The only thing more surreal than Barack Obama’s radical transformation is the sudden approval of it by the once hysterical Left. In Animal Farm and 1984 fashion, the world we knew in 2006 has simply been airbrushed away.

Okay, the public perhaps understands all that hypocrisy as the stuff of presidential politics. But I think it will not quite accept the next step of taking full credit in hyperbolic first-person fashion for operations that would have been impossible had his own views prevailed.

I think the public is losing patience with the hypocrisy of presidential politics Hanson believes it might understand. Tea Partiers are certainly in no mood for it. Otherwise, spot on.

Reactions to ‘The Kids Are All Right’ Column (Plus: More Whimpering, a Strong Rebuttal, and Some Humor)

Several comments at my Friday Pajamas Media column (“In Celebrating OBL’s Demise, the Kids Are All Right”), which will appear at BizzyBlog later today (link won’t work until then), are worthy of note.

First and foremost is Cat-Mo’s. It’s long, but worth every word. Here’s how it wraps (#14):

For those young men and women who have grown up beneath that fear that lay beneath our attempts to be normal and felt the need to celebrate bin Laden’s demise, that moment of lifting fear, I do not chastise them nor assume any higher morality. Those that do, f*(% them. They are cowards. They are pretenders and liars. To themselves, mostly, because they know deep inside they want to celebrate, too. They just do not want to admit that that moment, these ten years of war, have changed them.

And, if there is one thing that I cannot forgive or forget, it is that I and my nation was changed, too. For that, even in death, bin laden remains unforgiven.

For the men who went into the compound and the man who pulled the trigger, thank you. You are not faceless, you are legion. If that is too much to bare, I apologize.

Still, thank you. What you have saved us from, we may never know. If we cannot know your names, it will not mean that you are forgotten.

Kat-Mo’s blog, “The Middle Ground,” is here.

Then there’s this sentence from Jamie W (#24):

In a way, 9/11 inoculated an entire generation against evil. They are growing up very differently from those only ten years or so older than they are – and I am loving the difference I see.

In most cases, same here.

Anonymous commenter #32 has the following assessment of the celebrants’ critics:

They were jerks then and are jerks now. And, boy, how upset they are when kids pay as little attention to them as THEY did to THEIR elders. Wouldn’t our President’s long-time spiritual adviser say something about “chickens coming home to roost?”

Meanwhile, the whimpering continues, with predictable contributions from overseas, including someone who obviously wouldn’t have liked my immediate reaction to OBL’s death:

(Martina Devlin on May 5 at the Irish Independent) —

… just when you think the Age of Triumphalism has been relegated to history, out it pops again. The sight of Americans whooping it up now is not just provocative, it is a reminder of how little has been learnt during the past decade.

… Fireworks in Los Angeles and street celebrations in other US cities over an assassination? Not just primitive, but foolishly incendiary. The same applies to the ‘New York Daily Post’ with its front page composed of just three words: “Rot in hell!”

On the other hand, Christine M. Flowers at Philly.com totally gets it:

HERE’S what I think of the people who are upset (upset?!) at the jubilation over the death of al Qaeda’s monster-in-chief:

Please go get a cup of green tea to calm your nerves, a good selection from Oprah’s book club – and some smelling salts.

You poor, delicate things.

I think the spontaneous release of joy at the news of bin Laden’s demise is proof positive of our collective humanity. Anyone who hesitated to bang the drum is just another victim of moral relativism, one of the most insidious and fatal diseases afflicting modern man.

The inability to comprehend the pure and unambiguous righteousness of a bullet through bin Laden’s temple is the direct result of a society that believes in giving second, third and even 20th chances. It’s a symptom of confusion about the difference between compassion – which has its limits – and justice, which does not, even when it takes the form of retribution.

Those celebrations were natural – maybe even necessary – reactions, the other side of the coin of the parades that broke out in the Arab streets on 9/11.

Related, from Brendan O’Neill at Spiked Online (added at 4:20 p.m.):

The rise and rise of a pity-for-Osama lobby

The chattering classes’ ‘uncomfortable feeling’ with the killing of bin Laden is underpinned more by moral cowardice than political principle.

How did ‘I hate bin Laden and I’m glad he’s dead’ become the most shocking thing one can say in polite society?

… The most striking thing was the speed with which the great and the good of the Western liberal elite sought to distance themselves from those vulgar, excitable Yanks and to express a more erudite and PC view of OBL’s demise

Related humor:

Celebrations Of Wicked Witch’s Death Decried as Unseemly

Commentators criticized as ”ugly” and “unseemly” the spontaneous celebrations that erupted across the County of Oz in the wake of the death of the Wicked Witch of the East.

The Witch was killed when a farmhouse fell on top of her. It is widely believed that the attack was carried out by U.S. special elite forces.

Immediately, residents of Munchkin City took to the streets and broke out into an elaborate song and dance number, a display that an Oz Times editorial decried as “the worst kind of jingoistic hubris.”

WSJ Coins an Apt Term: ‘The New Lackluster’

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:00 am

Wider use of the Wall Street Journal’s Friday characterization is sorely needed, because those who are trying to cast what we’re enduring economically as “the new normal,” as if we’re supposed to ever consider it acceptable, have to be refuted.

LacklusterDefinition

The Journal’s Friday evening editorial also noted serious deterioration in the unemployment rates of African-Americans, who massively supported Obama in 2008, and among teenageers. Unfortunately, members of these groups currently tend to have a higher proportion of low-skilled members, so the Journal’s core assessment of as to who is being hurt most in this lackluster economy does not require a big logical leap to be credible (bolds are mine):

The New Lackluster
More private job growth, but higher jobless rates for the unskilled.

… The disappointing increase in the overall jobless rate—to 9% from 8.8%—reflects in part an increase in the number of Americans seeking work, which is a sign of confidence that they believe they may find a job. The real story here is the failure, after 21 months of growth, to cut the jobless rate more rapidly from its 10.1% peak in October 2009.

On the plus side, the number of Americans who are jobless for six months or longer fell by 283,000, though they are a still worrisome 43.4% of all the jobless. More troubling is the big jump in April in the jobless rate for blacks (0.6% to 16.1%), Hispanics (0.5% to 11.8%) and teenagers (0.4% to 24.9%).

As ever, slow growth hurts the least skilled the most, and that usually means the young or least educated. Even as many manufacturers report difficulty finding skilled workers for high-paying jobs, the bottom rung of the economic ladder remains out of reach to hundreds of thousands.

The jobs report overall reveals an economy that is growing modestly, fast enough to avoid falling into another recession but too slowly to provide the kind of job and income gains that Americans grew accustomed to from 1982 to 2007. This year’s growth slowdown doesn’t seem to be as serious as last year’s, and most forecasters are predicting faster growth later this year. Job gains in that scenario would continue.

We certainly hope so, because the Keynesians have thrown their whole policy kit at reviving growth before the 2012 election: the remains of the 2009 stimulus, a one-year payroll tax cut, faster business expensing for two years, and quantitative easing II. Given the Federal Reserve’s current membership, the April jobs numbers are not likely to knock Ben Bernanke from his near-eternal easing.

Yet given the results, the American public has every right to feel unhappy. The federal government has gone into record debt in the name of kick-starting a recovery that is still mediocre. Incomes are rising slowly, and any gains aren’t keeping up with higher-priced groceries and gasoline. Americans are getting all too familiar with the new lackluster. They want to know how to return to the old prosperity.

Oh, we know how. Ronald Reagan showed us. 22 months after the end of the recessions during their terms, Reagan has a lead of more than 5.0 million jobs overall, and over 4.5 million in the private sector, before adjusting for population differences.

Here are the seasonally adjusted unemployment rates for various groups as of June 2009, the last month of the recession, and April 2011:
- Whites — 8.7%, 8.0%
- Blacks — 15.3%, 15.8%
- All Teenagers — 24.6%, 24.9%
- Black Teenagers — 39.0%, 41.6%
- Hispanics — 12.2%, 11.8%

That’s the kind of performance you’d expect from George Wallace or Lester Maddox, not the Anointed One.

Positivity: Military chaplain reflects on death of Osama bin Laden

From Providence, Rhode Island:

May 6, 2011 / 04:07 pm

Chaplain Col. Robert L. Marciano was relaxing Sunday night at the rectory of Our Lady of Good Hope Parish in Mapleville, R.I. when he received a text message from a friend in the military that al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden had been killed in a daring operation in Pakistan led by U.S. Navy SEALs.

Immediately, thoughts flooded back to the pastor of those difficult days following the 9/11 attacks when he and other military chaplains would suit up and wade through the destruction at the Pentagon to offer prayers for the dead as the remains of the 184 victims there were recovered.

“It was a dark time. When we first arrived and saw the damage, it was still smoldering,” recalls Father Marciano, who initially served three weeks as a chaplain at the Pentagon following the terrorist attacks.

He would return to the Pentagon from 2006-2010 to serve as chief of chaplains for the U.S. Air National Guard. He now serves as state command chaplain for the Rhode Island National Guard.

“I certainly feel for the families. The mastermind behind the carnage has been brought to justice.”

Although he admits it is difficult to rejoice when someone is dead, Father Marciano believes that the United States’ relentless pursuit of bin Laden, who he called “the chief criminal of the world,” will send a strong message to terrorists that they will pay a price for the harm they do to others.

“It was done right, and in this case, there was no other alternative,” he said. “You can run and you can hide, but our intelligence forces are going to get you.” …

Go here for the rest of the story.