July 23, 2011

11 Capitalistic Minutes: ‘Why Kill the Goose?’

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:48 pm

Shaky production values, but solid 50-plus year-old wisdom — older than our President, and a whole lot smarter:

It examines profit. Nicely done.

Steyn Ridicules Press’s Insistence on Calling Budget Ideas ‘Plans’; Now It’s Ginned-up Fears of Stock-Market Plunge

MarkSteyn2011On Wednesday evening (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), I noted the absurdity of Associated Press coverage characterizing the 5-page document with 3-1/2 whole pages of text issued by the “Gang of Six” as a “plan” — 12 times, plus in the item’s headline. Though I didn’t bring it up then, an obvious point to make about any of these items floating around Washington is that if the Congressional Budget Office can’t score it, it can’t be a plan. A month ago, CBO Director Doug Elmendorf told a congressional committee, in response to a question about President Obama’s April proposal, that “we can’t score speeches.” By contrast, there’s no reason to believe it can’t score Cut, Cap & Balance, because it’s actual legislation passed by the House.

Last night at Investors Business Daily, Mark Steyn, the self-described “One-Man Global Content Provider,” made more generalized comments about the media coverage of the debt ceiling-tax-spending-amending discussions and its identification of anything stated in a semi-coherent sentence as a “plan” (press-related items in bold):

Obama … claimed to have a $4 trillion deficit-reduction plan. The court eunuchs of the press corps were impressed, and went off to file pieces hailing the president as “the grown-up in the room.” There is, in fact, no plan. No plan at all. No plan whatsoever, either for a deficit reduction of $4 trillion or $4.73. As is the way in Washington, merely announcing that he had a plan absolved him of the need to have one. So the president’s staff got out the extra-wide teleprompter and wrote a really large number on it, and simply by reading out the really large number the president was deemed to have produced a serious blueprint for trillions of dollars in savings. For his next trick, he’ll walk out on to the stage of Carnegie Hall, announce that he’s going to play Haydn’s Cello Concerto No 2, and, even though there’s no cello in sight, and Obama immediately climbs back in his golf cart to head for the links, music critics will hail it as one of the most moving performances they’ve ever heard.

The only “plan” Barack Obama has put on paper is his February budget. Were there trillions and trillions of savings in that? Er, no. It increased spending and doubled the federal debt.

How about Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader? Has he got a plan? No.

… It seems reasonable to conclude from the planlessness and budgetlessness of the Obama/Reid Democrats that their only plan is to carry on spending without limit. Otherwise, someone somewhere would surely have written something down on a piece of paper by now. But no, apparently the Department of Writing Down Plans is the only federal expense the president is willing to cut. … the ruling party of the Brokest Nation in History has no spending plan other than to plan to spend even more. …

The domestic media coverage of this story has been almost laughably fraudulent: To the court eunuchs, a failure to raise the debt ceiling by a couple of trillion would signal to the world that American government was embarrassingly dysfunctional. In reality, raising the debt ceiling by a couple of trillion without any spending cuts would confirm to the world that American government is terminally dysfunctional.

Moving on to the apparent next strategy, the AP’s David Espo today invoked fears of a stock market plunge — without identifying a single person in the financial community to back up his and the Democrats’ fear-mongering. He also appeared to put words in Boehner’s mouth (bolded) which the Speaker seems unlikely to have said:

Debt crisis: Deal sought to head off stock plunge

Precariously short of time, congressional leaders struggled in urgent, weekend-long talks to avert an unprecedented government default, desperate to show enough progress to head off a plunge in stock prices when Asian markets open ahead of the U.S. workweek.

President Barack Obama met Saturday with Republican and Democratic leaders – but only briefly- the day after House Speaker John Boehner abruptly broke off his own once-promising compromise talks with the White House.

… House Speaker John Boehner told rank-and-file Republicans in a conference call hoped to be able to announce a “viable framework for progress” by 4 p.m. EDT on Sunday, before the stock markets open in Japan and elsewhere in Asia, according to two participants. He met later Saturday for almost an hour with House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority leader Harry Reid and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell.

Lawmakers fear a big drop in investor confidence in stocks and bonds could start in Asia and sweep toward Europe and the Americas, causing U.S. stock values to plunge on Monday.

Barring action by Aug. 2, the Treasury will run out of the money needed to pay all its bills, triggering a possible default that could seriously damage the domestic economy and send damaging waves across the globe. Obama has warned repeatedly of the possibility of a spike in interest rates that could affect Americans’ mortgages, credit cards and other forms of personal debt.

It doesn’t seem likely that Boehner would have made anything resembling the bolded reference in the excerpt above, which, while conveniently not in quotes, immediately follows a quoted item and precedes “according to participants.” Espo has made it look like Boehner referred to the world markets which open Monday before U.S. markets.

I say he didn’t, David, and if you won’t provide proof that he did, I’ll assume you’re engaging in a next iteration of the ongoing fraud Steyn described in his column. Given the press’s track record of the past week, where it not only called things “plans” which could barely be dignified as “thoughts” but also kept telling us that the two sides were near a deal when the Speaker says they never really were, why shouldn’t I?

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Quotes of the Day (072311, Morning)

Filed under: Quotes, Etc. of the Day — Tom @ 10:41 am

What’s going on here is pure political calculus. Republicans have done their job, offering a plan that raises the debt ceiling, sharply cuts current spending, reforms future spending authority and asks the states to ratify a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution.

… The debt battle of 2011 is all about getting Republicans to betray their spending and tax promises so that Barack Obama can be re-elected in 2012.

– From an Investors Business Daily editorial (“Democrats
Are Obsessed with Raising Taxes”), July 23

As noted in my latest Pajamas Media column which also appeared at BizzyBlog this morning, tax increases (not needed anyway) would cripple the current “Fear-Based Economy,” which has weakened considerably in the past two-plus months.

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The Republican Congress has handed the President an unparalleled opportunity. Using the UNLIMITED power provided by the 14th Amendment, President Obama can single-handed set right the myriad social injustices that have been plaguing the working poor and middle class for decades. Reversing 30 years of Republican and Corporate skullduggery. If he has the courage, and if he is actually a Democrat.

… I felt it important for someone to at least, even if tongue and cheek, layout what IS possible if Obama was of a mind. He isn’t, he is too much of a conservative lump to ever have that kind of courage to do what is REALLY in the nations best interest.

– From The Daily Kos (“The Case for Martial Law”) , July 22

“The Jester,” if he gets enough heat, will probably back down from his current “tongue in cheek” posture and say “You guys can’t take a joke.” You’re right, guy. I can’t. Not this one.

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“We have run out of time and they are going to have to explain to me how it is that we are going to avoid default” on Aug. 2, the president told reporters at a hastily scheduled news after Boehner’s announcement.

– From an Associated Press report Saturday morning

The “how” is simple. Have the Senate revote and pass Cut, Cap & Balance.

Then Obama can separately bring his overpowering case for tax increases in a separate bill. If the people want it so bad, their pressure should cause it pass in a straight up-or-down vote.

From this point on, if the government shuts down or defaults, it’s on the Senate and the President. The House has done its job. All the media, Senate, and White House spinning will never, ever change that fundamental truth.

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The so-called mainstream media is engaged in a bizarre propaganda effort, aimed not so much at persuading voters to agree with Obama but at convincing politicians that voters agree with Obama.

– From Jim Taranto’s Best of the Web at the Wall Street Journal, July 22

It’s beyond propaganda. They’re making stuff up trying to influence what goes on in the discussions themselves. How many times have you seen indications that “they’re close to an agreement” in the past several days? John Boehner has put it on paper that “A deal was never reached, and was never really close.” The primary motivation for relaying the false White House and Democratic leaks has been to build pressure on Boehner to make the reports true and agree to something unacceptable. Good on Boehner for holding firm (with the usual cautionary “for now”).

The Fear-Based Economy

Filed under: Economy,General,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 7:59 am

Further tax increases could bring an already frightened, sputtering economy to a standstill.

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

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Finally, someone has publicly said what everyone has long known.

On Monday, during his company’s second quarter earnings call with investors, Wynn Resorts CEO Stephen Wynn ended the three-year truth embargo over who is holding back the U.S. economy.

In July 2008, yours truly christened the economic conditions America began facing roughly a month earlier as the POR (Pelosi-Obama-Reid) Economy, named after its primary creators: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. In a comment at that original post, I noted that the economy’s job and wealth creators were “genuinely frightened by the lack of seriousness and presence of abject irresponsibility in Congress and in Obama.”

This fright went viral long ago but remained whispered in carefully chosen company until Wynn broke the silence. When an earnings call participant asked why his firm hasn’t expanded its meeting space in Las Vegas, Wynn responded:

I’m afraid to do anything in the current political environment in the United States.

… my customers and the companies that provide the vitality for the hospitality and restaurant industry, in the United States of America, they are frightened of this administration. And it makes you slow down and not invest your money.

… this is Obama’s deal, and it’s Obama that’s responsible for this fear in America.

Why shouldn’t the economy’s key players be afraid? In 2-1/2 years, Barack Obama and his administration have shown that they will do anything in their power — even if not in their constitutional power — to further their far-left redistributionist and science-free environmental goals. If it means subverting the rule of law to favor bankrupt union-dominated car companies, so be it. If it means shutting down oil drilling and exploration in the Gulf of Mexico and restoring it in slow motion at a cost of tens of thousands of jobs, well, that’s unfortunate collateral damage. If it means revoking an already-issued permit for coal mining, too bad, so sad.

In Wynn’s case, if it means demonizing convention and tourist spots when the timing fits, well, as far as Team Obama is concerned, his company will just have to deal with it. Why should Wynn even think about adding meeting rooms when at any politically convenient moment, Obama can and has shown at least twice that he will demonize a key travel destination?

More broadly, Wynn was speaking for the entire economy’s most productive participants: the businesspeople, entrepreneurs, and investors who drive commerce, create wealth and create jobs. As long as Barack Obama is president and his apparatchiks remain in control of their expanding bureaucracies and unaccountable czardoms, fear and intimidating uncertainty will rein.

Wynn’s stated indisputable truth must be at the core of the current debt ceiling, tax, and spending negotiations taking place in Washington.

It has long been known and accepted, with proof going all the way back to Herbert Hoover’s ill-conceived actions in the early 1930s, that tax increases will at a minimum prevent an economy attempting a recovery from reaching its full potential. At worst, they will send it back into recession. Additional tax increases in the current economy will create an overwhelming danger of another recession and a subsequent malaise which could rival the Great Depression.

Did I say, “additional tax increases”? Well, yes. The Wall Street Journal helpfully reminded us on July 11 that tax hikes associated with Obamacare amounting to $438 billion over the next 10 years will begin taking effect in 2013. Of course, these impending levies, the legislation’s stifling bureaucracy and disastrous work disincentives have been hanging over employers’ growth and hiring plans since Pelosi, Reid, and Obama made it law 16 months ago.

As if we needed more problems, make no mistake: The economy, which has failed to grow at the brisk pace required for a genuine recovery in employment since the end of the recession, has shown signs of serious deterioration in the past few months. Here are just a few of the indicators:

  • In May and June combined, seasonally adjusted employment grew by only 43,000, while the unemployment rate rose in both months.
  • The new-home market has barely budged from its historic lows.
  • Consumer confidence is at its lowest level since March 2009, one of the worst months of the recession.
  • The director of the widely read Consumer Reports Index stated his belief last week in a radio interview that that seeing the unemployment rate hit 9.6% in the next few months “is not out of the question.”
  • In mid-July, announced U.S. layoffs and terminations at Cisco and Borders alone were within striking distance of the number of seasonally adjusted jobs the whole economy gained in June.
  • On Friday evening, July 15, the better to avoid attracting much attention, Goldman Sachs dropped its annualized second- and third-quarter growth forecasts to 1.5% and 2.5%, respectively, and indicated that another recession is “clearly a possibility given the recent numbers.” Putting its employment practices where its predictions are, Goldman announced on Tuesday that “it might lay off as many as 1,000 employees globally.”
  • Most germane to the Washington discussions is the fact that federal collections, after rising steadily if not spectacularly for about a year, suddenly fell on a year-over-year basis in June.

When the economy is sitting on such a dangerous precipice, unless the goals are to deliver a knockout punch and to take the intimidating uncertainty to the level of debility (given this administration’s mindset, these cannot be ruled out), you don’t even think about raising taxes. With a federal budget hopelessly out of balance, all you can do is cut spending, period.

You also don’t raise taxes when you know, as anyone with an ounce of perception does, that for the next eighteen months if we’re lucky, or an unthinkable 66 if we’re not, we’re stuck with the current fear-based economy. I could be wrong, but I can’t conceive of anything this administration could do to change the current frightened mindset in the business community before it leaves the stage. Wynn agrees, saying that until Obama is gone, “everybody’s going to be sitting on their thumbs.”

You could also call this “going Galt.”

Positivity: 85-year-old band director still inspires

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 7:00 am

From Troy, Alabama (video at link: HT Daryn Kagan):

July 1, 2011 6:58 PM

The National Band Directors Hall of Fame in Troy, Alabama has about 52 inductees – 48 of them you’ve probably never heard of.
Johnny Long introduced CBS News correspondent Steve Hartman to “Paul Yoder – father of the band movement in Japan.”

Then, Long said, “This is Mr. Sousa, one of the great, great band directors,”

“You’re what they call a living legend,” Hartman said.

“I don’t know about that,” Long replied, “But I’m living, and that’s important.”

Starting in 1949 as a high school band director and later as director of the Troy University band – Johnny Long became known as one of the most inspirational band directors in America.

Learn more about Troy University’s “Sound of the South

More than three hundred of his students went on to become band directors themselves.

“AlI I know about band – which isn’t very much – but I’ve done it for 60-some years – is that you spell it F-U-N,” Long said. “And if you change that, it’s over.”

Long retired 14 years ago to spend more time with his wife Mary Lynn. But his passion for band never went away. He dreamed of forming a top-notch community band in Troy. But Troy is a small town – with not a ton of top-notch talent.

“I didn’t think it would work, I really didn’t,” Long said.

Fortunately, there was one thing Johnny hadn’t considered: the devotion of his former students.

Now, once a week during concert season, they drive in from all over the south and across the decades.

65-year-old Bobby Johnson was in Long’s first college class. He lives in Atlanta and drives 3 hours each way to practice.

Johnson said he does it because Long’s “such a unique character and I just admire him so much.”

That characterization of Long was echoed in the rehearsal hall by many people. …

Go here for the rest of the story.