October 29, 2011

Jonathan Alter’s Blinders: ‘White House Free of Scandal’; Obama Asset Is That ‘He’s Honest’

JonathanAlterBloombergPic2011Jonathan Alter, who spent 28 years at Newsweek, has been a columnist at Bloomberg News since early this year. Just this year, the reliably and insufferably liberal Alter, among many other things, called the Republican House’s passage of Paul Ryan’s budget plan in April an attempt “to throw Granny in the snow,” and coldly calculated that in the wake of her shooting, Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was more valuable to Barack Obama’s reelection efforts alive than dead.

In early January, Alter, appearing on an MSNBC program, took great offense at Rep. Darrell Issa’s suggestion that the Obama White House is “one of the most corrupt administrations ever,” claiming that “there is zero evidence” of it. The Washington Examiner’s Tim Carney proceeded to identify seven such examples. Alter must have been saying “la-la I can’t hear you” during Carney’s chronicle, as his October 27 column was an exercise in sheer fantasy from beginning to end (bolds are mine throughout this post):

Obama Miracle is White House Free of Scandal

President Barack Obama goes into the 2012 with a weak economy that may doom his reelection. But he has one asset that hasn’t received much attention: He’s honest./p>

… Although it’s possible that the Solyndra LLC story will become a classic feeding frenzy, don’t bet on it. Providing $535 million in loan guarantees to a solar-panel maker that goes bankrupt was dumb, but so far not criminal or even unethical on the part of the administration. These kinds of stories are unlikely to derail Obama in 2012. If he loses, it will be because of the economy — period./p>

Even so, the president’s Teflon is intriguing. How did we end up in such a scandal-less state? After investigating the question for a recent Washington Monthly article, I’ve been developing some theories./p>

For starters, the tone is always set at the top. Obama puts a premium on personal integrity, and with a few exceptions (Tim Geithner’s tax problems in 2009) his administration tends to fire first and ask questions later./p>

… But the White House’s intense focus on scandal prevention has had mixed results. The almost proctological vetting process has ended up wounding Obama as much as prospective nominees. He gets cleaner but often less imaginative officials./p>

… The vigilance about wrongdoing has worked better when it comes to oversight of the $787 billion stimulus program. The money might not always have been spent on the right things. But a rigorous process supervised by Vice President Joe Biden, and made transparent with the help of recovery.gov, has prevented widespread fraud and abuse./p>

Every time Representative Darrell Issa, the Republican from California who leads a House investigative committee, calls the Obama administration “corrupt” without offering any evidence, he hurts his cause. It’s much harder to make a story register as a bona fide scandal when the political motivation is so obvious./p>

It’s also harder to find room for such stories when so much other news is breaking. Scandals like the Monica Lewinsky affair were almost a luxury of good times, when the nation could afford to obsess about a blue dress. Not these days./p>

…. According to a metric created by political scientist Brendan Nyhan, Obama set a record earlier this month for most days without a scandal of any president since 1977. The streak probably won’t last, especially if he gets a second term, where scandals are more common. But the impression of rectitude will be part of the voters’ assessment of him next year. He’ll need it.

Here’s Brendan Nyhan’s hysterical definition of a scandal:

Nyhan says that political scientists generally see The Washington Post as a solid indicator of elite opinion — so for his study, a problem officially curdles into a scandal once the S-word is used in a reporter’s own voice in a story that runs on the front page of the Post. Bush made it 34-months before he faced a scandal in the Post. And as of this morning, Obama has beaten that record.

You read that right. A scandal is a scandal when — and only when — the Washington Post says it’s a scandal, and only on its front page. For what it’s worth, the headline at Associated Press story (possibly supplied by the subscribing outlet) called Solyndra a scandal on September 17.

For the rest of us, here is what a scandal is:

1. a disgraceful or discreditable action, circumstance, etc.
2. an offense caused by a fault or misdeed.
3. damage to reputation; public disgrace.
4. defamatory talk; malicious gossip.
5. a person whose conduct brings disgrace or offense.

In advance of a column I wrote in September in response to American University history professor Allan Lichtman’s claim that the Obama administration had to that point been “scandal-free”, I compiled a by no means complete list of items which would fit one of the five areas just described. In the column itself, I added Solyndra, LightSquared, and Operation Fast and Furious. Scandal-free? It’s more like scandal fatigue.

As to Obama’s honesty, the contrived tale of his mother’s supposed lack of health insurance during the time leading up to his death will do for openers. There are roughly three dozen more arguable lies identified here since his term began. Honest, schmonest.

Jonathan Alter is of course entitled to his opinion, but he’s not entitled to his own comprehensive set of made-up facts. Bloomberg executive Washington editor Al Hunt should have laughed Alter’s column out of the building — but as another bondafide far-lefty, the odds are he thought it was brilliant journalism.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Picture of Alter at top right is from Bloomberg News.

Meltzer at WSJ on Keynesianism’s Failure

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:06 am

It has failed. Anyone arguing its success is in a delusion so deep they may be beyond help.

Allan Meltzer, in a Friday Wall Street Jounral op-ed, identifies the four reasons why the Pelosi-Obama-Reid Economy’s version of Keynesianism has failed so spectacularly, and so obviously (bolds are mine):

Those who heaped high praise on Keynesian policies have grown silent as government spending has failed to bring an economic recovery. Except for a few diehards who want still more government spending, and those who make the unverifiable claim that the economy would have collapsed without it, most now recognize that more than a trillion dollars of spending by the Bush and Obama administrations has left the economy in a slump and unemployment hovering above 9%.

Why is the economic response to increased government spending so different from the response predicted by Keynesian models? What is missing from the models that makes their forecasts so inaccurate? Those should be the questions asked by both proponents and opponents of more government spending. Allow me to suggest four major omissions from Keynesian models:

First, big increases in spending and government deficits raise the prospect of future tax increases. Many people understand that increased spending must be paid for sooner or later. Meanwhile, President Obama makes certain that many more will reach that conclusion by continuing to demand permanent tax increases. His demands are a deterrent for those who do most of the saving and investing. Concern over future tax rates is one of the main reasons for heightened uncertainty and reduced confidence. Potential investors hold cash and wait. …

Second, most of the government spending programs redistribute income from workers to the unemployed. This, Keynesians argue, increases the welfare of many hurt by the recession. What their models ignore, however, is the reduced productivity that follows a shift of resources toward redistribution and away from productive investment. …

Third, Keynesian models totally ignore the negative effects of the stream of costly new regulations that pour out of the Obama bureaucracy. Who can guess the size of the cost increases required by these programs? ObamaCare is not the only source of this uncertainty, though it makes a large contribution. We also have an excessively eager group of environmental regulators, protectors of labor unions, and financial regulators. Their decisions raise future costs and increase uncertainty.

Fourth, U.S. fiscal and monetary policies are mainly directed at getting a near-term result. The estimated cost of new jobs in President Obama’s latest jobs bill is at least $200,000 per job, based on administration estimates of the number of jobs and their cost.

Also, to a very real but tough-to-measure extent, such “stimulus” pumps up reported economic growth by unsustainably increasing consumption expenditures, which only indirectly measure after the fact what Gross Domestic Product really is, which is the value of what is produced, not consumed. Especially if seen as short-term, they do very little to promote permanent job growth and productivity-enhancing investment. This largely explains why we are where we are, which is in a funk not seen since the Great Depression, which not coincidentally is the last time extreme Keynesianism ran rampant.

Saturday Off-Topic (Moderated) Open Thread (102911)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 7:45 am

Rules are here. Possible comment fodder may follow later. Other topics are also fair game.


Positivity: Actor returns to hospital that saved his life

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 7:00 am

From Edmonton:


An Edmonton-born actor returned to the city Tuesday to raise the profile of a burn unit which he says saved his life.

Jade Carter was 12 years old when the tractor he was driving on his family’s farm flipped and trapped him underneath, severely burning his torso.

Now 35, Carter made a visit to the Firefighters’ Burn Treatment Unit at the University of Alberta Hospital where he received treatment 23 years ago.

Following his accident, he spent three months in hospital undergoing surgeries and skin grafts.

“If I was a staff member, I think it would be nice to see somebody come back and know they are doing well and that their work was appreciated and worthwhile,” Carter said.

Carter also made the rounds and took time to visit some of the patients in the unit.

“All I can do is relate my experience on the emotional roller-coaster. As burn survivors, that’s universal and something we all go through.”

Bringing those who have been through similar experiences helps boost the spirits of those who have suffered severe burn injuries.

Officials are hoping other burn victims will be inspired to share their experiences with others.

“Burn injuries are traumatic,” said Jackie Whitford, chair of the burn treatment unit’s psycho-social committee.

“We can help as health professionals, but people who have gone through the experience understand it the best.”

Carter has gone on to a relatively successful career in Hollywood, landing roles on the Young and the Restless, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and appearing more recently on House, Cold Case and General Hospital. …

Go here for the rest of the story.