June 3, 2012

AP’s Beaumont Gives Away His Viewpoint in Writing About Feingold’s 2010 Election Loss

The headline at Thomas Beaumont’s Sunday item about the possible significance of the Scott Walker recall election in Wisconsin is “Few November clues to be found in Wisconsin recall.”

Maybe, but I have a definite clue as to Beaumont’s political proclivities, something which I shouldn’t be able to glean from a wire service report, thanks to the paragraph which follows the jump. Let’s see if readers can pick up that clue:

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WSJ: ‘An Economy Built to Stall’

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 3:45 pm

ReaganVsObama11Qtrs053112WSJ: “With a third slowdown in three years, maybe the problem is the policies.” Ya think?

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The updated graphic at the right runs the numbers supporting what the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board had to say late Friday:

Well, this week makes it official. The weakest economic recovery since World War II has become weaker still, sinking into a spring slowdown for the third year in a row. Are we finally ready to debate a change in the policies that have led to this pass?

On Thursday the government reported that growth in the first quarter was 1.9%, even weaker than the 2.2% initial estimate. Then Friday delivered the third slower jobs report in a row, which qualifies as a depressing trend. Employers created only 69,000 net new jobs in May, and April’s total was revised down to 77,000 jobs. Stocks were crushed in the backwash.

On Friday the White House blamed the third slowdown of its four-year term on Republicans for blocking the President’s policies, but what policies are they talking about? In his first two years in office, Democrats gave Mr. Obama everything he wanted, save for cap and trade and union card-check, which would have done even more harm to job creation. They passed stimulus, ObamaCare, multiple housing bailouts, Dodd-Frank and more.

Even after Republicans took the House, they gave Mr. Obama the payroll tax holiday he demanded first for 2011 and again for 2012. Far from some new fiscal “austerity,” overall federal spending hasn’t declined. Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve has delivered monetary stimulus after stimulus—QE I, QE II, Operation Twist, and 42 months of near-zero interest rates with the promise of 30 months more.

Mr. Obama has had the freest run of policy of any President since LBJ. So maybe the problem is the policies.

Maybe Milton Friedman was right that “temporary, targeted” tax cuts don’t change the incentives to invest or hire because people aren’t stupid. Maybe each $1 of new federal spending doesn’t produce a “multiplier” of 1.5 times that in added output. Maybe the historic burst of regulation of the last three years has harmed business confidence and job creation. And maybe the uncertainty that comes from helter-skelter fiscal and monetary policy has dampened the animal spirits needed for a durable expansion.

On Friday, the same architects who designed this economy built to stall were calling for one more rescue by the Fed. And gold jumped more than $60 an ounce, suggesting that markets believe that Chairman Ben Bernanke will oblige with some version of QE III. But the lesson of the last four years is that easier money can provide at most a temporary reprieve from otherwise rotten policies. Markets rally for a time, but then they fade when the money-fix is withdrawn.

Far more constructive would be a bipartisan attempt to remove the tax cliff that the economy is rolling toward in January 2013. One of the biggest fears among investors and businesses is that tax rates on capital gains, dividends and personal income are all scheduled to go way up at the same time.

This is an entirely artificial crisis created by the mantra of “temporary, targeted” tax cuts, combined with Mr. Obama’s campaign strategy to run against high-income earners with his Buffett rule and attacks on bankers and Bain Capital.

All one has to do is look at the top right to see what we could have compared to what we’ve had to endure. It’s inexcusable, and, sadly, arguably deliberate. Why would you keep doing what doesn’t work unless you really don’t want things to get better?

Debt Limit Update: On Track to Hit the Ceiling Before Election Day

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 12:02 pm

From Treasury reports at this interactive link:

  • The national debt as of May 31 was $15.771 trillion, $623 billion below the legislated $16.394 trillion limit.
  • In May, the national debt increased by $78.3 billion. In May 2011, it “only” increased by $57 billion.
  • From May 31 to October 31, 2011, the national debt increased by $649 billion.
  • If that $649 billion increase occurs again, the nation will reach its debt limit before October 31.
  • But as noted, the debt is increasing faster now than it was a year ago. That was also true in April, when the debt went up by a stunning $110.3 billion in what is Uncle Sam’s highest month for tax collections and when Treasury somehow reported a one-month surplus, vs. $17.5 billion in 2011).

As I noted about a week ago, everyone in Washington and in the establishment press assumes that we aren’t going to hit the limit until very late this year or very early in 2013. That would appear to the case only if Treasury Secretary Geithner chooses to engage in accounting maneuvers to delay hitting the ceiling. What’s to guarantee that he will?

My take is that Team Obama is cooking up a crisis for September and/or October — or at least allowing for the possibility for creating one if doing so is electorally opportunistic.

AP Coverage of Walker, Barrett Wis. Recall Campaign Visits Lacks Sense of Direction and (of Course) Fairness

As one who has made the occasional dumb mistake (which readers tend to be quite adept at catching), I figured I’d give the Associated Press’s Todd Richmond and his editors a while to correct a pretty obvious miscue relating to a Wisconsin gubernatorial recall campaign visit by challenger Tom Barrett. In a report whose first version appeared yesterday morning and currently has a 2:42 p.m. Saturday time stamp, Richmond wrote that Barrett’s campaign Saturday started “with the Barron County Dairy Breakfast in Hillsdale, a burg of 1,250 people about 90 miles west of Minneapolis.” Well Todd, if Barrett actually was 90 miles west of the Twin Cities, he would not have been in Wisconsin; he would have been about halfway between Minneapolis and the North Dakota border. (Hillsdale, Wisconsin is really about 90 miles east of Minneapolis.)

On more substantive matters, Richmond, with the help of an agenda-driven headline (“Wis. governor works to meet voters before recall”), portrayed Walker as an awkward in-person campaigner, someone not instantly recognized by many people who have lives outside of poltics (imagine that) and, of course (while not mentioning union and leftist spending at all) as a beneficiary of “a jaw-dropping $31 million in campaign cash.” He also wrote that polls show the race as close while failing to note that Walker leads in either every one or nearly every one. The relevant paragraphs from Richmond’s report are after the jump (bolds are mine):

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Sunday Off-Topic (Moderated) Open Thread (060312)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 7:00 am

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

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Positivity: Baltimore Archbishop William Lori — Let Freedom Ring!

From Washington, the archbishop’s full address on May 24:

Archbishop Lori delivers address on the challenge to religious liberty the nation now faces and what is being done in response.

It has now been just over a week since I became the archbishop of Baltimore, and I find myself surrounded by history there. I live near the Basilica of the Assumption, the oldest cathedral in the U.S. The cornerstone was laid in 1806. The nation’s first bishop, John Carroll, is buried beneath the basilica, as are many of my predecessors.

John Carroll was a cousin of Charles Carroll, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Charles Carroll’s story — and indeed Maryland’s early history — teaches us about the fragility of religious liberty and the importance of exercising vigilance in protecting it.

Maryland was founded in the mid-17th century by the Catholic Lord Baltimore as a society where people of different faiths could live together peacefully. This vision was soon codified in Maryland’s 1649 Act Concerning Religion (also called the “Toleration Act”), which was the first law in our nation’s history to protect an individual’s right to freedom of conscience.

Maryland’s experiment in religious toleration, however, ended within a few decades. Around the turn of the 18th century, the colony was placed under royal control, and the Church of England became the established religion. Discriminatory laws, including the loss of political rights, were enacted against those who refused to conform. Catholic chapels were closed, and Catholics were restricted to practicing their faith in their homes. The Catholic community lived under these conditions until the American Revolution.

Both Charles Carroll and his father, although wealthy landowners, were barred from active participation in politics because of their Roman Catholic faith. Despite this legal restriction, in the early 1770s, Charles Carroll became a powerful voice for independence from British rule.

He eventually was elected to represent the colony of Maryland in various committees and was selected as a delegate to the Continental Congress in 1776.

Carroll then signed the Declaration of Independence and was the only Catholic to do so.

Just a few years later, our Founding Fathers included protection of the free exercise of religion in the First Amendment to our Constitution. In reflecting on his time in the Constitutional Convention, George Washington stated in 1789: “If I could have entertained the slightest apprehension that the Constitution framed in the Convention, where I had the honor to preside, might possibly endanger the religious rights of any ecclesiastical society, certainly I would never have placed my signature to it” [Letter to the United Baptist churches in Virginia, 1789].

Washington went on to state, “[I]f I could now conceive that the general government might ever be so administered as to render the liberty of conscience insecure, I beg you will be persuaded that no one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny and every species of religious persecution” [Ibid.].

Twenty years later, in 1809, another of our Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson, emphasized the value of freedom of conscience when he stated that “no provision in our Constitution ought to be dearer to man than that which protects the rights of conscience against the enterprises of the civil authority” [Letter to New London Methodist, 1809].

Current Challenges

Thus, we can be confident that our Founding Fathers understood the foundational value of religious liberty and freedom of conscience. But today, we are reminded of the lesson of Maryland’s early history and the story of Charles Carroll, because that value is under attack, and it will require our active vigilance to protect it — not just for ourselves, but for future generations.
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