Friday, September 30, 2011

Top 10 Reads of the Week – September 30, 2011

“Fast and Furious” Just Might Be President Obama’s Watergate – Frank Miniter [Forbes]

Ed note: Read this one.  It’s long, but take the time.  I’m always skeptical when someone predicts “the next Watergate,” but there is some awfully damning stuff out there that the White House is refusing to address.  And despite having read a pretty good volume of material on Fast and Furious, I have yet to come up with an explanation for what apparently went on that isn’t very, very ugly.  Anyhow, take the time to read it – and then ask yourself why this isn’t all over every major newspaper.

Why a gunrunning scandal codenamed “Fast and Furious,” a program run secretly by the U.S. government that sent thousands of firearms over an international border and directly into the hands of criminals, hasn’t been pursued by an army of reporters all trying to be the next Bob Woodward or Carl Bernstein is a story in itself.

But the state of modern journalism aside, this scandal is so inflammatory few realize that official records show the current director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), B. Todd Jones — yes the individual the Obama administration brought in to replace ATF Director Kenneth Melson Aug. 30 in an effort to deflect congressional criticism — also has questions to answer about his involvement in this gunrunning scandal… Read the Rest

Poll: How much money does government waste? – Jan Norman [Orange County Register]

Most Americans think the federal government wastes more than half of the tax dollars it collects, according to a recent Gallup Poll.

On average, the guesstimate of waste is 51 cents of every dollar, the highest level going back at least 32 years that Gallup has been asking the question… Read the Rest (and then an interesting follow-up, here)

When Liberals Attack – Scott Adams [Dilbert Blog]

Is it my imagination, or has the liberal wing of the media's attacks on conservatives turned into a bunch of cheap gotchas involving nitpicked analogies and quotes taken out of context? Perhaps it has always been this way and I never noticed until this year. Or maybe I'm spending too much time reading The Huffington Post. Maybe you can help me sort this out.
Before I continue, I should note that my own views don't map closely to either the liberal or conservative camps. So I don't have a poodle in the fight. I'm just observing a trend… Read the Rest

The Frontrunner Stumbles – Stephen Hayes [Weekly Standard]

Belinda Kapaun came to the Republican presidential confab in Orlando last Thursday wearing a Rick Perry sticker. She was not wearing it Friday.

“He was my number one,” she said the morning after the FoxNews/Google presidential debate here.

Perry lost Kapaun with a weak performance marked by misstatements of fact, missed opportunities, and general incoherence. “When he was talking to Mitt Romney there was a part of that​—​if you printed it, I don’t think it even made sense,” she says… Read the Rest

Obama’s Great Buffett Confusion – Philip Levy [The American]

I really like bananas. Great way to start the day. Tasty and nutritious.

Wegman’s sells them for 49¢ a pound, but I would pay more than that. At 99¢ a pound, I’d still get them. I’m happier paying less, but I could afford the higher price.

So why doesn’t my grocery store take advantage of this? It could double the price of bananas and still keep my business. One reason might be that the nearby Safeway would start flaunting its lower prices and lure me away. But another argument is that I am not typical in my passion for the fruit. There are certainly other customers who are much nearer to indifference. At 49¢, they’ll pick up a few bananas; at 59¢, they’ll go with the melon. In economic parlance, the folks most likely to switch away when the price goes up are the marginal buyers. I, with my ardour, am an inframarginal buyer. For price setting, it’s the marginal buyers that grocery stores think about. At 99¢ a pound, I’d still be buying, but the store’s overall banana sales would fall sharply… Read the Rest

Despite ObamaCare, Costs Continue to Soar – Editors [Investor’s Business Daily]

Until now, many of the fears about ObamaCare have been theoretical. But this year's 9% spike in premiums is concrete evidence of the substantial harm it's already doing to our health care system.

As soon as the Kaiser Family Foundation's annual report on insurance premiums was released, ObamaCare defenders dismissed its most troubling finding: Insurance premiums for family coverage shot up an average $1,482 this year… Read the Rest

Obama’s Jobs Bill: Read it and Weep – Richard A. Epstein [Defining Ideas]

The dim news about the current economic situation has prompted the Obama administration to put forward its latest, desperate effort to reverse the tide by urging passage of The American Jobs Act (AJA), a turgid 155-page bill. The AJA’s only certain effect is to make everything worse than it already is by asking Congress to tighten the stranglehold that government regulation has already placed on the economy.

That sad fact would certainly elude anyone who accepted the president’s justification for the AJA when he sent the bill to Congress. This bill, he said, will "put more people back to work and put more money in the pockets of working Americans. And it will do so without adding a dime to the deficit." How? Why, by closing "corporate tax loopholes" and insisting that the wealthiest American’s pay their "fair share" of taxes… Read the Rest

Ford pulls its ad on bailouts – Daniel Howes [Detroit News]

For the only Detroit automaker that "didn't take the money" of the federal auto bailouts, Ford Motor Co. keeps paying a price for its comparative success and self-reliant turnaround.

There's no help from American taxpayers to help lighten its debt load, giving crosstown rivals comparatively better credit ratings and a financial edge Ford is working diligently to erase all on its own.

There's no clause barring a strike by hourly workers amid this fall's national contract talks with the United Auto Workers — a by-product of the taxpayer-financed bailout that General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC retain until 2015… Read the Rest

Let Them Eat Windmills – Mario Loyola [National Review Online]

The White House recently announced a “jobs plan” that will cost American taxpayers about $500 billion starting in 2013 for a government spending spree today. We knew what to expect: green-energy subsidies, tax breaks for people who already pay no income tax, further stimulus for non-shovel-ready projects, increased taxes on the wealthy — in short, most anything except what would actually create jobs, namely lifting the prohibitive regulatory and tax burdens on the nation’s job creators. Obama’s policies — particularly his heartless energy policies — promise to eliminate many more jobs than they create… Read the Rest

Let’s Soak the Rich, GOP Style – Marc Thiessen [Washington Post]

President Obama is campaigning for reelection by casting Republicans as the party of the rich because they oppose his plan to raise tax rates on wealthy Americans. “If you’ve done well,” Obama declared in Cincinnati last week, “then you should do a little something to give something back.”

One person who agrees with that sentiment is Rep. Paul Ryan, the Republican chairman of the House Budget Committee — though not in the way Obama means it. Ryan wants the wealthy to give something back: the billions of dollars in government benefits, taxpayer subsidies and corporate welfare they receive each year and do not need. Instead of raising taxes, which would hurt growth and job creation, Ryan told me: “We want to stop subsidizing corporations. We want to stop subsidizing [wealthy] individuals. And you can get more money for savings to reduce the deficit without damaging the economy this way.”… Read the Rest

The Funniest Thing I Saw This Week

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Senate President supports Secure Communities. Publicity stunt!!

Senate President Therese Murray today joined the parade of usual Patrick Administration allies expressing puzzlement at the Governor's refusal to enact the Secure Communities program to share arrest data with federal immigration authorities.  In her typical, plain-spoken style during a radio interview on WATD, the Senate President eviscerated the Governor's position with this seventeen word distillation of delicious common sense:

"I don't understand why you wouldn't check the status of people coming into your criminal justice system."

Here's a little more meat from the State House News Service (hold your breath waiting to see a story on Boston.com.  If you want to die blue-faced, that is).

"I don't understand why you wouldn't check the status of people coming into your criminal justice system."
Senate President Therese Murray on Thursday questioned Gov. Deval Patrick's hesitance to embrace Secure Communities, a federal program to cross-check the immigration status of arrestees and queue up serious undocumented offenders for deportation.

"I'm really not sure. I have not had a full discussion with him on it," she said. "We have to do it anyway. All of the states have to do it by 2013."

During an appearance on Marshfield-based WATD-FM, Murray pointed to a weeklong crackdown by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that concluded Wednesday and resulted in the arrest of 2,900 "criminal aliens" around the country, including dozens in Massachusetts.

"I think that this roundup they just did really points that we have a problem," said the Plymouth Democrat. An aide later confirmed she supports the activation of Secure Communities in Massachusetts.

Murray also said she agreed with a group of Republican county sheriffs pushing for tools to perform immigration checks on inmates, adding that most county jails already implement a "system of biometrics" to verify the status of prisoners.
Et tu, Terry Murray?

Earlier this week Governor Patrick accused the aforementioned Sheriffs of pulling a "publicity stunt" by calling attention to the rash of crimes recently committed across the state by illegal immigrants with prior criminal records.  Surely at the earliest possible opportunity some reporter will ask the Gov whether Senate President Murray's position is also a "stunt"? 

Autumn of the Illegal

Remember the 'Summer of the Shark'? Those few warm months in the days prior to 9/11 when it seemed every week brought a new horrific news story about some innocent bather munched by a wedge-finned terror from below?  It wasn't actually the case that the sharks were rising up to take back the oceans; shark attacks just happened to be the media's collective obsession at the time, and as a result stories that in an ordinary year remained confined the regions in which they occurred became national news.

We're seeing a variation of that in Massachusetts right now, only this time the tragedies in question are both man-made and eminently preventable, and the media attention might actually lead to constructive changes in law and process intended to reduce the chances of more such incidents in the future. All of a sudden it seems like every day in Massachusetts there is a new report of an illegal immigrant - often an individual with a serious criminal record - committing a crime that results in injury or death to an innocent person. Nicolas Guaman, an illegal immigrant from Ecuador with felony assault of a police officer on his record, who hit and killed  Matthew Denice while driving drunk in Milford late in the summer.  Then Uncle Omar, hot on his heels (and today reportedly giggling in court).  On the very day that Michael Graham (who has been at this issue like a dog at a bone) filed this column adding Eduardo Torres (6 OUIs) to the list, Marcelo Almeida stabbed his girlfriend to death in Marshfield in an incident that might be added to the sad and all-too-ordinary domestic violence file but for the fact that Almeida's criminal history should have resulted in deportation long before he turned murderer.  And now there's Wanderson DaSilva-Neto, an illegal who came close yesterday in Ipswich to tragic re-enactment of Matthew Denice's horrific death when he got behind the wheel drunk, and struck and dragged a seven year old girl in Ipswich (happily she survived, reportedly with only minor injuries).

So what is going on here?  Has the illegal immigrant community of Massachusetts suddenly decided to go on a drunken rampage?  Or is it just that all of a sudden the press is paying attention to the defendants in cases like this, ferreting out for publicity the ones who would not even be here but for Governor Patrick's steadfast, steel-jawed and now drippingly condescending opposition to the federal Secure Communities program?  Does it matter?

I should mention, I suppose, that the press is hardly uniform in the degree of attention it is paying to this issue.  Exclusive readers of the Globe could be forgiven for knowing very little about it, as its editors have apparently deemed the issue (and by extension all those victims I just mentioned) largely beneath their notice.  But the TV networks, the regional papers, and especially the Herald have been all over it.  Much as Governor Patrick must have hoped the issue would go away (as it did during last year's campaign) following Matthew Denice's killing, it hasn't.  He has a group of Sheriffs going rogue on him, demanding that the federal government side-step his opposition and allow them to implement Secure Communities.  He has his ordinary allies on the op-ed pages turning on him (Margery Egan at the Herald and today Joan Venocchi at - yes! - the Globe, though there's a telling caveat to that below*). He has the families of those victims I mentioned asking, admonishing and even begging him to drop his indefensible opposition to a common sense program that might well have spared their loved ones.

And the Governor's reaction?  The aforementioned dripping condescension.  All of this uproar is a "publicity stunt," he says dismissively.  Shame on him.

I've laid this out before - as has Michael Graham and others - but in the face of Governor Patrick's doggedly consistent repetition of falsehoods and half-truths it bears repeating: Secure Communities is not about racial profiling.  It is not about turning the police against immigrant communities.  It is not about local police enforcing federal law.  It has nothing to do with bigotry or discrimination or bias.  It is ALL about efficient and effective information sharing between law enforcement agencies to get dangerous people off of the streets and out of our communities - immigrant communities most definitely included.

All Secure Communities does in the jurisdictions where it is in place (over half the country) is facilitate and streamline the process by which fingerprint data on arrested individuals is transmitted to ICE, the agency in Homeland Security charged with enforcement of immigration laws.  That's it.  That's all.  That is what the Governor finds so objectionable.  That is what he seeks to prevent by claiming - falsely - that Secure Communities "would not change anything," and that local officials "already share information with the federal government."  Margery Egan gets it just right:
Nobody wants racial profiling. But the people being fingerprinted, again, are those arrested for crimes, not victims of crimes. A robbery victim here illegally may indeed be afraid to report the crime. But Secure Communities does not affect that situation at all. Plus, the Obama administration just announced that future deportations will target serious criminals, not illegals caught speeding or driving without a license.

Call me suspicious, but what seems to be happening here is politicians placating an ever more powerful voting block: Latinos. Meanwhile the uber-PC set hates to be seen picking on the downtrodden. And that’s swell, just as long as the downtrodden aren’t rapists, kidnappers, mother beaters and daddy stabbers, too.

The process Governor Patrick is defending is to Secure Communities what the US Postal Service is to email.  Sure, both get the message there eventually.  But the latter is infinitely more efficient and effective than the former - IF both sender and recipient are equipped with the necessary technology.  Patrick's position is purely political and wholly indefensible.

It is too bad that it took a string of crime and tragedy to wake up the press and the public to the implications of the Patrick Administration's intractability on an issue with literal life and death implications.

[* The caveat to the Globe's willingness to publish that Joan Vennochi column criticizing the Patrick Administration's position on Secure Communities?  Look at the caption below the accompanying photograph: "Governor Deval Patrick wants to require local police to send fingerprints of arrested suspects to the FBI and immigrations officials."  Apparently it is opposite day as the Globe prepares to step behind its online subscription-only firewall.]

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

"The public's perception that lawmakers cannot be trusted"

Today's Globe brings one of those articles that temporarily freezes my synapses.  I know I want to write - and there is much to be written - but the combination of bemusement, disgust, resignation and boiling, churning sarcasm clogs up the works.

Here's the article: Senate kills five year ban on taking casino jobs.  The headline pretty much tells the story, but how our esteemed Democratic Senate generated the headline - ah, that's some fun stuff.
A state Senate proposal to impose a five-year ban on former lawmakers taking casino jobs triggered an uproar yesterday by Democratic senators who abruptly broke off a heated public debate to rewrite the measure in secret.An hour later, and with no further discussion, the Senate approved a watered-down, one-year restriction.
In politics and in government, as in real life, the simplest and most obvious explanation for something is usually the correct one.  Here, the simple and obvious explanation of why a group of Senators would go into an "uproar" over a measure that would ban them from going to work for a casino for five years is that some of them aspire at long last to careers in the private sector, in the Commonwealth's exciting and glamorous new casino industry.

A casting suggestion for the inevitable movie
The explanation offered by what few Senators were willing to address the issue in public, not surprisingly, was somewhat different.  And HIGH-larious.  Globe again:
Lawmakers’ rationale for weakening the bill may be hard to explain outside the marble corridors of the State House: They said that a strong prohibition would only feed the public’s perception that lawmakers cannot be trusted.

“We’re creating a presumption that the people in this body cannot operate with integrity,’’ complained Senator Gale Candaras, Democrat from Wilbraham. “It’s bad law. It’s bad precedent.’’
Yet more evidence that these people have no conception whatsoever of how the rest of the world truly sees them.  Here's a bit of breaking news for Senator Candaras and her like-minded colleagues:  "The public's perception that lawmakers cannot be trusted" cannot be further fed.  That beast is well and truly stuffed.  Un-chewed hunks of raw cynicism already spill from the corners of its mouth, squeezed from its lumpy and distended cheeks.  This latest action, and the twisted public rationale, may well choke it to death.

If you can bear it, here's a little bit more Globe on the Democratic (large D) process here in the Commonwealth: 
But as the debate continued to simmer and tempers flared, Senate President Therese Murray inexplicably slammed on the brakes and called for a recess, so Democrats could hash out their differences outside of public view.When the closed caucus emerged, the five-year ban had been shaved to one year, though the change was not publicly announced before the vote. The Senate quickly passed the amendment 36 to 1.
So what happened behind that closed door?  As usual, nobody is talkin'.
After the vote, Murray defended her decision to usher her members into closed session to work out their differences. She said the same arguments the public heard on the floor were the arguments repeated in the private discussion.

Then why, she was asked, shouldn’t the public see that debate?

“I think they had a very hearty debate on the floor,’’ she said.

Following the vote, casino opponents were mum on what happened in the caucus. Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz, a Boston Democrat and casino critic, said that she and several other senators made themselves available for interviews to account for their votes. “I think it’s a stretch to say this was done in secret,’’ she said.

Eldridge, the senator who started the whole debate, called the one-year ban progress.

He declined to say how his colleagues persuaded him to give up on the tougher language. “That’s part of the caucus process that is private,’’ he said.
"Democracy" according to MA Democrats
Senators Eldridge and Chang-Diaz deserve credit for the very public way in which they've bucked leadership on the casino issue, and for raising the ban in the first place.  That credit is eroded significantly, however, by their meek adherence to the Democrats' code of legislative Omerta that allows this kind of thing - this closed door secrecy - to occur on controversial issue after controversial issue. 

I am sure that whatever "part of the caucus process that is private" persuaded the ordinarily effusive Eldridge to nail his yap shut is indeed something that the Senator would prefer his constituents not see.  Yet more feed for the already gorged "public perception that lawmakers cannot be trusted."

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Facts Schmacts

I’d like to share two recent items from the always-interesting files of “don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story.”  

First up is a head-scratching comment from Governor Deval Patrick this morning during his monthly “Ask the Governor” radio appearance on WTKK.  He was responding to a caller who basically accused the Governor of wanting to take over the Probation department so he could replace one set of crony hires with his own.  Governor Patrick responded by saying “we’ve had to lay off 6,000 people” in state government and added that “we’ve had to reduce headcount across government in order to help close the budget gap.” 


The problem is, both of these statements are demonstrably incorrect.  As a recent Pioneer Institute analysis revealed, there are more state employees today than there were in 2008 (and more than when Patrick took office in 2007).  While the number of state employees did decline between 2008 and 2009, the decrease was roughly one-tenth of the 6,000 employees Patrick claims to have laid off.

I don’t know what else to say about this one other than he is just plain wrong.

Second, a Boston Globe story yesterday revealed that those glowing, optimistic jobs reports we keep getting from the Patrick/Murray administration do not tell the whole story.  I’ve written several times about the spin vs. reality of these monthly reports, but the Globe report (based on an analysis by Northeastern) added a new wrinkle.  While the Patrick/Murray administration has been taking credit for our dropping unemployment rate, it turns out that the number of underemployed in Massachusetts has been on the rise.  The Globe goes so far as to say the number “has been accelerating at an alarming pace.”

The “underemployed” are people who have jobs (and are therefore counted as “employed” in state job numbers), but those jobs are part-time and/or represent a significant decrease in salary for the individual.  These are people who lost their jobs and have taken any job they can to try to make ends meet.  Sometimes these jobs are not enough to cover mortgages and even if they are, these underemployed workers have frequently cut all discretionary spending out of their household budgets.  A decline in consumer spending is not a good sign for the economy.

So how bad is this problem in Massachusetts?  According to the Globe, “the number of people who took part-time jobs because they were unable to find full-time work has grown nearly fourfold in Massachusetts since 2000.”  Just in 2011, “the number of so-called underemployed workers in the Bay State surged 18 percent to 200,500.” 

To put that in perspective, the number of unemployed workers in Massachusetts was 258,100 in August.  This means the state’s “true” unemployment rate (including underemployed and those who have stopped looking for work) is actually 15.9% - far worse than the 7.4% reported for August.  So nearly one-sixth of the Massachusetts labor force is not fully employed.

Amazingly, despite an acknowledgement that this reality is “not reflected in the state and national unemployment rates that capture headlines,” the Globe does not once mention Governor Patrick or his administration.  No mention of the disparity between the Governor’s positive rhetoric about the state’s economy (“on the mend and on the move!”) and this troubling reality.  And no examination of how the “alarming pace” at which the number of underemployed has grown might be related to the policies of the Governor (or the Legislature).  It’s as if bad statistics like this exist in a vacuum, while positive statistics like a drop in unemployment rate are clearly a result of the Governor’s actions.

Needless to say, I won’t hold my breath waiting for the Governor to be asked about this.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Casinos: "The only reason we are doing this"

This weekend state Senate President Therese Murray claimed "jobs" as the sole motivator behind the current hell-bent-for-leather push to legalize casino gaming in Massachusetts.  "This is a jobs bill; that's the only reason we're doing this," she said. "If we had a cooking economy, you wouldn't see this happening."

Predictions about the number of jobs that Massachusetts casinos will bring have, like most predictions tied to the casino push, been all over the map. And the numbers emanating from casino advocates - based on casino industry numbers - have been optimistic to say the least.  So it is helpful to stumble over a concrete reference point, as the Globe did (without even noticing) in its feature article yesterday on Pennsylvania's casino experience.

Since legalization of gaming in 2004, Pennsylvania has built ten "full-scale casinos," the Globe informs us.  That is 3.33 times as many casinos as are proposed for Massachusetts, by the way.  Humming and chirping briskly, 24-7, Pennsylvania's casinos currently employ... approximately 15,000 people. 

Sound familiar?  15,000.  Exactly the number of jobs that Massachusetts casino advocates claim will be created by our three casinos.  So somehow we are to believe that our casinos are going to produce the same number of gaming jobs as Pennsylvania's, with fewer than a third as many casinos.  Cruel and inflexible math.  How you mock us.

A little quick napkin doodle tells me that 5,000 permanent jobs is more likely - and even that ignores that PA jumped into the casino market during an economic boom, whereas we're taking a desperation dive in the midst of a grueling recession.  5,000 jobs - which will add less than 1/3 of 1 percent  to the total jobs in Massachusetts.  And even that overstates.  These out of state casino developers slobbering over our market aren't going to open up Card Sharp Academies at each facility.  A healthy percentage of those jobs are going to be filled by seasoned gaming pros imported from out of state.  But no matter - the casino caucus and the press will continue to parrot that 15,000 figure as though there were nothing to check it against.  And when it fails to materialize?  Well, we can always build more casinos.

The Globe article is also worth a read for the tales it tells of the corruption, graft, political patronage and other unsavory side effects that have attended casino gaming in Pennsylvania.
The financial success of Pennsylvania’s casinos was built on the ambitious scope of the effort and the rich profitability of the industry, but also on a foundation of cronyism, patronage, and back-room deals, not to mention overlooked criminal histories and alleged mob ties, according to a grand jury report released earlier this year.  The report concluded that the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board - which was created to protect taxpayers’ interests - had instead looked after the industry, that it had taken “the public policy objectives and essentially turned them on their head.’’
But never fear.  “The good news is we’re state number 37, not number one,’’ Senator Stanley Rosenberg told the Globe. “That means we get to pick the best practices all across the country.’’

In this already famously corrupt state, where patronage, self-dealing, and criminal indictment of high-ranking elected officials are as ordinary as the turning of the seasons, we are told that we need not worry.  Our foxes have all taken oaths of vegetarianism, and can now be trusted to tend a shiny new hen house (or three).


Friday, September 23, 2011

Top 10 Reads of the Week – September 23, 2011

Voters Want State Government Reform – Douglas Schoen [Wall Street Journal]

Last month, in a wide-ranging national survey of 1,000 randomly selected, registered voters, and in 10 polls in individual states each with 400 respondents, my polling company found that voters strongly favor measures to pare the compensation of current and future public employees. They strongly oppose higher taxes.

Specifically, over three-quarters (78%) say their state faced a budget crisis this year, and 68% say that the crisis was resolved with spending cuts. Overwhelmingly they blame politicians for creating and exacerbating the problems: 48% say "elected state officials made careless and self-serving decisions," while only 6% say "state governments did not tax enough."

The top priorities for resolving current fiscal issues are to cut government spending (47%) and to ask for greater sacrifice from current public employees, by having them contribute more towards their benefits (31%). By almost two-to-one, they think that current public employees should have to contribute more toward their pension benefits because of budget problems… Read the Rest

The Buffett Alternative Tax – Editors [Wall Street Journal]

Washington has repeated nearly every economic policy mistake of the 1930s in recent years, so why not repeat one of the bigger blunders of the 1960s too? We refer to President Obama's proposal yesterday for a new "Buffett Rule" to raise taxes on Americans earning more than $1 million a year. This may sound familiar to readers of a certain age, because it is how the current, and much-hated, Alternative Minimum Tax was born.

Mr. Obama, meet Joe Barr. As LBJ's last Treasury Secretary—he served only 30 days—Barr became famous for his January 1969 testimony before Congress that 21 millionaires had paid no income tax in 1967. No fewer than 115 tax returns reporting income above $200,000 had also paid no income tax, and Barr predicted a "taxpayer revolt" unless something was done about it… Read the Rest

Obama Rejects Obamaism – David Brooks [New York Times]

I’m a sap, a specific kind of sap. I’m an Obama Sap.

When the president said the unemployed couldn’t wait 14 more months for help and we had to do something right away, I believed him. When administration officials called around saying that the possibility of a double-dip recession was horrifyingly real and that it would be irresponsible not to come up with a package that could pass right away, I believed them… Read the Rest

Administration Ignored Warnings on Long-Term Care Plan – Megan McArdle [The Atlantic]

Speaking of ill-considered financial decisions made by politicians intent on their policy priorities, new emails revealed by the AP show that the administration was warned that parts of ObamaCare were a financial disaster--but plowed ahead anyway.

For those who don't marinate daily in the minutiae of health care policy, a recap: when ObamaCare was working its way through the Congressional sausage factory, they wanted absolutely every penny of revenue that they could get, in order to maximize the amount of deficit reduction they could claim.  The call thus went out to the committees to dust off all of their old revenue raisers and present them for possible inclusion in the bill… Read the Rest

Must-See

The Obama-Buffett Siren Call – Richard A. Epstein [Defining Ideas]

The topic of tax increases is again very much in the news. President Obama has just announced his intention to put forward yet another tax plan to close tax loopholes and increase the marginal rates on the rich, which he now restricts to persons whose income is $1 million or more a year. In order to lend legitimacy to this campaign, he has chosen to invoke the confessions of Warren Buffett to justify his proposal. After all, if one of the richest of men alive is willing to accept tax increases on the rich, how could any mere millionaire oppose that position?

I have already written at length about why Mr. Buffett should follow the advice oft given to the humble shoemaker by sticking to his last. However successful he is in the world of finance, his skills lie in working within the system, not in figuring out the rules of the game… Read the Rest

Law gives huge pension perks to union leaders – Jason Grotto [Chicago Tribune]

All it took to give nearly two dozen labor leaders from Chicago a windfall worth millions was a few tweaks to a handful of sentences in the state's lengthy pension code.
The changes became law with no public debate among state legislators and, more importantly, no cost analysis.
Twenty years later, 23 retired union officials from Chicago stand to collect about $56 million from two ailing city pension funds thanks to the changes, a Tribune/WGN-TV investigation found… Read the Rest

Obama’s Middle East Is In Tatters, Utter Tatters – Martin Peretz [The New Republic]

Ed note: Were it published in the National Review or on the WSJ’s ed page, this piece would be pretty much par for the course.  In the New Republic?  By a former editor-in-chief?  Yikes.

It is not actually his region. Still, with the arrogance that is so characteristic of his behavior in matters he knows little about (which is a lot of matters), he entered the region as if in a triumphal march. But it wasn’t the power and sway of America that he was representing in Turkey and in Egypt. For the fact is that he has not much respect for these representations of the United States. In the mind of President Obama, in fact, these are what have wreaked havoc with our country’s standing in the world. So what—or, rather, who—does he exemplify in his contacts with foreign countries and their leaders? His exultancy gives the answer away. It is he himself, lui-mème. Alas, he is a president disconnected from his nation, without enthusiasts for his style, without loyalists to his policies, without a true friend unless that’s what you can call his top aide de camp,Valerie Jarrett, which probably you can. Obama is lucky, but it’s the only luck he has, that there are nutsy Republican enemies who aspire to his job. Maybe Rick Perry can save him from … well, yes, himself. I wouldn’t take bets on that, though… Read the Rest

Cheney Got It Right On Syrian Nukes – Cliff May [National Review Online]

Journalism, they say, is a rough draft of history. Sometimes very rough.

I have in mind a recent piece by Bob Woodward, among America’s most celebrated journalists, about the debate that took place within the George W. Bush White House over Syria’s al-Kibar nuclear reactor. CIA director Michael Hayden told the president his agency had “only low confidence” that the reactor was part of a nuclear-weapons program. Nevertheless, Vice President Cheney favored a military strike, as he makes clear in his newly released memoir… Read the Rest

Elizabeth Warren’s Piffle – Rich Lowry [National Review Online]

A campaign riff from the Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren has rocketed around the Internet and been greeted by the Left as a rhetorical triumph practically on par with Teddy Kennedy’s “The Dream Shall Never Die” speech.

Warren’s theme is that the rich should pay more taxes as part of “the underlying social contract.” This is taken as a slam-dunk rejoinder to the charge that Pres. Barack Obama’s proposed new tax increases are “class warfare.” A Democrat and former honcho of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Warren is the Left’s great populist hope now that John Edwards has retired from the field… Read the Rest

Return of the Real Obama – Charles Krauthammer [Washington Post]

In a 2008 debate, Charlie Gibson asked Barack Obama about his support for raising capital gains taxes, given the historical record of government losing net revenue as a result. Obama persevered: “Well, Charlie, what I’ve said is that I would look at raising the capital gains tax for purposes of fairness.”

A most revealing window into our president’s political core: To impose a tax that actually impoverishes our communal bank account (the U.S. Treasury) is ridiculous. It is nothing but punitive. It benefits no one — not the rich, not the poor, not the government. For Obama, however, it brings fairness, which is priceless… Read the Rest

The Funniest Thing I Saw This Week


Notre Dame Victory Sparks Widespread NCAA Investigation

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A good night in Massachusetts

Herald Compilation
Yesterday Margery Egan's column in the Herald - featured with one of that paper's patented full-front-page splashes - declared "Dem hacks finally get what's coming."  Keying off the just-announced criminal indictments of former state Probation head John O'Brien and Tim Cahill's former chief of staff, Egan marched through a familiar rogues gallery of Massachusetts Democrats who have recently found themselves on the wrong side of law enforcement (Sal DiMasi, Diane Wilkerson, Chuck Turner, John Buonomo... just in the last year).  "The worm has turned on the criminal cartel otherwise known as the Democratic political machine that runs Massachusetts," declared the unabashedly liberal columnist, who on most other days does more than her part to perpetuate that "cartel's" hold on power.

Although seeing that list in prominent print carried a measure of satisfaction, overall my reaction to the column was a mental shrug.  Meh.  So a guy caught taking brown bags of bribe money and a woman photographed stuffing wads of bills into her bra are doing some jail time.  So a year too late the press decided there might be some fire beneath the clouds of dense smoke that emanated steadily from Cahill-land since well before he launched what would become a Kamikaze run for governor.  The "Dem hacks" - Egan's "criminal cabal" - may have lost a few more foot soldiers than in an ordinary year, but it isn't like that crew is unfamiliar with the occasional need to ride out an indictment or three.  Until the voters of Massachusetts wake up and recognize that by perpetuating total one party control of government they are creating and maintaining a laboratory-perfect environment for incubation of tomorrow's criminal defendants, the Commonwealth's Democratic machine will not truly get "what's coming."

Which is why it was particularly fitting that in an election held on the very day that Egan's column ran, yet another Republican was elected to the Massachusetts House, replacing a Democrat who recently moved on to more lucrative pastures in a district that has long rested safely in the Democratic column.

Freshman Rep. Keiko Orrall will become the thirty-third Republican in the House.  While the party is still most decidedly in the minority, it bears remembering that fewer than three years ago House Republicans numbered fewer than half that, a mere sixteen, comprising a caucus so small that its ability even to be heard could plausibly turn on an ill-timed bathroom break.  Perhaps more importantly, the caucus's bulking up has been driven by people like Keiko Orrall - young, energetic, accomplished individuals eager to work hard and make a difference. Somewhat below the radar the party is finally building a bench, even as the opposition empties its own bench into the state and federal correctional systems.

Aside from the candidates themselves, who do we have to thank for that?  Jenn Nassour, obviously.  She took a thankless job at a very difficult time and did a great job in the face of a whole lot of adversity.  Jenn and her staff took a foundering committee from deep in the red and put it into the black, and contributed immeasurably to the individual successes that make up the aforementioned doubling of the party's legislative clout.  She'll be missed when she steps down at the end of next month, no matter who replaces her.

Then there are the people who always, always, always show up to help out a good candidate like Keiko Orrall.  My friend Christen Varley, who has the energy of ten women half her age and gives unfailingly of her time, her wit, her huge network, her resources and even her hospitality to push conservatives over the finish line.  There's Michael Graham with his candidate school and his multimedia bullhorn.  Rob Eno who beats the drum relentlessly at Red Mass Group.  And let's not forget folks like Charlie Baker, who never stopped showing up at candidate events across the state to lend his support; and Senator Scott Brown, who hasn't let the small complication of a U.S. Senator's grueling schedule get in the way of the hands-on, personal encouragement and support that he's always been eager to lend to any Republican willing to put his or her name on a ballot.

I'm going to stop, because the longer this kind of list gets the more egregious each inevitable omission appears to be.  There are a lot of people like these folks; people who don't get discouraged by perpetual minority status.  We're moving in the right direction here, and they are pulling disproportionate weight for a lot of the rest of us.  To the extent that Margery Egan's "worm" is in fact in the process of turning, these people are owed a big thank you.

On a related note, Dan Winslow's "Beer Pong and Politics" fundraiser last night in Boston was a big success, especially considering how many folks who might otherwise have attended were outside the city, working hard to give Winslow a new colleague in the House.  I am getting a kick out of the news coverage the event has generated, and the press's insistence on generating "controversy" where there is none.  The good folks who produced this clip from Fox Boston were at pains to find a couple of passers-by willing to express some small degree of indignation at the notion that a politician dared to use "beer pong" (with cups full of water, people!) to generate some interest in politics amongst the conservative yewts of the Commonwealth. 



To such feigned Puritanism there is only one appropriate response:

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

"Fair share" = More

The President's call this week for "millionaires and billionaires" to pay "their fair share" in federal taxes has revived a periodic - and useless - debate over what tax rate might constitute that "fair share." 

WSJ Graphic
The term drives conservatives nuts.  Each time it is resurrected - always by the left, always in service to a proposed major tax increase - the right trots out countless editorials, analyses and graphs, all demonstrating the same basic truth: the current tax code is sharply progressive, meaning the wealthy already pay a share of federal taxes disproportionate to their numbers, both in absolute dollar and percentage terms.  A few examples of the genre come today from the Wall Street Journal ("The Buffett Minimum Tax" - from which the graphic republished at right is drawn); The New York Post ("Burden-sharing Basics"); even the Associated Press ("FACT CHECK: Are rich taxed less than secretaries?") and the President's home town Chicago Tribune ("Data: The rich actually do pay more taxes").  All are worth a read.  All are useless to counter the President's "fair share" rhetoric.  He does not care about "facts" and "data" and "numbers."  He is making a political point sure to appeal to a very specific audience.

I'd like also to think that a piece I wrote just under two years ago on the same topic is likewise worth another read.  In it, I pointed out that the one thing that never accompanies a call for the rich to pay "their fair share" is any quantification whatsoever of what that "fair share" might be.  Referring to the Commonwealth's own tax  hike caucus, I observed, "If 'our fair share' is a rate of taxation sufficient to sate Beacon Hill's hunger for spending, then truly there is no limit to how high our taxes will climb." 

This is equally true at the federal level.  To people who believe, as the President evidently does, that there is something inherently unseemly about the accumulation of wealth, there is no rate that would constitute a "fair share" payment by the rich. 

"Fair share" is appealing terminology, combining two unadulterated goods.  Fairness and sharing.  Who can be heard to object?  But the President - like all before him who have deployed the term to the same end - does not really mean "fair share."

He means "more."

"Car free" for thee, but not for me

Apparently it is "car free week," here in the Commonwealth.  Someone forgot to tell my co-commuters on the Pike, where the traffic yesterday and today has crept along at its usual glacial pace both morning and evening.

This clip from Jon Keller is making the rounds nationally, capturing not only our Governor's hypocrisy but also his glib dismissal of the reporter who caught it.  "You got me!" Ha ha.  At least he didn't promise to buy some carbon offsets.

I don't have much to add to the obvious here, but I'll pose a question: what percentage of Massachusetts voters had any expectation whatsoever that our governor would follow his own preachy advice and stay out of his car this week? Ten percent? Lower?

I'm driving to and from work all week, as usual, and saving up my celebrating for "shut up and leave me alone week."

Monday, September 19, 2011

This is why fewer and fewer people support public sector unions


Late last week the state Senate passed the latest iteration of pension reform legislation.  The marquee provision raises the minimum retirement age for most public employees from fifty-five to sixty years of age. 

Would anyone be surprised to learn that the Commonwealth's public employee unions strongly opposed the change?  State House News (via WWLP):
The unions, who represent hundreds of thousands of police, firefighters, teachers and other workers, say the bill will force employees to work later in life and receive a smaller benefit because of past mistakes made by the state. “There is no justification for cutting the pension benefits for future public employees,” the unions wrote.
No justification... except that the state's current unfunded pension liability (the value of our pension obligations for which no money has actually been set aside) could pay for the Big Dig several times over, and is continuing to grow at a horrifying rate.  And as to those "past mistakes made by the state"?  Sober and disinterested observers might rationally observe that among those "mistakes" was the decision to allow public employees to retire at an age when a lot of private sector workers are just hitting their professional stride.

Among the unions' few remaining strong arguments is the notion that current public employees decided upon a career in the public sector based on a certain understanding - a "contract" with the state - and it is wrong, morally, for the state to renege on that contract by unilaterally altering the terms.  I agree with that to a certain extent, although there does come a point where the inflexible reality of the 'blood from a stone' scenario kicks in (see, e.g., Central Falls).

But that isn't what we're talking about here.  The increase in retirement age contemplated by the current legislation (from middle age to late middle age) would leave current public employees free as ever to "retire" at 55 (and embark on a second career - maybe in "consulting"! - with the backstop of a state pension).  Future employees would enter into their employment with the full understanding that they could very well be "forced to work" a little bit "later in life." 

This situation in a nutshell explains why all across the country public sector unions are losing public support.  They over-reach.  Always they over-reach.  There is no change in employee benefits that can simply be accepted without a fight.  No unilateral concession on anything, ever, in any circumstance.  "You give something to get something," period. With the federal, state and local government drowning in debt from coast to coast, the public is less and less appreciative of the unions' steadfast intractability.

Happily the pension reform bill last week passed the Senate over union opposition.  Ah, but hold your applause for the Senate and shed no tears for those future public employees who may be forced to toil to the ripe young age of 60.  The Globe's editors today point out that the unions hardly came away from the table empty handed  - and in fact a provision added to the bill at the unions' behest pretty well negates the benefit of the meager "reforms" that the bill would achieve.
On the upside, cuts in the Senate measure will save $9 billion over 30 years, according to calculations by the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation. The changes would include raising the minimum retirement age for most new public employees from 55 to 60, raising the full retirement age from 65 to 67, reducing early-retirement benefits, and calculating a worker’s pension in a more conservative way. Yet the bill contains provisions that would cost billions of dollars, such as reducing contributions for some long-serving workers and making all retired, current, and future retirees eligible for larger cost-of-living increases.

This last provision illustrates a deeper problem: Lawmakers have generally maintained that benefits for current employees must never be diminished - not by a penny - but have been willing to increase them time and time again. Worse yet, while the savings from the other provisions in the bill will accrue only over time, a greater cost-of-living increase will cost money right away. Without such a provision, though, the reforms in the bill won’t be palatable to the public-employee unions that so many lawmakers rely upon for support.
A cynic might suspect that the unions deliberately kicked up a fuss over the 55 to 60 increase in the retirement age in order to distract attention from their real plum - the COLA increase for current public employees.  Wait a sec... I'm a cynic.  And yeah, I suspect that.  Well played.  Nobody can be heard to say our union bosses aren't good at what they do.

But here's a memo to those bosses: when the Boston Globe calls you out for over-reaching, it's a pretty good bet you're over-reaching.

UPDATE: Coincidentally, the Wall Street Journal published an op-ed today on this very topic (generally), by former Clinton pollster Douglas Schoen.  Worth a read in its entirety.  It reveals a certain lack of public understanding about what "collective bargaining" really is, coupled with a clear public sentiment in favor of cutting and/or limiting public employee benefits and their growth.  Here's the meat of it:
Last month, in a wide-ranging national survey of 1,000 randomly selected, registered voters, and in 10 polls in individual states each with 400 respondents, my polling company found that voters strongly favor measures to pare the compensation of current and future public employees. They strongly oppose higher taxes.

Specifically, over three-quarters (78%) say their state faced a budget crisis this year, and 68% say that the crisis was resolved with spending cuts. Overwhelmingly they blame politicians for creating and exacerbating the problems: 48% say "elected state officials made careless and self-serving decisions," while only 6% say "state governments did not tax enough."

The top priorities for resolving current fiscal issues are to cut government spending (47%) and to ask for greater sacrifice from current public employees, by having them contribute more towards their benefits (31%). By almost two-to-one, they think that current public employees should have to contribute more toward their pension benefits because of budget problems.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Cost doesn't come into it (El costo no se considera)

At least 45,000 teachers in 275 school districts across Massachusetts lack adequate training to instruct students who speak limited English, potentially impeding thousands of the students from advancing academically, according to a US Justice Department investigation.
That's from the front page of today's Globe. Later in the same article, comes this:
Poor English can cause all sorts of problems
Across the state last year, schools taught more than 67,000 students who could not speak English fluently, an increase of more than 50 percent from a decade ago, making English-language learners one of the fastest-growing student populations in the state.
Aside from that troubling bit about non-English speakers being "one of the fastest-growing student populations in the state," ponder the relationship of those two big numbers.  Last year there were 67,000 students in Massachusetts who cannot really speak English.  And the Obama Administration's DoJ is all up in the Commonwealth's knickers about the fact that 45,000 Massachusetts teachers lack the specialized training to deal with the special needs of those children.  So assuming that there are no teachers who are adequately trained, the DoJ expects our public schools to have 1 specially-trained teacher for every 1.4 limited English students.  Of course in truth some number of teachers already have adequate training, and so that proportion is likely turned on its head - more than one teacher for every single student.

Setting aside entirely the debate over whether students in this unfortunate position are better served by English immersion or programs that cater to their individual linguistic deficiencies (the Obama Administration's clear preference), this kind of ratio makes absolutely no sense whatsoever as a basis for allocation of public resources in a difficult economy.  Or a booming economy for that matter.

So how in God's name could anyone convince him or herself otherwise?  The answer lies in the genesis of this Justice Department admonition.  It came from the Educational Opportunities Section of the Civil Rights Division at DoJ.  And can you guess the one thing that the Civil Rights Division never, ever, EVER considers when meting out its recriminations and its mandates?  Cost.  Once an issue is deemed a "civil right," notions of costs and benefits go right out the window.  "Cost" becomes a dirty word - a way for the troglodytes to rationalize "discrimination."

A couple of other important tid-bits from the Globe article: (1) DoJ specifically singled out "Boston's teachers and their union for the low training rate [in that city] because they know the state does not mandate the training."  And (2) in 2002 the voters of Massachusetts (exercising their own civil right to vote) specifically weighed in on the aforementioned larger issue here, voting to abolish bilingual education in favor of broad policies to encourage adoption and teaching of this country's native tongue.

Despite that voter statement less than a decade ago, Globe informs us that the Patrick Administration is rushing to implement new regulations to correct the "deficiency" identified by the feds.  Watch now for the following cost cascade:

1) Soon - certainly within the year - new state regulations will mandate widespread, intensive teacher training to address DoJ's "deficiency."

2) Because this training will be mandated, through their unions teachers will demand - and get - compensation for participating in the training.  And

3) The very significant cost of compliance with the new mandates will fall on local governments, most of which are already stretched beyond the breaking point.

Immigrant children aren't the only ones with English problems
I'm not an "English-only" guy.  I think in many ways the fact that more and more of our kids are effectively bilingual is a good thing, long term.  Kids who come into our schools with limited proficiency in English face a difficult and daunting challenge, through no fault of their own.  Public resources should be rationally and reasonably dedicated to helping them through that - and to English fluency as quickly and efficiently as possible.  But a 1:1 teacher to student ratio is neither rational, affordable nor necessary.  Nor a 1:1.4 ratio.  Nor anything close to these.  Our schools - excellent though they are in comparison to those in much of the country - are rife with serious deficiencies, especially in the poorer areas of the state where many of the 67,000 English-challenged kids likely go to school.  Plenty of kids born and raised with some semblance of the English language cannot read, write or perform basic math.  Diverting scarce resources to over-compensate for a single problem will inevitably exacerbate others.

DoJ is overstepping, specifically because cost/benefit does not enter into its group-think.

This is as good an example of any of why government at all levels in this country will continue to dig deeper into their budgetary holes, so long as the so-called progressives - who are generally more than happy to ignore cost in service to a perceived "greater good" - are steering the ship of state. 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Website troubles

It has come to my attention that some readers are receiving a scary "identified as an attack site!" message when trying to log in to CriticalMASS today.  Apparently this only happens with some browsers.  I've learned more than I ever expected to know about website coding in a short period, and identified the problem - an image embedded in an earlier post directed to a page that was itself flagged as a potential malware site.  At no time was this blog "distributing malware."  The problem has been corrected, but apparently it takes some time to remove the warnings and flags.

As a result of this little incident I've removed some of the more complex coding from the sidebars, etc., including the Google and Amazon ads.  They generated pennies anyhow - and Google kept insisting on putting up ads for Deval Patrick's book, and - worse! - for the Obama and now the Warren campaigns. Good riddance.  Silver linings and all.  Thanks for your patience, and for checking in.

-Dan

Creativity must be rewarded

Okay, I don't usually do this, and I am somewhat hesitant to set a precedent. But this cause is too important to be ignored. And the cause is...

Beer pong. Or more specifically the beer-pongification of political fundraising.

Here's a dirty little non-secret: Almost nobody enjoys political fundraisers. Oh, there are a few junkies/groupies who do. People who really get jazzed about canned speeches in crowded (bad) rooms - or nearly empty ones (worse). Folks who cannot get enough of picked-over mini-sandwich trays and over-priced cash bars. The ones who really want to hear "that guy" (there is always one) recycle his semi-inebriated lecture on everything that the candidate/party/government/universe is doing wrong wrong wrong!, delivered in its entirety through mouthfuls of partly-masticated food. Then again, there are people who watch Canadian football. Diff'rent Strokes. But most of us attend the things only grudgingly, out of a genuine respect for the candidate or the cause and a desire to help - both financially and with a body to try and avoid the aforementioned dread empty room. Hardly anyone wakes up in the morning and thinks, "Another political fundraiser tonight! Woo-hoo!"

So when a candidate comes along and makes a genuine effort to shake up the standard crudité-in-a-musty- ballroom paradigm, it is incumbent upon all of us to step up and support the effort.

Next Tuesday evening in Boston's financial district, freshman Republican Rep. Dan Winslow is holding a beer-pong fundraiser. Let me type that again: a beer-pong fundraiser. And he's doing it on the fundraising equivalent of the Groupon model (buy early, with enough participation, and get a steep discount), using an online service called "good two." So it's creative thinking all around (and yes, it's legal. Sez who? Sez the Office of Campaign & Political Finance, that's who). The press is interested, and so should you be.

$25.00 ahead of time, by clicking here and signing up. A $100.00 value. I'm not sure how that number is calculated, but it seems more than reasonable for an hour of open bar and cut-throat competition, plus support for a guy who is actually making the waves he promised to make in the state legislature. At $25.00? Pshaw.

Follow my logic here. If this event is a success, then not only does Dan's reelection campaign get off to a good start (the AFL-CIO has targeted him, by the way. A freshman Rep! How cool is that?), but the event could very well start a trend. Who knows what this guy might come up with next? And what about the rest of those candidates out there? What might they come up with to keep up with the Winslows?

Rep. Winslow's best quote (the one that appears on all his materials) is: "If decent, honest and hard-working people don’t get involved in government, then government won’t be decent, honest and hard-working." True enough. And if decent, honest and thirsty Republicans don't show up for a first-of-its-kind beer pong fundraiser, conveniently located and reasonably priced, then there won't be any more beer pong fundraisers. We'll be forever doomed to the ranch dip and stale speeches. The choice is ours. Sign up and come next Tuesday. RSVP and details by clicking here.

Aside: thinking about a graphic for this post, the phrase "Abe Lincoln playing beer pong" popped into my head. So I Googled "Abe Lincoln playing beer pong," and what d'ya know? Not only is there an image, there's a t-shirt (click on the image). More creativity that must be rewarded. I love the internets.

Top 10 Reads of the Week - September 16, 2011

Obama’s Pathetic, Pedestrian Speech – Michael Barone [Real Clear Politics]
What is there to say about Barack Obama's speech to Congress Thursday night and the so-called American Jobs Act he said Congress must pass? Several thoughts occur, all starting with P.
Projection. That's psychologist-speak term for projecting your own faults on others. "This isn't political grandstanding," Obama told members of Congress, as Republicans snickered (but thankfully resisted the temptation to shout, "You lie!"). "This isn't class warfare."… Read the Rest
Obama’s Jobs Plan: He Should Have Stayed on Vacation – John Tamny [Forbes']
Back from a vacation that, with the economy’s health in mind, was cut well too short, our President has returned energized, ready once again to inflict ideology on the economy. Ever certain of his transformative skills, the President continues to miss the essential truth known to many of us, but totally lost on the political class. Specifically, Washington can’t create jobs, but it certainly can destroy themRead the Rest
Delaying the implementation of Obamacare makes sense – Eric Dahlberg and Josh Archambault [Union Leader]
The federal health reform law that President Obama signed in March 2010 puts extensive new responsibilities onto the shoulders of the 50 states. The law requires each to make significant changes to its Medicaid program and undertake far-reaching reforms of its commercial health insurance market. In addition, each state must decide whether to set up a new marketplace for health insurance — an exchange — or allow the federal government to set up a “federal fallback exchange.”
All these responsibilities must be met within just a few years. Even under ideal circumstances, this timeline would be daunting. In the real world, it may be unworkable. Even in Massachusetts, one of two states that already has an exchange, unresolved questions about implementation of the federal law continue to mount… Read the Rest

What Job ‘Training’ Teaches? Bad Work Habits – James Bovard [Wall Street Journal]
Last Thursday, President Obama proposed new federal jobs and job-training programs for youth and the long-term unemployed. The federal government has experimented with these programs for almost a half century. The record is one of failure and scandal.
In 1962, Congress passed the Manpower Development and Training Act (MDTA) to provide training for workers who lost their jobs due to automation or other technological developments. Two years later, the General Accounting Office (GAO) discovered that any trainee in this program who held a job for a single day was counted as "permanently employed"—a statistical charade by the Department of Labor to camouflage its lack of results. A decade after MDTA's inception, GAO reported that it was failing to teach valuable job skills or place trainees in private jobs and was marred by an "overriding concern with filling available slots for a particular program," regardless of what trainees actually needed… Read the Rest
Mugged by Mythology – Jeff Bergner [Weekly Standard]
Sometimes talking with liberals is perplexing. You never know what claim they will make next or what name they will call you. Take David Axelrod’s response to Standard & Poor’s recent credit action: He calls it the “Tea Party downgrade.” Amazingly, he blames the United States’ loss of its AAA bond rating on the one group that has sounded the alarm about our fiscal crisis. How did the president’s leading adviser come up with a label so detached from reality? 
Comforting as it would be to dismiss this as a one-off comment, Axelrod’s words spring from the mental universe of liberalism. It is a vast sphere of assumptions that are found nowhere else. In an effort to promote the civility of debate that is so much in demand these days, here is a compendium of the myths underlying some of the strange things liberals say… Read the Rest
Strange Facts about America’s ‘Poor’ – Robert Rector [National Review Online – The Corner Blog]
This morning, the Census Bureau announced that a record 46.2 million, or one in seven Americans, lived in poverty last year. Although the current recession greatly increased the number of poor persons, high levels of poverty predate it.
In fact, for two decades, census officials have announced in most years that more than 35 million Americans were poor. Last year’s number was 43.5 million. But there is a wide chasm between the public’s concept of poverty and “poverty” as it is defined by the Census Bureau… Read the Rest
Krugman 9/11 rant shameful – Jennifer Braceras [Boston Herald]
The Ol’ Gray Lady ain’t what she used to be!
On Sunday, New York Times [NYT] columnist and left-wing economist Paul Krugman set off a firestorm when he blithely referred to the 9/11 anniversary as “an occasion for shame.”
That’s right, “an occasion for shame.”… Read the Rest
He’s No Truman… – Jay Cost [Weekly Standard]
A year from now, the presidential election campaign will be in full swing. Obama and the Republican nominee will be touring the country at a feverish pace, trying hard to convince swing voters to go their way. Obviously, we’re still too far out from November 2012 to know what will happen, but we’re close enough to get a sense of the shape of the race.
President Obama’s chances next year don’t look good. As of this writing, the InTrade prediction market gives the president about a 50-50 chance, and even Democratic insiders are starting to doubt the top of their ticket. According to National Journal, they’re privately giving the president just a 63 percent chance of victory, which is not a great score considering the partisan source. These relatively gloomy odds are not surprising, as the president faces some historic challenges in his reelection quest. … Read the Rest
A Blue-State Bailout in Disguise – Paul E. Peterson and Daniel Nadler [Wall Street Journal]
Last Thursday, the president urged Congress to pony up roughly $200 billion in taxpayer money to "provide more jobs for teachers [and] more jobs for construction workers" and more money to carry out other state and local activities. He urges Congress to spend this money even after handing out hundreds of billions of dollars for similar purposes as part of the 2009 stimulus package, as well as a score and more billion dollars again in 2010.
These vast contributions to the coffers of state and local governments, though pitched as a jobs bill, are in reality the latest in a series of bailouts for debt-ridden state and local governments. They are of special benefit to states in the blue regions of the country where the president's most fervent supporters reside… Read the Rest
Dakota Meyer and a grateful nation – Editors [Los Angeles Times]
For most Americans, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been largely remote affairs, fought by men and women far from home, their victories and defeats in distant fields now matters of sporadic public attention. Not for Dakota Meyer, a 23-year-old who on Thursday became the first living Marine to receive the nation's highest honor, the Medal of Honor, for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan.
On Sept. 8, 2009, then-Cpl. Meyer and Staff Sgt. Juan Rodriguez-Chavez were part of a contingent of U.S. forces visiting an Afghan village to train fighters and persuade elders to support the Afghan government. It was a dangerous area, and as the meeting was underway, the village was suddenly plunged into darkness. Insurgents on the ridges above began firing on American and Afghan soldiers. Meyer was back with the trucks at that moment, but his comrades who were posted farther forward were cut off by the ambush… Read the Rest
The Funniest Thing I Saw This Week
Ed Note: In a recent conversation I became aware, to my horror, that there are people out there who missed this Colbert Report classic from 2005.  Ah, the possibilities in the innocent days when politicians didn’t expect the online parody ambush…
The Colbert Report Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Better Know a District - Massachusetts' 4th - Barney Frank
www.colbertnation.com

Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog Video Archive