Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Obama administration is hopelessly
out of touch with reality

As good an example as any to demonstrate that Washington, DC is disconnected from reality is what White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said at Thursday’s news conference following the news that initial unemployment claims for the week ending July 16 came in at 418,000, higher than the predicted 408,000. Mr. Carney said “the economy is vastly improved from what it was when Barack Obama was sworn into office.” Seriously!

A review of some of the relevant numbers shows the depths of Mr. Carney’s fantasy:
• Unemployment is up from 7.3 percent to 9.2 percent today.
• The federal debt was $10.7 trillion and is now $14.5 trillion, 35 percent higher.
• The budget deficit is more than three times higher: $438 billion then, $1.4 trillion this year.
• Gasoline has risen from $1.67 a gallon to about $3.60, more than double.

Vastly improved? But there’s more.

The Heritage Foundation’s James Sherk wrote last week that “[p]rivate-sector job creation initially recovered from the recession at a normal rate, leading to predictions last year of a ‘Recovery Summer.’ Since April 2010, however, net private-sector job creation has stalled. Within two months of the passage of Obamacare, the job market stopped improving. This suggests that businesses are not exaggerating when they tell pollsters that the new health care law is holding back hiring. The law significantly raises business costs and creates considerable uncertainty about the future.”

Mr. Sherk, Senior Policy Analyst in Labor Economics, adds this: “In a recent survey, 33 percent of business owners said the health care law was either their greatest or second-greatest obstacle to new hiring,” and quotes Dennis Lockhart, the President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, who commented, “We’ve frequently heard strong comments to the effect of ‘my company won’t hire a single additional worker until we know what health insurance costs are going to be.’”

At a time when you expect national leaders to do what is needed to enable the private sector to create jobs the Obama administration instead maintains anti-business policies, such as at first an official, and now unofficial, moratorium on oil drilling projects, which hold great promise for aiding economic recovery.

A study by IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates and IHS Global Insight shows that from 2005 to 2010 there were on average, in April of each year, 59 Gulf of Mexico drilling plans pending prior to the moratorium, while after the moratorium the number increased by 90 percent to 112 each April. The waiting period was 36 days pre-moratorium, but 95 percent longer post-moratorium at 131 days.

During the same period 372 plans were accepted and 545 permits were approved pre-moratorium, but after the moratorium only 54 plans were accepted and 203 permits were issued, down 86 percent and 63 percent respectively.

Were the government to approve these projects, the study says nearly 230,000 jobs would be created, GDP would increase by $44 billion, almost $12 billion in tax and royalty revenue would accrue to the federal treasury, and the US would send $15 million less to foreign governments by the end of next year.

The National Labor Relations Board recently took action against The Boeing Company’s opening of a new 1,000-worker plant in South Carolina that will produce a new airliner, after a labor union in a Boeing plant in Washington State filed a complaint.

And just last Thursday the NLRB announced proposed rules that will shorten the time period between the filing of a petition for a union-representation election and the actual election. Employers condemn this rule change as government taking the side of unions in the struggle between management and labor organizations.

When they are attempting to organize a company’s workers, unions do not inform management they are talking with their employees, and organizing efforts not infrequently go on for weeks or months without the employer’s knowledge. They only become aware of the unionization effort when the petition is filed, and then have only 38 to 40 days to prepare and present their arguments against unionization to their employees. The NLRB rule change gives employers only about 10 days to respond, hamstringing their ability to effectively present their case.

Over the last 50 years private sector union membership has dwindled from 35 percent to 6.9 percent, as workers see fewer and fewer advantages in union membership. And today 22 of the 50 states have Right-to-Work laws securing the right of employees to decide whether or not to join or financially support a union.

Yet, the Obama administration has clearly sided with labor unions and against employers on two recent occasions.

The administration also ignores the opportunities for job creation, for domestic oil production that will increase energy security, and for increases in tax and royalty revenue by refusing to act on Gulf drilling projects, and it squandered valuable time on a health care overhaul that most Americans opposed and that stifles job creation.

If your goal was to design a set of policies that would prevent economic recovery, it would be difficult to develop a plan that is more effective than the Obama administration’s current policies.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Recession lingers, thanks to the president’s
anti-business policies

Although the technical criteria for judging recessions – which is two consecutive quarters of positive economic growth – means that the latest recession ended some months ago, other factors affecting the American people make it clear that the recession still rages.

President Barack Obama and his supporters in and out of the media like to call this the “Great Recession,” a rhetorical device eliciting visions of the 1930s that is designed to make the economic situation he inherited seem worse than it is. More than anything else, he seems to believe this will enable him to blame George W. Bush if his policies fail to turn things around, which they have.

In the interest of accuracy, however, let’s not forget that foolish government policies that began in the late 70s during the Carter administration laid the foundation and fertilized the seeds of the downturn that occurred near the end of Mr. Bush’s second term.

That said, President Obama’s campaign to shirk responsibility for today’s economic chaos is wearing thin. He has been in charge since January 20, 2009 – almost 30 months to the day – which is plenty of time to turn things around if his government had put sensible economic policies in place. Plainly, Mr. Obama and the Democrats who controlled both houses of Congress from 2007 through 2010 have not done the right things.

The numbers tell the story, and Merrill Matthews, writing for Human Events, provides the details for us, comparing prices when President Obama took office to prices today:
  • Energy: Gasoline was $1.67 a gallon then. It's now $3.64.
  • Food: Average cost of a gallon of milk was about $2.65. It's about $3.50 today.
  • Housing: The median cost of a home was $229,600. Today it's $217,900.
  • Budget deficit: We fell $438 billion short of balancing the federal budget in 2008. We missed it by $1.4 trillion this year—nearly four times higher.
  • U.S. debt: Total federal debt was $10.7 trillion then. It's $14.5 trillion now—nearly 50 percent higher.
  • Unemployment: Then, 7.3% of Americans were unemployed and 9.2% are unemployed today.
Two of the most serious and persistent problems facing the country are jobs and the debt, and the Obama administration has done nothing on either issue, except to make both worse.

For example, Mr. Matthews tells us: “to be fair, not everyone has done poorly under Obama. Federal government employees have made out like bandits. Mercatus Center (George Mason University) economist Veronique de Rugy noted last January that ‘federal employment has grown by 98,000 employees since the start of the recession.’"

Today, depending upon which report you select, 15 percent to 22 percent of American workers can’t find a job or can’t find a suitable job, or have simply quit looking for work. Since taking office, Mr. Obama’s government has managed to spend well over $1.4 trillion (that’s 1.4-thousand-billion dollars) more than it takes in each year, and it can’t pay all of its bills unless we borrow even more than the $14.3 trillion we have already borrowed.

In order to twist enough arms to get Congressional approval to borrow billions more dollars, Mr. Obama falsely tells us that the U.S. will default on its debts, senior citizens won’t get their Social Security checks, and military personnel won’t be paid, either. None of that is true, and the president knows it isn’t true. He is simply scaring people trying to gain support for his manic desire to borrow even more money.

The U.S. Treasury collects $180 billion on average each month, and that’s plenty of money to pay interest on the debt, which averages only about $20 billion. And that leaves enough to pay important obligations like principal due on bonds, military personnel, and Social Security and other similar things. So, if the U.S. defaults on interest payments or principal payments or military personnel paychecks or Social Security payments, etc., it will be because Barack Obama consciously chose not to pay them, not because the Treasury doesn’t have the money.

But he is correct when he says there’s not enough money in “the till” to pay all the bills, because all the bills add up to 43 percent more than the government collects in revenue; you can’t spend $100 if you only have $57. So, some hard choices have to be made, and making hard choices when that is required is what we elected the president, our representatives and senators to do.

Since all economic activity originates in the private sector, stimulating the private sector is the most important single factor in solving this problem. Make operating a business as easy and profitable as possible by having reasonable levels of taxation; through removing uncertainty by establishing operational stability that will last for several years into the future; and relaxing or removing cost-increasing regulations. Do those things and business activity will flourish, and jobs will be created.

New jobs produce new taxpayers and more people buying more things, and that increases the amount of taxes being paid to government. Greater employment also means that government pays out less money on unemployment payments. That is exactly what the country needs.

The president and his cohorts in Washington want to do essentially the opposite. They want to continue to punish business by leaving in place the barriers to their development, and to further stifle the economy by raising taxes on some people, like private jet owners and other wealthy Americans who have the most to contribute to the economy through their great purchasing power.

Barack Obama is the president of all Americans, not just those who share his leftist political perspective. In times like this, the president must lay aside his ideology and do what is right for the country.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Defending America’s National Anthem
and the U.S. Constitution

Last week’s observance of the 235th anniversary of America’s independence from Great Britain, which created a nation that provided a level of individual freedom unmatched by any other nation in human history, was marred by suggestions that we abandon two fundamental national components.

Writing in the July 3rd edition of Parade magazine, Lynn Sherr asks if we need to change our National Anthem to a different song. “It’s Fourth of July weekend: fireworks, flags, and a chorus of American voices desperately trying to hit the high notes in The Star-Spangled Banner,” she began. “The song can be treacherous even for the pros—just ask Christina Aguilera, the most recent star to muff the lyrics. In fact, many people consider ours the world’s least singable National Anthem. So is it time for a change?”

As someone who loves his country and honors and respects its symbols, who believes that even with its flaws and faults it is the most wonderful place to live on Earth, and who understands and appreciates the intricacies of musical performance, The Star Spangled Banner is a subject that often causes me severe irritation.

Leave aside that Ms. Sherr confused Ms. Aguilera’s botching of the lyrics as evidence that the melody is “treacherous”; you don’t change the National Anthem because Christina Aguilera can’t remember the words, or because it has “high notes” that make it difficult to sing. Many Americans can’t sing Mary Had a Little Lamb or Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, either.

She said that many people think America the Beautiful would better serve as the National Anthem, because it “celebrates the nation’s spacious skies and shining seas rather than a long-forgotten naval battle in the War of 1812. Supporters have long loved its optimism—and, they note, you can actually sing it.” Well, some can. And why not study the origins of Francis Scott Key’s lyric, so you’ll understand why it’s important?

We’ve become too eager to throw off traditions in favor of the latest fad. Should we change the American flag from the stark colors of red, white and blue to more “artistically pleasing” colors like salmon, beige and iceberg?

The main problem with the National Anthem is the people who sing it to open an event. Too often that person treats the song like they are a contestant in some beer hall karaoke contest, filling it with every turn, slur and yodel they can muster. People selected to perform The Star Spangled Banner must respect the sanctity of the song, and not try “to make it their own” with egotistic, bombastic vocal pyrotechnics designed to wow the crowd, not to celebrate their country.

In the absence of qualified singers one of the ample recordings of the song being sung well could be used, or it can also be performed by instrumentalists; whatever it takes to have it performed respectfully and musically.

Time magazine ran an article last month titled “One Document, Under Siege” featuring a photo of a shredded Constitution. Written by Richard Stengal and AndrĂ©a Ford, it said, in part: “The Constitution does not protect our spirit of liberty; our spirit of liberty protects the Constitution. The Constitution serves the nation; the nation does not serve the Constitution. That's what the framers would say.”

But Mr. Stengal and Ms. Ford are also confused. What the framers would say is it what they did say, in the Preamble to the Constitution: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union … and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” The framers were concerned not with the “spirit” of liberty, but with securing and preserving “actual” liberty.

It isn’t a question of whether the Constitution serves the nation, or vice versa, it is that the Constitution deliberately prescribed a government whose role is limited in order to prevent a recurrence of the oppressiveness from which the Colonists had just unburdened themselves. And it did a pretty good job of providing a marvelously free environment in which Americans could thrive, until we began to lose sight of its intent and liberalized its interpretation, allowing government to grow out of control so that the very entity created to protect our freedom is now the entity that so often threatens it.

As we prepared to celebrate our liberty, one writer was ready to throw away the song that we chose to represent our great nation, and two others demonstrated that they fundamentally misunderstand everything important about its founding and governing document.

Unfortunately, they have a lot of company. We have failed to adequately teach at least two generations of Americans about our nation’s founding in such a way that they understand and appreciate what the United States of America is all about. Far too many of us are ready to throw off inconvenient and unpopular ideals. These ideals have made America the greatest nation in history, and we need to restore them, not replace them.

Those who don’t like the ideals upon which America was founded might find other places more to their liking.

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Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Going Rogue, Part VI: The EPA
doesn’t care if its actions kill jobs

The Environmental Protection Agency is likely the most out-of-control, economically destructive and ideologically driven agency in the history of the United States.

Apparently unaware of the fact that the air in the US is cleaner now than at any time in the last hundred years, or that the pollutants produced by burning fossil fuels have not been proved to contribute to global climate change, the agency is ready to unleash on the country two new rules that will create great pain for Americans, Americans that pay their own bills, that is.

A study by National Economic Research Associates (NERA) shows that these two rules will increase the cost of operation of electric utilities by $184 billion by 2030. Everyone who thinks electricity costs are too high already should think about that for a few minutes; electricity consumers will bear those costs, estimated at between 11 percent and 23 percent over the next few years.

Nicolas Lori of the Heritage Foundation predicts the new rules will force "utilities to file for significant rate hikes in years to come because of the upgrades they will have to make, or the complete shutdown of older plants." We have just recently learned that American Electric Power has chosen to close or downsize 11 plants in seven states to avoid the costs that its customers would have to pay.

Worse than higher electricity rates, the NERA study predicts that these rules will kill 1.4 million jobs over the same period. Job loss caused by government action is always a bad thing, but is especially idiotic during a recovery so anemic that it doesn't look like a recovery at all.

However, as destructive as these two rules are, they’re just the start. They are among 30 major regulations and more than 170 major policy rules the EPA has on tap that will increase utility costs, according to a study by the American Legislative Exchange Council.

A more recent development makes it clear that the EPA goes merrily along with little if any regard for the wreckage that follows many of its actions, like private sector jobs and economic productivity. Testifying before a subcommittee of the House Environment and Energy Committee, Assistant EPA Administrator Mathy Stanislaus revealed that the EPA really doesn’t much care about whether the agency’s actions will kill jobs, and sometimes or perhaps frequently doesn’t even consider employment factors when devising regulatory schemes.

On the topic of recycling fly ash and other by-products of burning fossil fuels, when asked the likely results of implementing new rules on this activity, Mr. Stanislaus replied, “We have not directly taken a look at jobs in the proposal.”

“So what,” you might say. “How many jobs could be affected by more closely regulating how this waste is handled?” which, come to think of it, sounds a lot like how the EPA seems to view the situation.

As it turns out, however, the capitalist spirit is alive and well where disposing of fly ash is concerned: This waste material, rather than being dumped somewhere, is used productively to strengthen concrete and increase its useful life, to make wallboard stronger, and to make better roofing shingles, all of which involves people working.

The subcommittee is investigating whether or not the EPA is following the requirements of Executive Order 13563 signed by President Barack Obama last January requiring federal agencies to take job creation into account when they issue new rules. Specifically, the subcommittee questions whether the effect on jobs was properly considered in the April 2010 statement contained in the appendix of an analysis of proposed regulation under the Resources and Recovery Act dealing with fly ash, which said, “The [analysis] does not include either qualitative or quantitative estimation of the potential effects of the proposed rule on economic productivity, economic growth, employment, job creation or international economic competitiveness.”

Put another way, the EPA statement said, “The effect of this rule on jobs, productivity, or the economy is irrelevant, so long as fly ash is prohibited from being used productively.”

The Daily Caller news site recounted some of Mr. Stanislaus’ testimony and answers to questions posed by Colorado Republican Rep. Cory Gardner. “Gardner’s line of questioning had Stanislaus visibly dumbfounded, and he repeatedly told the congressman he would have to get back to him with the answers to his questions,” the Caller reported.

“I’d like to see a list of all of the rules that you have proposed that haven’t taken into account jobs,” Rep. Gardner said. “We need to know if the EPA considers jobs in their analysis and whether you have, and whether EPA’s position is to consider jobs when it does an economic analysis.”

The EPA loves to tell everyone else how to live, even when doing so causes pain, but it ignores orders that get in the way of its ideological agenda.

Such arrogant behavior by a government agency didn’t originate with the Obama administration, but it has reached undreamed of heights since Barack Obama took office.

One cannot help wondering if anyone will be held to account for this failure to follow the president’s direct order.

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Sunday, July 03, 2011

New Ruger issues honor
special groups of Americans

Ruger firearms has issued two new models honoring special groups of Americans.

The first new issue honors our Representatives and Senators, and is called the Congressman.

The second issue honors American workers, and is called The Union Worker.

As with the special groups they were crafted to represent, they don't work and you can't fire them.

(Thanks, Fred)

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