Entries and Categories

May 3, 2011

National Review Online

Elegy on a Budget Compromise

I’ve tried holding my tongue on matters political for over a year, but after a month of witnessing Washington’s attempt to pass the 2011 budget, which a Democrat-controlled Congress was too “busy” to pass last year, and after watching a government shutdown be averted by legislation passed less than one hour before the midnight deadline, I simply have to say something about numbers, courage, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Why Gates? In my opinion, had it not been for Secretary Gates’ well-publicized explanation to troops in Iraq as to how their paychecks would be affected by a D.C. shutdown, I’m not so sure Congress would have recognized what a dangerous game of brinksmanship they were playing. After the Gates revelation, it was clear that both parties could win nothing but national disdain had the issue not been resolved.

It’s simply too much to watch the self-congratulatory fist-pumping and rhetoric emanating from Washington once LAST YEAR’S budget was a done deal. We are so not out of the woods. Like much of the western world, the U.S. is still lost on a very dark financial path that will ultimately crush the private sector: the now-heralded $3.8 billion in budget cuts are merely crumbs from a not-so-tasty pie.


At the start of this ridiculous “negotiation,” the Republicans wanted $39 billion in budget cuts and the Democrats wanted $0. So I guess you could say that the Republicans “won.” In my opinion, you have won nothing when a budget, which in the last two years has become so inflated with new government bureaucracy, leaves a $1.65 trillion deficit to add to the more than $14 trillion dollar debt that now threatens to collapse our currency and bankrupt our country. The folks in Washington are acting as if they are clueless that nearly half of the budget will be funded by borrowing from abroad or printed by the Federal Reserve . . . a sure prescription for hyper-inflation. Today our debt is larger than the combined economies of China, the United Kingdom, and Australia combined. Good grief! What kind of out-of-control government is it that keeps coming up with new programs to fund when we’re BROKE! Why is the press more interested in writing about celebrities than the fact that Moody’s is about to downgrade our debtworthiness, which will itself add more debt? it certainly isn’t fun to read about, but if you want to learn more about the debt,
click here.

The state of our economy, the inability of our elected representatives in Congress to craft a reasonable budget, and the Obama administration’s outward hostility to the private sector, along with its zeal to grow the public sector until there is nothing left of private enterprise, occupies my mind much more than it should. It makes it hard for me to write about the good things going on in the photography industry. I know that this is an unpleasant and unpopular subject for many people, but I still believe it’s important to know and write about. So as of this posting, I’m transfering Polinomics postings to a new Polinomics Blog on this website. If you’re not interested in concerns about the intersection of politics and economics, just don’t go there. In my present state of mind, I might not go there either.

Maxine Weighs in on Health Care Reform

When Maxine weighs in on a subject . . . I pay attention, so here’s her take on the recently passed Health Care “Reform” Bill:

Let me get this straight . . .

We're going to be gifted with a health care plan,
written by a committee whose chairman says he doesn't fully understand it,
passed by a Congress that hasn't read it but exempts themselves from it,
to be signed by a president who also hasn't read it and who smokes,
with funding administered by a treasury chief who didn't pay his taxes,
to be overseen by a surgeon general who is obese,
and financed by a country that's broke....

What could possibly GO WRONG? Only in America!

Obama's Report Card from Left to Right

Keeping track of what politicians have up their sleeve for business owners has never been as exhausting as it has been since President Bush started talking about bailing out the financial sector. But when President Obama began increasing the size and frequency of bailouts and, as he promised during his campaign, he began to “fundamentally transform America” into a big government society that stifles the private sector, watching what’s going on in Washington became an important part of my day.

Mortimer B. Zuckerman is chairman and editor in chief of U.S. News & World Report and publisher of the New York Daily News. He is also the co-founder and chairman of Boston Properties Inc. He is a trustee of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Washington Institute for Near East Studies, and the International Institute of Strategic Studies.

I’m very disappointed. We endorsed him. I voted for him. I supported him publicly and privately.

I hope there are changes. I think he’s already laid in huge problems for the country. The fiscal program was a disaster. You have to get the money as quickly as possible into the economy. They didn’t do that. By end of the first year, only one-third of the money was spent. Why is that?

He should have jammed a stimulus plan into Congress and said, “This is it. No changes. Don’t give me that bullshit. We have a national emergency.” Instead they turned it over to Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi who can run circles around him.

It’s very sad. It’s really sad.

He’s improved America’s image in the world. He absolutely did. But you have to translate that into something. Let me tell you what a major leader said to me recently. “We are convinced,” he said, “that he is not strong enough to confront his enemy. We are concerned,” he said “that he is not strong to support his friends.”
The political leadership of the world is very, very dismayed. He better turn it around. The Democrats are going to get killed in this election. Jesus, looks what’s happening in Massachusetts.

It’s really interesting because he had brilliant, brilliant political instincts during the campaign. I don’t know what has happened to them. His appointments present somebody who has a lot to learn about how government works. He better get some very talented businesspeople who know how to implement things. It’s unbelievable. Everybody says so. You can’t believe how dismayed people are. That’s why he’s plunging in the polls.

I can’t predict things two years from now, but if he continues on the downward spiral he is on, he won’t be reelected. In the meantime, the Democrats have recreated the Republican Party. And when I say Democrats, I mean the Obama administration. In the generic vote, the Democrats were ahead something like 52 to 30. They are now behind the Republicans 48 to 44 in the last poll. Nobody has ever seen anything that dramatic.

Phil Kerpen, vice president for policy, Americans for Prosperity.

Regulatory Extremeism
President Obama’s Agenda By Other Means
By Phil Kerpen
After the bitter, partisan, bare-knuckled way President Obama and Democratic leadership forced through their health care legislation, it is likely that the atmosphere on Capitol Hill is so poisoned that no other significant laws will make it through Congress this year.
That sounds like good news to taxpayers reeling from the bailouts, the stimulus, and the health care law. Unfortunately, President Obama appears committed to achieving his agenda by other means, and he may do so in several major policy areas if Congress fails to stop him.
To read more,
click here.


on the precipice

George Will’s piece on “precipice”


Jack Cafferty
Check this 3 min clip out...Cafferty is no friend to Republicans but listen to what he says on CNN...

CSPAN Clips:


It’s not like me to be depressed; but depressed I was over the Christmas holidays.
Bloomberg: 77% of investors

Jan. 22 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. investors overwhelmingly see President Barack Obama as anti-business and question his ability to manage a financial crisis, according to a Bloomberg survey.
The global quarterly poll of investors and analysts who are Bloomberg subscribers finds that 77 percent of U.S. respondents believe Obama is too anti-business and four-out-of-five are only somewhat confident or not confident of his ability to handle a financial emergency.
The poll also finds a decline in Obama’s overall favorability rating one year after taking office. He is viewed favorably by 27 percent of U.S. investors. In an October poll, 32 percent in the U.S. held a positive impression.
“Investors no longer feel they can trust their instincts to take risks,” said poll respondent David Young, a managing director for a broker dealer in New York. Young cited Obama’s efforts to trim bonuses and earnings, make health care his top priority over jobs and plans to tax “the rich or advantaged.”
Carlos Vadillo, a fixed-income analyst at Wells Fargo Securities LLC in San Francisco, said Obama has been in a “constant war” with the banking system, using “fat-cat bankers and other misnomers to describe a business model which supports a large portion of America.”

Zuckerman opinion piece appearing on Tina Brown’s “The Daily Beast” the day after the election


Obama punted on the economy and reversed the fortunes of the Democrats in 365 days.
He’s misjudged the character of the country in his whole approach. There’s the saying, “It’s the economy, stupid.” He didn’t get it. He was determined somehow or other to adopt a whole new agenda. He didn’t address the main issue.
This health-care plan is going to be a fiscal disaster for the country. Most of the country wanted to deal with costs, not expansion of coverage. This is going to raise costs dramatically.
In the campaign, he said he would change politics as usual. He did change them. It’s now worse than it was. I’ve now seen the kind of buying off of politicians that I’ve never seen before. It’s politically corrupt and it’s starting at the top. It’s revolting.
Five states got deals on health care—one of them was Harry Reid’s. It is disgusting, just disgusting. I’ve never seen anything like it. The unions just got them to drop the tax on Cadillac plans in the health-care bill. It was pure union politics. They just went along with it. It’s a bizarre form of political corruption. It’s bribery. I suppose they could say, that’s the system. He was supposed to change it or try to change it.
Even that is not the worst part. He could have said, “I know. I promised these things, but let me try to do them one at a time.” You want to deal with health care? Fine. Issue No. 1 with health care was the cost. You know I think it was 37 percent or 33 who were worried about coverage. Fine, I wrote an editorial to this effect. Focus on cost-containment first. But he’s trying to boil the ocean, trying to do too much. This is not leadership.
• More Daily Beast opinion on Obama’s first year
Obama’s ability to connect with voters is what launched him. But what has surprised me is how he has failed to connect with the voters since he’s been in office. He’s had so much overexposure. You have to be selective. He was doing five Sunday shows. How many press conferences? And now people stop listening to him. The fact is he had 49.5 million listeners to first speech on the economy. On Medicare, he had 24 million. He’s lost his audience. He has not rallied public opinion. He has plunged in the polls more than any other political figure since we’ve been using polls. He’s done everything wrong. Well, not everything, but the major things.
I don’t consider it a triumph. I consider it a disaster.
One business leader said to me, “In the Clinton administration, the policy people were at the center, and the political people were on the sideline. In the Obama administration, the political people are at the center, and the policy people are on the sidelines.”


A Not-So-Merry Christmas for Business

I hate feeling gloomy at Christmastime, but it’s hard not to. It’s now obvious that Congress is giving us a most unwelcome Christmas gift in the form of their massive health-insurance reform bill—even though the bill itself will be largely unknown to the Congressmen themselves, and completely unknown to the public and press. And just in time for an “historic” Christmas Eve vote, that is likely to go down in political history as one of the most cynical political maneuvers of all time . . . one that could possibly foment a grass-roots citizen revolt. I suspect life is about to be made as miserable for Democrats and Republicans as the past four months have been for concerned citizens, especially business people. This is not what I had expected to be contemplating over the 2009 holiday season: Last Christmas, I truly believed that by now we would be seeing a resilient private sector leading the way to economic recovery; that’s before I figured out how irrelevant the U.S. Congress and the Obama administration believe business people are to the country’s fiscal health. They really BELIEVE that more government is the answer.

The vote will be historic all right: The more than 3,000 pages of legislation promulgated by the House and Senate does make clear that the “reform” will represent the largest expansion of government since the New Deal; its more than 100 new regulatory agencies that will stand between you and your doctor are just the beginning. And this massive overhaul of one-sixth of the American economy (by the same folks who can’t balance a budget) will be done without the support of a citizen majority, which will either further poison the political well or hasten the revolt against the legislators who have made such a colossal hash of an issue that Americans want to be resolved in a common-sense manner.

I don’t know any business person who doesn’t want to see reform in our health delivery system that will allow portability, cover pre-existing conditions, and reduce costs so that individuals and government units can pay for reasonable coverage. Yet decade after decade government illustrates that its bullying cannot reduce prices, but the free-market can. However, free-market solutions are impossible when government controls insurance commissions and won’t allow competition across state lines; when government actually discourages tort reform; when government says it wants to hold down fraud and abuse that even IT admits is rampant in the bureaucracies it created, but then sees only more bureaucracies as the medicine to prevent it; when the Federal government refuses to implement the good-delivery models that some states have achieved on their own.

So I fear it will be a very blue Christmas for the business sector and for Americans who wish to retain their economic, social, and personal rights to health care centered squarely on an unfettered doctor-patient relationship. Even Mother Nature and 15 inches of snow couldn’t bust up the Congressional Cut-and-Paste Club that is determined to pass SOMETHING since the President has said that he will sign ANYTHING. Do it quickly, while the country is preoccupied with the holidays and digging out from under the snow!

This will be a victory for the ages—if you are to believe the tele-prompters—because America has been waiting for this since the 1940s. Hmm. If my parents and theirs could hear that fractured view of history, they would be laughing, then spinning, in their graves. This country’s inexorable march to socialized medicine was a subject of their great concern for most of my growing-up years, because my family had first-hand experience with government-run health care: We all spent many hours sitting in military dispensaries waiting to see a corpsman or nurse. Because I was prone to pneumonia as a child, my parents would pay out-of-pocket for a civilian doctor when I got sick, rather than subject me to the rationed care of our
free “single-payer system.” And they did the same for my grandmother, who lived a wonderfully productive life into her mid-nineties, free from fear that advancing age might foreclose sensible medical options.

To cause this amount of national dismay in the name of cost savings, is what galls me the most: Press and politicians alike have conveniently overlooked the phony-baloney math that undergirds this sham: ObamaCare requires FOUR YEARS of tax collections before the first year of “restructured benefits” (costs) kick in. How convenient: You get to run your new business with four years of revenues to make sure your first year in business will be “revenue neutral.” Oh yes, the cost-curve will “bend down” after that, they say. Right. Just like all the other innovative government programs whose upward-bending cost curves could turn hard-core Pollyannas into teeth-grinding poly-cynics. It is simply stunning that this bill requires 4 years of taxes to pay for 7 years of mandates. Once you understand this bizarre calculus, you understand the we’re dealing with a house of cards built on a massive ponzi scheme: Bernie Madoff Goes to Washington.


I’m very pleased to see that PPA has weighed in to tell the Senate that their bill is not good for photographers or other businesses. And they are encouraging all of us to contact our represesntatives. Please do. Even if they don’t listen. Keep it up; if you don’t raise your voice you’ll never be heard. To read PPA’s statement,
click here. PPA’s language was a lot kinder than mine would have been, but I’m really proud that my association is taking a stand when so many other organizations with constituencies that will be hurt by this legislation have either been paid off or are too fearful of Federal power to speak their mind.

The saddest thing of all for me this Christmas is seeing heartbreaking story-after-story of the hard times so many families are enduring because of joblessness, and knowing that their only hope for better times ahead can be provided to them not by bigger government, which serves to put the breaks on free enterprise, but rather by the private sector, which is the creative engine of job growth. It simply IS. Government can tinker around the edges, but it cannot create a robust and “real” economy. As they always do, businesses that are weathering this economic downturn are doing so by making the hard decisions and creating the out-of-the-box actions that government, by its very nature, finds impossible to manage, largely because its ranks are dominated by unions that demand wage and benefit increases, even in the face of a fiscal crisis and at times when the business sector obligingly downsizes, reinvents itself, and pulls its own weight so that government can hitch a ride. No big news here.

But there is something very new at the heart of this story, and for me it’s pretty chilling: Historically, government has respected and encouraged the unique roll the business sector has played in restarting the U.S. economy during hard times. But the table below made me wake up to why the Obama administration has been so indifferent to and even hostile toward the private sector. It points strongly to the unprecedented lack of private sector experience in the Obama cabinet and goes a long way to explain why the administration thought it could placate the business community with a one-day “Jobs Summit” attended by some big-business political allies, union bosses, academics, mayors, and non-profit representatives, while denying access to the three major advocates for business owners: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Foundation for Independent Businesses, and the National Association of Manufacturers. What a charade! They weren’t invited because they oppose the pending health care legislation. In the end, ideology trumped job creation, and the Great Recession has just become even harder to reverse. The chart below speaks volumes.

And as we near Christmas Eve, word is now leaking out about the sleazy backroom deals that Harry Reid cut to literally—LITERALLY—buy the votes of recalcitrant Senators: A veritable holiday tableau of what the public hates most about politicians, brought to you by the folks who promised change in business-as-usual Washington. Give me a break.

I’ve started my 2010 Christmas list a bit early: I’m keeping a list of the breathtaking deals that were cut to make this 2009 devastating “present” to the American people possible. I’m hoping that as fellow citizens see exactly how business is being conducted in Washington, some of the fine folks who sold out their constituents will find a way to put some coal (or other fossil fuel) in their stockings next November. Perhaps I’ll post something about this next year.

In the meantime, I’m heading for a family holiday in Deep Creek, and as it should be in this glorious season, I’m taking a most welcome time out from the real world.