Debt Ceiling Debate – The Beginning of the End

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 31st, 2011

The Republicans will get Screwed

Politics is a murky business.  You hear a lot of sound bites from politicians.  And a lot of spin from the ‘objective’ media.  (I put ‘objective’ in quotes because it’s easier than writing that I’m winking.)  But you don’t know what’s going on behind closed doors.  What kind of deals they’re making. 

There’ve been a lot of news updates today on the negotiations to raise the debt ceiling.  From there was a deal to Nancy Pelosi saying the House Democrats may not support the Senate plan Harry Reid delivers.

So we don’t really know anything yet.  About the only thing we can know for certain is that the Republicans will get screwed.  As they always do in these types of deals.

Future Spending Cuts means no Spending Cuts

So what do we know?  Not a lot.  Word is that the Republicans are winning the tax hike fight.  There apparently will be no new taxes.  But they’re going to pay a steep price for that win (see Sen. Reid signs off on bipartisan debt-ceiling compromise by Alexander Bolton posted 7/31/2011 on The Hill).

It would cut about $1 trillion in spending up front and set up a select bicameral committee to put together a future deficit-reduction package worth $1.7 trillion to $1.8 trillion.

Failure of Congress to pass the future deficit-reduction package would automatically trigger cuts to defense spending and Medicare. An aide familiar with the deal said the Medicare cut would not affect beneficiaries. Instead, healthcare providers and insurance companies would see lower payments.

The last bipartisan agreement to cut spending happened over the negotiations to extend the Bush tax cuts last December.  And it was hell to agree on $100 billion in spending cuts.  And when the smoke cleared, that $100 billion was only about $30 billion.  So, yeah, I’m sure picking the $1 trillion in spending cuts will be easy-peasy with bipartisan love.  And no one will use the ‘taking hostages’ language like they did last December.

Future spending cuts?  Yeah, right.  You know what ‘future spending cuts’ mean in Washington?  No spending cuts.

And you couldn’t ask for worse triggers if you’re a Republican.  Gut defense spending?  It’s a dangerous world out there.  And most of the danger stays off our shores because the bad guys fear our military might.  Because our military protects and defends the United States against foreign enemies.  That’s in the Constitution.  One of the things the Commander in Chief is supposed to do.  But national health care isn’t.  And that’s where we’re heading with this trigger.

Provider reimbursements are already pushing providers out of Medicare.  This trigger will kill Medicare.  Which the proponents of Obamacare will love.  You can already hear the rhetoric.  “Oh, no.  Calamity.  Greedy providers dropping out of Medicare?  That’s just mean.  The government must step in and do something to provide for these seniors.  I mean, if no one else will provide for them then government should.”  And then Bob’s your uncle we have a national health service.

Health Care is easy when the Government runs It

And lest we forget the utopia of national health care, let’s take a look at a British newspaper (see NHS funding ‘moved away from poor areas’, says Labour posted 7/31/2011 on The Telegraph).

Changes to funding formulas means poor health rates will be given less consideration when cash is allocated, the party said.

It suggested areas like Manchester and the London borough of Tower Hamlets would lose out to parts of the wealthy south east, such as Surrey and Hampshire.

Labour based the claims on an assessment of funding reforms by public health bodies in Manchester.

But the government has disputed the allegations and claimed Labour’s figures were misleading.

Health care sure is a lot easier when government runs it.

This is the future that trigger gives us.  And if you thought the debate to raise the debt ceiling was bitter, you ain’t seen nothing yet.  The numbers will be bigger.  As will the stakes.  For they will be, after all, life and death. Who gets health care cash.  And who doesn’t.  And dies.

You know the Future is Bad when George Orwell’s 1984 is the Cheerful Option

When a deal is struck and the details come out, there’s a good chance the credit rating agencies aren’t going to be impressed.  Those future spending cuts are exactly the kind of thing they didn’t want to see.  So they will probably still downgrade U.S. sovereign debt.  Which will be a bitter pill to swallow.  After having to witness this farce.

So, without all the details available yet, here is my prediction.  Actually spending cuts will be less than $100 billion.  The credit rating agencies will downgrade the U.S. bond rating.  The trigger will activate the defense and Medicare cuts.  Defense spending will be gutted, leaving the United States the paper tiger it was at the end of the Vietnam War.  Medicare will collapse.  And Obamacare will morph into a full blown national health service.  Government spending will swell to beyond Greece levels.  There will be austerity riots.  Civil war.  Again.  And this experiment in self-government will come to an end.

Either that.  Or something more cheerful like George Orwell‘s 1984.

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Raising the Debt Ceiling may be Worse than Default

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 30th, 2011

Despite U.S. Debt Crisis, U.S. still the World’s Safe Asset of Choice

As Congress debates over the debt ceiling…blah blah blah…Armageddon.  Funny thing is, the U.S. debt problem is not that bad.  When compared to the debt problem in Europe (see Err, over here by Schumpeter posted 7/29/2011 on The Economist).

AS THE August 2nd deadline for a resolution of America’s debt-ceiling row approaches, other news is being drowned out. America’s debt debacle provokes rubber-necking fascination but the euro crisis is still the bigger threat to financial stability.

The chances (admittedly diminishing with time) are that America will get its house in order and avoid default; and that a ratings downgrade will happen but not threaten the pre-eminence of Treasuries as the world’s safe asset of choice. In contrast, the euro area’s crisis is already in full swing and policymakers, as this week’s issue of The Economist makes plain, have not found a way to stop it.

Things are worse in the European Union.  Especially the Eurozone.  And though Armageddon is at hand in the U.S., we’re still the “world’s safe asset of choice.”  So the end of the world as we know it may not be at hand.  But the out of control government spending and debt is fast approaching European levels.  So if we don’t cut our spending and reduce our deficits, we will follow lockstep behind Europe into fiscal ruin.  And then, of course, Armageddon.  

Partisan Democrats decry Republican Partisanship

So this Republican partisanship needs to end.  They need to be bipartisan.  Like the Democrats.  That is, when they’re not being partisan themselves (see For Reid, Durbin, and Obama, a (very) partisan record on debt ceiling by Byron York posted 7/30/2011 on The Washington Examiner).

A look at Reid’s record, however, shows that in the last decade his own voting on the issue of the debt ceiling is not only partisan but perfectly partisan. According to “The Debt Limit: History and Recent Increases,” a January 2010 report by the Congressional Research Service, the Senate has passed ten increases to the debt limit since 2000.  Reid never voted to increase the debt ceiling when Republicans were in control of the Senate, and he always voted to increase the debt ceiling when Democrats were in control…

At look at Durbin’s record shows that he, too, has voted along absolutely partisan lines.  In the last decade, Durbin never voted to increase the debt ceiling when Republicans were in control and always voted to increase the debt ceiling when Democrats were in control.  As for Obama, there were four votes to raise the debt ceiling when he was in the Senate.  He missed two of them, voted no once when Republicans were in charge, and voted yes once when Democrats were in charge.

So the Democrats have a history of being just as partisan as the Republicans.  Even now, as they decry the Republican’s partisanship, they refuse to compromise at all on what they’ve always wanted.  More taxes.  And more borrowing.  So they can spend a lot more.

Democrats open to Compromise, as long as it’s the Republicans doing the Compromising

And they’ve drawn a line in the sand.  No meaningful cuts without new taxes (see Senate Kills Debt Bill, Bipartisan Talks on Hold by Steven T. Dennis posted 7/29/2011 on Roll Call).

“We’ve got a closet full of triggers,” he said. But, he added, “I came to the conclusion that we are negotiating with ourselves. The Republicans will not agree to any triggers that have any revenues in it.”

And Reid noted that Democrats have drawn a line in the sand against any cuts to entitlement programs without revenue.

The Republicans refuse to raise taxes because America is still wallowing in the Great Recession.  Democrats refuse to drop their request to raise taxes.  And flat out refuse to cut entitlements.  Like Social Security.  Medicare.  And the new Obamacare.  Because, though fiscally responsible, it’s not politically expedient.  Which is going to become a BIG problem soon.

Repeal Obamacare and all our Current Troubles go Away

Health care spending will take the U.S. to European levels of spending and debt (see CMS Projections Confirm Runaway Health Care Spending by Kathryn Nix posted 7/29/2011 on The Foundry).

As the economy recovers and the major provisions of Obamacare kick in, national health spending is projected to grow at quite a clip—increasing, on average, 5.8 percent each year. By 2020, the nation will spend $4.54 trillion on health care, or close to 20 percent of GDP. (For the sake of comparison: In 2010, federal tax revenue totaled 14.9 percent of GDP, and all federal spending combined amounted to 23.8 percent of GDP.)

Of course, every cloud has a silver lining.  An S&P report calls for real spending cuts of $4 trillion or more over 10 years to avoid the credit downgrade.  And look at this.  Obamacare will cost $4.54 trillion over some 10 years.  Imagine that.  Save the AAA bond rating.  Leave Social Security and Medicare intact.  And all you have to do is cut one program that no one is receiving any benefits from yet.  Repeal Obamacare.  And all our current troubles go away.

Or you can Devalue the Currency

Of course, that’s one way of solving the current crisis.  There appears to be another.  One that is a bit more destructive (see Answers to the 7 big “what-ifs” of debt default by Lauren Young posted 7/30/2011 on Reuters).

Traders say Asian central banks, among the world’s biggest dollar holders, have been steady buyers of alternatives to the dollar such as the Singapore dollar and other Asian currencies as well as the Canadian, Australian and New Zealand dollars. “Foreigners are at the vanguard of the drop in the dollar,” says Dan Dorrow, head of research at Faros Trading, a currency broker/dealer in Stamford, Connecticut. “I don’t think anyone expects a catastrophic U.S. default. But a downgrade will make them more aggressive in moving away from the dollar…”

The bottom line? It will be more expensive to travel overseas, drink French wine or buy Japanese cars.

A little trade war anyone?  A weak currency is like a tariff.  It makes imports so expensive that we stop buying them.  And buy American instead.  Thus increasing U.S. GDP.  And there is a corollary to this.  Can you guess what that is?  Here’s a hint.  It does something to our exports.  And our vacation market.

Fixing our Economy by Destroying other Economies

A weak currency not only makes your imports more expensive, it also makes your exports less expensive.  Which helps your export market.  And encourages people to vacation in your country because those stronger, foreign currencies can buy so much more (see U.S. Economy: Growth Trails Forecasts as Consumers Retrench by Shobhana Chandra posted 7/29/2011 on Bloomberg).

The improvement in the difference between imports and exports added another 0.6 point [of U.S. GDP].

Overseas sales will remain a backstop for factories. Dow Chemical Co. (DOW), the largest U.S. chemical maker, said demand is “strong” in markets abroad.

“We captured strong growth in Latin America, and the emerging geographies more broadly, while North America experienced moderate growth,” Andrew Liveris, chief executive officer, said on a July 27 conference call with analysts.

So perhaps this is the grand plan.  Increase spending to unsustainable levels.  Incur record debt.  This spending and debt triggers a downgrade of U.S. sovereign debt.  Which devalues the U.S. dollar.  Which places a de facto tariff on imports.  And provides a subsidy for our exports.  And it makes the U.S. a vacation destination.  Until our trading partners retaliate for fixing our economy by destroying their economies.  Like everyone is saying the Chinese are doing by keeping their own currency weak.

Repealing Obamacare would Please the Credit Rating Agencies

So the only bright spot in the U.S. economy is other economies.  Where they’re experiencing growth.  And can easily afford U.S. goods.  Which is about the only market buying them these days.  But for the world’s largest economy (for now) to rely solely on exports can be a bit risky.  Especially if it triggers a trade war.  Which, incidentally, helped trigger the Great Depression.

No, it would probably be more prudent to keep that AAA rating by cutting spending.  Before we spend ourselves to European ruin.  That’s the key to everything.  In particular cutting the fastest growing government expenditure.  Health care.  Which makes repealing Obamacare made to order.  No one is benefitting from it yet.  So no one will even notice this cut.  Other than the credit rating agencies.  Who will stand up and applaud this action. 

For just raising the debt ceiling doesn’t solve the real problem.  In fact, raising the debt ceiling without the $4 trillion in spending cuts will just push us closer to European ruin.

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Debt Ceiling Debate is Masking the Horrific Economic News

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 29th, 2011

The Meaning of Bipartisan Depends on your Point of View; on the Right it means Compromise whereas on the Left it means Unconditional Surrender.

In the budget debate to raise the debt ceiling, both sides have dug in.  The Left says the Right is being intransigent.  Saying they are unwilling to compromise.  Even though they have done far less in the compromise department themselves.  They want to raise taxes.  They want to borrow more.  And they will not compromise on these positions.  They refuse to pass any Republican bill in the Senate (and President Obama says he will veto any bill that makes it through the Senate) unless it completely gives way to the Democrat position. 

All the while this theatre is playing out credit rating agencies are lining up to downgrade U.S. sovereign debt due to excessive deficits, debt and out of control government spending.  Unless they see at least $4 trillion in real spending cuts (not promised cuts that never happen or baseline ‘spending cuts’ that still increase spending), the downgrades are a fait accompli.  At least according to an S&P report.

If they’re that Bad at Analyzing Data do we really want them Tweaking the Economy?

As cheerful as all that is at least we can look forward to some upbeat economic news.  Just like Obama, Biden, Bernanke, Geithner, et al have been promising with all their economic tweaks to win the future.  And the result of all that vey extensive and very expensive tweaking?  Hmm.  What would be a good choice of words?  How about abject failure (see Economy in U.S. Grows Less Than Forecast After Almost Stalling by Shobhana Chandra posted 7/29/2011 on Bloomberg)? 

Revisions to GDP figures going back to 2003 showed that the 2007-2009 recession took a bigger bite out of the economy than previously estimated and the recovery lost momentum throughout 2010. The world’s largest economy shrank 5.1 percent from the fourth quarter of 2007 to the second quarter of 2009, compared with the previously reported 4.1 percent drop. The second-worst contraction in the post-World War II era was a 3.7 percent decline in 1957-58.

The Fed’s preferred price gauge, which is tied to consumer spending and strips out food and energy costs, climbed at a 2.1 percent pace, the most since the last three months of 2009, compared with 1.6 percent in the first quarter, as higher oil and food costs pushed up the prices of other goods and services. The central bank’s longer-term projection is a range of 1.7 percent to 2 percent.

“This is the worst of all worlds for investors, certainly the worst of all worlds for the Fed,” John Silvia, chief economist at Wells Fargo Securities LLC in Charlotte, North Carolina, said in an interview on Bloomberg Television. “A little too much inflation, not enough growth, that is a tough scenario in the U.S.”

Of course, they’ll say it was even worse than they thought.  Again.  Blame George W. Bush.  Again.  Which doesn’t fill one with a lot of confidence.  For if they’re that bad at analyzing data, do we really want them tweaking the economy?

Still, they keep telling us how bad things would have been if they didn’t act?  Why, there’d be dingoes running in the streets eating our babies.  To be honest, we’re tired of hearing about how many jobs they created and saved.  We’d probably be further ahead today if we’d taken the chance with the dingoes and they left the economy alone.

The Obama Social Engineering is giving us Carter Stagflation

Inflation.  And low GDP growth.  That is a horrible combination.  But it’s what you get when you try to use monetary policy to fix fiscal problems (see Forget About The Debt Ceiling Debate, Where’s The Economic Growth? by Kevin Mahin posted 7/29/2011 on Forbes). 

I recognize that the debt ceiling debate may make for interesting political theatre for some.  I also recognize that the spending and revenue issues underlying the debate need to be addressed sooner than later.  However,  the heightened threat of stagflation*, now present in the system, is of paramount concern to me.

*Stagflation is a financial term often used to describe an environment where inflation (i.e. prices) is high and economic growth is low.  Periods of stagflation have historically been accompanied by high unemployment as well.

We are fast approaching the malaise of the Carter stagflation.  We need fiscal policy that is conducive to creating jobs.  Instead, this administration is more concerned about social engineering at the expense of job creation.

Killing the American Automotive Industry and Killing Americans

For all the talk about the auto bailouts to save American jobs, the latest policy appears to want to kill American jobs.  When the auto industry is suffering anemic growth, the Obama administration just made it harder to be in the auto industry by raising fuel efficiency standards to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025 (see Obama to unveil auto fuel rule deal by David Shepardson posted 7/29/2011 on The Detroit News). 

The deal would extend a May 2009 agreement that boosted fuel efficiency standards to 34.1 mpg by 2016, costing the auto industry $51.5 billion over five years.

In the current budget debates, Obama keeps saying that because of the slow economic recovery we shouldn’t go on a cost cutting spree.  That would only pull consumer spending out of the economy.  Of course he has no such empathy for the struggling auto industry.  He’s more than willing to raise their cost of doing business.  Killing jobs in the process.

Incidentally, there are only two ways to squeeze this kind of mileage out of a car.  Making it so light that it (and its passengers) would probably not survive most accidents.  Or being unable to build a car to meet this standard.

Gas Prices must Rise to between $4.50-$5.50 for the Electric Car to Succeed

But what on earth would be the reason to enact standards that automakers can’t meet?  Well, how about this (see Gas must hit $4.50 to make electric cars cost-effective by Joel Gehrke posted 7/29/2011 on the Washington Examiner)? 

Gas prices must rise to between $4.50-$5.50, the study authors suggest, for electric vehicles to become less expensive to own than gas-powered vehicles…

Of course, this omits the other method of making electric cars competitive — enact fuel efficiency standards that make gas-powered vehicles illegal to make or impossibly expensive. Given President Obama’s announcement today that fuel economy standards are set to rise to 54.5 mpg between 2017 and 2025, it seems that the electric vehicle industry is getting the government props necessary to make consumers buy the cars.

This is not how you increase domestic auto output.  Or create jobs.  This is how you change human behavior.  By forcing people to act against their will.  And in the process making us all poorer by increasing the cost of food.  How?  Gasoline and diesel are a big component of food costs.  For it takes fuel to grow food.  And to bring it to market.

The One Thing the Obama Administration is Good At

It makes you think.  Is all of this debt ceiling debate pure theatre to distract us from the destruction of the economy?  Because this destruction is pretty good as far as destruction goes.  You probably couldn’t have done a better job if you tried.  Which begs the question was this all planned?  A social reengineering of the United States brought about by the destruction of the U.S. economy? 

If so, at least you can say there was one thing the Obama administration was good at.

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LESSONS LEARNED #76: “You know they’re governing against the will of the people when they play with the meaning of words to fool the people.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 28th, 2011

When is a Spending Cut an Increase in Spending? 

I have a riddle for you.  When is a spending cut an increase in spending?  “Well, that’s when…, hey, wait minute,” you say.  “That’s not a riddle.  That’s a paradox.  It’s like saying draw a square circle.  Or a name an objective journalist.  You just can’t do these things.  Just as a ‘cut’ can’t be an ‘increase’.  They are the very opposite of each other.”

Yeah, you would think.  Not that much of a riddle, then, is it?  For a true riddle is solvable.  Or should be.  Like, say, I have two coins that add up to thirty cents.  One of them isn’t a nickel.  What are they?  You’re a bit stymied, aren’t you.  Because a quarter and a nickel are the only two coins that add up to thirty cents.  So what’s the answer?  A quarter and a nickel.  “But you said one of them wasn’t a nickel,” you say.  “Right,” I say.  “One of them isn’t a nickel.  But the other one is.”

Now that’s a riddle.  Clever.  But solvable.  So now back to my first riddle.  When is a spending cut an increase in spending?  The answer is when you use baseline budgeting.

The Power of Baseline Budgeting

Politicians lie.  And they love to spend our money.  Put the two together and what do you get?  Baseline budgeting.   Which in a nutshell is government spending on autopilot.  Next year’s spending is this year’s spending plus a little extra.  That ‘little extra’ is the amount in all budget negotiations. 

For example, let’s say there is an item in the budget with a billion dollar budget amount this year.  That’s the baseline.  That’s where we start budgeting for next year.  Next year’s budget will be one billion dollars plus or minus that ‘extra amount’.

Typically they set this ‘extra amount’ to be equal to or greater than the rate of inflation.  And/or changes in legislation for that budgetary item.  Let’s say there is no change in the program legislation.  And they set the program’s budget so that next year’s budget equals this year’s budget plus 10%.  So this budget item will be $1 billion this year.  And $1.1 billion next year.  Projecting this out for 10 years, this will automatically add $1.36 billion to this budgetary item.

In Baseline Budgeting a Spending Cut is an Increase in Spending

A couple of things should jump out at you.  For one you see why government programs never die.  Once they add them to the budget they stay in the budget.  And grow.  Always.  Forever.  And the bigger the starting budget amount the bigger the program will grow over time.  Again, automatically.  So you can see why baseline budgeting has been a godsend to Big Government.  It guarantees the growth of government.  Now.  And forever.

Now let’s look at a spending cut.  Let’s say spending is getting out of control.  Deficits are growing.  (As hard as that is to imagine.)  So there’s a budget deal to ‘cut’ the budget by 2%.  But this is a 2% cut in baseline budgeting.  So we’re not reducing the budget amount.  We’re only reducing the amount above the baseline.  Spending was going to increase 10% the following year.  But with this 2% cut, that 10% increase becomes only an 8% increase. 

This is where the language play comes in.  The budget is increased by 8%.  But in baseline budgeting it is a 2% decrease.  Instead of increasing the budget by $100 million, they only increase it by $80 million.  The budget is increased by $80 million but they count it as a $20 million cut.  Because future spending was cut $20 million.  So it’s a cut even though no spending was actually cut.  Spending still increases.  Just not as much as previously budgeted.  And that’s the wonderful world of baseline budgeting.  Where a spending cut increases spending.

The Government Shutdown of 1995 and 1996 

When CBO takes these projections out to 10 years it makes these spending ‘cuts’ look draconian.  As originally budgeted, this item would have been increased by $1.36 billion over 10 years.  Because of the reduction in the size of future spending, it will only increase $1 billion over 10 years.  But instead of calling this a $1 billion increase (which it is), they will call it a draconian cut of $359 million (which it isn’t).  Instead of saying this budget item will increase by 99.9% (which it will), they say it will be cut by 26.4% (which it obviously won’t).  Now politicians understand this baseline doublespeak.  But the average American doesn’t.  They hear ‘26.4%’ cut in some program for single mothers or hungry children and think what vicious, heartless bastards Republicans are.

And this was the stage for the government shutdown of 1995 and 1996Bill Clinton campaigned as a moderate in the 1992 presidential election.  After winning, though, he governed as a tax and spend liberal.  The people expressed their disapproval and gave both houses of Congress to the Republicans in the 1994 midterm electionsNewt Gingrich became Speaker of the House.  Gingrich and the Republicans saw their election as a mandate to stop the out of control government spending.  And that’s what they were trying to do in the budget battles beginning in 1995.

The Republicans were trying to reduce the rate of growth of government spending per the will of the people.  Spending would still increase.  But at a slower rate.  Clinton, though, fought against the will of the people.  Using baseline budgeting newspeak to mislead the people.  Clinton called these reductions in growth rates draconian spending cuts.  Even though there were no real cuts in spending.  But being a tax and spend liberal, he wasn’t about to cut the rate of growth.  So they squared off in budget battle.  It all came to a head when the government hit its borrowing limit.  The Republicans tried to get some spending cuts in exchange for increasing the debt ceiling.  Clinton refused.  Unable to pay its bills, the government shutdown.  And the United States collapsed.

Baseline Budgeting helps you Govern against the Will of the People

Not really.  Few people even noticed the shutdown.  Everyone still went to work.  Collected their pay (unless you worked in a national park).  And life went on.  Social Security checks went out.  Interest on the national debt was paid.  The credit rating on U.S. sovereign debt remained AAA.  So there was little damage.  Clinton came out okay from the crisis.  Newt Gingrich not so well.  Many believe that this helped Clinton’s reelection in 1996.  Of course a lot of that had to do with Dick Morris.  Who pulled Clinton to the center.  And became the moderate the people thought they elected.

Clinton may have won reelection, but he paid a price.   Republicans still held both houses of Congress.  Who ultimately won in the long-run.  Their Balanced Budget Act of 1997 did cut the growth rate of government spending.  And then the dot-com boom of the late Nineties produced a windfall of tax revenue that, with the ‘spending cuts’ of the Balanced Budget Act, actually balanced the budget.  For a few years.  But it turned out that the dot-com boom was actually a dot-com bubble.  Thanks to a lot of irrational exuberance.  And the bubble popped.  With the resulting recession tax revenue fell.  And those balanced budgets were no more.

Unwilling to concede to the will of the people, Clinton played with the meaning of words.  Called a spending increase a spending cut.  Because he knew the average American didn’t understand baseline budgeting.  And politicians continue to this day scaring people about draconian spending cuts where there are no spending cuts.  Not in the world of baseline budgeting.  Which makes it easy for them to continue to govern against the will of the people.  As they continue to do.  As they always have done.  Because nothing is more important than growing government.  And spending as much of our money as possible before we get a chance to spend it ourselves.

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Obama’s Choice – Cut Spending or Downgrade U.S. Sovereign Debt

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 27th, 2011

The BIG Problem is the Excessive Spending, not the Debt Ceiling

I don’t know what’s more annoying in the budget debate to raise the debt limit.  The cries on the left for the Republicans to quit being partisan.  To instead propose a true bipartisan bill that has a chance of passing the Senate.  And by ‘bipartisan’ they mean one that gives the left everything they want.  Or is it the doom and gloom being bleated by the president, Congressional Democrats and the mainstream media if the debt ceiling isn’t raised (see Debt-ceiling threat has Wall Street scrambling by Nathaniel Popper and Jim Puzzanghera posted 7/27/2011 on the Los Angeles Times).

Without a deal, the most feared scenario is that the U.S. will miss payments on its bonds and default — which financial experts say would be disastrous. While still considered unlikely, the prospect is popping up more in conversations…

No.  This can’t happen.  There’s enough money to pay interest on the debt.  And to issue Social Security checks.  But they will have to make cuts elsewhere in some nonessential areas.  Like in some cabinet departments (Education, Energy, EPA, etc.).  This is all fear peddling by the Obama administration to do one thing.  Raise the debt ceiling.  So they can keep spending.  And this is the BIG problem.

The more likely scenario that investors are preparing for is that a temporary deal is struck to lift the debt ceiling. But such a makeshift plan is unlikely to allow the U.S. to maintain its AAA grade with bond rating companies. Citigroup analysts say the odds are 50-50 that the U.S. will be demoted to an AA rating for the first time ever.

Such a downgrade could lead to a temporary market panic. In the longer term it could push interest rates up for everyone from bankers down to ordinary people taking out car loans, and weaken the dollar’s position as the world’s reserve currency.

Even if they raise the debt limit in time there is a far greater problem.  And yet few are talking about THIS problem.  The excessive spending that will ultimately cause the credit downgrade.

To Avoid Credit Downgrade will Require $4 Trillion in REAL Spending Cuts

And it’s no secret.  S&P was very explicit in their report of what would cause a credit downgrade.  Unrestrained government spending (see The Real S&P Warning: A $4 Trillion Deal or a Downgrade by Veronique de Rugy posted 7/19/2011 on National Review).

As the debt-ceiling showdown heads into its final stages, the political maneuvering has intensified. Yet I fear that we are losing sight of the only reason why the fight over the debt ceiling matters: It forces a discussion of the country’s real problem — unrestrained government spending and the tremendous fiscal imbalances that jeopardize our financial safety.

This is the real message in the July 14 S&P report.

First, S&P writes that unless there’s a credible $4 trillion deal within the next three months, they will downgrade us. By “credible,” S&P explains, they mean a plan that will actually be put into place (i.e., not one where the tax increases happen but not the spending cuts). Not $2 trillion, not $1 trillion,  but $4 trillion. And it has to be credible.

That means REAL spending cuts.  Not those ‘future’ kind that never happen.  Those that Democrats have promised time and again only to renege on those promises.  Or the base-line budgeting type of ‘cuts’ that still increase spending.  The onus is all on Obama and the Democrats.  Because they are the ones steadfast in their opposition to any real spending cuts.

The Electric Car – Typical Wasteful Government Spending

To get an idea of their voracious appetite to spend, consider the electric car.  What the economy of the future is based on.  Green energy.  The thing that’s going to make America rich and prosperous again (see California dials back its electric car credits by Eric Evarts posted 7/26/2011 on Consumer Reports).

In large part, EV appeal was greater in California due to a $5,000 state rebate that came on top of the $7,500 federal tax credit. With the tax credits, the price of an all-electric Nissan Leaf could be as low as $21,000, making it cheaper than a Toyota Prius and putting it on par with other small cars. (The Chevrolet Volt was not eligible for the state credit, although it does receive the $7,500 federal tax credit…)

While the price of electric cars is going up for California drivers, other factors still make the Golden State more attractive than most for electric cars: California uses no coal to generate electricity; its major electric utility companies have time-of-use rates and special power rates for electric cars, effectively lowering their energy costs; and perhaps most importantly, pure electric cars are still eligible to use carpool lanes on the state’s notoriously congested freeways with just a driver onboard. In addition, public charging infrastructure is on a faster track than it is elsewhere in the nation.

So that’s $5,000 from the state.  $7,500 from Washington.  That’s a discount of $12,500 (37.3%).  And yet the price of the Nissan Leaf is still $21,000.  But that still isn’t enough to make this car sell.  They need a subsidized electrical rate as well.  Government at all levels is paying a lot of our tax dollars to make a car no one wants to buy.  And this is the kind of spending that they just can’t cut.  Wasteful.  And this is only one example from the multitude.

Repeal Obamacare – Save Money, Please the People

Cutting $4 trillion over 10 years will not be easy.  But we can halve this number with one stroke of a pen (See By a Margin of 21 Points, Americans Favor Repeal by Jeffrey H. Anderson posted 7/27/2011 on the Weekly Standard).

While President Obama’s notion of a “balanced approach” to deficit reduction isn’t written down anywhere, it’s quite clear that it doesn’t involve repealing Obamacare (despite the fact that the health care overhaul would cost over $2 trillion in its real first decade, from 2014 to 2023). Polling, however, strongly suggests that it should. The latest Rasmussen poll of likely voters shows that, by a margin of 21 points (57 to 36 percent), Americans support the repeal of the centerpiece legislation of the Obama presidency.

Repealing Obamacare would be a step in the right direction.  It will save $2 trillion in spending that is pushing the U.S. toward a credit downgrade.  And the people don’t want it by a margin of 21 points.  Save money.  Please the people.  It’s a no-brainer for responsible government.  If only government was responsible.

The Choice – Cut Spending or Downgrade U.S. Sovereign Debt

The president said we need to live within our means.  And he’s right about that.  But living within our means doesn’t mean taxing and borrowing more to pay for out of control government spending.  Living within our means starts by NOT spending money we don’t have.  Not to spend first and figure out how to pay later. 

And just because other presidents raised the debt limit doesn’t mean we have to raise the debt limit.  You don’t justify bad behavior with bad behavior.  We’ve borrowed too much.  The credit rating agencies have spoken.  We need to cut spending.  And not get all professorial and lecture the American people that we need to be ‘responsible’ and raise taxes to pay for the government’s irresponsible spending binge.

We either cut spending.  Or Obama and his Democrats will downgrade U.S. sovereign debt for the first time in history.  Those are the choices.  And a good place to start would be to repeal Obamacare.  Because that’s all future spending.  All $2 trillion.  Not like Social Security or Medicare.  You can cut Obamacare.  And no one will miss it.

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FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #76: “You know they’re governing against the will of the people when they play with the meaning of words to fool the people.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 26th, 2011

The More they Trust You the Easier it is to Lie to Them

People lie for one reason.  They don’t want you to hear the truth. Sometimes it’s done with good intentions.  “No, those jeans don’t make your butt look big.”  Most times it’s not.  “I am not having an affair.  And I can explain those earrings you found in the backseat.  And the underwear that’s not yours.  Just give me a minute.”

The truth about lying is the truth.  And someone’s attempt to hide it.  A husband doesn’t tell his wife about an affair.  Because he doesn’t want his wife to know about the affair.  For a variety of reasons.  But mostly so he can keep having the affair.

And this is why people lie.  To continue doing something they couldn’t otherwise do.  By misleading those people who know them.  Who love them.  Who trust them.  And the funny thing is, the more they trust you the easier it is to lie to them.  “Look, honey, I didn’t want to say anything before.  But the rumor at work was that John and Mary were having an affair.  I didn’t believe it at first.  I mean, they’re both married.  And they’re more than just my coworkers.  They’re my friends.  Then one day John had to borrow my car.  So I lent it to him.  The next thing Bill tells me is that he sees John and Mary in my car turning into an alley.  Guess I know what they were doing in that alley.”

See?  Easy.

Good Lying is about Creative Language and Class Warfare

So if you’re into lying it’s best to get yourself into a position where lots of people trust you.  Like elected office.  Because for some reason people tend to trust anyone in government.  Far more than those evil greedy people in corporate America.  Or rich people in general.  Even though it’s a given that politicians lie.  It is an interesting dynamic.  How this inherently dishonest institution is trusted first then questioned about their honesty later.  Long after the scandals that follow them.  So how do they do it?  How do these liars get to be so trusted?

It’s all about creative language.  And class warfare.  You need to get people to hate each other.  And then you stoke those passions.  Keep them burning hot.  So they feel more than think.  For the less they think the more they’ll fall for your soaring rhetoric.  You say the rich should pay their fair share (even though they pay a disproportionate high percentage of taxes).  And that rich CEOs shouldn’t get tax breaks to fly around in their private jets (even though they use them for legitimate business purposes).  You cast yourself as the protector of the little guy against rich and corporate interests.  Even though you’re anything but.  But that’s how it’s done.  And no one does it better than liberal Democrats.

For they are the king of liars.  Ivy League educated.  Arrogant.  Pompous.  Filled with an air of all-knowing condescension.  They just brim with loathing and self-confidence.  They loath you and I who are not their equals.  And they believe that there is nothing that they can’t do.  And what do they want to do?  Tax and spend.  Control the economy.  And tell us how we should live.  In the enlightened world they envision.  Of course, this has not proven to be a successful political platform.  People don’t want to elect people like this.  So they lie about what they want.  And who they are.  With a creative use of language.

Twisting the Meanings of Words

No one likes paying taxes.  No one will vote for someone who says they’re going to raise their taxes.  Which is a bit of a problem for a tax and spend liberal.  So they don’t use the ‘T’ word.  No.  Instead, taxes are called ‘contributions’.  Or simply ‘revenue’.  Because contributions sound voluntary.  And revenue sounds kind of warm and fuzzy.  In the business world, raising revenue is a good thing.  And they hate taxes in the business world.  Just like you.  So you feel less threatened about talks to raise revenue than you do about talks to raise taxes.  Even though they are the same thing.

With ever growing deficits, some people are growing a little skittish about excessive government spending.  At least, the people paying the taxes.  Those people with jobs.  They don’t want to pay more in taxes.  And they’re getting a little nervous about the huge federal debt.  So the responsible side in them tells them to say ‘no’ to more spending.  So the tax and spend liberal uses the word ‘investment’ instead.  They say we need to invest in infrastructure to rebuild our aging roads and bridges (even though gasoline taxes already pay for this work).  That we need to invest in education and research to keep America on the forefront of technology (even though we already spend a fortune on these already).  Investing in our future?  Well, yes, that sounds good.  And perhaps we should.  So we agree not to cut these investments.  But we’ll still resist excessive government spending.  Even though these are the same thing.

You see, the tax and spend liberal looks at the economy differently.  They see all money belonging to them.  Including ours.  They let us work.  Earn a paycheck.  But your net pay is only the portion of their money they begrudgingly let you keep.  In fact, what they don’t tax away from you they call government spending.  Or tax expenditures.  They’ll say things like, “We can’t afford to pay for these tax cuts.”  Of course, you don’t pay for ‘tax cuts’.  A tax cut is when the rightful owner of the money gets to keep it.  Instead of the government taking it away.  But calling this ‘government spending’ makes it easier to cut.  For cutting spending is a responsible thing to do.  But when they cut this spending they are actually raising taxes.  Clever, eh?  Talk about twisting the meaning of words.

Here are some other words and phrases they use and their translation:

  • Bipartisan = Republicans giving Democrats everything they want
  • Compromise = see bipartisan
  • Future spending cuts = no spending cuts
  • A balanced budget approach = higher taxes now and future spending cuts later (see future spending cuts above)
  • Get serious about deficit reduction = increase both spending and taxes
  • Blue ribbon panel/special commission = where you place an issue that you’re afraid to address
  • Failed policies of the past = the very successful policies of Reaganomics
  • Radical right wing = any Republican that doesn’t vote for more Democrat spending

 Republicans have Less to Hide

Liberal Democrats lie because no one wants what they’re selling.  But because they’re so much smarter than we are they’ve come up with a way to fool us.  By lying.  And using Orwellian language.  To make us accept things that we would normally not accept.

Just look at their campaigns.  And their language.  They campaign as moderates.  Then govern as liberals.  They want to raise our taxes.  But they don’t tell us that they want to raise our taxes.  Why?  Because taxpayers don’t share their Orwellian vision.  For if the people believed as they believed they would be honest.  But they don’t.  So they are less than honest.

Republicans, on the other hand, call ‘tax cuts’ tax cuts.  And ‘tax hikes’ tax hikes.  They run as conservatives.  And govern as conservatives.  Until they’re corrupted by Washington, at least.  But based on language usage alone even the most partisan hack would have to admit that the Republicans have less to hide.  And, therefore, govern more according to the will of the people.

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A Debt Default and ‘no Social Security Checks’ only Scare Tactics in the Budget Debate to Raise the Debt Limit

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 25th, 2011

A Summary of the Budget Debate to Raise the Debt Limit

One day making tracks in the prairie of Prax came a tax-raising Zax.  A tax-raising Zax.  And a spending-cuts Zax.  A tax-raising Zax.  And a spending-cuts Zax.  And it happened that both of them came to a place where they… *boom*  There they stood foot to foot.  Face to face.

“Look here, now,” the tax-raising Zax said.  “I say, you are blocking my path.  You are right in my way.  I’m a tax-raising Zax and I always raise taxes.  Get out of my way, now, and let me raise taxes.”

“Who’s in whose way?” snapped the spending-cuts Zax.  “I always cut spending making spending-cuts tracks.  So you’re in my way and I ask you to move and let me cut spending in my spending-cuts groove.”

Then the tax-raising Zax said with tax-raising pride, “I never have taken a step to one side.  And I’ll prove to you that I won’t change my ways if I have to keep standing here 59 days.”

“And I’ll prove to you,” yelled the spending-cuts Zax.  “That I can stand here in the prairie of Prax for 59 years.  For I live by a rule that I learned as a boy back in spending-cuts school.  Never budge that’s my rule, never budge in the least.  Not an inch to the west, not an inch to the east.  I’ll stay here not budging, I can and I will.  If it makes you and me and the whole world stand still.”

(The Zax, from The Sneetches and Other Stories by Dr. Seuss, slightly modified)

Spending worries most Americans

If neither Zax is moving, at least there’s no spending.  And it appears that it is the spending that worries most Americans.  Based on the polling.  Which shows the spending-cuts Zax gaining support (see GOP has 10-point edge on Democrats in public trust on economic issues in latest Rasmussen Reports national survey by Mark Tapscott posted 7/24/2011 The Washington Examiner).

Republicans have gained a 10 point lead over Democrats in Rasmussen Reports latest national survey on who the public most trusts to deal effectively with economic issues.

The 10 point lead is the widest margin held by either party in months and has opened up in recent weeks as President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner have become the central players in the debate over how to deal with the approaching debt-ceiling crisis.

It seems pretty clear.  The people want the tax-raising Zax to take a step to the spending-cuts side.

You can’t Fool the Bond Market

And while one Zax stands foot to foot with the other Zax, not budging, the bond market is not all that worried.  Which is kind of odd being that they hold the debt that Obama, Geithner, Pelosi, Reid, etc., warn they may default on (see U.S. bond market: Watching and waiting by Ben Rooney posted 7/25/2011 on CNN Money).

As policymakers in Washington continue to butt heads over the debt ceiling, the response in the bond market Monday was relatively subdued…

…many bond market watchers suggested that stocks are more vulnerable to the ongoing debt ceiling drama. By contrast, some say Treasuries could actually benefit from a flight to safety if the debt ceiling isn’t raised.

This seems counterintuitive.  Especially with all of the dire predictions coming out of Washington.  But it turns out that you can’t fool the bond market.

Another reason why Treasuries have held their ground is that a default would not necessarily result in huge losses for holders of U.S. debt. Treasury would probably have to furlough workers and make other adjustments if the debt ceiling is not raised, but analysts do not expect it to immediately miss interest payments on the federal debt.

The money is there.  Some money.  Tax revenue is still making it to Washington.  Almost $200 billion each month.  The bond market knows this.  They’ll get their interest payment.  Still, there could be some fallout from a downgrading of U.S. debt. 

…many institutional investors, including money market funds and pensions, are required to hold only AAA-rated securities. If the U.S. government is downgraded, those funds may be forced to dump billions worth of U.S. paper.

This could wreak a little havoc.  But probably no more than a downgrade due to the lack of resolve to restrain out of control spending which is the root cause of all these budget problems.  One way or another, we have to cut spending to ultimately calm the bond rating agencies.

Businesses are more Worried about the Tax Code

And they aren’t that worried in corporate America either (see Analysis: CEOs count on cash to cushion default risk by Scott Malone posted 7/25/2011 on Reuters).

Bankruptcy attorney Martin Bienenstock, of Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP, said it seemed like most business people were dismissing the likelihood of a default

“People still don’t think there is going to be an actual default,” Bienenstock said. “There doesn’t seem to be any domino effect brewing yet with the concept of ‘rates will rise and companies on the brink will fail and things like that.'”

If the U.S. runs out of money it is more likely that there will be a partial government shutdown.  Not a default.  And, to be frank, there isn’t a lot these businesses need from government.  Other than a simplified tax code.

While businesses would balk at paying higher taxes, CEOs have said that what they want right now is to have the tax debate settled so they know what they will be paying in taxes.

A government unable to pay its bills won’t affect them.  But not knowing what their taxes will be will.  Because the government shakes them down for a lot of money.  And they have to plan accordingly.  Like having a forklift and other heavy-lifting equipment available to lift those vast sums of cash.

Social Security Checks will go out Regardless

It would appear that most aren’t falling for the scare tactics of Obama and the Democrats.  But what about the seniors?  Will they get their Social Security checks?  Team Obama has been playing this card every chance someone places a microphone in front of them.  So what about Social Security?  Should seniors worry about not getting their checks?  As it turns out, no (see Contrary to the President, Social Security Checks Are Not At Risk by Michael McConnell posted 7/23/2011 on Advancing a Free Society).

The Social Security trust fund holds about $2.4 trillion in U.S. Treasury bonds, which its trustees are legally entitled to redeem whenever Social Security is running a current account deficit. Thus, if we reach the debt ceiling…, this is what will happen. The Social Security trust fund will go to Treasury and cash in some of its securities, using the proceeds to send checks to recipients. Each dollar of debt that is redeemed will lower the outstanding public debt by a dollar. That enables the Treasury to borrow another dollar, without violating the debt ceiling. The debt ceiling is not a prohibition on borrowing new money; it is a prohibition on increasing the total level of public indebtedness. If Social Security cashes in some of its bonds, the Treasury can borrow that same amount of money from someone else…

President Obama is therefore wrong when he says that failure to raise the debt ceiling might result in not sending out Social Security checks. Many bad things might happen, but not that.

Interesting.  So Social Security checks will go out.  Automatically.  Even if the current account is in deficit.  Because of that glorious trust fund stuffed with treasury securities.  In fact, the only way checks won’t go out is if Obama prevents this automatic mechanism to score some political points by falsely blaming Republicans.  Which will be risky.  Because people will eventually learn the truth.  If they don’t know it already.

The Tax-Raising Zax needs to Step to the Spending-Cuts Side

The tax-raising Zax had better learn to swallow his tax-raising pride and however reluctantly he should now take that first step to the spending-cuts side. 

For the people and the bond market and businesses agree.  The problem is spending.  Much too much spending as you must by now plainly see.

And leave our seniors alone and frighten them not with horrors of checks that won’t come their way.  For the trust fund is brimming with securities aplenty that can be cashed to pay all promises made without delay.

Unless Social Security has been a big Ponzi scheme all along.

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Tragedy in Norway

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 24th, 2011

The Attacks on Oslo and Utoeya Island

Our thoughts and prayers go out to those in Norway.  The Oslo bombing and the shooting rampage on Utoeya island were horrific acts of cruelty.  And no doubt will leave long lasting scars on a great and peaceful people. 

Norway is a beautiful country.  You can hear it in the music of Edvard Grieg.  Who drew inspiration from the rich cultural heritage of his beloved land.  The country.  The people.  The beauty. 

So sad that a lunatic grew up in their midst.  Unbeknownst to them.  This singular aberration from normalcy and sanity.  A merchant of death.  Who preyed on the innocent.   Because of a sick mind.

Something that Spilled out of a Diseased Mind

The man they arrested on Utoeya is Anders Behring Breivik.  And he is insane (see An Interview with a Madman: Breivik Asks and Answers His Own Questions by Beau Friedlander posted 7/24/2011 on Time World).

The 32-year-old gunman — with his blond hair, green eyes and a six-foot build — is a Nordic ideal, and for at least nine years, he meticulously crafted his plan to root out anyone different. Breivik’s rambling writings, grandly titled 2083: A European Declaration of Independence, present him as a right-wing nationalist fueled by a combined hatred of Muslims, Marxists and multiculturalists. His beliefs recall neo-Nazi politics that continue to linger throughout Europe, but freshened with a new, 21st century toxicity.

As part of the manifesto, Breivik interviews himself, offering a highly personal Q&A in which he throws himself admiring questions and answers them with disturbing calm.

You can read an abridged version of this self-interview on Time World

Breivik is insane.  Or very stupid.  Because a sane person does not believe they can change the world by going on a killing spree.  Unless he is so stupid that he believes the people will rise up and join him in his crusade.  Of course, the odds are slim for that happening when you are killing not your enemies (in his case Muslims) but the people you want to join your crusade.

This was not part of an organized movement.  This bloody day was just something that spilled out of a diseased mind. 

Only an Idiot would think Mass Murder would help Advance his Agenda

And what may come as a shock to Breivik, the aftermath of his massacre is not playing out as he no doubt hoped (see Analysis: Brutal attack tests Norwegian society by Wojciech Moskwa posted 7/24/2011 on Reuters).

In a low-crime country where a single murder is front-page news, the shock from the scale of the violence would drown out any message on immigration Breivik was seeking to make, said Matlary. Even politicians who usually espouse anti-immigrant views, will above all seek to distance themselves from Breivik.

“This will surely tone down the debate on immigration ahead of local administration elections in September,” said Frank Aarebrot, political scientist at Bergen University. “In the traditional way, politicians will self-censor themselves.”

What sane person could not see this coming?  Breivik sure didn’t.  Because he’s not sane.  His actions have made the problem (as he saw it) worse.  He wanted more restrictive immigration policies?  Thanks to him, no one will dare speak about any immigration reform lest they be associated with a homicidal maniac.  Only an idiot would think mass murder would help advance his agenda.

The Rush to Judgment to Blame Islamic Terrorism

Of course, now the media is focusing on what’s really important in this massacre.  Not the dead and traumatized.  But the rush to judgment to blame Islamic terrorism (see Media Reacts to News That Norwegian Terror Suspect Isn’t Muslim by Ujala Sehgal posted 7/23/2011 on The Atlantic Wire).

Yesterday’s first reports on the massacre in Norway suggested that there was a link between the horrific attacks, which left 92 dead at latest reports, and Muslim extremists. Only later was the news released that the suspect taken by police, Anders Behring Breivik, was apparently a conservative, right-wing Christian with strong anti-Muslim and anti-immigration beliefs. Many in the media were left reeling over the fact that others were so quick to report and comment that Muslims were involved, before there was clear evidence.

In all fairness, there’s a reason a lot of people jumped to that conclusion.  Such as recent history.  Or they may have read an article in The Atlantic (see On Suspecting al Qaeda in the Norway Attacks by Jeffrey Goldberg).

Well, perhaps it was because [Jennifer Rubin] was reading the Atlantic. Shortly after the bombing in Oslo, the Atlantic re-posted on its home page a very interesting piece from last year by Thomas Hegghammer and Dominic Tierney entitled “Why Does al Qaeda Have a Problem With Norway?” You can read it here. In the piece, Hegghammer and Tierney discuss why Norway, against all odds, has become a favored target of al Qaeda. They give several reasons, among them fallout from the Danish cartoon crisis, and Norway’s participation in the war in Afghanistan. And then they bring up a third possibility: The presence in Norway of the aforementioned Mullah Krekar…

So there’s that.  And a history of terrorism by people in the name of Islam.

It is not perverse or absurd for normal people to think of al Qaeda when they hear of acts of mass terrorism. It is logical, in fact, to suspect al Qaeda. The Norway catastrophe does not negate the fact that the majority of large-scale terrorism spectaculars by non-state actors over the past decade have been committed by Muslims. For the Right, Norway should underscore the point that Christians (and Hindus, and also Jews) are just as capable of committing murderous atrocities as Muslims.

Yes, they are.  But more times than not when it is a Christian it’s usually a lone idiot and not part of a bigger international movement.

Helping the People he Hates

When you have a large scale coordinated assault directed against multiple targets, something that is very al-Qaeda-esque, you think al-Qaeda.  And you start worrying about other possible attacks.  Like the Americans did on 9/11.  Like the Spanish did during their multiple train bombings in 2004.  Like the British did during their multiple subway bombings in 2005.

Not only did Breivik make it easier for radical Muslims to get into Norway (by making everyone nervous about being too anti-Muslim), he also gave al-Qaeda a present.  Killing people al-Qaeda would have loved to kill.  Never in their wildest dreams did they think a Christian would kill a bunch of infidels for them while at the same time gaining sympathy for the Muslim people.  They must love this guy.  Helping the people he hates.

You may be able to uncover and stop international plots of terrorism, but you’ll never be able to stop the lone idiots.  A lone idiot is completely inside his head.  All but impossible to find.  Virtually invulnerable before he attacks.  And irrational as hell.  That’s why we keep reading about them in the news.  And why we’ll keep reading about them.

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The Republicans and the Credit Rating Agencies believe it’s a Debt Crisis, not a Revenue Problem

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 23rd, 2011

The Crisis of the Debt Crisis Negotiations

It’s near crunch time.  When something has to happen.  Something.  Good.  Or bad.  But the politicians aren’t playing nice.  And the pundits are opining (see Reactions to the impasse posted 7/23/2011 on First Read).

Andrew Sullivan: Republicans are anarchists.

David Frum: The Republicans made the debt problem a debt crisis.

Jay Cost: Obama is a lot like Jimmy Carter.

Ezra Klein: John Boehner is purposely wasting time by making non-offers.

Over on the New York Times, Paul Krugman is calling it Naked Blackmail (posted 7/23/2011). 

It turns out that in the final stages of the debt negotiations, Republicans suddenly added a new demand — a trigger that would end up eliminating the individual mandate in health care reform.

…the health care mandate has nothing to do with debt and deficits. So this is naked blackmail: the GOP is trying to use the threat of financial catastrophe to impose its policy vision, even in areas that have nothing to do with the issue at hand, a vision that it lacks the votes to enact through normal legislation.

Which is one side of the story why Boehner walked out of the negotiations.  For another side you can read Why the Obama-Boehner talks fell apart by Keith Hennessey (posted 7/23/2011).

The President backtracked in private negotiations this week, demanding bigger tax increases after the Gang of Six, including three conservative Republican Senators, released a plan that raised taxes more than the President had previously demanded…

…the President retreated from an earlier position on taxes as a result of the Gang of Six introducing their plan. On total tax revenues, tax rates, and refundable outlays, the President increased his demands last week.

And then there’s the unfunded mandate.

…the President and the Speaker had open disputes about how much to save from Medicaid, and about an automatic mechanism to force Congress to act on the entitlement and tax provisions. The President wanted a provision that would “decouple” tax rates if Congress failed to act, allowing top tax rates to increase while extending the other tax rates. Republicans would hate this outcome and would therefore have an incentive to legislate the deal. The Speaker insisted that if this automatic hammer decoupled tax rates, it also had to repeal the individual mandate from the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare), to create roughly equal legislative pressure on both sides of the aisle.

So there’s a lot more to the story some people are leaving out in their condemnation of Speaker Boehner and the Republicans.  For it would appear that it’s Obama and the Democrats who are refusing to make a deal that cuts spending or doesn’t raise taxes.  And it’s Obama that’s been increasing his demands.  With an able assist from the Gang of Six.

The Debt Rating Agencies siding with Boehner and the Republicans

But are Boehner and the Republicans just partisan mad men?  Making mountains out of molehills?  Debt crises out of debt problems?  Guess it depends on who you talk to.  If you talk to partisans on the left, yes.  If you talk to credit rating agencies, no (see Egan Jones cuts US rating, cites high debt load by Karen Brettell posted 7/18/2011 on Reuters).

Credit rating agency Egan-Jones has cut the United States’ top credit ranking, citing concerns over the country’s high debt load and the difficulty the government faces in significantly reducing spending.

…the cut is due the U.S. debt load standing at more than 100 percent of its gross domestic product. This compares with Canada, for example, which has a debt-to-GDP ratio of 35 percent, Egan-Jones said in a report sent on Saturday.

And S&P is getting closer to following suit (see Obama officials clash with S&P over downgrade threats by Tim Reid and Rachelle Younglai, Reuters, posted 7/23/2011 on Yahoo! News).

Since October, S&P has accelerated its deadline three times for when it might downgrade the United States’ coveted AAA credit rating as efforts in Washington to reach a deal on cutting long-term deficits have faltered.

The U.S. is in very dangerous debt territory.  Even Al Jazeera is writing about the severity of this debt problem (see Obama launches crisis talks over US debt posted 7/23/2011).

The US government now owes $14.3tn, which is its current legal limit, and is more than the size of the economies of China, Japan and Germany put together…

The largest US creditor, China, has twice warned that the US must protect investor interests, as ratings agencies Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s have said the sterling Triple-A US debt rating was in danger of a downgrade.

You know your debt is bad when it exceeds the sum of three of the largest economies in the world.  At least you should know.  That’s why the rating agencies are looking at downgrading American sovereign debt.  The debt problem is that bad.  And tax hikes without spending cuts will only make this very bad problem much, much worse.  Because it’s a debt problem.  Not a revenue problem.

And, yes, the high costs of Obamacare need to be included in this conversation.  Because it is a BIG part of the spending problem.

From Sea to Shining Sea, at Least for awhile Yet

Raising the debt ceiling is not the problem here.  It’s the amount of debt that’s the problem.  Whatever happens in the next few weeks the United States will survive.  But it will not be able to survive the long term explosion of spending (in particular on health care) and debt.  Which is the thing that is making the rating agencies nervous.  As well as the rest of the world.

In the grand scheme of things, it would appear that Boehner and the Republicans are trying to do the right thing.  Whereas Obama and the Democrats are merely looking for short-term political gain.  Which is not in the best interests of the country.  But they’re not worried.  For whatever becomes of America, they are certain that they will be ensconced in their liberal Democrat city-states.  Insulated from the surrounding ruins that they will simply refer to as flyover country.

So much for “from sea to shining sea.”

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A Neutered American Lapdog is Advancing Agenda, not Reporting News

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 22nd, 2011

Dirty Journalists keep Politicians Clean

Poor Rupert Murdoch.  He’s getting no love from the British Establishment over the phone hacking scandal.  Those who once courted the “feral beast” (British tabloids) are turning against it.  Probably because the other political party wooed them more successfully.  And if you’re in politics, you want them on your side.  Because they’re good at their jobs (see In Defense of Hacks by Toby Harnden posted 7/21/2011 on Foreign Policy).

Whereas our American counterparts have long viewed themselves as comparable to lawyers and doctors, we British hacks still see ourselves as practitioners of a grubbing craft rather than members of an upstanding profession. (The public, which views us as on a par with real estate agents, prostitutes and perhaps even criminals, tends to agree.)

Yes, they’re less Walter Cronkite and more Louie De Palma (a character on the American sitcom Taxi).  For a good journalist knows how to get dirty.  Like Louie, a good journalist is born dirty.

While the American press has certainly had its share of similar disgraces, it is true that American newspaper articles are in the main more accurate and better-researched than British ones; the Rupert Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal was not wrong when it ventured that Fleet Street has “long had a well-earned global reputation for the blind-quote, single-sourced story that may or may not be true.” But stories in the American press also tend to be tedious, overly long, and academic, written for the benefit of po-faced editors and Pulitzer panels rather than readers. There’s a reason a country with a population one-fifth the size of that of the United States buys millions more newspapers each week.

For all their faults, British “rags” are more vibrant, entertaining, opinionated, and competitive than American newspapers. We break more stories, upset more people, and have greater political impact.

That’s the way American journalism was before the Political Class co-opted it.  And why ordinary Americans once read newspapers.  To keep an eye on the scoundrels we put into elected office.  It was one of the few things that kept our elected officials somewhat honest.  Or, at least, honest enough not to lose the next election.

In fact, for the British press, the most damaging revelation of the phone-hacking scandal is the degree to which it shows that journalists — or, to be more precise, News International executives — breached the inner sanctums of the British Establishment. A breed that had always taken pride in being made up of grubby outsiders was allowed in and made the most of the opportunity.

In the United States, journalists are already on the inside: Witness President Barack Obama’s private chats with op-ed columnists, the Washington Post and Time magazine types who effortlessly segue into White House press secretaries and the cozy consensus of Washington’s political-journalism-industrial complex. All too often, American editors, perhaps mindful of their future cocktail party invitations, would prefer their reporters stroke rather than stick it to authority. British journalistic excesses can rightly be condemned, but the American media could use a few more of them. It took the National Enquirer to bring Senator John Edwards to book — and Fleet Street would not have stood for the credulous U.S. reporting on the Bush administration that characterized the run-up to the Iraq war.

That’s the last thing you want.  Your journalists getting all warm and cozy with the people they’re supposed to keep honest.  You don’t want the media to be an adjunct of one party, following orders to advance an agenda while launching personal attacks on the other party.  A good journalist should hate all political authority equally.  And show no favoritism when destroying political careers.  

It is the very politicians who used every opportunity to ingratiate themselves with Murdoch and his acolytes who are now those calling for News International to be broken up — and for the media as a whole to be called to account. Their aim? A regulation system — probably headed up by new a government-appointed “independent” body — that produces a neutered press close to the American model. Having visited Washington and seen reporters stand up when the American president enters the room (British hacks do no such thing for the prime minister) and ask respectful, earnest three-part questions, no wonder our politicians would want more of the same.

The danger of the fevered atmosphere in Britain — where justified outrage over tabloid tactics is fast leading to a hasty public inquisition, with 10 official inquiries or investigations underway at last count — is that what Prime Minister Tony Blair once termed the “feral beast” of the media might be tamed and muzzled. Perhaps the worst outcome of all would be for it to be turned into an American-style lapdog.

If you want to learn about American politics (or journalism) read a British newspaper.  The British Establishment hates and fears them.  Because they do their job.  Whereas in America, the Political Class only hates and fears FOX NEWS and talk radio (Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, etc.).  Which tells you where to go to get your news.  Because if you want objective reporting, you have to go where they dare to be unflattering.  Unlike the sycophants in the ‘mainstream’ media.  For an unneutered feral beast is the only thing that will go for the political jugular.  And restrain the excess of our elected scoundrels.  I mean representatives.

And sometimes you need to get dirty.  Because getting dirty is sometimes the only way to keep politicians clean.

Good Journalism is more Reporting and less Stroke

If you watch FOX NEWS or listen to talk radio you’ll hear a different ‘version’ of the news than that on the mainstream media.  For example, the mainstream media has reported repeatedly polls citing that Americans want the Republicans to stop being intransigent and raise taxes already so the budget deal to raise the debt limit can move ahead.  Interesting how that ‘report’ meshes perfectly with the Obama administration policy agenda.  And yet Rasmussen reports a completely contrary poll finding (see Most Voters Fear Debt Deal Will Raise Taxes Too Much, Cut Spending Too Little posted 7/22/2011 on Rasmussen Reports).

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 62% of Likely U.S. Voters are worried more that Congress and President Obama will raise taxes too much rather than too little in any deal to end the debt ceiling debate. Just 26% fear they’ll raise taxes too little. Twelve percent (12%) aren’t sure. (To see survey question wording, click here…)

There’s a wide difference of opinion, however, between the Political Class and Mainstream voters. Fifty-nine percent (59%) of the Political Class is worried the deal will cut spending too much, while 63% of Mainstream voters fear it won’t cut spending enough. Those in the Mainstream worry more than Political Class voters by a near two-to-one margin – 70% to 37% – that the debt deal also will raise taxes too much.

It sounds like ordinary Americans don’t want higher taxes and more spending.  In fact, they are worried that any deal may raise taxes too much or cut spending too little.  Now this opposes the Obama administration policy agenda.  So I wonder which journalism is more reporting and less stroke?  And which is truer?

Entitlement Spending is the Cause of all our Budget Woes

Americans should be worried about raising taxes instead of cutting spending.  Because there is a much bigger problem out there (see Missing the Debt by Yuval Levin posted 7/21/2011 on The Corner).

…starting in the 2050s, CBO projects that health-care spending will be greater than all other non-interest spending combined, and the federal government will basically be a health insurer with some unusual side ventures like an army and a navy.

…health-care entitlement spending is basically 100 percent of our medium and long-term debt problem.

That thing that Obama and the Democrats refuse to put on the table?  Entitlement reform?  Especially all the health care programs (Medicare, Medicaid and now Obamacare)?  They’re the cause of all our budget woes.  Ignoring this fact makes the budget debate pointless.  It’s just political theatre.  Fiddling while America burns.  Pity we don’t have an unneutered feral beast to put this issue front and center.  Besides FOX NEWS and talk radio, that is.

FOX NEWS will Report what the Political Class rather you not Hear

Interestingly, FOX NEWS is part of the Rupert Murdoch Empire.  And those on the left viciously belittle it as not being ‘real’ news.  But they sure incur the wrath of the Political Class.  Which should tell you a thing or two.  Because when it comes to news organizations, they only hate those who report things they’d rather you not hear.

Of course there is a chance that the FOX NEWS isn’t a legitimate news organization.  And that they are only reporting inflammatory pieces to make a buck.  And that the Political Class is pure and innocent as the winter’s snow.  That everything they do is for our own best interests.  Being the honest public servants that they are.

Yeah, right.  Pull the other.

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