The Obama Recovery is Good for Wall Street but Bad for Main Street

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 18th, 2014

Week in Review

The December jobs report was pretty bleak.  It showed that the unemployment rate fell to 6.7% and that the economy added 74,000 jobs.  Not great but good enough for some who say that President Obama’s policies are finally working after 5 some years of trying.  Which is ridiculous.  Because that unemployment rate doesn’t tell you how many people lost their jobs.  And how many people disappeared from the civilian labor force as they gave up trying to find work that just isn’t there.  Which hides the number of people who lost their jobs.  Because the Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t count anyone as unemployed if they are no longer looking for work.  But if you dig down into the jobs report you’ll find this data.  And see that for every person that entered the labor force about seven people left it in December (see The BLS Employment Situation Summary for December 2013 posted January 13th, 2014 on PITHOCRATES).  Which is anything but an economic recovery.

All during the Obama presidency the Federal Reserve has been stimulating the economy.  Right out of the Keynesian handbook.  By keeping interest rates near zero to encourage people to borrow money to buy things they don’t need.  But few have.  No.  The only people borrowing that money are rich investors.  Who are borrowing this ‘free’ money to spend in the stock market.  Helping Wall Street to do very well during the worst economic recovery since that following the Great Depression.  While Main Street sees their median family income fall.  Still the chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, thinks he did a heck of a job (see Bernanke Says QE Effective While Posing No Immediate Bubble Risk by Jeff Kearns and Joshua Zumbrun posted 1/16/2014 on Bloomberg).

Bernanke is seeking to define his legacy before stepping down on Jan. 31. During his eight-year tenure as leader of the Fed he piloted the economy through a financial crisis that led to the longest recession since the 1930s. He has tried to bolster growth by holding the target interest rate near zero and pushing forward with unprecedented bond buying known as QE.

“Those who have been saying for the last five years that we’re just on the brink of hyperinflation, I think I would just point them to this morning’s CPI number and suggest that inflation is not really a significant risk of this policy,” Bernanke said, referring to a Labor Department report showing the consumer price index rose 1.5 percent in the past year. The Fed has set an inflation target of 2 percent…

The Federal Open Market Committee (FDTR) announced plans last month to reduce monthly purchases to $75 billion from $85 billion, citing improvement in the labor market. The jobless rate last month fell to 6.7 percent, a five-year low.

The only reason why we don’t have hyperinflation is that everyone has depreciated their currency so much to boost exports and pay for bloated welfare states that all currencies are losing value.  And of all these bad currencies the American currency is the least bad of the lot.  Which is why some foreign nationals will pay to park their money in American banks.  Because the risk of it losing its value is so much greater in their home country.

But that doesn’t mean inflation hasn’t reared its ugly head in the US economy.  Just go to a grocery store and look at a bag of chips.  Or a box of cookies.  Or any packaged item that didn’t seem to get overly expensive during the Obama recession. A bag of chips may be the same $3-4 it was before the recession.  But notice the size of the bag.  It’s gotten smaller.  So, yes, consumer prices have not shown great inflation.  But packaging has gotten smaller.  So instead of paying more for the same quantity we are paying the same price for a lesser quantity.  Which means we may be buying 4 of something in a month instead of 3 of something.  It adds up.  Which is why there are so many more people on food stamps.  The Bernanke inflation is taking more of our paycheck to buy what it once did.

The economy is horrible.  Fewer people are in the labor force with each jobs report.  Our grocery packaging is shrinking.  And once the Fed stops its bond buying the stock market is going to fall.  A lot.  For every time rich investors think the economic data will show solid economic activity what do they do?  They sell their stocks.  Causing a stock market fall.  Why?  Why would investors leave the stock market when the data say the economy is getting stronger?  Which seems to go against common sense?  Because they know there’s been only one thing helping them get rich during the Obama presidency.  That ‘free’ money.  Once that source of cheap money goes away they will sell before those inflated stock prices fall back to earth.

The Obama recovery.  Good for Wall Street.  Bad for Main Street.

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Gunpowder Treason, Guy Fawkes, Patriot Act, Bill of Rights and V for Vendetta

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 13th, 2013

Politics 101

Robert Catesby, Guy Fawkes and other Catholic Conspirators conspired to Blow up Parliament

King Henry VIII had a problem with Rome.  He didn’t like that the Pope wouldn’t annul his marriage to Catherine.  And he did not like the Pope interfering with his absolute rule of England.  So he told the Pope to mind his own beeswax.  The Pope then excommunicated Henry from the Catholic Church.  Henry said fine.  And established himself as the head of the Church of England.  And turned England Protestant around the 1530s.  Causing all English men and women to live happily ever after.

Well, not quite.  There were a lot of people who wanted to remain Catholic.  And they were pretty adamant.  Just as the Protestants were pretty adamant about remaining Protestant.  Which led them to, of course, hate each other.  A white-hot hatred at that.  For they wanted to kill each other.  And often did.  The Catholics were cautiously optimistic about King James VI of Scotland moving south to sit on the English throne as King James I of England.  Who promised to relax the anti-Catholic laws.  But, alas, he did not.  The brutal Catholic persecution continued.  So some Catholics got together to do something about that in 1605.  And the rest is, as they say, history.

“Remember, remember the fifth of November.
The Gunpowder, Treason and Plot.
I see no reason why the Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.”

Robert Catesby and some fellow Catholic conspirators conspired to blow up Parliament.  To teach those Protestants a lesson by killing them.  The lesson being that it was wrong to kill Catholics.  Well, the plan was so long in the making it gave the conspirators time to think.  And some began to think that what they were going to do might be bad.  So someone feeling overly anxious about what they were about to do leaked information of the plot.  And they caught poor old Guy Fawkes in the cellar with all of the gunpowder they were going to use to blow up Parliament.  Long story short the gunpowder treason and plot failed.  And most of the conspirators were killed resisting arrest.  Or executed.  But the conspirators were on to something.  As England would be consumed by civil war from 1642 to 1651.  To settle the question whether England would be Catholic.  Or Protestant.  The Protestants won.  But some time later some Protestants, the Calvinists, thought they weren’t Protestant enough.  And for speaking up they were persecuted.  So they hopped a boat and ultimately came to a place we call the United States today.

George W. Bush was the Brilliant Mastermind behind the Treason and Plot to Transform the U.S. into a Dictatorship

Ah, the United States.  The land of the free.  And the home of the brave.  After winning our independence from Great Britain the United States became that shining city on a hill.  Where people came to escape persecution.  Where Catholic and Protestant can live harmoniously together.  And where there is a government of the people, by the people and for the people.  Enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.  And the Bill of Rights.  Which provided strong safeguards to our liberty.  Protecting ourselves from a tyrannical government.  Like that we just won our independence from.  So we can have our freedom of religion.  Even for the Catholics.  A free press.  The right to peacefully assemble.  The right to speak our minds without fear of governmental retribution.  And protection from unreasonable searches and seizures without probable cause and a warrant narrowly specifying the place to be searched and the persons and things to be seized.

But then came along George W. Bush.  And his Patriot Act.  A conservative Christian.  And the next thing we knew they were warrantless wiretaps on international calls to terrorists.  There was rendition.  Secret CIA prisons in foreign countries to hold and interrogate terrorists.  Guantanamo Bay.  Where we held enemy combatants captured on the field of battle.  Who fought under no national flag.  And who were not signatory to the Geneva Convention.  The United States held these international outlaws in Guantanamo Bay outside the American legal justice system.  And we even water-boarded three terrorists.  The Bush administration even went so far as to use drones to kill terrorists in foreign countries without due process.

According to those on the left George W. Bush tore up the Bill of Rights.  The brilliant mastermind behind the treason and plot to transform the United States into a dictatorship.  This same man they belittled relentlessly for being an idiot and a fool.  This was the guy that was so shrewd and conniving that he was going to become the next Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler or Adam Sutler.  This devout Christian who lived by the Golden Rule.  Who used the powers of the Constitution to protect the people of the United States from further terrorist attacks.  Which he did.  The American homeland did not suffer another terrorist attack following 9/11 during his 8 years in office.

Despite winning the War on Terror President Obama increased the Domestic Spying of U.S. Citizens

But the left hated him.  They attacked him relentlessly.  On television.  And in the movies.  Even making movies on how to kill him.  The political opposition tried to shut him down.  And basically did when the Democrats won both houses of Congress in the 2006 midterm election.  Taking obstructionism to new heights.  And the mainstream media didn’t even hide their liberal bias.  Because the assault on our civil rights was so great.  They saw parallels between the Orwellian future of Adam Sutler’s England in the movie V for Vendetta and the Bush presidency.  Helped along with a lot of imagery of the Bush presidency nuanced throughout the movie.  V’s speech to London was not only an indictment of the Sutler chancellorship.  It was an indictment of the Bush presidency.

But really, now, which presidency does this speech ring more true?  The Bush presidency?  Or the Obama presidency?  Which presidency has been more active in preventing the political opposition from speaking?  It wasn’t the Bush presidency that used the power of the IRS to shut down free speech.  It was the IRS under the Obama presidency that shut down the free speech of the Tea Party.  Guantanamo Bay is still open.  Though President Obama is not adding more prisoners there.  For he has stepped up drone strikes.  Killing terrorists overseas instead of bringing them back to the U.S. for interrogation.  As well as a few civilians who were unfortunately standing near a terrorist during a drone strike.  Even killing Americans on foreign soil without first reading them their Miranda rights.  Something George W. Bush didn’t do.

And then there’s the collecting of metadata from all our phone calls.  Without a warrant narrowly specifying the place to be searched and the persons and things to be seized.  And project PRISM.  The monitoring and storing of Internet activity.  Some of this domestic spying under the Obama presidency may even exceed the authority of the hated Patriot Act.  President Obama has increased the domestic spying from what the Bush administration did.  Despite President Obama winning the War on Terror with the killing of Osama bin Laden.  Which was a campaign theme of the 2012 election.  The president had delivered a knockout blow to al Qaeda who was now on the ropes and in retreat.  Yet with this victory in the War on Terror President Obama increased the domestic spying the government was doing on its citizens.  Why?  For the same reason the IRS harassed the Tea Party?  To suppress the political opposition?  All of this domestic spying failed to stop the Boston Marathon bombing.  And these guys were all over the Internet.  So if they’ve increased this domestic spying but are not using it to stop terrorists like the Boston Marathon bombers (or the Foot Hood terrorist, the killing of our ambassador and three other Americans in Benghazi, etc.) what are they using this data for?

So I ask again.  Which presidency does V’s speech ring more true?  The God-fearing George W. Bush who tried to protect the people?  Or the ‘consolidate power by any means necessary’ President Obama?  The president that gave us Obamacare against the will of the people.  A program to be enforced by the hated IRS.  Who have their own armed enforcement officers.  Obamacare also forces Catholics to provide birth control and abortion pills to their employees.  Against their conscience.  Making Obamacare anti-Catholic legislation.  Similar to the kind that inspired the gunpowder treason and plot.  Of which Guy Fawkes participated in.  And who was the inspiration of V.  Giving us the answer to our question.

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Bush Tax Cuts, the Omnibus Spending Bill and a Little Egomania

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 17th, 2010

A Tax Cut!  A Tax Cut!  My Kingdom for a Tax Cut!

Obama begs for help in passing his deal with the GOP to extend the Bush tax cuts (see Obama tells lawmakers not passing tax deal could end presidency, Dem says by Jordan Fabian posted 12/15/2010 on The Hill).

Obama is telling members of Congress that failure to pass the tax-cut legislation could result in the end of his presidency, Rep. Peter DeFazio (Ore.) said.

“The White House is putting on tremendous pressure, making phone calls, the president is making phone calls saying this is the end of his presidency if he doesn’t get this bad deal,” he told CNN’s Eliot Spitzer.

Which the White House denies.

“The president hasn’t said anything remotely like that and has never spoken with Mr. DeFazio about the issue,” said White House spokesman Tommy Vietor.

Besides, would the president ever sink to that level?

During the end of the healthcare debate, Obama reportedly told Democrats upset that the bill did not contain a public healthcare option that not passing it could put his presidency on the line and stall the liberal agenda for decades.

Actually, the president uses this maneuver so often that we just call it the ‘Obama’ now. 

Liberals and Alice Cooper both Love the Dead

The liberals were listening to Obama.  And with the leader of their party in a vulnerable position, they pounced.  A little tit for tat.  If he was going to screw his liberal colleagues by extending the Bush tax cuts, then the liberals wanted to get in a little screwing themselves (see Congress Moves Toward Approving Tax Cut Legislation by David M. Herszenhorn posted 12/16/2010 on the New York Times).

As the House began to take up the tax deal, it hit a procedural snag. Liberal Democrats skirmished with party leaders over a proposed vote on an amendment to tax more wealthy estates and at a higher rate than was included in a provision agreed to by the Obama administration.

The Obama presidency is saved.  It appears liberal Democrats will sign off on the compromise if they can screw rich dead people.  Figuratively, of course.  So Obama may get to put this one into the ‘win’ column thanks to a little legislative necrophilia.

Porking it up in an Omnibus Spending Bill

Knowing that no one really wanted their agenda, the Democrats did little to rock the boat before the 2010 midterm elections.  They didn’t talk about Obamacare (unless they voted against it and were proud of it).  They didn’t talk about the Obama stimulus package that ended the recession and kicked off the Summer of Recovery (back when the unemployment rate was lower than it is now).  And they sure as hell didn’t write a budget. 

With their out of control spending, the less the American people saw it in print, the better it was for them.  So with government about to shut down again, they threw together a quick 2,000ish page omnibus spending bill.  But elections have consequences.  Apparently.  And some Senators chose to represent their constituents (see Senate Dem leader drops nearly $1.3T spending bill by Andrew Taylor, The Associated Press, posted 12/16/2010 on The Washington Post).

Democrats controlling the Senate abandoned on Thursday a huge catchall spending measure combining nearly $1.3 trillion worth of unfinished budget work, including another $158 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The 1,924-page bill collapsed of its own weight after an outcry from conservatives who complained it was stuffed with more than $8 billion in homestate pet projects known as earmarks.

And after we said no more earmarks at the 2010 midterm elections.  Instead of losing graciously, they’re speeding up at a yellow light before it changes.  Unfortunately for them, though, the car ahead of them didn’t.

GOP leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky threw his weight against the bill in recent days, saying it was “unbelievable” that Democrats would try to muscle through in the days before Christmas legislation that usually takes months to debate.

“Just a few weeks after the voters told us they don’t want us rushing major pieces of complicated, costly, far-reaching legislation through Congress, we get this,” McConnell said. “This is no way to legislate.”

Unbelievable?  Why wouldn’t they want to rush this 1,924 bill through Congress?  They want it passed.  And that won’t happen if they take the time to read it.  Or debate it.  I mean, if they had done that with Obamacare Congress wouldn’t have passed it.  Nancy Pelosi said we had to pass Obamacare to find out what was in Obamacare.  And we did.  And the regret and angry debate followed after it became law.  That’s how liberal Democrats pass bills.  Sneakily.  Like the devious little bastards they are.

And how will this affect the Obama presidency?

The sinking of the bill was a setback for President Barack Obama, who supported it despite provisions to block the Pentagon from transferring Guantanamo Bay prisoners to the United States and fund a program to develop a second engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which the administration says is a waste of money.

Poor Obama.  That’s another one for the ‘lost’ column.  There’s a word for people like him.  What is it?  Begins with an ‘L’?  It was just on the tip of my tongue.  Oh well, perhaps I’ll remember later.

Go Ahead.  Make my Day.  Shut Down the Government. 

So, what happens now?  Will government shut down (see McConnell: Dems Using “Christmas Break As An Inducement” To Pass Omnibus posted 12/16/2010 on Real Clear Politics).

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) touts his one-page continuing resolution that would “simply continue the government through February 18th.”

“I would hope that it would make sense on a bipartisan basis, this one-page continuing resolution on Feb 18th as an alternative to this 2,000-page monstrosity that spends a half a billion dollars a page,” McConnell said on the Senate floor.

Guess that’ll keep the Social Security checks going into the mail.  Not bad for a single piece of paper.  You see?  Congress can govern without raping and pillaging the American people.

Obama the Great.  His Majesty.  His Pomposity.

Win some.  Lose some.  Looking at Obama’s record, you can see that he is a man who cares deeply for what he loves most.  Obama (see When it comes to politics, Obama’s ego keeps getting in the way by Michael Gerson posted on 12/17/2010 on The Washington Post).

The tax deal is reasonable policy, supported by majorities of Republicans, Democrats and independents – an easy sell by presidential standards. And still President Obama managed to blow the politics of the thing.

Rather than explaining the economic benefits of the bill and taking quiet credit for a moment of bipartisanship, Obama launched into an assault on partners and opponents. Republicans are “hostage-takers” who worship the “Holy Grail” of trickle-down economics. Liberal opponents are “sanctimonious,” preferring their own purity to the interests of the poor. The president did not just attack the policy positions of nearly everyone in the political class. He publicly questioned their motives.

The Left and Right alike are just too stupid to know what’s best for them.  If only we would listen to Obama.  Because he’s so smart.  I mean, he won the election while being the most unqualified candidate ever to run for the presidency.  You gotta be smart to pull that off.  Or at least sound smart.

Obama is professorial, cold, condescending and just plain mean.

It is the president’s favorite rhetorical pose: the hectorer in chief. He is alternately defiant, defensive, exasperated, resentful, harsh, scolding, prickly. He is both the smartest kid in class and the schoolyard bully.

There are many problems with this mode of presidential communication, but mainly its supreme self-regard. The tax deal, in Obama’s presentation, was not about the economy or the country. It was about him. It was about the absurd concessions he was forced to make, the absurd opposition he was forced to endure, the universally insufficient deference to his wisdom.

And he’s got a great big ego.  He’s pompous and conceited.  A narcissist.  A legend in his own mind.  He thinks he’s got the Midas touch.  Anything he touches, he thinks he makes better.  Well, let’s look at some of what he’s been touching.

At this point in the Obama presidency, even Democrats must be asking: Is he really this bad at politics? The list of miscalculations grows longer. To pass the stimulus package, the administration predicts 8 percent unemployment – a prediction that became an indictment. It pledges the closing of the Guantanamo Bay prison – without a realistic plan to do so. It sends the president to secure the Chicago Olympics – and comes away empty-handed. It announces a “summer of recovery” – which becomes a source of ridicule. It unveils a Manhattan trial for Khalid Sheik Mohammed – which nearly every New York official promptly turns against. Press secretary Robert Gibbs picks fights with both conservative talk radio hosts and the “professional left” – which uniformly backfire. The president seems to endorse the Ground Zero mosque – before retreating 24 hours later. He suggests that Republicans are “enemies” of Latinos – apparently unable to distinguish between hardball and trash talk.

Genius?  Or incompetent boob?  You tell me.

I especially like the joke, “summer of recovery.”  That reminds me of the The Summer of George from Seinfeld.  They were both silly.  Come to think of it, President Obama reminds me of George Costanza.  They have a lot in common.  But I think history will be kinder to George Costanza.

Why so many unforced mistakes? The ineffectiveness of Obama’s political and communications staff may be part of the problem – and the administration is now hinting at significant White House personnel changes in the new year. But an alternative explanation was on display this week. Perhaps Democrats did not elect another Franklin Roosevelt or John Kennedy but another Woodrow Wilson – a politician sabotaged by his sense of superiority.

In the tax debate, Obama has proved a quarrelsome ally and a dismissive foe, generally dismayed by the grubby realities of politics. He doesn’t suffer fools gladly. Unfortunately, he seems to put just about everyone who disagrees with him in that category.

Like a true aristocrat, Obama just hates people that aren’t his equals.  And in his mind, he has no equals.  So he hates everyone.  Which explains a lot.  The disunity in his party.  The bitter partisanship.  And the whining.

It makes one yearn for the days when an affable Texan occupied the White House.  George W. Bush may have not spoken as well or was as pretentious as Obama, but he was a nice man.  Is.  And history will remember him kindly.  Probably even more kindly than George Costanza.

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