Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Quick Hits - February 15, 2012

Apologies for the delay with today's primary post, infrastructure upgrades and work took precedence.

The meeting of European Union Finance Ministers to make the 'final' decision on the Greek 145 billion Euro bailout scheduled for today was called off amid accusations that a top politician in Greece has failed to sign off on the agreed upon austerity measures.  This is despite a vote passing in the Greek parliament to accept the demanded austerity measures which include spending, wage, and pension reductions as well as reducing the number of civil service employees by about 150,000. 

Within the group of EU Finance Ministers, several ideas being floated regarding their concerns on Greece remaining committed to the austerity measures.  The worry is that a new Greek government resulting from the April national elections will not adhere to the austerity measures enacted this week.  One solution considered is for the 'troika' - the European Union, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund to have a position of power or authority in Greece to ensure that the austerity measures are not ignored or rolled back.  [Greek politicians denounced this as an attack on Greek sovereignty.]  The other alternative would be to offer Greece a short term bridge loan to permit Greece to meet their March 20th obligations (about 14.5 billion Euros), and holding off the full bailout package until after any new Greek government also commits to the austerity measures.

In America's Greece, also known as California, a lesson is being provided by the progressive Democrat political leadership of the effects of a progressive income tax on a state or country.
Margaret Thatcher once famously pointed out the core problem of socialism: “They always run out of other people’s money.” California has been intent on demonstrating exactly what Thatcher meant with its highly progressive income-tax system that relies heavily on hitting the higher-income earners to fund their government. As the state has been discovering for the past few years, it’s a recipe for amplifying disaster in an economic downturn:

Gov. Jerry Brown wants to hit California’s highest-income taxpayers with billions of dollars in new taxes, and is jousting with other groups with their own tax-the-rich measures over which, if any, will win voter approval.

But the number of Californians with $500,000-plus annual incomes declined dramatically from 2007 to 2009 as the state’s economy stagnated, leaving fewer to tax, the California Taxpayers Association points out in a compilation of data from the Franchise Tax Board.

The latest FTB statistical report covers the 2009 tax year, and Cal-Tax points out that it listed just 98,610 California tax returns with adjusted gross income of $500,000 or more, down nearly a third from the 146,221 in 2007. Data for 2010 are not yet available.

Brown wants to do exactly what Obama proposes on a national basis — to increase revenues by hiking taxes even further on a declining class. Both talk about paying a “fair share,” but as the Sacramento Bee reports, the 0.5% of Californians who qualified for the current class-warfare treatment in 2009 accounted for 18.8% of all taxable income in the state — and 32% of all income taxes paid. That’s hardly an issue of the higher income earners failing to pay a “fair share.”
So, why did the number of Californians with $500,000 plus annual incomes decline dramatically between 2007 and 2009?  The economy?  That could be a small part of it, but generally speaking those with incomes >$500,000 annually have done far better than those in the middle class.  For a real reason, let's look at the experience of other progressive states, like New York, which dramatically increased taxes on the wealthy.  They saw a similar drop in tax revenues and numbers....resulting from those affected 'voting with their feet' and leaving the state for other locations that do not have the onerous tax policies.

President Obama's budget request continues to be one of the big stories in the mainstream media and the blogosphere.  The more people take the time to look into this budget, the more people are realizing how telling this budget is regarding the vision of Barack Obama towards the United States.  Powerline takes a hard look at what they term Obama's Deceptive DOA (Dead on Arrival) budget here -
When the story of the Obama administration is written, I think that what will strike historians most forcibly is the arrogance of the president and his aides…That arrogance was on display in Obama’s first budget proposal, for FY 2010. That document, was not merely a budget blueprint, it was a mean-spirited political rant. Obama gave his FY 2010 budget proposal a title: “A New Era of Responsibility.” It began with a section titled “Inheriting a Legacy of Misplaced Priorities,” which was an intemperate attack on the Bush administration:
This is the legacy that we inherit–a legacy of mismanagement and misplaced priorities, of missed opportunities and of deep, structural problems ignored for too long. It’s a legacy of irresponsibility, and it is our duty to change it.
Obama’s indictment of the Bush administration highlighted budget deficits, which Obama vowed to reduce:
Another manifestation of irresponsibility is the large budget deficits we are inheriting. These deficits, over time, will harm economic growth and impose burdens on our children and grandchildren. … Between 2000 and 2008, real Government outlays increased at a 3.6 percent annual average rate, three times the 1.2 percent annual average rate between 1992 and 2000.
Unfortunately, there are too few in the mainstream media who are really treating this budget with the utter contempt that it deserves...or noting the arrogance of the President and is aides.  Or the hubris.  Or the contempt towards the American people.  Or the thin skinned response to criticism.

Obama's term in office, this number has increased to it's current level - $11.6 trillion...and that if this budget is enacted, this amount will increase to $19.486 trillion by 2022.  If bringing that number to $6.4 trillion is 'deep fiscal irresponsiblity', then what is the effect of bringing this number to $11.6 trillion in 4 years or nearly $20 trillion in a decade?  His own budget shows just how dismal this President's economic policies have been.

Want more evidence?  In Obama's FY2010 budget, the budget projected the Gross Domestic Product would be $16.47 trillion in 2012.  His current budget is showing that the GDP for this year will only be $15.6 trillion.  This means that under his policies, the economy / recovery is about $1.13 trillion behind his earlier projections.  This isn't the effect of the Bush Administration policies, but the effects of the Obama Administration decisions and policies.  Powerline hammers this point home...
... You might think that three years of failure would at least cure the Obama administration of its arrogance, but you would be wrong. The FY 2013 budget is every bit as bitter a partisan document as its FY 2010 counterpart. Going on four years into his retirement, George W. Bush is still to blame for all of Obama’s shortcomings–along with the Republican Congress, of course. While never acknowledging that his past projections have proven wildly inaccurate, Obama implicitly defends himself by claiming that “When the President took office the economy was in free-fall. … [T]he decline we were in was deeper than anyone, at the time, knew.” Of course, Obama knew how deep the decline was by 2010 and 2011, but the fiscal performance he promised in those years didn’t pan out, either.
Unfortunately, the sycophants in the mainstream media are going to let the President get away with blaming both his predecessor and claiming ignorance of just how bad things were...

Here's the President in an interview with Atlanta's Fox affiliate, WAGA-TV...

Obama – ‘I didn’t understand how bad things were” – In an interview with Atlanta’s local Fox affiliate WAGA-TV President Obama explains why he was unable to cut the deficit in half in his first term, a promise he made as a candidate.

Obama was lobbed the question by a sympathetic reporter who said he is getting “pelted in the media” for making a campaign promise he did not keep.

“Well we’re not there because this recession turned out to be a lot deeper than any of else realized,” Obama said about his inability to cut the deficit in half.

“Everybody who is out there back in 2009, if you look back what their estimates were in terms of how many jobs had been lost, how bad the economy had contracted when I took office everybody had underestimated it. People thought that the economy contracted 3%, it turns it was close to 9%. We lost 8 million jobs just in a year’s span, about half a year before I took office and about a half a year after I took office,” Obama said.
Frankly, this is just BS.  President Obama was campaigning in the Fall of 2008 that we were in the worst economic conditions since the Great Depression - and continued with this same rhetoric as he pushed for the passage of the $800 billion stimulus program to boost a vibrant economic recovery.  His own staff said that with the stimulus, unemployment would max out at 8%.  It didn't - it far exceeded that.  On the heels of running up the first ever trillion dollar budget deficit, the President has done this three more times - and we're still showing a real unemployment rate of 11%, and over 15% if we include those underemployed.

Obama's Chief of the Office of Management and Budget was sharply questioned yesterday in Senate briefings on the Obama budget - and could offer little in response other than doublespeak and evasions when asked about if the budget breaks the agreed upon spending limits set in last year's debt ceiling compromise...

SESSIONS: Let’s go back to the simple question I asked you: does your plan spend more money over the next ten years than the agreement in current law that we reached just last August? Yes or no?

ZIENTS: I think what we’ve got to focus on here is the bottom line, and we’re taking deficits down to 2.8% of GDP.

SESSIONS: You’re not answering my question. I asked a simple question. You’re the director of the OMB. Does your budget call for spending more money?

ZIENTS: I’m suggesting that our budget is a more honest budget, that looks at what’s happening on a business as usual basis.

SESSIONS: Will the witness not answer this simple question? I just asked a simple question.

ZIENTS: It’s a more accurate reflection of what we’re going to spend.

SESSIONS: Will it spend more or less?

ZIENTS: It will actually spend less money because of the deficit reduction that we have and a baseline that reflects the current policy.

The conversation continued:

SESSIONS: Let me ask you this. If you are incorrect in saying that you do not increase spending more than current law, would you consider resigning your office?

ZIENTS: [laughs awkwardly] Let me go back to …

SESSIONS: We looked at the numbers. Are you that confident?

ZIENTS: I’m confident that with our baseline, which accurately reflects current policy and business as usual, that we have deficit reduction of $4 trillion and we do it in a balanced way. For every $2.50 of spending cuts, there’s a dollar of revenue. That’s a good balanced approach.

SESSIONS: Mr. Zients, there is no spending cuts in this budget. This budget increases spending. Surely you know that. It increases taxes. So to say that you cut $2.50 in spending for every dollar in tax increase is beyond the pale.

According to reports, President Obama has directed the Pentagon to undertake unilateral reductions in the US strategic nuclear weapons inventory - dropping from our current levels of about 1,800 warheads to some number that is between 1,100 warheads and 300 warheads.  This latter number is about the same number of warheads that our intelligence believes that the People's Republic of China currently has.

This is part of the Administration's efforts to diminish the size of the Defense Department and slash defense spending in favor of progressive domestic programs.  One has to ask why the Administration is insisting on a unilateral reduction of this size and scope?  Is it because we are safer in the world?  Doubtful.  Russia, the PRC, and North Korea are all actively working to expand their stocks of nuclear weapons - and in the case of North Korea, also expand it's delivery capabilities.  Then there is Iran which is not only on the verge of developing nuclear weapons, but is actively engaged with North Korea to deploy strategic delivery systems for these weapons.

History shows us the folly of unilateral disarmament - or disarming without considering the strategic implications of that step.  Enemies are emboldened by their opposition choosing to disarm themselves - and think twice before taking certain steps if their opposition has a strong military and the will to use it to prevent thuggish actions.

Britain has taken the path of disarmament today on a scale that goes far beyond it's naive disarmament in the 1920's and early 1930's (which emboldened Hitler and Nazi Germany in Europe).  Thirty years ago, when Britain went to war to reclaim their Falkland Islands after the Argentinian invasion, she had a navy with 90 combat ships and several aircraft carriers to project force over the region.  Today, she has only about 30 combat ships and no operational aircraft carriers.  With this, is it any surprise that the Argentinian government is once again ratcheting up their rhetoric to seize these islands from Britain in order to gain access to the oil fields around them?

Hollywood idiot (no, he's a willing idiot, not a useful idiot), Sean Penn has decided to inflict himself in this rising rhetoric around the Falkland Islands, saying "The world today is not going to tolerate any kind of ludicrous and archaic commitment to colonialist ideology..." while in Argentina and meeting with the Argentinian President.

Colonialist ideology? 

This cretin, who remains a huge fan of Hugo Chavez, apparently has no grasp on the history of the 'ownership' of the Falklands, but also has an utter contempt towards the wishes of those who reside on the Falklands who consider themselves British and desire to remain British. 

Nothing like making ill-informed comments that only increase and embolden the efforts of the Argentinian government to threaten the islands, their residents, and Britain.

Not only did Penn's clueless comments receive quick condemnation from Britain, but also from those who reside in the Falklands...
Andrew Rosindell, secretary of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Falkland Islands, said: “In the 21st century people have a democratic right to their own future. It is Argentina that is trying to impose its wishes on the people of the Falklands. As an American he [Penn] should remember that freedom is precious, and it is something his countrymen have defended around the globe.”

Media Matters, the tax exempt and supposedly non-partisan media organization is going to see it's tax exempt status get reviewed by Congress. This is on the heels of investigative reports that show Media Matters is actively working and collaborating with the Obama White House to wage war on Fox News...

Speaking of WH collaboration with the mainstream media for Obama's re-election, remember the January 7th Republican Presidential Debate in New Hampshire hosted by ABC News? George Stephanopoulos raised a number of eyebrows with a focused series of questions to the Republican candidates around contraception and the government's position on contraception. This was entirely out of the blue - contraception wasn't on many issues lists unlike issues around the economy or national debt.

How does this look now given the President's mandate to ignore religious freedom and order religious organizations to provide contraception and other services to employees even if those services are contrary to the religious beliefs of those organizations?

On This Day in History

1898 - The US battleship, USS Maine, explodes and sinks while at anchor in the harbor at Havana, Cuba.  260 sailors and officers were killed.  This was one of the main sparks for the Spanish-American War which broke out in April 1898 and lasted until December 1898.

1933 - President-elect Franklin Roosevelt escapes assassination in Miami, Florida.

1942 - In one of the greatest defeats in British military history, the 'Gibraltar of the Far East', Singapore, surrendered to Japanese forces after a week long siege.  More than 60,000 British and Commonwealth troops were taken prisoner - over 130,000 including those captured during the attempted defense of the Malay peninsula.  Many thousands of these would die in captivity.

1961 - The entire 18 member US Figure Skating team is killed in a plane crash in Belgium.  The team was traveling to compete in the 1961 World Figure Skating Championships being held in Prague, Czechoslovakia.

1965 - Canada officially adopts the Maple Leaf flag, replacing the Red Ensign which had been the national flag since 1870 - and had 3 variants between 1870 and 1965.

File:Canadian Red Ensign.svg

The variation of the Red Ensign used between 1957 and 1965

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