Sunday, February 19, 2012

Quick Hits - February 19, 2012

The liberal mainstream media and the political progressives continue to hyperventilate over the false meme that Republicans and conservatives are trying to eliminate the use of contraceptives for all Americans. 

Politico is the latest to jump on this bandwagon in the wake of the kerfuffle over the Obama Administration mandate that religious organizations must provide free contraceptive, sterilization, and abortaficients to their employees even if those services violate the religious beliefs and principles of that organization.

Politico's report roughly sets its sights on GOP Presidential candidate Rick Santorum's social conservativism, but enjoys painting with a very wide brush...
Democrats have an unexpected new foil in their effort to label the GOP as hostile to women: Rick Santorum.

After hammering away for a year at the message that Republicans are indifferent to women’s health and economic well-being, President Barack Obama’s party has been handed a nearly perfect political punching bag in the former Pennsylvania senator, whose down-the-line cultural conservatism is a major selling point in the 2012 primaries.
Lost in the entire effort to create a deflective issue away from the Administration, the President, and Obamacare - are the real issues:  The Administration, the President, Obamacare, and Constitutionally mandated Religious Freedom.

Representative Paul Ryan took to the airwaves on Sunday to focus on these real issues..
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Sunday blasted the Obama administration’s moves to mandate religious affiliated groups to provide contraception coverage as “paternalistic” and “arrogant.”

“What we’re getting from the White House on this conscience issue, it’s not an issue about contraception, it’s an issue that reveals a political philosophy the president is showing that basically treats our constitutional rights as if they were revocable privileges from our government, not inalienable rights from our creator.” said Ryan on NBC’s Meet the Press.

“We’re seeing this new government activism, paternalistic, arrogant, political philosophy that puts new government-granted rights in the way of our constitutional rights.”

“That’s really not about contraception,” said Ryan of the mandate. “It’s about violating our first amendment rights to religious freedom and conscience.”
Columnist Mark Steyn takes aim even more specifically towards the misdirection meme being run by the Administration, the President, and their supporters - including the mainstream media....
Americans foolish enough to fall for the Democrats’ crude bit of misdirection can hardly complain about their rendezvous with the sharp end of that page-58 budget graph. People are free to buy bacon, and free to buy condoms. But the state has no compelling interest to force either down your throat. The notion that an all-powerful government would distract from its looming bankruptcy by introducing a universal contraceptive mandate would strike most novelists as almost too pat in its symbolism. It’s like something out of Brave New World. Except that it’s cowardly, and, like so much else about the sexual revolution, very old and wrinkled.
One of the items that I believe will be a real factor for the US and voters in this election year are going to be gasoline prices.  Gasoline prices are at their highest levels for this time of year which protrends a very expensive spring and summer.  Every family is going to be hit in multiple ways by these record setting gasoline prices - as they fill their car and as they shop for goods and services.  As transportation costs increase, the prices of goods will increase.

Presidential approval numbers trend with gasoline prices.  I linked one of the challenges that President Carter faced in his re-election bid in 1980 to his challenges with gasoline prices in the summer of 1979 - and I fully believe that this year's strong possibility of $5 per gallon gas prices will create major challenges for President Obama's re-election efforts.

Powerline puts their thoughts on this same issue here -
More anomalous is Obama’s explanation this week that “gas prices are on the rise again because as the economy strengthens, global demand for oil increases.” It is true that global demand for oil is probably the primary driver of the price of oil right now (though surely a risk premium because of Iran is in the mix somewhere), but here in the U.S. demand for gasoline seems to be way off, as shown in the figure below which I plotted earlier this week for my Energy Fact of the Week squib over on The figure shows retail gasoline deliveries—the best proxy for consumption—falling off a cliff starting a few months ago—before prices began to creep back up. The fall in consumption ought to be holding down gasoline prices, all other things being equal (which they never are). Is the economy about to fall over the cliff along with this indicator? That’s what a lot of people are wondering.
The Washington Times is starting to call the President's approach towards energy and the US economy, Voodoo Environomics...
President Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline wasn’t, as he claimed, based on science or the environment. It certainly wasn’t based on sound economic policy, either. The decision was, in fact, the product of voodoo environomics: a destructive blend of bad science based on fear-mongering and manipulated research, the bad economics of green-job fantasies and “starve the beast” energy politics

…When adopted as official government policy, voodoo environomics can wreak havoc on the economy and represents a double whammy for working Americans. The admitted goal of CO2-slashing schemes such as “cap and trade” is to jack up the price of energies like gasoline and coal to make expensive alternative energies more competitive financially. Of course, their proponents hope you don’t realize that it’s ordinary Americans who are stuck paying higher prices for utilities and gasoline.

But the hit working Americans take under voodoo environomics
Another false meme of the President comes regarding taxation and the so-called 'fairness' of the President's taxation policies.  The problem is, this is all about class warfare, increasing taxes to support increased government spending, and misdirection.

Misdirection like the focus over the last several months around the President's Temporary Social Security Payroll Tax Reduction of 2% - which allows him to say that he's providing about 160 million Americans with a tax cut that amounts to about $40 per month.  (or, just under 10 gallons of gas at my current $4.10 / gallon price for regular unleaded).

First let's talk fairness...

In 2009, 49.5% of all Americans did not pay any income taxes.  Which side were you on in that?  I was, like most of the middle class, on the side paying income taxes.
“One of the most worrying trends in the Index is the coinciding growth in the non-taxpaying public,” wrote Heritage authors Bill Beach and Patrick Tyrrell. “The percentage of people who do not pay federal income taxes, and who are not claimed as dependents by someone who does pay them, jumped from 14.8 percent in 1984 to 49.5 percent in 2009.”

That means 151.7 million Americans paid nothing in 2009. By comparison, 34.8 million tax filers paid no taxes in 1984.

The rapid growth of Americans who don’t pay income taxes is particularly alarming for the fate of the American form of government, Beach and Tyrrell warned. Coupled with higher spending on government programs, it is already proving to be a major fiscal challenge.
Now let's talk about what happens on January 1, 2013 when 'Taxageddon' hits.  As it stands now, the President's token tax reduction plan, the Temporary Social Security Payroll Tax Reduction extension ends on December 31, 2012.  On that date, American workers will lose the whopping $40 per month that this temporary tax reduction gave them.  But also on that date, Americans will lose some additional tax breaks.  Like the across the board 'Bush Tax Reductions', the return of the marriage penalty, the halving of the child tax credit from $1000 to $500, an increase on the tax rate of one's first $8,700 of income from 10% to 15%, and increases on the tax rates for investment income, estate taxes, and gift taxes. 

All told, the expiration of these tax reductions will suck an additional $500 billion out of the US economy in 2013 and every year after that....$5 trillion over the next decade.  All of this is included in the Obama 2013 budget - and spent on government programs.

Do you think that the economy of this country will be recovered to the point that sucking half a trillion dollars from the private sector into the maw of Washington progressive politics will not create or continue economic challenges?

Another sign of the challenges we are facing with the President's economic policies is being seen around the long term unemployed and the 63-99 week unemployment benefits that are now being paid..
The New York Post reported Sunday that as unemployment checks run out, many jobless are trying to gain government benefits by declaring themselves unhealthy.

More than 10.5 million people -- about 5.3 percent of the population aged 25 and 64 -- received disability checks in January from the federal government, the Post wrote, a 18 percent jump from before the recession.

Among those claiming disability, 43 percent are asking for benefits because of mental illness, the Post wrote. A growing number of those people are older, former white-collar workers.

Disability claims come from the Social Security Trust Fund, which is set to go broke in 2018. Congress last week agreed to dip into the revenue stream to give a 2-percentage point tax break to working Americans.

The Post noted that the more people file for disability claims, the better for the unemployment picture since those people are removed from the jobless rolls.
Victor Davis Hanson looks at all of this and notes that there are 'New Commandments on the Barn Wall'...
  1. Wealth and poverty are now more relative, than absolute, conditions.
  2. Regulators are never the problem, a dearth of regulations always must be.
  3. Debt is a mirage.
  4. In our new age of diplomacy, being liked trumps being respected.
  5. Collection of national wealth is natural, private wealth is unnatural.
  6. Medieval exemption is not medieval.
  7. Victimhood is always sought, never questioned.
  8. Neanderthals need nerds.
  9. Ideology, for all the protestations of the zealot, is now not to be taken too seriously - not in this age of global leisure and affluence.
  10. Owning in our new millennium shall be less stressful than saving.
“I keep these commandments in mind daily. That way what would have seemed absurd in my youth is now as natural as the sun rising.”
Change we can believe in...

There was an event in New York City earlier this week that clearly highlights an example of moral bankruptcy....and highlights the most morally bankrupt members of the United Nations.  Earlier this week, the United Nations General Assembly held a vote to condemn Syria for its human rights violations in the violence against their own citizens which has killed over 7,000 in the last 10 months - including nearly 1,000 in the last month.

137 members of the United Nations voted to condemn Syria.  17 nations voted to abstain or decided to just have a NYC power lunch.  But 12 nations decided to go on record supporting the al Assad regime in Syria.

Which 12 you ask?  Belarus, Bolivia, People's Republic of China, Cuba, Ecuador, Iran, Nicaragua, North Korea, Russia, Syria, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe voted to not condemn Syria's butchering of its own people. 

Notice anything about these countries?

“What are these states in the above list doing to deserve membership in the UN at all? Let alone, why do some of them deserve to sit on such major UN bodies as the Security Council (Russia and China), and such theoretically vital bodies as the Human Rights Council (Russia, China, Ecuador, and Cuba)? The UN charter spells out the conditions of membership. Those conditions include accepting the obligations contained in the UN charter — which specifies such aims as tolerance, freedom, living together in peace, as good neighbors, and reaffirming “faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person.” Does it uphold the UN charter, to allow voting rights at the UN to governments that neither reflect nor support democracy or aspirations for basic freedoms? Governments that look at a resolution condemning such horrors as the atrocities in Syria — and vote no?”
This is why the UN is irrelevant and broken. 

Hundreds of thousands of leftists in Spain took to the streets of Madrid, Barcelona, and Valencia to protest the new government's austerity measures, spending cuts, and changes to labor rights in an attempt to reverse Spain's path following Greece into fiscal insolvency...
Rajoy's reforms are part of a programme designed to create jobs. Spain has the developed world's worst unemployment rate. But with the economy set to shrink this year by 1.7%, even the government admits the shocking 23% unemployment rate will worsen in the short term.

Other reforms include a "golden rule" limiting future budget deficits and new rules forcing banks to write down the value of property they own and set aside money against bad real-estate debts left over from Spain's burst housing bubble.

Unions complained that labour reform would lead to a fresh surge in lay-offs. Rajoy himself has said he expects them to call a general strike soon.

"There has to be a general strike," said teacher Alberto Carrillo, who protested in Madrid. "They've cut rights, but not said how they plan to create jobs."

"When we designed this reform we were thinking of the people who are out of work, who see no future," Rajoy told a party conference on Sunday.

At some point, one does run out of other people's money. That's not the fault of the other people - but the fault on the one who sets down that failed path again, and again, and again - while expecting a different result.

On This Day in History

1473 - Nicolaus Copernicus is born - known as the father of modern astronomy

1777 - Brigadier General Benedict Arnold is passed over for promotion to Major General by the Continental Congress.  This sets the framework for Arnold's betrayal in 1780 when he offered to turn over West Point, and control of the Hudson River, to the British.

1807 - Former US Vice President Aaron Burr is arrested on the charge of treason.

1878 - Thomas Edison patents the phonograph

1942 - President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs Executive Order #9066 - authorizing the removal of any or all people from military areas 'as deemed necessary or desirable' which leads to the internment of over 110,000 Japanese Americans

1945 - US Marines invade the Japanese island of Iwo Jima which is defended by 21,000 Japanese troops.

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