Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Quick Hits - April 24 & 25, 2012

Couldn't get the 24th's post done before the day ran amuck - so it's time for another QH double feature.  Grab some popcorn.....

Yesterday was Primary Day in Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, and Delaware.   Much of the suspense was muted in the wake of Rick Santorum's suspending his campaign for the GOP nomination - but Newt Gingrich decided to make Delaware his 'last stand' against Mitt Romney.

The results?  Mitt Romney swept all 5 of the primaries with decisive victories and added more to his sizable lead in delegates.  According to Real Clear Politics, Romney now has 838 delegates of the 1,144 needed to gain the Republican nomination.  Rick Santorum has 267, Newt Gingrich 141, and the Ron Paul, 88 delegates.

With the major loss in his 'last stand' state of Delaware, the Gingrich campaign is announcing that the candidate will formally withdraw from the race on May 1st, and endorse Mitt Romney as the GOP candidate for President.
“I think you have to at some point be honest with what’s happening in the real world, as opposed to what you’d like to have happened,” Gingrich said. “Governor Romney had a very good day yesterday. He got 67 [percent] in one state, and he got 63 in other, 62 in another. Now you have to give him some credit. I mean this guy’s worked six years, put together a big machine, and has put together a serious campaign.

“I think obviously that I would be a better candidate, but the objective fact is the voters didn’t think that,” Gingrich said. “And I also think it’s very, very important that we be unified.”
This decision will leave the crank, Ron Paul, as the only remaining candidate running to challenge Mitt Romney for the GOP Presidential nomination.  Paul is unlikely to drop out of the race - and is likely trying to posture himself for a prominent role at the GOP convention and a say on the GOP platform.

Mitt Romney kicked off his transition to the general election during his post-primary remarks in New Hampshire last night, introducing a new theme - "A Better America begins tonight" in a very good speech. 

‘It’s still about the economy - - - and we’re not stupid…’
This speech touches on the key memes that we're going to be hearing from the presumptive Republican nominee throughout the election season - that President Obama does not have a record to run on therefore he will demonize and misrepresent; that the President's economic policies have not contributed to an economic recovery; and that the President along with Congressional Democrats have mismanaged this country.

The Hill is reporting that President Obama is going to be focusing his next series of campaign stops over the next week on an effort to recapture the youth vote that he won decisively in 2008 - but appears to be wavering in their support for the President.
Obama leads presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney 60 percent to 34 when it comes to the youth vote, according to a recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll. But Obama’s enthusiasm has taken a nosedive, the poll shows. In 2008, 63 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds took a big interest in the election. Four years later, 45 percent have the same level of interest, reflecting the most sizable drop in one of the major voting groups.  
The falling poll numbers come as data compiled by The Associated Press show that 53 percent of college graduates are unemployed or currently have a job that doesn’t meet their qualifications.
Romney trumpeted those figures Monday during a campaign stop, saying that young people are “questioning” the support they gave Obama in 2008.
“I saw a report this morning that just about half of all the kids coming out of college can’t find work or are underemployed,” he said in Pennsylvania. “Can you imagine?”
Obama, who missed two votes on the legislation when he was a senator in 2007, wants to use the prospect of higher student loans as a wedge issue against Romney.
The fact that just over one of every two college graduates is either unemployed or underemployed combined with the other dismal economic news is having a major impact on the enthusiasm and support of this demographic.
In addition, the President's efforts to use the July 1st scheduled return of federally subsidized student loan rates to their original 6.8% level as a wedge issue against Mitt Romney is not going to work. Mitt Romney has come out in support of continuing the lower interest rate for the students in this challenging economy - and seeks to have the roughly $6 billion annual cost of the subsidy covered via other cuts elsewhere in government spending. (Perhaps the $8.3 billion 'slush fund' for Medicare Advantage programs that we wrote about yesterday?)

Senate blowhard, Chuckie Schumer (D-NY), is active trying to focus the US Senate towards it's most important immediate priority. 

No, it's not marking up and passing a budget - something the Senate has failed to do for 1,080 days. No, it's not addressing reforms of Social Security (which will run out of funds in 2033) or Medicare (running out of funds in 2024). No, it's not addressing either the fourth consecutive year of the federal government spending more than $1.2 trillion more than it brings in - or addressing the $5 trillion plus in national debt added since January 20, 2009.

Schumer's number 1 priority? How to ram bill through the Senate to block the Arizona immigration law if the Supreme Court upholds the state law - given that the SCOTUS is holding hearings on the case today, and a decision on the constitutionality of the Arizona law is expected by summer.
The proposal, announced Tuesday by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., would stand virtually no chance of passing in the Republican-controlled House. But it marks the latest preemptive challenge by Democrats to a high-stakes Supreme Court decision.
The immigration case arrives at the high court Wednesday just weeks after the justices heard arguments in the multi-state challenge to the federal health care overhaul. Though the justices are not expected to rule in that case until summer, President Obama had cautioned the "unelected" judges against overturning his landmark domestic policy accomplishment -- claiming such a move would be "unprecedented."
Schumer's fallback option on the Arizona immigration case holds a similar message. If the high court upholds the law, the congressional proposal would be a direct rebuke to that decision.
"Immigration has not and never has been an area where states are able to exercise independent authority," Schumer said Tuesday at a Capitol Hill hearing, where he announced he would introduce the proposal should the Supreme Court "ignore" the "plain and unambiguous statements of congressional intent" and uphold the Arizona law.

In addition to the efforts to pander for Hispanic votes in November, what Schumer is looking to do is to codify what is effectively a defacto amnesty that has been enacted by the Obama Administration via their refusal to enforce the existing immigration laws. This action has, in the argument of the state of Arizona, has created a fiscal hardship on the state with regards to illegal immigration, and has necessitated the development of the state law.

In addition to the shenanigans of the President and Senate Majority Leader, the chair of the Democrat National Committee, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz adds her lies and misrepresentations in an effort to muddy the waters for this fall's election.  With DWS, it's becoming clear that if given the choice between telling the truth or lying in an effort to try to motivate voters, DWS defaults to lying....
“I’m a member of Congress in the minority, unfortunately, which I plan to help change in November,” Schultz shot back. “But the people who control the agenda right now in the House of Representatives are the Republicans. Ask them why they haven’t brought a single jobs bill to the floor since they took over the majority. Ask them why they are getting ready to allow the student loan interest rates to double.”

Townhall's Guy Benson unlimbers a clue by four noting...
The House recently passed something called, um, the JOBS Act -- which cleared the Senate and was signed into law by President Obama. At the time, I noted that the bill wasn't the first bipartisan jobs legislation this GOP-controlled House helped implement (numerals added):

Let the record show that as of today, the "do nothing," "Republican" Congress has worked with the president by (1) extending the payroll tax cut extension, (2) passing patent reform, (3) repealing a counter-productive withholding rule, and (4) approving three free trade agreements. These were all elements of President Obama's jobs agenda. Now he's (5) signed a job creation bill championed by House Republicans...

Left unreferenced are the dozens of other of jobs bills passed by the GOP majority controlled House that were ignored and left fallow by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

However, this wasn't enough for dear little Debbie - she also had to chime in on the budget 'process' while on Fox News last night opposite FNC's Brett Baier...
DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) appeared on Fox News last night with Bret Baier, who asked the simple question: why haven’t Senate Democrats passed a budget? Wasserman Schultz wanted to gripe about the House-passed Paul Ryan budget, but when Baier asked why the Senate hadn’t passed a budget resolution in 1,092 days, Wasserman Schultz scolded him for talking about “process.” She did try to argue at one point that Democrats have proposed a budget — the White House budget from Barack Obama — but Baier forced her to change direction when he asked why the Senate hadn’t bothered to vote on it.

More lies, more failures of leadership, and more efforts to hide the failures of leadership... which brings us full circle back to President Obama and his highly partisan speech at the University of North Carolina yesterday where he deliberately misquoted a Republican Tea Party Congresswoman from Virginia in order to try to make the point that in addition to the 'war on women', the GOP now is waging a 'war on students'.

Demonstrating the ineptitude of the Obama campaign messaging team - and their efforts to 'recapture lightning' - the WH is now rolling out ideologue activist Sandra Fluke to advocate for the extension of the Democrat mandated ending of the federally subsidized student loan reduction beyond July 1st. In addition to being unable to afford $9 per month for contraception, Ms. Fluke now wants to ensure that the GOP doesn't 'double' her loan interest rate - even though the bill was authored by a Democrat controlled Congress - and specifically had the reduction end during this election year so it could trumpet this as an election year issue.

The only real issue to the extension of the interest rate reduction is how to pay for the $6 billion it costs each year. One would think we wouldn't have much of a challenge finding $6 billion in spending to cut in nearly $4 trillion budget - but thanks to the Democrats, it is. Perhaps we can use the President's $8.3 billion slush fund for Medicare Advantage or halt the DoE giving out any more 'stimuative' loans to fiscally challenged green energy companies?

A senior official in the Obama State Department has told the National Journal that the war on terror is over.
"The war on terror is over," a senior official in the State Department official tells the National Journal. "Now that we have killed most of al Qaida, now that people have come to see legitimate means of expression, people who once might have gone into al Qaida see an opportunity for a legitimate Islamism."

This new outlook has, in the words of the National Journal, come from a belief among administration officials that "It is no longer the case, in other words, that every Islamist is seen as a potential accessory to terrorists."

The National Journal explains:

The new approach is made possible by the double impact of the Arab Spring, which supplies a new means of empowerment to young Arabs other than violent jihad, and Obama's savagely successful military drone campaign against the worst of the violent jihadists, al Qaida.

The cluelessness of this announcement is just stunning....but also unsurprising within the culture of the Obama Executive it shares the same idiocy as the pronouncement from the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, which proclaimed the Muslim Brotherhood as a 'largely secular' organization.

The progressive left never understood the 'war on terror' - or the war being waged against not only the US, but Western Civilization. To a large extent this is because the progressive left see themselves as fighting the same war against traditional US values and the values of the Western Civilization. Because of them, we are taught that multiculturalism is the preferred message, that the only reasons nations and non-government groups like al-Qaeda oppose us are because of our own actions and our own 'crimes'.

Sadly, the war is being called over - and we haven't won it, or even come close to winning it. Once again, defeat is being snatched from the jaws of victory by the vapid progressives. Islamofascism and the use of terror as a tactic to influence political change haven't been defeated. In the wake of the Arab Spring, many more millions are on the verge of embracing a return to a theocratic 7th century mindeset than embracing the more modern concepts of freedom, liberty, equality, and secularism.

More bad news for President Obama on the domestic economic front today - US orders for durable goods fell by the largest amount in three years during March 2012.  Zerohedge notes this on the durable good implosion...
As we warned back in February when we noted that the non-seasonally unadjusted collapse in durable goods was historic, now that the aftereffect of a record warm winter is fully gone, the March durable goods data comes in and it was a complete disaster: instead of dropping modestly by 1.7% as the consensus expected, the March actual print was a massive 4.2% decline, worse than the worst Wall Street forecast, or the most since January 2009! And it was not only airplanes as many were expecting (despite Boeing's just announced epic sales): the ex-transportation number was down 1.1%, on expectations of a 0.5% gain; even worse, capital goods new orders slid 0.8% on expectations of a 1% gain. And as usual inventories hit another record high. Overall, a horrendous print which confirms that the entire myth of a recovery in Q1 was warm weather driven, and that about 1% of the 2.5% or so consensus GDP was due to the weather. Expect the downward GDP revisions to come any second.

This also comes as Britain discovers that it has entered a double-dip recession....

...and the Eurocrisis continues with the Dutch government collapsing over the debate around how to address the fiscal challenges the majority of Europe faces.  The Dutch government collapse when it failed to get austerity measures passed through the Dutch parliament in their effort to take steps now as opposed to later to address a growing budget deficit.

May 6 is going to be a key day for the future of Europe and the Euro.

Not only will May 6 see the run off election to determine the French President, but Greece will also be holding major Parliamentary elections which will determine if the country will continue down the path they were forced to take in order to receive their bailout earlier this year.  In Germany, where Chancellor Angela Merkel continues to press for austerity measures in order to combat the debt crisis for the Eurozone, several key German states will hold elections which could have a major impact on Merkel's government and direction.

In Europe, the fundamental battle is almost identical to the economic battle that the Romney v Obama race will center around - and which economic approach is the best path to generate economic growth - measures related towards austerity (lower taxes, limited government, limited entitlements, and encouraging private sector growth) or tax / spend (higher taxes, larger government and government controls, increased government spending to stimulate the economy).

The Wall Street Journal noted this on their opinion page on the 24th....
If Reagan or Margaret Thatcher are too déclassé for Europeans to invoke, how about Germany? Throughout the 1990s and the first years of the last decade, Germany was Europe's hobbled giant, with consistently subpar growth rates and unemployment that in 2005 hit 11.3%, nearly at the top of the OECD chart.

Then-Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, a Social Democrat, surprised the world, to say nothing of his own voters, by pushing through the labor-market reforms that paved the way for the current relative prosperity. The changes cut welfare benefits and gave employers more flexibility in reaching agreement with their employees on working time and pay.

The Schröder government, and later the coalition under Angela Merkel, also cut federal corporate income taxes to 15% from 45% in 1998. Include state taxes, and the effective corporate rate today is close to 30%, down from 50% or more in the 1990s. These reforms made Germany more competitive, attracted investment and jobs, and paved the way for the country's economic resurgence and an unemployment rate currently at 5.7%.

One would think that a historical perspective looking back at the late 1970's and then the economic rebound of the 1980's - we would be able to see which of the paths actually does deliver economic growth and benefits. But unfortunately, for too many, ideology overrules not only the lessons from history, but also common sense.

Also in yesterday's edition of the Wall Street Journal, two very liberal economists took to paper to advocate that not only does tax and spend promote viable economic growth - but that today, in the US, the top federal income tax rates are far too low to stimulate the levels of growth that we need. They advocate that the optimum top federal income tax rate is at least 50% - and perhaps could be as high as 70% despite the lessons from the 1980's. As for capital gains and dividends? They also call for massive increases in those tax rates as well - far above the 15% we have today. They also advocate that massive federal government spending is what will stimulate the economic recovery - this despite the failure of the 2009 stimulus (over $800 billion) and increasing government spending by about $1 trillion each of the last three years - all of which have done little to stimulate a viable economic recovery.

The Heritage Foundation comes back today with their answer to those 'learned' economists....

As tax rates fell during the 1980s and stayed relatively low, high earners earned more income, paid more taxes, and paid a higher share of the tax burden.

There’s an old lawyer’s saw that goes: When the facts are against you, argue the law. And when the law’s against you, argue the facts. And when they’re both against you, just argue.

Well, the facts are against Diamond and Saez, so how about the theory? They are arguing that if the top tax rates go up, then the number of hours worked won’t go down, the amount of saving won’t go down, and the amount of investment in the economy won’t go down.

Funny thing about liberals—they only believe in incentives when it fits their ideology. They’re perfectly happy to argue for carbon taxes to save the environment, because higher taxes on carbon output will most certainly drive the economy away from activities that produce more carbon.

Likewise, higher tax rates cause productive high earners to cut back, because prices matter. Would Diamond and Saez argue that raising the price of cars wouldn’t cause consumers to cut back on the number of cars they buy? Of course not. When fundamental theory runs afoul of redistributionist ideology, it’s like Bambi meets Godzilla. You know who would win that one.

This is the fundamental economic argument that voters will decide this November. It is why the left will argue that the real issues are not these economic principles, but 'fairness' and the need for 'social justice' while trying to deflect their failures onto their opponents. They see 2012 as being another 2006 and 2008 - and in this, I believe they are just completely delusional.

This Day in History

April 24th

1800 - President John Adams signs legislation to establish the Library of Congress

1916 - The Irish Republican Brotherhood launches the Easter Rebellion - an armed uprising against British rule in Ireland.  Britain will crush the rebellion by April 29th.

1980 - A military operation to rescue the 52 Americans held hostage in Tehran, Iran ends in disaster at Desert One - with 8 US military dead, 5 injured, and no hostages rescued.  More info - The Desert One Debacle...  The hostages being held by the Iranian government would not be released until January 20, 1981 - just minutes after Ronald Reagan was inaugurated as President.

April 25th

1859 - Ground is broken for the construction of the Suez Canal - a 101 mile long canal to connect the Mediterranean and the Red Seas.  The canal would be completed in 1869. 

1915 - Allied forces launch a large scale invasion of Turkey's Gallipolli Peninsula - in an effort to drive Turkey out of the war and capture the strategic waterway between the Med and the Black Seas.  Turkish defenders were well prepared for the invasion -and inflicted very heavy casualties on the French, British, and ANZAC (Australian, New Zealand) troops leading to a stalemate and a very tenuous hold on the beachheads.

1945 - American and Russian troops meet at the Elbe River in Germany - cutting the country into 2 and encircling Berlin.

1990 - The crew of the space shuttle Discovery launches the Hubble Space Telescope into a low orbit around the Earth.

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