Thursday, August 9, 2012

Quick Hits - August 8, 2012

We've got just under 100 days until Election Day in November.  The campaign has been underway for over a year - and we're in the midst of one of the most negative campaigns in decades.  But within this 'negative' campaign, there are some interesting aspects that should give one pause to consider.

Roger L. Simon, of PJ Media, highlights one of these aspects in an excellent post titled, 'Fear and Shame on the Campaign Trail' as he notes the incredible power of the mainstream media..
Anyone who doubts the enduring power of the mainstream media need look no further than the rise in Romney’s unfavorables in a recent Pew Poll. Yes, this poll is likely skewed, but the percentages are too extreme to escape the conclusion that a large number of Americans do not find Mitt “Mr. Nice Guy.” (I met him and thought he was perfectly okay — but what do I know?) Obama, on the other hand, is still considered a swell fellow.

All this although the economy has been a disaster throughout his presidency and, for the last year, probably more, he has seemed a petulant prig when confronted with the slightest criticism. Not an attractive trait.

You would think under those conditions those poll numbers would be reversed and the election polls themselves would show Romney with a gigantic lead, but no. Like a nation of ostriches, huge portions of the American public have swallowed the media/Axelrod line that Mitt Romney is a rich self-interested capitalist out of touch with the masses, whoever they are and whatever that means(it doesn’t matter as long as they vote for Obama), hell-bent on robbing from the poor to give to the rich like a reverse Robin Hood.

In other words, a large portion of the American public has effectively been brainwashed. And the brainwashers are the Democratic Party and the mainstream media.
Negative campaigns are run because they have worked - particularly for Barack Obama as Victor Davis Hanson noted in this post on NRO's The Corner...
If I were Romney, I would not count on the idea of class warfare, the so-called politics of personal destruction, and McCarthyite tactics not working, because they always have for Obama/Axelrod in the past — and seem to be in the last week….

…The media favorite Obama eliminated all his Democratic rivals in his first election for the Illinois legislature by suing in court to invalidate their nomination petitions and ran unopposed in the primary. Obama demolished his U.S. Senate Democratic primary rival through leaked divorce records. He demolished his initial Republican rival through leaked divorce records. When he got through with Hillary Clinton, the liberal former first lady and U.S. senator had transmogrified into a prevaricating hack and veritable racist, as Bill Clinton lamented the race card being played. John McCain released his health records and his general dismal ranking at Annapolis, leading to a false narrative that he was naturally inattentive and reckless, and scarcely hale, while Obama released neither his medical nor his college records; as Sarah Palin — heretofore a reformist governor of Alaska who in bipartisan fashion had fought special interests — was reduced to a caricature of an uninformed poor (and trashy) mom. All of the above transpired while Barack Obama ran as a “reformer” and proponent of “civility,” who vowed to run a “transparent” campaign of full disclosure, and to leave the old “petty” and “gotcha” politics behind.
Supporters of the President often counter that the GOP candidate, and his supporters, have gone 'negative' on the President - as if pointing out bad policy decisions, or an unprecedented leap of executive power or authority to rewrite existing laws, or the bad economic information is the same as running an advertisement that accuses the GOP candidate of callously killing a steelworker's wife by shutting down the steel company the husband worked this pro-Obama advertisement created by a Super-PAC run by a former WH adviser of President Obama...

This ad, by Priorities USA, is so blatantly dishonest, that even the usual MSM shills like CNN and MSNBC are denouncing it.  They note the key aspects of the timeline that is left out of the advertisement - like Mitt Romney leaving Bain Capital to run the Salt Lake City Olympics in Feb 1999, that Bain Capital, after trying to rebuild GST Steel, closed the plant in late 2001.  But most importantly, the advertisement fails to mention that Joe Soptic's wife did not die until 2006 - 5 1/2 years after the plant was closed.  It's quite a stretch to link these events to Mitt Romney - but they do try.

Naturally, the Obama campaign is quick to try to disavow any direct connection with this ad - or denounce it....claiming that they don't have the details on the timeline.  From Hot Air, here's a video featuring the shameless Stephanie Cutter of the Obama campaign (best known for calling Mitt Romney 'a felon' several weeks ago) pretending she knows nothing about the ad or Joe Soptic...

But this is not the case.  Stephanie Cutter and the Obama campaign know all about Joe Soptic as Fox News reports...
Further, the Obama campaign certainly is familiar with the story of Soptic, despite claims by top campaign aides that they're not as they tried to make the case Wednesday that the super PAC ad had nothing to do with the campaign's work.

Soptic appeared in a pair of Obama campaign videos in May which hammered Romney over his former company Bain Capital's role before GST filed for bankruptcy.

"They made as much money off it as they could, and they closed it down," Soptic said in that video, wearing what appears to be the same shirt he wore in the most recent ad. "It was like watching an old friend bleed to death."

This week, Soptic reemerged in the Priorities USA ad telling how his wife got sick, and later died of cancer, after he was let go at GST steel.

Asked about the spot, Obama campaign adviser Robert Gibbs stressed that the super PAC is not connected to the campaign.
Not connected?  Joe Messina, the Obama campaign manager, and David Axelrod, the campaign's senior strategist, have raised funds and contributed to the Super PAC.  They, along with the above referenced Robert Gibbs, the former Obama Press flack, worked with Bill Burton, the PAC's senior strategist in the Obama White House.

But while the mainstream media will continue to push and support Harry Reid's absurd accusation against Mitt Romney regarding taxes - they will not investigate or expose the similarity of the attack message from the Obama campaign and that of the Priorities USA - or the links between this PAC and the campaign.

While appearing at a fundraiser in Connecticut earlier this week, Barack Obama launched a new level of attacks against challenger Mitt Romney by terming Romney's economic and tax plan 'Romney Hood' - taking from the poor and giving to the rich.  The Wall Street Journal has a strong editorial that eviscerates the 'false, invented analysis behind Obama's tax claims' that factually hammers the partisan and badly reasoned 'Tax Policy Center' cited by the President.
As he escalates his class war re-election campaign, President Obama has taken to calling Mitt Romney's economic plan "Robin Hood in reverse" or "Romney Hood." The charge is that even though Mr. Romney is proposing to cut tax rates for everybody across the board, Mr. Romney will finance this by imposing a tax increase on the middle class. His evidence is a single study by the Tax Policy Center, a liberal think tank that has long opposed cutting income tax rates.

Another reality is that more than one-third of Americans pay no income tax. Many in this group contribute payroll taxes, but for most their only connection to the income tax is to receive refundable tax credits (in the form of a check) that are effectively government payments. This is the basis for the Tax Policy Center's wild claim that the Romney plan raises taxes on those who earn less than $30,000—a group that now has a negative tax liability.

The claim is that reducing various refundable tax credits that are cash payments from the government are a "tax increase." By this logic, reducing unemployment benefits or food stamps would also be a tax increase. Even the CBO and Congress's Joint Committee on Taxation acknowledge that refundable tax credits are government outlays not tax cuts.

The study's claims also rest on the assumption that tax cutting doesn't increase economic growth. The study's authors expose their own bias on this point by asserting that "the effects of tax rate reductions are likely to be small or even negative" over 10 years.

It's certainly true that not all tax cuts have the same economic impact. But nearly all economists save for the most partisan liberals agree that cutting tax rates at the margin has the most bang for the buck. So how can the Tax Policy Center claim that cutting tax rates to increase incentives to work and invest has a "negative" impact? Not even the Keynesian economists who gave us the failed stimulus plan argue that the effect of tax cuts is negative.

Harvard economist Dale Jorgenson recently testified before the Senate Finance Committee that "a tax reform similar to the Reagan effort of 1986" would raise economic output over the long term "by $7 trillion in 2011 dollars."

What the Obama campaign and its acolytes at the Tax Policy Center are really saying is that tax reform that reduces rates and makes all income groups better off is impossible. This is a far cry from what Democrats used to believe, going back to Jack Kennedy in 1964 and in the 1980s when prominent Democrats Bill Bradley, Dick Gephardt and Don Rostenkowski helped to write the 1986 tax reform.

The Obama Democrats, by contrast, favor income redistribution and raising rates on the wealthy for their own partisan political sake, no matter the damage to growth, the cost in lost revenue, or a less progressive tax code as the rich exploit loopholes.

The great irony is that the candidate most likely to raise taxes on the middle class is Mr. Obama. He could raise every tax on the rich he proposes and still not come up with enough revenue to finance the increases in spending he wants in a second term. Where do you think he'll turn then?
James Pethokoukis, writing at the American Enterprise Institute, carries this counter-analysis another step - and highlights Romney's own metrics to which he is willing to be held accountable for if he wins in November....
In the short run, the Romney bet is that tax, regulatory and entitlement reform – or, perhaps just greater optimism about such possibilities – will provide their own immediate stimulus by reducing uncertainty. Indeed, the paper highlights a recent study by Scott Baker and Nicholas Bloom of Stanford University and Steven Davis of the University of Chicago that found that policy uncertainty “reduced GDP by 1.4 percent in 2011 alone, and that restoring pre-crisis levels of uncertainty would add 2.3 million jobs in 18 months.”

But the real pro-growth aspect of the plan comes from the impact of long-term tax and budget reform on the U.S economy. Here are the metrics by which we will judge Romneyomics if the Republican makes it to the White House:
Measuring from the first quarter of 2013 through the fourth quarter of 2022, the average growth rate is expected to be approximately 4 percent per year with the upper long-term growth range, and about 3.5 percent with the lower long-term growth range. This compares favorably with the approximately 2 percent pace of the current recovery. Real GDP under the Romney plan will be between $5.5 and $6.5 trillion higher than today, and between $2.1 and $3.1 trillion higher in 2022 than it would be under a continuation of current slow growth. … Combined, and bolstered by sound monetary policy, we estimate that the Romney economic program will enable the private sector to create an additional 7 million net new jobs over the next decade beyond the improvement in employment from a more robust cyclical recovery in the short-term as a consequence of the Romney economic program.
Yesterday's QH highlighted a new advertisement from the Romney campaign that accuses the Obama Administration 'gutted' the 1996 Welfare reform legislation by establishing an entirely new provision to issue waivers to states to reduce the workfare requirements that was a critical aspect of the successful 1996 legislation.  The Administration calls the accusations made by the Romney campaign 'categorically false' and 'blatantly dishonest'.

The Heritage Foundation, which was one of the first organizations to highlight the Administration's questionable decision, skewers the claims of the Administration.  Yes, that's right claims.  The Administration first claims that 'We didn't gut work requirements'...
Ever since the 1996 law passed, Democratic leaders have attempted (unsuccessfully) to repeal welfare’s work standards, blocking reauthorization of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program (TANF) and attempting to weaken the requirements. Unable to eliminate “workfare” legislatively, the Obama HHS claimed authority to grant waivers that allow states to get around the work requirements. Humorously, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius now asserts that the Administration abolished the TANF work requirements to increase work.

HHS now claims that states receiving a waiver must “commit that their proposals will move at least 20 percent more people from welfare to work compared to the state’s prior performance.” But given the normal turnover rate in welfare programs, the easiest way to increase the number of people moving from “welfare to work” is to increase the number entering welfare in the first place.

Bogus statistical ploys like these were the norm before the 1996 reform. The law curtailed use of sham measures of success and established meaningful standards: Participating in work activities meant actual work activities, not “bed rest” or “reading” or doing one hour of job search per month; reducing welfare dependence meant reducing caseloads. Now those standards are gone.

Then, there is the 2nd claim of the Obama Administration in their 'defense'- 'Even if we did, the Republicans tried it, too'
But [the governors'] letter makes no mention at all of waiving work requirements under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. In fact, the legislation promoted in the letter—the Personal Responsibility and Individual Development for Everyone (PRIDE) Act—actually would have toughened the federal work standards. It proposed raising the mandatory participation rates imposed on states from 50 percent to 70 percent of the adult TANF caseload and increasing the hours of required work activity.

The governors’ letter actually contradicts the Administration’s main argument: If the law has always permitted HHS to waive the work requirements, then why didn’t the governors just request waivers from then-President George W. Bush? Why would legislation be needed?

Two reasons: First, it has been clear for 15 years that the TANF law did not permit HHS to waive the work requirements. Second, the Republican governors were not seeking to waive the work requirements in the first place.
Of course, these reasons will get little real attention by the sycophants for Barack Obama in the mainstream media.  Powerline, in this post, hammers the WaPoo's 'factchecker' for his shilling for President Obama over the Romney advert - who assigns the advertisement '4 pinocchios' while accepting the full Obama defense and justification for rewriting legislation by executive order entirely and without any question.  This is just the latest example of the WaPoo's willingness to do whatever it takes to provide cover and support for the Administration.

As quietly as possible, President Barack Obama signed into law a bill that requires him to reveal to Congress within the next 30 days exactly how he would slash defense and domestic spending under the sequestration automatic budget cuts due to take effect in January as part of last year's debt ceiling increase bill.  The law, known as they Sequestration Transparency Act passed in the House by a 414-2 vote, and in the Senate via unanimous consent.

At this link, CNBC has an interview with Eric Rosengren, the President of the Boston Federal Reserve Bank.  During the interview, Rosengren calls for a third round of Quantitative Easing - at least equal to the previous two in scope, although he would prefer one that is far more open ended and tied to achieving specific economic milestones before the program would stop.

If there is a QE#3, and it is open ended, we can expect even more inflation - which many suspect is running substantially higher than the 'official' 1.5% annual inflation rate that Rosengren notes, combined with continued weakening of the dollar.

In Europe, one of the founders of the Euro currency, admits that some nations may be forced to leave the currency as a result of their fiscal challenges...
Otmar Issing, a former European Central Bank chief economist, warned that the eurozone could be heading towards fracture in a book called How we save the euro and strengthen Europe published this week .

"Everything speaks in favour of saving the euro area. How many countries will be able to be part of it in the long term remains to be seen," said Mr Issing in the book, which is written as a conversation between an economist and a journalist.

At no point did he explicitly refer to Greece, but the debt-stricken country has been hovering perilously close to default and an exit from the eurozone as it makes harsh spending cuts and tax hikes to appease the EU and ECB after receiving billions in bail-out payments.

"We are still a long way off saying 'that's it, now we are sure to make progress'. Substantial reforms in almost all countries are still pending," he added.

Mr Issing is one of the founding fathers of the euro, but also predicted potential problems with the plan and argued that political union ought to precede a shared currency to ensure its stability in the long-term. The economist has now said there is a case for some countries to leave the union in order to solve their own debt problems, but that Germany would do best to remain a member.
What is most notable to me about the comments by Issing is the notation that he predicted potential problems with the original plan and pushed for a full political union to take effect before adopting a shared currency.  This was the position of the leftists during the original debate - that a political union was the desired goal.  The comprise position they took was taken knowing fully well that this type of crisis would occur - and ultimately push the case even more for political union.  Planned obsolescence...or never letting a crisis go to waste.

Does this sound like a good deal?  A California school district will spend $1 billion to borrow $100 million.
It’s being called a loan not even a subprime lender would make.

A school district north of San Diego, Poway Unified, borrowed $105 million over 40 years by selling a bond so unusual that the State of Michigan outlawed it years ago. Taxpayers in the area will end up with a nearly $1 billion bill at the end of this deal.

The Poway school district is not the only one — three other California school districts in San Diego are set to gouge taxpayers in similar fashion. The San Diego Unified School district borrowed $164 million up front, but will owe a whopping $1.3 billion at the end of its long-term bond. Oceanside Unified sold a $30 million bond, but will owe nearly ten times as much decades later, $280 million total. And Escondido Union School District likewise borrowed $27 million and will owe $247 million total.
It's the mindset like this that has a state, running a $16 billion deficit on the current budget, push for a $8 billion tax increase that is promised to eliminate the annual deficit, commit to spend $100 billion on a high speed rail network that has no market, no customers, and no private investors, decide in the current budget to increase spending 28.8% over last year's budget.

Is there any live left in conservative California?  Or are the majority of conservative Californians in the process of fleeing the once Golden State?
The governor and his democrat controlled legislature has neither offered nor made any serious structural reform in order to balance the budget, no serious labor or pension reform, which is the major out-of-control 500 pound gorilla in this China shop. Not only does the state have a $16 billion deficit, it doesn't have any plan for another huge ticking time bomb - an $884 billion of unfunded pension liability to unions. This is the money that's owed to the unions, the same ones who have bought and paid for the entire democrat controlled legislature. But don't worry it gets worse: wait for it... the latest CA budget increases spending by 28%.8 %.

So now the NY Times claims the real problem with the GOP in California is its positions on such issues as immigration, affirmative action, high speed rail and gay rights that are hampering the resurgence of the party. The only problem is that voters of California, including minorities agrees with the GOP on all these positions. So the NYT might considering looking elsewhere for explaining the demise of the CA GOP.
The California GOP is a dysfunctional party.  But as the above article correctly notes, in California, when real issues get to the people via the proposition process, the conservative principles and approaches are the one's that garner the most support.  The challenge is how to get this to translate into voting support into statewide offices and stronger positions within the legislature.  The bastardized process for redistricting doesn't help.  Neither does the demographic hotspots of the very progressive Bay Area or the Los Angeles Basin.  Unions spending hundreds of millions to buy elections do not help either.  But the other aspect, the rapid rise and growth of government dependency - like the increasing level of state and local services being given to illegal immigrants combined with lax voting standards - creates an environment like we see in Greece or Spain where those on the government dole vote to remain on the government dole.

The real concern that we have to examine is that California is the canary in the coal mine.  This is the progressive model that President Obama is pushing to become the normal condition at the federal level.

Today in History

1864 - In the aftermath of the defeat at Gettysburg, Confederate General Robert E. Lee sends a letter of resignation as commander of the Army of Northern Virginia to Confederate President Jefferson Davis.  Davis would refuse to accept Lee's resignation.

1942 - Six German saboteurs who secretly entered the U.S. on a mission to attack its civil infrastructure are executed by the United States for spying in Washington D.C.  2 other saboteurs who disclosed the mission and assisted U.S. authorities in the hunt for the others are imprisoned.

1945 - The USSR declares war on Japan and launches offensive operations against Japan by invading Manchuria with more than 1 million troops.

1945 - President Harry Truman signs the United Nations charter as the U.S. becomes the first nation to complete the ratification process and join the new international organization.

1974 -In a televised address to the nation on the evening of the 8th, President Richard Nixon announces his intention to resign as the nation's 37th President at noon the following day - becoming the first president in American history to do so.  Nixon was bowing to public and Congressional pressure to resign over his actions around the Watergate break-in and subsequent cover-up - and as impeachment proceedings were underway against him in the House of Representatives.

2000 - The Confederate submarine H.L.Hunley was raised from the ocean bottom.  The Hunley was sunk while attacking and sinking the USS Housatonic in 1864 in the first successful sinking of a warship by a submarine in history.

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