Friday, January 30, 2009
Americans are skeptical that an economic stimulus plan from the federal government will help the nation’s economy. This is perhaps due to the fact that most people think that the elected officials in Washington working on the plan are part of the economic problem as opposed to the solution.
Less than half (45 percent) of Americans think “Barack Obama’s proposed $825 billion dollar economic recovery plan” will help the economy. More Americans think the focus of an economic stimulus plan should be “cutting taxes” (50 percent) than "increasing government spending on new programs and infrastructure projects” (29 percent).
Majorities of Republicans (69 percent) and independents (52 percent) think cutting taxes should be the focus of an economic stimulus plan. More Democrats think the focus should be increasing spending (42 percent) than cutting taxes (35 percent).
Nearly one-quarter (23 percent) of Americans think moving “away from capitalism and more toward socialism” would be a good thing for the United States. This includes 42 percent of those with household incomes under $30,000, as well as 35 percent of Democrats, and 31 percent of those under age thirty.
As a conservative economist, I might be expected to oppose a stimulus plan. In fact, on this page in October, I declared my support for a stimulus. But the fiscal package now before Congress needs to be thoroughly revised. In its current form, it does too little to raise national spending and employment. It would be better for the Senate to delay legislation for a month, or even two, if that's what it takes to produce a much better bill. We cannot afford an $800 billion mistake.
The plan to finance health insurance premiums for the unemployed would actually increase unemployment by giving employers an incentive to lay off workers rather than pay health premiums during a time of weak demand. And this supposedly two-year program would create a precedent that could be hard to reverse.
Instead, the tax changes should focus on providing incentives to households and businesses to increase current spending. Why not a temporary refundable tax credit to households that purchase cars or other major consumer durables, analogous to the investment tax credit for businesses? Or a temporary tax credit for home improvements? In that way, the same total tax reduction could produce much more spending and employment.
Postponing the scheduled increase in the tax on dividends and capital gains would raise share prices, leading to increased consumer spending and, by lowering the cost of capital, more business investment. All new spending and tax changes should have explicit time limits that prevent ever-increasing additions to the national debt. Similarly, spending programs should not create political dynamics that will make them hard to end.
The problem with the current stimulus plan is not that it is too big but that it delivers too little extra employment and income for such a large fiscal deficit. It is worth taking the time to get it right.
Despite President Obama's trip to the Hill on Tuesday, he couldn't pry loose a single Republican vote for his stimulus plan, which nonetheless passed with solely Democratic support. Still, the partisan split signaled that despite their weakened political state and the popularity of the new president, Republicans won't be won over by charm alone. Nor has it escaped notice that it was the opposition to the bill which was bipartisan...
[TV Test: has your news source pointed out that it was the opposition to this bill that was bipartisan, while support came from only one party? No? Change the channel...]
There's a serious debate in this country as to how best to end the recession. The average recession will last five to 11 months; the average recovery will last six years. Recessions will end on their own if they're left alone. What can make the recession worse is the wrong kind of government intervention.
I believe the wrong kind is precisely what President Barack Obama has proposed. I don't believe his is a "stimulus plan" at all -- I don't think it stimulates anything but the Democratic Party. This "porkulus" bill is designed to repair the Democratic Party's power losses from the 1990s forward, and to cement the party's majority power for decades
Notwithstanding the media blitz in support of the Obama stimulus plan, most Americans, according to a new Rasmussen poll, are skeptical. Rasmussen finds that 59% fear that Congress and the president will increase government spending too much. Only 17% worry they will cut taxes too much. Since the American people are not certain that the Obama stimulus plan is the way to go, it seems to me there's an opportunity for genuine compromise. At the same time, we can garner evidence on how to deal with future recessions, so every occurrence will no longer become a matter of partisan debate. [snip]
Fifty-three percent of American voters voted for Barack Obama; 46% voted for John McCain, and 1% voted for wackos. Give that 1% to President Obama. Let's say the vote was 54% to 46%. As a way to bring the country together and at the same time determine the most effective way to deal with recessions:
54% of the $900 billion -- $486 billion -- will be spent on infrastructure and pork as defined by Mr. Obama and the Democrats; 46% -- $414 billion -- will be directed toward tax cuts...
"There's no way and no chance to stop the Iranian nuclear program," U.S. Congressman and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Peter Hoekstra told the independent American news site Newsmax in an interview on Tuesday.
The U.S army's Strategic Studies Institute's assessment that Iran will obtain enough enriched uranium to build a nuclear bomb before the end of the year.
"Iran is a threat to the stability of the Middle East, and countries like Saudi Arabia and Israel fear what it may do," said Hoekstra.
[complete tripe. It's not a case of our being unable to stop Iran, it's a case of the 'international' community lacking the will.
If we literally blockaded the country until it gave up its nuclear ambitions, it would crumble - its only natural resource is oil.
But we don't; we let the UN play veto games with China, Russia and the largest single voting block in the organization - the Islamic nations.
Meanwhile, thanks to public statements like this guy's, smiles all around in Tehran...]
Ankara, Turkey - Turkey was holding a suspicious shipment bound for Venezuela from Iran because it contained lab equipment capable of producing explosives, a customs official said Tuesday. Suleyman Tosun, a customs official at the Mediterranean port of Mersin, said military experts were asked to examine the material, which was seized last month Authorities detected the equipment during a search of 22 containers labeled ''tractor parts''...
Soon after the November election, al-Qaeda's No. 2 leader took stock of America's new president-elect and dismissed him with an insulting epithet. "A house Negro," Ayman al-Zawahiri said.
That was just a warm-up. In the weeks since, the terrorist group has unleashed a stream of verbal tirades against Barack Obama, each more venomous than the last.
... The interview wasn’t into its first two minutes before Obama tells the Arab interviewer that, when it comes to the on-going Arab-Israeli conflict in Gaza, the United States has acted more like an ignorant dictator:
"…what I told (Special Envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell) is start by listening, because all too often the United States starts by dictating—in the past on some of these issues—and we don't always know all the factors that are involved."
It’s all downhill from there, with President Obama later implying that the United States hasn’t been respectful in its treatment of the Muslim world:
“Now, my job is to communicate the fact that the United States has a stake in the well-being of the Muslim world, that the language we use has to be a language of respect.”
He also implied that the American people have a prejudiced view of Muslims, owing to the attacks of September 11, and therefore do not understand the Muslim world:
“My job is to communicate to the American people that the Muslim world is filled with extraordinary people who simply want to live their lives and see their children live better lives.”
But what should be of utmost concern to Americans is the way Obama redefined the priorities of the president:
" I think that what you'll see is somebody who is listening, who is respectful, and who is trying to promote the interests not just of the United States, but also ordinary people who right now are suffering from poverty and a lack of opportunity. I want to make sure that I’m speaking to them, as well."
Obama believes that equal to the interests of the United States, the president must also promote the interests of “ordinary people” in the Muslim world.
Mogadishu — At leat 2 people have been killed after fresh fighting between government militias and Islamist terrorists has erupted Monday in Medina district in Mogadishu, witnesses told Radio Shabelle. Residents say the fighting is heavy and both sides have used mortars and heavy machine guns. The fighting started after the Islamist terrorists attacked a checkpoint manned by government militias...
While Israeli academics have grown used to such news from Great Britain, where anti-Israel groups several times attempted to establish academic boycotts, the formation of the United States movement marks the first time that a national academic boycott movement has come out of America.
Israeli professors are not sure yet how big of an impact the one-week-old movement will have, but started discussing the significance of and possible counteractions against the campaign.
Nato is suffering from 'enlargement fatigue' and has no will to admit Georgia or Ukraine, according to Poland's foreign minister Radek Sikorski. Mr Sikorski, who is a leading contender to become Nato's secretary-general when the Alliance selects a new chief in April, told The Daily Telegraph that membership for both countries was a "fairly distant prospect".
[They're cow-towing to Russia, plain and simple. I.e., a "Gas in our lifetime" moment.]
The European Commission warned Slovakia Monday that its decision to reactivate an old nuclear reactor runs counter to EU law and was "not an option." If the Slovakian government reactivates the Bohunice nuclear plant "that would be a clear violation" of the treaty that Bratislava signed to become an EU member, said commission spokesman Ferran Tarradellas.
Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico said earlier that his government would restart a nuclear reactor at the plant unless Russian gas supplies were restored to Europe.
At her Senate confirmation hearing last week, Hillary Clinton expressed confidence the U.S. alliance with Colombia will always be good, free-trade treaty or not. But growing signs show she's got it wrong.
Last year, Columbia's Trade Minister Luis Plata warned that denying free trade to Colombia in a hemisphere full of U.S. free-trade treaties amounted to sanctions on an ally because the other countries with which America has agreements are its competitors.
The matter is urgent, because the global economic downturn is hitting Colombia hard now.
Colombia already has tariff-free trading on its exports to the United States for its cooperation in the war on drugs. It collects $1 billion in tariffs on U.S. imports, but would gladly give that up to draw foreign investment that would flow under the trade treaty.
[ah, but our unions don't like it; so its political party...]
A Northern Virginia delegate is proposing to cram a 40-hour workweek into four days for many state workers, in the hopes of recouping energy costs and 'encouraging' Virginians to access the Internet for government services. [snip]
“I think the work force is going to like this, I think they’re going to enjoy it. I think we’re going to benefit from energy savings, and I think people are going to wind up using the Internet more to access services."
[and the tax payers? What do they think about 'winding up' using the internet more? A: They weren't asked. But who cares - they just pay the bills, and it's not like there's any competition to turn to - this is the government...]
I have frequently written about how the environmentalists have set up a system in which all products of industrial civilization are regarded as guilty until proven innocent, i.e., all industrial emissions are regarded as toxic or destructive until proven otherwise, according to an impossible standard of proof.
The article below reveals the same pattern, but as applied to cigarette smoke. You have heard of "second-hand smoke," but have you heard of "third-hand smoke"? According to this article, "Studies have shown that these contaminating particles are measurable in rooms, on clothing and on toys long after a person has finished smoking."
They key word is "measurable." With the extraordinary sensitivity of modern scientific instruments, which can detect substances in concentrations of parts per billion, anything is "measurable." Thus, many contemporary health scares are mere artifacts of our newfound ability to measure, in benignly infinitesimal quantities, substances that would be toxic if they were found in much higher concentrations.
This story finally makes clear to me the reason for the enduring strength of the anti-smoking crusade. It is a kind of laboratory for establishing the key environmentalist method. It is an attempt to condition the public to accept the most outlandish health claims about the smallest quantities of man-made chemicals—a method that can then be applied to the byproducts of industrial civilization.
The RSPCA has seized two dogs from their owner after she was accused of feeding them too much. The Labradors were taken from their home by an inspector from the charity who said they were just going to be weighed.
The organisation has not allowed Marie Davidson, 48, to see her animals, or even told her where they have been kept for the past three months...
[her loved pets. 'Liberal fascism' isn't just another catch phrase - it's real and accelerating. This act was based on the fact that we're allowing governments to somehow label being overweight as criminal. Think about the ramifications of that...]
On October 6, 2008 the Federal Reserve announced it would begin to pay interest starting on October 9, 2008, on required and excess reserves that individual banks maintain at the Fed, stating that this would encourage banks to hold larger reserves. But this is exactly the wrong policy objective in an environment where banks are reluctant to lend to businesses and others, says Jim Johnston, director of the Heartland Institute.
- The recovery from the Great Depression was well on the way when the Fed observed that banks were holding more than twice the level of reserves than was required.
- Under the Banking Act of 1935, the Board of Governors doubled the reserve requirement on member banks between 1936 and 1937 believing that doing so would generate an increase in public confidence and would not change the behavior of the banks.
- However, the banks responded by sharply increasing their already-sufficient reserves, resulting in the sharpest downturn in U.S. economic activity in history.
[at least he's not being alarmist]
Former Vice President Al Gore told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Wednesday that if action is not taken by the United States to curb greenhouse gas emissions, the world as we know it could disappear. (Snip)
Gore testified on Capitol Hill. “If we continue at today’s levels, some scientists have said it can be an increase (in global temperature) of up to 11 degrees Fahrenheit.
[the guy is getting more desperate, and absurd, but the day]
BAGHDAD — Iraq announced on Wednesday that it would launch a second round of bids to license international oil companies to develop 11 oil and gas fields or groups of fields.
Iraq’s oil minister, Hussein al-Shahristani, said at a news conference that he hoped that these fields could be producing 2 to 2.5 million barrels a day in three or four years...
[everyone but u.s.]
The Senate made its first down payment on President Obama's health-care plans yesterday, passing a major expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP).
S-CHIP will more than double in size with $73.3 billion in new spending over the next decade -- not counting a budget gimmick that hides the true cost. The program is supposed to help children from working-poor families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but since it was created in 1997 Democrats have used it as a ratchet to grow the federal taxpayer share of health-care coverage.
The political purpose behind S-CHIP has always been to capture the middle class. But every time the program grows, it displaces private insurance, says the Journal:
- Even before Democrats struck down rules limiting crowd out, research indicated that for every 100 children signed up -- now more than 7.1 million -- there is a reduction in private coverage for 25 to 50 kids.
- Exactly the same thing will happen if Obama and Daschle end up introducing a "public option," a government insurance program modeled after Medicare but open to anyone of any income.
Most of the nation's colleges are gradually paring back their investments in classroom teaching, an analysis of federal data shows. And all colleges have in recent years been spending a greater share of their revenue on expenses other than instruction, including computing centers, student services, administrative salaries and lawn care.
Those are among findings of a report released today that sheds light on where various types of colleges and universities get their money and how they spend it. While instruction remains the largest share of education and general spending at most colleges, much of the revenue raised by increasing tuition is not going to that core function of higher education, it concludes.
"Students are paying for more and arguably getting less, particularly in the classroom,"
says Jane Wellman, director of the Delta Cost Project, a Washington-based non-profit that released the report. It is based on federally reported data from 2002 to 2006 of nearly 2,000 public and private institutions that enroll about 75% of all college students.
At some point between 2002 and 2004, most private four-colleges began spending a larger share of their budget on administrative and academic support than on instruction.
[if our government was serious about raising general attendance, it would implement an Internet based education system for a basic college education (probably with more varied degrees than bachelors/masters). Transfer of knowledge (if not wisdom - but do you think we're getting that now?) is exactly what the net does best. The problem? It could be done for comparatively FREE - and there's unions galore who think that would be just horrible - and they own a major political party.]
Last September, Louisiana's David Vitter strode to the podium of the U.S. Senate to offer an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2009. What's so significant about that?
Amazingly, it marks the last time that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid permitted a Republican amendment to be voted on -- a period of 125 days that can only be described as a diabolical, dictatorial suppression of democracy...
The alleged “pay-to-play” scheme coarsely laid out by Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) in FBI wiretaps sent the political world on the hunt for those who reportedly offered $1.5 million for a Senate seat. But campaign finance experts and some lawmakers wonder why the person dubbed “Senate Candidate 5” is getting singled out. They do not see much difference between what the candidate’s “emissary” offered and standard operating procedure in Congress.
[our two party system is killing us. We need move to an OPEN (On-line Party-less Electorate Nominating) Process using the Internet to level the playing field and broaden it to anyone with the gumption to run.]
One convicted on bribery, the other attacks cops at crime scene saying she wasn't driving drunk...
... none of the stories (plural) detailing either of these incidents could find room in them to identify these politicians as Democrats.
Well, it's the Republican Party. And how do we know this? Well, check out the beginning of this AP story: (my bold throughout)
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -- Joseph Bruno, the former majority leader of the New York Senate and for a time the most powerful Republican in state politics, was indicted Friday on federal corruption charges.Hmmm. He's noted as a Republican in the first sentence.
Then there's the Washington Post that was in such a hurry that it didn't wait for the story to start at all but told us right in the headline that "Former NY GOP Leader Indicted."
Reuters gives us the important news of party affiliation in it's first sentence, too.
And, on top of that, nearly every single local New York paper, TV and radio report filed on the Internet includes Bruno's party right in the first few sentences.
Whereas, and as we've chronicled roughly one bazillion times in the past, when the media finds a criminal Democrat that politician's party is either buried at the end of the story or never mentioned at all.
[nonsense, there's no bias here - move along...]
Readers are encouraged to review a previous NewsBusters report "150 Years of Global Warming and Cooling at the New York Times."