Thursday, March 26, 2009
With the recent passage of the "TARP bonus" bill, it's obvious that our politicians are finally serious about tackling the problem of greed. It's about time, too. We've long had "hate crime" laws, so one had to wonder when the next deadly sin would make it on the legislative agenda.
This bill targets people at certain companies -- most visibly the much-maligned AIG -- taxing any bonus pay pushing one's income over the $250,000 threshold to the tune of 90 percent.
Yet the popular conception of the legislation sells our enlightened overlords short, as their vision entails far more than bringing a handful of rapacious Gordon Geckos to heel.
Henry Blodget explains writing at Yahoo! Finance:
If the "TARP bonus" bill the House passed yesterday becomes law, any of the hundreds of thousands of people who work for Citigroup, Bank of America, AIG, and nine other major US corporations will have to fork over 90 cents of every bonus dollar that puts their household income over $250,000.
That's household income, not individual income. If you're married and filing singly, you'll have to surrender anything over $125,000.
American attitudes about regulating executive compensation are very clear: If taxpayers help a company stay in business, the government should regulate executive pay and bonuses. But if no taxpayer money is involved, the government should keep its hands off.
Sixty-one percent (61%) of adults say the government should regulate the level of pay and bonuses for executives of a company that receives government funding, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Twenty-seven percent (27%) disagree.
At the same time, just 23% of Americans believe the government should regulate executive pay and bonuses for banks and finance companies that do not receive government funding to continue operations. Sixty-four percent (64%) say that if not taxpayer money is involved, executive compensation is none of the government’s business.
Moving beyond the bank and finance industry, just 21% say the federal government should regulate the level of pay and bonuses for all publicly traded companies in every industry. Two-thirds (66%) reject this idea.
Government workers are far more supportive of regulating executive pay and bonuses for companies that receive taxpayer monies than are those who work in the private sector. Those on the public payroll also are more sympathetic to regulation of companies that do not receive government funding than are those who work outside of government.
When does a single policy blunder herald much larger economic damage? Sometimes it's hard to know ahead of time. Few in Congress thought the Smoot-Hawley tariff -- which raised U.S. tariffs on over 20,000 imported goods to record levels -- was a disaster in 1930, but it led to retaliation and a collapse of world trade.
The question amid Washington's AIG bonus panic is whether Congress's war on private contracts and the financial system is a similarly destructive moment, says the Wall Street Journal.
In certainly one of the more amazing and senseless acts of political retribution in American history, the House saw it fit recently to slap employees of AIG's Financial Products unit with a 90 percent tax on the bonuses of anyone at every bank receiving $5 billion of TARP money who earns more than $250,000 a year:
- With such a sweeping assault on contracts and punitive taxation, Congress is introducing an element of political risk to economic decisions that is typical of Argentina or Russia.
- The sanctity of U.S. contracts has long been one of America's competitive advantages in luring capital, a counterpoint to our lottery tort system and costly regulation.
- Meanwhile, the 90 percent tax rate marks a return to the pre-Reagan era when Congress and the political class behaved as if taxes didn't matter to growth or incentives.
It is a revival of the philosophy of redistributionist "justice" of the 1930s, when capital went on strike for an entire decade...
image toon - 1st mny bbor = USSam w-AIG's head asking who needs bailout
Relations between the US and Russia were entering a period of ''uncertainty'' as Moscow appeared determined to sow discord within Europe and undermine US influence, the top commander of NATO has warned.
Citing Russia's military action in supporting breakaway regions in Georgia last August and disputes over gas supplies to Europe in January, he wrote that Moscow's actions
"The relationship with Russia is likely to be more difficult to manage in coming years than any time since the end of the Cold War,"
The stark warning comes as the Obama Administration seeks to reduce tensions, offering Moscow possible concessions on missile defence weaponry in Central Europe in exchange for 'diplomatic' support over Iran's nuclear program.
While Washington has planned to reduce the size of US forces stationed in Europe, General Craddock recommended army brigades designated to return in coming years should remain, saying they contribute to "deterrence efforts"...
The DC Examiner has an excellent editorial today on the Administration's hacking away at defense needs in their monstrosity of a $3.6 trillion budget. It isn't the amount of cuts that is the main problem; it's where the president intends to realize his "savings:"
Gutting the Air Force and Navy is stupid, short sighted, and dangerous. Our ability to project power to the far flung corners of the earth is wholly dependent on getting our troops to the battle zone as quickly as possible. For Desert Storm, we moved the equivalent of a small city thousands of miles to the middle of the Kuwaiti desert in less than 4 months. No other nation can come close to that kind of capability.
Compromising that ability will cause the thugs of the world to breathe a little easier and our friends to get a little nervous. But it appears that regardless of the threats we face, the Obama Administration is bound and determined to slash at programs vital to the future of our military - all so that he can have more money to enact his far left agenda.
A poor trade off if you ask me.
[Recommended > ]
As I entered the lecture hall, I saw a stack of blank Amnesty International petitions, asking Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to support a U.N. investigation into the commission of war crimes by the Israel during the recent Gaza conflict. [snip]
The two main speakers were young pro-Palestinian activists: Laila El-Haddad, a former Al-Jazeera 'journalist', and Duke graduate student Rann Bar-On. I particularly expected Bar-On, who has been active in such organizations as the International Solidarity Movement, which used foreign college students to disrupt anti-terror activities in Israel, to make inflammatory statements.
Bar-On did not disappoint: [snip]
I have also seen Palestinian babies dressed up as suicide bombers, and schoolchildren dressed in camouflage and holding guns, performing military exercises at school. And I have seen a Mickey Mouse-like character on Al-Aqsa, the Hamas-run television station, sing songs about AK-47s and exhort children to devote their lives to holy war. I have heard children profess their desire to kill all the Jews, and to call the Jews "animals."
But none of this was taught at the teach-in.
So what I really learned at the teach-in is that universities like Duke are creating potential incubators of jihad on American soil while posturing as open-minded and morally superior centers of disinterested learning.
BRUSSELS -- The head of the European Union slammed President Barack Obama's plan to spend nearly $2 trillion to push the U.S. economy out of recession as "the road to hell" that EU governments must avoid.
The blunt comments by Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek to the European Parliament on Wednesday highlighted simmering European differences with Washington ahead of a key summit next week on fixing the world economy.
The question posed by social scientist Charles Murray at the American Enterprise Institute's annual dinner this month could hardly have been simpler: Do Americans want the United States to be like Europe?
He asked as someone who admires Europe and Europeans. He asked also because it is becoming increasingly apparent that re-structuring the United States along the lines of the European social democratic model is the change many in the new administration --perhaps including President Obama himself -- believe in.
Murray is convinced that Europeanizing America is a bad idea, and not only because the European model creates chronically "sclerotic economies." More significant, he says, is the fact that embracing the European model means discarding the Founders' revolutionary re-invention of government, and of the relationship between the state and the citizen.
Murray argues this would inevitably "enfeeble" the habits and institutions that have been singularly responsible for making America "robust and vital" -- an exceptional" nation. [snip]
Do a sufficient number of Americans still believe that? More to the point, are we willing to fight for it? There may be no questions of greater consequence asked and answered over the years ahead.
[Highly Recommended > ]
We are beginning to drown in our national debt. Many people don't understand the implications of our debt, but it will drastically impact the lives of all Americans in the near future, says the Lariat (Baylor University).
- By 2012, the government will not have the tax revenue to perform 10 percent of what it is doing now.
- By 2030, the government will have only enough taxes to perform 50 percent of what it's doing now.
- In 2050, when we get ready to retire, the government will no longer be able to afford anything but paying back debt to foreign countries.
Our economy is beginning to show the early signs of a catastrophic meltdown. Our representatives in Congress need to tighten their belts and so do we.
image toon - mny sclm bbro - Oby island = debt 1st
During his recent address to a joint session of Congress, President Obama previewed his budget by asserting that the Administration has "already identified $2 trillion in savings over the next decade." This is simply not true, says Brian M. Riedl a researcher with the Heritage Foundation.
The President's budget:
- Increases spending by $1 trillion over the next decade, which he attempts to offset by reclassifying as "savings" $1.4 trillion in tax increases and $1.5 trillion in reduced spending in Iraq.
- However, government savings have previously always referred to spending cuts that save taxpayer dollars - not tax increases that feed the government.
- Furthermore, the Iraq "sav ings" are measured against an implausible spending baseline that assumes a permanent $180 billion bud get for the global war on terrorism, without any troop withdrawals through 2019.
- This is the equiv alent of a family deciding to "save" $10,000 by first assuming an expensive vacation and then not taking it.
- Without these false savings, only the $1 trillion spending hike remains, and that does not account for the extra $250 billion proposed for another round of financial bailouts in the current fiscal year.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner sent the dollar tumbling with comments about China’s ideas for overhauling the global monetary system, only to drive it back up by affirming that it should remain the world’s reserve currency.
He said while he had not read Zhou’s proposal, he understood it as a plan
“designed to increase the use of the IMF’s special drawing rights. And we’re actually quite open to that.”
[It may be prudent to have an adult explain to the kids in the White frat House that when they speak the entire world is listening. Just a thought.]
[yes I know that was snobbish - but for crying out loud...]
Two-out-of-three Americans (67%) believe that politicians who received campaign contributions from American International Group (AIG) should return the money. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that just 21% disagree and 13% are not sure.
The belief that the politicians should give back the money is shared by a solid majority of every measured demographic group except one - America’s Political Class. In that elite group, just 29% think the contributions should be returned while 63% reject that idea.
The gap between Mainstream America and the nation’s Political Class is far bigger than the divide between Republicans and Democrats within those groups. Among Mainstream Americans, 74% of Democrats believe the campaign cash should be returned. So do 78% of Republicans and 78% of those not affiliated with either major party.
Once people realize that humans are not causing global warming and the IPCC claims are scientifically unjustified, despite strong support by environmentalists, two questions logically follow. What is the motive and how has such a situation developed? I examined the political motive in a series of articles starting here;
Those articles focus on the political motive but only touch briefly on the philosophical context and that needs further understanding.
The dogmatism of believers in human caused climate change, despite overwhelming contradictory evidence, is religious in its fervor. It is similar to the adoption of environmentalism as a religion by many for whom climate change is simply a subset.
The question is how has this occurred? To get the answer you need to consider a series of events that at first seem unrelated...
[Recommended > ]
Local authorities are putting spy planes in the air to snoop on homeowners who are wasting too much energy.
The data is being used to create colour-coded maps which will enable council officers to identify offenders and pay them a visit to educate them about the harm to the environment and measures they can take.
A scheme is already underway in Broadland District Council in Norfolk, which has spent £30,000 hiring a plane with a thermal imaging camera.
The council's head of environmental services, Andy Jarvis, said the original plan was to target businesses but it was realised the scope could be extended to include residental properties...
[The Green religion: a mechanism to control everything.]
[Separate from Obama's Washington efforts]
Reviewing the three cap-and-trade recommendations made by the Western Climate Initiative (WCI), the authors identified several flaws made by the seven-state consortium, consisting of Arizona, California, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Washington. Thus, calling into question the so-called cost savings of $11.4 billion to $23.5 billion heralded by WCI.
Under a scenario in which 25 percent of greenhouse gas emission permits would be auctioned off to emitters in a cap-and-trade scheme, BHI determined that the seven states:
- Would lose between 35,177 to 165,397 private sector jobs, while the permit revenue would allow the states to hire up to 19,710 state employees.
- Would put investment by firms at serious risk by slowing investment in the region by $1.6 billion to $4.5 billion.
- Would diminish total personal income, which would fall by $10.2 billion to $47.71 billion per year.
The proposals' negative economic effects stem from the price and tax increases the states would impose on the energy and transportation sectors.
Because a cap on carbon emissions is effectively a tax on energy production that is passed to industry, businesses and consumers, the effect is likely to drive commerce and jobs to other states or countries...
image toon - grn engry = new green power jolts the wallet
More babies were born in the United States in 2007 than in any other year in American history, according to preliminary data reported by the National Center for Health Statistics.
- The 4,317,000 births in 2007 just edged out the figure for 1957, at the height of the baby boom.
- The increase reflected a slight rise in childbearing by women of all ages, including those in their 30s and 40s, and a record share of births to unmarried women.
Racial and ethnic differences remain large: 28 percent of white babies were born to unmarried mothers in 2007, compared with 51 percent of Hispanic babies and 72 percent of black babies.
[*The usual subterfuge: a lengthy report I read disputes the perpetual "2.1 children" birth rate for 'American women', saying that while it's routinely reported that way, immigration, legal and non, contributes from 2 to possibly 4 tenths of that figure. I.e., American women are not reproducing at replacement rate - but good luck getting the MSM to elaborate on that statistic.]
... problem at the college level, noting that more college students today expect high grades for simply showing-up ...
The origins of this sense of entitlement to good grades are not difficult to trace. Students preparing for college now often find themselves in classrooms where self esteem is valued more than results. This mindset is perpetuated at the collegiate level as institutions increasingly forsake legitimate measures of scholarly merit in favor of unclear and shifting policies designed to permit social engineering, both in terms of admission to college and assessments of performance within it.
Just last month, the University of California Board of Regents voted to eliminate SAT Subject Tests as an admissions requirement, opting instead for a costly "entitled to review" system. The stated reason for dropping the tests: Some students did not know they had to take them, thus creating a "barrier" to admission.
The American economy today is under stress because of a recession. Recessions ebb and flow over time, but a failure to provide the highest caliber education and demand excellence from those who seek it poses a far larger threat. Students may receive higher grades by simply demanding them, but America will not succeed economically just because we want rewards without results. It's time to align our education priorities with economic realities.
In today's Huffington Post is Joseph A. Palermo's "Cheney, Rove, and Fleischer and the Importance of Net Neutrality." Net neutrality, you see, is yet another way the Left hopes to silence their opposition -- and Palermo calls on Obama's Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to do exactly that.
"The Huffington Post and other progressive news and information sites, along with MoveOn.org and other Internet organizing networks, played a key role in this dramatic shift in communications technology away from the Right and toward progressive social change. We need to lock in this advantage.
"...With Democratic majorities in Congress and a liberal Democratic administration we can blunt the political influence of media conglomerates and the Right.... We have a very rare opportunity right now to lock in a progressive advantage in Internet communications, information sharing, and Netroots mobilizing."
What's so "neutral" about "lock(ing) in a progressive advantage" via regulatory fiat from Obama's FCC?
Palermo so loathes the free market and the First Amendment free speech rights of his opponents that he wants to rig the rules to establish a permanent progressive advantage in all things media.
The Censorship Doctrine isn't one particular regulatory beast, it is a state of mind. One that compels liberals -- in fact makes them feel entitled -- to silence the opposition by any means necessary.
All in the interest of "neutrality" and "fairness," of course.
['net neutrality' ... First; control the language... ]
If you log into Obama's web site, you can find a list of Organizing for America (OFA) events in your area. Curious, I signed into the site and came up with a list of over thirty events within 200 miles, in the next two weeks.
The only intriguing one is this: On April 4, at Roosevelt University's downtown Chicago campus, there will be a workshop entitled ‘Getting Paid to Cause Trouble: Careers in Organizing for Social Change (Community Service)':
"Organizers from Illinois AFSCME, UNITE HERE, UFCW, Communities for an Equitable Olympics (CEO), Center for Community Change and other unions and community groups will be here to talk about jobs and internships available NOW!"
AFSCME, UNITE HERE, and UFCW are all unions. The other two groups are ‘progressive' Alinsky-model advocates for low-income people. Listed as a sponsor is the Chicago Center for Working-Class Studies, also a labor-oriented group.
"Come meet organizers from local community organizations and unions ‘walking the walk'," the page encourages. "Learn about careers in grassroots organizing."
Since when is training union organizers, or recruiting people into a union organizer training program, ‘community service'? [snip]
All I can say is that I expect it to expand and become more effective. The Stimulus bill contained $5.2 billion for ‘community development' and ‘neighborhood stabilization', and that money will pay salaries of new ‘community organizers' and ‘labor organizers'. The professional organizers will call on the grass-roots volunteers as needed:
"Hey, we're taking a busload of folks to protest at a banker's house. Care to join us?"
[FYI: this AT article by Lola Manning casts a critical eye on the group, including its creepy similarity to past personal cults. ]
How did Republicans get saddled with Wall Street? Obama just got the biggest campaign haul from Wall Street in world history, and Republicans still can't shake the public perception that they are tied at the hip to Wall Street bankers who hate them.
It's as if National Rifle Association members conspired with Republicans to bankrupt the country and everyone blamed the Democrats for being shills of the NRA...
Tuesday's CBS Evening News highlighted an ethics investigation of a long-serving House Democrat, but viewers were not clued in to his party affiliation verbally or with any an on-screen notation. Yet CBS slapped a party name on screen as a Murtha critic spoke: “Rep. Jeff Flake (R) Arizona.”
Fill-in anchor Maggie Rodriguez avoided Murtha's party as she asserted “there are few politicians as polarizing as Pennsylvania Congressman John Murtha” and referred to him as “a powerful member of Congress.” In a story which consumed about-two-and-a- half minutes, reporter Sharyl Attkisson also failed to identify Murtha's party.
There were more Tea Parties today that media are sure to ignore.
The picture to the right was furnished by Pious Agnostic who's all over the gathering in Orlando, Florida.
Our friend Glenn Reynolds has more here and here.
Below the fold are more pictures I'm sure readers will enjoy:
Organized Labor: The state that led the way in giving labor push-button power to organize against private-sector taxpayers now stands — if you can call it standing — as a cautionary tale. The public should be forewarned for what might happen far more broadly if unions get their way in Congress.
Jobs are fleeing the Golden State, where unemployment has spiked well above 10%. Taxes are soaring, and a new budget shortfall of $8 billion, following the $42 billion gap that was patched up primarily with tax increases and borrowed money.
But California is still not a bad place to be — that is, as long as you have a secure job (which most are) on the public payroll.
According to the latest salary survey by the American Federation of Teachers, California teachers are the highest paid in the nation.
California also has America's highest-paid prison guards. A state agency's study last year found that the maximum pay of California's guards was 40% higher than that of the highest-paid guards in 10 other states and the federal government.
Private-sector workers and business owners in California get the worst of all deals. They pay some of the highest taxes in the country and get no more than mediocre public services.
It's not just the unions that have pulled the state into the ditch. Voters share the blame for ill-advised decisions at the ballot box, such as approving too much debt and imposing budget rules that keep tax revenues from going where they are needed most.
But public-union muscle has undeniably led the way in tilting the balance of power toward a self-serving, unaccountable governing class...
Nearly One-Third of Younger Americans See Colbert, Stewart As Alternatives to Traditional News Outlets
Nearly one-third of Americans under the age of 40 say satirical news-oriented television programs like The Colbert Report and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart are taking the place of traditional news outlets.
Thirty-two percent (32%) of adults ages 30-39 believe this to be true, while 42% disagree, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey.
Thirty percent (30%) of those ages 18-29 say programs like the two Comedy Central shows that feature news reports with a comic twist are replacing traditional news outlets, but 35% disagree and another 35% are not sure.
Among all Americans, 24% say programs like The Colbert Report and The Daily Show are taking the place of traditional news venues, but 45% do not think so. Thirty-one percent (31%) are undecided.
[God help us all.]
Krugman Criticizes Obama, Hell Freezes Over
Mark March 21, 2009, as the day pigs flew and hell froze over: the shamelessly liberal New York Times columnist Paul Krugman actually criticized the Obama administration. I kid you not.
Unfortunately, he did so at his blog at the New York Times website, which means far fewer people will see his critique than if it had been published in print.
But as it seems foolish to look a gift horse in the mouth on such an auspicious occasion, let us be thankful for small mercies (h/t Hot Air headlines):