Saturday, July 28, 2012


What’s New Today

Story #1 is about the less than great recovery.  #2 is what success looks like from Obama’s definition.  #3 is today’s sign of desperation by the Obama Administration.  #4 looks at the difference between an empire and a state.  #5 is a different look at global warming.

Today’s Thoughts

Obama saved Detroit or more specifically the UAW.  UAW autoworkers didn’t lose a penny in hourly wages, even as their employers were driven into bankruptcy.  In this case Obama is correct if you apply his statement to the UAW.  “You didn’t make it yourself.” 

This week Obama announced, “I’m also very pleased that this week we are going to be able to announce $70 million in additional spending — $70 billion, excuse me, in additional spending for ‘Iron Dome.’” (million was correct).  This is a gaffe.  “You didn’t build it,” is the truth slipping out. 

In 2011, Obama’s regulatory agencies imposed 3,807 new rules on various sectors of the economy that Oversight staff expect to cost over $105 billion this year alone. As of the fall of 2011, federal regulators were considering 133 new “economically significant rules” — that is, regulations that would each cost over $100 million annually.

1.  The Less than Great Recovery

President Obama didn't comment on Friday's report of declining growth in the second quarter, and that's no surprise. The economic story of his Presidency is by now familiar: a plodding recovery that has taken its third dip in three years and is barely raising incomes for most Americans.
"We're still in a position where we are pulling ourselves out of the very deep hole caused by the Great Recession, and there is still—of course—a great deal of anxiety in the country about the economy,'' said White House press secretary Jay Carney. He's right about the anxiety, but if only we were "pulling ourselves out."

The reality is that the Great Recession ended three long years ago. In this Less Than Great Recovery, the economy shows promise for one good quarter then slows back down. As the nearby chart shows, this is the third straight year of sputtering recovery. Growth of 4.1% in the fourth quarter declined to 2% in the first and now 1.5% in the second. The stock market rose as investors bet that the lousy growth will inspire more Federal Reserve easing…

Housing is also now less of a drag on GDP. But this makes the paltry 1.5% growth more disconcerting, because it means that other parts of the economy are growing less rapidly than they ought to be.

Consumption ticked up only 1.5%, for example, down from 2.4% in the first quarter. This may reflect that wages and salaries are barely keeping pace with inflation. Another negative is that business inventories climbed unexpectedly in the second quarter, which often presages a decline in business spending in the next quarter to clear the shelves.

It's important to understand how unusual this kind of weak recovery is. Deep recessions like the one from December 2007 to June 2009 are typically followed by stronger recoveries, as there is more lost ground to make up….

The standard line for this administration is that we are growing after losing (fill in the blank, jobs, growth, etc).  It’s not enough, but we are moving in the right direction.  Its nonsense, but it is the only thing the Administration can say.  We aren’t moving in the right direction.  Job creation is down, growth in down.  It’s up from the depth of the recession, but it is down from six months ago and significantly down. 

2.  Here’s what success looks like to Obama

President Obama tells a group of donors that "we tried our" economic plan "and it worked." Even in politics, where exaggeration is a way of life, that statement stands out as a lie for the ages….
…But, he said, "we tried our plan - and it worked," which is wholly consistent with his June comment that "the private sector is doing fine."

Some say Obama was merely referring to Clinton policies. But he clearly said "our plan" and began to brag about saving the auto industry and refusing to "let Detroit go bankrupt." So "our plan" is actually Obama's.
So we ask: Has the plan of a man who said his brief private-sector job experience was like working "behind enemy lines" really worked? Let's look at the evidence.

Unemployment: The jobless rate in June was 8.2%, the same rate for May. In April it was 8.1%, a tick better than the 8.2% of March….

GDP: The economy grew a meager 1.5% annualized in the second quarter, down from 2.2% in the first quarter. It grew only 1.7% for all of 2011…

Stimulus: Obama signed a nearly $1 trillion stimulus plan shortly after taking office. The administration vowed unemployment would drop below 6%. Yet Americans can't find work, and the economy remains sick.

Debt: The federal debt rose more during Obama's first 38 months in office - a bit more than $5 trillion - than it did under all eight years of George W. Bush. The CBO says Obama's policies will add an additional $6.4 trillion over the next decade.

Auto bailouts: Obama hijacked a legal bankruptcy by automakers to "save" the industry. GM and Chrysler are still in business. But GM's stock has fallen to its lowest level since the bailout IPO. The company's sinking value could cost taxpayers $23 billion.

Food stamps: A record 14.8% of the country - 46 million Americans - are in the program, well above the 9.3% during George W. Bush's final year in office and far in excess of the 1970-2000 average of 7.9%.

If this is what success looks like for Obama you shudder to think what failure looks like.  The only mitigating factor in his defense is that he is a Chicago Cubs fan.  

3.  Signs of Desperation

A memo from Democratic National Committee director Brad Woodhouse obtained by Buzzfeed outlines how the reelection campaign of President Barack Obama will continue to respond to Mitt Romney’s attacks on the President’s “you didn’t build that” comments. The memo details how the Obama campaign will get off the ropes and retake the offensive against the Republican’s presumptive presidential nominee with a comprehensive list of attacks the campaign will levy against Romney – one such attack line that stood out is the Obama campaign’s intention to go after Romney for raising fees on milk while he was Massachusetts’ governor.

The memo details how the Obama campaign intends to take the gloves off against Romney to counter his “out of context” attacks on Obama’s full-throated defense of the public sector as the mother of invention. 

If you’re the Governor that raised a fee on milk and attempted to impose a $10 fee for a state certificate of blindness, it becomes clear why Mitt Romney doesn’t want to talk about his record as Governor on jobs or the economy or budget and taxes.

Say what???  This is absolutely the weakest response that I can imagine and then connecting it to Mitt Romney not wanting to talk about his record is ludicrous.  However it give Romney a chance to ask Obama about the almost $6 trillion in deficit spending or 1.5% growth last quarter.   This screams desperation.  

4.  The Empire Strikes Back

Yale Prof. Charles Hill is often called a "conservative." But he is one of the foremost students and advocates of what he calls the "liberal" ("in the finest sense of the word") world order. And he is worried that Americans increasingly don't understand how special the modern era has been or their own crucial role in developing and securing it. 

To some, the Obama's administration's desire to "lead from behind" and seek United Nations approval for actions abroad represents an appropriate retreat to a more humble American posture. Mr. Hill, by contrast, sees the possible end of a great era of human rights and democracy promotion the likes of which the planet has never seen. 

Our world has "been increasingly tolerant and increasingly trying to eradicate racism and increasingly trying to expand freedom. And it can come to an end," he says.

What might replace it? "Spheres of influence." Or to use a more archaic term, "empire."..

This is a very interesting article tracing Professor Hill’s view of empire vs states. His view of the United Nations is balanced and very insightful.   I recommend you read it.

5.  Global warming

…IT WAS FOUR YEARS AGO that Dyson began publicly stating his doubts about climate change. Speaking at the Frederick S. Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future at Boston University, Dyson announced that “all the fuss about global warming is grossly exaggerated.” Since then he has only heated up his misgivings, declaring in a 2007 interview with that “the fact that the climate is getting warmer doesn’t scare me at all” and writing in an essay for The New York Review of Books, the left-leaning publication that is to gravitas what the Beagle was to Darwin, that climate change has become an “obsession” — the primary article of faith for “a worldwide secular religion” known as environmentalism. Among those he considers true believers, Dyson has been particularly dismissive of Al Gore, whom Dyson calls climate change’s “chief propagandist,” and James Hansen, the head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York and an adviser to Gore’s film, “An Inconvenient Truth.” Dyson accuses them of relying too heavily on computer-generated climate models that foresee a Grand Guignol of imminent world devastation as icecaps melt, oceans rise and storms and plagues sweep the earth, and he blames the pair’s “lousy science” for “distracting public attention” from “more serious and more immediate dangers to the planet.”…

…Climate models, he says, take into account atmospheric motion and water levels but have no feeling for the chemistry and biology of sky, soil and trees. “The biologists have essentially been pushed aside,” he continues. “Al Gore’s just an opportunist. The person who is really responsible for this overestimate of global warming is Jim Hansen. He consistently exaggerates all the dangers.”
Dyson agrees with the prevailing view that there are rapidly rising carbon-dioxide levels in the atmosphere caused by human activity. To the planet, he suggests, the rising carbon may well be a MacGuffin, a striking yet ultimately benign occurrence in what Dyson says is still “a relatively cool period in the earth’s history.” The warming, he says, is not global but local, “making cold places warmer rather than making hot places hotter.” Far from expecting any drastic harmful consequences from these increased temperatures, he says the carbon may well be salubrious — a sign that “the climate is actually improving rather than getting worse,” because carbon acts as an ideal fertilizer promoting forest growth and crop yields. “Most of the evolution of life occurred on a planet substantially warmer than it is now,” he contends, “and substantially richer in carbon dioxide.” …

An interesting look at climate change. 

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