Monday, December 31, 2012

OK, Democrats, You Got What You Wished For

What are you going to do with it?

Your man won. You even increased your lead in the Senate, although it seems we may have increased our own majority in the House. But that doesn't matter, because the fact is House Republicans can't get anything they really want past the Senate's majority or the President's veto.  The best they can do is to come to some kind of agreement with your Senate Democrats as to what we can do about the looming "fiscal cliff" and some other minor inconveniences that lie ahead. How can that agreement be reached?

In his losing campaign, Mitt Romney promised he would "repeal Obamacare," among other reasons because it took $700 billion in physician reimbursement funds out of Medicare to make Obamacare appear less expensive than it actually is. He said he would reduce tax rates across the board for everyone, in conjunction with reductions in deductions and exemptions, primarily for business, all in an effort to boost the economy without adding more debt. He also promised to bring the deficit under control, primarily through growth in the economy and reductions in Federal spending. One way to do that, he said, was to hold any spending request brought to him to this standard:  Is the project so necessary that it's worthy of borrowing money to pay for it? That sounded good to me, but it got lost in the kerfuffle about his example--Big Bird. Finally, he promised to attack the twin problems of Social Security and Medicare--both are underfunded and will run out of financial support under current law within a few years, several years fewer now than when George W. Bush requested they be reformed in 2005. And more, of course, but let's stop there.

We now know none of that is going to happen, at least not that way.

I don't believe President Obama promised to do any of those things, but perhaps that was simply because he thought it so obvious that it wasn't worth mentioning. We knew that he intends to raise income tax rates on the richest of us, sometimes meaning those with incomes over $200,000 annually and sometimes meaning something else, but always with the threat attached that if Republicans don't go along with whatever he decides, he will allow income tax rates on everybody to increase back to pre-Bush tax rates by vetoing any tax bill that does not raise tax rates on the "rich." According to USA Today, (11/14/12), that veto would take $214 billion out of the economy while "reducing the deficit" very little if at all. According to the paper, the total result of going over the cliff will be a 3.6% decline in GDP, amounting to a $560 billion smaller economy, which means the rate increases will NOT generate the tax revenue that is advertised, but less. And today he added a new note--he wants to approximately double the tax rate increase he had been proposing, which if passed would take an additional $40 billion from the economy. But that has been his general plan all along, and we all knew it.

Beyond that, he only said he wouldn't be a deceptive and "sketchy" conservative like Romney.

The ball is in your court

That is, the Democrats' court.  The Legislative and Executive Branch situations haven't changed all that much, numerically. Republicans can still filibuster in the Senate, although Democrats control the agenda there. Republicans control the agenda in the House, but can't get anything passed without buy-in from Democrats in the Senate, which seems impossible to achieve on major legislation. (I just heard Congressman Luiz Gutierrez {D. IL}, expounding on immigration reform. He couldn't even bring himself to say that Republicans who disagree with him but would work towards compromise legislation are anything better than desperate politicians "doing it for political purposes so that [their] party can have a future," as opposed to Gutierrez and others [Democrats] who simply want to make "America a better, more decent place to live...." This after he criticized Republicans for "beginning the conversation" in a way that closes the minds of Hispanic listeners. Not promising as a sign of future agreement and civility.) And the President can still veto anything that he doesn't like.

What has changed is that we've had an election, and regarding legislative cans that have been kicked down the road, we can say the chickens have come home to roost. The fiscal cliff will either be dealt with or we face a the second dip of a recession. The debt ceiling must be raised or spending cut to the bone (which do you think will happen?)

The election has given President Obama a mandate, but not one he relishes.  It's a mandate to lead. He must take the lead on all these issues, no matter how much he wants to simply continue to blame George W. Bush and the House Republicans while he does nothing. If he doesn't lead, even our compliant mainstream press won't be able to cover for him in the history books, although it might fool a lot of people about his performance for a while. His leadership is necessary to reach agreement between the two Houses of Congress.

He can't just turn things over to Reid, Pelosi, McConnell, and Boehner and expect to come in at the end and take credit for their progress, or demand changes to what they hammered out before him. That resulted last time in what is referred to as the fiscal cliff or "Taxmageddon" that awaits us in January.

So, what is he going to do? 

Here are some of the issues that need to be addressed:

National debt--Growing past $17 trillion at the rate of $1.5 trillion per year.

Annual deficit--$1.5 trillion each year for the past 5 years and next year. Where will the loans come from? There isn't enough money in the economy to reduce the deficit significantly by increased taxation.

Federal budget--We haven't had one passed by the Senate since the first year of the Obama Administration. Until we get one, continuing resolutions guarantee continuing deficits (see above).

Spending--What can be reduced or eliminated? What absolutely has to be increased?

Stock market--Has been falling steadily since election day, just as it did in 2008. Will there be a crash like the one that bottomed in March, 2009?

Federal regulations--Are they too heavy for business to thrive?

Military readiness--The military budget is scheduled to see huge cuts under Taxmageddon, cuts that the Secretary of Defense say will be devastating.

Social Security--Outgo exceeds income. Cannot survive without reform.

Medicare--see Social Security, only worse.

Obamacare--Contains many new taxes, pushes the economic envelope away from developing more medical doctors, facilities, procedures, and medicine, and many other problems you Democrats don't care about--yet.

Obamacare-- How will we pay for 16,000 new IRS agents to enforce it?

Obamacare--Businesses are already starting to cut back work hours and lay off workers, primarily to avoid situations that will be very expensive for them.

Obamacare--Is it OK to force the Catholic Church to pay for abortifacients and birth control measures in its employee health plans against its religious convictions? If it doesn't have to pay, why should anybody else have to?

Republican War on Women--Will the Senate hold hearings to find out what that means?

Fast and Furious--What, Who, When, and Why?

Benghazi--What, Who, When, and Why?

Illegal immigration--Border security is essential, immigration reform is needed.

Iran--What will he do to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons?

Muslim Brotherhood--How do we relate to them? In Egypt, are they our ally? In Libya, are they an insurgency?

Syria--Do we allow Assad to continue killing his people?

Afghanistan--Friend or foe?

Pakistan--Friend or foe?

Al Qaida--Is it really "on the run"?

Energy independence--The last Obama Administration closed oil fields, closed offshore rigs, gave money to Brazil to develop offshore oil to sell to us, rejected the Keystone pipeline, and wasted money on Obama contributors' "green" companies. What will this one do? They've already cut back on energy leases in Colorado.

Israel--Will we treat them as friend or foe?

China--Do we continue to feed jobs to them? Will they loan to us again? Will the yuan become the world's reserve currency under Obama's watch?

Taxes--Will the President really veto any tax bill that doesn't raise taxes on the "rich"? He says he will.

Taxes--He has said he wants to raise capital gains taxes for "fairness," even if it means less tax revenue. Does he know many non-rich retirees depend on the sale of securities to sustain their lives? Raising their taxes leaves them less to live on, reduces the life of their nest eggs.

Taxes--Every dollar of additional tax taken out of the economy is a dollar that can't be used to buy something in it.  Even if it is sent back to somebody else, some of it is skimmed off to pay the bureaucracy.


California--Will the federal government support California if it asks us to pay its bills?

Federal government payrolls--Every dollar must be paid by non-government workers or be borrowed.

Government transparency--Where is it?

Guantanamo Bay Prison--When will it close? What will happen to the inmates?

Russia--What will Obama do with his new-found flexibility?

Hurricane Sandy/New York/New Jersey/Philadelphia/FEMA--Will Federal assistance ever arrive?

Queen Elizabeth--What to give her on her birthday....

What do you want him to do?

Seriously, most conservatives could tell you what they would have wanted Mitt Romney to do had he been elected. That's why we were Romney voters. What do you want your President to do about these issues and others? Or have you even thought about it? Comments are open for business.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

President Obama Has No Foreign Policy

How can he defend a nonexistent foreign policy?

President Obama has already been exposed as not even an empty suit, but an empty chair. It's time to expose his foreign policy attempts for what they are--empty words.

Almost any set of policies can have enough cohesion to generate a "three-legged stool" analogy. For the Reagan Administration the legs might have been (1) Strength through a military strong enough to be feared, (2) Diplomacy carried out by a State Department that understood where our priorities lay and what they needed to say to please our friends and discomfort our enemies, and (3) Outreach to the world in the form of sensible policies regarding human rights that were beneficent enough to allow the occasional Grenada invasion to go essentially without comment. Not that the Reagan administration would have put it that way, but that's just an example to show how it can be made up out of anything.

Obama's three-legged stool for foreign policy starts with an apology tour

If the Obama administration has a three-legged stool, its legs seem to be (1) Appeasement, and self-condemnation of America while projecting national weakness, (2) Inaction in the face of crisis, and (3) Refusal to face reality in a real world. I don't have to expand much on the first one--we've all seen the bowing to foreign potentates and heard the speeches accepting American blame for all the ills of the world, with shows of strength saved for overmatched attacks on individuals. Not just the killing of bin Laden, but the taking of the pirated ship. Two small victories in the face of a sea of defeats. We are losing our gains in Iraq. We have lost too many men to "green on blue" murder in Afghanistan. We invade Pakistan to get bin Laden, but we won't do anything about the terrorist cells there. We rely on our allies to clean up in Libya, and we do nothing in either Egypt or Syria. Not that we should do something, but Obama can't describe why we shouldn't, and it's clear that Obama doesn't want to lead anything, and that projects weakness.

Obama's Inaction

Obama's Inaction would be laughable if it weren't pathetic. Inaction is the only word to describe our reaction to the uprisings in Egypt, Libya, Syria, and earlier in Iran. Did his aide actually think he was coining a compliment when he said, "Obama leads from behind"? I have described this inaction as a policy of "Don't do anything and see what happens. Something always does. Then spin it to our political advantage." It's obvious that he follows that path, because he does the same thing in domestic policy, with his lack of leadership after the Deepwater Horizon disaster a prime example. That betrays two flaws in Obama's character: First, it shows a leader unwilling to take any chances at all, always opting to take the "safe" course of doing nothing. This may be a result of his lack of any leadership experience before sitting down in the Oval Office. Any CEO, heck, even any business school graduate, knows that you never have ALL the information you'd like to have and that doing nothing is in fact choosing a path that depends not on your own skill and resources, but on the winds of fate, putting you at the mercy of events. The second flaw revealed is that he is more interested in political advantage than he is in serving the country.

Refusal to face reality

The most serious of the three (if they can be graded--they are all exactly the wrong actions in foreign policy) is his inability (or refusal) to face reality. He has a belief that by changing the words we use we can change the reality they describe. No more "War on Terror;" it's now an "Overseas Contingency Operation." A soldier kills thirteen people on his post and it's called "workplace violence" rather than "treason" and "terrorism." Kill bin Laden and declare that al Qaeda is dead, and voila, it is! An attack on a consulate therefore can't be terrorism, it must be the result of righteously angered Muslims who have heard that somebody else has seen a video on the internet that slanders Mohammed and whose demonstration just gets out of hand and kills four Americans. Further ignoring reality, he thinks he can convince other people of the same story. Compounding the error, he spreads the story of the "video-caused attack" around the world, alerting other outraged Muslims to its existence and that the President of the United States, despite protestations to the contrary, seems to think it a reasonable excuse for demonstrations, if not for murder. He seemingly didn't realize that his words could be used against us.

The Arab Spring is an example of all three legs being exposed.  It's in the interest of the United States to have stability in the oil-producing countries of the Middle East and even in those that don't produce much oil.  We depend on that supply, no matter how many windmills the government subsidizes, so even if Mubarak treated many of his people badly, even if Khaddafi did the same and sheltered terrorists and was our enemy, even if Assad was willing to kill thousands of his own people, it was to our interests to either maintain stability in the area and to make sure the new regime was as "friendly" to us as the old one had been. But the policy of "do nothing and see what happens" doesn't provide for that consideration. The enemy of our "enemy" is not always our friend.

Our President substituted nice words for reality.  He declared that the winds of democracy were sweeping across the Middle East, blowing away the old dictators and replacing them with the will of the people, only that isn't what happened. The old dictators were removed in Egypt and Libya, only to be replaced by new dictators called the Muslim Brotherhood, and these dictators have no interest in stability for the sake of stable relationships and trade; they'd just as soon ALL their own people starved as to help the West in any way. Calling them "democratic popular uprisings" didn't actually make it true. These were no more democratic uprisings than was the rise of the National Socialist Party in pre-war Germany, and it is to ignore reality to claim otherwise.

Ignoring reality, he thinks that he can talk sternly to Mahmoud Achmadinijad and that such talk will convince a hell-bent-for-anihilation Iran to cease its nuclear arms program, the program for which they've been sacrificing their own comfort for years.  First, the phrase is "talk softly and carry a big stick," not "talk sternly and hope nobody notices you're unarmed." Second, even if we had the capacity to be an existential threat to Iran, they still would oppose us because they DO oppose us. As it is, they KNOW President Obama would never use military power on the scale it would need to be applied against Iran, so Obama's words are meaningless. The will to use strength has to be credible for even available strength to be effective.

We can see the same effect on Bashar Assad in Syria--none, and our weakness has led our old enemies of Russia and China to take the sides of Iran and Syria, because they have no fear of us either.

Taking all of this in, the picture emerges that the United States under Barack Obama doesn't have a viable foreign policy.

What's coming?

History teaches that a power vacuum will be filled. By weakening the United States, President Obama has begun to create a power vacuum. It was happening demographically anyway, simply because of the huge population advantage China has over us and its decision to abandon much of Communism, but just as the United Kingdom slipped behind us yet remained prosperous without becoming our enemy after our great 19th and 20th century expansion, there ARE ways to maintain our wealth, dignity, and standard of living without helping the process along by becoming weak intentionally. If we fail to develop our own energy resources, we will be at the mercy of our Middle Eastern trade "partners," and of Canada and Mexico. A reality-based foreign policy is a necessary "leg" for us to stand on. Energy policy is an important support for a successful foreign policy, and our energy policy is far from realistic.

Rules for Presidents

But now another character trait may be Obama's undoing, right before the final debate, which is fortuitously centered on foreign policy. That is his obeisance to Saul Alinsky. Nowhere in Rules for Radicals is there a rule that says, "Tell the truth." In his attempt to spin the recent Benghazi disaster to his advantage, either he or his handlers decided to push that "video-caused attack" story, and now reality is setting in.  Facts regarding what was known by whom and when are coming to light that can't be explained by anything other than "We were lying to hide the truth of our incompetence" or "We weren't really lying because we didn't know the truth but we wanted to be able to tell you a story anyway."

The coming debate

I'd like to hear Governor Romney question President Obama pointedly and directly about the logical contradictions in the stories of the last month.
"You should have known the facts by the next day--your underlings did.  Did you not know, or did you know but choose to not state the facts on purpose? If you didn't know, why didn't you?  Were the facts withheld from you? Why? To this day, you haven't used the words, 'Benghazi was a terrorist attack.' 
This disaster, and it WAS a foreign policy disaster, leaves us with a lot of questions. Why were the requests for more security denied? Who denied them? Did you not believe the danger was present? Why were we still in Benghazi? Even the British had left. Why did you continue to push that "video" story for two full weeks, long after you must have known the truth, long after you must have known there was NO demonstration outside the consulate before the attack? Or did you? Vice President Biden has claimed that your "intelligence was faulty," but Congressional testimony indicates that both "intelligence" and the State Department had it right from the beginning. The identification and capture of the perpetrators is important, but not as important as the answers to questions you have the knowledge to answer today."
Of course, he must be "respectful" to the President, who will attempt to blame the Republican budget.  And that will give Romney an opening to mention the fact that there IS NO BUDGET.

I'd also like to hear Romney say, "As soon as I name an Attorney General, I'll direct him to look into the mysterious process whereby the State of California decided to arrest a legal resident because he produced a movie expressing his political beliefs. I don't believe that it was a coincidence that his parole was revoked so conveniently in the middle of the night with full network news coverage. This seems to be a clear violation of the first amendment."

I'd like to hear him say, "My AG will be directed to find out the real reason that charges were dropped by the DOJ on a voter intimidation case in Pennsylvania after a guilty plea had already been entered."

I'd like to hear him say, "I will sign an executive order stating that those killed and injured at Fort Hood were victims of a terrorist attack. There is no reason that those wounded and surviving service members should not receive the same support that those wounded and killed on the battlefield receive. As a member of the military, the perpetrator may be open to charges beyond murder."

I'd like to hear him say, "I will issue a new Presidential Medal of Valor, equivalent to the 9/11 Heroes Medal of Valor awarded to New York Port Authority heroes, to each of the passengers and crew killed in that Pennsylvania crash on 9/11/2001.  Their heroism was equally valiant, and was performed as a gift to our country. Rather than sit back and accept fate, they boldly took charge, and averted further sure disaster in our nation's capital, giving their lives in the process."

And I'd like to hear him say, "In my administration, laws will be applied impartially. Speech will actually be free, and political correctness will not hold sway."

Although I sometimes think I can't go wrong by disagreeing with Bill Kristol, I thought he made a reasonable point this morning on Fox News Sunday: Romney should " Presidential.  He has to be less the challenger of the President, the prosecutor of the President's agenda, he has to be the next President of the United States.... Voters... want to see him as someone who is up to being President, with the judgement, the maturity, knowledge, a toughness but sort of soundness to be President. ...not a kind of guy who's arguing with the current President and challenging him and fact-checking him, ...if Romney can be Presidential tomorrow night, I think he's in pretty good shape...."

Chris Wallace: "How do you think he should play Libya?"

Kristol: "...he should stipulate that a terrible thing has happened which has been a real setback for us... the Obama administration hasn't handled it well ...more about what he would do over the next four years and less picking on every flaw of the Obama administration.... the key for tomorrow night is to be less of a prosecutor and more the next President."

I find myself agreeing with him, especially from the standpoint of avoiding driving up Obama's likability ratings and Romney's down. Romney does need a counter to Obama's foreign policy, even if Obama's is a void. Somehow, the Democrats are spreading a meme that Romney is a "warmonger," and Kristol suggested going back to Reagan vs. Carter: "Peace through strength.... Here is why my policies are less risky than the current Democratic President's." A statement like that would require a followup statement of what is different and why would it be less risky.

If Obama tries to claim that he is the man with foreign policy experience, Romney can point out our negotiating failures under Obama, or that his Secretary of State has done all the negotiating. He could even do it in French.

Cross-posted at RedState

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

What the (bleep) Is Romney Doing?

How can he be surging after ignoring our suggestions?

The human brain is a marvelous thing.  Each one is unique.  Some work better than others, but many of them see things the same way.  It's evolutionary.  We're programmed to look for patterns, and if a pattern is identified we all tend to see it.  But sometimes what is obvious isn't real.  And sometimes we need to stop and think about what pattern we should be looking for.

Expectations vs. performance

There is an accepted pattern for Presidential campaigns.  Use speeches and TV appearances to attack and counter-attack.  Send out mailings.  Make phone calls.  Knock on doors.  For incumbents, the opportunities are almost endless.  For their opponents, not so much, but we expect them to reply forcefully against whatever the incumbent says.  This wasn't happening for Mitt Romney in June, and mutterings abounded that he was wasting the summer.  In July and August the Olympics were held in London.  Romney dipped his toe in the water and was almost devoured by sharks.  His innocuous but accurate comment in answer to a question about Olympic security in London was spun by the British press into an insult against the British, and amplified by our own So-Called Unbiased Media. Lesson learned, Romney went back to a lower profile for a while.  And still, we who are experts on the ordinary insisted he was wasting time because he wasn't doing what WE would do.

When September 11 rolled around, with it came an attack on our Egyptian embassy and our "consulate" in Benghazi, Libya.  After the Egyptian attack but before the killings in Libya, Governor Romney issued a statement (originally intended to be held until midnight but released earlier), regarding the Egyptian embassy's "tweets" during the attack.  He was himself immediately attacked by the American So-Called-Unbiased-Media for having the temerity to have an opinion about statements published by an embassy.  It mattered not a bit that the White House issued a similar statement later the next day, saying essentially the same thing.  As they did so, they criticized Romney for "shooting before aiming" (an odd metaphor--his aim seemed clear).  But this time, his words were reported more fully, and they stayed in the news long enough to be judged on their own merits.

Debate forecasts and reality

It's now October and we've had two debates.  The first was forecast to be one of high importance to Romney.  Make or break, if he could just hold his own against the great orator he'd have a moral victory and he'd still be in the race. But to do so, he'd have to be hard-hitting, ruthlessly tearing into President Obama's failures and exploiting them for all to see.  He'd also have to provide details of all of his proposals from taxes to health care, and don't forget that RomneyCare would embarrass him.  Anything less and Obama would win simply by virtue of being the incumbent.  Obama was sure to hit him with the dreaded phrase, "47%," and Romney was reported to be memorizing "zingers" with which to come back when stung by Obama.

As it turned out, the pattern we expected to see didn't happen.  Romney was soft-spoken, matter-of-fact, and direct.  He explained his own plans and refuted Obama's attempts to misrepresent those plans as something else.  Romney appeared to be as likable as Obama, or more so.  Obama's vaunted oratory was replaced with a series of misstatements and missteps.  He couldn't explain his own ObamaCare program, although he liked the name.  "47%" never came up, and many of us wished that Romney would have taken some of the many opportunities to attack Obama on his record.  For instance, we would have liked a mention of the missing budgets for 2011, 2012, and 2013.  Still, viewers decided that Romney was the victor by a huge margin, for this sort of thing, and polls the following week confirmed that sentiment had swung towards Romney.

Enter the VP debate and Joe Biden vs. Paul Ryan.  It was introduced on Fox News with Bret Baier saying Biden's strategy would be to "drive a wedge in between Paul Ryan and Governor Romney... to set up his boss before the next debate."  Megyn Kelly stressed their almost-30-year age difference without telling us why that would be important.  As it turned out neither was important, and that strategic plan, as near as could be determined between sniffs, wasn't followed.  Earlier speculation was that the meeting would be confrontational, with wonky statistics being used by each to bash the other.  Biden would be sneaky and tricky, and Ryan would come right back at him, giving him references to class and race warfare in return for references to "47%."

In fact, wonkiness was held to a minimum by both men, at least to the extent possible given the questions.  Ryan seemed to be debating two opponents at times throughout the evening, with both moderator Martha Raddatz and VP Biden frequently interrupting an answer to dispute it, or to ask followup questions, or unrelated questions on another topic. Biden DID attack often, but Ryan's usual response was to ignore the tone and answer the substance.  Biden WAS obnoxious, but Ryan responded with detached amusement or not at all, and never with hostility or petulance.  Only once did he allow himself to suggest that the people would be better served if they "both" didn't interrupt each other, although it was clear the only interruptions came from Biden and moderator Raddatz.  And for the second week the nice guy finished in first place.  Not by the huge margin of the prior debate, but far enough in front for Wolf Blitzer of CNN to call it a tie.

So what the (bleep) is Romney doing?

The pattern we saw for weeks didn't match the one we expected and we interpreted it as mistakes on Romney's part.  Throw away that pattern and we saw what a man who is mostly a non-politician can do when he has the skill set of Mitt Romney. I may be thinking wishfully, but my thought is that Romney has been planning his moves from the early summer to maximize the utility of his campaign funds and to expose Obama without sounding strident himself.

While we were hoping to see a little of Thor's hammer used on Obama, Romney was instead setting the President up to look like Larry, Curley, or Moe in a way that his shortcomings would be apparent to independents. By maintaining that low profile, Romney let Obama get the headlines with his mismanagement of the economy, energy, the border, et al.  Since the So-Called-Unbiased-Media didn't care to cover Romney's  speeches, they were left to cover Obama's actions and inactions, which hurt the President more than anything Romney could have said.  Not what we wanted, but maybe more effective.

Why the change?

If ever a political party needed a turnaround, it was the Republican Party after Bush.  The ball got rolling with the Tea Party, a grass roots movement that was inspired by Obama's incompetent handling of the TARP and stimulus monies after they had been granted to him to "save the country."  It was completely independent of the Republican Party; in fact, it took way too long for Republican officials to realize they had been granted a chance at redemption, a chance to atone for too many years of "compassionate conservatism" and nominations of incompetent candidates like Bob Dole and John McCain.

We have now nominated a man who is a specialist in turnarounds.  It's his profession, and he's extremely good at it.  We expect him to be able to save the economy and save the country.  Isn't it just possible that he can run a successful campaign for President that doesn't fit the old pattern, and save the party while he's at it?

It makes sense to let him set the economy and the country aright again, but he knew that he couldn't campaign on that theme.  He recognized that it was in "personal likability" that Obama could beat him if he ran a traditional campaign.  So he first started his turnaround on the Party by abandoning the old pattern and nominating a young, smart Congressman who could help him with both likability and with issues and content.  He picked a man who might have upstaged him, but that didn't matter.  He was improving Party image and Ticket credibility.  Then he continued to campaign without confrontation but by gradually becoming more critical as he pointed out his differences with Barack Obama's failures.

Media look for old pattern

When it became debate time, the objectives were set by the media--for both, energize the base, and for Romney, show yourself capable.  The assumption was that he would do so by attacking Obama directly on his record.  Obama would use his oratorical skills to overwhelm the contender, generating a groundswell of Democrat base support.

But Romney recognized a couple of things that seem to have escaped the media and us as well.  First, the best way for him to energize the base would ultimately be not by attacking the President, it would be by winning the debate.  Second, the best way to win the debate would be to win over independents, and that would also not result from attacks on the President.  So while Obama was playing to his base, Romney was addressing his remarks and demeanor toward independents, who were after all the voters he needed to win over.  If he got them, any waverers in his base would come with them.  He calculated that they'd be more impressed by logic and ideas than by bluster and gotcha.

The Vice Presidential debate continued the theme, except Joe Biden went off the chart with "confidence" that came through as rude, arrogant, and obnoxious.  The Romney-Ryan ticket couldn't have been better served if they had scripted it themselves.

Different targets

Understanding your audience is important to any public speaker.  The Obama campaign decided its target audience was the Democrat base.  That's the way they conducted themselves.  OTOH, the Romney campaign targeted the independents and undecideds, and they did it two ways.  First, they treated the debates as if they were opportunities for serious discussions rather than circus sideshows set up for flexing muscles.  Second, they behaved as mature adults should behave in polite company.

Perhaps they also recognized that their target audience was comprised of people who might not be particularly knowledgeable about the details of the issues they talked about, or even about the existence of those issues, so they tried to provide some context for their arguments rather than simply spout sound bites, while they also introduced themselves for the first time to people who didn't know them.

The Democrats changed targets on the day after the Presidential debate.  We have wondered why the Obama camp appeared the next day with myriad examples of how Romney "lied" during the debate, even though the President didn't seem to notice in real time, and the "lies" were rather questionable. We wondered how these claims could be effective, since they seemed be either inaccurate or based on imaginary statements or proposals.  The answer, I believe, is smart politics on the Democrats' part:  those questionable statements were aimed directly at undecided voters who didn't watch the debate and were therefore wide open to persuasion.  Convince them that Romney lied, cheated, and/or stole and they would not bother to check further.  It's a tactic that can work, and it's aimed at precisely the right demographic--undecided, uninformed voters.

Fortunately for Romney/Ryan, the original target was re-acquired by the Democrats just in time for the Vice Presidential debate.  Biden played to his base, while Ryan played to civility.  For a President who has lectured us all so many times on the need for "civility," he abandoned his interest in it for the first two debates. To some extent, both campaigns hit their targets; the question remains, which target was most productive?

Will the next debate be different?

Will tactics change for the Tuesday, October 16, debate? My guess is that they won't change much.  Perhaps President Obama will choose to highlight some of his policy measures he considers to be successes, and tell us why he thinks so.  If he does, Governor Romney may be more specific in his rebuttals.  If Obama becomes more "aggressive," Romney may be a bit sharper in his replies.  Overall, I believe Obama MUST do whatever he can to maintain his "likability" lead if he still has one.  Behavior like VP Biden exhibited will be a big mistake, even if the devoted left-wing would love to see it.  Acquiescence bordering on somnolence won't do either.  His best bet may be to continue to misrepresent Romney's positions and fight on those grounds rather than to try to defend his own record, just as he did before.  And Romney may simply try to remain calm, cool, and collected, with ready answers and honest criticism for everything but put-downs for nobody.  That gave him a huge bump before and there is little reason to think it won't do so again.

What's important?

In the end, what is said will be forgotten unless it is catastrophically wrong. How it is said, though, is what makes the impression, and it's what drove poll numbers following the debates in the Republicans' direction.

Cross-posted at

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Affordable Health Care Act is Dishonest, Starting with the Individual Mandate

Previously posted at as

The Mandate Raises Prices, It Doesn’t Reduce Them

April, 2012

Why do we believe the individual mandate is necessary to pay for “universal” health care?

The Administration has told us repeatedly that the mandate is necessary to help hold down the cost of health insurance. Nobody has objected yet; we should have.

The mandate is supposed to hold down costs by forcing everybody to buy health insurance whether they want to or not. Supposedly, fifty million (or ten or twenty or thirty or forty million) additional people added to the books of various insurance companies will carry a significant part of the health cost burden for the rest of “us,” but it really can’t work that way.

First, let’s consider what makes health insurance expensive.

It’s primarily the health care it pays for (a Homer Simpson moment there). In fact, the government has decreed that 80% to 85% of each premium dollar must be paid out in benefits. And of course health care itself is expensive because of all the facilities, time, equipment, education, training, research, and expertise it requires. That leaves 15% to 20% available to the insurance company for its fixed and variable costs, and for profit. (And don’t forget that the more covered benefits that are included in the insurance policy, the more it costs.)

Then consider the ten to fifty million people who will be forced to buy insurance.

Those who are healthy, strong, perhaps young, those people will definitely be helping to pay our bills. But how “fair” is that? Someone who doesn’t really need something is being forced to pay for it, just so our cost will be lowered. The obvious bet is that enough healthy people will be added to the rolls to significantly reduce the total cost of underwriting both them and the rest of us. There are about 255,000,000 of us who are already insured, and about 51 million more who are in the pool and considered to be “uninsured.”

That 51 million breaks down this way: About 4 million are the above referenced “young and healthy.” Seven million are “temporarily  uninsured,” that is, uninsured for less than a year, most likely between jobs. Another 10 million are non-citizens, and 17 million are already eligible for government sponsored insurance but have chosen to refuse it.

Who will be subsidized?

That leaves only about 13 million who are truly Americans in need of help buying health insurance. We are told that they want to buy insurance but can’t afford it or are uninsurable. They’ll be subsidized. So actually, their premiums will be paid by us, as taxes or as premium increases or surcharges, indirectly adding to our health care costs, and offsetting some or all of the savings provided by the “healthy” insured. While we’re at it, we might as well add the 10 million uninsured non-citizens back into this number, because it’s reasonable to expect that almost all of them will also be subsidized. So we will end up subsidizing or outright paying for the insurance of 23 million people, while forcing another 28 million to buy insurance they don’t want and maybe don’t really need.

Who will pay?

Looking at those groups a bit differently, we have only four million who will actually help reduce insurance premium net benefit costs, because they’re the only ones who are likely to use a below-average amount of health care resources. All the rest can be reasonably expected to access health care at average or above-average frequencies and quantities, so we are apparently expected to believe that by forcing four million healthy people who presently self-insure to buy insurance, we will make insurance rates significantly lower for the other 302 million. It isn’t possible. (I say significantly because one doesn’t go through an upheaval like ObamaDon’tCare for a trivial improvement.)

As a prominent cable news network host likes to say, “Let’s look at the numbers” for the answer. For simplicity, let’s say that the average health insurance plan premiums will be $100 per year, even though we know it will be many times this amount; it’s just a way to make it easier to state as a percentage at the end. Now let’s assume that the four million healthy people who will be insured actually have only 10% of the risk that the rest of us have, meaning that their actuarially true premium should be $10, yet they will be paying $100. That leaves about $90 from each one of them to apply to our premiums.  So $90 times 4 million equals $360 million. Divide that by $100 (average premium cost), and that is enough money to pay for the insurance of 3.6 million others. From above, we need to subsidize or fully pay for insurance for 23 million people. That means we have to find the money for 19.4 million someplace else, and that means higher taxes or higher insurance premiums or surcharges for the rest of us.  That’s right.  We will all pay. I’ll show you. I’ll even suggest how much more it will be.

Putting taxes aside for a moment, a bill for $100 times 19.4 million is $1.94 billion. Divide that by everybody else, and it means $1,940,000,000 divided by (306,000,000-23,000,000), or $1,940 divided by 283, or $6.86 per person. Put another way, insurance premiums would have to go up about 7%, not down at all. (This is a rough approximation, of course, because it leaves out several factors that would add even more expenses, and it doesn’t adjust for those in the group who could pay for part or all of their own premiums.) And if we try to use taxes to pay the additional cost instead of putting a surcharge on each premium, it’s even more for each taxpayer because there are fewer taxpayers to share the total cost, which itself wouldn’t change.

So the mandate does not, in fact, make the Unaffordable Health Insurance Act affordable.

It makes health insurance more expensive. What else does it do? It guarantees health insurance companies 50 million new customers, and each of them will add to a company’s profits. Now, I am not an anti-business person, not even an anti-insurance person (as long as the customer is not forced to purchase), so don’t take this that way. I am a free market person, the freer the better, and I believe in profits. Even I can see that the mandate, rather than being a vehicle installed to eliminate “free riders” and make them pay their “fair share,” was in fact a vehicle to get the insurance companies on board with UHIA and convince them to forgo their Harry and Louise advertisements, the ones that demolished HillaryCare twenty years ago, by guaranteeing them more profits through more customers.

Other considerations in the UHIA.

We are told it eliminates the “free rider” problem–folks who use emergency services in place of standard palliative or preventive care. But we aren’t told how much that costs every year. Using the low numbers I used to estimate above, it would have to cost  (and be therefore available to be saved) 51 million times $100, or $5.1 billion for the new plan to be a net saving for the country as a whole, and my estimating number is probably only 10% or less of the real number.  So we’re really faced with the need for a present cost of $51 billion before ObamaDon’tCare even deserves consideration.

We are told, “everyone will be insured.” Only they won’t. There will still be those who self-insure but can’t pay for their own care, and there will still be those who just won’t participate. Even in Massachusetts, where almost everybody was already insured before the advent of MassCare, that has proven to be true. In the end, we’ve turned our health care system on its head to insure about 20 million more people, some of whom don’t even want it. Is the goal to insure those people, or to make their necessary health care affordable? Whichever it is, there are much better and less expensive ways to accomplish it than what we’ve done so far.

The new system is full of incentives for employers to terminate employee health insurance plans–high expenses on the horizon and a low penalty for non-compliance. Top-end plans are mandated; no low-budget plans are available because everybody must have the same coverage that the richest of us can pay for. This is a recipe for destruction of the private health insurance market, leading directly to a Medicare-like government controlled plan in which, eventually, little care is available. And it has already eliminated some customer-friendly, low-cost, Medicare Advantage plans in states like Arizona.

Built-in provider (doctor) reimbursement restrictions are counter-productive as well.  They tend to reduce the number of providers, yet universal coverage increases the need for more providers.

One type of health insurance that is true insurance, “Major Medical,” is severely restricted in the UHIA (I believe–I haven’t read the thing, either). Instead, we will be forced to buy what is really a health maintenance plan, which is sure to increase usage and demand, therefore putting even more strain on the system.

If the program were as good as the Administration claims, businesses would be petitioning to get into it, rather than get out of it.

What happened?

Even though the data behind this analysis weren’t available at the time, we knew all this before Obama was elected, anyway. When he said we could add 40 million people to the insurance rolls without paying “a single dime” more in premiums, we knew he wasn’t being truthful. At least, those of us who don’t believe in the Tooth Fairy Free Lunch Delivery Service knew it. Some closed their eyes to what they knew was wrong as they “hoped” it would magically become right. We the people made our decision based on several false premises that we chose not to examine closely.  We voted for hope but we got hype instead.

Congress failed to represent all the people in its effort to give special attention to some of the people. And the criticism for lack of curiosity and skepticism that I accuse the press of below doubly applies to the Republicans and honest Democrats in Congress in 2009 and 2010.

The free press failed to notice that it was being fed a fanciful story and was simply regurgitating it on the people instead of doing any real analysis. Or it intentionally withheld facts from the public in order to help Barack Obama win his election. I’m not an expert in the health care field by any means, and I was able to write this article within the span of less than a week, in my spare time. More than a few paid reporters should have conducted this same exercise (only with much more exacting research and in much more stringent detail) while ObamaDon’tCare was being debated, whether my conclusions are right or wrong. It’s a Constitutionally protected professional industry and has no reason to be in the pocket of any administration or party. It simply wasn’t done; the press became PR flacks for the Democrat President. The fact that the research still hasn’t been conducted is disgraceful.

What can be done?

No matter what the Supreme Court rules in June, the Obama Administration  and the Democrat Congress needs to be replaced in November, and the UHIA must be fully repealed. It does nothing that it claimed to do, and it gives the government power over many things that will be harmful in both the long and the short run. To leave any part of it in place would be a mistake.

Then, with calm deliberation and without hysterical claims that women and minorities will die in the streets if something isn’t passed NOW!, some changes to health care and health insurance law can be considered.  Multi-state policies can be expedited. Individual, stand-alone Major Medical policies can be authorized. Tort reform can be passed. Deregulation of what must and what simply may be covered by policies can be debated. Formation of groups to buy group insurance policies can be facilitated, similar to credit unions. Allow, but don’t mandate, extended coverage of adult children on parents’ policies with proper underwriting protocols. If coverage of pre-existing conditions is desired (although it isn’t really insurance, it’s welfare), provide a means whereby the insurance industry as a whole can cover the individual insurance company’s excess benefit costs that result, with government backup as a last resort if necessary.

Most importantly, any and all of these changes should be passed individually, in small, understandable laws, not as part of a gigantic tidal wave of health-related legislation that drowns the health care industry in red ink and paperwork and “must be passed in order to be read.”


Beyond what I wrote above, providing insurance to cover free riders, even if they pay for the insurance themselves, doesn’t reduce health care costs at all.

The ObamaDon’tCare claim is that because they would have insurance, they’d no longer be a drain on the “free” emergency services provided by hospitals and emergency rooms. This doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

The real emergencies will still go to the same places and still use the same resources. Instead of being “paid for” at wholesale rates by the hospital (perhaps to receive some reimbursement from the community), the service will be charged to the insurance company at benefit rates.

Some non-emergencies will still go there, too. Same results.

Other complaints will go to other doctors. Again, paid at benefit reimbursement rates. But these ailments were never that expensive to treat in the emergency rooms, anyway. They just sat in the waiting room until a doctor was available, were seen for a few minutes, treated if necessary, then sent home, with the treatment “cost” either paid by them or eaten by the hospital or E-care facility.

But… what is seldom mentioned is that when people have insurance that covers something, they tend to get the “something” fixed more often than when they don’t have the insurance. Also, there now may be some hesitation by some people to ask for free service at a hospital, but there is no stigma attached to being treated and paying with an insurance card. This all means that ODC will increase demand, and we know that increased demand results in higher prices overall.

The AHCA may be many things, but it isn’t a vehicle to reduce health care costs from free riders.


I was advised by a friend that the term ObamaDon’tCare is just too flippant and distracting for a serious discussion.  I used the term for a specific reason--President Obama himself has decided to adopt the position that he likes the AHCA to be called ObamaCare, because he says, "I do care."  I disagree.  He doesn't care, or he would have accepted some input from Republicans and dissenting Democrats before forcing the AHCA through Congress.  Rather than use the more grammatically correct but stuffy "ObamaDoesn'tCare," I chose ObamaDon'tCare to acknowledge the effectiveness of the Honey Badger don't care videos.

The Special Report We’d Like to See


A breaking news story, ripped from the pages of

Bret Baier on Fox News Channel’s Special Report reported today that

”Congressional Budget Office figures indicate the deficit is increasing at a slower pace.  The CBO says the federal government accumulated a budget deficit of 349 billion dollars in the first four months of the fiscal year 2012.  That is 70 billion less than the shortfall reported for the same period last year.  The deficit for the year is still predicted to be almost 1.1 trillion dollars.”

At that point, he threw the page he was reading over his shoulder and declared, “I’m sick and tired of reading c**p like this.  Give me a break!  We’re reporting about rearranging g*dd*m deck chairs while the f***ing Titanic is in full dive mode.  What the h**l difference does it make that we’re going over the cliff at 99 mph instead of 100?  The splatter will be just as big.  Instead of worrying about the speed of our demise, ladies and gentlemen, you better be worrying about just who is driving the bus.  The guy driving it now needs to learn that the steering wheel turns right as well as left.  If he’d do that just a little, maybe we’d avoid the cliff.  But it looks to me like we need a new driver; he doesn’t have a clue where we’re headed, what the brake is for, or how to use it.  He’s driving on cruise control with his legs crossed at the ankles, listening to his own speeches on his iPod, f’gawd’s sake.

My sincere apologies for the mixed metaphors.”

At this point, the camera started shaking (as if the cameraman had lost control) and Charles Krauthammer could be seen rolling in with a hypodermic needle in his hand.  The show went to break, and when it came back Geraldo Rivera was sitting in the host chair, muttering something about “(I thought that weed I gave him was the GOOD stuff.  Sorry, Bret.  Maybe not the best time to get in touch with your inner Howard Beale.)  [aloud]  Speedy recovery, Buddy.  And to the rest of you, Welcome now to Geraldo’s World, LIVE FROM LAS VEGAS!”

My apologies to any who are offended by Bret’s language; it’s just so not like him, but I did clean it up, after all.

The news report that he read was real.  The rest of this is just wishful thinking.

We do big things.

(Previously posted at

We do big things.

There are no caps in that title.  No exclamation point.  None was present in the president’s State of the Union speech as he delivered those lines last week.

President Obama is supposed to be The Great Orator, but lately he seems to be missing the mark.  Why in the name of William Jennings Bryan did he wind up his address with a reference to the heroic story of Brandon Fisher and his “small business,” Center Rock?

To remind you, Fisher and his company envisioned, designed, manufactured, delivered, and operated the equipment that rescued 33 miners trapped in Chile last year.

President Obama quoted a Center Rock employee,

    …”We proved that Center Rock is a little company, but we do big things.” 
    We do big things. 
    We are a nation that says…. 
    We do big things.

In doing so, he missed the irony of using that story to support his idea that the US Government “does big things.”  He didn’t specifically say that–he used the royal “We” to recognize the American people–but it was clear from what went before and by his use of “We are a nation…” that he meant “We, the government.”

But Fisher’s is a story of personal enterprise and individual effort; it has nothing to do with government programs and if anything it illustrates what can be accomplished if government gets out of the way.  Had the incident been a different kind of emergency, one that required the effort of any industry that is highly regulated, perhaps the rescue would never have been completed.

Consider the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill.  Rules and regulations did not prevent the accident but federal government regulation then prevented the states from protecting their own beaches, prevented European allies from helping mitigate the damage with their ships and sailors who were already experienced in and equipped for that kind of situation, and prevented American entrepreneurs just like Center Rock from applying their talents to speed the cleanup.  Instead of doing big things, the Obama administration did every nit-picking little thing it could do to prevent ingenuity from winning the battle.  To this day, it leaves in place a court-rejected moratorium on offshore drilling, or the threat of one, that keeps American oil companies from full recovery.

What “big things” lie ahead?

He asks Harvard to allow the return of ROTC to campus.

He has traveled around the world, and he’ll do so again to make more speeches, and to stand with “those who take responsibility.”  He’ll insist that Iran meets its responsibilities, and “that North Korea keeps its commitment to abandon nuclear weapons.”

He’ll reduce troop strength in Iraq.

He’s going to give us a “21st century government that’s open” and “a government that’s more competent and efficient.”  He seemed to say that he’d do something so that government could regulate salmon better, whether it’s in fresh water, salt water, or a nice fume.  But he wasn’t specific about just what that was.  And he says that “[v]eterans can now download their electronic medical records with a click of the mouse.”  Efficient!  His “administration will develop a proposal to merge, consolidate, and reorganize the federal government.” That is big, but hardly new.

And he’ll

pick projects based on what’s best for the economy, not politicians. 
Within 25 years, our goal is to give 80% of Americans access to high-speed rail, which could allow you go places in half the time it takes to travel by car. For some trips, it will be faster than flying – without the pat-down. As we speak, routes in California and the Midwest are already underway.

Yes, he really had those two sentences back to back.

Enough, already.  Most of these are small-ball items, either essentially insignificant in a grand view of the world, or little white-lie gifts to the cockeyed optimists among us who still believe that a government the size of the combined moons of Jupiter can be made open, competent, and efficient, and that multi-billion-dollar projects can be paid for by eliminating the same waste, corruption and loopholes that paid for the last twenty unwanted government boondoggles.

“Big” in this context does not equal “expensive,” it equals “very important and good for America.”  And to be fair, he did have a few items that might qualify, but he didn’t seem to realize it.  He merely mentioned them and continued on, or qualified them to such an extent that it guarantees failure.  Examples:  Fix Social Security, reduce spending, simplify the tax code, eliminate loopholes and tax preferences, and reduce tax rates.  It’s clear that he either didn’t really mean what he said, or that he intends to stay back and follow while somebody else leads the way, letting them take the arrows from HIS party while doing so.*  He has no intention of leading us anywhere.

But he could, if he really wanted to “do big things.”  Some suggestions:

Cut spending.

“Big” would be to accept the Republican challenge to return to the 2008 budget and go them two better.  Propose the 2006 budget.

Bipartisan effort and openness.

Recognize that the individual mandate in Obamacare is unconstitutional, and that while it is indeed “big,” the law is NOT self-financing, and that a big part of our deficit problem is the result of the fact and the manner it was forced upon us, creating huge fear among businesses that their employee health benefits are no longer under their control.  Join with Republicans and call for its repeal, to be replaced with several smaller, manageable laws covering a lot less ground but hashed out in open session in Congress.  Smaller in size, but bigger in importance.

Cut the deficit and amend the tax code.

Refer to the true results of the Reagan tax cuts–Huge increases in tax revenues, exceeded by huge increases in spending.  Start with one of the deficit reduction commission’s income tax plans.  By following a lower-spending budget (2006) the deficit will quickly start to shrink.

Illegal immigration.

Don’t just talk about it.  Do it.  Work with both parties as he said in his speech.  But don’t insist that every foot of border fence come with concessions to the illegal immigrant lobby.

Social Security.

Lead.  Don’t follow.  And don’t lay down conditions that guarantee failure, because Social Security is a problem that CAN be solved.  With a split Congress, he could actually do something BIG!

I’m sure you can read the speech and come up with more suggestions that are far “bigger” than his.

We Do Big Things!

See.  It’s better in bold, with caps and the right punctuation.  He should have delivered it that way and backed it up with proposals that were BIG.  Instead, he followed it with clumsy aphorisms and glittering generalities.  He came darned close to saying “the future lies ahead of us.”

If President Obama were a truly great orator, that phrase would be household words by now.  It would have joined “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” because it would have been followed by important new ideas, and not preceded by everyday boilerplate.  Instead, it’s been forgotten, as his speech will be.

He might as well have closed with, “After all, tomorrow is another day.”

*UPDATE:  This was written before the phrase "leading from behind" was coined by an Obama minion.

Stimulus? We don’t need no stinkin’ stimulus.

(Previously posted with comments, at  See Author's NOTE below.)

Why another stimulus package would be a mistake

Whether the stimulus package didn’t work, or worked, is still working, worked but then quit working, was too little, too big, needs a second phase, or was juuuust right, is again becoming a matter of discussion among the ruling class.  No, I must amend that.  They are sure that at some level it worked.  For them the only question is how much to expand it and they don’t care much about those other questions.

For us in the country class the questions are more important, because we like to know if and why something works or doesn’t.  You know, so we can decide whether to do it again or not.

I’d like to offer a few ideas and ask some questions about The Stimulus.

What was the stimulus supposed to do?

Jump start the economy, or at least rev it up a little, and “save” jobs and create jobs.

It did none of that very well.  After the appropriation of over $800 billion, with the Administration demanding that it be passed immediately because the situation was dire, official unemployment rates are still at almost ten percent.  A good chunk of it (more than $300 billion) isn’t even in the economy, having not yet been spent for anything.  Forecast economic growth has just been adjusted downward by the Federal Reserve, from over 3% for 2011 to 2.7%.  That estimate is probably optimistic.  But enough of the numbers.

The real point is that a stimulus by definition is a short-term remedy.  It is supposed to work NOW, not next year.  It’s supposed to be, no, it has to be temporary.  If it’s to save jobs, it has to save them NOW.  It can’t be strung out over 2, 3, or 4 years.  Otherwise, it’s just another way for the government to overspend for the Administration’s own pet projects.  Yet, that’s the way the money in this stimulus package has been spent.

There are some requirements for success.

Any stimulus must come from borrowed funds.

No stimulus can work if it has to be paid for by collecting taxes at the same time to replace it.  That is just a game of taking money from one pocket (the taxpayer’s) and putting it in another one (the pockets of favored interests), with a good bit of it taken off the top to pay the bureaucracy.  So a successful stimulus has to be from borrowed funds. Remember this for later.  The idea is that we are borrowing from the future to avert catastrophe now, and we will pay it back after things are stabilized.  We are creating jobs now that will contribute to the growth of GDP now, which helps to repay the borrowed money in the future.  If that isn’t what happens, it doesn’t make sense to borrow the money and pay interest on it.  And the idea of paying for the stimulus by cutting some other program doesn’t make much sense either, even if it moves the spending up from the end of the year to the front.  It’s still moving money between pockets.

Stimulus funds must be spent quickly.

No stimulus can work if the funds that are supposed to be spent are not spent.  In fact, unspent appropriations work against a recovery by creating negative expectations.  They become part of the anticipated debt without contributing to any increase in economic activity.  Public expectation of higher government debt without realization of greater economic activity leads to anticipation of higher future tax collections and/or inflation, which depresses the current economy.

Governments make bad decisions regarding how to spend stimulus money.

They have already prioritized what they thought our taxes were going to be spent on.  Now they’ve appropriated billions of dollar more and they have to decide where to spend it.  The answer ALWAYS is to spend it on the administration’s and Congress’s pet projects:  Green energy projects.  Subsidies paid to individual states to prop up their payrolls, which amounts to subsidies to state employee union members.  Payments to states to cover expenses they can no longer afford, which delays their attempt to solve the underlying problem–excessive spending.  Payments to cities to hire more police or fire or garbage men.  Moving forward purchases of goods and capital improvements that had been planned for later years.  (That one isn’t too bad.  At least we would have something to show for the expenditures.)  The money NEVER goes where a consumer would spend it.

The trouble with these ideas and the others they come up with is that once the stimulus money is gone, they aren’t self-sustaining.  The states and cities still don’t have balanced budgets, corrective changes haven’t been made, and now they have even higher expenses (larger payrolls) and greater deferred obligations (pensions).  Now IF the economy has turned around in a year maybe that’s not too bad, but if it hasn’t it just makes things worse, and the economy is in a downward spiral.

Trusting the country class is the answer.

IF there is a true need to boost the economy, we should keep in mind that we have a consumer economy.  It’s driven by 300 million consumers, and those millions of consumers have more effect on the economy than any one-year infusion of even $600 billion by the government into specific industries, states, or companies.  $600 billion is only $2000 times our 300 million population.  Of course they haven’t even spent $600 billion yet.  Maybe just barely $400 billion.

But–had our government simply given rebates to taxpayers that come to a total of a few hundred billion dollars, the people would have been able to decide where that money would be spent.  It would have stimulated the businesses that the consumers wanted, and ignored the ones they didn’t.  There would be no false support for profligate state or city governments–they’d have to get their own spending under control.  Government worker and teacher unions would face the right questions–do they accept change, or do they accept unemployment?  Cutting edge technology companies would have to convince investors that they were developing a good product, one that people would want to buy.

What’s the theory behind a stimulus?

The theory is that a short-term infusion of a large amount of additional money into our economic system can sustain it past a temporary crisis caused by an anomaly:  The sub-prime mortgage crisis, made either better or worse by TARP funds, leading to the near-collapse of the world financial system and several US financial entities, rising unemployment, the government takeover of two bankrupt car companies primarily at the expense of their creditors, government direction oversight of those financial entities, doubling of the previous annual deficit leading to a runaway increase in the national debt.  Only all that’s clearly not an anomaly.  It’s a whole bagful of mistakes, most of them instigated by government intervention in the economy.  Still, it might be controllable, IF it were just a one-time event.  However, the government’s insertion of itself into the health care industry has guaranteed that deficits will be astronomical by historical standards for the foreseeable future.  Although true-believers might argue that point, sensible people will not.

Our national debt has just reached $13 trillion, while our GDP is in the $14 trillion range.  Debt will soon exceed GDP, perhaps by the end of this year.  For comparison, national debt was less than half that at the end of 2002, and it was less than 60% of GDP.  More interestingly, just one month before the elections in 2008 debt was a full $3 trillion less than it is now.  Debt increased by $4 trillion from January 1, 2003 to October 2008;  it increased almost as much from October 2008 to August 2010–70 months compared to 22 months.  It’s predicted by the Administration to hit $20 trillion within ten years, and it may not take that long.

At this point, anything that increases government debt that isn’t absolutely necessary makes the recovery more remote, the situation worse.  Much worse.  The effect of galloping deficits and mushrooming debt is to destroy confidence in both the government and the economy.  When consumers and producers and employers lose confidence in the economy, they quit buying, cut production, and cease hiring if they aren’t firing.  The only solutions for such deficits and debt levels are Draconian taxes at levels that will kill economic growth, or worse; high inflation as the government monetizes its debt; and/or massive cuts in government spending.  Since massive cuts in spending have never happened in recent history, private expectations are for either or both of the first two alternatives.

Off topic?

Not really.  A stimulus package cannot possibly counter all those negative factors.  The only thing that can is to restore confidence.  In the environment I just described, the single biggest boost to confidence would be delivered by the cancellation of ObamaCare, which won’t happen until Obama leaves office (another boost).  In the meantime, defunding it  would help.  Cut the budget and we cut the need for higher tax receipts.  A good beginning would be to return the unspent stimulus funds back to the Treasury.  Freeze the size of the civilian government workforce, and freeze government pay schedules in place.

If we do that, the future will look better and confidence will start to improve because the government will be displaying fiscal restraint.  The deficit will shrink.  GDP will grow, shrinking it faster.  Eventual inflation will start to look manageable.

And remember what I wrote above–to even have a chance for success a stimulus package must be paid for with borrowed funds.  In this environment, more borrowing would be counterproductive.  The next-to-last thing we need now is for unnecessary expenditures that add to the deficit.  The last thing we need is tax increases that take money out of consumers’ and producers’ pockets for redistribution by bureaucrats.  So no, we don’t need no stinkin’ stimulus.

NOTE:  Some valid points were made by commenters.  A stimulus would work best (if it can work at all) if it came from money "in the bank," rather than borrowing or taxes.  A stimulus has an uphill battle if it follows years of deficit spending--deficit spending is a type of stimulus in itself.  And although it isn't mentioned, ultra-low market interest rates might diminish the stimulative aspect of paying off debt unless the repaid funds are again loaned out quickly--that is not happening today.  Other comments are also informative.