Tag Archives: Obama

The Basket Case That is Europe

Boy am I glad my grandparents decided to leave Italy for a new life in America. They may have traded sunny beaches for cold winters in New York, but the positives still far outweigh the negatives. Europe today is in shambles, and things only appear to be getting worse.

Economically, the European Union is pathetic. Only Paul Krugman has the lack of intellectual honesty to claim that the European economic model of excessive taxation, and more importantly regulation, is superior to a more free economy such as the USA’s. Even before the crisis in 2008, the EU’s unemployment rate was consistently 4 points higher than the United States’. Today, It is not uncommon to see European unemployment rates over ten percent as Europe appears to be sliding into another recession. For all of Obama’s faults, at least America has been growing (if only at an anemic pace). Ill credit the growth to the GOP, who are blocking Obama from forcing through even more bad legislation like Obamacare, Dodd-Frank and the stimulus. But you also cannot discount the unbeatable American spirit and work ethic. It takes a lot more than one bad president to keep us down.

Europe has always shown its lack of economic competence by supporting continually expanding government (except in places like Scandinavia, where they are actually paring back government). But more recently the world has been reminded that Western Europe is also unwilling to stand up to bullies like Putin, even as he rolls tanks into Ukraine. You would think the Europeans would be tougher. Men and women are still alive who have memories of the horrors that came about the last time an autocrat decided to annex large swaths of territory. But alas, Russian natural gas is simply too important to Europe (I thought they were supposed to be using all renewables by now?). So Germany, the only country on the continent with any relative economic strength, lets Putin off with light slaps on the wrist. Part of this is President Obama’s fault, of course. Before he came along, the USA would have at least tried to be a leader in sanctioning Putin in a meaningful way. Instead, we put light sanctions on him in a reactionary way because we didn’t want to “escalate” the situation and prompt him to do something drastic like annex Crimea or invade Eastern Ukraine. Oh wait…

It remains to be seen what will come of Europe’s economy and Putin’s aggression. Hopefully all will end well, with an economic boom and a dialing back of military tensions. No use cheering for more human suffering to occur.

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Regaining Confidence in America

America today finds itself in a bit of a slump. Historians can show that Americans have lived in much tougher times than these (think Civil War, World Wars, Great Depression, stagflation), but a concerned citizen can’t shake the feeling that America just doesn’t seem to be what it used to be.

A feeling of malaise seems to have crept back into our country. Our economy isn’t terrible, but it isn’t good either. Larry Summers says we are in state of so called “secular stagnation”, which means there is not enough capital investment in our economy and labor markets are weak. Basically, we are under-achieving.

In the political sphere things are just as bad, if not worse. Gridlock in Washington has become the new normal. No one reasonably expects major issues like tax reform, immigration or privacy to be addressed any time soon. Liberals don’t even acknowledge conservatives as having valid ideas for consideration, Harry Reid refuses to let the Senate vote on bills coming from the House and the President just doesn’t seem to care anymore. I’m not one to criticize Presidents for golfing- they all do it (except Teddy Roosevelt, who preferred boxing)- but it doesn’t take a PR expert to realize that a speech concerning a growing, genocidal, extremist terrorist group that even Al-Qaeda said was crazy, shouldn’t be directly followed by hitting the links.

Despite our current situation, we as Americans should not lose hope. For me, confidence in our country comes from different places.

Recently, I have had the pleasure of talking to some people from other countries. They are not necessarily immigrants, but they have spent long periods in America for reasons other than vacation. One of these people have a cousin that just moved here from Italy in order to start a business and send money back home. Despite their European style welfare state that college professors say we should emulate, the Italian economy is horrific so this man did what thousands did at the start of the 20th century and came to America. Lets see if he ends up staying for good, just like they did.

Others I have talked to are not from Europe. Some are wealthy and some are not. I particularly like talking to the ones that are well off in their own county. One girl was from China, but is attending university in Boston. Her parents want her to return to Shanghai and work for the government- a very prestigious career. The girl, however, wants to stay in America. It may be a cliche, but she loved the air of freedom (even though she was in Massachusetts, one of our less free states). She liked writing and saying what she wanted without punishment and actually being able to use Facebook and Twitter. Freedoms not had in her country.

There are still others I have talked to from different parts of the world that I need not give more details on. They are often people who could probably choose other countries to go to, but end up loving America. They talk of a “feel” in this country that just feels right. It would probably take a book to explain this “feel”, but I think I know what they are talking about.

It is the knowledge expressed in The Battle Cry of Freedom, that “Although he may be poor, not a man shall be a slave”.

It is what Lee Greenwood means when he sings “I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free.”

It is embodied in our most sacred civil creed, that “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

I believe these thing are what draw people to America, and they are what we as citizens used to take pride in. But today we find ourselves in a situation without pride, without a sense of what it means to be an American. Our politicians have lost all trust of the public and have no honor, seeking to enrich themselves through corrupt means all while claiming that their actions are “for the common good”. This is a predictable consequence of big government, and can only be remedied by limiting the power of the state, just as our founders expected us to do. If we keep allowing our government to expand and infringe on our liberties in the name of “doing good”, we will lose the very thing that used to make our proud, and brings people to our shores: freedom.

Could Iraq’s Instability be Good for America?

Much discussion has centered on the current situation in Iraq where Islamist militants from the group ISIS have gained control of large swaths of the country. Some say their success defeating a seemingly pathetic and unmotivated Iraqi army proves that Obama pulled out of Iraq too early. The problem with this claim is that the people who make it never explain when WOULD have been the proper time to pull out. Reports from Iraq reveal that the Iraqi military seems to flee at the first sign of conflict. Even the “stay in Iraq forever” pages of the Wall Street Journal reports that “Iraqi soldiers who are supposed to protect Baghdad are dressing in civilian clothes beneath their military uniforms in case they have to flee.” With the Iraqis unwilling to defend their own country from militants, it appears that if we want to keep Iraq a peaceful pro-west country, we would have to keep a permanent force there. This may have been what we did in Europe, Japan and Korea, but there were not insurgencies in these countries.

The situation in Iraq points to a glaring hole in the logic of neoconservatives. There are right that announcing a deadline for withdrawal only tells the enemy militants how long they have to wait us out, but the fact is that so long as we plan on leaving at some point in the future, militants know they only have to wait until that point. Unless we are willing to sacrifice American lives in the Middle East for decades more to come, insurgencies will always know they can wait us out. That is just the nature of an insurgency.

I do think that there is some “good” coming out of this situation, even if it comes from unfortunate human suffering. No one should want to see people die, but perhaps the seemingly likely future civil war in Iraq won’t be so bad for the USA. In Syria, for instance, Islamists and other enemies of ours seem content on killing each other instead of killing us. I rarely ever quote Sarah Palin, but she made a crude but interesting point when she said of Syria to “Let Allah sort it out.” One argument for the Iraq and Afghan wars was that we can fight em’ over there or fight em’ over here. The events unfolding today can have that same effect as fighting them over there, except we don’t have to do any fighting ourselves. Let them waste their lives and resources on each other.

Some claim that after such a civil war a “terrorist” state will emerge. First off, if it is a state, it is not a terrorist organization. We didn’t call Nazi Germany a terrorist organization simply because they attacked us. Terrorist is a political word. Secondly, so what if one emerges? We deal with lots of countries that hate us just fine. I don’t remember Iranian attacks on America. And if the new Islamic state did attack in any way, we would know exactly where to attack. The challenge all of these years has been fighting an insurgency that refuses to fight in the field. But if the insurgents formed a regular old nation state, it would be much easier to know where to drop the bombs.

Whatever happens in the next few weeks, lets just all remain calm and rational and not jump to any pro or anti-war conclusions. At this point the only thing we know for certain is that Obama has been lying when he tells us terrorism is on the run.

Millennials Don’t Need Your Apology

In today’s New York Times, Frank Bruni offered an apology to millennials. He is sorry that his generation is ruining the Earth through climate change and bankrupting the country by running up the debt. He bemoans the fact that millennials (including myself) will experience Miami disappear under rising sea levels and crushing levels of debt. 

With all due respect Mr. Bruni, I don’t want to hear it. 

1) You’re apocalyptic vision of the future is almost guaranteed to not materialize. Miami disappearing? No money to spend on anything other than entitlements for senior citizens? Give me a break. Global warming alarmists (those who see climate change as a religion rather than a science) have been predicting the end of the word for years now and our budget problems can be solved with fairly moderate spending restraint. Bruni’s pessimism is one of the reasons I am not liberal. I can’t imagine living life beliving civilization is on a constant downward trend, and if there is one thing liberalism is good at, it is acting like everything in the world (capitalism, guns, religion) is helplessly evil and there is no hope for a better tomorrow. John Stossel is good at debunking this “pessimism porn” that often dominates the media.

2) I have to admit that you are right about a lot of things, mainly the fact that you’re generation screwed up an awful lot. Much of the bad comes from your insistence on engineering a “better” world using big government (massive national debt from spending too much, pushing college costs up with bad student loan programs). But you also did some good. You elected Reagan, who put the country on a steady rightward path (even during Clinton’s years) until Obama came along. 

3) Even if we ignore facts and believe your apocalyptic predictions, I don’t think Millennials need your sympathy. If the world is truly burning, let us be the ones to extinguish the flames. A quick look at history shows that previous generations rose up to challenges much greater than the ones we face today (I know many believe climate change is the biggest threat in the history of the world, including WW2, but it just isn’t). Seeing as the 70th anniversary of D-Day just passed and I am reading The Grapes of Wrath, the Greatest Generation is a good example of people who had it much worse than we do, yet prevailed. I think of my own grandfather, who was so poor that the depression hardly impacted his life (he was poor before, and poor after). Then during what could have been the best years of his life, he (and his brothers) were drafted into the service. For almost five years my grandfather served his country. Even after invading Germany with General Patton, he suffered through nightmares, a hatred of loud noises, and almost became an alcoholic trying to cope with what he had seen. 

He, of course, is just one example of literally millions from his time who endured a level of adversity largely non-existent in today’s world. Yes, poverty and war still exist, but in a different degree. The story of the Joad’s chronicled by Steinbeck is no longer common and as terrible as Iraq and Afghanistan were, thankfully they did not require millions of draftees and hundreds of thousands dead. 

So in conclusion, Millennials don’t need your pessimism or your apologies Frank Bruni. We will simply rise to the challenges set before us, just as our fathers and grandfathers before us did.

Tax Hypocrites

In 1984 Walter Mondale ran a presidential campaign on the promise to raise taxes. He lost every single state except his home state of Minnesota, handing Ronald Reagan one of the biggest victories in the history of presidential elections. Since that time, Democrats have been smarter about their positions on taxes. They still support higher taxes on everyone. After all, if you do the math you find out that it is impossible to pay for an expansive welfare state unless the middle class is heavily taxed. But Democrats have learned to hide this dirty little secret and instead just call for higher taxes on “the rich”. This strategy was epitomized in the 2012 election by the Buffet Rule, which tried to convince voters that all the nation’s fiscal problems would be solved if only the rich were taxed more. The rule was named after billionaire Warren Buffet, who claims he wants to pay more taxes in the name of fairness. While this sounds great, the truth is that Buffet is a self interested hypocrite.

You see, the law allows people to make voluntary contributions to the US treasury. Oliver Wendell Holmes is famous for donating his fortune to the government. So if Buffet really wanted to be “moral” and pay more taxes, he can. But he doesn’t. When confronted with this cold reality, Buffet further exposed his hypocrisy by saying that him alone paying more money wouldn’t solve anything unless every other rich person paid more too. He said his donation would just be a “drop in the bucket”. There are two problems with this.

1) Even if everyone else paid more, his increased contribution would still just be “a drop in the bucket”. If he pays $100 more voluntarily or because the law says so, he is still just contributing $100 more. You are either part of the problem or part of the solution in this circumstance.

2) Buffet is making appeals to morality when he calls for higher taxes, but since when does morality have a disclaimer that says you only have to be moral if everyone else is too? Imagine how the world would be if Jesus acknowledged that loving your neighbor is the right thing to do, but said that he wasn’t going to love his neighbor because no one else was doing it. If Buffet was being genuinely moral, he would do what he says is the right thing to do- pay more taxes- regardless of what other people were doing. That’s how morality works. 

President Obama Weight Lifting

Video has surfaced of Obama weight lifting. I don’t mean to judge a president’s strength abroad on his personal physical ability- FDR was in a wheelchair- but lets just say I’m not surprised Obama has generally come across as weak when dealing with foreign powers. 

In comparison (and mostly for fun), lets look at some other presidents.

 

Reagan:

 

 

 

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Teddy Roosevelt:

 

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George Bush:

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Luckily Presidents are more than their athletic ability, but it is still fun to compare their prowess. 

 

P.S. 

I can’t wait for Putin to reply to this video. You know it will consist of him benching 350, dead lifting 500 and squatting 425. 

P.P.S

At least Obama can ball though

Of Bailouts and Stimulus

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There are not many times that I agree with Paul Krugman. In fact, I once dropped an economics class because the required textbook was written by him and I refused to give money to someone who is so vile and arrogant. I can deal with someone who respectfully disagrees with me, but when a columnist complains about greedy corporations and the cost of college, and then his textbook is the most expensive one around, I get irritated. This is why I was surprised that when I read his column “Springtime for Bankers” I found myself agreeing with what he wrote. At least the beginning that is. 

Krugman complains that the Wall Street bailouts during the financial crisis in 2008 were misguided and show that Washington believe that “what is good for Wall Street is good for America”. This, of course, is ridiculous. Krugman points out that even after the bailouts, America still suffers high unemployment rates, even if the Dow is hitting record highs. He doesn’t mention this, but I find it ironic that Obama, who decries “trickle down economics” (which is a straw-man, no true conservative economists supports giving money to the rich and hoping it trickles down to the rest of us), uses the stock market’s success to claim he is doing a good job healing America’s economy. Krugman also attacks Tim Geithner for claiming that as Treasury Secretary he did all he could do to save the economy in 2008. Krugman says:

Now Timothy Geithner, who was Treasury secretary for four of those six years, has published a book, “Stress Test,” about his experiences. And basically, he thinks he did a heckuva job.

He’s not unique in his self-approbation. Policy makers in Europe, where employment has barely recovered at all and a number of countries are in fact experiencing Depression-level distress, have even less to boast about. Yet they too are patting themselves on the back.

How can people feel good about track records that are objectively so bad? Partly it’s the normal human tendency to make excuses, to argue that you did the best you could under the circumstances. And Mr. Geithner can indeed blame much though not all of what went wrong on scorched-earth Republican obstructionism.

But there’s also something else going on. In both Europe and America, economic policy has to a large extent been governed by the implicit slogan “Save the bankers, save the world” — that is, restore confidence in the financial system and prosperity will follow. And government actions have indeed restored financial confidence. Unfortunately, we’re still waiting for the promised prosperity.

 

This is where my agreements with Krugman end.

Basically, Krugman is saying that when people need to admit when they were wrong and not make excuses. This puzzled me considering that Krugman has never found a problem that can’t be blamed on Republicans, supported creating a housing bubble to offset the dot com bubble in the early 2000s (gee, housing bubbles ended up great), and supports the idea of government fiscal stimulus, despite the fact that it has never worked to truly revive and economy despite being tried multiple times. When he is confronted with the fact that he was wrong about predicting the success of Obama’s stimulus, Krugman used the excuse that he and other policy makers underestimated the severity of the crisis and therefore if the stimulus was only bigger it would have worked. To me, this just shows that governments can’t be trusted to intervene in an economy. If politicians and economists don’t even understand the problem, how can they hope to solve it? 

 

P.S. 

If you want to see two of the great economists of the 20th century debate through rapping, click here