Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Why Did Senate Democrats Defy Obama

So, Senate Democrats have done the unthinkable: They've defied Barack Obama, and denied funding for his efforts to close Club Gitmo. So, for the moment, I must commend the Senate Democrats! Bravo! (Of course, I realize that the lack of funding is only temporary -- the Dems merely want detailed plans for closing Gitmo.)

However, a thought occurs to me: With Obamas "soaring" approval rating, why would the Senats Democrats defy the President like this? There has to be a reason for it. Really, this is the first (and only) issue that they have broken with the President. They've been in lockstep on the numerous bailouts, ballooning spending, and now on his efforts to take over the health care system. Why suddenly break on such a specific issue?

I have a theory: I think the Senate Democrats were acting with Obama's blessing, and at his request. Obama has finally figured out that it's not feasible to close Gitmo. Nobody will take the detainees. We don't want them in American prisons. And he simply doesn't know what to do with these guys. Yet, Obama can't break a campaign promise, even though the media would certainly let him get away with it. So, he needs someone to take the fall -- If the Senate blocks funding. then he can't keep his promise and he still hasn't broken it.

What do you think? Is there a better explanation?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Stop Spending Our Future

I found an exceptional blog post over on Change We Can Believe In. The highlight of the post was the following video. It is worth your time to check it out. (It is under 3 minutes.)


This is a great way to help understand the magnitude of spending proposed by this administration. Most Americans deal with annual budgets in the tens of thousands of dollars, so it is difficult for most of us to have a proper perspective when thinking about figures like $597 Billion, or $3.6 Trillion. Even removing the words "billion" and "trillion", it's still difficult to really comprehend the meaning of $597,000,000,000.00 and $3,600,000,000,000.00. Yeah, there are a few more zeroes -- but in the grand scheme of things, what do three more zeroes really mean?

Our future, that's what.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Obama on Success and Self Interest

President Obama shared his supremely wise (and interesting) thoughts on success at Arizona State University's commencement address(video here).

Isn't it interesting... Obama seems to define success as a total lack of self-interest. And yet, he was elected by a bunch of self-interested people, each looking to get all they can from their government.

As a person of faith, I find it hard to disagree with his sentiments of serving others. But, I think Obama demonstrates a shallow understanding to say that if you seek to maximize your pay, position, or title then you are inherently selfish and can't possibly have anyone else in mind. Zig Ziglar once said, "If you help enough people get what they want, you will get what you want."

As evidence, I want to look at a historically momentous achievement and ask what the result of self interest was. Think, for a moment, about the invention of the light bulb. Was Thomas Edison looking to feed the hungry, poor, or disenfranchised by inventing it? While I won't claim to speak for his motivation, I'll let the fact that he commercialized his invention by starting General Electric (a company which now owns NBC -- one of Obama's biggest fans) speak for itself. (For those of you in the back of the class, he intended to profit from his invention.) And yet, that arguably self-interested invention has made the world a much better place.

What Obama fails to understand is that when people act in their own self-interest, the world is often improved as a result of their actions. And while that statement is not always true (sometimes some bad apples do act to the detriment of all), the converse is rarely true: When people are only allowed to act in the interest of others, most people lose all motivation to work at all.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Leaked Memo: CO2 is not a Pollutant

There is a pretty big leak in the Obama White House, and I am sure that somewhere, heads are rolling. The White House, the Obama Administration, and the EPA are all fully aware that there is not sufficient scientific evidence to conclude that CO2 is a pollutant.  I don't know how, but Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) got ahold of an Obama Administration memo marked "Attorney-Client Priviledge".  Watch as he bats EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson over the head with the Administration's own words:

Interesting, isn't it?  The Administration knows full well that the CO2 is not a pollutant, and that regulating it under the Clean Air Act will have a detrimental effect on small businesses, small communities, and the economy at-large.  Moreover, the determination that it is a pollutant is based on a political agenda -- not on sound science.  And this is just a precursor to Cap and Trade. Check out Obama's own words about Cap and Trade:

In case you didn't hear it: Obama admitted that his plan will cause electricity prices to skyrocket. So, it makes you wonder what the Administration stands to gain by knowingly harming the economy? The answer is simple: Control.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Blame it on the Oil

I love it when new research confirms that my deeply-held beliefs (or mere suspicions) are correct. The article I want to share with you today is an instance of just that. And I'm trying to behave myself and not type those 5 little words which comprise the title of Rush Limbaugh's second book.

I have been saying for some time that I believe that the high oil prices that reigned in the domestic markets (and newscasts) for the better part of 2008 were biggest cause of the economic downturn that reached "crisis proportions" by October. Economist James Hamilton agrees, in a reprise of a paper in which he detailed his study of several economic models that demonstrate the effect the oil price spike had on our Gross Domestic Product (GDP).  One sentence in his article stands out to me as quite striking:
"Although the approaches are quite different, they all support a common conclusion: had there been no increase in oil prices between 2007:Q3 and 2008:Q2, the U.S. economy would not have been in a recession over the period 2007:Q4 through 2008:Q3."
Did you catch that?  Our banking system wasn't fundamentally flawed.  Our housing market wasn't in need of porkulus.  Had the oil prices not shot through the roof, we would not have been in a recession for most of 2008.  In fact, the role of home prices in bringing about our economic malaise is less significant than many of us thought, in that
"housing had already been subtracting 0.94% from the average annual GDP growth rate over 2006:Q4-2007:Q3, when the economy did not appear to be in a recession. And housing subtracted only 0.89% over 2007:Q4-2008:Q3, when we now say that the economy was in recession."
Hamilton also notes very plainly that "the biggest drops in GDP come significantly after the oil price shock itself."  While the jobs lost by our economy were real, they were a result of families having to spend more of their once-discretionary income on gas.  That deprived some sectors of the economy of income (and hence jobs).

The paper rightly concludes:
"The evidence to me is persuasive that, had there been no oil shock, we would have described the U.S. economy in 2007:Q4-2008:Q3 as growing slowly, but not in a recession."
The reasons for the high oil prices are probably numerous, and I don't want to debate them (now).  I will merely state, with this article presented as evidence, that oil is the lifeblood of this economy.  If we want a stable and growing economy, our supply of oil (until we no longer need it) must be kept stable (preferrably expanded).  We need a meaningful energy policy that includes both increasing our supplies of oil for the near future, and developing alternate energy sources for the more distant future.  To ignore our present need for oil in the name of finding other energy sources is just plain dumb.  And I wonder which one our current administration will likely ignore?  Perhaps this statement, made by Obama on the campaign trail, may answer the question:
"I think that I would have preferred a gradual adjustment [in gas prices]. The fact that this is such a shock to American pocketbooks is not a good thing."