Countdown to 9/12 — Monday links

| September 7, 2009
More paper! More paper on the fire!

More paper! More paper on the fire!

MID-MORNING LINKS [updated as I run across them]

ITEM: It turns out there’s at least one thing that the Communist Chinese government and I agree upon:

China alarmed by US money printing

The US Federal Reserve’s policy of printing money to buy Treasury debt threatens to set off a serious decline of the dollar and compel China to redesign its foreign reserve policy, according to a top member of the Communist hierarchy.

Cheng Siwei, former vice-chairman of the Standing Committee and now head of China’s green energy drive, said Beijing was dismayed by the Fed’s recourse to “credit easing”.

“We hope there will be a change in monetary policy as soon as they have positive growth again,” he said at the Ambrosetti Workshop, a policy gathering on Lake Como.

“If they keep printing money to buy bonds it will lead to inflation, and after a year or two the dollar will fall hard. Most of our foreign reserves are in US bonds and this is very difficult to change, so we will diversify incremental reserves into euros, yen, and other currencies,” he said.

I don’t know about you, but I find it a bit embarrassing to be lectured by the ChiComs about fundamental government economic policy and have them be right.

ITEM: As I note below in the morning links and in my “cult of personality” post last week, my objection to Obama’s address to schoolchildren isn’t the talk per se, it’s the “lesson plan” distributed ahead of time to the teachers, particularly for the preK-6th grade age group.  However, Ken over at Popehat lists some additional cogent, rational reasons for objecting to the President’s speech.  The most telling one is that the kids are just a prop and the speech is really a political speech aimed at adults:

Here’s why. The speech, as I understand it, is for grades K-12. No speech aimed at that wide range can be age-appropriate. Either you leave behind the younger kids to say something worthwhile to the older ones, or you dumb it down to the point that the older kids are bored, or most likely you manage to do both. You can’t aim a speech of any real substance to the range K-12. You can, however, aim the speech to the other audiences listening — the press and the public that will view the speech via the press.

Any speech by a partisan elected politician aimed at those audiences is political — even if the speech is kept so inoffensive that the only political message is the implied one “look how much I care about kids and education.”

Read the whole thing.

MORNING LINKS

Since Sandra and I are marching on Congress this Saturday, it’s probably time for me to resurrect my daily links. Note that Sandra and I will arrive in DC on Wednesday (9/9) and will be there through Monday afternoon (9/14); if you’re going to be in town as well, let me know. And it’s not too late to sign up for the 9/12 March on Washington.

ITEM: There are some interesting signs of division within the Obama White House itself. Politico reports that sources within the White House are distancing themselves from Jones and are pointing some interesting fingers (emphasis mine):

And it was a fresh reminder that the White House’s vetting process didn’t fall down only on high-profile nominees like Tom Daschle. It barely touched the lower reaches of the administration – a White House official conceded Sunday that Jones’ past statements weren’t as thoroughly scrubbed due to his relatively low rank. Jones’ selection also was propelled by powerful patrons, who included the first lady and the vice president.

Wowza. I can see someone pointing fingers at Joe Biden, but at Michelle Obama? Hope that person is under deep cover and has fireproof underwear. Unless, of course, that “White House official” is speaking on behalf of the President. And perhaps even then.

Here more evidence of White House distancing (Stay under the bus, dammit!) from Jones:

Senior White House adviser David Axelrod said he did not believe the president knew about all of Mr. Jones’ previous associations and was unfamiliar with his remarks, which included calls for an investigation of whether the George W. Bush administration had advance knowledge of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks but let them happen in order to provide a pretext for war.

Oh, really? Isn’t this the same Van Jones about whom Valarie Jarrett said just a few weeks ago:

Oooh. Van Jones, alright! So, Van Jones. We were so delighted to be able to recruit him into the White House. We were watching him, uh, really, he’s not that old, for as long as he’s been active out in Oakland. And all the creative ideas he has. And so now, we have captured that. And we have all that energy in the White House.

I guess Obama didn’t really know him.

ITEM: In the meantime, Obama is losing economists. Actually, he probably lost a majority of non-Keynesian economists months ago, but the current batch includes a Nobel Laureate (emphasis mine):

Barack Obama is committing the same mistakes made by policymakers during the Great Depression, according to a new study endorsed by Nobel laureate James Buchanan. . . .

There are “troubling similarities” between the US President’s actions since taking office and those which in the 1930s sent the US and much of the world spiralling into the worst economic collapse in recorded history, says the new pamphlet, published by the Institute of Economic Affairs.

In particular, the authors, economists Charles Rowley of George Mason University and Nathanael Smith of the Locke Institute, claim that the White House’s plans to pour hundreds of billions of dollars of cash into the economy will undermine it in the long run. They say that by employing deficit spending and increased state intervention President Obama will ultimately hamper the long-term growth potential of the US economy and may risk delaying full economic recovery by several years. . . .

The paper, which recommends that the US return to a more laissez-faire economic system rather than intervening further in activity, has been endorsed by Nobel laureate James Buchanan, who said: “We have learned some things from comparable experiences of the 1930s’ Great Depression, perhaps enough to reduce the severity of the current contraction. But we have made no progress toward putting limits on political leaders, who act out their natural proclivities without any basic understanding of what makes capitalism work.

Here’s the place to insert another plug for The Forgotten Man by Amity Shlaes, a book that really should have gotten the Pulitzer Prize.

ITEM: Speaking of fiscal disasters, here’s another assessment, this time from Larry Kudrow:

Veep Joe Biden is out there saying the Obama stimulus plan has saved or created 150,000 jobs in the administration’s first 100 days and another 600,000 in its second 100 days. But he sure isn’t talking about small-business jobs.

In fact, it’s hard to know what he’s talking about. Uncle Sam has borrowed $388 billion in the second quarter and is scheduled to borrow $406 billion in the third quarter and nearly $500 billion in the fourth. In order to provide $152 billion in so-called fiscal stimulus, the government is draining close to $800 billion from the private-sector savings supply — $800 billion that will not be invested in new-business enterprises, including small businesses.

Borrowing from Peter to redistribute to Paul is not fiscal stimulus. It’s a fiscal depressant. Small businesses are having enough trouble getting their hands on credit. And now they can’t find enough capital for new start-ups. The government prospers, but the small-business sector sinks.

And from David Walker, former head of the Government Accountability Office, as interviewed by John Fund of the WSJ:

David Walker sounds like a modern-day Paul Revere as he warns about the country’s perilous future. “We suffer from a fiscal cancer,” he tells a meeting of the National Taxpayers Union, the nation’s oldest anti-tax lobby. “Our off balance sheet obligations associated with Social Security and Medicare put us in a $56 trillion financial hole—and that’s before the recession was officially declared last year. America now owes more than Americans are worth—and the gap is growing!” . . .

One way the Peterson Foundation wants to change that is to bring big numbers down to earth so people can comprehend them. “Our $56 trillion in unfunded obligations amount to $483,000 per household. That’s 10 times the median household income—so it’s as if everyone had a second or third mortgage on a house equal to 10 times their income but no house they can lay claim to.” As for this year’s likely deficit of $1.8 trillion, Mr. Walker suggests its size be conveyed thusly: “A deficit that large is $3.4 million a minute, $200 million an hour, $5 billion a day,” he says. That does indeed put things into perspective.

Finally, Robert Samuelson — one of the most intellectually honest and even-handed economic commentators out there — paints a bleak picture of his own (emphasis mine):

What’s most ominous is not today’s job market; it’s the outlook. After the 1981-82 recession, unemployment dropped steadily from an annual average of 9.7 percent in 1982 to 7.5 percent in 1984 and 5.5 percent in 1988. The descent this time is expected to be much slower. In 2014, the unemployment rate will still average 7.6 percent, forecasts IHS Global Insight, which predicts a peak of 10 percent early next year. Reducing unemployment requires an economic expansion fast enough to absorb today’s jobless plus the natural growth of the labor force. Most forecasters expect a tepid recovery will only gradually dent unemployment, despite slowing labor force growth.

Ouch.

ITEMI like Willie Brown. Though he’s a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat, and one who likely enriched himself during his tenures as Speaker of the California State Assembly and mayor of San Francisco, he’s refreshingly honest (he likes Sarah Palin, for example). So when he tells us to lighten up on Obama, I listen — and, as it turns out, his “defense” of Obama is reasonable and not at all in line with those worshiping the One:

The media seem to have forgotten that nearly 60 million people voted against Obama in November. Of course they’re going to show up at these town halls and bash him.

Conventional wisdom has it that his numbers are sliding because he’s not being decisive enough on the health care issue. Often this assessment comes from the same folks who slammed Hillary Rodham Clinton for putting together her ill-fated health care plan without public input a few years back.

Obama was determined not to have a repeat performance. So, rather than hand Congress a full-blown plan put together by his experts, he told lawmakers to put something together and he would react to it.

Then he went around the country laying out the broad parameters of what a health care plan should contain without getting specific.

As a result, Obama wound up defending or explaining proposals that were never fully vetted, never fully understood and probably not even fully read by anyone but their own authors. . . .

When Obama finally lays it out before Congress on Wednesday, critics on both sides are promptly going to slam him for having supposedly changed his positions. They’ll say he’s giving up on this, he’s giving up on that.

I say, “So what?”

A good leader never imposes his will on his followers. A good leader tries to blend his vision into something that his followers can adopt as their own.

The real challenge for Obama is not to present an ideal plan, but to present a plan that can pass with the minimum political risk to the politicians who have to vote for it.

As for his slip in popularity, his exalted status was never anything but a myth anyway. The idea that Obama was a Hercules who would right the world Jan. 21 was way overblown.

Heresy! Heresy! And has someone explained this to Obama himself? Or to the idiots on the Left who worship him?

ITEM: Calling the public “silly” about concerns over the Obama-to-schoolkids talks will not calm the troubled waters. EdSec’s Arne Duncan’s comments are almost as tone-deaf as the original questionnaire:

Education Secretary Arne Duncan on Sunday decried as “silly” the public “hoopla” over White House plans to air a message for the nation’s schoolchildren and said students would not be forced to watch it. . . .

He did acknowledge, however, that “there is one [assignment] that wasn’t worded quite correctly,” adding that the intended reference was “about helping the president hit his goal of having the highest percent of college graduates by 2020.”

Really? Go judge for yourself what the original lesson plan for pre-Kindergarten through 6th grade says. There’s nothing there about “having the highest percentage of college graduates”. There is, however, an almost overwhelming focus on the President himself. That’s what got people upset, not the idea of having the President talk to schoolkids.

ITEM: Speaking of tone-deaf and burying news on the Labor Day weekend — are you aware that Pres. Obama last Thursday (9/3) declared this past Labor Day weekend (9/4-9/6) as the “National Days of Prayer and Remembrance” for the 9/11 attacks? (hat tip to Say Anything):

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim Friday, September 4, through Sunday, September 6, as National Days of Prayer and Remembrance. I ask that the people of the United States, each in their own way, honor the victims of September 11, 2001, and their families through prayer, memorial services, the ringing of bells, and evening candlelight remembrance vigils. I invite the people of the world to share in this solemn commemoration.

You all got the memo, didn’t you?

So, why didn’t Obama declare 9/11/09 as the National Day of Prayer and Remembrance for the 9/11 attacks? Because he already declared it to be a National Day of Service via legislation passed by Congress.

ITEM: Back to the Obamacare disaster. With Rahm “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste” Emanuel as Obama’s chief-of-staff, why am I not surprised to see this crop up just a few days before Obama’s health-care address:

Obama May Need Sense of Crisis to Revive Health-Care Overhaul

Sept. 4 (Bloomberg) — President Barack Obama returns to Washington next week in search of one thing that can revive his health-care overhaul: a sense of crisis.

Facing polls showing a drop in his approval, diminished support from independents, factions within his Democratic Party and a united Republican opposition, Obama must recapture the sense of urgency that led to passage of the economic rescue package in February, analysts said. . . .

I’d say there’s a sense of crisis all right, but probably not the one that will benefit Obama.

That’s it for now; maybe more as the day goes along.  ..bruce w..

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Category: China, Cult of personality, Economics, Geopolitics, Healthcare Reform, Idiot fringers, Leftist organizers, Links roundup, Main, Obama Administration, Sea of deficits, Stimulus, Terrorism, US Politics

About the Author ()

Webster is Principal and Founder at Bruce F. Webster & Associates, as well as an Adjunct Professor of Computer Science at Brigham Young University. He works with organizations to help them with troubled or failed information technology (IT) projects. He has also worked in several dozen legal cases as a consultant and as a testifying expert, both in the United States and Japan. He can be reached at bwebster@bfwa.com, or you can follow him on Twitter as @bfwebster.