PAUL B. FARRELL
Feb. 2, 2010, 12:01 a.m. EST
20 reasons Global Debt Time Bomb explodes soon
Commentary: Which trigger will ignite the Great Depression II?
By Paul B. Farrell, MarketWatch
ARROYO GRANDE, Calif. (MarketWatch) — Retire? You can fuggetaboutit if the new Global Debt Time Bomb is detonated by any one of 20 made-in-America trigger mechanisms.
Yes, 20. And yes, any one can destroy your retirement because all 20 are inexorably linked, a house-of-cards, a circular firing squad destined to self-destruct, triggering the third great Wall Street meltdown of the 21st century, igniting the Great Depression II that George W. Bush, Ben Bernanke, Henry Paulson and now President Obama have simply delayed with their endless knee-jerk, debt-laden wars, stimulus bonanzas and bailouts.
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Deficit as national-security threat?
WSJ’s Jerry Seib previews his column in tomorrow’s Journal in which he writes the federal budget deficit has become so large, it’s time consider it a natural-security threat. Plus, the News Hub provides a February market outlook and also discusses the findings of a new autism study.
Wow, what an epic Hollywood blockbuster this will make: You know the drama, can’t miss the warnings. The financial press is flooding us with plot lines … a Forbes cover story focuses on a “Global Debt Bomb: How It Could Wreck Your Life” … Leaders at the World Economic Forum on Swiss Mt. Davos fear another global meltdown will trigger mass rebellions … The Economist calls the plot a “Global Asset Bubble,” with cheap money fast driving up asset prices.
Plus, Bloomberg BusinessWeek is adding jet fuel to the ticking time-bomb in: “After the Stimulus Binge, a Debt Hangover: Trillions of dollars have been spent keeping the global economy afloat. But now fears about the Great Recession are giving way to worries about something else: The Great Reckoning” when massive debts come due. Then the debt bomb explodes “and the results won’t be pretty for investors or elected officials.”
Forbes discovered the trigger mechanism in “This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly,” by economists Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff: The “90% ratio of government debt to GDP is a tipping point in economic growth.” For 800 years “you increase it over and beyond a high threshold, and boom!” Well guess what? “The U.S. government-debt-to-GDP ratio is 84%.” Soon, Ka-Booom! Depression. Kiss your retirement goodbye.
Who knows? Forbes? Bloomberg BusinessWeek? The Economist? Davos-World Economic Forum? True, they’re all looking at the same plot line for a Hollywood blockbuster about the “Global Debt Time Bomb.”
But the financial press navigates in a fog. There’s not just one, but many triggers, all linked in a lethal network. We’ve reported on it for years. Now you tell us: What triggers this firestorm?
Poll: 20 economic weapons of mass destruction triggering ticking Global Debt Time Bomb
1. Federal Budget Deficit Bomb. The Bush/Cheney wars pushed America deep into a debt hole. Federal debt limit was just raised almost 100% with Obama’s 2010 budget, to $14.3 trillion vs. $7.8 trillion in 2005. The Congressional Budget Office predicts future deficits around 4% through 2020. Get it? America’s debt at 84% of GDP will soon pass that toxic 90% trigger point.
2. U.S. Foreign Trade Bomb. Monthly deficits actually dropped from $50 billion per month to roughly $35 billion. But the total continues climbing as $400 billion is added each year. Foreigners now own $2.5 trillion of America, with China holding over $1.3 trillion in Treasury debt.
3. Weakening U.S. Dollar as Foreign Reserve Currency Bomb. Fear China and other currencies will replace dollar as main foreign reserves. The dollar’s fallen: The main index measuring dollar strength has gone from 120 at the Clinton-to-Bush handoff to below 80 today.
4. Cheap Money Bomb: Credit Ratings Down, Rates Up. Economists at S&P, Fitch and Moody’s were totally co-conspirators of Fat Cat Bankers, misleading investors before meltdown: Soon, debt up, ratings down, interest rates soar.
5. Global Real Estate Bomb. Dubai Tower, new “world’s tallest building” is empty. BusinessWeek warns that China’s housing collapse could be worse than America’s. Plus the U.S. commercial real estate bubble is now $1.7 trillion, a “ticking time bomb” bloating 25% of bank balance sheets.
6. Peak Oil and the Population Bomb. China and India each need 500 new cities. The United Nations estimates world population exploding 50% from 6 billion to 9 billion by 2050: Three billion more humans demanding more automobiles, exhausting more resources to feed their version of the gas-guzzling “America Dream.”
7. Social Security Bomb. We have no choice; eventually we must either cut benefits or raise taxes. Politicians hate both, so they’ll do nothing. Delays worsen solutions. Without action, by 2035 Social Security and Medicare benefits will eat up the entire federal budget other than defense.
8. Medicare: A Nuclear Bomb. Going broke faster than Social Security. Prescription drug benefit added an unfunded $8.1 trillion. In 5 years estimates rose from about $35 trillion to over $60 trillion now.
9. Health-care Insurance Bomb. Burden increasingly shifted to employees. Costs rising faster than inflation. Recent Obamacare plan would have cost $90 billion annually, paid to Big Pharma and insurers.
10. State and Local Government Budget Bombs. Deficits of $110 billion in 2010, $178 billion in 2011on top of more that $450 billion in underfunded state and municipal employee pension funds.
11. Underfunded Corporate Pensions Bomb. From $60 billion surplus in 2007 to $409 billion deficit in 2009. And a whopping 92% of the pension plans of companies are now underfunded. Defaults are guaranteed by taxpayers.
12. Consumer Debt Bomb. Americans are still living beyond their means. Even with a downturn, consumer debt rose from about $2.3 to $2.5 trillion. Fat Cat Bankers love it — yes love making matters worse by gouging cardholders and mortgagees, blocking help in foreclosures and bankruptcies.
13. Personal Savings Bomb. Before the 2008 meltdown savings rate dropped from about 10% in the early 1980s to below zero. Now it’s increasing, slowing retail recovery. Today, government’s the big “unsaver.”
14. War and Military Defense Deficits. Costs of Iraq and Afghanistan wars — $200+ billion annually, $3 trillion minimum, with massive long-term costs for veteran medical care, equipment renewal, recruitment.
15. Homeland Insecurity Bomb. Security at airports, seaports, borders, vulnerable chemical plants all increase budgets.
16. Fed/Treasury Bailout Bombs. Tax credits, loans, cash and purchase of toxic assets from Wall Street banks estimated at $23.7 trillion as new debt was shifted from too-big-to-fail Fat-Cat banks to taxpayers.
17. Insatiable Washington Lobbyists Bombs. Paulson, Goldman, Geithner, Morgan and Wall Street banks, through their lobbyists and former employees working inside now have absolute power over government spending. Democracy and voters are now irrelevant in America’s new corporate-socialism.
18. Shadow Banking: The Derivatives Bomb. Wall Street wants no regulation of this $670 trillion, high-risk, out-of-control casino that’s highly leveraged versus the $50 trillion total GDP of all nations. We forget that derivatives almost destroyed global economies in 2008-09, finally will by 2012.
19. Dysfunctional Two-Party Political Bomb. Polarized partisanship increasing: Every day both parties show zero interest in cooperating for the public good. Instead they fight viciously, resisting everything and anything proposed by opponents. Only goal: Score political points, make the other side look bad.
20. The Coming Populous Rebellion Bombs. Nobody trusts anyone in authority. For good reason. So immediate gratification, short-term betting and a lack of long-term perspective wins for individual investors, consumers and taxpayers as well as Washington, Wall Street and Corporate America CEOs. Today: “Doing what’s right for the common good and country” is just empty political rhetoric.
Forbes. The Economist. Davos-World Economic Forum. Bloomberg BusinessWeek. All one voice, one loud, lonely chorus echoing that famous Beatles tune: “Head in a cloud … The fool on the hill, sees the sun going down … a thousand voices talking perfectly loud. But nobody ever hears him, or the sound he appears to make … And the eyes in his head, see the world spinning ’round …ooh, round and round and round.”
Historians and behavioral economists tell us most investors are blind optimists. Investors cannot see bubbles from inside their bubble. Nor Fat Cat Bankers from inside their mega-bonus-bubble. Nor politicians from inside the beltway bubble.
Why? The optimist’s brain filters out bad news. They know their dreams of prosperity will come true. Then, when they finally do see that the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming train, it’s always too late.
I will say it again, gently: A new meltdown is coming. The Great Depression II is coming, soon. And yet, I know your mental filters are working, blocking warnings of a bomb. I can even hear you calling me “the fool on the hill who sees the sun going down, the world spinning round” … sees you kissing your retirement goodbye.
Copyright © 2010 MarketWatch, Inc. All rights reserved.
Gerard Alexander: Why are liberals so condescending?
By Gerard Alexander
Sunday, February 7, 2010; B01
Every political community includes some members who insist that their side has all the answers and that their adversaries are idiots. But American liberals, to a degree far surpassing conservatives, appear committed to the proposition that their views are correct, self-evident, and based on fact and reason, while conservative positions are not just wrong but illegitimate, ideological and unworthy of serious consideration. Indeed, all the appeals to bipartisanship notwithstanding, President Obama and other leading liberal voices have joined in a chorus of intellectual condescension.
It’s an odd time for liberals to feel smug. But even with Democratic fortunes on the wane, leading liberals insist that they have almost nothing to learn from conservatives. Many Democrats describe their troubles simply as a PR challenge, a combination of conservative misinformation — as when Obama charges that critics of health-care reform are peddling fake fears of a “Bolshevik plot” — and the country’s failure to grasp great liberal accomplishments. “We were so busy just getting stuff done . . . that I think we lost some of that sense of speaking directly to the American people about what their core values are,” the president told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos in a recent interview. The benighted public is either uncomprehending or deliberately misinformed (by conservatives).
This condescension is part of a liberal tradition that for generations has impoverished American debates over the economy, society and the functions of government — and threatens to do so again today, when dialogue would be more valuable than ever.
Liberals have dismissed conservative thinking for decades, a tendency encapsulated by Lionel Trilling’s 1950 remark that conservatives do not “express themselves in ideas but only in action or in irritable mental gestures which seek to resemble ideas.” During the 1950s and ’60s, liberals trivialized the nascent conservative movement. Prominent studies and journalistic accounts of right-wing politics at the time stressed paranoia, intolerance and insecurity, rendering conservative thought more a psychiatric disorder than a rival. In 1962, Richard Hofstadter referred to “the Manichaean style of thought, the apocalyptic tendencies, the love of mystification, the intolerance of compromise that are observable in the right-wing mind.”
This sense of liberal intellectual superiority dropped off during the economic woes of the 1970s and the Reagan boom of the 1980s. (Jimmy Carter’s presidency, buffeted by economic and national security challenges, generated perhaps the clearest episode of liberal self-doubt.) But these days, liberal confidence and its companion disdain for conservative thinking are back with a vengeance, finding energetic expression in politicians’ speeches, top-selling books, historical works and the blogosphere. This attitude comes in the form of four major narratives about who conservatives are and how they think and function.
The first is the “vast right-wing conspiracy,” a narrative made famous by Hillary Rodham Clinton but hardly limited to her. This vision maintains that conservatives win elections and policy debates not because they triumph in the open battle of ideas but because they deploy brilliant and sinister campaign tactics. A dense network of professional political strategists such as Karl Rove, think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation and industry groups allegedly manipulate information and mislead the public. Democratic strategist Rob Stein crafted a celebrated PowerPoint presentation during George W. Bush’s presidency that traced conservative success to such organizational factors.
This liberal vision emphasizes the dissemination of ideologically driven views from sympathetic media such as the Fox News Channel. For example, Chris Mooney’s book “The Republican War on Science” argues that policy debates in the scientific arena are distorted by conservatives who disregard evidence and reflect the biases of industry-backed Republican politicians or of evangelicals aimlessly shielding the world from modernity. In this interpretation, conservative arguments are invariably false and deployed only cynically. Evidence of the costs of cap-and-trade carbon rationing is waved away as corporate propaganda; arguments against health-care reform are written off as hype orchestrated by insurance companies.
This worldview was on display in the popular liberal reaction to the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Rather than engage in a discussion about the complexities of free speech in politics, liberals have largely argued that the decision will “open the floodgates for special interests” to influence American elections, as the president warned in his State of the Union address. In other words, it was all part of the conspiracy to support conservative candidates for their nefarious, self-serving ends.
It follows that the thinkers, politicians and citizens who advance conservative ideas must be dupes, quacks or hired guns selling stories they know to be a sham. In this spirit, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman regularly dismisses conservative arguments not simply as incorrect, but as lies. Writing last summer, Krugman pondered the duplicity he found evident in 35 years’ worth of Wall Street Journal editorial writers: “What do these people really believe? I mean, they’re not stupid — life would be a lot easier if they were. So they know they’re not telling the truth. But they obviously believe that their dishonesty serves a higher truth. . . . The question is, what is that higher truth?”
In Krugman’s world, there is no need to take seriously the arguments of “these people” — only to plumb the depths of their errors and imagine hidden motives.
But, if conservative leaders are crass manipulators, then the rank-and-file Americans who support them must be manipulated at best, or stupid at worst. This is the second variety of liberal condescension, exemplified in Thomas Frank’s best-selling 2004 book, “What’s the Matter With Kansas?” Frank argued that working-class voters were so distracted by issues such as abortion that they were induced into voting against their own economic interests. Then-Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, later chairman of the Democratic National Committee, echoed that theme in his 2004 presidential run, when he said Republicans had succeeded in getting Southern whites to focus on “guns, God and gays” instead of economic redistribution.
And speaking to a roomful of Democratic donors in 2008, then-presidential candidate Obama offered a similar (and infamous) analysis when he suggested that residents of Rust Belt towns “cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations” about job losses. When his comments became public, Obama backed away from their tenor but insisted that “I said something that everybody knows is true.”
In this view, we should pay attention to conservative voters’ underlying problems but disregard the policy demands they voice; these are illusory, devoid of reason or evidence. This form of liberal condescension implies that conservative masses are in the grip of false consciousness. When they express their views at town hall meetings or “tea party” gatherings, it might be politically prudent for liberals to hear them out, but there is no reason to actually listen.
The third version of liberal condescension points to something more sinister. In his 2008 book, “Nixonland,” progressive writer Rick Perlstein argued that Richard Nixon created an enduring Republican strategy of mobilizing the ethnic and other resentments of some Americans against others. Similarly, in their 1992 book, “Chain Reaction,” Thomas Byrne Edsall and Mary D. Edsall argued that Nixon and Reagan talked up crime control, low taxes and welfare reform to cloak racial animus and help make it mainstream. It is now an article of faith among many liberals that Republicans win elections because they tap into white prejudice against blacks and immigrants.
Race doubtless played a significant role in the shift of Deep South whites to the Republican Party during and after the 1960s. But the liberal narrative has gone essentially unchanged since then — recall former president Carter’s recent assertion that opposition to Obama reflects racism — even though survey research has shown a dramatic decline in prejudiced attitudes among white Americans in the intervening decades. Moreover, the candidates and agendas of both parties demonstrate an unfortunate willingness to play on prejudices, whether based on race, region, class, income, or other factors.
Finally, liberals condescend to the rest of us when they say conservatives are driven purely by emotion and anxiety — including fear of change — whereas liberals have the harder task of appealing to evidence and logic. Former vice president Al Gore made this case in his 2007 book, “The Assault on Reason,” in which he expressed fear that American politics was under siege from a coalition of religious fundamentalists, foreign policy extremists and industry groups opposed to “any reasoning process that threatens their economic goals.” This right-wing politics involves a gradual “abandonment of concern for reason or evidence” and relies on propaganda to maintain public support, he wrote.
Prominent liberal academics also propagate these beliefs. George Lakoff, a linguist at the University of California at Berkeley and a consultant to Democratic candidates, says flatly that liberals, unlike conservatives, “still believe in Enlightenment reason,” while Drew Westen, an Emory University psychologist and Democratic consultant, argues that the GOP has done a better job of mastering the emotional side of campaigns because Democrats, alas, are just too intellectual. “They like to read and think,” Westen wrote. “They thrive on policy debates, arguments, statistics, and getting the facts right.”
Markos Moulitsas, publisher of the influential progressive Web site Daily Kos, commissioned a poll, which he released this month, designed to show how many rank-and-file Republicans hold odd or conspiratorial beliefs — including 23 percent who purportedly believe that their states should secede from the Union. Moulitsas concluded that Republicans are “divorced from reality” and that the results show why “it is impossible for elected Republicans to work with Democrats to improve our country.” His condescension is superlative: Of the respondents who favored secession, he wonders, “Can we cram them all into the Texas Panhandle, create the state of Dumb-[expletive]-istan, and build a wall around them to keep them from coming into America illegally?”
I doubt it would take long to design a survey questionnaire that revealed strange, ill-informed and paranoid beliefs among average Democrats. Or does Moulitsas think Jay Leno talked only to conservatives for his “Jaywalking” interviews?
These four liberal narratives not only justify the dismissal of conservative thinking as biased or irrelevant — they insist on it. By no means do all liberals adhere to them, but they are mainstream in left-of-center thinking. Indeed, when the president met with House Republicans in Baltimore recently, he assured them that he considers their ideas, but he then rejected their motives in virtually the same breath.
“There may be other ideas that you guys have,” Obama said. “I am happy to look at them, and I’m happy to embrace them. . . . But the question I think we’re going to have to ask ourselves is, as we move forward, are we going to be examining each of these issues based on what’s good for the country, what the evidence tells us, or are we going to be trying to position ourselves so that come November, we’re able to say, ‘The other party, it’s their fault’?”
Of course, plenty of conservatives are hardly above feeling superior. But the closest they come to portraying liberals as systematically mistaken in their worldview is when they try to identify ideological dogmatism in a narrow slice of the left (say, among Ivy League faculty members), in a particular moment (during the health-care debate, for instance) or in specific individuals (such as Obama or House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whom some conservatives accuse of being stealth ideologues). A few conservative voices may say that all liberals are always wrong, but these tend to be relatively marginal figures or media gadflies such as Glenn Beck.
In contrast, an extraordinary range of liberal writers, commentators and leaders — from Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show” to Obama’s White House, with many stops in between — have developed or articulated narratives that apply to virtually all conservatives at all times.
To many liberals, this worldview may be appealing, but it severely limits our national conversation on critical policy issues. Perhaps most painfully, liberal condescension has distorted debates over American poverty for nearly two generations.
Starting in the 1960s, the original neoconservative critics such as Daniel Patrick Moynihan expressed distress about the breakdown of inner-city families, only to be maligned as racist and ignored for decades — until appalling statistics forced critics to recognize their views as relevant. Long-standing conservative concerns over the perils of long-term welfare dependency were similarly villainized as insincere and mean-spirited — until public opinion insisted they be addressed by a Democratic president and a Republican Congress in the 1996 welfare reform law. But in the meantime, welfare policies that discouraged work, marriage and the development of skills remained in place, with devastating effects.
Ignoring conservative cautions and insights is no less costly today. Some observers have decried an anti-intellectual strain in contemporary conservatism, detected in George W. Bush’s aw-shucks style, Sarah Palin’s college-hopping and the occasional conservative campaigns against egghead intellectuals. But alongside that, the fact is that conservative-leaning scholars, economists, jurists and legal theorists have never produced as much detailed analysis and commentary on American life and policy as they do today.
Perhaps the most important conservative insight being depreciated is the durable warning from free-marketeers that government programs often fail to yield what their architects intend. Democrats have been busy expanding, enacting or proposing major state interventions in financial markets, energy and health care. Supporters of such efforts want to ensure that key decisions will be made in the public interest and be informed, for example, by sound science, the best new medical research or prudent standards of private-sector competition. But public-choice economists have long warned that when decisions are made in large, centralized government programs, political priorities almost always trump other goals.
Even liberals should think twice about the prospect of decisions on innovative surgeries, light bulbs and carbon quotas being directed by legislators grandstanding for the cameras. Of course, thinking twice would be easier if more of them were listening to conservatives at all.
Gerard Alexander is an associate professor of politics at the University of Virginia. He will be online to chat with readers on Monday, February 8, at 11 a.m. Submit your questions and comments before or during the discussion. On Monday, he will also deliver the American Enterprise Institute’s Bradley Lecture, “Do Liberals Know Best? Intellectual Self-Confidence and the Claim to a Monopoly on Knowledge.”
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FD HIDDEN DIV
Frank Rich and the State of Liberal Commentary
Tuesday, February 09, 2010
If one had to read one columnist to appreciate the state of contemporary left-wing commentary, my nomination would be Frank Rich of the Sunday New York Times.
No well-known leftist columnist better exemplifies the worst aspects of today’s left. Virtually every piece is filled with anger, filled with ad hominem responses to arguments, filled with insults of opponents and at the same time devoid of intellectual arguments. A Frank Rich column is essentially a weekly tantrum meant to make his readers nod in agreement and reinforce their contempt for those who differ with them.
I offer this past Sunday’s column as an example.
The subject was the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy regarding gays in the military.
Not a single serious argument of proponents of DADT was cited, nor did Rich did offer a single argument on behalf of repealing it. Instead, the article was a smear of all supporters of that policy or of retaining the male-female definition of marriage. The article contains 71 sentences. Twelve sentences contained an insult. I suspect that Times readers who love his columns — this was listed as the second most e-mailed piece in the New York Times — are generally people who read Frank Rich so as to have their hatreds reinforced, not for cogent arguments.
The article’s title is, appropriately, an insult: “Smoke the Bigots Out of the Closet.”
It is commonplace for liberals and leftists to avoid refuting conservative arguments and just dismiss the conservative with one of seven epithets: “Racist,” “Bigoted,” “Sexist,” “Intolerant,” and the three phobias: “Homophobic,” Xenophobic,” “Islamaphobic.”
Such ad hominem dismissals of conservatives and their arguments testify to the shallowness of those using these terms, meaning, unfortunately, most mainstream commentators and spokesmen on the left. The fact is that epithets substitute for thought — and at the same time render it easy to write a left-wing column. It is the Frank Rich Formula: make believe the other side has no thoughtful argument, offer no argument of your own and debase your opponents.
Some examples from just this one column:
RICH: “… there is now little political advantage to spewing homophobia.”
RICH: (CNN allowed conservative spokesmen to express) “old homophobic cliches.”
RICH: “Such arguments … are mere fig leaves to disguise the phobia that can no longer dare speak its name. … (T)he flimsy rhetorical camouflage must be stripped away to expose the prejudice that lies beneath.”
RICH: “Those opposing same-sex marriage are just as eager to mask their bigotry.”
RICH: “The more bigotry pushed out of the closet for all voters to see …”
RICH: “… the deep prejudice at the root of their (Republicans’) arguments.”
Here are the usual charges of “homophobia,” “prejudice,” and “bigotry.”
But also note “spewing” because Rich almost never describes conservatives as speaking normally: In this column alone, they “spew,” Sen. Orrin Hatch “vamped” and John McCain “huffed,” “fulminated” and was “yapping.” No conservative “says,” or “claims” or “argues.” Conservatives spew, vamp, huff, fulminate and yap. Do Charles Krauthammer, George Will, Thomas Sowell or any other conservative commentators meant to be taken as seriously as the left takes Rich use such verbs to describe the speech of prominent liberals? I doubt it. The gulf in depth of thought and sophistication of expression between Frank Rich and virtually every mainstream conservative columnist is enormous.
(I did a 30-day search of the words “spew” and “spewed” on the Washington Post and New York Times websites, and every single time they were used, it was by a liberal writer talking about conservatives.)
RICH: (Conservatives who oppose repeal of DODT are) “attack dogs.”
RICH: (McCain is) “the crazy man in Washington’s attic.”
Rich also called McCain “unpatriotic” in his previous column — a particularly ugly charge given McCain’s heroic sacrifices for America.
RICH: “Karl Rove and George W. Bush ran a national campaign (in 2004) exploiting fear of gay people …”
Rich provided no example. For good reason. Bush did not run “a national campaign exploiting fear of gay people” in 2004 (or any other year). What Bush called for in 2004 was a constitutional amendment to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman. In fact, Bush took his own party to task for not supporting civil unions for same-sex couples. It is mendacity — indeed it is a smear — to label what Bush advocated “a national campaign exploiting fear of gay people.” But to Rich and his supporters anyone — anyone — who thinks marriage should be defined as the union of a man and a woman is a fear-mongering bigot.
RICH: “Now that explicit anti-gay animus is an albatross, those who oppose gay civil rights are driven to invent ever loopier rationales for denying those rights, whether in the military or in marriage.”
RICH: “The arguments for preserving ‘don’t ask’ have long been blatantly groundless.”
Where is this mainstream conservative “explicit anti-gay animus?” And why are the arguments that gays in a military unit may fall in love with one another (or with a straight person) or that for the same reason — sexual tension — that we do not have men and women in the same units, showering and sleeping together, we might not deem it a good idea to have sexual tension in an all-men’s unit — why are these arguments “loopy” and “groundless”? This conservative columnist and talk show host does not find liberal arguments for admitting open gays into the military either loopy or groundless. But contrary to the left’s self-image, conservatives are far more likely to acknowledge two sides to this and so many other issues.
The truth is that it is Frank Rich who spews, fulminates, yaps and huffs. Every Sunday in the New York Times. His column is idea-free, but his readers want catharsis, not ideas.
Copyright © 2010 Salem Web Network. All Rights Reserved.
Ten GOP Health Ideas for Obama
We don’t need to study lawsuit reform for one minute longer.
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By NEWT GINGRICH AND JOHN C. GOODMAN
‘If you have a better idea, show it to me.” That was President Barack Obama’s challenge two weeks ago to House Republicans regarding health-care reform. He has since called for a bipartisan forum, not to start over on health reform but to “move forward” on the “best ideas that are out there.”
The best ideas out there are not those that were passed by the House and Senate last year, which consist of more spending, more regulations and more bureaucracy. If the president is serious about building a system that delivers more quality choices at lower cost for every American, here’s where he should start:
• Make insurance affordable. The current taxation of health insurance is arbitrary and unfair, giving lavish subsidies to some, like those who get Cadillac coverage from their employers, and almost no relief to people who have to buy their own. More equitable tax treatment would lower costs for individuals and families. Many health economists conclude that tax relief for health insurance should be a fixed-dollar amount, independent of the amount of insurance purchased. A step in the right direction would be to give Americans the choice of a generous tax credit or the ability to deduct the value of their health insurance up to a certain amount.
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• Make health insurance portable. The first step toward genuine portability—and the best way of solving the problems of pre-existing conditions—is to change federal policy. Employers should be encouraged to provide employees with insurance that travels with them from job to job and in and out of the labor market. Also, individuals should have the ability to purchase health insurance across state lines. When insurers compete for consumers, prices will fall and quality will improve.
• Meet the needs of the chronically ill. Most individuals with chronic diseases want to be in charge of their own care. The mother of an asthmatic child, for example, should have a device at home that measures the child’s peak airflow and should be taught when to change his medication, rather than going to the doctor each time.
Having the ability to obtain and manage more health dollars in Health Savings Accounts is a start. A good model for self-management is the Cash and Counseling program for the homebound disabled under Medicaid. Individuals in this program are able to manage their own budgets and hire and fire the people who provide them with custodial services and medical care. Satisfaction rates approach 100%, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
We should also encourage health plans to specialize in managing chronic diseases instead of demanding that every plan must be all things to all people. For example, special-needs plans in Medicare Advantage actively compete to enroll and cover the sickest Medicare beneficiaries, and stay in business by meeting their needs. This is the alternative to forcing insurers to take high-cost patients for cut-rate premiums, which guarantees that these patients will be unwanted.
• Allow doctors and patients to control costs. Doctors and patients are currently trapped by government-imposed payment rates. Under Medicare, doctors are not paid if they communicate with their patients by phone or e-mail. Medicare pays by task—there is a list of about 7,500—but doctors do not get paid to advise patients on how to lower their drug costs or how to comparison shop on the Web. In short, they get paid when people are sick, not to keep them healthy.
So long as total cost to the government does not rise and quality of care does not suffer, doctors should have the freedom to repackage and reprice their services. And payment should take into account the quality of the care that is delivered. Once physicians are liberated under Medicare, private insurers will follow.
• Don’t cut Medicare. The reform bills passed by the House and Senate cut Medicare by approximately $500 billion. This is wrong. There is no question that Medicare is on an unsustainable course; the government has promised far more than it can deliver. But this problem will not be solved by cutting Medicare in order to create new unfunded liabilities for young people.
• Protect early retirees. More than 80% of the 78 million baby boomers will likely retire before they become eligible for Medicare. This is often the most difficult time for individuals and families to find affordable insurance. A viable bridge to Medicare can be built by allowing employers to obtain individually owned insurance for their retirees at group rates; allowing them to deposit some or all of the premium amount for post-retirement insurance into a retiree’s Health Savings Account; and giving employers and younger employees the ability to save tax-free for post-retirement health.
• Inform consumers. Patients need to have clear, reliable data about cost and quality before they make decisions about their care. But finding such information is virtually impossible. Sources like Medicare claims data (stripped of patient information) can help consumers answer important questions about their care. Government data—paid for by the taxpayers—can answer these questions and should be made public.
• Eliminate junk lawsuits. Last year the president pledged to consider civil justice reform. We do not need to study or test medical malpractice any longer: The current system is broken. States across the country—Texas in particular—have already implemented key reforms including liability protection for using health information technology or following clinical standards of care; caps on non-economic damages; loser pays laws; and new alternative dispute resolution where patients get compensated for unexpected, adverse medical outcomes without lawyers, courtrooms, judges and juries.
• Stop health-care fraud. Every year up to $120 billion is stolen by criminals who defraud public programs like Medicare and Medicaid, according to the National Health Care Anti-Fraud Association. We can help prevent this by using responsible approaches such as enhanced coordination of benefits, third-party liability verification, and electronic payment.
• Make medical breakthroughs accessible to patients. Breakthrough drugs, innovative devices and new therapies to treat rare, complex diseases as well as chronic conditions should be sped to the market. We can do this by cutting red tape before and during review by the Food and Drug Administration and by deploying information technology to monitor the quality of drugs and devices once they reach the marketplace.
The solutions presented here can be the foundation for a patient-centered system. Let’s hope the president has the courage to embrace them.
Mr. Gingrich is former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and founder of the Center for Health Transformation. Mr. Goodman is president and CEO of the National Center for Policy Analysis.
Hurtling Down the Road to Serfdom
Government is taking us a long way down the Road to Serfdom. That doesn’t just mean that more of us must work for the government. It means that we are changing from independent, self-responsible people into a submissive flock. The welfare state kills the creative spirit.
F.A. Hayek, an Austrian economist living in Britain, wrote “The Road to Serfdom” in 1944 as a warning that central economic planning would extinguish freedom (http://tinyurl.com/y9aelrn). The book was a hit. Reader’s Digest produced a condensed version that sold 5 million copies.
Hayek meant that governments can’t plan economies without planning people’s lives. After all, an economy is just individuals engaging in exchanges. The scientific-sounding language of President Obama’s economic planning hides the fact that people must shelve their own plans in favor of government’s single plan.
At the beginning of “The Road to Serfdom,” Hayek acknowledges that mere material wealth is not all that’s at stake when the government controls our lives: “The most important change … is a psychological change, an alteration in the character of the people.”
This shouldn’t be controversial. If government relieves us of the responsibility of living by bailing us out, character will atrophy. The welfare state, however good its intentions of creating material equality, can’t help but make us dependent. That changes the psychology of society.
I’ll explore this tomorrow night on my Fox Business show, 8 p.m. Eastern (rebroadcast Friday at 10 p.m.).
According to the Tax Foundation, 60 percent of the population now gets more in government benefits than it pays in taxes. What does it say about a society in which more than half the people live at the expense of the rest? Worse, the dependent class is growing. The 60 percent will soon be 70 percent (http://tinyurl.com/y95umnf).
Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin seems to understand the threat: He’s worries that “more people have a stake in the welfare state than in free enterprise. This is a road that Hayek perfectly described as ‘the road to serfdom.'” (Tomorrow I will ask Ryan why, if he understands this, he voted for TARP and the auto bailouts.)
Kurt Vonnegut understood the threat of government-imposed equality.Blocked Ad
His short story “Harrison Bergeron” (http://tinyurl.com/23com9) portrays a future in which no one is permitted to have any physical or intellectual advantage over anyone else. A government Handicapper General weighs down the strong and agile, masks the faces of the beautiful and distracts the smart.
So far, the Handicapper General is just fantasy. But Vice President Joe Biden did shout at the Democratic National Convention: “Everyone is your equal, and everyone is equal to you.” If he meant that we’re all equal in rights and before the law, fine. If he meant government shouldn’t put barriers in the way of opportunity, great. But statists like Biden usually have more in mind: They want government to make results more equal.
Two actual examples of the lunacy:
When colleges innovated by having students use Kindle e-book readers instead of expensive textbooks, the Justice Department sued them, complaining that the Kindle discriminates against blind students. The department also is suing the Massachusetts prison system because it makes prospective prison guards take a physical test. Since women don’t do as well as men on that test, Justice claims the test discriminates against women.
Arthur Brooks, who heads the American Enterprise Institute, says statism is becoming the “central organizing power in our economy,” and that the battle between free enterprise and statism will shape our futures. He remains optimistic because a recent poll (http://tinyurl.com/ycvsfjv) showed that 70 percent of Americans want free enterprise. I’m less sanguine. In that same poll, 54 percent of Americans said government should exert more control over the economy. Brooks discounts that, claiming people forget their “core values” during crises.
But he asks the right question: Do we want a culture of takers or makers? Ryan and Brooks say most people want “the American idea”: freedom and self-responsibility. I fear they want a Mommy State to take care of them. What do you think?
The choice is crucial. If we continue down the Road to Serfdom, our destination will be a poorer society, high unemployment, stagnation and complacency.
John Stossel is host of “Stossel” on the Fox Business Network. He’s the author of “Give Me a Break” and of “Myth, Lies, and Downright Stupidity.” To find out more about John Stossel, visit his site at <a href="http://www.johnstossel.com" >johnstossel.com. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at http://www.creators.com.
COPYRIGHT 2010 BY JFS PRODUCTIONS, INC.
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February 09, 2010
I Was a Teenage President
By Greg Lewis
The Obama administration resembles nothing so much as a big house in the suburbs where the parents are away for the weekend. In the absence of any responsible person to take charge, the Teenager-in-Chief is letting the rest of the adolescents run wild.
They’ve maxed out their parents’ credit cards and have begun working on their overdraft lines in earnest, as the T-I-C’s budget, which proposes a $1.5-trillion deficit for the coming fiscal year, attests. With “what, me worry?” aplomb worthy of a Mad Magazine cover boy, Barack Obama delivered to Congress a bloated document which proposes that more than 40 percent of federal spending be done with borrowed money, and some of the rest courtesy of renewed taxes on America’s “rich” — those people and small businesses making unholy annual incomes greater than $250,000.
And although there are several carloads of bullies pulling into the driveway who are about to enter the premises, the partiers inside remain oblivious to potential threats. They’re wrecking the furniture, eating their parents out of house and home, and in general carrying on like there’s no tomorrow.
Fraternity Boy General Eric Holder insists, with teen-worthy logic, that trying Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in U.S. federal court will demonstrate to the world how wonderfully the impartial American justice system works — this after Holder himself arguably contaminated the pool of potential jurors by declaring that after the trial, the “suspect” would be executed. This claim — that KSM is virtually guaranteed to be convicted in an American court of law, and even if he isn’t we’ll detain him indefinitely anyway — was repeated by the Teenager-in-Chief himself and his Smokesperson, Robert Gates.
In the meantime, the head of Gangland Security, Janet Napolitano, was still tired from a pre-Spring Break European jaunt and decided not to appear before a House Committee hearing on the Christmas Day Skivvies-Bomber plot, upsetting even House Democrats. These are the same Democrats who are generally on board with the administration’s confiscate-and-squander policies, recently ratcheted up from previous tax-and-spend levels.
Under new laws governing parents’ rights with regard to their adolescent children, the Teenager-in-Chief’s academic records can’t be sent home without the student’s consent. That has led to a great deal of speculation about whether the T-I-C really did complete the requirements for his college degrees, and if he did so, whether he distinguished himself as a student. Even though we footed the bill for our adolescent’s education and are paying for the consequences thereof, we haven’t been afforded so much as a glimpse at the papers he wrote or the marks he received for them.
And though we had our doubts about some of the characters he’s hung out with, The New York Teens assured us that no permanent damage had been done by his association with the likes of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright and political radical Bill Ayers. And no, the Teens added, Bill Ayers didn’t write Obama’s autobiography, and he certainly didn’t write his college papers. Heck, Ayers and Obama didn’t even meet each other until Obama was well on his way to the stunning success he achieved in his early career as a community organizer. How in the world could Ayers have written Obama’s college papers? Tell me that! And they surely wouldn’t have let Obama teach constitutional law — at the University of Chicago, no less — if he weren’t qualified, would they?
I mean, jeez, what more do you want? The T-I-C is already working harder than he ever thought he would have to. He barely has time for golf and pickup basketball games and date nights any more, and you know how important those are to any teen. So of course he’s angry.
He’s angry at the overwhelming problems he “inherited” from the previous administration. And he’s angry because despite the fact that he had bulletproof majorities in both houses of Congress, the American public was too stupid to understand his health care initiative and the wonderful things it would do for them, and so he couldn’t get that legislation pushed through.
Never mind that his is the anger of manufactured intellectual outrage unconnected to real-world experience. And never mind that it’s the anger of psychological pain born in the midst of privilege few generations in the history of our planet have ever enjoyed. It is ultimately an unpleasant and whiny anger, the anger of a rich kid bitching that his parents haven’t given him quite enough, the anger of a spoiled child who denigrates those who came before him for not being what he thinks they should have been. He’s the Teenager-in-Chief, and he’s not about to let you forget it.
Page Printed from: http://www.americanthinker.com/2010/02/i_was_a_teenage_president.html at February 09, 2010 – 03:22:06 PM CST
If Keynes were alive today, what would he think of President Obama’s fiscal policies?
He would roll over in his grave if he could see the things being done in his name. Keynes was opposed to large structural deficits. He thought that they chilled rather than stimulated the economy. It’s true that we’re stuck with large deficits now. The goal should be to reduce them, not to take on new spending that makes them worse.
Today, deficits are getting bigger and bigger with no plan to significantly lower them. Keynes understood what the current administration doesn’t understand that the proper policy in a democracy recognizes that today’s increase in debt must be paid in the future.
What I Said to the Republican Members of Congress
Tuesday, February 02, 2010
This past weekend, after President Obama addressed the annual retreat of Republican Members of the House, I, along with my Salem Radio colleague Hugh Hewitt, and John Fund of the Wall Street Journal, were also invited to address them.
This is an abridged and edited version of my remarks.
Thank you for this honor.
I have never been as proud to be a Republican as I have this past year with your unanimity in opposing Obamacare and the other bills that would transform America. Please know — you need this feedback — that your having been able to stand together and do this has been a luminous moment in Republican Party history.
I would like show you some of the large themes involved in your present work.
First theme: It is harder to sell truths than to sell falsehoods.
It is very easy to say, “Vote for us and we will give you, we will give you, we will give you.” It is much harder to advocate what is right and to say, “Vote for us, but no, we won’t give you” — even though that is the more moral and the more American position. So you have the far more difficult task.
John Rosemond, who writes books on child rearing, says that the most important vitamin you can give to a child is Vitamin N, his term for the word “No.” You have given America Vitamin N.
America needs it terribly because of another way in which God has stacked the deck against the fight for goodness in human history: Every change for good must be constantly renewed, but changes for the worse are often permanent. Goodness must be fought for every day, over and over. That is why every American generation has to be inculcated with American values. But once the change for bad is made, it is close to irreversible. The Democratic attempt to vastly expand the state’s power would likely be a permanent change for the worse in American life. When they’re candid, they admit that the health care bill is their way to get to single-payer medicine and, more importantly, to a government takeover of another sixth of the American economy.
You have to know how important your work is, and how many of us know this.
Second theme: You are not fighting liberals. You are fighting the Left. Democrats were once liberals. But you are not fighting liberals any longer. You are fighting the Left. And as leftists, they do not like to confront reality, even if it means rewriting it.
I’ll give you two examples.
This Jew battled to keep the cross in the Los Angeles County seal. Liberals and leftists in California fought to remove the smallest image — a cross — from the county seal. Through my radio show, on a day’s notice, we gathered about a thousand people to demonstrate at the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors when the board voted. The vote went along ideological lines: three liberals to two conservatives, to remove the cross.
I remember testifying before the supervisors and telling them, “You are rewriting our county’s history. This county was founded by Christians. That’s why there’s a cross. Had it been founded by Wiccans, I would fight to keep a broom on the seal. But it wasn’t founded by Wiccans. It was founded by Christians. That’s why it’s named “Los Angeles.” It is not “Los Secularistos.” If it were “Los Secularistos,” I would expect an empty seal. But it is not empty. It was founded by Christians. It’s not even a religious issue. You’re rewriting my history. And it’s frightening to see you do that.”
The other example is what is now happening with Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts. Everybody knows why he was voted in. It was, after all, Scott “41” Brown. We all knew why he was elected. But if you read left-wing commentators, this history is being rewritten. They say it had nothing to do with opposing Obamacare. Nothing to do with it! In the Soviet Union, it took 10 years to write Trotsky out of the Russian Revolution. But this is a rewrite of history in one week! Scott “41” Brown’s victory was not about opposing Obamacare.
In fact, the Left argues that the Massachusetts voters were for the health care bill, but simply “wanted to send a message” to Washington. I must say the voters of Massachusetts are not only not bright, they must be truly stupid if they are for Obamacare and send the man who will undo Obamacare as a protest on behalf of Obamacare. This is what we are told by the Left.
Third theme: Most people on the Left are True Believers. This is critical to understand. They are willing to lose Congress; Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are prepared to lose both houses to get this through. Why? Because losing an election cycle means nothing compared to taking over more of the American economy.
I can give you an example from our side. There are many folks on our side who, if they could pass an amendment against abortion, would happily sacrifice both houses for a period of time. Understand that just as strongly as some are pro-life or religiously Christian or Jewish, that is how strongly many leftists believe in leftism. Leftism is a substitute religion. For the Left, the “health care” bill transcends politics. You are fighting people who will go down with the ship in order to transform this country to a leftist one. And an ever-expanding state is the Left’s central credo.
And finally, theme four: I have a motto that I offer to you because this is the ultimate moral case for us: “The bigger the government, the smaller the citizen.”
We have to learn to make our complex beliefs simple — though never simplistic. And this is our powerful response to government doing more and more for people: “The bigger the government, the smaller the citizen.”
And here’s how we explain it: The bigger the government, the less I do for myself, for my family and for my community. That is why we Americans give more charity and devote more time to volunteering than Europeans do. The European knows: The government, the state, will take care of me, my children, my parents, my neighbors and my community. I don’t have to do anything. The bigger question in many Europeans’ lives is, “How much vacation time will I have and where will I spend that vacation?”
That is what happens when the state gets bigger — you become smaller. The dream of America was that the individual was to be a giant. The state stays small so as to enable each of us to be as big as we can be. We are each created in God’s image. The state is not in God’s image, but it is vying to be that. This is the battle you’re fighting. You are fighting a cosmic battle because this is the most important society ever devised, the United States of America.
You can easily forget the big picture — how could you not? You’re there every day, battling. You are in dense jungle — excuse me, rainforest — you are in a rainforest/jungle, fighting, and I am, because of the nature of my work, in a little helicopter above the jungle telling you what it is you are fighting. America really is the last, best hope of mankind.
That is how important I consider the fights that are going on now, especially with regard to the takeover of health care. How can they, with a serious face, tell us that Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security are going bankrupt, and therefore the solution is to take over more of health care? How does one say that with a straight face? How does one look a fellow American in the eye and say, “Yes, we have failed in almost every way that government has significantly intruded, and that’s why we need more government intrusion”?
It is mind-boggling. But that is what has happened. People get smaller and pettier, as the government and state get bigger. That’s what you are fighting. And that’s why I came to tell you this is the proudest moment in my life as a Republican. Thank you for doing what you are doing.
Copyright © 2010 Salem Web Network. All Rights Reserved.
According to Keith Olberman, “Massachusetts elected “a bad joke” in Senator Scott Brown, “an irresponsible, homophobic, racist, reactionary, ex-nude model, teabagging supporter of violence against woman and against politicians with whom he disagrees.””
Even an MS-NBC colleague recognized Olbermann for what he has become — “sad and pathetic” — while New Yorker magazine, which sympathizes with his politics and whose executives participate in life at Trump Towers, headlined its profile of him “One Angry Man.”
In the end and in Olbermann’s eyes, life is what it has always been: hostile. The viewers are disappearing, and all that remains is a Krakatoa of rage, of poisons spewing forth from a shell of a man on a shriveled network into the homes of a shrinking audience.