Tag Archives: Barack Obama

Three things to remember about Keystone and U.S. energy policy.

Robert Samuelson writes:

There are three things to remember about Keystone and U.S. energy policy.

First, we’re going to use lots of oil for a long time. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that American oil consumption will increase 4 percent between 2009 and 2035. The increase occurs despite highly optimistic assumptions about vehicle fuel efficiency and bio-fuels. But a larger population (390 million in 2035 versus 308 million in 2009) and more driving per vehicle offset savings.

The more oil we produce domestically and import from neighbors, the more we’re insulated from dramatic interruptions of global supplies. After the United States, Canada is the most dependable source of oil — or was until Obama’s decision.

Second, barring major technological breakthroughs, emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, will rise for similar reasons. The EIA projects that America’s CO2 emissions will increase by 16 percent from 2009 to 2035. (The EIA is updating its projections, but the main trends aren’t likely to change dramatically.) Stopping Canadian tar-sands development, were that possible, wouldn’t affect these emissions.

Finally, even if — as Keystone critics argue — some Canadian oil were refined in the United States and then exported, this would be a good thing. The exports would probably go mostly to Latin America. They would keep well-paid industrial jobs (yes, refining) in the United States and reduce our trade deficit in oil, which exceeded $300 billion in 2011.

Source.

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Romney acts like an adult

Thomas Edsall, a professor of journalism at Columbia, in a critique of Romney’s campaign strategy, quotes the candidate:

Once we thought ‘entitlement’ meant that Americans were entitled to the privilege of trying to succeed in the greatest country in the world. Americans fought and died to earn and protect that entitlement. But today the new entitlement battle is over the size of the check you get from Washington.

But after reading Edsall’s summary, “The Anti-Entitlement Strategy,” I look upon Romney’s position more favorably. Why? First, I disagree with the very definition of the world entitlement. Second, ponder this little nugget of data from the recent Government Accountability Office’s fiscal 2011 financial statements, as noted by Bryan R. Lawrence, founder of Oakcliff Capital, writing in today’s WaPo:

In fiscal 2011, the cost of the promises grew from $30.9 trillion to $33.8 trillion. To put that in context, consider that the total value of companies traded on U.S. stock markets is $13.1 trillion, based on the Wilshire 5000 index, and the value of the equity in U.S. taxpayers’ homes, according to Freddie Mac, is $6.2 trillion. Said another way, there is not enough wealth in America to meet those promises.

Two points. First, I doubt that Romney would, if able, gut all of the entitlement programs. (He will not be able.) When asked during a debate which federal departments he would abolish, he gave a serious answer – that each department did some things worthwhile, and that we must not throw the baby out with the bath water. Thus, the valuable programs currently performed by a department must first be identified and then assumed by another department, agency or office, before the department could responsibly be abolished. I assume the same sobriety would apply to Romney’s position on entitlement spending.

Second, not all entitlement programs are transfers to “parasitic” “sloths.” He may have to trim down the rhetoric. Even so, he will be the adult in the room when debating Obama, who has responded to both the current depression and the forthcoming entitlement-fueled default by giving speeches and proposing to tax private jets.

Edsall again:

Romney’s adoption of an anti-entitlement strategy comes at a time when he appears to be looking up from the primaries toward Election Day, which suggests that his hard-line stance will be central to his campaign against Obama and not just a temporary maneuver.

Let’s hope that this is not only an election strategy, but a blueprint for governance.

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Filed under Domestic Politics, Election 2012

Obama is the fourth best president ever?

Not really. From Politico via Drudge:

The president’s claim didn’t air in the show’s Dec. 11 television broadcast but was included in the full interview video that CBS posted on its website that day.

The “60 Minutes Overtime” video shows Obama telling correspondent Steve Kroft:

“The issue here is not going be a list of accomplishments. As you said yourself, Steve, you know, I would put our legislative and foreign policy accomplishments in our first two years against any president — with the possible exceptions of Johnson, F.D.R., and Lincoln — just in terms of what we’ve gotten done in modern history. But, you know, but when it comes to the economy, we’ve got a lot more work to do.”

NewsBusters pounced on the comments with a story under the headline: “60 Minutes broadcast edits out laughable Obama claim as 4th best president.”

I’m not sure why 60 Minutes did not include it in their tv broadcast – I ignore the accusations of their left-wing bias – but the comment is just quite silly. Really. Steve Kroft, for Obama’s sake, should have followed up the comment with a request for clarification. Obama could have corrected himself, admitted a bit of embellishment, and moved on. Instead, Obama’s opponents have more evidence of his vanity.

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Filed under Election 2012

A lot of gems here.

George Will explains “some reasons for feeling at least a bit grateful for 2011:”

In 2011, someone actually asked how an Amtrak employee with a $21,000 salary earned $149,000 in overtime.

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In Texas, Georgia, Wisconsin, Iowa, Pennsylvania and Maryland, lemonade stands run by scofflaw children were put out of business in a government crackdown against wee people who commit capitalism without getting the requisite bureaucratic permissions.

Manning the ramparts on the wall of separation between church and state, a Seattle teacher required Easter Eggs to be called “spring spheres.”

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In the year when Americans became aware that there is more student debt than credit card debt, Yale offered a course on how people with disabilities are portrayed in fiction: “We will examine how characters serve as figures of otherness, transcendence, physicality or abjection. Later may come examination questions on regulative discourse, performativity and frameworks of intelligibility.”

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When the Wisconsin Education Association Council, having spent liberally defending public-sector union privileges, announced it was laying off 40 percent of its staff, it was denounced by the National Staff Organization, a union for employees of education unions.

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“Putting green lipstick on a pig doesn’t turn that pig into Ralph Nader.”

Mead on green subsidies:

Advocates of industrial policy have been pointing to ‘smart subsidies’ for green technology as proof that government can function as an effective venture capitalist, directing subsidies effectively toward ‘sunrise’ industries.

We will probably be hearing less of those claims now as the public digests the massive excess, failure and fraud that have turned the Obama administration’s green subsidy program into a symbol of good intentions gone awry.  It turns out public policy is hard, and not every green minded NGO apparatchik is very good at hard things.

Decrying what it calls a “gold rush” mentality that primarily benefited companies like Goldman Sachs and others in need of no special help, a recent article in the New York Times surveyed a range of projects where taxpayer and ratepayer subsidies have taken all risk from the private sector and all but guaranteed large profits “for years to come.”  Even some of the companies involved in the porkfest acknowledge that things got a little out of hand; some projects that have been heavily subsidized “would have been built anyway,” they say.  The drunken sailor on shore leave style economic stimulus spending gets special attention as wasteful, misguided and lavished on corporate welfare for energy giants.

Read the rest here.

President Obama was recently asked my George Stephanopoulos on GMA if he regretted the Solyndra loan. No, he said, because you have to look at the whole portfolio of investments. They knew that some of the loans would fail, as many investments do.

First, based on recent investigations, the White House team feared that Solyndra was a failing business model before the loan guarantee was granted. Second, the government should play a minimal role, if a role at all, in venture capitalism. As was noted, many of the projects that were heavily subsidized would have been built anyway, but now the government can claim the credit for the success and growth. With that credit comes a license to spend more, and with increased spending comes increased waste.

When looking at the whole portfolio, as President Obama instructs us to do, we should see a stronger case for the government to cut many such green subsidies.

 

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One Year From Tonight…

I will be watching the results of the US presidential election. And what an exciting election it is looking to be!  A lot is on the line, and two very different ideas of the direction America should take will collide.

One year out from the 2012 election, President Obama faces the most difficult reelection environment of any White House incumbent in two decades, with economic woes at the center of the public’s concerns, an electorate that is deeply pessimistic and sharply polarized, and growing questions about the president’s capacity to lead.

Those factors alone portend the possibility that Obama could become the first one-term president since George H.W. Bush, who was defeated by Bill Clinton in 1992 at a time of economic problems and similar anger with the political establishment in Washington. To win a second term, Obama probably will have to overcome the highest rate of unemployment in an election year of any president in the post-World War II era.

Last year’s midterm election victories have made Republicans eager for 2012. But public disaffection with the party and a muddled battle for the GOP nomination leave open the possibility that Republicans will not be able to capitalize on the conditions that have put the president on the defensive. Failure could produce the kind of disappointment that would trigger recriminations and an examination of the party’s priorities, tactics and leadership. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney remains the candidate to beat, but so far he has not been able to consolidate support or generate enthusiasm in a party that is more conservative than he is.

What can be said at this point is that, after three years of pitched battles between Obama and congressional Republicans, the country is heading toward a high-stakes contest. Election 2012 will be a contest not just between two candidates but also between two starkly different views of the role of government that underscore the enormous differences between Republicans and Democrats.

Given the public mood and the president’s standing, the 2012 election will bring a dramatic shift from the hope-and-change enthusiasm generated by Obama’s first run for the White House. The race will be not only more competitive but also far more negative.

Source.

My prediction: Mitt Romney will win the Republican nomination. During the primaries, as his victory looks more likely, the Republicans will coalesce behind him. During the general election, with unemployment above 9%, gridlock in government, and Obama reverting to more speeches instead of action, independents will as well. They will be responding to the “dark mood” in America. Whether or not Obama deserves the blame is a fair question, but I think he will receive more than his fair share of blame for the electorate. He won’t win in a landslide, but I predict Romney will be our next president.

Of course, anything can happen, and I am the first to dismiss predictions, especially, as Yogi Berra would say, about the future.

What is your prediction? Feel free to post in the comments, and encourage your friends to as well.

(Update: this post was originally entitled “Two Years From Tonight…” instead of, obviously, “One Year From Tonight…” Thank you to a reader for pointing it out. In my defense, I’ve been drinking some excellent Argentine wine.)

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What is the ‘Greatest Threat’ to America?

Joshua Keating at FP Passport is keeping track:

A “lone-wolf” terrorist attack – President Barack Obama President Barack Obama – Gov. Rick Perry

China’s nuclear arsenal – Director of National Intelligence James Clapper

The national debt – Former Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen

The economic crisisRetired Adm. Dennis Blair

Nuclear terrorism – Former Vice President Dick Cheney

Yemen Defense Secretary Leon Panetta

“Homegrown terror” – U.S. National Counterterrorism Center Director Michael Leiter

Cyber attacks – FBI Director James Mueller

Iran – 63 percent of Americans

The Haqqani Network Christiane Amanpour

Global warming – Sen. Barbara Boxer

Central American drug gangs – Assistant Secretary of State William Brownfield

The radical secular socialist machine – Newt Gingrich

Obamacare – Rick Santorum

Electromagnetic Pulse weaponsEMPact America

The homosexual agenda –The American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer

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Thomas Sowell on Uncommon Knowledge

Tom Sowell discusses his latest book, The Thomas Sowell Reader, a collection of some of his better and more lasting writings over the years.

Here Sowell discusses inequality, Barack Obama, his young years as a Marxist (Sowell’s not Obama’s), Ronald Reagan, OWS…

Part 1 of 5.

Part 2 of 5.

Part 3 of 5.

Part 4 of 5.

Part 5 of 5.

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Filed under Domestic Politics, Economics

Allan Meltzer vs. Keynesians

Allan Meltzer offers four reasons why Keynesian economics via the Obama stimulus has failed:

First, big increases in spending and government deficits raise the prospect of future tax increases. Many people understand that increased spending must be paid for sooner or later.

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Second, most of the government spending programs redistribute income from workers to the unemployed… Permanent tax reduction generates more expansion than increased government spending of the same dollars.

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Third, Keynesian models totally ignore the negative effects of the stream of costly new regulations that pour out of the Obama bureaucracy. Who can guess the size of the cost increases required by these programs?

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Fourth, U.S. fiscal and monetary policies are mainly directed at getting a near-term result. The estimated cost of new jobs in President Obama’s latest jobs bill is at least $200,000 per job, based on administration estimates of the number of jobs and their cost. How can that appeal to the taxpayers who will pay those costs?

Meltzer concludes:

Clearly, a more effective economic policy would aim at restoring the long-term growth rate by reducing uncertainty and restoring investor and consumer confidence. Here are four proposals to help get us there:

First, Congress and the administration should agree on a 10-year program of government spending cuts to reduce the deficit. The Ryan and Simpson-Bowles budget proposals are a constructive start. (Note to Republican presidential candidates: Permanent tax reduction can only be achieved by reducing government spending.)

Second, reduce corporate tax rates and expense capital investment by closing loopholes.

Third, announce a five-year moratorium on new regulations.

Fourth, adopt an enforceable 0%-2% inflation target to allay fears of future high inflation.

Now that the Keynesian euphoria has again faded, perhaps this administration—or more likely the next—will recognize the reasons for the failure and stop asking for more of the same.

I post this for a two reasons. First, Meltzer is an accomplished economist and deserves to be read, just as Krugman or Stiglitz. Second, and more important, since the collapse of the financial sector and the resulting recession, people have taken an interest in the economics of stimuli. Here Keynes is a clear winner. There are no invisible hand economists in recessions. Or at least, there are no invisible hand politicians in recessions. There is always the urge to do something; to not be seen doing nothing. Since Keynesian economics offers a clear idea of what to do – more stimulus to increase aggregate demand in the short term until normal economic activities can return to pre-recession levels – everyone appears to be a Keynesian. But there are those like Meltzer who are not Keynesian. Next time you hear someone – Joe Biden? – say that “all economists agree,” you will know that they all do not. Keynesianism is a theory, and not the final or even most accepted view.

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The Impact of Obama’s Student Loan Legislation

I previously blogged about how Obama’s student loan legislation proposals will have short-term benefits with long-term costs. Daniel Indiviglio examines the three major pieces of the proposed legislation – consolidation, payment limits, and loan forgiveness – and how they will affect the average borrower. The answer: not much. I may have been far too generous in saying it will have a short-term benefit. Perhaps it only offers long-term costs.

Consolidation

The first would clearly be the most significant, because it is aimed at helping more student loan borrowers. How much would an interest rate reduction of up to 0.5% affect payments?

For the average borrower, the impact would be small. In 2011, Bachelor’s degree recipients graduating with debt had an average balance of $27,204, according to an analysis done by finaid.org, based on Department of Education data. That average has ballooned from just $17,646 over the past decade.

Using these values as the high and low bounds of average student debt over the last ten years, the monthly savings for the average student loan borrower would be between $4.50 and $7.75 per month. Clearly, this isn’t going to save the economy. While borrowers with bigger balances would save more, this is the average. And even someone with $100,000 in loans would only cut their monthly payments by $28.50.

The provisions on payment limits and loan forgiveness will have an even smaller impact. Indiviglio concludes:

By calling for these measures, President Obama seeks to respond directly to young Americans stressed about their student loans. Indeed, one of the vague objectives of the Occupy Wall Street movement is for student debt forgiveness. But from a practical standpoint, these executive orders won’t have much of an impact on the economy. To take on the student debt problem more aggressively, the president would need some actual legislation that would shake the fundamental framework of the student loan system.

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Filed under Domestic Politics, Education