Wednesday, February 25, 2009

"Love me. I'm a liberal"

I have often remarked how the Left side of America's politics is run by hungry egos. They crave praise and power and will do anything to get it. Basically, they all have a Stalinist hunger for there to be statues of themselves all over the place. They generally hide their real motives under a veneer of do-gooder-ism, however. They seek praise by advocating things that sound good, even if such things are ignorant and harmful in the long run and are hence avoided by more responsible politicians. The "liberal" solutions to problems are generally little better than those of their fellow Leftist in Argentina, Juan Peron. Peron's solution to rising prices was to threaten to shoot any shopkeeper who put his prices up. Since the shopkeepers had to PAY more for their goods all the time, Peron's edict simply closed most shops. Eventually, of course people see the destructive consequences of Leftist populism and turn to policies that work. It even happened in Russia and China, eventually. But even then, the Leftist loses little because people believe that "he meant well".

So it is worth taking a moment to note a case when the Leftist acknowledges his real motivations openly. And an article in "The New Republic" does just that, under the heading: "Love Me I'm A Liberal". It is written by the rather aptly-named Leon Wieseltier. The surname is German/Yiddish for "weasel animal" so that may be a hint as to why his ego needs are so pressing. I don't think I would like to identify myself as a "weasel animal" all the time. It must have pained him to have his pretentiousness often satirized in "Spy Magazine". And the reaction to frustration from the large but fragile egos of the Left is hatred. The constant outpouring of hate towards conservatives that I document from time to time on my TONGUE-TIED blog is ample evidence of that. So it is no surprise to find that even weasel's fellow centre-Leftist, Andrew Sullivan has said that 'Wieseltier is a connoisseur and cultivator of personal hatred'. A falling out between two large egos!

The essence of weasel's article in TNR is that although Democrats now hold all the political cards and will use them ruthlessly, America still is, as has often been observed, a center-Right nation. Most people do not share the values of the Left and have little respect for "liberals". Weasel overlooks that it is pretty hard to share liberal values, since they don't have any! The Left constantly tell us that "There is no such thing as right and wrong" so how could they have any values? To have a value is to say that some particular thing or policy is right! All that the Left has are postures that can be changed according to how the winds of public opinion blow. The party that once portrayed itself as the party of the worker and the little guy now hates "rednecks", for instance.

This hollow core of Leftism is often evident in their rapid turn to abuse rather than rational debate and we see that in the weasel too. He has, however, literary pretensions so we see him express his lack of real interest in actual policy in a superficially clever way. He says "The Republicans propose to bail out the economy with doctrine. Unemployment is 7.6 percent and rising, and they say: let them eat Friedman". Maybe that gets a laugh from some Leftists but it is not a serious description of anything in the real world. The central proposal of conservatives about the economic crisis is to unleash the job creators -- business -- by reducing tax and regulatory burdens on them -- but you would never know that from weasel's article.

And also in good Leftist style, weasel is not averse to lying. He says "the cause of all this misery was the market abandon that they [Republicans] promoted so messianically". Absolutely no mention there of the fact that the financial meltdown was caused by worthless mortgages -- mortgages that were forced on banks by such Democrat-sponsored laws as the "Community reinvestment act" and harassment of bank officials by such hard-Left organizations as ACORN. The fact of the matter is that "the cause of all this misery was the market suppression that they [Democrats] promoted so messianically".

So weasel ends up with a demand that Obama promote liberal policies and postures instead of being the centrist which he claimed to be in his campaign. He feebly hopes that Obama can make liberal thinking respectable -- and even "loved"! -- among the population at large. Poor old weasel! As the NYT says, his enemies (created by his own obnoxious behaviour) are legion so his last claim to be loved is that he is a liberal. How pathetic!

There is a detailed fisking of weasel here.


It Any Wonder The Market Continues To Sink?

Last Oct. 13, in trying to explain why the market had sold off 30% in six weeks, we acknowledged that the freeze-up of the financial system was a big concern. But we cited three other factors as well:

* The imminent election of "the most anti-capitalist politician ever nominated by a major party."
* The possibility of "a filibuster-proof Congress led by politicians who are almost as liberal."
* A "media establishment dedicated to the implementation of a liberal agenda, and the smothering of dissent wherever it arises."

No wonder, we said then, that panic had set in. Today, as the market continues to sell off and we plumb 12-year lows, we wish we had a different explanation. But it still looks, as we said four months ago, "like the U.S., which built the mightiest, most prosperous economy the world has ever known, is about to turn its back on the free-enterprise system that made it all possible." How else would you explain all that's happened in a few short weeks? How else would you expect the stock market, where millions cast daily votes and which is still the best indicator of what the future holds, to act when:

* Newsweek, a prominent national newsweekly, blares from its cover "We Are All Socialists Now," without a hint of recognition that socialism in its various forms has been repudiated by history - as communism's collapse in the USSR, Eastern Europe and China attest. Even so, a $787 billion "stimulus," along with a $700 billion bank bailout, $75 billion to refinance bad mortgages, $50 billion for the automakers, and as much as $2 trillion in loans from the Fed and the Treasury are hardly confidence-builders for our free-enterprise system.

* Talk of "nationalizing" U.S.' troubled major banks comes not just from tarnished Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, but also from Republicans like Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and former Fed chief Alan Greenspan. To be sure, bank shares have plunged along with home prices, and many have inadequate capital. But is nationalization really the only solution for an industry whose main product - loans to consumers and businesses - has expanded by over 5% annually so far this year?

* A stimulus bill laden with huge amounts of spending on pork and special interests is the best our Congress can come up with to get the economy back on track. Economists broadly agree that the legislation has little stimulative power, and in fact will be a drag on economic growth for years to come. The failure to include any meaningful tax cuts for either individuals or small businesses, the true stimulators of job growth, while throwing hundreds of billions of dollars at profligate state governments and programs - such as $4.2 billion for "neighborhood stabilization activities" and $740 million to help viewers switch from analog to digital TV- has investors shaking their heads.

* A $75 billion bailout for 9 million Americans who face foreclosure, regardless of how they got into financial trouble, is the government's answer to the housing crunch. Many Americans who have scrupulously kept up with payments are steaming at the thought of subsidizing those who've been profligate or irresponsible. With recent data showing that as much as 55% of those who get foreclosure aid end up defaulting anyway, a signal has been sent that America has gone from being "Land of the Free" to "Bailout Nation."

* Energy solutions ranging from the expansion of offshore drilling and the development of Alaska's bountiful arctic oil reserves to developing shale oil in America's Big Sky country, tar-sands crude in Canada and coal that provides half the nation's electric power, are taken off the table. The market knows full well what drives the economy and that restraining energy supply will make us all poorer and investing less profitable. Taking domestic energy sources off the table makes us more reliant on sources from hostile and unstable regimes, breeding uncertainty in a capital system in which participants seek stability.

* Lawmakers who seem more interested in pleasing special interests than voters back home now control Congress. Some of the leading voices in crafting the massive bank bailout and stimulus packages - including Sen. Chris Dodd, Rep. Barney Frank and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi - were the very ones who helped get us in this mess. They did so by loosening Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's lending rules and pushing commercial banks to make bad loans. Both Dodd and Frank were recipients of hefty donations from Fannie, Freddie and other financial firms they were charged with regulating.

* Trade protectionism passes as policy, even amid the administration's lip service to free trade. Congress' vast stimulus bill and its "Buy American" provisions limit spending to U.S.-made products and will drive up costs, limit choices and alienate key allies. Already, it has triggered rumblings of retaliation in a 1930s-style trade war from trading partners, just as the Smoot-Hawley tariffs prolonged the Great Depression. Several European partners have begun raising barriers. Meanwhile, three signed free-trade pacts with Colombia, Panama and Korea languish with no chance of passage. Free trade offers one way out of our problems, yet it's been sidetracked.

* A 1,000-plus page stimulus bill is bulled through Congress with no GOP input and not a single member of Congress reading it before passage. It borders on censorship. GOP protests of the bill's spending and the speed it was passed at were dismissed by Obama and other Democrats as seeking to "do nothing" or "breaking the spirit of bipartisanship." But voters are angry. Along with thousands of angry phone calls to Congress, new Facebook groups have emerged, and street protests have sprung up in Denver, Seattle and Mesa, Ariz., against the "porkulus." CNBC Chicago reporter Rick Santelli's on-air denunciation of federal bailouts for mortgage deadbeats attracted a record 1.5 million Internet hits.

* Business leaders are demonized. Yes, there are bad eggs out there like the Madoffs and Stanfords. But most CEOs are hugely talented, driven, highly intelligent people who make our corporations the most productive in the world and add trillions of dollars of value to our economy. They don't deserve to be dragged before Congress, as they have been dozens of times in the past two years, for a ritual heaping of verbal abuse from the very people most responsible for our ills - our tragically inept, Democrat-led Congress.

* Words like "catastrophe," "crisis" and "depression" are coming from the mouth of the newly elected president, rather than words of hope and optimism. Instead of talking up America's capabilities and prospects, he talks them down - the exact opposite of our most successful recent president, Ronald Reagan, who came in vowing to restore that "shining city on a hill." Even ex-President Clinton admonished Obama to return to his previous optimism, saying he would "just like him to end by saying that he is hopeful and completely convinced we're gonna come through this."

* The missile defense system that brought the Soviet Union to its knees, and which offers so much hope for future security, is being discussed as a "bargaining chip" with Russia. This, at the same time the regime in Iran is close to having a nuclear weapon and North Korea is readying an intermediate-range missile that can reach the U.S. This sends a message of weakness abroad and contributes to a feeling of vulnerability at home. A strong economy begins and ends with a strong defense.

All this in barely a month's time. And to think that more of the same is on the way seems to be sinking in. Investors are watching closely and not caring for what they see. Sooner or later, the market will rally - but not without good reason to do so.



More sabotage of jobs from the Democrats

Unions are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Unions spur unemployment, and "there is no question" about it. "High union wages that exceed the competitive market rate are likely to cause job losses in the unionized sector of the economy." That is the unvarnished conclusion of one of the country's most admired economists. From 1970 to 1985, a state with average unionization had a rate of unemployment 1.2 percentage points higher than a state with no unions. This represented "about 60 percent of the increase in normal unemployment" in that period.

Okay, a finding from several decades ago may be a bit dated. But the phenomenon of how unionization affects unemployment isn't. Nor is the economist--Lawrence Summers, formerly president of Harvard and now President Obama's chief economic adviser. In this week's Fortune, Nina Easton calls him "the mastermind" of Obama's economic policy. His influence has limits, however, for Obama is aggressively promoting unionization at the worst possible time, smack in the teeth of a deepening recession with soaring unemployment.

Media attention has focused on the hot button issue of "card check." It would jettison labor's biggest impediment to signing up workers, the secret ballot. Naturally, it's labor's top priority in 2009. And though Obama and the vast majority of Democrats in Congress favor card check, its fate is unclear.

But Obama has already taken significant steps to aid unions. Steps that underscore his support for a surge in unionization. "I do not view the labor movement as part of the problem," he told union leaders at a White House event last month. "To me, it's part of the solution." Summers must have winced when he heard that. Obama has issued four executive orders to benefit unions, nominated a union pawn as labor secretary, and picked a union lawyer to head the National Labor Relations Board. Aside from ramming card check through Congress, there's not much more he could have done in his first month in office to please labor leaders.

One executive order says private contractors on federal construction projects should hire union workers. This puts non-union contractors, especially small minority companies who compete by making lower bids than contractors with unionized workers, at a distinct disadvantage. Another order bars federal contractors from being reimbursed for expenses incurred in trying to persuade employees not to form a union. A third would force contractors to retain workers when taking over a project from another contractor.

These orders will have an immediate impact. Most (if not all) of the infrastructure projects funded in Obama's $787 billion stimulus plan will have union workers. Given the higher labor costs, this means fewer of the estimated 1 million construction workers currently unemployed will find work. To make matters worse, the "prevailing wage" required on federal projects by the Davis-Bacon law will apply to all projects. This is supposed to be the average wage for construction workers in a region, but it usually turns out to be the higher union wage. So fewer workers will be employed even on non-union projects.

There's a double whammy here. Despite rising unemployment, a sharp limit is being imposed on hiring. And taxpayers will be required to pay considerably more for construction projects than necessary. This should be unacceptable in good times. In a recession, it's worse. This is flagrantly counterproductive. Take one example. A non-union employer with the low bid wins the contract on a partially completed construction project. If the prior contractor had union workers, the new boss would have to retain them, their union wages, and possibly even their union.

As a devotee of the New Deal, Obama ought to have learned the lesson of increased unionization. After the Wagner Act of 1935 empowered labor organizers, unionization flourished and wages rose for those who had jobs. At the same time, unemployment went up.

If card check passes, this trend--more unions, fewer jobs--will shift into high gear. But the measure suffered a slight setback last week. Blue dog Democrats got House speaker Nancy Pelosi to postpone a vote until the Senate acts. The queasy moderates fear voting for an unpopular bill that could fail in the Senate. Labor leaders had hoped House approval would give card check a big boost in the Senate, where a handful of Democrats have voiced misgivings.

At the White House, organized labor's clout is still palpable. The president is indebted to union leaders for their lavish support for his campaign with money (hundreds of millions) and personnel (tens of thousands). And labor trumps Larry Summers. Too bad. On unions and unemployment, Summers knows best.



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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


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