Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Why Americans Should Hope that Nicolas Sarkozy Gets Re-Elected

This is a surprisingly realistic article from TNR.  I don't agree with it wholly but it makes some good points.  It seems to me that Sarko could well say: "Apres moi le deluge"

If the latest polls—and the accompanying press coverage—are to be believed, Nicolas Sarkozy's time as president of France will soon come to an end. In the all-important run-off election scheduled for May 6, most believe the incumbent will lose to his Socialist challenger, François Hollande. This is a prospect that no doubt worries Sarkozy and his supporters in France. But it should also worry people elsewhere in Europe, as well as here in the United States.

To be sure, Sarkozy’s unmaking has been a long time in coming. Early in his term, he allowed himself to be portrayed as a friend of France’s rich and powerful. He has also been repeatedly accused of tarnishing the dignity of his office on account of a messy divorce and the subsequent wedding to songwriter Carla Bruni. On a personal level, the French are simply not enamored with the man they have dubbed “President Bling-Bling.”

But those superficial problems have obscured Sarkozy’s many substantive successes. Sarkozy deserves particular praise for his EU diplomacy, where he has managed to steer (and sometimes cajole) German Chancellor Angela Merkel toward more holistic crisis management. Assuming that leadership role has allowed France to lobby for much-needed sweeteners to Germany’s austerity recipes; it's the positive incentives introduced at Paris' initiative that have been the key to convincing peripheral democracies to keep up the pace of structural reform.

In more general foreign policy terms, Sarkozy has been groundbreaking. As is traditional with French presidents, he continued to act as if France is the indispensable nation on the global stage. But, contrary to recent history, he has also delivered: Breaking with his own party’s outdated stance, Sarko brought France back to the NATO fold, he stopped opposing American policy in the Middle East, and, most crucially, he provided much of the fighting muscle—as well as the heart—to deliver the Libyan revolution from massacre in Benghazi and ultimately to victory. Even some of Sarko’s fiercest critics have had to concede his key role in the effort.

The twin dangers of a Sarkozy defeat, then, are withdrawal from effective transatlantic cooperation and the loss of a key partner for Germany in the solving of the Eurozone crisis. And while Franco-German politics may not matter much in Washington most years, 2012 is different. The Eurozone crisis remains the biggest threat to the performance of the still-stuttering American economy as well as the “animal spirits” of investors from Asia to Latin America.

To be fair, Hollande is no madman. He seems like a more reasonable Socialist than his former romantic partner and Sarkozy’s failed 2007 challenger, Ségolène Royal. But he is ultimately hostage to an unreformed Socialist Party: With France’s powerful and obstinate unions overrepresented in the party ranks, the Socialists have been consistently against necessary economic reform. Predictably, Hollande says he is eager to bring back the 35-hour week and roll back pension changes at a time when the whole region—and arguably the whole world—is swimming in the opposite direction. His proposal for a 75 percent marginal tax rate would be laughable, if it hadn’t been offered in earnest.

What is more, the rise of a charismatic, hard-left candidate, Jean-Luc Mélenchon‬, threatens to push Hollande further to the left ahead of the second round. If Hollande wins the election after succumbing to the temptations of such populism, international investors are most likely to start asking uncomfortable questions about France’s sputtering growth, large debts, and twin deficits.

When it comes to Europe, Hollande had initially promised to rescind and now vows to significantly renegotiate the Fiscal Compact, which was the product of protracted negotiations among EU governments and a crucial stepping stone in Merkel’s vision for transforming the continent into a fiscal union. This is sure to cause a rift between Paris and Berlin, to the detriment of France’s influence over the direction of the EU—and, by extension, to the detriment of all of Europe. If Germany acquires sole possession of Europe’s driver seat, tensions will dramatically increase between core and periphery, benefitting essentially no one.

In other international affairs, there’s little to look forward to from a President Hollande. He has hinted at a decreased role in NATO and a more critical stance toward America. In other words, Washington can expect an unwelcome return to the Jacques Chirac years. (It should come as no surprise that Chirac is said to be casting his vote for the Socialist.)

Despite all these ill portents, Hollande has been reaping major endorsements, both international and domestic, in the last several days. But there is a silver lining: An upset by Sarkozy is still possible, as the incumbent’s most talented strategist, Patrick Buisson, has tirelessly argued. Televised debates in the final weeks could turn the tide. And there may even be a sort of Bradley effect at work in the current polling numbers: Because of Sarkozy’s low popularity, some have supposed that the French will be unlikely to reveal their support for him until they have the assurance of the ballot box’s utter anonymity.

We should not forget that before he became “President Bling-Bling,” Sarko was known to his close lieutenants as “the magician,” due to a knack for making unbelievable comebacks. Ahead of May 6, the French should remember he is more the latter than the former.



Tax Increase as Theater

In order to score rhetorical points, the Democrats are proposing raising taxes on the rich back up to Clinton-era levels. That means that the top tax rate will rise from 35% to 39.6%. That is an increase on one tax bracket of about 11%, and it shows not only that the Democrats are not interested in balancing the budget it shows that they believe the voters are idiots for thinking that 8% increase is what is needed to balance the budget.

Currently, approximately 66% of the government spending is paid for by taxation and 40% is paid for by borrowing. If the Democratic Party wants to balance the budget through tax increases, it would require approximately a 50% tax hike across the board, on all taxes and tax brackets. The top tax bracket would have to go from 35% to 52.5% which would not be displeasing to Democrats if they feel the voters wouldn’t react negatively. But that involves only taxing the rich, and a serious attempt to balance the budget through taxation will involve more than just taxing the rich.

That doesn’t include the other taxes, which must also be raised by a similar amount. The 7% employee contribution and 7% employer contribution to Social Security must go to 10.5%, and similar increases are needed to all other federal taxes. This includes, by the way, the very unrealistic assumption that this massive across-the-board tax increase will not result in a severe and nearly immediate economic downturn.

Some Democrats will protest that tax increases on the wealthy would be enough if they were high enough, but that argument is absurd. There aren’t enough people in the top two brackets and their combined incomes are not enough to cover the 33% of the budget that is in deficit. Only by taxing the rest of the population as well, including the 42% of the public that doesn’t pay taxes at all, can the budget be balanced. The taxes have to be on everyone, which is a proposal the Democrats are not courageous enough to make.

There are two ways to balance the budget, and they are through either tax increases or spending cuts. The Democrats clearly prefer the idea of using tax increases, but if their proposal is only a mild tax increase on the top brackets, their proposal is as much about balancing the budget as the Ryan Plan is about spending cuts – theater designed to give the illusion and appearance of doing something without any of the hard work of doing something.

If the Democrats in office are serious about using tax increases to balance the budget, and do without any spending cuts, then there is only one proposal that shows they are serious. It would be the Democratic Party equivalent of the Randall Paul budget proposal which cut the budget by $500 billion and even Senator Paul admitted didn’t go far enough.

The real point of the current tax increase proposal isn’t to raise revenue or balance the budget, it is to encourage class jealousy in order to increase votes this coming November.



America as a prison

It has become dangerous to move overseas

By Ilana Mercer

If he can tolerate TSA assaults as he departs the country, an American who chooses to live and work overseas cannot escape the Internal Revenue Service. The United States is perhaps the only country “to tax its citizens on income earned while they’re living abroad.”

To loss of privacy and property, add the prospect of prison – and you get why, as Reuters has reported, droves of Americans are “renouncing their U.S. citizenship or handing in their Green Cards.”

On pain of criminal charges and “penalties of up to $100,000 or 50 percent of undeclared accounts, whichever is larger,” the expatriate must report his own bank accounts and all conjoint accounts – a spouse, a client, or business partners.

The victims of this shakedown are residents who have foreign bank accounts (the Canadian equivalent of a small USA 401(k), in this scribe’s case), in addition to “an estimated 6.3 million U.S. citizens living abroad.” The aims of their pursuers, the IRS, are control and compliance. The rogue agency’s source of revenue, in this context, is derived primarily from penalties for forgetfulness or faulty filing.  All fear bankrupting fines, even imprisonment.

Due to the onerous burdens imposed by the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, foreign banks, as well as hedge and private equity funds, are closing American accounts. Barack Obama’s legislative baby (signed on March 18, 2010) is driving Americans abroad into banking under the mattress.

Swiss bankers, for instance, can no longer provide Americans with certain financial services, considered perfectly legal in Switzerland; American financial imperialism has insinuated itself into the financial hub that is Switzerland. While the USA hasn’t yet bombed Basel, American Über-bureaucrats have prosecuted the hell out of financial establishments such as UBS AG and its American clients, for flouting U.S. tax tyranny.

Writing in the April issue of Chronicles Magazine, Christopher Sandford, a naturalized American with investments abroad, describes his interactions with the Internal Revenue Service as akin to “dealing with a simultaneously incompetent and psychotically aggressive opponent … a chameleonic opponent of real cunning, which consistently kept [Sandford] off balance by conducting itself as a relentless and finely calibrated machine at one moment, and a barely coherent rabble at the next.”

“Think the IRS can’t send you to prison?” asks CBS’ “Survivor” winner Richard Hatch, in a timely television commercial. “The IRS sends people to prison, and they’re not celebrities. If you owe the IRS $10,000 or more, call for your free tax consultation NOW. Listen, I went to prison for over four years, and you don’t want to,” Hatch tells potential victims.

Befitting an arm of a highly evolved, technocratic, militarized Managerial State – a police state, by any other name – the IRS regularly criminalizes the actions of “non-compliant” victims, even though the alleged crime is, more often than not, unintentional. The “Rights of Englishmen,” bequeathed to the American Founders by their philosophical forbears, stipulated that there was to be no crime without intent.

Also unconstitutional is ex post facto (or retroactive) law. Yet the rogues at the IRS routinely change laws as they go and criminalize “actions that were legal when committed.”

Thomas Jefferson’s bar has been met. We live under tyranny, for as our father forewarned, “When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.”

I happen to know what living without freedom is like. I left South Africa with the proceeds from the sale of my apartment stashed in the soles of my shoes. Had I been apprehended smuggling private property – my own – out of that country, I’d have faced criminal prosecution together with my husband; we both stood taller on that trip.

Little did I know that my adopted home, the USA, had adopted similar practices. An American emigrant risks being fondled by TSA brutes, fleeced via an “exit tax,” and his name placed on a “name and shame” list.



Obama is a unifier? Hardly

by Jeff Jacoby

"I SAW MANY SIGNS in this campaign," said Richard Nixon the day after he was elected president in 1968. "But the one that touched me the most was one that I saw in Deshler, Ohio, at the end of a long day of whistle-stopping…. A teenager held up a sign, 'Bring Us Together.' And that will be the great objective of this administration at the outset: to bring the American people together."

Nixon had started using the phrase "Bring Us Together" a couple weeks earlier, after one of his aides spotted the youngster with the sign. Some of the campaign staff were so enamored of the slogan, William Safire later recalled, that they wanted to make it the Inauguration Day theme. The desire to see an incoming president as a unifier, a healer of the national breach, is an old American tradition, especially in times of acrimony and political conflict.

But Nixon, needless to say, didn't heal the breach. If anything, American life grew even more fractured on his watch. And looking back at his presidency today -- at the White House "plumbers" and enemies lists, at Spiro Agnew's ire and the campaign-trail dirty tricks -- who can regard his "Bring Us Together" pledge as anything but a cynical sham?

Will something similar be said of Barack Obama?

Unlike Nixon, Obama didn't wait until two weeks before his election to run on a platform of reconciliation. From the outset, his pledge to elevate the tone of public dialogue, to defuse the anger and rancor that have made modern politics so toxic, was a central theme of his presidential campaign.

"I don't want to pit red America against blue America," Obama assured an enthusiastic Iowa audience in November 2007. "I want to be the president of the United States of America." One reason he was running for the White House, he told Boston Globe editors and reporters in January 2008, was to repair a political system that had gotten "stuck in this deeply polarized pattern." He promised a new tone: "I'm not going to demonize you because you disagree with me… I don't think the Democrats have a monopoly on wisdom." In a vaunted speech about race that spring -- a speech titled "A More Perfect Union" -- Obama offered Americans a choice: "We can accept a politics that breeds division and conflict and cynicism…. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say: 'Not this time.'"

Time and again, Obama promised what Nixon promised: to bring Americans together. That pledge -- less animosity and partisanship, more cooperation and goodwill -- went to the essence of his candidacy. And on the night of his election, before a vast crowd in Chicago's Grant Park, he underscored it: "Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long."

Yet far from resisting that temptation, Obama has rarely bypassed any chance to indulge it. The would-be uniter whips up envy and resentment, demonizing those who disagree with him, and aggravating the nation's racial, class, and party tensions.

Granted, Obama has faced fierce political opposition. And the GOP is not without its cynics and zealots. Yet presidents have a unique role in American life; the tone they set affects the whole political culture. That is what makes it so unfortunate that the candidate who embodied hope and bipartisan civility is just a memory now. In his place we have a president who summarizes the Republicans' economic plan as: "Let's have dirtier air, dirtier water, less people with health insurance." The candidate who understood that his party had no monopoly on wisdom now smears those whose agenda differs from his for their "thinly veiled social Darwinism" that is "antithetical to our entire history as a land of opportunity."

From urging Latino voters to "punish our enemies and … reward our friends" to snidely telling voters "I wasn't born with a silver spoon in my mouth" to rebuking the Cambridge police to bashing insurance and oil companies, Obama has repeatedly taken the low road. He has widened the fissures he promised to close, and lowered the political tone he promised to elevate. With Nixonian bile, he fans the flames of grievance. Nixon was re-elected; maybe Obama will be too. But Americans who imagined in 2008 that they were voting for a healer-in-chief aren't likely to make that mistake again.



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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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