Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Prisoner Swap Deal

Obama's actions are a guide to his intentions

Thomas Sowell

People are arguing about what the United States got out of the deal that swapped five top level terrorist leaders for one American soldier who was, at best, absent from his post in a war zone. Soldiers who served in the same unit with him call him a deserter. The key to this deal, however, is less likely to be what the United States got out of the deal than it is about what Barack Obama got out of the deal. If nothing else, it instantly got the veterans' hospitals scandals off the front pages of newspapers and pushed these scandals aside on television news programs.

It was a clear winner for Barack Obama. And that may be all that matters to Barack Obama.

People who are questioning the president's competence seem not to want to believe that any President of the United States would knowingly damage this country's interests.

One of the problems of many fundamentally decent people is that they find it hard to understand people who are not fundamentally decent, or whose moral compass points in a different direction from theirs.

Many people who are painfully disappointed with President Obama have no real reason to be. The man's whole previous history, from childhood on, was shaped by a whole series of people, beginning with his mother, whose vision of America was very much like that of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, whose church Barack Obama belonged to for 20 long years.

Obama is not a stupid man. There is no way that he could have sat in that church all that time without knowing how Jeremiah Wright hated America, and how his vision of the world was one in which "white folks' greed runs a world in need."

Even if the Reverend Wright had been the only such person in Barack Obama's life -- and he was not -- it should have been enough to keep him out of the White House.

"Innocent until proven guilty" is a good rule in a court of law, which has the power to deprive a defendant of liberty or life. But it is mindless and dangerous nonsense to apply that standard outside that context -- especially when choosing a President of the United States, who holds in his hands the liberty and lives of millions of Americans.

People who are disappointed with Barack Obama have no right to be. It is they whom others have a right to be disappointed with. Instead of taking their role as citizens seriously, they chose to vote on the basis of racial symbolism, glib rhetoric and wishful thinking.

Moreover, many are already talking about choosing the next President of the United States on the basis of demographic symbolism -- to have "the first woman president." And if she is elected on that basis, will any criticism of what she does in the White House be denounced as based on anti-woman bias, as criticisms of President Obama have been repeatedly denounced as racism?

And what if we have the first Hispanic president or the first Jewish president? Will any criticism of their actions in the White House be silenced by accusations of prejudice?

We may yet become the first nation to die from a terminal case of frivolity. Other great nations in history have been threatened by barbarians at the gates. We may be the first to be threatened by self-indulgent silliness inside the gates.

As for Barack Obama, you cannot judge any President's competence by the results of his policies, without first knowing what he was trying to achieve.

Many wise and decent people assume automatically that President Obama was trying to serve the interests of America. From that standpoint, he has failed abysmally, both at home and abroad. And that should legitimately call his competence into question.

But what if his vision of the world is one in which the wealth and power of those at the top, whether at home or internationally, are deeply resented, and have been throughout his life, under the tutelage of a whole series of resenters? And what if his goal is to redress that imbalance?

Who can say that he has failed, when the fundamental institutions of this country have been successfully and perhaps irretrievably undermined, and when the positions of America and its allies on the world stage have been similarly, and even more dangerously, undermined around the world?



Obama has Frenchified America

Government attempts to jumpstart the economy, changes to the way the country creates energy, high unemployment, massive tax increases on the “wealthy” – the headlines in France sound eerily similar to ours. Maybe we should learn the lesson they’re providing across the Pond.

When it comes to exporting goods, both France and the United States are power players in the world. America leads the pack, and France comes in 10th place, according to the CIA World Factbook. Yet both leaders in the world economy play the same heavy-handed economic game inside their borders. For example, the CIA Factbook says France “maintain[s] social equity by means of laws, tax policies, and social spending that mitigate economic inequality.”

Overall, the results of France’s policies were predictable:

Taxes – Last year, France went after the “rich” with a vengeance that would make Robespierre proud. Implementing the 75% “millionaire tax” slammed France’s entrepreneurs supposedly as a way to help shrink the growing budget deficit and boost the economy. The reverse happened. The tax raised about half its expected revenue, and the economy stalled. Even French Prime Minister Manuel Valls admitted, “Too much tax kills tax.” In the U.S., Obama’s massive tax hike on the wealthy is doing the same thing.

Unemployment – While the U.S. headline unemployment stubbornly stays above 6%, France finds itself dealing with 10% unemployment. For some reason, this is good news in the country. But the government there isn’t done yet. Paris wants to spend 500 million Euros, about $681.95 million, to subsidize youth who are “lacking professional qualifications,” a.k.a. unqualified. What happens when the subsidies run out? More subsidies, probably. Meanwhile, high unemployment has brought other problems, like:

Flight into Germany – Some Frenchmen with the language skills commute into Germany, where the unemployment rate is about 4%, because it’s easier to get a job there. Bloomberg reports Germany pulls in French workers because of its labor rules. About 10 years ago, Germany limited unemployment benefits, discouraged people from retiring early and improved the job-search process. In response, Germans filled the workplace.

France, on the other hand, has a 3,200-page labor rulebook that regulates the workplace, chilling the nation’s competitiveness.

Draconian energy agendas – In the U.S. new EPA regulations designed to cut back on greenhouse gas emissions are predicted to cripple the economy. But it’s for the greater good, leftists argue, because it will save the earth from a hot and watery end. In France, they already have an energy source free of greenhouse gases – nuclear power. However, the French government in all its authoritarian wisdom decided the atom was bad and decreed the nation needs to cut back on all that nuclear production, something that will … drumroll, please … cripple the economy.

With the socialist nation and the birthplace of freedom both running parallel tracks economically, it comes as no surprise that both economies have stalled. In the first quarter, America’s economy shrank 1% (blamed on the bad weather of all things) while France’s economy flatlined at 0%.

Both countries should look for a lesson in free market economics from a place the U.S. bought from France: Louisiana.

Bobby Jindal, the Republican governor of Louisiana, wrote an opinion piece in The Daily Signal that showed a different way of running the economy. “But in Louisiana,” Jindal wrote, “we’ve tried to show that there is a better way – one that leads to quality jobs and robust economic growth. While Obama raised federal taxes by more than $1 trillion, we passed the largest income tax cut in state history. As a Democratic Congress rammed through trillions in new spending for ObamaCare, we cut the state budget by 26 percent. And even as the EPA proposes new regulations that could decimate critical portions of our energy sector, we’ve worked to create a more predictable legal environment for energy companies in the state.”

And the results are clear. According to Jindal, Louisiana has the lowest unemployment south of the Mason-Dixon line and an economy growing 50% faster than the national average.

While it may take a new administration for our nation to turn once again to laissez-faire economics, state and local governments can still fight for economic Liberty in their jurisdictions.



Mother Russia isolated?

Not while Vladimir Vladimirovich is massively popular there

Russians refer to "Mr. Putin" only if they are being very formal. The respectful form of address is Vladimir Vladimirovich

Last month in addressing West Point graduates, Barack Obama declared that his policies have succeeded in isolating Russian President Vladimir Putin. “Our ability to shape world opinion helped isolate Russia right away,” Obama claimed. “Because of American leadership, the world immediately condemned Russian actions.”

That condemnation may have pulled the proposed G-8 summit out of Russia, creating a hastily rescheduled G-7 summit in Brussels. But French President Francois Hollande welcomed Putin to a D-Day commemoration, leading to an awkward exchange there between Obama and Putin where our commander in chief pleaded with the Russian president to “work immediately with the government in Kiev to reduce tensions,” or face deeper isolation. One step in that direction would be for Russia to recognize last month’s election of incoming Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.

Yet it’s not clear that our allies are on board with isolating Russia over Ukraine. France is considering selling Mistral cruisers to Russia, while British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel slated private meetings with Putin around the G-7 summit.

Meanwhile, on the Ukraine front, two outposts were overrun by Russian separatist irregulars, with Ukrainian soldiers trying to hold on to one of those outposts forced to withdraw when they ran out of ammunition after a 10-hour struggle.

In response, the White House finally agreed to send Ukraine long-delayed military supplies such as body armor, communications equipment and night-vision goggles – but no ammunition. It’s the latest in an increasing flow of “non-lethal” aid to the Ukrainians, which was delayed to avoid “upsetting relations with Moscow” and “de-escalate the crisis.” Profiles in courage right there.

Not only is Putin playing the West like a fiddle as he gauges its lack of serious action on Ukraine as a sign of weakness, he also taunted likely presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. “When people push boundaries too far, it’s not because they are strong but because they are weak. But maybe weakness is not the worst quality for a woman.”

Looks like we need a little more than a “reset” button.



Income Gap Wider in Left-leaning States

Raise taxes on the rich, increase the minimum wage, expand government benefits – this is the liberal recipe for success when it comes to shrinking the income inequality gap. According to recent studies, however, we see the divide between the rich and poor is generally wider in states that vote predominately for the Democratic Party.

Stephen Moore, chief economist at The Heritage Foundation, and Richard Vedder, professor of economics at Ohio University, wrote a piece for the Wall Street Journal titled “The Blue-State Path to Inequality: States That Emphasize Redistribution Above Growth Have A Wider Gap Between Lower And Higher Incomes.” Moore and Vedder look at a statistical dispersion called the Gini coefficient to show the income distribution of each state. The higher the Gini ratio, the more inequality is present.

The results reveal that red states tend to have a more thriving middle class when compared with blue states:

According to 2012 Census Bureau data (the latest available figures), the District of Columbia, New York, Connecticut, Mississippi and Louisiana have the highest measure of income inequality of all the states; Wyoming, Alaska, Utah, Hawaii and New Hampshire have the lowest Gini coefficients. The three places that are most unequal—Washington, D.C., New York and Connecticut—are dominated by liberal policies and politicians. Four of the five states with the lowest Gini coefficients—Wyoming, Alaska, Utah and New Hampshire—are generally red states.

In regard to income tax, the same rings true. For example, California has the highest income tax rate in the country at 13.3% while Texas is one of the few states with no income tax at all. California has a Gini coefficient of .482 and a poverty rate at 25.8%. Texas has a lower Gini coefficient of .477 and a much lower poverty rate at 20.5%.

What about minimum wage? We have recently seen places like Seattle push through laws to raise the minimum wage to as much as $15/hour, more than twice the federal minimum of $7.25. Again, the data shows that the 19 states with higher-than-federal minimum wages have higher income inequality overall.

The same goes for government benefits. The Cato Institute’s most recent analysis of the total level of welfare benefits by state in “Work vs. Welfare Trade-Off: 2013” shows that altogether, the higher the welfare benefits are, the higher the Gini coefficient is.

As Moore and Vedder contend, "When politicians get fixated on closing income gaps rather than creating an overall climate conducive to prosperity, middle- and lower-income groups suffer most and income inequality rises." Perhaps keeping taxes low and encouraging business would promote more fairness than these progressive ideologies.



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