America, The Gulliver of Nations
Powerline posts a keen insight on how Great Britain's present, may become our future:
Once the federal government becomes so deeply involved in allocating health care, it will come to be a dominant focus of political discourse.
Over the years watching on C-Span the British Prime Minister's Question Time, I've observed that a large portion of this exercise is devoted to specific questions about the quality care provided by The National Health Service in members' districts. A question on the terrorists threats to the UK will invariably be followed by a passionate query from a Member asking the PM if he's aware of nurses being re-assigned at a hospital in Sheffield. The PM seems to spend as much time on parochial health care issues as on national security.
The politics of deciding who gets what in the way of medical treatment doubtlessly will push aside traditional affairs of state. Every member of Congress will need to hire several staff members just to manage constituents' complaints about their care. Elections will be won and lost on the basis of who can get the most in the way of health care for their districts.
We will become the Gulliver of nations, a great power whose leaders are tied up in strings as they spend much of their time addressing the medical complaints, valid and imagined, of their electorate.
We *will* become the Gulliver of nations. And it will not just be due to healthcare. The more our Federal government becomes so deeply involved in the regulation of anything and everything (education, the environment, banking, retirement, fishing, car manufacturing....etc), the more we tie ourselves down. The more the Liliputians UN bureaucrats will take advantage of us. The more we will make ourselves irrelevant.
SOURCE (See the original for links)
Stimulus or Sedative?
By Thomas Sowell
Abraham Lincoln once asked an audience how many legs a dog has, if you called the tail a leg? When the audience said "five," Lincoln corrected them, saying that the answer was four. "The fact that you call a tail a leg does not make it a leg."
That same principle applies today. The fact that politicians call something a "stimulus" does not make it a stimulus. The fact that they call something a "jobs bill" does not mean there will be more jobs. What have been the actual consequences of all the hundreds of billions of dollars that the government has spent? The idea behind the spending is that it will cause investors to invest, lenders to lend and employers to employ.
That was called "pump priming." To get a pump going, people put a little water into it, so that the pump will start pumping out a lot of water. In other words, government money alone was never supposed to restore the economy by itself. It was supposed to get the private sector spending, lending, investing and employing. The question is: Is that what has actually happened?
The stimulus spending started back in 2008, during the Bush administration, and has continued under the Obama administration, so it has had plenty of time to show what it can do. After the Bush administration's stimulus spending in 2008, business spending on equipment and software fell — not rose — by 28 percent. Spending on durable goods fell 22 percent.
What about the banks? Four months after the Trouble Asset Relief Program (TARP) poured billions of dollars into the banks, the biggest recipients of that money made 23 percent fewer loans than before. A year later, the credit extended by American banks as a whole was down — not up — by more than $20 billion. Spending in general was down. The velocity of circulation of money fell faster than it had in half a century.
Just two weeks ago, the Wall Street Journal reported, "U.S. banks posted last year their sharpest decline in lending since 1942." You can call it a stimulus, if you want to, just as you can call a tail a leg. But the actual effect of what is called a "stimulus" has been more like that of a sedative.
Why aren't the banks lending, with all that money sitting there gathering dust? You don't lend when politicians are making it more doubtful whether you are going to get your money back — either on time or at all. From the White House to Capitol Hill, politicians are coming up with all sorts of bright ideas for borrowers not to have to pay back what they borrowed and for lenders not to be able to foreclose on people who are months behind on their mortgage payments.
President Obama keeps telling us that he is "creating jobs." But more and more Americans have no jobs. The unemployment rate has declined slightly, but only because many people have stopped looking for jobs. You are only counted as unemployed if you are still looking for a job. If all the unemployed people were to decide that it is hopeless and stop looking for work, the unemployment statistics would drop like a rock. But that would hardly be a solution.
What is going on, that nothing seems to work? None of this is new. What is going on is what went on during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Money circulated more slowly during the 1930s than during the 1920s. Banks lent out a smaller proportion of the money they had on hand during the 1930s than they did in the 1920s. Anti-business rhetoric and anti-business policies did not create business confidence then, any more than it does now. Economists have estimated that the New Deal prolonged the depression by several years.
This is not another Great Depression, at least not yet, and the economy may recover on its own, if the government will let it. But Obama today, like FDR in the 1930s, cannot leave the economy alone. Both have felt a need to come up with one bright idea after another, to "do something." The theory is that, if one thing doesn't work, it is just a matter of trying another. But, in an atmosphere where nobody knows what the federal government is going to come up with next, people tend to hang on to their money until they have some idea of what the rules of the game are going to be.
Obama's foreign policy impotence
Wen Jiabo, the Chinese prime minister, insists that his nation’s currency, which is called (tragically for television anchors) the renminbi, is not undervalued. The United States says it is too undervalued, arrantly manipulated by China in fact, and that’s why all that stuff you find at Wal-Mart has such a wonderfully low price tag.
Senator Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, huffs and puffs, having found—as he declared this week— “the Chinese don’t believe in free trade. I believe they’re mercantilist, that they simply want to increase their economic power and will do whatever it takes to do that.”
Mercantalist! How loathsome. Anxious to increase economic power! How could they? And Schumer isn’t alone in his outrage at discovering that capitalism has unaccountably vaulted over the Great Wall. He’s joined by, among others, Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat, both of whom want the U.S. Treasury to get into the act. Yes, the Republicans and Democrats have finally found something they can agree on. China is far too capitalist for our own good.
And not only that. Despite years of U.S. propaganda suggesting that all what we um….mercantilists…honestly wanted was for the Commies to convert to capitalism, 130 House members are now begging the Commerce Department to impose duties on Chinese exports. So that some laid-off Michigan factory worker will henceforth be forced to pay premium prices, and China can charge—with perfect accuracy—that the U.S. just launched the first volley in a trade war.
But I tend to look at things in a weird way. Like imagining, say: What if I were Chinese? Or Iranian? Or, for that matter, Israeli?
What if I were Chinese, citizen of a nation with $2.4 trillion in reserves? How much should I tremble before the prospect of American wrath? What if a large chunk of those $2.4 trillion were dumped on the market? Who would be most upset by the resulting devaluation and possibilities of inflation?
What if I were Iranian—even an Iranian unfriendly to Ahmadinejad? My country’s nuclear program was launched in the 1950s with the aid of the United States, thank you very much. Iran currently has several nuclear sites: A uranium enrichment facility in Natanz partly located underground, a uranium conversion facility at Isfahan, and a heavy water facility under construction in Arak. Who the hell is the U.S., a power that dropped its bombs on Japanese civilians, to tell Iran it doesn’t have the requisite sense of responsibility to go nuclear?
What if I were Israeli? I may be livid with Prime Minister Netanyahu for screwing up the visit of Joe Biden and humiliating an ally—all in one little day. I may legitimately call into question Bibi’s fitness to lead, as a Ha’aretz columnist just did. But those 1600 new homes, built in an ultra-Orthodox enclave of Arab East Jerusalem? The ones that Hillary found “insulting.” Israel never suggested she’d back down on building those. That was wishful thinking on Obama’s part.
Moreover, which do you think Netanyahu worries about more: Hillary’s hurt feelings, or his own standing in the polls? My guess: Those new homes will be as stoutly built as a uranium enrichment plant, as strong as the renminbi. And let’s face it: We just don’t have the clout any more to do much about any of it.
Obama's pointless fight with Israel
LAST NOVEMBER the government of Israel agreed to a 10-month moratorium on new Jewish housing in the West Bank. The moratorium did not apply to schools, synagogues, and residential units already in the pipeline; nor did it apply to eastern Jerusalem, which is home to around 180,000 Israelis -- more than a third of Jerusalem's Jewish population. Yet even with those caveats it was an unprecedented concession, intended, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, to "encourage resumption of peace talks with our Palestinian neighbors."
At the time, the Obama administration applauded Israel's announcement. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hailed it as a "move forward." George Mitchell, the president's special envoy to the Middle East, praised it as "a positive development" that "could have substantial impact on the ground" and acknowledged that "it is more than any Israeli government has done before."
So when Israel's Interior Ministry recently announced its interim approval for the construction of 1,600 new apartments in Jerusalem's Ramat Shlomo neighborhood, it was not reneging on any commitment. If anyone was guilty of bad faith in the diplomatic crisis that ensued, it was the Obama administration, which had explicitly accepted the terms of Netanyahu's building freeze in November, yet was now going back on its word.
The Israeli government was guilty at most of poor timing, since the announcement came as Vice President Joe Biden was in the country and indirect talks with the Palestinians -- who have refused for more than a year to meet face to face with the Israelis -- were scheduled to begin. The gaffe should have been waved aside as soon as Netanyahu apologized for his government's awkward announcement, which he had not known about in advance. Instead the Obama administration went nuclear. Clinton publicly blasted Israel for what she called "an insult to the United States," and upbraided Netanyahu in a blistering 45-minute phone call, with talking points scripted by the president himself.
For good measure, the State Department spokesman then demanded that Israel demonstrate "through specific actions" its commitment to peace. Forgotten, apparently, was Netanyahu's unprecedented moratorium of last November, to say nothing of the innumerable Israeli goodwill gestures, concessions, prisoner releases, and peace offers to the Palestinians that preceded it -- all of them unrequited.
When President Obama was asked Wednesday evening whether US-Israeli relations are now in a crisis, he flatly answered: "No." But an atmosphere of harsh antagonism seems to be exactly what the administration's tantrum was meant to engender.
If the president's goal was to bring Israel and the Palestinians to the negotiating table and thereby revive the so-called "peace process," he couldn't have chosen a more counterproductive tactic. The Palestinian Authority promptly seized the opportunity to back out of the indirect talks it had agreed to -- why negotiate for Israeli concessions if Washington can force Israel to deliver them on a silver platter? "We want to hear from Mitchell," said Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, "that Israel has cancelled the decision to build housing units before we start the negotiations."
This has been the Palestinian Authority's strategy ever since Obama took office tilting against Israel. Last spring, the PA's Mahmoud Abbas told Jackson Diehl of The Washington Post that he had no intention of negotiating with Israel -- he was content to sit back and let Washington twist Netanyahu's arms. "The Americans are the leaders of the world," Abbas told Diehl. "They can use their weight with anyone around the world. . . . I will wait."
Candidate Barack Obama, addressing the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in 2008, pledged 'unwavering friendship with Israel.' Skeptics had their doubts.
Israel generally bends over backward to accommodate Washington, but there are some things no Israeli government can relinquish. One of them is the right of Jews to live in Jerusalem -- in all of Jerusalem, including the parts of the city conquered by Jordan in 1948 and kept judenrein until 1967. Israelis quarrel over many things, but the vast majority of them agree that Jerusalem must never again be divided. Americans agree as well. Indeed, as a matter of federal law -- the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 -- it is US policy that "Jerusalem should remain an undivided city in which the rights of every ethnic and religious group are protected."
As a candidate for president in 2008, Barack Obama said that was his position too. Millions of pro-Israel American voters believed him, just as they believed his pledge of "unwavering friendship with Israel." The recent unpleasantness suggests it may be time for second thoughts.
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