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I have therefore moved the blog back to its original home on blogspot. Go HERE to access all the recent postings.
I moved it off blogspot at a time when Google (the owner of blogspot) was having a severe bout of irrationality but they seem to have settled down since then so I am hoping that the move back can be permanent.
Why Democrats Don't Care about $9.7 Trillion Debt
As reported by The Washington Post, "President Obama's proposed budget would add more than $9.7 trillion to the national debt over the next decade, congressional budget analysts said Friday." CNN adds, "Of that amount, an estimated $5.6 trillion will be in interest alone."
The Post continues: "The CBO (Congressional Budget Office) and the White House (are) ... both predicting a deficit of about $1.5 trillion this year -- a post-World War II record at 10.3 percent of the overall economy. But the CBO is considerably less optimistic about future years, predicting that deficits would never fall below 4 percent of the economy under Obama's policies and would begin to grow rapidly after 2015. "Deficits of that magnitude would force the Treasury to continue borrowing at prodigious rates, sending the national debt soaring to 90 percent of the economy by 2020, the CBO said."
CNN adds that "By 2020 the (CBO) estimates debt held by the public would reach $20.3 trillion, or 90 percent of GDP. That's up from 53 percent of GDP in 2009."
I suspect that most Americans, if asked whether these numbers trouble the Democratic leadership and President Obama, would answer in the affirmative. They would be wrong.
They would be wrong not because the Democratic Party or the president are economically illiterate or bad individuals, but because the Democratic Party and the president are leftists. And most Americans, including most Democrats, do not understand the left. They may understand liberalism; but President Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and most Democratic representatives and senators are not liberals; they are leftists. And most Americans do not understand the difference between liberal and left. They do not realize, for example, that there is no major difference between the American Democratic Party and the leftist social democratic parties of Western Europe. They do not know that from Karl Marx to Obama, the left (as opposed to liberals) has never created wealth because it has never been interested in creating wealth; it is interested in redistributing wealth.
Therefore, unprecedented and unsustainable debt, a debt that will negatively affect most Americans' quality of life, renders the dollar increasingly undesirable, and undermines America's prestige and power in the world -- these developments do not particularly disturb the left. They may trouble the president, the Democratic Party, and others on the left on some political level, but that pales in comparison to what the left really wants: a huge government overseeing a giant welfare state and a country with far fewer rich Americans.
Achieving those goals is far more important than preventing a decline in the American quality of life. The further left one goes, the more contempt one has for the present quality of American life in any event. The left regularly mocks many of the symbols of that life -- from the three-bedroom suburban house surrounded by a white picket fence to owning an SUV (or almost any car) because Americans should be traveling on public buses, trains and bicycles.
As for the dollar, I can bear personal testimony to the decline of the dollar's prestige. I am writing this column in Morocco. In Casablanca, my wife and I and another couple hired a Moroccan driver for the day. And when it came time to pay, the man refused to accept dollars; he wanted to be paid in either Euros or Moroccan dirhams. Yes, dirhams rather than dollars. But the demise of the dollar as the world's currency disturbs the left as much as does America's not getting a gold medal in curling at the Winter Olympics.
And as for America wielding less power in the world, that is a positive development for the American left. It is the world community as embodied in the United Nations that should wield power throughout the world, not an "overstretched," "imperialist" and "militarist" United States.
I used to believe that left and right have similar goals for America, that they just differed in the means they wanted used to get there. I was mistaken. The left has a very different vision of America than those who hold the founding values of America, most especially individualism and small government. And if the price of a once in a lifetime possibility of getting to a giant welfare state dominated by the left is America's steep financial decline, that is a price fully worth paying.
The Roadmap Warrior
Paul Ryan's Roadmap for America's Future would drastically overhaul the American welfare state in a free-market direction. The Congressional Budget Office says it would solve the entitlements crisis through a series of changes to Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid. The Roadmap also includes a fundamental tax reform -- one that Ryan says, and the CBO assumes, would bring in revenues equivalent to the long-term historical average of 19-percent of GDP. Two new studies dispute that figure, however. I talked to Ryan this evening to get his response.
"We feel good about our numbers," Ryan told me. "You can tweak a plan to get it toward a historic trend." He's referring to a Brookings Institution's Tax Policy Center study that says the Roadmap would fall short of its 19-percent goal over the next 10 years, bringing in revenues of somewhere between 16.6 percent and 16.8 percent of GDP. In a statement last night, Ryan said that "the purpose of the Roadmap is to get spending in line with revenue -- not the other way around." He reiterated that argument in his conversation with me today. "The point is the spending."
Philip Klein made some salient observations in a post earlier today:
There's good reason to believe, based on economic theory and empirical experience, that at least some portion of that "lost" revenue would be recouped by higher GDP. But the overaching point is that the Ryan plan, as scored by the CBO, shows that there's a way to balance the long-term budget by keeping taxes at historical levels rather than raising them to levels that would cripple the economy. If critics acknowledge that Ryan's reforms to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the health care system can make our nation solvent as long as we maintain historical levels of tax revenue, and the only argument left is over how to maintain historical levels of taxation, then I'd say that's a major victory for Ryan.
The other charge critics make is that Ryan's tax changes would hurt the poor. That's the theme of a second report by the liberal Citizens for Tax Justice (CTJ), which concludes with this: "It's difficult to design a tax plan that will lose $2 trillion over a decade even while requiring 90 percent of taxpayers to pay more. But Congressman Ryan has met that daunting challenge." It's impossible not to notice the snide tone. But sarcasm isn't always persuasive.
The $2 trillion figure is a reference to the Bush tax cuts, which Ryan's plan would make permanent for everyone. (One should note that by this measure, the Obama tax plan will also "lose" some revenue, since the president only wants the tax cuts to expire for upper-brackets.) But Ryan also cuts spending over time. Obama does not.
As for "requiring 90 percent of taxpayers to pay more," that's a swipe at Ryan's zeroing out the stimulus and replacing the corporate income tax with a business consumption tax. You see, Ryan says the expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit in Obama's stimulus bill is spending, not tax cutting. He'd eliminate it. And CTJ counts a reduction in that spending as a tax hike.
The business consumption tax would be passed on to the consumer, making it regressive. But Ryan notes that Americans indirectly feel the consequences of the above-average U.S. corporate tax rate today, through lost wages and higher prices. And these effects are regressive, too. Unlike the current situation, Ryan goes on, the business consumption tax "is cleaner, simpler, and it's on paper." It would also make American exports more competitive than they are today. "I believe it's a better deal," he says. Most important: "It's more uniform. You can't play social engineering."
The dynamic effects of Ryan's reforms are impossible to predict. Over time, government would shrink, investment would expand, and America's credit rating would improve. America would become a haven for foreign capital. Her citizens would have more individual choice and, yes, more individual responsibility. "Policies such as these," Irving Kristol wrote decades ago in his essay "The Republican Future," "have the obvious advantage of reconciling the purposes of the welfare state with the maximum degree of individual independence and the least bureaucratic coercion." No wonder Paul Ryan is smack in the middle of liberal sights.
Low-tax Texas beats big-government California
"Stop messing with Texas!" That was the message Gov. Rick Perry bellowed on election night as he celebrated his victory over Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in the Republican primary for governor. In his reference to Texas' anti-littering slogan, Perry was making a point applicable to national as well as Texas politics and addressed to Democratic politicians as well as Republicans.
His point was that the big-government policies of the Obama administration and Democratic congressional leaders are resented and fiercely opposed not just because of their dire fiscal effects but also as an intrusion on voters' independence and ability to make decisions for themselves.
No one would include Perry on a list of serious presidential candidates, including himself, even in the flush of victory. But in his 10 years as governor, the longest in the state's history, Texas has been teaching some lessons to which the rest of the nation should pay heed.
They are lessons that are particularly vivid when you contrast Texas, the nation's second most populous state, with the most populous, California. Both were once Mexican territory, secured for the United States in the 1840s. Both have grown prodigiously over the past half-century. Both have populations that today are about one-third Hispanic.
But they differ vividly in public policy and in their economic progress -- or lack of it -- over the last decade. California has gone in for big government in a big way. Democrats hold big margins in the legislature largely because affluent voters in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay area favor their liberal positions on cultural issues.
Those Democratic majorities have obediently done the bidding of public employee unions to the point that state government faces huge budget deficits. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's attempt to reduce the power of the Democratic-union combine with referenda was defeated in 2005 when public employee unions poured $100 million -- all originally extracted from taxpayers -- into effective TV ads.
Californians have responded by leaving the state. From 2000 to 2009, the Census Bureau estimates, there has been a domestic outflow of 1,509,000 people from California -- almost as many as the number of immigrants coming in. Population growth has not been above the national average and, for the first time in history, it appears that California will gain no House seats or electoral votes from the reapportionment following the 2010 census.
Texas is a different story. Texas has low taxes -- and no state income taxes -- and a much smaller government. Its legislature meets for only 90 days every two years, compared with California's year-round legislature. Its fiscal condition is sound. Public employee unions are weak or nonexistent.
But Texas seems to be delivering superior services. Its teachers are paid less than California's. But its test scores -- and with a demographically similar school population -- are higher. California's once fabled freeways are crumbling and crowded. Texas has built gleaming new highways in metro Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth.
In the meantime, Texas' economy has been booming. Unemployment rates have been below the national average for more than a decade, as companies small and large generate new jobs.
And Americans have been voting for Texas with their feet. From 2000 to 2009, some 848,000 people moved from other parts of the United States to Texas, about the same number as moved in from abroad. That inflow has continued in 2008-09, in which 143,000 Americans moved into Texas, more than double the number in any other state, at the same time as 98,000 were moving out of California. Texas is on the way to gain four additional House seats and electoral votes in the 2010 reapportionment.
This was not always so. In the two decades after World War II California, with its pleasant weather, was the Golden State, a promised land, for most Americans, while Texas seemed a provincial rural backwater. Many saw postwar California's expansion of universities, freeways and water systems a model for the nation. Few experts praised Texas' low-tax, low-services government.
Now it is California's ruinously expensive and increasingly incompetent government that seems dysfunctional, while Texas' approach has generated more creativity and opportunity. So it's not surprising that Texas voters preferred Perry over an opponent who has spent 16 years in Washington. What's surprising is that Democrats in Washington are still trying to impose policies like those that have ravaged California rather than those that have proved so successful in Texas.
Michael Barone, The Examiner's senior political analyst, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. His columns appear Wednesday and Sunday, and his stories and blog posts appear on ExaminerPolitics.co
Traders cut supplies of petrol to Iran: "The world’s largest oil traders have quietly stopped supplying petrol to Iran in a clear sign that the threat of sanctions and Washington’s behind-the-scenes efforts to convince companies not to sell to Tehran are paying off. However, the decision by Vitol, Glencore and Trafigura is unlikely to cut Tehran off completely from the global petrol market as traders said Iran’s long-standing suppliers were being replaced by small Dubai-based and Chinese companies. Although Iran is one of the world’s biggest oil producers, its refineries are dilapidated and it suffers from runaway petrol demand because of generous subsidies. Energy executives said Vitol, Glencore and Trafigura, which have hitherto sold Iran half of its petrol imports of 130,000 barrels a day, stopped supplying Tehran because of mounting political risk. “The political and public relations problems more than outweigh the business rewards,” said one executive."
Five lies about the American economy: "The ongoing recession has raised a troubling question for otherwise resurgent Keynesian economists: How can the American economy keep getting worse under the intensive care of an interventionist economic team almost universally praised for its brilliance? The answer may be that the Obama administration is dealing with a fictional economy, one that bears little resemblance to the economy the rest of us inhabit. And when the difference between fact and fiction becomes too apparent, they just make stuff up. Herewith, five big lies the administration loves to tell and the mainstream media (with some notable exceptions) love to repeat …”
Chris Matthews claims Israel hates Obama because he is black: "Perhaps the first sign was when the administration agreed to bring along MSNBC's "Hardball" host Chris Matthews, whose penchant for gaffery rivals Biden's. The media guest of honor used his Monday programming to suggest, along with another reporter, that Israelis dislike President Obama because they're racist. "Who's more popular over here? Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Joe Biden. Put them in order," Matthews asked New York Times reporter Ethan Bronner Monday on air. When Bronner put Obama at the bottom, Matthews inquired: "Okay, that tells you a lot. So tell me why the president of the United States is so far at the bottom? Is it his middle name? Hussein?" Bronner said "prejudice" about Obama's Islamic background was a factor, and then Matthews took it a step further, saying, "Yeah, because they see him as a black man."
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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)