Minor Thoughts from me to you

Archives for Barack Obama (page 2 / 5)


Blowback →

Writing on Wednesday, Michael Walsh foresaw problems for the Obama administration.

I’ll likely have more to say on this down the road, but it seems to me that the Obama administration has made a huge unforced error in trying to lay off blame for the Benghazi fiasco on the intelligence community. Because, wherever the buck stops when we get to end of this debacle, it’s not going to be in Langley, Va. (the CIA), Fort Meade, Md, (the National Security Agency), or any of the other centers of the American IC. It’s not even going to be shouldered by the State Department’s intel service, the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, known as the INR.

... Alienating spookdom, however, is a new order of magnitude stupid. Because spooks fight back — hard and dirty. Bob Woodward and Jake Tapper are only phone calls away. And CIA Director David Petraeus is just one press conference shy of bringing down the whole house of cards.

The Benghazi Scandal

The Benghazi Scandal →

Stephen Hayes explains exactly why the Benghazi scandal is a scandal.

There are two possibilities. Either the intelligence community had a detailed picture of what happened in Benghazi that night and failed to share it with other administration officials and the White House. Or the intelligence community provided that detailed intelligence picture to others in the administration, and Obama, Biden, Clinton, Susan Rice, and others ignored and manipulated the intelligence to tell a politically convenient—but highly inaccurate—story.

If it’s the former, DNI James Clapper should be fired. If it’s the latter, what happened in Benghazi—and what happened afterwards—will go down as one of the worst scandals in recent memory.

It seems far more likely that it’s the latter. After all, is it conceivable that White House officials at the highest levels were not actively engaged in interagency meetings to determine what happened in Benghazi? Is it conceivable that intelligence officials, knowing there was no evidence at all of a link between the film and Benghazi, would fail to tell the president and his colleagues that their claims were unfounded? Is it conceivable that somehow the latest intelligence on the 9/11 attacks was left out of Obama’s intelligence briefings in the days after 9/11? It would have been a priority for every professional at the CIA, the State Department, and the National Security Council to discover exactly what happened in Benghazi as soon as possible. Is it conceivable that the information wasn’t passed to the most senior figures in the administration?

No, it’s really not. And therefore, the fact that these senior figures misled us—and still mislead us—is a scandal of the first order.

Sen. Corker: Obama must have known what happened in Libya

Sen. Corker: Obama must have known what happened in Libya →

From Corker’s standpoint, the explanation for the administration’s public dissembling is plain. He told me, “It is strictly my opinion but the president has gone around the country spiking the football on Osama bin Laden.” Once it became clear that his boast of “vanquishing” al-Qaeda was proven false, the president, according to Corker, “panicked.” He continued, “The president worried it was going to affect the election.”

Corker is known as a workhorse in the Senate and as meticulous on the facts. In this case, he was both irate and insistent: “When four Americans are killed, it’s just not possible that the president didn’t know [it was a terrorist assault].. . . There is not a cell in my body that doesn’t earnestly believe that the administration didn’t know within 24 or 48 hours.”

‘Trickle down’ & the 2008 meltdown

‘Trickle down’ & the 2008 meltdown →

Jonah Goldberg, talking about the President's incessant Bush blaming, on the 2008 financial mess.

The question of what caused the crisis is obviously still controversial, but a consensus seems to be forming around the following narrative: The federal government, out of an abundance of concern for the plight of the poor and middle class, made it too easy to buy a home. Congress, on a bipartisan basis, set unrealistic affordable-housing goals for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

President Clinton used those goals to expand access to mortgages to low-income borrowers. Then President George W. Bush, with the approval of Congress, expanded the practice, until way too many low-income or otherwise underqualified Americans owned mortgages they couldn’t afford.

A mixture of greed, idealism, cynicism and stupidity led to the practice of bundling those iffy mortgages into financial instruments that Wall Street didn’t know how to handle and regulators didn’t know how to regulate. As Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) put it in 2003, he wanted to “roll the dice a bit” on regulating subprime mortgages.

When the Washington-abetted housing boom went bust, regulators demanded immediate markdowns of mortgage-backed securities, which required financial institutions to sell them, creating a fire-sale atmosphere that fueled the panic even more.

Obama for America is okay with vote fraud

It's a crime to fraudulently register to vote. Registering twice, in two different states, would definitely fit that bill. Apparently, Obama for America staffers are totally cool with that, if the goal is to defeat Mitt Romney.

But, hey, there's more.

Kenric Ward, of Watchdog.org, details all of the ways that this is wrong. The Obama campaign's response so far? Crickets.

States should have authority to purge their voter rolls of fraudulent registrations. But I'd go further than that. Driver's licenses expire. Why not expire voter registrations at the same time? You can have the option of renewing your license and registration at the same time. Or, how about automatically removing people who haven't voted in a certain number of elections, say, 4 years worth? If your name is no longer on the rolls, that would make it harder to fraudulently vote either by double voting or by stealing someone's identity.

This sort of criminal behavior should be absolutely beyond the pale. And we should make it harder to commit this kind of fraud, not easier.

Playing the Dunce

Playing the Dunce →

Steven Landsburg reminds people that prices actually represent something concrete in the real world. When the President demagogues against prices, he's playing the dunce because he thinks you're an idiot.

This morning I heard President Obama call for universities to lower their tuition rates so that “everybody in America can go to college”.

... To believe what the President wants you to believe, you’d have to be not just stupid but badly misinformed. At the University where I teach, we do not lack for applicants. The reason we don’t have more students is not that they can’t afford us; it’s that we don’t have room for them.

First Debate: Roundup

Post-debate tweet of the night.

That wasn't a debate so much as Mitt Romney just took Obama for a cross country drive strapped to the roof of his car.

-- Mark Hemingway (@Heminator) October 4, 2012

Post-debate picture of the night.

How bad was Romney’s beat-down of Obama tonight? « Bob Owens

Fact Checking

Tax Breaks for Outsourcing?

I thought one of the better moments in the debate was when the question of tax breaks for outsourcing jobs came up. Romney said "Mr. President, I've been in business for 25 years and I have no idea what you're talking about." I was glad he said it, because I've had no idea what the President is talking about. It turns out, the President was mostly just making it up.

Kevin D. Williamson: The Tax Credit for Outsourcing Is Fiction.

So, here’s the deal: Business expenses are deductible against income for tax purposes. That is it.

I’m not a tax lawyer, so this will be very general, but business income is not like personal income: Your personal income is how much money you took in last year, but business income is how much money you took in minus your business expenses. As Inc. summarizes it:

All of the basic expenses necessary to run a business are generally tax-deductible, including office rent, salaries, equipment and supplies, telephone and utility costs, legal and accounting services, professional dues, and subscriptions to business publications. . . . Some other miscellaneous expenses that may be deductible in this category include computer software, charitable contributions, repairs and improvements to business property, bank service charges, consultant fees, postage, and online services.

Debbie Stabanow, for my money one of the least impressive senators (and that is saying something), introduced a bill that says, in short: Business expenses are still deductible, unless you use incur those expenses doing things I don’t want you to do.

... In other words, if you send a letter to your lawyer, the postage is a deductible expense. If you send a letter to your offshoring consultant, the postage is not a deductible expense.

So the special outsourcing tax credit isn’t really there — it’s just regular-ol’ deductible business expenses. Rather than repealing an instance of tax favoritism, Democrats (and some Republican miscreants) propose to use the tax code to inflict punitive measures on businesses that make business decisions at odds with Washington’s political preferences.

In a follow-up post Kevin Williamson quotes another authority.

Some additional perspective on President Obama’s fictitious outsourcing tax deductions via the [Joint Committee on Taxation's] score of Senator Stabenow’s bill: “Under present law, there are no specific tax credits or disallowances of deductions solely for locating jobs in the United States or overseas. Deductions generally are allowed for all ordinary and necessary expenses paid or incurred by the taxpayers during the taxable year in carrying on any trade or business, which includes the relocation of business units.”

The Romney Tax Plan: Not a Tax Hike on the Middle Class

The Romney Tax Plan: Not a Tax Hike on the Middle Class →

Romney's tax plan is revenue neutral because he lowers rates while simultaneously eliminating exemptions, deductions, and other "giveaways to special interests". It's what I really want out of tax reform and it's one of the things that makes me look forward to a Romney administration.

Alex Brill, of the American Enterprise Institute, breaks down how the Romney plan would work and why the math, contra the Brookings Institute, doesn't point to a tax hike.

In summary:

Romney has proposed a bold tax reform that would broaden the tax base and lower statutory tax rates across the board. While maintaining preferential rates for savings and investment, his proposal repeals the tax expenditures that distort economic decisions and add complexity to tax returns.

Although Obama has no such plan for tax reform, his vision for the tax system appears clear. He has refused to endorse the recommendations of the Simpson-Bowles Commission, which would also have lowered statutory tax rates and broadened the tax base. Instead, his near-singular focus has been to raise statutory tax rates for high-income households and to leave untouched hundreds of special tax breaks for various political constituencies.

Number-Cruncher on Polls’ History of Underestimating the GOP

Number-Cruncher on Polls’ History of Underestimating the GOP →

This is why I keep saying that I have no idea what will happen on election day. Everything depends on turnout and, right now, we have absolutely no idea whether more Democrats or Republicans will turn out. The 2008 election was a massive year for Democrats, while the 2010 election was a massive year for Republicans. What will the 2012 election be?

Here is what people should know is bothering pollsters, and if you’re a Republican you can feel comfortable that what you are reading is based on guess work assumptions:

In 2010, we saw the country move back to 2004 levels, but we also saw a bubbling of the Tea Party, who are among the most enthusiastic of voters. Also 2010 was a midterm, where the overall turnout of registered voters is considerably lower, and the GOP base turns out better in non-presidential years than the Democrats’ base. So we process this data.

We saw in 1994 the GOP do very well, but in 1996 Clinton won easily. But sometimes a party’s momentum from the midterms carries on to the following year; we saw the Democrats add to their 2006 gains in 2008. So will 2012 be a receding of the tide of the midterms (like 1996) or an acceleration (like 2008)?

Of course in 1996, the economy was soaring and right now, we’re crawling… so you make the judgment on where this should be.

Even using logical deductions, it is difficult to get a read on what the 2012 partisan divide will be because we’ve seen it change so quickly. From 1994 through 2004, the partisan divide was fairly stable, moving no more than 2 points from cycle to cycle.

Personally I think its safe to say that 2008 is not going to happen in 2012, any pollster hanging their hat on 2008 sampling cannot be reasonably relied on…

The Hollow Republic

The Hollow Republic →

Yuval Levin has a fantastic essay on the difference in vision between President Obama and everyone who's not a progressive.

The president simply equates doing things together with doing things through government. He sees the citizen and the state, and nothing in between — and thus sees every political question as a choice between radical individualism and a federal program.

But most of life is lived somewhere between those two extremes, and American life in particular has given rise to unprecedented human flourishing because we have allowed the institutions that occupy the middle ground — the family, civil society, and the private economy — to thrive in relative freedom.

... Again and again, the administration has sought to hollow out the space between the individual and the state. Its approach to the private economy has involved pursuing consolidation in key industries — privileging a few major players that are to be treated essentially as public utilities, while locking out competition from smaller or newer firms. This both ensures the cooperation of the large players and makes the economy more manageable and orderly. And it leaves no one pursuing ends that are not the government’s ends. This has been the essence of the administration’s policies toward automakers, health insurers, banks, hospitals, and many others.

Yuval Levin ties this into the "contraception mandate" issues by President Obama's Department of Health and Human Services.

It is important to recall just what the administration did in that instance. The HHS rule did not assert that people should have the freedom to use contraceptive or abortive drugs — which of course they do have in our country. It did not even say that the government facilitate people’s access to these drugs — which it does today and has done for decades. Rather, the rule required that the Catholic Church and other religious entities should facilitate people’s access to contraceptive and abortive drugs. It aimed to turn the institutions of civil society into active agents of the government’s ends, even in violation of their fundamental religious convictions.

The rule implicitly asserted that our nation will not tolerate an institution that is unwilling to actively ratify the views of those in power — that we will not let it be and find other ways to put those views into effect (even though many other ways exist), but will compel it to participate in the enactment of the ends chosen by our elected officials. This is an extraordinarily radical assertion of government power, and a failure of even basic toleration. It is, again, an attempt to turn private mediating institutions into public utilities contracted to execute government ends.

Are we all yoked together, through government, forced to go the same way, do the same things, and approve of the same things? Or should the government be shrunk down, to allow space for people to voluntarily join together and work together, as they see fit?

The Libertarian Case for Mitt Romney

The Libertarian Case for Mitt Romney →

Stephen Green makes the libertarian case for Romney.

Since the father of RomneyCare isn’t exactly an easy sell to libertarians, first we have to look at the man already sitting in the Oval Office. And it’s safe to say that unlike 2008, in 2012 there is absolutely zero Libertarian case to be made for Barack Obama.

... We don’t get to choose this year between “good” and “better’” — have we ever enjoyed that choice? But we do get a sharp distinction this year between “bad” and “worse.”

I’m going with “bad” because I’m not sure we’ll survive another term of the worst.

I think that about sums up my own position. I'm moderately hopeful that a President Romney would moderately decrease regulations. I'm positive that President Obama would not only not roll them back, he'd attempt to increase them.

Wheels coming off the Libya story

Wheels coming off the Libya story →

It was just a few weeks ago at the Democratic national convention that Obama confidently declared that “al Qaeda is on the path to defeat and Osama bin Laden is dead.” And yet, on the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, al Qaeda struck again against our lightly guarded consulate in Benghazi, where ambassador Chris Stevens was murdered — an attack, it now turns out, the United States had ample reason to suspect was coming.

I think that foreign policy has gone from being an Obama strength to something that has to be considered an Obama weakness. Right?

The Libya Debacle

The Libya Debacle →

None of the initial explanations offered by the White House and State Department since the assault on the Benghazi consulate has held up. ... Administration officials also maintained that the diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt, the site of the first attacks this September 11, were properly defended and that the U.S. had no reason to prepare for any attack. ... As it turned out, the assault was well-coordinated, with fighters armed with guns, RPGs and diesel canisters, which were used to set the buildings on fire. Ambassador Chris Stevens died of smoke inhalation.

Why isn't this a foreign policy scandal? Is the media protecting their candidate or is there another legitimate reason that the press isn't hammering the President and State Department about this?

Cronyism: Utility Edition

Cronyism: Utility Edition →

The invaluable Eric Lipton over at the New York Times has another excellent article pointing out to the many ways that well-connected companies benefit from government favors. This time, he looks at the case of an Illinois-based energy producer, Exelon Corporation.

The company’s ties with senior officials in the Obama administration are important and extensive: Board member John W. Rogers is a friend of the president, Obama adviser David Axelrod worked at Exelon as a consultant, and Rahm Emanuel helped create the company. Exelon executives and administration officials held a large number of meetings at the White House, and ultimately, the executive branch enacted a number of policies and regulations that favored the company at the expense of its competitors.

Veronique de Rugy points provides extra background and details how the Obama administration is using the power of government to reward big businesses.

Parents: How Much College Do You Owe Your Kids?

Parents: How Much College Do You Owe Your Kids? →

Legere said his daughter felt an expensive school was a given. Instead, he was pushing for her to attend a state school close by, the University of Buffalo, maybe, which cost only $17,000. Though he could afford the higher tuition, he gave her a choice: He’d pay the full cost of a state school, but if she attended the costlier college she’d have to take out loans.

Legere, a businessman, sat his daughter down and ran the numbers. He explained she would need to take out about $30,000 in loans a year. He estimated that paying a total of $120,000 in loans for 10 years at 4 percent interest would cost her $1,200 a month, or the first $9.00 an hour from her salary for 10 years.

"It's like buying a new car, driving it into a river at the end of the year, and having nothing to show for it," Legere recalls saying. "I told her it would be fiscally irresponsible of me to let her assume that debt." The day after that conversation, the young woman texted her mother: Please send a deposit to the University of Buffalo.

Contrast this bit of budgetary wisdom with President Obama's campaign pledge: "No family should have to set aside a college acceptance letter because they don't have the money". President Obama's campaign peddles the myth that a more expensive education is a better education. His desire doesn't reduce the cost of college. It just makes other people pay for it, on the theory that you're entitled to have anything you want.

The slow death of Obama’s high speed rail continues

The slow death of Obama’s high speed rail continues →

For decades the environmental movement has used NEPA, and its CEQA-like state equivalents, to block key energy development and infrastructure projects. Seeing Obama’s signature transportation initiative killed by this same tactic is some sweet poetic justice.

Ha ha.

Maybe the reason that America doesn't do anything great anymore is that we have too many regulations and too many ways to stop projects from getting started?

Irritating Things (Healthcare)

Irritating Things (Healthcare) →

John Goodman talks about what irritates him, in healthcare policy discussions.

It’s impossible to have a rational discussion about health policy when one side of the argument is irretrievably deceitful. Here are some things I find irritating, to say the least:

  • A White House that claims the way to control health care costs is to follow “evidence-based” guidelines, doing only procedures that are cost effective.
  • A White House that then uses taxpayer dollars to promote procedures that are not evidence-based or cost effective for blatantly political reasons.
  • A sycophantic press corps and fellow-traveling health policy bloggers who either remain silent or actually apologize for this hypocrisy.

‘They’ll Just Lie’

‘They’ll Just Lie’ →

On Saturday, the Obama campaign released this ad attacking the Romney Medicare proposal. The ad doesn’t walk some sort of narrow line between misleading and deceiving, it’s just simply a pack of lies from top to bottom.

Yuval Levin provides his own analysis of a recent Obama campaign ad, related to Medicare reform.

Fact-Checking Obama's Campaign Ad About Romney's Proposal for Medicare Reform

Fact-Checking Obama's Campaign Ad About Romney's Proposal for Medicare Reform →

on Saturday, the Obama campaign came out with a new ad, approved by the President, claiming that Mitt Romney’s Medicare plan could require seniors to pay $6,400 more a year for health insurance. That claim is not only false, but brazenly and incontrovertibly so. Indeed, almost everything in the ad is wrong except for the phrase “I’m Barack Obama, and I approved this message.”

Democrats making things up about Republican reform plans? I'm shocked, simply shocked!

Health Premiums Up $3,000 Under Obama; He Had Vowed $2,500 Cut

Health Premiums Up $3,000 Under Obama; He Had Vowed $2,500 Cut →

During his first run for president, Barack Obama made one very specific promise to voters: He would cut health insurance premiums for families by $2,500, and do so in his first term.

But it turns out that family premiums have increased by more than $3,000 since Obama's vow, according to the latest annual Kaiser Family Foundation employee health benefits survey.

I must say, that's a totally unexpected result after increasing government regulations.