Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Government Doesn't Need A Raise

Imagine this exchange in your boss’s office:
You: I need a raise.

Boss: (holding in laughter) Well, we’ve had two very difficult years in a row, I just don’t think there is enough money in the pot for anyone to get a raise right now.

You: But I’ve racked up some major credit card bills, my teaser rate mortgage is about to reset, any I can barely afford the gas for my new Mercedes SUV, much less the monthly payment - I really need the money.

Boss: I understand your concern, but we can’t just hand out raises to everyone with financial difficulties – especially when we’re struggling to make payroll as it is! Why don’t you just cut down on your spending?

You: Why would I do that?

Boss: Because that’s what rational human beings would do if they were in your situation. If your income can’t rise, you need to cut spending. It’s called “Finance for Idiots.”

You: But, I really can’t live without my 60” flat screen TV with the Platinum Satellite Cable package, my gas-guzzling Mercedes SUV, or my monthly trips to Vegas!!!

Boss: Dude, you have issues…
Is there really a difference between the exchange above and the ranting and ravings of the Democratic left who are going berserk over Obama’s deal to extend the Bush Tax Cuts, including those for “the rich.”

Replace “You” with “Government” and “Boss” with “Taxpayers” and it’s being played out on new channels everywhere – politicians arguing that the Government needs a raise (i.e. higher tax revenue) to help lower its debt.

Just like the average consumer, Government need to spend less, not earn more. The omni-present “Deficit” is nothing more than Total Spending – Total Revenue. We have such a large deficit because we spend more than we collect in taxes, not because we don’t tax enough. Somehow the Total Revenue side of this equation is dominating the discussion in the media and in Washington, while the Total Spending side sails along in the bliss of ignorance (entitlement spending in particular).

Give credit to President Obama for understanding this equation, or at least understanding that raising taxes is the wrong answer, especially when the green shoots of recovery are finally starting to pop out of the ground. Let’s hope this signals a move in the direction of economic sanity for the Obama administration and Congress. After all, the only thing that keeps President Obama and the current Congress in office is an improved economy – too bad it took them two years and a “shellacking” in the midterms to finally appreciate this reality.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Problem with Priorities

Should “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” be repealed? Yes.

Is repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” more important than setting the US Government’s 2011 budget, or providing clarity on 2011 income tax brackets and rates? Absolutely not.

The fact that our legislators are spending valuable time discussing, debating and funding research into “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, food safety, nuclear weapon treaties, or providing child immigrants an automatic path to citizenship, in December 2010, is a total joke and is completely irresponsible.

These issues all deserve debate and votes, but not during a lame duck session, and certainly not before the Government has finalized a budget or income tax rates that go into effect in less than 30 days.

Guess how many members of our armed forces were discharged due to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 2009….428, or 0.04% of soldiers on active duty at the time.

While 428 is the lowest since at least 1997, and significantly lower than the peak of 1,227 in 2001, the fact remains that only 13,000 or so Americans have been discharged from the military due to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” since its inception 17 years ago. While that’s 13,000 too many, it’s still just 0.004% of all Americans.

While this debate rages on and studies and surveys are funded and generate headlines, the US Government still does not have a budget for 2011, and the 144 million individuals that filed tax returns in 2009 still don’t know what their tax rates will be in 30 days.

So, for those keeping score at home, 100% of Americans are impacted by the US budget, at least 50% of Americans (significantly more if you include the tax filer’s dependents) are impacted by income tax rates, and 0.004% of Americans are impacted by “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. If you were a politician in Washington, which issues would you prioritize?

Too many of our elected representatives believe it’s more important to debate and pontificate about issues that affects 0.004% of Americans, rather than focus on the issues that affect all Americans (high unemployment, weak economic recovery, exploding deficits and spending, etc., etc.), none of which can be solved without first setting a budget and income tax levels.

The debate and legislative effort required to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, while admirable, can wait.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Speak Softly But Carry A Big Stick

Amid all the noise and pontification surrounding the 2008 and 2010 campaigns, one thing is for certain - independents decide general elections.

We don’t have high profile personalities screaming incessantly on cable TV, we don’t have mainstream news networks in our back pocket, we don’t have popular syndicated radio talk shows, we don’t have celebrity champions and we didn’t hold a rally on the National Mall, but we have the benefit of independent thought and we hold the electoral trump card.  You can't win a competitive general election without carrying the independent vote.

For the most part, we:
  • Vote for the candidate that best reflects our views (or perhaps conflicts the least with our views), regardless of party affiliation.
  • Are fiscally conservative and believe in limited government and our capitalist economy. 
  • Believe our addiction to entitlements (Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, Welfare programs, Public Employee Defined Benefit Pension Plans, etc.) will bankrupt our children’s and/or grandchildren’s generations. Ignoring this ticking time bomb because it’s a political loser is incredibly irresponsible. 
  • Tend to have more liberal views on social issues and believe every American should have the right to serve in our armed forces, get married and start a family and have full control over their bodies, minds, religion and speech. 
  • Are equally afraid of the Tea Party and MoveOn.org. 
  • Hate negative campaign ads and are much more likely to vote for a candidate based on their platform, rather than voting against a candidate – especially when that negative ad distorts the truth, or dwells on some insignificant issue from 15 years ago. 
  • Are global citizens and understand that we fail to embrace globalization at our peril.
  • Believe in a strong and smart military to protect our citizens, and if that protection requires some minor inconveniences on my privacy, or uncomfortable (but legal) tactics of war, that’s a price we’re willing to pay to keep us safe.
  • Understand that our dependence on foreign oil hurts our economy and our environment, but we need to be smart and rational about how we address the problem.
Most importantly, we’re frustrated with our electoral options and are tired of voting for the lesser of two evils (a product of our two-party system and closed primaries – as discussed on these pages previously). 

In the 2008 election, without a viable centrist candidate, independents got caught in the net of hope and change, and this optimism, combined with a disdain for the status quo in Washington, propelled Obama and his Democratic ticket to victory. However, after two years of missed opportunities, empty promises, enormous spending, and a historically overestimated mandate to move America hard to the left, independents restored balance to Washington in 2010 by voting with their heads rather than their hearts.

Many will complain about the gridlock that is sure to set in with a Republican House and Democratic Senate and President, however, it creates a much needed check on power, continues to highlight the limitations of a two party system and, most importantly, sets the stage for quality independents to seek out and win Congressional seats or even the Presidency in 2012. 

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Daily Misdirection

I need to address two specific misdirection tactics that Democrats are giving a significant amount of air time in the run up to Election Day.

The first is the concept that last minute money from evil and anonymous conservative entities is somehow buying the election. As Speaker Pelosi said “"Everything was going great and all of a sudden secret money from God knows where—because they won't disclose it—is pouring in." President Obama said something very similar at a recent campaign stop.

While an incredibly wasteful amount of money is spent on elections by both sides in every cycle, the idea that a surge of money from conservative groups is all of a sudden “buying” the 2010 midterms is ludicrous. How Democrats, including President Obama and Ms. Pelosi, can say this with a straight face while knowing that the unions are once again the largest contributors to this election (and they give 95% to Democrats), and that Democrats will significantly outspend Republicans in competitive races, is fraudulent, and reeks of desperation.

Speaking of desperation, I also wanted to discuss the idea that Democrats are losing because the American people are just too dumb and/or “scared” to understand what they’ve accomplished over the last two years in power. They tend to say it a bit more politely, with President Obama suggesting that his 42 press conferences, 158 interviews, 23 town halls and seven campaign rallies (thanks to Ms. Strassel at the WSJ for counting these for us) haven’t appropriately “advertized” the benefits of the legislation that was passed. The real message is clear - “Trust us, we know what’s best for you, because we’re smarter than you.”

It’s very simple - the only voters that really matter in most general elections are moderates and independents.  These two groups are acutely aware of the Democrat’s legislative “achievements” over the last two years, and can't wait to reject those "achievements" on Tuesday. 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Representative Democracy?

As a new resident of Connecticut, I recently completed and sent in my voter registration form in order to fulfill my duty as a citizen of the United States on November 2nd.

The form asks, “Do you wish to enroll in a political party?”, and generously provides three options (Yes – Democrat, Yes – Republican, No).  The form continues “Declaring a party enables you to vote in that party’s primary election, which is open only to party members.”

When I checked “No”, and was immediately excluded from a huge part of the electoral process, I wondered how many other Americans are disenfranchised by this rule:

  • According to Pew Research, 37% of voters in the US are registered as independent (or as Connecticut calls it, “Unaffiliated”). In CT, 37% are registered Democrat, 21% Republican and 42% “Unaffiliated”.
  • Of the 533 members of Congress, just two Senators (and not a single Representative!) are independents, and one of the independents, Joe Lieberman, considers himself an “Independent Democrat” and was Al Gore’s running mate on the Democratic ticket in 2000 and a Democratic nominee for President in 2004.
Therefore, our “representative democracy”, where 37% of the voting public consider themselves politically independent, has exactly two politically independent representatives…that’s 0.38%.

37% of the public is represented by 0.38% of Congress.

Would anyone call this a representative democracy? No wonder congressional approval ratings are hovering in the teens.

Our two party system is antiquated and for 37% of the electorate (and probably more when you include disenfranchised moderate Democrats and Republicans), it’s not working.

How do we fix this?

Eliminate party-specific primary elections – it would be a tectonic shift in our political process, but one that would pay immediate dividends in restoring our representative democracy.

Currently, in a closed primary like CT, in order to win your party’s nomination you have to be a far left Democrat or a far right Republican. Any signs of moderate views and the more “ideologically pure” candidate will accuse you of playing for the wrong team, crushing any chance of winning your parties nomination.

By the time 37% of the electorate are allowed to vote for the first time, the moderate candidates have already lost in the primary, leaving independents with a choice of a far left Democrat, a far right Republican and some poorly organized and widely disbursed independent/third party candidates. Unless you’re lucky enough to have a quality third party candidate in the race, an independents vote will always go to the lesser of two evils.

Why can’t we just have one primary election for all candidates, regardless of party affiliation, to reduce the field down to two or three candidates, and then a run-off election for those two or three candidates? Isn’t this really what a representative democracy is all about?

Some states have made progress towards this goal by permitting open primaries where independents can vote in the primaries. Currently, 21 states have open primaries for congressional elections and 33 states have open primaries for presidential elections. This is a step in the right direction, but doesn’t solve the problem as completely as removing party-specific primaries.

In his farewell address in 1796, George Washington astutely cautioned Americans about the dangers of political parties – “the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.”

By removing some of the barriers that exclude moderates, independents and third parties from our electoral process, we will heed Mr. Washington’s warning and significantly improve our representative democracy.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Quote of the Week - August 4th

I've been thinking about posting something about the Obama Administration's public high-fives over a single profitable quarter for GM for a while now, but Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. sums it up perfectly with the following quote leading off his column today:
"Like awarding one little league team five outs per inning and six strikes per batter, then doing a victory dance because they have a good inning, President Obama applauded the "success" of his GM bailout in a visit to Detroit last week."
A perfect analogy, and a very good column.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Dangers of an Inexperienced Executive

The Shirley Sherrod story is a perfect case study for why governments full of career politicians and devoid of any real world executive experience are ineffective and downright dangerous.

In a world that revolves around 24/7 “news” coverage, re-election campaigns, approval ratings, the results of the latest Gallop polls and other self-serving political maneuverings, the things that executives should be focused on – little things like sticking to a budget, maintaining employee engagement and motivation, making a payroll, staying solvent, etc. - tend to take a back seat to pure politics.

Imagine being summoned to your boss’s office where he shows you a 20 second YouTube clip, edited by some random guy, of your recent speech at an industry forum. The content of that 20 second clip, when watched in a vacuum, is admittedly very controversial and is in direct conflict with your current job description. However, you know that the speech evolves to demonstrate that the ideas expressed in that 20-second clip are in fact inappropriate, and the speech, when taken as a whole, is actually very powerful and inspirational.

When the clip ends, your boss fires you. Pack up and leave the building immediately. We’re not interested in your side of the story. Bu-Bye.

Before you’ve left your boss’s office, the CEO of your Company has issued a public statement through his press secretary condemning your views and assuring its shareholders that your views don’t represent the views of the Company.

For about 5 minutes, Company executives walk around with chests puffed out feeling great about how they found a problem and dealt with it swiftly before its critics could take the story too far. The three random bloggers who also saw and condemned the clip can no longer rage on about it. Wow, what a relief.

5 minutes after that, HR starts their due diligence around the firing and the very first thing they do is find the entire speech. Uh-Oh. HR sends the full speech around and everyone who reads it is horrified to find out that the grainy YouTube clip was in fact edited in such a way that it totally misrepresents the actual message in the speech. Therefore, a hard-working and loyal employee was just sent out to pasture because the Company was too caught up in its own politic to take 30 minutes out of its day and perform some due diligence on the clip. 5 minutes of searching and 20 minutes of listening/reading the speech and it would have been clear as day that the 20 second YouTube clip was not representative of the speech as a whole. The employee should have been commended for such a speech, not fired.

Before you’ve finished packing up your desk, you boss comes running back to you apologizing and begging you to stay. Your CEO’s press secretary has now issued another public statement apologizing for their haste.

What’s the message in all of this?

You and all of your colleagues now realize that the Company would gladly throw its employees under the bus to avoid any type of political crisis, real or fictional. How much confidence would you have in your CEO if this happened at your Company?

It’s a rhetorical question, this would never happen at your Company because its run by an experienced executive who actually requests all the facts before making any decisions, especially a decision to publically trash the character of a hard-working and successful employee based solely on an edited 20-second clip posted on YouTube.

Unfortunately, as we all now know, the Shirley Sherrod story is a very real life example of this shameful behavior starring the United States Department of Agriculture as the Company, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack as the boss and President Obama as the CEO.

The lack of real life executive experience within the White House continues to rear its ugly head. The White House’s incredibly amateurish and politicized treatment of the Shirley Sherrod events is a crystal clear example of the dangers of having inexperienced executives in and around the Oval Office.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Reforming the Symptom, Ignoring the Disease

“Reform” seems to have taken over from “Change” as the new buzzword in Washington these days.

For a variety of reasons, but primarily because of the political toxicity of addressing our root problems, Congress and the Administration have decided to put band-aids labelled as “reform” over the populist-defined “problems” facing our country today.

However, it’s clear that these “problems” are nothing more than symptoms of larger, more fundamental disease that Congress refuses to acknowledge.

We all know what happens when you treat a symptom and not the underlying cause. The pain might subside for a while, but it always comes back with a vengeance, causing even more damage and suffering.

Let’s use “Financial Reform” as an example. In the never-ending search for a politically convenient scapegoat for which to pin the blame of the “Great Recession”, the popular targets are the big bad banks on Wall Street and their influence on our entire financial system. This includes misguided angst regarding topics such as derivatives and proprietary trading activities, and an incredible lack of angst or urgency for any “reforms” for Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. These are two government run entities that lost a combined $19.8 billion of taxpayer money in just the first quarter of 2010 - that’s $220 million dollars A DAY! This lack of focus on Freddie and Fannie, while unforgivable, is not the least bit surprising given that Congressional fingerprints are all over that crime scene. Better to sweep them under the rug until the next round of elections is over.

Not that long ago, Congress wasn’t so confident on the causes of the “Great Recession” and the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission was set up to shed some light on exactly what happened. However, before this Committee has issued a single word in recommendations or conclusions, Congress is taking it upon itself to make its own determinations and “reform” the financial system accordingly.

Would you start chemotherapy without a doctor telling you that you have cancer? Would you start a controversial, radical and experimental drug therapy with crippling side-effects, without a doctor telling you what ailment you’re trying to cure?

Allow me to indulge myself for a minute and pretend to be a Doctor and Mr. Economy just walked through my office door. I can tell right away that there is a problem. I ask him what his symptoms are and he responds as follows:

• Unemployment is high

• House prices are down

• Consumer spending has crashed to the floor, taking corporate profits along for the ride.

• People and companies are defaulting on their loans left, right and center

He goes on and on citing symptom after symptom.

My job as his Doctor would be to determine whether these are all isolated problems that require specific treatments or if these are just symptoms of a more fundamental problem. It doesn’t take a Nobel Prize winner to see that the above are just symptoms of a fundamental problem.

To clear up the symptoms, the fundamental problem needs to be identified and treated. Fire fighting each individual symptom with separate treatments (e.g. tax credits for hiring employees, artificial propping up of the housing market through tax credits and loan modification programs, stimulus programs to increase spending, Financial “reform”, etc.) is not only a very expensive and time consuming exercise, but it may also just mask the root problem for a period of time before it hits back even harder in the future.

Looking at the symptoms, some are clearly direct results of others – but when you wade through all the populist rhetoric, what is really at the root of these symptoms?

Isn’t that a question for the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission? Wouldn’t it make sense to wait until they have completed their assessments (due by Dec 2010) before we run off and “reform” everything in sight for the sake of “reform”?

In my not-so-expert opinion, the root cause of this crisis trickles down to every American who couldn’t keep their financial house in order. Whether it was taking out an aggressive mortgage, racking up too much credit card debt, or just simply not living within their means - personal financial responsibility was in shambles and when the music stopped the entire system can crashing down, bringing everyone along for the ride.  It makes us feel better to blame our mortgage broker, our bank, our credit card company, the "rich", the "poor" -  anyone other than ouselves. 

If individuals were the drivers behind the “Great Recession” roller coaster, Government policies laid down the tracks used to permit, promote and in some cases even excuse this lack of responsibility. Every aspect of the financial landscape was impacted by some Government policy or subsidy that encouraged this behaviour. The clearest example is in the housing market where low interest rates, mortgage interest tax deductions and Congressional mandates that more low income (i.e. sub-prime) families should be homeowners (via Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, see above), all contributed to the expansion of what we now know was a property bubbles of epic proportions. In fact, one could argue that Government policies (tax credits for buying a house, loan modification programs, debt forgiveness, etc.) are still artificially propping up the property market.

While it would be convenient to place the blame on Government’s insatiable appetite for self-promotion and re-election, best achieved by providing voters with something for nothing, I still believe the ultimate blame should fall to each and every American who lived outside of their financial means. Regardless of how easy the Government made it to over extend our personal finances, the ultimate responsibility lands with the individual, and until we realize this and change our behaviour accordingly, I don’t expect the “reform” band-aids to prevent Mr. Economy from making repeat visits into my Doctors office complaining of the same old symptoms, over and over again.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

An Anti-Populist at the New York Times??

Wow.  Who knew the NYT had an anti-populist columnist?  Excellent piece.
"So it’s easy to see the seductiveness of populism. Nonetheless, it nearly always fails. The history of populism, going back to William Jennings Bryan, is generally a history of defeat.
That’s because voters aren’t as stupid as the populists imagine. Voters are capable of holding two ideas in their heads at one time: First, that the rich and the powerful do rig the game in their own favor; and second, that simply bashing the rich and the powerful will still not solve the country’s problems.

Political populists never get that second point. They can’t seem to grasp that a politics based on punishing the elites won’t produce a better-educated work force, more investment, more innovation or any of the other things required for progress and growth.

In fact, this country was built by anti-populists. It was built by people like Alexander Hamilton and Abraham Lincoln who rejected the idea that the national economy is fundamentally divided along class lines. They rejected the zero-sum mentality that is at the heart of populism, the belief that economics is a struggle over finite spoils. Instead, they believed in a united national economy — one interlocking system of labor, trade and investment.

Hamilton championed capital markets and Lincoln championed banks, not because they loved traders and bankers. They did it because they knew a vibrant capitalist economy would maximize opportunity for poor boys like themselves. They were willing to tolerate the excesses of traders because they understood that no institution is more likely to channel opportunity to new groups and new people than vigorous financial markets.

In their view, government’s role was not to side with one faction or to wage class war. It was to rouse the energy and industry of people at all levels. It was to enhance competition and make it fair — to make sure that no group, high or low, is able to erect barriers that would deprive Americans of an open field and a fair chance. Theirs was a philosophy that celebrated development, mobility and work, wherever those things might be generated."

Saturday, January 23, 2010

It's the FIRST Amendment!

Dear Mr. President -

I thought an ex-professor of constitutional law would be familiar with the 1st Amendment? Do you not understand it or do you not respect it? Either way simultaneously disrespecting both the Constitution and our Supreme Court is amateur at best, frightening at worst.


Thursday, January 14, 2010

We Need More Mirrors In The Capitol

In trying to justify the “financial crisis responsibility fee" I wrote about yesterday, Mr. Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae himself, Barney Frank, said the following to the AP:
“Look, the financial institutions collectively, particularly the larger ones, caused problems by their errors — their errors of judgment, their irresponsibility, in some cases their skating around dishonesty," said House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank, D-Mass.

"I think it is entirely reasonable to say that the industry that, A, caused these problems more than any other and, B, benefited from the activity, should be contributing," he said.
Did they remove all the mirrors from the Capitol?

Congress, and it’s errors of judgment and irresponsibility in requiring Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae to purchase more and more low-income mortgages with lower and lower borrower requirements, is the root cause of the crisis. Without this push from Congress, lending standards wouldn’t have been abandoned, fewer people would have been able to purchase houses, prices would not have increased as fast and without a bubble, there would be no bust. I concede it’s a simplified argument, and others had their role to play (Fed, credit rating agencies, etc.), but given the time I have to write this, it the quickest way to the facts.

Perhaps we should impose Congress with a special levy to help repay the taxpayers? While we’re at it, let’s impose a special tax on every individual who took out a mortgage they couldn’t afford – after all, isn’t that really the root cause of all of this? A lack of personal financial responsibility? No, of course not, it’s not politically viable to blame Americans for their poor/unlucky individual decisions, let’s go after the big bad banks instead. The same big banks who are doing more to create jobs and growth by providing capital to those who need it (and can actually repay it) than any stimulus the government could ever provide.

Look, I’m not saying the Banks didn’t play a role in the crisis, but to place 100% of the blame, and 100% of the responsibility for bailing out the Administrations (both Bush and Obama in this instance) decisions to save AIG, and the GM & Chrysler unions, is wrong, and sets a terrible precedent. It’s an outright grab of private property for no other reason than it’s there to be taken.

It’s a slippery slope. Who’s next? Fast food restaurants or grocery store chains for making the country fat? Yep. Auto manufacturers for causing car accidents? Actually, no because the auto unions have bought and paid for their protection through their contributions to the Obama Administration. Dell or Microsoft for providing hardware and software to individuals who might use it to commit online fraud? Individuals with names longer than 20 characters because the government spends more money on ink for them when printing various forms and documents?

Seriously, where does it end?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Changing the Rules After the Game is Over...Again

Let’s assume for a moment that you were concerned with your short-term finances and went to your Bank and took out a one year loan to temporarily boost your cash flow.  After 6 months, your financial situation has settled down so you decide to repay your loan balance in full, including interest.  Well done, back to business as usual.

Now, what if that Bank came back to you two years later and said that they were charging you a fee/levy/tax for taking out that loan two years ago and that the fee/levy/tax was required in order to make the Bank whole for bad loans it made to borrowers who were not as responsible as you and have not yet repaid their loans?  

Or what if the purpose of that fee was to help the Bank meet its yearly budget targets?  Or worse yet, what if it was required to help the Bank support the bloated benefits and pension due to its unionized employees?    

Well, that’s exactly what Barack Obama is allegedly planning to do to the 20 top Banks who participated/were forced to particiapte in the TARP program.  By claiming that these Banks benefited from the TARP program, he’s trying to justify an additional fee/levy/tax that they must pay to ensure that the TARP program remains deficit neutral - i.e. to help pay down the enormous deficits that have exploded by runaway Democratic spending on everything from non-simulative stimulus packages to health care “reform”.

The details are sketchy at best at the moment, but Obama undoubtedly sees the populist window of opportunity, and will do his best to capture that opportunity and squeeze revenue from a very unpopular industry.  Leading up to the mid-term elections it will be very difficult, politically, for any congressman/woman to vote against a bill that punishes the big bad Banks.  Nobody wants to be seen as being in bed with the “fat cat bankers,” regardless of the dangerous and anti-capitalist precedent this policy would set.

The real kicker is that most, if not all, of these 20 banks will have already paid back their loans in full, with interest, and in many cases, a lucrative kicker relating to the warrants they sold the Treasury.  Treasury Secretary Geithner himself said in December that the government stands to make a “healthy profit” on the money paid out from TARP.  Why then do these firms need to pay even more?  Because they made a profit? Because TARP was used to fund the ill-advised AIG bailout (which may eventually get paid back since AIG is actually a viable business)?  Or worse yet, because it was somehow justified to help bail out GM and Chrylser (er, their unions) with TARP funds – funds the government will never, ever see again?    

This shouldn’t surprise anyone as this administration has proven time and time again that they are ready and willing to change the rules in their favor whenever it suits them.  And we wonder why business investment and hiring hasn’t picked up.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Beginning of the End of Politicizing Race?

The focus on Harry Reid’s “unfortunate” comments about the candidacy of Barack Obama is, as it always is with matters such as this, extremely overblown. That said, if Mitch McConnell had said the exact same thing I’m pretty sure Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer and Keith Olbermann would spontaneously combust simultaneously like Spinal Tap drummers.

If we need proof that Reid is over his head as Senate Majority Leader, I’d prefer to focus on the numerous other “unfortunate” quotes or votes by Mr. Reid that have very real impacts on the lives and safety (see his quote on Iraq in 2007) of Americans.

However, given the response by various leaders, black, white or otherwise, hopefully this could be the beginning of the end of politicizing race (wishful thinking, I know). Ward Connerly (chairman of the American Civil Rights Coalition and author of "Creating Equal") expressed this perfectly in his recent column in the WSJ

“Mr. Reid personally called President Obama and a handful of presumed leaders of the so-called African-American community—Julian Bond, Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson among them—to beg forgiveness for his racial sin.

To no one's surprise, all of those to whom apologies were extended responded by accepting Mr. Reid's apology and saying that the nation had more important issues to deal with, such as health care and national security.”
He concludes as follows:
"We are too quick to take offense about race when none was intended. Some are too anxious to manufacture outrage over matters that do not justify the attention that we give them. And we are too quick to politicize race.

As far as I'm concerned, Messrs. Bond, Sharpton, Jackson and a host of other Americans formerly identified as "negroes" have forever forfeited the right to be outraged whenever a Republican or a talk show host makes an inappropriate or "insensitive" racial comment.”
It will be very interesting to see the reaction next time a conservative makes an “insensitive” racial comment. Will we see the traditional outrage filled with racist labels and demands for resignations, or will it go away with an apology?