Presidential Treason

I see, in recent events, the makings of a New Axis, formed on Russia, Iran, and China. The New Axis, if unchallenged, would be able to isolate and extort the United States. The stark alternatives will be a rerun of World War II or de facto surrender by the United States.

Without a sudden and massive reversal of America’s disarmament, there will be little hope of defeating the New Axis in a rerun of World War II. A 21st Century Alliance would be weaker (relatively) than the World War II Alliance because Britain would not be the player that it was — in spirit or in war-making potential. Continental Europe would sit it out, for fear of retaliation from Russia, even though a victorious Russia would quickly roll up the continent. Israel, India, and Japan would be tied down (if not knocked out quickly). Thus, the U.S. would stand almost alone, with relatively insignificant support from Australia and Canada (maybe).

This gloomy scenario, it seems to me, is the inevitable — and foreseeable — dénouement of Obama’s foreign and defense policies, which seem calculated to encourage Russian and Chinese expansionism. The evidence is there in Obama’s calculated fecklessness in the Middle East, and in his dealings with Russia and China.

As one commentator puts it:

… The fate of the free world no longer rests with the US. It now rests with Putin. He and the mullahs in Iran, presented with the spectacle of the preening narcissist in the White House gazing in rapt adoration at his own reflection, are surely laughing fit to bust.

And why shouldn’t the First Narcissist preen? For he has achieved precisely what he wanted, his true goal that I described in this blog when Obama first ran for President: to extend the reach of the state over peoples’ lives at home, to emasculate the power of America abroad, and to make the free white world the slave of those he falsely characterised as the victims of that white world’s oppression…. (Melanie Phillips, “Putin Checkmates America,” Melanie’s Blog, September 15, 2013)

Norman Podhoretz delivers a fuller version of this thesis; for example:

… [A]s astute a foreign observer as Conrad Black can flatly say that, “Not since the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991, and before that the fall of France in 1940, has there been so swift an erosion of the world influence of a Great Power as we are witnessing with the United States.”

Yet if this is indeed the pass to which Mr. Obama has led us—and I think it is—let me suggest that it signifies not how incompetent and amateurish the president is, but how skillful. His foreign policy, far from a dismal failure, is a brilliant success as measured by what he intended all along to accomplish….

… As a left-wing radical, Mr. Obama believed that the United States had almost always been a retrograde and destructive force in world affairs. Accordingly, the fundamental transformation he wished to achieve here was to reduce the country’s power and influence. And just as he had to fend off the still-toxic socialist label at home, so he had to take care not to be stuck with the equally toxic “isolationist” label abroad.

This he did by camouflaging his retreats from the responsibilities bred by foreign entanglements as a new form of “engagement.” At the same time, he relied on the war-weariness of the American people and the rise of isolationist sentiment (which, to be sure, dared not speak its name) on the left and right to get away with drastic cuts in the defense budget, with exiting entirely from Iraq and Afghanistan, and with “leading from behind” or using drones instead of troops whenever he was politically forced into military action.

The consequent erosion of American power was going very nicely when the unfortunately named Arab Spring presented the president with several juicy opportunities to speed up the process. First in Egypt, his incoherent moves resulted in a complete loss of American influence, and now, thanks to his handling of the Syrian crisis, he is bringing about a greater diminution of American power than he probably envisaged even in his wildest radical dreams.

For this fulfillment of his dearest political wishes, Mr. Obama is evidently willing to pay the price of a sullied reputation. In that sense, he is by his own lights sacrificing himself for what he imagines is the good of the nation of which he is the president, and also to the benefit of the world, of which he loves proclaiming himself a citizen….

No doubt he will either deny that anything has gone wrong, or failing that, he will resort to his favorite tactic of blaming others—Congress or the Republicans or Rush Limbaugh. But what is also almost certain is that he will refuse to change course and do the things that will be necessary to restore U.S. power and influence.

And so we can only pray that the hole he will go on digging will not be too deep for his successor to pull us out, as Ronald Reagan managed to do when he followed a president into the White House whom Mr. Obama so uncannily resembles. (“Obama’s Successful Foreign Failure,” The Wall Street Journal, September 8, 2013)

I dare call it treason.

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A small sample of related reading:
Walter Russell Mead et al., “Putin Tells His Ambassadors: The West Is All Washed Up,” The American Interest, July 9, 2012
Erica Ritz, “Troubling? Putin Overseas Largest Russian Nuclear Tests Since the Cold War,” The Blaze, October 20, 2012
Caroline Glick, “The Goal of Obama’s Foreign Policy,” RealClearPolitics, November 26, 2013
Benjamin Kerstein,”The Iran Deal: American Influence Retreats,” The Federalist, November 26, 2013
Mandy Nagy, “What the White House Didn’t Report on the Iran Nuke Deal,” Legal Insurrection, November 29, 2013
Editorial board, “President Obama’s Foreign Policy Is Based on Fantasy,” The Washington Post, March 2, 2014
Daniel Greenfield, “Obama Enters Putin’s World,” Frontpage Mag, March 3, 2014
Bruce Thornton, “Sacrificing the Military to Entitlements,” Frontpage Mag, March 3, 2014
Robert Tracinski, “The Eighties Called: Do We Want Their Foreign Policy Back?,” The Federalist, March 3, 2014
Michael Auslin, “Crimean Lessons for East Asia,” WSJ.com, March 4, 2014
Thomas Lifson, “China Watches Ukraine, Eyes Taiwan,” American Thinker, March 4, 2014
Rick Moran, “TNR: Romney Got Russia Right,” American Thinker, March 4, 2014
Mark Thiessen, “What Can Obama Do in Ukraine? Plenty,” AEIdeas, March 4, 2014
Walter Russell Mead et al., “The Dragon Sharpens Its Claws,” The American Interest, March 6, 2014
Ed Lasky, “Obama to Cut AWACS Fleet by 25%,” American Thinker, March 11, 2014
Roy Gutman, “Russia’s History and Politics, Not U.S. Policies, Drive Russia in Ukraine, Book Argues” (a review of Putin’s Wars: The Rise of Russia’s New Imperialism, by Marcel H. Van Herpen), McClatchy Washington Bureau (published in various media), April 2, 2014

Related posts:
Why Sovereignty?
Liberalism and Sovereignty
Delusions of Preparedness
A Grand Strategy for the United States
The Folly of Pacifism
Why We Should (and Should Not) Fight
Rating America’s Wars
Transnationalism and National Defense
The Folly of Pacifism, Again
Patience as a Tool of Strategy
Defense as an Investment in Liberty and Prosperity
The Barbarians Within and the State of the Union
The World Turned Upside Down
Defense Spending: One More Time
The Fall and Rise of American Empire

Another Obama Lie, and a Rant

From a CBS News story about the latest Obamacare fiasco:

President Obama on Thursday announced an administrative policy change that will let people keep their existing health insurance for another year, but the plan is already facing pushback from Republicans, some Democrats and the insurance industry….

…Mr. Obama predicted Thursday, “There’s gonna be some state-by-state evaluation on how this is handled.”

He added, however, that the “key point” is that it’s no longer the Affordable Care Act that’s responsible for plans being dropped….

What a whopper. Of course the ACA is responsible. Insurance companies were diligently complying with the ACA. And that didn’t happen overnight; they began to gear up for compliance as soon as ACA became law.

Now, one of Obama’s minions issues — by unconstitutional fiat — a “fix” that can’t easily be implemented, even if allowed by the insurance commissioners of some States. It’s a blatant and cynical PR move.

Here’s the rant — mine, not Obama’s (he can rant on his own time):

Left-wing amateur hour has dragged on 4-10/12 years too long. As the bumper sticker says, don’t blame me, I didn’t vote for him.

Did I foresee this particular fiasco? Of course not, but I foresaw that Obama would try to use government in ways that would harm most hard-working, tax-paying, law-abiding Americans. Well, thanks to Obamacare, tax increases, racial politics, and various regulatory edicts he’s met my expectations. He’s also doing a good job of turning the U.S. into a second-rate power, unable to defend Americans’ far-flung overseas interests against the Russian and Chinese power grabs that are almost certainly in the works.

Even if Obama had succeeded in “bringing the country together” (or something to that effect), it would be a country that millions of us want no part of. On Thursday, November 28, if I give thanks for anything, it will be for a divided nation in which there is still principled and vigorous resistance to the likes of Barack Obama.
*     *     *
Related posts: Just about everything here.

Government Failure Comes as a Shock to Liberals

Richard Cohen of WaPo shares his disappointment in the god the failed:

Where is Casey Stengel when we need him? In 1962, as the manager of the brand new and determinedly hapless New York Mets — 40 wins, 120 losses — he looked up and down his bench one dismal day and wondered, “Can’t anybody here play this game?” That phrase kept coming at me recently as I watched the impressively inept performance of the Obama administration in both foreign and domestic policy. On a given day, this administration makes the ’62 Mets look good….

[Obama] has lately so mishandled both domestic and foreign policy that he is in mortal peril of altering his image. This unsettling and uncharacteristic incompetence became shockingly clear when Obama failed to come to grips with the Syrian civil war….

The debacle of the Affordable Care Act’s Web site raised similar questions about confidence….

Something went wrong. People could not sign up. Why? Not sure. Who’s at fault? Apparently no one. An act of God….

Poor Richard. He doesn’t get it. The problem isn’t just Barack Obama, it’s government. What Cohen is witnessing is government failure. It’s pervasive and inevitable — though its ill effects often go unremarked. (For example, the significant reduction of economic growth that has resulted from the growth of government spending and regulation.)

When government failure assumes spectacular proportions and can’t be ignored or explained away, it gets attention because it explodes the Nirvana fallacy about government that infects so many politicos, mediacrats, and real people (but not Americans on the whole).

What’s most striking about Cohen’s piece and similar outpourings from the media is that the target is a Democrat. I would say that a new dawn of realism is breaking, but that would be to indulge in the Nirvana fallacy.

*     *     *

Related posts:
Undermining the Free Society
Government vs. Community
Government Failure: An Example
Bootleggers, Baptists, and Pornography
The Public-School Swindle
The Evil That Is Done with Good Intentions
Externalities and Statism
Society and the State
David Brooks, Useful Idiot for the Left
Don’t Use the “S” Word When the “F” Word Will Do
How Not to Cope with Government Failure
Well-Founded Pessimism
America: Past, Present, and Future
IQ, Political Correctness, and America’s Present Condition
The Barbarians Within and the State of the Union
Why Are Interest Rates So Low?
Vulgar Keynesianism and Capitalism
Estimating the Rahn Curve: Or, How Government Spending Inhibits Economic Growth
America’s Financial Crisis Is Now
The World Turned Upside Down
“We the People” and Big Government: Part I
“We the People” and Big Government: Part I (continued)
“We the People” and Big Government: Part 2 (first installment)

Left-Libertarians, Obama, and the Zimmerman Case

I’ll begin with some samples of loony left-libertarianism (to which I will not link lest I inflame a loon). This one, for example, is simply loaded with misstatements of fact and interpretation, all of which I’ve bolded:

I am appalled to see that some of my fellow Libertarians are supporting accused murderer George Zimmerman, in the wake of the end of his trial for the killing of teenager Trayvon Martin.

As Libertarians we should be advancing the cause of civil rights and standing up against the racists in this country. The last thing we should do is echo the Republicans who are praising Zimmerman.

Facebook and Twitter continue to urge citizens to stand up for Trayvon Martin through protest: Sunday marks the National Blackout Day in angry response to Zimmerman’s freedom, according to Policymic.

Here are some of the demonstrations taking place around the country today, in opposition to the court ruling that freed Zimerman – and made it legal to sta[l]k and accost unarmed teens and shoot them to death[.]

Zimmerman isn’t a racist. Some Republicans may be pleased by the outcome of the trial because Zimmerman was unjustly prosecuted, but they aren’t “praising” Zimmerman for having shot Martin. And just how does acquittal for an obvious act of self-defense make it “legal to stalk and accost unarmed teens and shoot them to death”?

Another left-libertarian is coherent, up to a point, but then:

The fact is far too many black men fail in our country, being raised in dysfunction households, attending dysfunctional schools, and living in dysfunctional communities. Prior to the expansion of the welfare state during the 1960s, blacks had about the same unemployment rate and about the same level of family instability as whites. They just earned less. But, even with regard to earnings, blacks – with hardly any outside help – moved from 30 percent of white earnings at the time of emancipation to 85 percent by the 1960s. Since then, there has been no further progress in narrowing the income gap, and the black family and community, the inner city public schools and the inner city economy have all fallen apart.

What does any of that have to do with the essential facts of the case, which are that Trayvon Martin attacked George Zimmerman, who justifiably felt that his life was in danger?  The foregoing sociological recitation may (may, I say) have something to do with Martin’s actions, but it doesn’t contain a glimmer of an excuse for those actions.

The painful fact is that the rampant dysfunctionality among young black men, in black households, and in black communities is the predictable product of black genes, black culture, and government meddling. (For much more, go here, and scroll down to “Affirmative Action, Race, and Immigration.” See also Maverick Philosopher‘s “The Importance of Self-Control,” and item 3 at “A Declaration and Defense of My Prejudices about Governance.”)

Then there is Will Wilkinson, whose penchant for wrong-headedness I have often addressed (e.g., here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here). In a post at The Economist (“Getting Away With It“), Wilkinson writes:

Now, I don’t know it, but I seriously doubt Mr Zimmerman needed to shoot Mr Martin, even if Mr Martin did attack him. And I seriously doubt Mr Martin would have been shot if he hadn’t been a black kid. In my heart of hearts, I too think Mr Zimmerman did something terribly wrong, and that this misdeed reflects a number of things that are terribly wrong in our culture.

The only supportable statement in that passage is Wilkinson’s admission that he doesn’t know that Zimmerman didn’t need to shoot Martin. The rest is knee-jerk. leftist. second-guessing. When Zimmerman’s head was being pounded on concrete and his face was being pummeled, do you suppose that he had a good reason to believe that Martin would relent before his (Zimmerman’s) jaw or skull had been fractured or he had suffered a debilitating concussion, if not worse?

Given the circumstances, the only reason that Martin wouldn’t have been shot if he hadn’t been black (“kid” is a bit of misdirection) is that if he had been white it is less likely that Zimmerman would have been suspicious of his behavior. Therefore, if Martin had been white, Zimmerman would less likely have followed him and been confronted by him. But Martin’s blackness — coupled with his age, dress, and demeanor — would matter to a bona-fide member of a neighborhood watch patrol, as Zimmerman was, and one with no discernible animus toward blacks. Zimmerman was doing his job, and for his pains was attacked by a violent, drug-ingesting punk who — unsurprisingly — was a young, black male.

Last — and least, in merit — is today’s performance by Barack Obama, wherein he plays not just one race card but a whole deck of them; for example:

There are very few African American men in this country who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store.  That includes me.  There are very few African American men who haven’t had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars.  That happens to me — at least before I was a senator.  There are very few African Americans who haven’t had the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she had a chance to get off.  That happens often.

Well, it’s no wonder, is it? Who’s to blame (if blame is the right word), whites who don’t want to be victims or the dysfunctional, government-abetted, culture of violence that pervades black communities?

Obama almost acknowledges the fact of pervasive violence:

Now, this isn’t to say that the African American community is naïve about the fact that African American young men are disproportionately involved in the criminal justice system; that they’re disproportionately both victims and perpetrators of violence.  It’s not to make excuses for that fact — although black folks do interpret the reasons for that in a historical context.  They understand that some of the violence that takes place in poor black neighborhoods around the country is born out of a very violent past in this country, and that the poverty and dysfunction that we see in those communities can be traced to a very difficult history.

But guess where the blame for that violence lands? On long-dead Southern bigots, of course. It’s as if the white-on-black violence of 50 to 250 years ago was somehow imprinted indelibly on blacks. Come again? Why is it that black-on-white violence — now far more common that its opposite — hasn’t caused whites to become more violent?

I am just plain sick and tired of leftists (“libertarian” and otherwise) and black race-baiters (Obama, Holder, Jackson, Sharpton, etc.) who cannot and will not honestly face up to the dysfunctionality of black culture and the role of government in compounding that dysfunctionality. A pox on all of you.

The only (potentially) good news to come out of Obama’s performance is the hint that Gauleiter Holder will not instigate a federal civil-rights charge against Zimmerman:

I know that Eric Holder is reviewing what happened down there, but I think it’s important for people to have some clear expectations here.  Traditionally, these are issues of state and local government, the criminal code.  And law enforcement is traditionally done at the state and local levels, not at the federal levels.

But I’m not holding my breath waiting for Obama and his minions to do the right thing.

Related page: My Moral Profile (See especially the final section, “Implicit Racial Preferences,” to know that I write about blacks without bias or animus toward them.)

Related reading: Heather Mac Donald, “Obama Strikes Out,” City Journal, July 22, 2013

Related posts:
Putting Hate Crimes in Perspective
The Cost of Affirmative Action
The Face of America
Race and Acceptance
Affirmative Action: A Modest Proposal
Race, Intelligence, and Affirmative Action
Affirmative Action: Two Views from the Academy
Affirmative Action, One More Time
A Contrarian View of Segregation
Much Food for Thought
A Law Professor to Admire
Guilty Until Proven Innocent
After the Bell Curve
A Footnote . . .
Schelling and Segregation
A Black Bigot Speaks
More Anti-Black Bigotry from the Left
Societal Suicide
A “Taste” for Segregation
Black Terrorists and “White Flight”
Affirmative Action: Two Views from the Academy, Revisited

It’s the Little Things That Count
A Footnote to a Footnote
Let Me Be Perfectly Clear…
Racism among the Deracinated
Crime, Explained
Lock ‘Em Up
Conspicuous Consumption and Race
I Want My Country Back
A Declaration and Defense of My Prejudices about Governance (item 3)
Legislating Morality
Legislating Morality (II)
Free Will, Crime, and Punishment
Race and Reason: The Derbyshire Debacle
Race and Reason: The Victims of Affirmative Action
Not-So-Random Thoughts (III) (second item)
Race and Reason: The Achievement Gap — Causes and Implications
The Hidden Tragedy of the Assassination of Lincoln

Obama and Obamacare, Back in the Dumps

Were it not for the fickleness of voters, we would be rid of Obama and Obamacare. Rasmussen’s latest poll results yield a net rating of -22 for Obama and a net rating of -27 for Obamacare. Compare those numbers with the ratings that prevailed from mid-2009 until late summer of 2012; contrast those numbers with Obama’s pre-election surge and short-lived post-election honeymoon:
Obama and Obamacare_approval-disapproval ratings
Sources: Rasmussen Reports, Obama Approval Index History and Health Care Law. Obama’s net disapproval rating measures the percentage of respondents who strongly approve of his performance, minus the percentage of respondents who strongly disapprove of his performance. The ratings for Obamacare are constructed as follows: For the period before Obamacare was signed into law on March 23, 2010, the numbers represent the percentage of respondents who strongly favored the passage of Obamacare, less the percentage of respondents who strongly opposed the passage of Obamacare. From the enactment of Obamacare to the present, the numbers represent the percentage of respondents who have strongly opposed the repeal of Obamacare, minus the percentage of respondents who have strongly favored the repeal of Obamacare.

Socialist Romanticism

Jean-Jacques Rousseau:

If then we discard from the social compact what is not of its essence, we shall find that it reduces itself to the following terms—

“Each of us puts his person and all his power in common under the supreme direction of the general will, and, in our corporate capacity, we receive each member as an indivisible part of the whole.”

Barack Obama, echoing Jean-Jacques Rousseau (and his progeny, from Marx to Castro):

Together, we determined that a modern economy requires railroads and highways to speed travel and commerce, schools and colleges to train our workers.

Together, we discovered that a free market only thrives when there are rules to ensure competition and fair play.

Together, we resolved that a great nation must care for the vulnerable, and protect its people from life’s worst hazards and misfortune.

Max Eastman, deflating Rousseauvian-Obamian romanticism:

A false and undeliberated conception of what man is lies at the bottom … of the whole bubble-castle of socialist theory. Although few seem to realize it, Marxism rests on the romantic notion of Rousseau that nature endows men with the qualities necessary to be a free, equal, fraternal, family-like living together…. (Quoted in The Great Quotations, p. 876.)

State-imposed “togetherness” is a kind of imprisonment in which the inmates suffer the illusion of freedom.

The Price of Civilization

The price of civilization isn’t the taxes extorted from you and me to support bread, circuses, and other foolishness. Nay, the price of civilization is the taxes that sensible citizens pay to enjoy (no-longer) swift and sure enforcement of criminal codes and the (increasingly unsure) defense of Americans’ interests abroad.

It is the second of these lacunae that I here address:

1. If government exists for any legitimate purpose, it is to defend citizens against aggression at home and abroad.

2. Thanks to foreign trade and investments overseas, Americans are much better off than they would otherwise be. (Note to labor unions, other protectionists, and the Weeping Willies who cry “exploitation” — get stuffed.)

3. If  the federal government doesn’t afford American armed forces the wherewithal and political support necessary to defend Americans’ overseas interests, that government is illegitimate. (See #1.)

4. It follows that a price of civilization is not only the taxes required to mount a vigorous and effective defense of American’s overseas interests, but also the elimination (by peaceful means, of course) of any American government that refuses to mount such a defense.

5. It also follows that anyone — “liberal” or “libertarian” — who clamors for lower defense spending is a borderline traitor. (BHO has already crossed the line with his crass embrace of internationalism and willingness to abandon Americans’ overseas interests.)

It’s Not My Problem If …

…you chose to live in an area known to breed wildfires.

…you chose to live in an area prone to flooding.

…you chose to live in Tornado Alley.

…you bought a house that lacks a driveway, carport, or garage and don’t have a place to park because tax-paying strangers park on the public street in front of your house.

…you chose to live in area that’s frequently hit by tropical storms and hurricanes.

…you chose not to save money because you assumed that you could live on Social Security.

…you hooked up with a ne’er-do-well and had children out of wedlock.

…you have health problems because you drink, smoke, or eat too much.

Those things become my problem only when government actions make them so. And why do we have the kind of government that turns your problems into my problems?

The answer to that question is a long, sad tale, but mostly recently, it’s because…

…you voted for Barack Obama because you hated George Bush, and Barack Obama turned out to be Bush with better teleprompter skills.

…you voted for Barack Obama because you feel guilty about your high income, and Barack Obama actually wants to raise your taxes.

…you voted for Barack Obama because you believed that he would “fix” health care, and his is “fixing” it — but good.

The Best-Looking Attorney General

Barack Obama,* the hemi-demi-semi-great communicator, stands accused of sexism for calling Kamala Harris, California’s toothsome attorney general, “by far, the best looking attorney general in the country.”

BO’s remark is not only sexist but also lookist. But what’s the big deal? It could be the truth, and there’s nothing wrong with the truth, is there? So, let’s line up the AGs of the 50 States (or is it 57?) and let the people decide if BO told the truth. (Eric Holder, BO’s AG, is disqualified from consideration because he is just plain butt-ugly.)

I must admit that the outrage stirred by BO’s remark — even on the left — is a refreshing departure from the treatment of Slick Willy Clinton.** SW’s exploitative aggression toward women (Paula Jones, Monica Lewinsky, Juanita Broaddrick, et al.) was excused during SW’s impeachment trial (by a female lawyer, of all things) on the ground that his heart was in the right place.  That is, he paid lip service to the supremacy of the female race, which therefore excused his abominable treatment of that species.
* Hereinafter BO.

** Hereinafter SW.

The Obama Effect: Disguised Unemployment (February 2013 Update)

Here. Bottom line: While the official unemployment rate stands at 7.9 percent, the real unemployment rate is 13.0 percent. The real unemployment rate has hovered around 13 percent for more than three years. (So much for “stimulus” spending, “quantitative easing,” and taxing “the rich.”)

The job-killing effects of Obamacare and the “fiscal cliff” deal will only make matters worse. There is more on these points in the posts listed at the bottom of “The Obama Effect: Disguised Unemployment.”

The Obama Effect: Disguised Unemployment (Updated)

Here. Bottom line: While the official unemployment rate stands at 7.7 percent, the real unemployment rate is 12.8 percent. The real unemployment rate has hovered around 13 percent for the past three years. (So much for “stimulus” spending and “quantitative easing.”)

The job-killing effects of Obamacare will only make matters worse, as will tax increases on “the rich” (if Obama gets his way). There is more on these points in the posts listed at the bottom of “The Obama Effect: Disguised Unemployment.”

Where We Are, Economically

UPDATED (10/26/12)

The advance estimate of GDP for the third quarter of 2012 has been released. Real growth continues to slog along at about 2 percent. I have updated the graph, but the text needs no revision.

*  *   *

It occurred to me that the trend line in the second graph of “The Economy Slogs Along” is misleading. It is linear, when it should be curvilinear. Here is a better version:

Derived from the October 26, 2012 release of GDP estimates by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. (Contrary to the position of the National Bureau of Economic Research, there was no recession in 2000-2001. For my definition of a recession, see “Economic Growth Since World War II.”)

The more descriptive regression line underscores the moral of “Obama’s Economic Record in Perspective,” which is this:

The claims by Obama and his retinue about O’s supposed “rescue” of the economy from the abyss of depression are ludicrous. (See, for example, “A Keynesian Fantasy Land,” “The Keynesian Fallacy and Regime Uncertainty,” “Why the “Stimulus” Failed to Stimulate,” “Regime Uncertainty and the Great Recession,” The Real Multiplier,” “The Real Multiplier (II),”The Economy Slogs Along,” and “The Obama Effect: Disguised Unemployment.”) Nevertheless our flannel-mouthed president his sycophants insist that he has done great things for the country, though the only great thing that he could do is to leave it alone.

Obama is not to blame for the Great Recession, but the sluggish recovery is due to his anti-business rhetoric and policies (including Obamacare, among others). All that Obama can rightly take “credit” for is an acceleration of the downward trend of economic growth.

Related posts:
Are We Mortgaging Our Children’s Future?
In the Long Run We Are All Poorer
Mr. Greenspan Doth Protest Too Much
The Price of Government
Fascism and the Future of America
The Indivisibility of Economic and Social Liberty
Rationing and Health Care
The Fed and Business Cycles
The Commandeered Economy
The Perils of Nannyism: The Case of Obamacare
The Price of Government Redux
As Goes Greece
The State of the Union: 2010
The Shape of Things to Come
Ricardian Equivalence Reconsidered
The Real Burden of Government
Toward a Risk-Free Economy
The Rahn Curve at Work
The Illusion of Prosperity and Stability
More about the Perils of Obamacare
Health Care “Reform”: The Short of It
The Mega-Depression
I Want My Country Back
The “Forthcoming Financial Collapse”
Estimating the Rahn Curve: Or, How Government Inhibits Economic Growth
The Deficit Commission’s Deficit of Understanding
The Bowles-Simpson Report
The Bowles-Simpson Band-Aid
The Stagnation Thesis
America’s Financial Crisis Is Now
Understanding Hayek
Money, Credit, and Economic Fluctuations
A Keynesian Fantasy Land
The Keynesian Fallacy and Regime Uncertainty
Why the “Stimulus” Failed to Stimulate
The “Jobs Speech” That Obama Should Have Given
Say’s Law, Government, and Unemployment
Regime Uncertainty and the Great Recession
Regulation as Wishful Thinking
Vulgar Keynesianism and Capitalism
Why Are Interest Rates So Low?
Don’t Just Stand There, “Do Something”
The Commandeered Economy
Stocks for the Long Run?
We Owe It to Ourselves
Stocks for the Long Run? (Part II)
Bonds for the Long Run?
The Real Multiplier (II)
The Burden of Government
Economic Growth Since World War II
More Evidence for the Rahn Curve
The Economy Slogs Along
The Obama Effect: Disguised Unemployment
Obama’s Economic Record in Perspective

The Obama Effect: Disguised Unemployment (Updated)

There’s no significant change in the real unemployment rate, which stands at 12.9 percent, in contrast to the official rate of 7.8 percent announced today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For details — including a comparison of real vs. nominal unemployment rates since January 2000 — go here.

Mission Not Accomplished

From Walter Russell Mead’s “Al-Qaeda Is Alive and Well“:

Contrary to exclamations from the Obama administration and the mainstream press, Al-Qaeda is not dead, not gone, and not “on its last legs.” In fact, the regional groups that together make up “Al-Qaeda” have had different fortunes in recent months, as Daveed Gartenstein-Ross reports for Foreign Policy, but its fighters are still out there….

It seems that Al-Qaeda willingly hid from public view, regrouped, explored new areas of operation, trained, and gathered recruits, all before the 9/11/12 attack in Benghazi—and all amid repeated spiking of the football in Washington over the killings of Osama bin Laden and Abu Yahya al-Libi, among others….

Americans have a pattern of prematurely declaring victory in these kinds of long, drawn-out struggles. Think back to Lyndon Johnson’s “light at the end of the tunnel” in Vietnam, the “death throes” of the Iraqi insurgency that Vice President Cheney thought he saw, and the triumphal crowing after bin Laden’s death that Al-Qaeda was on the verge of strategic defeat. We ought to be more careful declaring victory, especially when we aren’t exactly sure to begin with what victory would even look like.

As if to underscore Mead’s warning, here is a tidbit from The Telegraph:

Al-Qaeda has been blamed for a recent series of forest fires across Europe, as the head of Russia’s Federal Security Service claimed they were set by arsonists as part of the group’s low-cost attack strategy.

“One should note that setting fires to forests in the countries of the European Union is a new tendency in al-Qaeda’s strategy of a ‘thousand cuts’,” Alexander Bortnikov said, according to state news agency RIA Novosti, at a meeting of heads of security agencies.

“This method allows (al-Qaeda) to inflict significant economic and moral damage without serious preliminary preparations, technical equipment or significant expenses.”

In linking al-Qaeda to the deadly wildfires, Mr Bortnikov pointed to calls to launch a “forest jihad” by various extremist websites which he said also publish detailed instructions about how and where to best carry out arson.

He said it was very difficult for special services to find and prosecute such arsonists.

Deadly fires have swept through forest land in EU countries such as Portugal and Spain over the past few months, killing scores of people and forcing thousands to evacuate. (“Al-Qaeda blamed for Europe-wide forest fires,” October 4, 2012)

It seems to me that someone ought to be taking seriously the kind of scenario that I laid out in “The Next 9/11?”:

…I challenge the [Obama] administration to tell me that the following has not happened and cannot happen in the United States:

  • A large but dispersed collection of improvised weapons for improvised, mortar-style attacks has been gathered in and around major U.S. cities and transportation and energy nodes.
  • These weapons are positioned so that their activation, on a massive scale would create havoc and panic — and might well disrupt transportation and communication networks. (With a massive salvo, not every weapon must reach its target.)
  • These weapons can be activated remotely — perhaps through signals transmitted from a single point — so that they can be fired in coordinated waves. Each successive wave disrupts and complicates rescue and recovery efforts that ensue from preceding waves, heightens confusion and panic, and lays the groundwork for economic disaster and political repression.

Obama’s political correctness, I fear, goes hand-in-hand with his demonstrated fecklessness in matters of national security. The intelligence and special operations forces of the United States should be capable of detecting and dismantling a threat of the kind outlined above. But will they be given the necessary resources and leeway? I doubt it.

I wrote that more than a year before the murders of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans. Murders that underscore Obama’s insouciant incompetence in the face of a determined enemy.

The Obama Effect: Disguised Unemployment

UPDATED 11/08/13

By the measure of real unemployment, the Great Recession is still with us. Nor is it likely to end anytime soon, given the anti-business, anti-growth policies and rhetoric of the Obama administration.

Officially, the unemployment rate stands at 7.3 percent, as of October 2013. Unofficially — but in reality — the unemployment rate stands at 13.4 percent. This real rate has remained almost unchanged since October 2009. And it is significantly higher than the real rate of 10.0 percent that Obama “inherited” from G.W. Bush in January 2009.

No amount of “stimulus” or “quantitative easing” will create jobs when employers and entrepreneurs are loath to take the risk of expanding and starting businesses, given Obama’s penchant for regulating against success and taxing it when it is achieved. The job-killing effects of Obamacare will only worsen the situation. And, of course, taxing “the rich” is a sure way to hamper economic growth by stifling productive effort, innovation, and investment.

How can I say that the real unemployment rate is above 13 percent, even though the official rate is only 7.3 percent? Easily. Just follow this trail of definitions, provided by the official purveyor of unemployment statistics, the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Unemployed persons (Current Population Survey)
Persons aged 16 years and older who had no employment during the reference week, were available for work, except for temporary illness, and had made specific efforts to find employment sometime during the 4-week period ending with the reference week. Persons who were waiting to be recalled to a job from which they had been laid off need not have been looking for work to be classified as unemployed.

Unemployment rate
The unemployment rate represents the number unemployed as a percent of the labor force.

Labor force (Current Population Survey)
The labor force includes all persons classified as employed or unemployed in accordance with the definitions contained in this glossary.

Labor force participation rate
The labor force as a percent of the civilian noninstitutional population.

Civilian noninstitutional population (Current Population Survey)
Included are persons 16 years of age and older residing in the 50 States and the District of Columbia who are not inmates of institutions (for example, penal and mental facilities, homes for the aged), and who are not on active duty in the Armed Forces.

In short, if you are 16 years of age and older, not confined to an institution or on active duty in the armed forces, but have not recently made specific efforts to find employment, you are not (officially) a member of the labor force. And if you are not (officially) a member of the labor force because you have given up looking for work, you are not (officially) unemployed — according to the BLS. Of course, you are really unemployed, but your unemployment is well disguised by the BLS’s contorted definition of unemployment.

What has happened is this: Since the first four months of 2000, when the labor-force participation rate peaked at 67.3 percent, it has declined to 62.8 percent:

Labor force participation rate_Jan 2000 - Oct 2013
Source: See next graph.

Why the decline, which had came to a halt during G.W. Bush’s second term but resumed in late 2008? The slowdown of 2000 (coincident with the bursting of the dot-com bubble) and the shock of 9/11 can account for the decline from 2000 to 2004, as workers chose to withdraw from the labor force when faced with dimmer employment prospects. But what about the sharper decline that began near the end of Bush’s second term? There we see not only the demoralizing effects of the Great Recession but also the lure of incentives to refrain from work, namely, extended unemployment benefits, the relaxation of welfare rules, and the aggressive distribution of food stamps. Need I add that both the prolongation of the Great Recession and the enticements to refrain from work are Obama’s doing?

If the labor-force participation rate had remained at its peak of 67.3 percent, so that the disguised unemployed was no longer disguised, the official unemployment rate would have reached 13.1 percent in October 2009, as against the nominal peak of 10 percent. Further, instead of declining to the phony rate of 7.3 percent in October 2013, the official unemployment rate would have stayed almost constant — hovering between 12.8 percent and 13.6 percent.

In sum, the real unemployment rate was 3.1 points above the nominal rate in October 2009; the real rate is now 6.1 points above the nominal rate. The growing disparity between the real and nominal unemployment rates is evident in this graph:

Actual vs nominal unemployment rate_Jan 2000 - Oct 2013
Derived from SeriesLNS12000000, Seasonally Adjusted Employment Level; SeriesLNS11000000, Seasonally Adjusted Civilian Labor Force Level; and Series LNS11300000, Seasonally Adjusted Civilian labor force participation rate. All are available at BLS, Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey.

Related posts:
Are We Mortgaging Our Children’s Future?
In the Long Run We Are All Poorer
Mr. Greenspan Doth Protest Too Much
The Price of Government
Fascism and the Future of America
The Indivisibility of Economic and Social Liberty
Rationing and Health Care
The Fed and Business Cycles
The Commandeered Economy
The Perils of Nannyism: The Case of Obamacare
The Price of Government Redux
As Goes Greece
The State of the Union: 2010
The Shape of Things to Come
Ricardian Equivalence Reconsidered
The Real Burden of Government
Toward a Risk-Free Economy
The Illusion of Prosperity and Stability
More about the Perils of Obamacare
Health Care “Reform”: The Short of It
The Mega-Depression
I Want My Country Back
The “Forthcoming Financial Collapse”
The Deficit Commission’s Deficit of Understanding
The Bowles-Simpson Report
The Bowles-Simpson Band-Aid
The Stagnation Thesis
Taxing the Rich
More about Taxing the Rich
Understanding Hayek
Money, Credit, and Economic Fluctuations
A Keynesian Fantasy Land
The Keynesian Fallacy and Regime Uncertainty
Why the “Stimulus” Failed to Stimulate
The “Jobs Speech” That Obama Should Have Given
Say’s Law, Government, and Unemployment
Regime Uncertainty and the Great Recession
Regulation as Wishful Thinking
Don’t Just Stand There, “Do Something”
The Commandeered Economy
Stocks for the Long Run?
We Owe It to Ourselves
Stocks for the Long Run? (Part II)
Bonds for the Long Run?
The Real Multiplier (II)
The Burden of Government
The Rationing Fallacy
Progressive Taxation Is Alive and Well in the U.S. of A.
The Economy Slogs Along
The Stock Market as a Leading Indicator of GDP
Government in Macroeconomic Perspective
Where We Are, Economically
Keynesianism: Upside-Down Economics in the Collectivist Cause
The Economic Outlook in Brief
Is Taxation Slavery? (yes)
Taxes Matter
Obamanomics: A Report Card
Economic Horror Stories: The Great “Demancipation” and Economic Stagnation
Economics: A Survey (also here)
Why Are Interest Rates So Low?
Vulgar Keynesianism and Capitalism
Estimating the Rahn Curve: Or, How Government Spending Inhibits Economic Growth
America’s Financial Crisis Is Now

Barack Channels Princess SummerFall WinterSpring

The princess of the title is Elizabeth Warren, self-reputed to be of Cherokee descent. And, as Native Americans go, Warren is about as authentic as Princess SummerFall WinterSpring of Howdy Doody.

You may remember Warren’s bleat of last September, in support of Obama’s plan to soak “the rich.” It caused ripples in the blogosphere (here and here, for example). The bleat? It goes like this:

I hear all this, you know, Well, this is class warfare, this is whatever. No. There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own — nobody.

You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police-forces and fire-forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory — and hire someone to protect against this — because of the work the rest of us did.

Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea. God bless — keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is, you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.

Last week, in Virgina, The Mighty O said the same thing in slightly different words:

There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me — because they want to give something back.  They know they didn’t — look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own.  You didn’t get there on your own.  I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart.  There are a lot of smart people out there.  It must be because I worked harder than everybody else.  Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.

I repeat what I said in response to Warren’s bleat:

Who said anything about anyone getting rich on his own? But didn’t the factory owner — and other “malefactors of great wealth” — pay a “fair share”of the taxes that support roads, education, and police and fire forces? Yes.* Didn’t the factory owner pay his workers for their labor? Yes, and sometimes (in the case of union workers) at the expense of consumers and those workers who couldn’t find employment because unions effectively limit entry to the labor market.

If anyone owes “the rest of us” anything, it’s the workers who received subsidized educations that enabled them to earn good wages at factories that were built because factory owners, shareholders, bond holders, and (sometimes) venture capitalists put their own money at risk.

Workers and others (including Elizabeth Warren) ought to be grateful to the “malefactors of great wealth” who have — against heavy odds — enabled America’s prosperity.

Tom Smith of The Right Coast weighs in with this:

…{H]ow many more successful businesses, inventions, products, services, toys, tools, insights, and just plain fun would there be, if government did not in the first place make it so ridiculously difficult to start a business and keep it going? I don’t see our young president taking credit on behalf of the state for all the failures it help cause, all the ideas that never got off the ground because the regulatory hurdles were so high, or all the established companies that never had to face competition because they had managed to get their rents written into law. This is part of the seen and not seen insight of Bastiat. What you see is a successful business when it manages to survive, and then people run up, the same people who taxed and regulated it nearly to death, and say I helped! I helped! What you don’t see are all the businesses that perished or never got started because of the heavy hand of the state. And it’s a very heavy hand….

I started a business, commercially unsuccessful, sadly, but we created some great technology. I was a libertarian before that, but I was really a libertarian afterwards. It’s difficult to even explain how pervasive, expensive, frustrating and sometimes just plain insuperable the regulatory and taxation burden of the state is. It’s not what did our venture in, but it helped….

It’s obvious, but still worth saying — for our young President to suggest that government deserves some large part of the credit for the achievements of business founders who manage, in spite of it all, to start a business and make of a go of it, is deeply, deeply perverse. What it ought to get credit for are all the unseen businesses, no longer here or never to be, that it is responsible for.

I can tell you, from bitter experience as a business owner and corporate officer, that Smith is exactly right. The burdens that government imposes on the creation, expansion, and operation of businesses are myriad and onerous. Most Americans aren’t aware of just how much government does to discourage the creation of jobs, income, and wealth because most Americans — even those who are employed — are not exposed to the ugliness of the business-government interface. If business-government transactions were rated like movies, they would be rated XXX.

There is one more thing to be said about the Warren-Obama attack on industriousness. It’s wrong, as any economist worth his salt could tell you. (That excludes Paul Krugman and his fellow worshipers at the altar of big government.) Despite the pretensions of bleeding heart libertarians and their brethren on the left, no one on Earth is qualified to say how much a person deserves to earn. Aside from thieves and others who coerce their earnings from others (e.g., government officials, members of compulsory unions), Americans earn what they are able to command for their services, on the basis of the value of those services to others.

The factory owner who makes a lot of money does so — after having taken the considerable risk of owning a factory and putting up with a lot of crap from government — because what he produces is valuable to others. He is being rewarded more than his employees because he is taking  risks and putting up with harassment. He is, in other words, being rewarded for his contributions to the success of his enterprise. (Did Barack or Elizabeth do anything to help him create it? Did the workers do more than they were paid to do? No, to both questions.)

And if the factory owner loses a lot of money and goes out of business, is it the fault of those who failed to buy his products? Would Barack Obama and Elizabeth Warren say that everyone let him down? They should, because by their “logic” the failed factory owner was failed by everyone who didn’t buy his products, and so they owe him something.

But most American business owners are not whiny brats like Barack Obama, Elizabeth Warren, and the freeloaders whose votes they depend on to stay in power.

Related posts:
The Causes of Economic Growth
A Short Course in Economics
Addendum to a Short Course in Economics
The Price of Government
Asymmetrical (Ideological) Warfare
“Buy Local”
Giving Back, Again
Taxing the Rich
More about Taxing the Rich
Luck-Egalitarianism and Moral Luck
In Defense of Wal-Mart
Union Thuggery
Estimating the Rahn Curve: Or, How Government Inhibits Economic Growth