Obama

The Obama Effect: Disguised Unemployment

Updated Here.

Two takeaways:

  • The “official” unemployment rate of 5.9 percent is phony. The real rate remains at 12.4 percent, just 1.1 points below the 21st century high-water mark of 13.5 (reached in 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2013).
  • The real unemployment rate is disguised by the continued decline of the labor-force participation rate — a decline that has accelerated since the onset of Obamanomics. The decline is concentrated among younger workers, and has probably been helped along by Obamacare. (See the final paragraph of the post.)

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The Hopey Changey Mood in 1934

I was reminded by Mark Steyn of Leni Riefenstahl‘s propagandistic masterpiece of 1934, Triumph of the Will. Fräulein Riefenstahl made a media star of Adolf Hitler, and in so doing showed the way for the image-makers who have since given us the likes of John F. Kennedy, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama. Shallow men all, with images that glowed until the mask was ripped off.

Triumph of the Will reminds me especially of Obama. See it for yourself, here. A segment that begins around 32:00 praises Hitler’s “shovel ready” projects. A segment that begins around 42:00 looks like a preview of the mob hysteria that surrounded Obama’s first inaugural in 2009.

Can a Third Reich happen here? In many respects, it has happened here, though in slow motion, over a span of more than 100 years. Teddy Roosevelt was the first imperial president, but not the most imperious. FDR trumped TR, but FDR had nothing on BHO.

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Related posts:
FDR and Fascism
An FDR Reader
Fascism with a “Friendly” Face
Penalizing “Thought Crimes”
Tocqueville’s Prescience
Invoking Hitler
Don’t Use the “S” Word When the “F” Word Will Do
The Barbarians Within and the State of the Union
Presidential Treason
“A Date Which Will Live in Infamy”
The Criminality and Psychopathy of Statism
Walking the Tightrope Reluctantly

My Claim to Prescience

On April 24, 2009, just three months after Obama ascended to the presidency, I posted “Sizing Up Obama“:

On the one hand, we have FDR II, replete with schemes for managing our lives and fortunes.

On the other hand, we have Carter-Clinton II, ready to: kowtow to those who would bury us, create the illusion that peace will reign perforce, and act on that illusion by slashing the defense budget (thereby giving aid and comfort to our enemies).

Through the haze of smoke and glare of mirrors I see a youngish president exhorting us to “fear nothing but fear itself” while proclaiming “peace for our time,” as we “follow the yellow-brick road” to impotent serfdom.

I wouldn’t change a word of it.

Case closed.

Walking the Tightrope Reluctantly

A friend sent me a link to Peter Baker’s recent article in The New York Times, “As World Boils, Fingers Point Obama’s Way” (August 15, 2014). You can read it for yourself. This was my initial reaction:

All the world’s a stage…

…and whether the play’s a tragedy, or not, seems to depend on how its critics (the media) depict it.

Obama’s policy toward the Middle East seems to have been based on wishful thinking about rapprochement with “progressives” in the Middle East. His underlying “strategy” of disengagement hasn’t gone unnoticed, especially because it’s consistent with the continued shrinkage of U.S. military power.

This mixture of bumbling and willful impotence could only have invited aggressive moves — even  though not aimed directly at the U.S. Thus Putin’s adventures and the growing militancy of China may seem to flow from Obama’s handling of foreign and defense policy. Would such things have happened anyway? Perhaps. They certainly did in the past, and in ways more directly threatening to U.S. interests (from the Berlin blockade to the Cuban missile crisis). But memories are short, and it’s easy to think of the relatively quiescent decade after the first Gulf War as the norm.

If the aggressiveness continues, and especially if it’s aimed more directly at U.S. interests, the next administration — and the public — will come face to face with the crucial choice: Withdraw more completely or reengage (with requisite rearmament). Obama has tried to walk a tightrope between the two alternatives, but it’s a tightrope that can’t be walked for long.

Having given the matter more thought, I must add that Obama is walking the tightrope reluctantly. He cannot overtly abandon the world stage and leave American interests entirely unprotected. That way lies greater disgrace than he is almost certain to endure, if not removal from office.

But aside from that consideration — and no other — Obama would make America into a “pitiful, helpless giant.” I turn (not for the first time) to Norman Podhoretz:

… [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)

Jackson Diehl offers wise counsel about the situation in Iraq, where Obama snatched defeat from the jaws of victory: “To fix foreign policy mistakes, President Obama must first admit them” (The Washington Post, August 14, 2014). But the headline says it all — Obama won’t admit his deliberate “mistakes” in Iraq, or anywhere else.

No, he’d rather play the victim of G.W. Bush’s decisions and world events beyond his control. (See Peter Wehner’s “Obama Still Feeling Sorry for Himself,” Commentary, August 17, 2014.) Petulant whining is unattractive, but it’s better (for Obama) to be called a whiner than to be outed as a traitor.

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Related reading:
James A. (Ace) Lyons (Admiral, USN, retired), “The fallout from foreign policy malfeasance and nonfeasance,” The Washington Times, August 14, 2014)
Ed Lasky, “Obama’s Willful Blindness,” American Thinker, August 25, 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
Presidential Treason

Round Up the Usual Suspects

UPDATED BELOW

From Obama’s remarks about events in Ferguson, Missouri:

[I[t’s important to remember how this started.  We lost a young man, Michael Brown, in heartbreaking and tragic circumstances.

Yes, let’s remember how “this” started:

A suburban St. Louis police chief on Friday identified the officer whose fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager ignited days of heated protests, and released documents alleging the teen was killed after a robbery in which he was suspected of stealing a $48.99 box of cigars.

Ferguson, Mo., Police Chief Thomas Jackson said that the robbery took place just before noon on Saturday at a nearby convenience store roughly 10 minutes before a police officer identified as Darren Wilson fired the bullet that killed Michael Brown. Police say that the shot was fired after a struggle touched off by Wilson’s confronting Brown. Jackson said Wilson is a six-year veteran with no disciplinary action on his record….

Police released still images and were planning to release video [here] from the robbery, at a QuikTrip store in Ferguson. Jackson said Wilson, along with other officers, were called to the area after a 911 call reporting a “strong-arm robbery” at a nearby convenience store….

According to the police reports, Brown and his friend, Dorian Johnson, were suspected of taking a box of cigars from a store in Ferguson that morning…. [Johnson has since confirmed that he and Brown committed the theft.]

Police have said Brown was shot after an officer encountered him and another man on the street. They say one of the men pushed the officer into his squad car, then physically assaulted him in the vehicle and struggled with the officer over the officer’s weapon. At least one shot was fired inside the car before the struggle spilled onto the street, where Brown was shot multiple times, according to police.

Why am I inclined to believe the account offered by the police chief? Because the “martyrdom” of Michael Brown bears an uncanny resemblance to previous cases involving “blameless” victims; for example:

  • the “rape” of Tawana Brawley, a black female
  • the fatal beating of Matthew Shepard, supposedly because of his homosexuality (more here)
  • the “rape” of a black female members of Duke University’s lacrosse team
  • the media lynching and unwarranted prosecution of George Zimmerman for defending himself from a violent punk named Trayvon Martin.

The “usual suspects” in the Ferguson fiasco are Obama, “liberals,” and (pseudo) libertarians. Obama converted a local problem into a federal issue, à la Trayvon Martin. “Liberals,” as usual, chose to depict a black thug as a victim.”Liberals” and (psuedo) libertarians (i.e., most self-styled libertarians) — speaking from the comfort of their affluent enclaves, where they rarely encounter thugs like Martin and Brown — began to shout “police brutality” without benefit of the facts.

Do I have all of the facts? Of course not. But I’m not the one who’s rushing to proclaim another innocent victim at the hands of a brutal policeman. If it turns out that the policeman deliberately shot a non-threatening victim, I’ll be the first to acknowledge it.

UPDATE 1 (08/18/14): It seems that Brown was not shot in the back. Nor does it seem that he was shot at very close range, that is, close enough to leave powder burns on skin or clothing:

This seems to contradict the statements of Brown’s friend, Dorian Johnson, who said the officer … grabbed Brown’s neck with one hand and shot him with the other.

The location of the bullet wounds, especially one in the top of the head, suggests that Brown was “giving up, or … charging forward at the officer.” My money is on “charging forward” — all 6’4″ and 292 pounds of him. Thus the seemingly large number of shots (six), which probably were fired in rapid succession. Why? Here’s an analogy: When a beast charges a hunter, the hunter doesn’t shoot once; he keeps shooting until he runs out of bullets or the beast drops dead.

UPDATE 2 (08/19/14): Consider the source, but this version of the shooting is consistent with the (plausible) explanation offered in Update 1.

UPDATE 3 (09/07/14): Speaking of (pseudo) libertarians, I just happened across this post, in which the author empathizes with the destructive goons of Ferguson; for example:

I cannot possibly imagine the rage and indignation that I would feel if I were regularly accosted by the police, questioned, detained, searched, arrested, or even just heckled. Or even just ignored when I needed help. I would feel not like a citizen but like a subject. Not like a fellow American, but like a detained, suspected, alien.

Jefferson said that he thought this the strongest government on earth, “the only one where every man, at the call of the law, would fly to the standard of the law, and would meet invasions of the public order as his own personal concern.” If many black and Hispanic Americans, and the residents of our inner cities, do not feel this way–especially after four decades of an unconstitutional, unwinnable, immoral war on drugs–well, I find it hard to blame them.

Where is the outrage about the high rates of “real crime” committed by blacks against persons and property? Where is the hint of understanding that socioeconomic status is related to intelligence? Where is the condemnation of a culture that fosters crime and indolence? For some relevant background, see “The Freespace Posts,” especially the third of the introductory paragraphs.

UPDATE 4 (09/18/14): An experienced police officer with no stake in the Brown case offers a convincing analysis (which just happens to parallel mine):  http://chrishernandezauthor.com/2014/08/24/a-dose-of-reality-for-ferguson-missouri/

UPDATE 5 (10/25/14): This story, from The Washington Post, summarizes the state of play:

Ferguson, Mo., police officer Darren Wilson and Michael Brown fought for control of the officer’s gun, and Wilson fatally shot the unarmed teenager after he moved toward the officer as they faced off in the street, according to interviews, news accounts and the full report of the St. Louis County autopsy of Brown’s body….

Some of the physical evidence — including blood spatter analysis, shell casings and ballistics tests — also supports Wilson’s account of the shooting, The Post’s sources said, which casts Brown as an aggressor who threatened the officer’s life….

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch late Tuesday night published Brown’s official county autopsy report, an analysis of which also suggests that the 18-year-old may not have had his hands raised when he was fatally shot, as has been the contention of protesters who have demanded Wilson’s arrest….

Experts told the newspaper that Brown was first shot at close range and may have been reaching for Wilson’s weapon while the officer was still in his vehicle and Brown was standing at the driver’s side window. The autopsy found material “consistent with products that are discharged from the barrel of a firearm” in a wound on Brown’s thumb, the autopsy says.

Judy Melinek, a forensic pathologist in San Francisco who reviewed the report for the Post-Dispatch­, said it “supports the fact that this guy is reaching for the gun, if he has gunpowder particulate material in the wound.”

Melinek, who is not involved in the investigation, said the autopsy did not support those who claim Brown was attempting to flee or surrender when Wilson shot him in the street….

Seven or eight African American eyewitnesses have provided testimony consistent with Wilson’s account, but none have spoken publicly out of fear for their safety, The Post’s sources said.

“Fear for their safety.” Imagine that.

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Related posts:
Obama’s Latest Act of Racism
Not-So-Random Thoughts (III) (see “Trayvon, George, and Barack”)
Left-Libertarians, Obama, and the Zimmerman Case

The Obama Effect: Disguised Unemployment

UPDATED 10/03/14

This is a companion to “Obamanomics: A Report Card.”

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 5.9 percent, as of September 2014. Unofficially — but in reality — the unemployment rate stands at 12.4 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 12 percent, even though the official rate is only 6.1 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 62.7 percent:

Labor force participation rate
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, the aggressive distribution of food stamps, and “free” healthcare” for an expanded Medicaid enrollment base and 20-somethings who live in their parents’ basements.* Need I add that both the prolongation of the Great Recession and the enticements to refrain from work are Obama’s doing? (That’s on the supply side. On the demand side, of course, there are the phony and even negative effects of “stimulus” spending, the chilling effects of regime uncertainty, which has persisted beyond the official end of the Great Recession, and the continued expansion of government spending.)

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 5.9 percent in September 2014, the official unemployment rate would have stayed almost constant — hovering between 12.4 percent and 13.5 percent.

In sum, the real unemployment rate was 3.1 points above the nominal rate in October 2009; the real rate is now 6.5 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
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.

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* Contrary to some speculation, the labor-force participation rate is not declining because older workers are retiring earlier. The participation rate among workers 55 and older rose between 2002 and 2012. The decline is concentrated among workers under the age of 55, and especially workers in the 16-24 age bracket. (See this table at BLS.gov.) Why? My conjecture: The Great Recession caused a shakeout of marginal (low-skill) workers, many of whom simply dropped out of the labor market. And it became easier for them to drop out because, under Obamacare, many of them became eligible for Medicaid and many others enjoy prolonged coverage (until age 26) under their parents’ health plans.

Signature

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Related reading:
Randall Holcombe, “Long-Term Unemployment Benefits Expire; Long-Term Unemployment Falls,” Mises Economics Blog, September 10, 2014
Arnold Kling, “The State of the Economy,” askblog, October 12, 2014

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
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
The Keynesian Multiplier: Phony Math
The True Multiplier
Some Inconvenient Facts about Income Inequality
Mass (Economic) Hysteria: Income Inequality and Related Themes
Income Inequality and Economic Growth

Obamanomics: A Report Card

This is a companion to “The Obama Effect: Disguised Unemployment.”

I begin with this dismal picture of GDP crawling along at bottom edge of the 99-percent confidence interval around the long-term trend:

Real GDP 1947q1-2014q1
Source for this and the following charts: Bureau of Economic Analysis, Current Dollar and “Real” Gross Domestic Product, April 30, 2014.

Here is a closer look at the state of affairs since World War II. Note the steady decline in the rate of growth — a decline that has been exacerbated by Obamanomics:

year-over-year change in real GDP 1948-2014

It should not surprise you to learn that we are in the midst of the weakest recovery of all post-war recoveries:

Annualized rate of real growth_bottom of recession to onset of next recession
See this post for my definition of a recession.

Nor should you be surprised by the stickiness of unemployment, when it is measured correctly. The real unemployment rate is several percentage points above the nominal rate. For details, see “The Obama Effect: Disguised Unemployment.”

The sad but simple explanation for all of the bad economic news: Employers and employees remain discouraged because Europeanism has arrived in America and regime uncertainty persists. It all adds up to this: punish producers, reward non-producers, and stagnate.

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Related posts:
The Laffer Curve, “Fiscal Responsibility,” and Economic Growth
The Causes of Economic Growth
In the Long Run We Are All Poorer
A Short Course in Economics
Addendum to a Short Course in Economics
The Price of Government
The Price of Government Redux
The Mega-Depression
As Goes Greece
Ricardian Equivalence Reconsidered
The Real Burden of Government
The Illusion of Prosperity and Stability
Taxing the Rich
More about Taxing the Rich
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
Unemployment and Economic Growth
Regime Uncertainty and the Great Recession
Regulation as Wishful Thinking
The Real Multiplier
The Commandeered Economy
Stocks for the Long Run?
We Owe It to Ourselves
Stocks for the Long Run? (Part II)
In Defense of the 1%
Bonds for the Long Run?
The Real Multiplier (II)
Lay My (Regulatory) Burden Down
The Burden of Government
Economic Growth Since World War II
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
The Price of Government, Once More
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
The Keynesian Multiplier: Phony Math
The True Multiplier
Some Inconvenient Facts about Income Inequality
Mass (Economic) Hysteria: Income Inequality and Related Themes

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.

*     *     *

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
Brian T. Kennedy, “Early Warning: The Continuing Need for National Defense,” Imprimis, March 2014
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:
Diversity
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.