Monday, August 30, 2010

Nearly a Decade? C'mon!

He'll say it three times if you watch the video of BHO making another attempt to blame it all on Bush: "It took nearly a decade to dig the hole that we're in."

We're not sure which hole he's talking about. It isn't the deficit hole. Even though Bush spent like Paris Hilton, the national debt as a percentage of GDP ticked up after 9/11 with increased war spending but then stayed level, well within historic boundaries. It headed up again with the bank bailout initiated by Bush and continued by BHO, but what really fueled its endless rise was BHO's impotent stimulus, which he ever so cleverly introduced not as a temporary measure but as a the new baseline for federal spending.

We know that the hole isn't the unemployment rate, either. Bush's highest unemployment rate was 6.0% in 2003. Mostly Bush presided over an economy with about half the unemployment we have now. Those tax cuts were just awful, y'all!

OK, maybe it was the housing bubble. That certainly grew under Bush. But did Obama the prescient campaign against the federal subsidies that encouraged so much home buying in the previous decade? Well, no. That was all the fault of something else: greedy bankers who get to do whatever they want when you elect the Previous Administration.

So we guess the bubble was a hole, mysteriously caused by unnamed policies of the patently evil and incompetent Bush, who somehow managed to steal two elections.

It's not working, Mr. President. We hope that you're trying out lines for your SOTU in January, something like "The era of big government is over."

BHO a Manichean Subsidizing Failure

Finally someone else has said it.

Our present President has an awful habit of dividing the world into two categories. Sometimes it's two categories of straw men, followed by the signature declaration "I reject that false choice." But that rhetorical trope is just a step on the way to what BHO does as a habit of thought: dividing the world into the good and the evil, always along clear lines of identity politics.

Seven times since the ascent of the anointed Obama we have invoked the term "Manichean" to describe this awful habit of designating some children of light and others children of darkness.

Now Mona Charen joins us, in no uncertain terms, prompted by the failure of BHO's Home Affordable Modification Program (motto: We wanted to call it HEMP, but we made a mistake). We quote her opening and her closing:

President Obama has a weakness for thinking in categories. For someone who provokes swoons among liberals for his great intellect, he has repeatedly evidenced an unsophisticated, one might even say simple-minded, view of the world: Workers good; bosses exploitative. Borrowers good; lenders bad. Patients good; insurance companies bad. Again and again, the president and his spokesmen have justified their expansions of government power as efforts to help those who "through no fault of their own" find themselves in difficulties. . . .

In contrast to the Obama morality play, the foreclosure crisis was not a conspiracy of the rich and powerful against dutiful homeowners reliably making their monthly payments. It was the result of multiple follies by government, bankers, and individuals. President Obama’s instinct to insulate people from the consequences of their bad decisions (and yes, sometimes bad luck) amounts to subsidizing failure. The results are coming in daily--persistent high unemployment, an anemic recovery, and billions upon billions of wasted taxpayer money.

A Manichean subsidizing failure. We think there's no better characterization for the present failure.

It started as a populist campaign ploy, and we all hoped that Obama was just involved in a cynical campaign ploy, not really believing what he said. Then he tried to govern that way. Now we know we should believe what we're told.

So Who Needs Leadership Anyway?

Gallup says it's historic.

Asked the question whether they would prefer to vote for a Democrat or a Republican for Congress in the upcoming election, registered voters respond for the Rs to the tune of 51%, Ds at 41%.

This poll began in 1942. Rs have never led by this much before. Ever.

So Republicans can unfortunately stand pat while Democrats continue to practice political self-immolation. That's a good strategy for winning an election like this year's but a bad formula for governing once January rolls around.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

But SWNID, The Beck Rally Was Wonderful!

Gentle readers, do not despair at our criticism of media controversialist Glenn Beck's rally in Washington yesterday. We gladly affirm that the rally was exceptionally well attended and sounded themes that ought to become a bigger part of the public agenda.

We think this speaks more to the public's pressing awareness that these themes need to be rearticulated, reclaimed and reinvigorated. We, of course, agree.

Our scorn is for Mr. Beck only. He is no real leader of conservatism. While his instincts may be directed rightly, he is a clumsy spokesman for the movement, never really stating clearly why what he says matters to all, not just those already inclined to agree with him.

So don't go gettin' all excited about this thing. Be glad that people care, but be concerned that "movement conservatism" lacks the leadership to make its case to the public at large, even when they're inclined to agree.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Imponderables on the Mall

Today, the forty-seventh anniversary of Dr. King's historic "I Have a Dream" speech, the Washington Mall (motto: "not a shopping center") is the site of two political rallies, one hosted by "conservative" media firebrand Glenn Beck and the other by "civil rights" activist Al Sharpton.

Much, of course, is being made of Mr. Beck's chutzpah for holding a conservative rally on the anniversary, even though a niece of Dr. King is very much a part of the proceedings. Little is being made of Rev. Sharpton's rally at all.

And, of course, the two see themselves as very different. Which they are. Except in the outstanding way in which they are precisely the same.

Both Beck and Sharpton are blowhards whose diminutive stature is highlighted by the celebrated setting they have chosen for their antics.

SWNID, of course, happens to have political views modestly congruent with what Beck rants in favor of. That doesn't raise him to the status of someone deserving SWNIDish respect, however. We scorn his opportunistic self-promotion. Mr. Beck, we remember William F. Buckley, and you, sir, are not he.

We hope that those who believe Sharpton somehow speaks for them will adopt a similar stance. His presence on the Mall is no less demeaning to the legacy of Dr. King than is Beck's, even though he implicitly claims succession from the great man.

No one can imagine a moment at either rally like Mahalia Jackson expectantly urging, "Tell them about the dream, Martin!" So why don't we just say so, about both?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Grossly Partisan Misrepresentation from the Leader of the Free World

In the normal political order, the Vice President does the partisan knife-fighting for the President.

Not so with this administration. Biden can't be relied on to avoid silly gaffes. To extend the metaphor above, he shows up to the knife fight with a butter knife, then drops it down his pants.

So BHO does his own over-the-top partisanship. And it's not pretty.

Today he warns that Rs want to "privatize" Social Security, which he predictably says would threaten benefits, putting them in the slippery hands of Wall Street and add trillions to the federal deficit.

That's the kind of wild partisan rhetoric that Republicans have never learned to parry, to the detriment of citizens who are now further along the way toward full clienthood than ever before.

Let's restart the discussion. If we were starting from scratch with a government-mandated pension program, would it be based on defined benefits the way that traditional industrial pensions have been, or on defined contributions, the way that IRAs and 401(k)s are? When we note that the former have become unaffordable for industry as well as government, we have our answer. Moving away from "entitlement" to "empowerment" with privatized investments and insurance to replace the Ponzi scheme of Social Security and Medicare, accompanied by a basic social safety net--therein lies hope for the federal balance sheet, the national savings rate, cost containment in health care, increased national savings, and general prosperity for all.

Ds should be ashamed to continue demagoguing this issue, except that it works for them electorally. They should be ashamed that their President is doing it, except that they've all done it for so long. Rs should be ashamed that they're letting this happen again, unable to offer a response that will make sense to the electorate. The electorate should be ashamed that it is stupid enough to listen to this fear-mongering falsehood yet again.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Happy SWNIDiversary!

Five years ago today, the internet was changed for ever.

SWNID appeared.

Since then, we have refined our style to attain a keener level of verbosity; addressed matters political, ethical, cultural, artistic and religious; stretched the meaning of "seldom"; and captured the fleeting attention of readers numbering in the dozens.

We post less frequently these days, perhaps because life interferes with expressing opinions, perhaps because public affairs move at such a molluscish pace, perhaps because we've already expressed ourself on the vainly repetitious events of the day.

Still, we press on occasionally, driven by our insatiable need to speak our mind for our own amusement, wondering whether our words will entertain someone else partly as much as they do us.

And five years later, we see no reason to deny what we so often affirm here: that the best explanation for life, the universe and everything is the Christian gospel, and that the bitter lessons of history are that pacifism kills and socialism impoverishes. Expect such notions to continue undergirding our bloviations.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Hatred in Its Worst Form, Love in Its Finest

The Taliban's murder of Christian aid workers in Afghanistan ought to remind everyone in the world that there is such a thing as evil.

It also ought to suggest to the world that the Christian gospel can and sometimes does motivate lives of extraordinary self-sacrifice for the sake of others' good.

On this point we recommend the story in our local paper of one of the victims, who grew up near our city and is the daughter of an alumnus of the institution we are honored to serve.

Add to that the testimony of her father:

We offer our prayers for and thanks to Mr. Beckett, his family, and the families of all the victims.

Anti-Christian Discrimination in the Academy, Revisited

In reply to Tim Larsen's piece suggesting deliberate study of anti-Christian discrimination in the academy, one Adam Kotsko offers a thoughtful, contrasting reply.

Kotsko's point is that evangelical Christians have created such a subculture of suspicion and hostility toward academe that many students arrive on campus with a chip on their shoulder.

Mostly true, we affirm. Fearful of losing impressionable young people to Pied Pipers of humanistic secularism, Christians often fortify impressionable undergraduates not with thought (tough do do with freshpersons) nor even with pastoral relationships (always the foundation of nurture) but with fear and hostility. We suggest a different approach, expressed in contrasting clauses above.

Still, Christian faith remains mostly foreign, not merely private, at the contemporary university. We think that Kotsko and Larsen have complementary perspectives that ought to inform everyone on all sides.

See? We can listen to each other.

Monday, August 09, 2010

How Did We Ever Get Along on 19% of GDP?

If we don't raise taxes, we'll all die in the dark.

So says Nobel Laureate and Chicken Little of the Left, Paul Krugman.

We need to continue to pave roads that lead to places where no one wants to go and pay teachers who don't have students to teach. We're going to heck in a handcart, as everyone can see who sets foot anywhere in our benighted Republic.

So spend, baby, spend! The gummit needs a blowout of borrowed money bigger than two thousand Gulf oil spills.

Here's what's really going on with the extremely nutty suggestions Krugman, in our view. It's two things, reflecting the fact that he is two things: an academic economist and a popular columnist.

As an academic economist, he has an equation that he believes shows that massive government spending would overcome the bad business environment left over from the financial crisis, prompting prosperity that will leave the government's deficit in a better position long term than it would be if spending were not so increased.

As a popular columnist, he gets the accolades of his sycophants every time he calls for taxing the rich and spending money on things that will fund the jobs of union members, including especially construction workers on government jobs and teachers in government schools. Such folk don't actually read his column, of course, but the people who do imagine themselves the intelligentsia who champion the downtrodden proletariat.

So with every column he screams that we simply need more of what hasn't helped yet. The man's not insincere; he's just egotistical.

Meanwhile, for a contrast, see the reasons why actual small-businessman Michael Fleischer isn't hiring, even though he needs to. And note the number of open jobs that presently are going very unfilled. The case is emerging that our attempts to fix things are creating disincentives for the needed corrections to the economy; that is, the doctor is doing harm.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Hitchens, Ill, Can Talk of God Only

Atlantic's Jeff Goldberg interviews Christopher Hitchens, stricken with cancer, and the subject inevitably turns to the erudite atheist's possibility of turning to God:

"No one has the right to tell me what to do because they have a divine warrant," says Hitchens. There is the cry of the independent, the self-reliant, the individual human being. But what if there is someone who in his essence has divine warrant?

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

ObamaCare Simply Described

At last, someone has reduced the administration of the new federal health insurance program to a simple chart, available here in PDF format.

We do recommend, however, that Gentle Readers consider their prior experiences as a qualification for understanding the chart. Anyone who has merely done all of the following will likely find the chart challenging:

  • mastered the NYC transit map, including all five boroughs and buses as well as trains
  • charted and memorized the names and relationships of characters in War and Peace
  • provided senior consulting on the mapping of the human genome

Monday, August 02, 2010

Anne Rice Update

We commend the author of this post, responding to the FB page cajoling Anne Rice with the message that she'd love the United Church of Christ: My Top Ten Reasons Why Anne Rice Would Hate the United Church of Christ.

No bubble bursts so elegantly as the bubble of self-congratulations.