"Once abolish God and the government becomes the God." -G.K. Chesterton

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Superfreaks and Supercommittees

Question: How many Supercommittees does it take to change a light bulb?

Answer: Who knows? No Supercommittee has ever carried out such a feat.

I made that observation in a tweet back in August, half joking, half prepared to watch the chosen twelve member panel display the ineptness of so-called bipartisan committees. So when the Supercommittee did indeed "fail" last week, it barely registered on my radar. After all, why should the Supercommitte succeed in reaching a debt deal where all of Washington had failed, including the President, Vice-President, Speaker of the House, and two previous commissions?

Democrats, of course, are blaming the Tea Party and uncompromising fiscal conservatives. As E.J. Dionne at the Washington Post writes:
"It’s absurd to pretend that we can shrink the deficit over the long term without substantial tax increases... The least we can do under those circumstances is to repeal the tax cuts for the wealthy enacted under President George W. Bush. Yet the only revenue conservatives on the supercommittee put on the table involved $300 billion, most of it from ill-defined tax reforms, in exchange for lower tax rates on the rich and making something like $3.7 trillion worth of tax cuts permanent."

Exactly which tax reforms set to bring in $300 billion are so ill-defined, E.J. Dionne doesn't specify. But let's examine the absurdity of his first statement, that deficits can't be solved without substantial tax increases. Doesn't it seem convenient that this is
always the favored argument of the very people who want Big Government?

Imagine a struggling business that does $400,000 in revenue but has $450,000 in annual expenses. Isn't the simplest way to get back in the black to cut $50,000 of expenses? Of course. Elementary, my dear Watson, and why not? The only other alternative, absent more customers, is for the business to raise prices in an effort to raise revenue, but higher prices could actually discourage sales. In many cases, this is exactly how tax increases work - money is maneuvered to avoid the increase, and the net result is a loss of revenue.

If we had a revenue problem and not a spending problem, you would see years of decreasing revenue despite flat or decreasing spending. But revenue over the past few years is only down slightly, while spending has increased almost twofold since 2006. Why do I bring up 2006? That was the year that the federal government brought in the most revenue, four years after the Bush tax cuts took place. The dirty little secret that progressive like E.J. Dionne don't want you to know is that revenue went up, not down, as a result of the Bush tax cuts. Unfortunately, spending has gone up way more during the same period.

The truth of the matter for most Democrats, and for progressives in particular, is they have yet to experience a level of government spending that is too much. Even today's stimulus stacked upon outrageous stimulus is insufficient to meet their wants. Thus, any deficit talk is only about one problem in their mind - not raising enough taxes to cover all the wonderful programs they have plans for. After all, how can a Supercommittee on deficit reduction take their job seriously when the president is out there proposing a half trillion dollar spending increase at the same time?

President Obama has taken three stabs at deficit reduction now, including the appointment of two separate bipartisan commissions, and gotten nowhere. A simpler tax code with lower overall rates and fewer loopholes has been endorsed by key members of two separate commissions. But apparently, the president doesn't like those solutions. And while Obama himself wisely extended the Bush tax cuts last December, signing a bill passed by a Democratic controlled House and Senate, he and his base now want to pretend it's Republicans who are unreasonably adding to the deficit by blocking revenue.

If I didn't know better, I would think the whole thing is a charade to stall meaningful legislative progress so Obama can claim he tried to cut the deficit but was stymied by a no-good, do-nothing Congress. But no leader would dare act against the best interest of the country for a little more political power, would they?

It's super debt, that's for sure. And the more it piles up, the more future generations are on the hook to pay for it while the superfreaks of statism use it as an excuse to strip more wealth and property away from what was once America's enterprising private sector.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Campaign 2012: Empty Words vs. Awkward Silences

In the modern political climate, it seems that the worst offense a candidate can commit is to be rendered speechless. By now, we are all familiar with Rick Perry's unintentional imitation of Colin Firth in The King's Speech during last week's debate in which the Governor spent a half minute stammering over which bureaucracies he would eliminate. And now Herman Cain is on the hot seat, this time not for what he allegedly said to a former female employee, but what he failed to say to an editorial board about Libya and the time it took him to answer their question.

To be sure, it's important for a president to be able to articulate his views and demonstrate a broad knowledge of the issues facing our country. But in the YouTube era where gaffes become instant viral sensations spread like wildfire by social media, are we becoming hypersensitive to these moments of human fallibility? After all, they're nothing new. Just ask Howard Dean.

I have heard a number of Republican donors and strategists say it's over for Perry and Cain, that they don't have what it takes to be president because they fumbled their words. Maybe they're right. Or maybe, just maybe, we have formulated a process for electing our leaders that borders on the absurd. We parade candidates through more goofy debates than a season's worth of Curb Your Enthusiasm episodes, turning game show style questions into game changers while ignoring the substance of their positions. We hang on every word and measure the evening's performance far more than we measure how their policies have or actually will perform.

I have always referred to President Obama as the first American Idol president, an inexperienced half-term senator with a paper-thin resume elected by a generation conditioned to text in their vote for whoever puts on the best show. Experience and achievement don't matter to this crowd. It's all about the moment. Team Obama gave us plenty of those made-for-TV moments during the 2008 campaign. It hasn't translated to a competent presidency or a prosperous four years for America.

Herman Cain and Rick Perry have more executive experience than every other candidate in the field with the exception of Mitt Romney. They have demonstrated leadership and proven results that others only wish they could emulate. But unlike Romney, they haven't mastered the showmanship we demand to be fooled by. We have told our candidates that words matter more than actions or accomplishments. And in the Age of Obama, empty words matter most of all, certainly more than empty silences.

It's a strange way to pick a president, but at least it boosts cable news ratings.