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101  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: America's Inner City, Chicago: 82 shootings in 84 hours on: July 08, 2014, 08:13:26 AM
My point looking into America's inner cities is not gun violence but the culture in the neighborhoods where that is happening.  This is IMO largely the result of our failed policies in the war on poverty.  George Gilder wrote about this in 1981 in "Wealth and Poverty" and the consequences he described then couldn't be more true today.  Government provides the necessities, lives without purpose, men without responsibilities, neighborhoods without home ownership, children without two loving parents in the home, businesses leave the area, schools fail, the cycle gets worse.

Instead of fighting poverty and a poverty mentality, pursue wealth and a wealth mentality.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/editorials/ct-chicago-murder-shooting-violence-edit-0708-20140708,0,2426321.story
102  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Economy under-performing by 10% on: July 08, 2014, 07:56:15 AM
"We are very likely still in a recovery, but the problem—as illustrated in the chart above—is that the economy is more than 10% below where it could or should be if long-term growth trends are extrapolated. This is without doubt and by far the weakest recovery in history. I think the reasons for this weak growth are a huge increase in regulatory burdens (e.g., Obamacare), a significant increase in top marginal tax rates, a hugely burdensome, complicated, and distorting tax code, and the developed world's highest corporate tax rates."  - Scott Grannis  June 25, 2014


It means we have given up over $11 TRILLION in economic activity over this period of wrongheaded economic policies.  That is the difference between young people getting a good start and not getting a good start.  That is not very different from my view. 

Accompanying chart:
http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-vmSGbRCiJ4Y/U6tD2fG1fII/AAAAAAAAQ-I/7gXooXOhqoQ/s1600/Real+GDP+vs+trend+50.jpg
103  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Housing/Mortgage/Real Estate on: July 08, 2014, 07:46:25 AM
While looking through Scott Grannis today I notice this chart showing the new homes 'recovery' in perspective:
http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-fqMBZcvT7JA/U6oVBE1reXI/AAAAAAAAQ8Q/sDyr93uxZHs/s1600/New+Home+Sales.jpg
http://scottgrannis.blogspot.com/2014/06/steady-and-slow-improvement-is-boring.html

From that other source we keep hearing how good housing is since hitting rock bottom instead of how poor it is compared to better economic times.  Highest in 5 years is still down 60% from pre-crash levels.
104  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Economics on: July 08, 2014, 07:30:51 AM
Scott Grannis has been cautioning us on our take of things and he is no partisan hack.

Agree, Scott Grannis gives honest analysis.  It was Krugman's choice to go from respected academic to partisan hack and it is a long accumulated, well earned characterization of his columns, even if poorly documented by me in that short post. 

I doubt if Grannis believes the combination of fiscal and monetary excesses caused no damage just because large price increases do not show up yet, nor does he use the sluggish Obama economy to slam the conservative viewpoint.

For one thing, Scott Grannis acknowledges that the Fed's strategy has destroyed the incentive to save in this country.  What are the long term consequences of that?  Nothing?
http://scottgrannis.blogspot.com/2014/06/the-bond-markets-pessimism-is-vindicated.html

105  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Immigration issues, Open Borders, Amnesty, Free Stuff, Limited Time Offer on: July 07, 2014, 07:34:12 PM
Michael Ramirez illustrates what the mainstream media will not put into words:



http://news.investors.com/photopopup.aspx?id=707625
106  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Heading off global warming by limiting 1st world emissions on: July 07, 2014, 07:30:17 PM
This chart perhaps tells it all:



if the climateers’ disaster scenarios are correct, then Germany’s investment of $100 billion in solar power schemes “can only reduce the onset of Global Warming by a matter of about 37 hours by the year 2100.”  A similar calculation would show the futility of the Obama administration’s “green” initiatives.

http://wattsupwiththat.com/2014/07/04/message-to-the-president-data-shows-co2-reduction-is-futile/
http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2014/07/why-does-obama-want-to-reduce-co2-emissions.php
107  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Foreign Policy, Bret Stephens, WSJ, The Coming Global Disorder on: July 07, 2014, 06:24:10 PM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aRFsATqLjws#t=93
90 minutes with Bret Stephens. He is quite knowledgeable, thoughtful and insightful.

The Book: http://www.amazon.com/America-Retreat-Isolationism-Coming-Disorder/dp/1591846625
America in Retreat: The New Isolationism and the Coming Global Disorder Hardcover – November 18, 2014
by Bret Stephens

A Pulitzer Prize–winning columnist argues that the resurgence of isolationism in the U.S. is an invitation to global disorder of a kind last seen in the 1930s

Americans are weary of acting as the world's policeman, especially in the face of our unending economic troubles at home. President Obama stands for cutting defense budgets, leaving Afghanistan, abandoning Iraq, appeasing Russia, and offering premature declarations of victory over al Qaeda. Meanwhile, some Republicans now also argue for a far smaller and less expensive American footprint abroad.

Pulitzer Prize–winning Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens rejects this view. As he sees it, retreating from our global responsibilities will ultimately exact a devastating price to our security and prosperity. In the 1930s, it was the weakness and vacillation of the democracies that led to war and genocide. Today the regimes in Tehran, Damascus, Beijing, and Moscow continue to test America’s will.

Americans have often been tempted to turn our backs on a world that fails to live up to our idealism and doesn’t easily bend. But succumbing to that temptation always leads to tragedy. The mantle of global leadership is a responsibility we must shoulder for the sake of our freedom, our prosperity, and our safety.

America in Retreat is a warning and manifesto by one of America’s foremost foreign-policy thinkers. It will be hotly debated as the latest crises force our leaders to make difficult choices.

108  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Krugman and price levels at minimum velocity on: July 07, 2014, 06:12:24 PM

(Broken record here but...) There is a difference between inflation and price level increases even though we conflate the terms.  Mr. Krugman, Nobel award winner, no one ever said M = P, they said MV = PQ.  Price increases are a consequence of excessive money supply increases, but not a big threat when the economy is running nowhere near peak velocity.  The question is, how big will be the price level increases AFTER normal velocity returns? 

Crafty wrote:  "Many of us here predicted massive inflation by now , , ,"  (emphasis added)

Krugman writes as if the final score is in, but the damages are not all known by now and posted.  We have seen but the tip of the iceberg of the consequences of these wrongheaded policies. 

Surprising (not really) that any professional who was off on economic growth by -200% last quarter (Wesbury, Krugman, etc.) would be smug about how right or wrong amateurs are at (straw argument) forecasting.

Average GDP growth the last 7 years was 0.4T/yr.  http://www.statista.com/statistics/263591/gross-domestic-product-gdp-of-the-united-states/
QE has been averaging 3/4 Trillion per year (in press reports), so the money supply is growing at nearly twice the rate of real output, by my count.  To say that will have no consequence seems insincere, to put it nicely.  Krugman is setting up is to blame the aftermath of these policies on Obama's successor, while still blaming Obama's predecessor for his current failures.  The technical term for that level of analysis is ... partisan hack.
109  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: July 07, 2014, 09:18:48 AM
It's OK, I'm told amnesty will create millions of jobs and contribute to the tax base.

Plowhorse!

After all these years and all these mistakes, liberal politicians and liberal voters just don't seem to get that all these well-intended programs come with serious unintended consequences.  Serious enough to take down our economy, our culture and our country.

Same goes for the amnesty and immigration ideas.

The followers who believe them scare me more than the leaders who lie to them.

As Rush L has long said, we don't want to persuade or change them, we want to defeat them.

Handcuffing investors, businesses and employers is not how you help middle class employees.


I notice that Obama is pivoting away from abstract talk about income inequality to "the more politically palatable theme of lifting the middle class".   http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/with-democrats-split-on-inequality-issues-obama-shifts-talk-away-from-income-gap/2014/07/04/102f1f32-02be-11e4-b8ff-89afd3fad6bd_story.html

Unfortunately there is no accompanying pivot to economic policies that work.
110  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Full time job losses and part time job increases on: July 07, 2014, 08:57:17 AM

Yes.  Historic increases in taxes and regulations levied against the hiring of full time employees leads to...   less hiring of full time employees.

Who could have seen this coming?
http://dogbrothers.com/phpBB2/index.php?topic=2112.msg66637#msg66637
Obama Care in particular, which we know mandates additional employer health care costs for new full-time employees, freezes the motivation of employers to hire new full-time employees.

http://dogbrothers.com/phpBB2/index.php?topic=985.msg81381#msg81381
Obamacare has a myriad of disincentives to dissuade employment, full time employment, or employment beyond 50 employees.

http://dogbrothers.com/phpBB2/index.php?topic=2390.msg69979#msg69979
The challenges of Obamacare for business – particularly those small businesses with employees near the magic “50 employee” threshold for Obamacare regulations – will be extraordinary.

http://dogbrothers.com/phpBB2/index.php?topic=1791.msg68932#msg68932
 "Why France Has So Many 49-Employee Companies

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/obamacare-cost-2-3-million-jobs-article-1.1602363
Nonpartisan group finds Obamacare will shrink workforce by 2.3 million full-time jobs


It was a joke I heard in Steamboat Colorado years ago in a ski-bum comedy skit:.  To the roommates, "Hey guys, I got the job!"  "Great!"  "Now I just need 4 more part time jobs to pay rent!"

Now it is the story of the US Economy:

http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2013/08/02/198432/most-2013-job-growth-is-in-part.html
Most 2013 job growth is in part-time work, survey suggests

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/08/21/us-usa-economy-jobs-analysis-idUSBRE97K05K20130821?feedType=RSS&feedName=topNews&utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter&dlvrit=992637
Reuters: Obamacare Is Creating Nation of Part-Time Workers

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-07-03/june-full-time-jobs-plunge-over-half-million-part-time-jobs-surge-800k-most-1993
June Full-Time Jobs Plunge By Over Half A Million, Part-Time Jobs Surge

Is that really what we wanted??
111  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / In the US Senate races, Minnesota looks familiar except upside down on: July 07, 2014, 08:02:43 AM
A lot of predicted Republican Senate pickup races are still close or still led by the Democrat.  The Republicans need to nearly run the board in 2014 in order to hold the majority in 2016 and give a new Presideent a chance at reforming the federal government.  Putting MN in play is one step in the right direction.  Here the far right, the establishment right, and the common sense right all agreed on the same candidate, while the incumbent Al Franken has a vulnerable record of agreeing 100% with a failed President.  Democrats also have a weak incumbent Governor and a one-party-rule legislature to reelect.  Energy and turnout could favor the challengers.
----------------------------------------------------------------
http://www3.atr.rollcall.com/al-franken-mike-mcfadden-minnesota-senate-2014/?dcz=

Al Franken knows the story — just not from this side.

In 2008, a first-time candidate dogged by his career history faced a formidable incumbent dragged down by an unpopular second-term president. The result: now-Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., defeated then-Sen. Norm Coleman, a Republican, in a shockingly close race that only ended after a months-long contentious recount and legal battle.

Now Coleman’s handpicked candidate wants to return the favor in 2014. Franken will face a wealthy investment banker and first-time candidate, Mike McFadden, in November — and this time, he’s the senator battling an unpopular president’s drag on the ballot.

“The atmosphere right now is pretty toxic,” Coleman said in a recent phone interview. “This is a time when it’s good to not be of Washington. Mike is part of a solution, and Franken is part of the problem.”
...
“Every sentence about Norm Coleman in 2008 was a verb, a noun, and George W. Bush,” mused one former Coleman adviser.
...
A recent survey by the Democratic autodial firm Public Policy Polling showed Obama with a 44 percent approval rating in Minnesota, down from 50 percent in May of 2013.
112  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tax Policy on: July 07, 2014, 07:33:54 AM
I think Rand Paul has it right on policy, the flat tax, but Mike Lee and Marco Rubio have a better grasp on the the politics of it.  To point out the obvious, tax reform that never becomes law is not tax reform.

http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/lee-and-rubio-working-new-pro-growth-pro-family-tax-reform-plan_784307.html

Lee and Rubio Working on New 'Pro-Growth, Pro-Family' Tax Reform Plan

In a statement to THE WEEKLY STANDARD today, Lee responded to TPC's analysis and announced that he's already working with Florida senator Marco Rubio on a "new, comprehensive, pro-family, pro-growth tax reform proposal that we hope to introduce later this year."

Lee's full statement:

I thank the Tax Policy Center for their thorough work on my initial proposal to reform the individual income tax code and restore tax fairness to middle-class parents and families.

As I announced upon its introduction, the Family Fairness and Opportunity Tax Reform Act was meant as a first draft of a broader project to make the entire tax code simpler, fairer, and more pro-growth.

Initial estimates suggested the plan would yield a modest overall tax cut compared to the pre-Obamacare baseline. TPC's model scores it somewhat lower than that, and that's valuable information we can incorporate into the next revision.

Senator Marco Rubio and I have already begun work on a new, comprehensive, pro-family, pro-growth tax reform proposal that we hope to introduce later this year. Elimination of the Parent Tax Penalty should be a top priority for conservatives, and at the center of the overdue tax reform debate.
113  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2016 Presidential on: July 07, 2014, 07:28:04 AM
...when the next presidential election rolls around, Ronald Reagan's 1980 victory will be as long ago as D-Day was at that time.

http://theweek.com/article/index/264270/rand-paul-marco-rubio-and-the-new-era-of-conservative-policy-ideas
114  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The war on the rule of law on: July 07, 2014, 06:12:20 AM
Will try to find a good review- summary.

No matter how right the case for impeachment is, it still:

a) fails without Dem support, and

b) installs Joe Biden as President.

The two strategies are not mutually exclusive.  As you argue the merits of the lawsuit,  you are building the case for impeachment.

   
The main remedy is the next election.
115  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 2016 Presidential, Obamas and Valerie Jarrett back Elizabeth Warren, not Hillary on: July 07, 2014, 05:59:36 AM
http://nypost.com/2014/07/06/this-means-warren-obama-backs-challenger-to-hillary/

Ed Klein, author of Blood Feud.
116  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: McCarthy: Boener bringing whistle to a gunfight on: July 06, 2014, 04:30:18 PM

I disagree with Andrew McCarthy.  They are not willing to  de-fund or impeach so  compare  blowing the  whistle only with not blowing the whistle.  What he does not say with certainty is that this will fail on standing. The lawsuit keeps the over reaches of power in the news.  McCarthy says correctly, this is about public opinion.
117  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / How can the House sue the President? on: July 05, 2014, 05:21:41 PM
...“The idea,” Rivkin tells me, “is to create the perfect combination of all relevant factors to create the perfectly configured legislative-standing case.”

The first plus-factor criterion is to demonstrate the lack of a private plaintiff. In Foley’s and Rivkin’s characterization, the president’s actions are “benevolent” suspensions of law — that is, they are specially intended to assist particular groups (young immigrants or small businesses, for example). Because assisting certain people was the president’s aim, no individuals have suffered sufficient injury to have standing to sue. “No one can challenge benevolent suspensions in court except Congress, because they constitute an institutional injury to Congress qua Congress,” Foley explains. The offense is not against private citizens; it is against the powers that the Constitution guarantees to Congress as a body.

Along with demonstrating the impossibility of a private plaintiff, the House should explicitly authorize the lawsuit, they say, through either a formal resolution or the use of the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG), a standing group of House members that is authorized by House rules to represent that chamber in the courts. This would count as a plus factor because institutional-standing cases do not require formal authorization from the institution. The House members could therefore file on behalf of the House without getting the body’s formal approval, but such approval would probably help the case.

The House should also show that no political remedy (“self-help”) for the situation is available. This third element is a point of contention among legal theorists on the right. Opponents of the House lawsuit contend that the Constitution provides the House with two obvious remedies, neither of which it has exercised: the power of the purse and the power of impeachment. Foley and Rivkin counter that these are not “proportionate remedies” to the problem at hand. With regard to impeachment, Foley asks: “What do you do when the president’s own party controls one of the chambers of Congress?” Moreover, “impeachment is overkill for this particular transgression,” she says. “All Congress wants is for the president to faithfully execute the law. This does not mean that they think he should be kicked out of office.” The second option, cutting funds, “creates major distortions in political accountability, which is the genesis, the heart, of the notion of the separation of powers.” Congress, says Foley, should not be blamed for the president’s misdeeds — but that is just what will happen if the House has no recourse but to penalize innocent organizations as a means of punishing the president. Political self-help is important, Foley observes, “but only when proportionate and related to the transgression.”

If the House can establish standing by fulfilling these four criteria — the establishment of injury-in-fact, as required by the Constitution, and the three “plus” factors — they will have the opportunity to make their case to the courts that the president has flouted his constitutional mandate. While they believe there are a number of transgressions to choose from, Foley and Rivkin plan to present only the strongest infraction in court. ...

more at link:
http://www.nationalreview.com/article/382021/lawyers-behind-lawsuit-against-obama-ian-tuttle
118  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: July 05, 2014, 05:02:57 PM
All incentives have been turned upside down.  It used to be that you had to use your hard earned money to buy the stuff and hide it from the government.  One of the pundits had it right.  As soon as something is legal, it has to be mandatory, and free and provided to you by others.
119  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: July 05, 2014, 04:56:34 PM
It was not the plan to lose the super-majority in the House.  It was not the plan to lose the House for a decade.  It was not the plan to lose the Senate.  It was even fathomable to them that his popularity/approval could drop below 60%, 50%, 40%, and still dropping.

This man likes the title and perks and is willing to do fundraising and appearances, but does not want to do the any of the difficult work required to be an good leader.

We are lucky he turned out to be mostly ineffective at leading us in the wrong direction. 

A really sharp and well organized opposition should have brought his numbers down to these levels 6 years ago.
120  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gender, Gay, Lesbian on: July 03, 2014, 11:48:28 AM
ccp:  "Hillary is about to continue the trend with this men vs women thing.

Did you see the article about Pepsi's CEO lamenting how women cannot still "have it all".    As though choosing between motherhood, wifehood, and a career is a tragedy, or a conscious effort to suppress women.

Don't men have to choose between a career, fatherhood, and husbanhood?

I have cousins, the wife works a professional career and the husband stays home and is a Dad and husband.  The kids seem wonderful and as far as I know happy.   

So Ms CEO of Pepsi:

I congratulate you on your truly astonishing accomplishments.   But I don't feel sorry for you.  You have no gripe."
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

My Dad's biggest regret on his death bed was that he could not spend more time with us growing up (because he had to work so much).  Women who choose career and daycare to raise their children might feel some of that regret too.  I was with my daughter almost everyday growing up with no regret but have big regret for the neglect that put on my career.

The number of hours in the day to do everything we wish we could do is a limiting factor that affects everyone equally.  Make your choices and quit griping.  Better yet with free speech, gripe all you want but we don't want to hear it.

121  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 2016 Presidential - Five Dems who should run (against Hillary), National Journal on: July 03, 2014, 09:11:27 AM
Warren, O'Malley, Schweitzer and Hickenlooper didn't make this list.  The list is every bit as good (or bad) as other recent years, Kerry, Gephart, Dukakis, Clinton, Gore, Howard Dean, etc.  Some of these are a little weak (Claire McCaskill?), but the point is, there are always names out there and someone rises to the challenge.
BTW, who says Hillary is running?  Lol.
--------------------------------------------------------
5 Democrats Who Should Run Against Hillary Clinton
The former secretary of State could be vulnerable in a Democratic primary, but only if qualified candidates decide to challenge her.

By Josh Kraushaar
July 2, 2014
It's been remarkable to see how quickly the Democratic Party has coalesced around Hillary Clinton as its expected 2016 nominee, despite clear vulnerabilities she's telegraphed during her book tour. Clinton brings undeniable assets to the table—she'd be the first female president, the Clinton brand is still strong, her fundraising is unmatched—but her recent exposure on the book tour has demonstrated her political limitations as well.

I've outlined some of them in past columns: She's not a particularly good campaigner; she's skilled at staying on message but tone-deaf to the way comments about her wealth could backfire among an economically anxious public. With the threat of terrorism rising and increased turbulence in Ukraine, Syria, and Iraq, Clinton could find that her record as secretary of State is a major vulnerability in an election where foreign policy is looming as a major issue. Most important, she tied herself to President Obama by accepting his offer to run State, assuming that his coattails would be awfully valuable down the road. Now, with Obama's approval ratings tanking, scandals abounding, and a new Quinnipiac poll showing a plurality of voters consider him the "worst president" since World War II, Clinton knows she needs to keep some distance from Obama while maintaining the excitement of his base. That's not a great place to be.

Her biggest asset is the fact that the entire Democratic Party infrastructure is behind her, seemingly resigned to her vulnerabilities but hopeful about her potential. Even progressives who are nervous about her Wall Street connections are merely hoping to nudge her leftward, and not aggressively challenge her with an actual candidate. With a lackluster Democratic bench, it's hard to find many alternatives even willing to throw their names out there. And let's be clear: Former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, whose loose lips would sink a campaign before it launched, and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, throwing in his name as a protest candidate, don't qualify.

That doesn't mean there aren't credible candidates who, on paper, could mount a serious challenge. With anti-Washington sentiment running high, this is a promising opportunity for an outsider to run and surprise. True, they don't seem to want to run, whether from fear of the Clinton machine, a desire to avoid challenging someone who might make history, or simply an assumption that 2016 isn't a great year for Democrats.
But the candidates exist. Here are some prospects who would normally be touted for higher office but have acquiesced to Hillary Clinton in the run-up to the 2016 election.

1. Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia

Kaine was one of the first Democratic officials to jump on the Obama bandwagon, and he has a resume that normally would be the envy of his fellow pols: swing-state governor; Democratic National Committee chairman; senator elected on Obama's coattails against a former GOP presidential prospect, George Allen. Kaine was on the very short list of potential Obama running mates. If this were the resume of a Republican candidate, it would vault him to the top of the list of 2016 front-runners.

But instead, Kaine took the unusual step in May of endorsing Clinton before she even announced her candidacy, perhaps angling for a Cabinet post over pursuing any possible national ambitions. Maybe being a white man in the Democratic Party is now a vulnerability in the Obama era, but Kaine certainly could score chits as an early Obama supporter who helped swing his state the president's way. And his Midwestern roots, authentic personality (in sharp contrast to Clinton), and executive experience would all be strong selling points to a national audience.

2. Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick

One of the obvious, yet underappreciated, factors in Obama's upset of Clinton was how powerful a role race played in the 2008 presidential primaries. Clinton had close ties to the African-American community from her days in the White House, but once it became clear that Obama was a serious challenger, he overwhelmingly carried the black vote in nearly every primary state where it mattered.

Why couldn't that dynamic repeat itself in 2016? Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick is leaving office, and he is a close ally of Obama's. (Obama even touted him as a prospective candidate.) Unlike the 2008 version of Obama, Patrick boasts executive experience as a two-term governor who had to deal with one of the biggest crises during the Obama presidency—the Boston Marathon bombings. Unlike Mitt Romney before launching his first presidential campaign, Patrick scored solid approval ratings in his last year in office (53 percent in a January 2014 MassINC poll).

Patrick recently said he worries about how Clinton is being viewed as the inevitable nominee, but he hasn't made any moves of his own to suggest he's running. But if he could put a credible team together, he'd be a much more threatening challenger than, say, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley.

3. Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri

In a normal year, a female media-savvy, red-state prosecutor who defied the odds to win a second term in the Senate would be at the top of many Democratic wish lists. But like Kaine, this early Obama supporter was one of the first elected officials to sign up with Clinton's nascent campaign, taking herself out of the conversation. Part of her motive was to ingratiate herself with Team Clinton, who placed McCaaskill on Hillary's "enemies list" after she said she didn't want her daughter near the former president in a Meet the Press interview (as an Obama surrogate).

Instead of sucking up to the Clintons, why not challenge Hillary? Representing a populist state, McCaskill would be well positioned to challenge Clinton on her wealth, ties to corporations, and perceived disconnect from the middle class. Plus, McCaskill's long-term prospects in the Senate aren't great, assuming she doesn't face Todd Akin again in 2018.

4. Former Sen. Russell Feingold of Wisconsin

Where have you gone, Russ Feingold? The former Wisconsin senator and campaign finance reform scold has virtually disappeared from the political arena. Like Clinton, he's now serving in the State Department—as the special envoy for the African Great Lakes region and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Like Elizabeth Warren, Feingold would be able to rally progressives around his campaign but he could potentially have more appeal to male voters, a demographic where the party has gotten crushed in the Obama era. Unlike Clinton (and Warren), Feingold took a lone stand for same-sex marriage in 2006, when most elected Democrats opposed such legislation. He's been a longtime critic of outside groups' campaign spending, which has been a rallying cry for liberal Democrats in the age of the super PAC.

Feingold has always marched to the beat of his own drum, and it would be hard to see him prevailing over the better-organized Clinton. But he could persuasively assert he was ahead of the curve on the issues animating today's Democratic Party, a powerful argument for the grassroots base. Indeed, he'd be in a situation similar to that of another reform-minded former Democratic senator, Bill Bradley, who challenged a sitting vice president and nearly won the New Hampshire primary.

5. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon

Winning two terms in an increasingly Republican red state—he ran 9 points ahead of Obama in 2008 and 11 points ahead in 2012—Nixon is one of the most accomplished Democratic governors in the country. The Kansas City Star's Steve Kraske dubbed Nixon the "Teddy Roosevelt of Missouri—vigorous, a champion of the outdoors, constantly touring all corners of the state more than any chief executive in state history." He worked with Republicans to pass comprehensive jobs legislation, cut spending, and passed ahead-of-the-curve legislation incentivizing college graduates to specialize in high-demand health care fields. Nixon won high praise for his handling of the aftermath of the tornadoes that devastated Joplin. And he's won over some social conservatives by allowing restrictions on late-term abortions and reducing the age for residents to purchase a concealed-weapons permit. But he's also expanded Medicaid and focused on boosting spending for education.

In short, his positions on social issues would probably be untenable in today's Democratic Party, where moderates are becoming as extinct as their counterparts in the Republican Party. And Nixon has shown no interest in national office, knowing the near-insurmountable challenges he'd face in a primary.

In 1992, when Democrats nominated a centrist Southern governor as their presidential nominee, it was a move born out of weakness, with party leaders desperately seeking to moderate their image and initially holding little hope they could oust the sitting president. At the onset of the primary, the field was wide open, with the party's biggest-name contenders (Mario Cuomo, Al Gore) opting not to run. The situation could well be reversed in 2016: Democrats acting like they're in a stronger position than the reality, opting for a coronation instead of a contested primary, and ignoring the political logic of nominating an electable moderate outsider who can expand the party's coalition. In 1992's more ideologically diverse Democratic Party, Nixon would be at the top of many Democratic wish lists. But we're still stuck in Clintonworld.
122  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness - Worst President since WWII on: July 03, 2014, 08:56:49 AM
http://www.usatoday.com/story/theoval/2014/07/02/obama-george-w-bush-quinnipiac-poll-reagan-clinton/11985837/

"In a new Quinnipiac University Poll, 33% named Obama the worst president since World War II"

Not as widely reported is that Ronald Reagan was named far and away the best President since WWII.

"Ronald Reagan topped the poll as the best president since World War II, with 35%. He is followed by presidents Bill Clinton (18%) and John F. Kennedy (15%)."

So we keep choosing Republican candidates and Democrat Presidents that are the antithesis of Reagan...
123  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Benghazi, The Indictment of Abu Khatallah on: July 03, 2014, 08:45:03 AM
Details filed of planned conspiracy to commit a terror attack against the United States of America, maliciously damaging and destroying US property by means of Fire and Explosive, resulting in death.

http://apps.washingtonpost.com/g/documents/local/ahmed-abu-khatallah-indictment-in-us-district-court-for-the-district-of-columbia/1063/

Oddly, no mention of a video.  No comment from the ladies who said attack was caused by provocative video.
124  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / US - India: Narendra Modi’s Path Forward on: July 03, 2014, 08:35:24 AM
I strongly agree that India seems a natural ally to the US in the world today.

If not a State Dinner, you would think our dear leader could meet him somewhere halfway for a breakfast?  While Obama dithers (and golfs), others show interest in good relations with India.

A nice followup on the subject over at The American Interest:

http://www.the-american-interest.com/articles/2014/07/02/narendra-modis-path-forward/
INDIA ASCENDANT?
Narendra Modi’s Path Forward
C. RAJA MOHAN
If Narendra Modi’s landslide victory was in large measure due to the failure of the preceding Singh government, he now faces a big challenge and a huge opportunity. Here’s how he might proceed on both the economic and foreign policy fronts.

Published on July 2, 2014
In the few weeks he has been at India’s helm, after an unexpected landslide victory in the general elections, Narendra Modi has raised hopes around the world, including the United States and China, that Delhi is ready for a productive engagement with its external partners. These expectations are rooted in the nature of the mandate that Modi won, his reputation for economic pragmatism as the chief minister of Gujarat province, which he ran for more than a decade, and the structural opportunities that have long presented themselves to India on the international stage.

Modi’s predecessor, Manmohan Singh, was widely liked and respected abroad as a wise elder statesman. Singh, who had no prior foreign policy experience, instinctively understood the extraordinary opportunities that awaited India after a period of sustained high growth rates from the early 1990s, when he had launched reforms as the finance minister of the nation. His first year as Prime Minister saw the unveiling of a historic civil nuclear initiative and a new framework for defense cooperation with the United States in 2005. Equally significant were an agreement on the principles to settle a boundary dispute with China and a opening up of a back channel negotiation with Pakistan to resolve the intractable problem of Kashmir. In 2005 India joined the newly formed East Asia Summit and began to engage fully with the geopolitics of Asia, from which it had excluded itself for decades.

Singh presided over unprecedented growth rates of close to 9 percent in the middle of the past decade; the rare prospect of improving relations with both China and the United States; the resolution of India’s longstanding territorial disputes; and the reclamation of its role as a major power in Asia. There was a worldwide perception that India’s long-awaited rise was inevitable, and most major nations vied with each other to deepen ties with India.

Tragically, this rare moment in India’s international relations evaporated over the next nine years of Singh’s decade-long tenure as Prime Minister. The lack of economic reforms and the drift toward populism in the earlier years of UPA rule were compounded by the global economic crisis. India’s growth rate soon plunged to five percent and below. The political drift within the government left it unable to advance bilateral relations with major powers, including the United States. Regional initiatives toward Pakistan and China sputtered, and hopes that India would play a larger role in Asia were dampened.

If Modi’s landslide victory was in large measure due to the failure of the Singh government, he now faces a big challenge and a huge opportunity. It is indeed impossible for any leader of a large and diverse country like India to fulfil all the demands that are being made on Modi. On the other hand, the drift under Singh has left much low-hanging fruit for Modi to pluck. Even small steps that restore a sense of political purposefulness in Delhi could significantly improve India’s image and generate much space for the new government to operate on the international stage. Modi’s success in securing an absolute majority for his party after a gap of thirty years has the potential to end the prolonged rule of weak governments in Delhi. If the compulsions of coalition politics limited Delhi’s ability to make bold economic reforms and significant foreign policy initiatives, Modi has the mandate to do both.

On the economic front, Modi appears prepared to bite the bullet. The depth of Modi’s commitment to reform will be visible after his government presents the budget for the year in mid-July. Those in the West looking for wholesale privatisation or dramatic expansion of market access, however, might be disappointed. He will rather attempt to craft a reform agenda that is sustainable in the complex Indian political environment. That agenda will emphasize shoring up India’s economic fundamentals and creating the right environment for investment by domestic and foreign capital.

Modi is perhaps the most business-friendly Prime Minister India has ever had. Yet he will have to fend off the long-entrenched suspicion of the private sector within the political class, including his own party, which is full of nativists and economic populists. Even modest success on the economic front is bound to generate greater space for Modi to improve relations with India’s immediate neighbours, narrow the growing strategic gap with China, and make Delhi an important player in shaping the balance of power in Asia, the Indian Ocean, and beyond.

Modi’s unabashed celebration of India’s cultural nationalism and his reputation as a Hindu nationalist and Pakistan-basher, however, had raised concerns at home and abroad, especially in the West, that he might adopt a tough and muscular approach toward Islamabad and precipitate a military crisis. In power, though, Modi took a very different tack. He invited the leaders of the seven South Asian neighbors, including Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, to participate in his swearing-in ceremony. That all of them accepted and came on very short notice underlined the fact that India’s neighbours have long been waiting for a credible interlocutor in Delhi. Although the talks between Modi and Sharif were positive and the two sides have agreed to resume their dialogue, few expect a breakthrough. Many agreements have been negotiated but not implemented under the UPA government. These include pacts on normalization of trade relations and visa liberalization. Among other possibilities discussed were the export of electricity and diesel from India to Pakistan. If there is no major terror incident in India emanating from across the border in Pakistan, and if Sharif’s powerful army allows him to move forward, a positive phase in bilateral relations might be at hand. But these are big “ifs.”

Beyond Pakistan, Modi appears to be keen to reclaim India’s primacy in the Subcontinent. China’s emergence as the principal external player in the Subcontinent has raised concerns in the Indian strategic community. This in turn demands that India resolve disputes with its neighbors and deepen economic integration under the aegis of Delhi. There is some recognition of the latter in the Modi government’s emphasis on strengthening the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation, the main regional forum. Modi has also underlined the emphasis on neighborhood diplomacy by making tiny Bhutan his first foreign destination. His Foreign Minister, Sushma Swaraj, chose Bangladesh for her first trip abroad. Delhi’s effort to deepen ties with the neighbours over the past few years was stymied in part by opposition from provinces, such as those bordering Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. The strategic community in Delhi has agonized over the federalization of Indian foreign policy, and Modi’s strong mandate promises to reverse this unfortunate tendency. While affirming Delhi’s prerogative to conduct foreign policy, Modi has promised to expand consultations with the state chief ministers and make them partners in crafting national policies. While creating more political space at home for dealing with the neighbors, Modi is expected to press them hard to show greater respect for India’s regional interests. In any case, a vigorous South Asian policy has become central to the principal strategic challenge that India faces—the rise of its giant neighbour to the North.

China’s emergence as a great power has also presented an opportunity for India in East and South East Asia. China’s growing assertiveness in its Asian territorial disputes has led many of Beijing’s neighbours to seek stronger strategic partnerships with India as part of an effort to maintain an effective balance of power in the region. One of the first foreign destinations for Modi outside of the Subcontinent will be Tokyo, where Shinzo Abe is enthusiastic about building a stronger economic and strategic partnership with Delhi. Many ASEAN nations that have been disappointed by Delhi’s inability to carve out a larger role in Asia would be pleased if Modi pursued a more vigorous diplomatic and security engagement with the region. Already, he explicitly has underlined the importance of stronger defense ties with the smaller countries of Asia and the Indian Ocean. Given his party’s strong commitment to national defense, Modi is expected to raise India’s defense spending, which had fallen below 2 percent of GDP; accelerate weapons procurement, which had stalled under the previous government; facilitate foreign direct investment in the expansion of India’s domestic defense industrial base; and step up arms exports.

China also emerges as an important factor in India’s relations with the United States as Washington copes with the rapidly changing balance of power in Asia. China, locked in a confrontation in East Asia, has been sending positive signals to India. Well before the West had taken notice of Modi, China found him a valuable economic partner in Gujarat; it laid out the red carpet for him when he travelled to Beijing some years ago. At the same time, Modi would not downplay the security threats from China. During the election campaign, Modi visited the northeastern frontier claimed by China and denounced Beijing’s “expansionist mindset.”

In power, then, Modi is outlining a twin track policy toward China. He has proclaimed a strong interest in expanding economic cooperation with China; he has agreed, for example, to set up industrial parks for Chinese investments, which would also hopefully address the problem of the expanding trade deficit with Beijing. On the security front, he is actively clearing the way for long-delayed projects to modernize the Indian military and to improve Delhi’s defenses on the disputed frontier with China. He is also reminding Beijing that he has the requisite domestic political strength to negotiate a boundary settlement with China.

As a realist, too, Modi is quite conscious of the fact that India needs a strong partnership with the United States to successfully pursue India’s economic and foreign policy interests, including the challenge of balancing China. Given that he has been denied a U.S. visa since 2005, under unproven charges that he did not do enough to stop the anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat during 2002, there is much discomfort between Modi and Washington. During the campaign, Modi had repeatedly stated that his personal issues with Washington would not be allowed to affect India’s important relationship with the United States. Overruling the widespread sentiment within his party and the strategic community that he should not travel to Washington without a formal apology from the United States on the visa issue, Modi quickly accepted an invitation from the Obama Administration for a White House meeting in September.

For his part, Modi is eager to put the past behind him and seek a productive relationship with the United States. But the Obama Administration has much work to do. For one, Washington must demonstrate genuine political warmth to Modi and assuage the deep, personal hurt on the visa issue. For another, Washington will have to recognize that India is on the cusp of significant internal change and must be prepared to make the best of it.

Modi’s arrival allows the two states to make a fresh start, to overcome the accumulated frustrations of the last few years and lay out a bold agenda for bilateral cooperation. The premises of 2005, when India and the United States took big steps toward a strategic partnership, continue to hold. A strong India makes it easier for Washington to sustain a balance of power in Asia that is favorable for America. Delhi, on the other hand, needs the full support of the United States to emerge as a great power on the world stage. A decade later, thanks to the relative weakening of both United States and India in relation to China, Washington and Delhi need each other more than ever before.

C. Raja Mohan is a distinguished fellow at the Observer Research Foundation in Delhi and the foreign affairs columnist for the Indian Express. He is a non-resident senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a visiting professor at the Institute of South Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore. He is on the editorial board of The American Interest.
125  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Study on effects of Voter ID laws on: July 02, 2014, 10:58:17 PM

2.8 million Americans (that we know of) registered to vote in more than one place.
One in eight active registrations is invalid or inaccurate.
There are about 1.8 million dead people listed as active voters.
12 million registrations have errors serious enough to make it unlikely that mailings based on them will reach voters.
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/14/us/politics/us-voter-registration-rolls-are-in-disarray-pew-report-finds.html?_r=0

Trust, but verify. 
126  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 8 graphs show why young people are turning on Obamanomics on: July 02, 2014, 10:20:40 AM
I'll post the text and you can view the charts at the link:

http://www.ijreview.com/2014/07/152666-obamas-one-time-supporters-8-graphs-prove-economy-just-working/

Remember the President’s repeated assurances that his bailouts and Obamacare would revive the economy? Those claims probably sound pretty hollow to the President’s one-time supporters, young adults.
These eight graphs, which examine adults under the age of 25 who have moved out of their parents’ home, via PolicyMic, show that this group is suffering the worst from dwindling incomes and long-term unemployment.

1. Annual household income is at shockingly low levels for families headed by someone under the age of 25. Forty percent of these households get by on only $10,000 a year.

2. Compared with older households, under-25 poverty rates are extremely high.

3. Young unemployment is over double the national average. It peaked in spring 2010 at 19.5%, but still remains higher than it was at the onset of the recession.

4. Despite an increase in the national minimum wage in 2009, and several states across the country raising their minimum wages, median hourly wages for people under 25 are lower than they were 10 years ago. Some economists argue that the minimum wage increase actually contributed to these lowered hourly wages and higher unemployment.

5. Almost 90% of under-25 households rent, as oppose to own their living space. This lowers their equity and oftentimes their credit scores.

6. For over 50% of under-25s who rent, the monthly rent eats up over 35% of their already small incomes. This provides little income for this group to set aside money for savings or retirement.

7. On top of their rent, high cost of living and low incomes, 43% of this population is hit with paying off student debt.

8. Recent college graduates have record-breaking debt… and it looks like it’ll go even higher.

Young people are looking for another way – because the economy they’ve experienced for the past 5 years just hasn’t been working.
A change is necessary in Washington; let’s just hope that the detrimental effects of this economy won’t have long-lasting implications.
127  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: WSJ on the current state of the Tea Party on: July 02, 2014, 10:12:12 AM
The WSJ, away from its Editorial Page, is often no better than POTH and the rest of the MSM:


Chamber officials say their goal is to elect candidates "who want to come to Washington to solve problems" not just shut down the government. "Governing is the theme we have inserted into this cycle," said Scott Reed, who advises the Chamber on strategy. "It all starts with quality candidates."


They are quoting a "Chamber official", but the quote marks stop and start around the shut down the government libel/smear and go unanswered in the piece.  Who shut the government, other than Obamacare, down?  I think that was the Dem Senate and President.  Funding bills start in the House and the House fully funded everything other than ObamaCare.  It turns out the rules of Obamacare they were pressured to fully fund violated federal law.  Small details for agenda based advocacy and reporting.

Who supports putting a federal government focus on governing more than the tea party?  Instead we focus the federal government focus on usurping the powers and freedoms of the states and the people, and smear those who object.

It is quite easy, and meaningless, to win arguments against straw men.

Akin, Mourdock, Ken Buck and O'Donnell and whoever else that failed the Republican Party from the so-called tea party, of which there is none, did not fail in their elections because they advanced tea party principles.  They failed because they were unqualified or undisciplined and lost their focus on advancing those principles.

There is something quite eery about 'business-Republicans', crony-governmentist-Republicans and big-government-conservative-oxyMORONS spending millions of dollars in campaign money to stop the advancement of limited government principles after failing to elect their own candidates nationally in the last two Presidential contests, in one against a complete rookie and the other against a totally failed incumbent.

How about we debate the issues and contrast the candidates instead of smearing our own with lies, deceit, race baiting in the case of Mississippi, and ad hominem attacks?

The Republican Party wins when it merges the interest of running qualified, focused, disciplined candidates with adhering to individual freedom and limited government principles.  Examples from 2010:  Mike Lee, Ron Johnson, Pat Toomey, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Rand Paul.  Lost since 2010 were "establishment" candidates like Denny Rehberg, Heather Wilson, Rick Berg, Josh Mandel, George Allen, Tommy Thompson, Carly Fiorina, and Dino Rossi *.  (*http://www.slate.com/blogs/weigel/2014/05/20/todd_akin_was_not_a_tea_partyer_and_the_tea_party_is_not_costing_republicans.html)

Case in point, Pres. Obama won Florida in 2008 by 200,000 votes and in 2012 by 70,000.  In 2010, Marco Rubio won Florida by a million votes, and not by sounding like a Democrat or promising to fund bad programs.
128  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bumper sticker on: July 02, 2014, 09:09:55 AM
Seen on a bumper sticker yesterday:

"If it isn't a baby, you aren't pregnant."
129  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Rubio’s Effort to Modernize the GOP on: July 02, 2014, 09:03:24 AM
If not Marco Rubio, then someone needs to do the heavy lifting, of making positive proposals for the future that will connect free market ideas with a government dependent electorate.  Nice article here by Peter Wehner at Commentary magazine for context, then read the speech: http://www.rubio.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/press-releases?ID=7ce7531f-be09-4688-a320-fccb49a16c76
or view the video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C-99LyfZa6s  (54 minutes with intro and questions at the end)

http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2014/07/01/rubios-effort-to-modernize-the-gop/

Rubio’s Effort to Modernize the GOP
Peter Wehner
07.01.2014

In an earlier post I asked who on the right, in the wake of the ruins of the Obama presidency, will step up and seize the opportunity. Among those who are is Florida Senator Marco Rubio.

Last week Senator Rubio gave a policy address, which elicited favorable comments from Ross Douthat, Ramesh Ponnuru, Jim Pethokoukis, and Reihan Salam. Like these four, I found Senator Rubio’s speech, co-hosted by Hillsdale College and the YG Network, to be quite impressive. The Florida senator offered ideas on how to reform our entitlement programs, tax code, higher education, health care, and our social safety net. In doing so, he spoke about single mothers and working class families, wage stagnation, student debt and retirement security, and the effects of globalization and automation. And like Representative Paul Ryan, Rubio understands the need for structural changes in programs, which is quite different, and rather more important than, simply reducing spending.

In making his case, Senator Rubio presented himself as an advocate for modernization rather than moderation (in this instance meaning nudging the GOP in a more liberal direction). He spoke about the need for a policy agenda designed for the 21st century and adjusting to the realities of this new era. Mr. Rubio clearly wants the GOP to be both conservative and constructive, opposing the president’s agenda but also willing to offer alternatives to it. The left, he says, is offering ideas that are old, tired and stale; a conservative agenda, as Rubio has laid it out, is innovative, responsive, and “applies the principles of our founding to the challenges and the opportunities facing Americans in their daily lives.” That strikes me as a pretty intelligent way to frame things, particularly given that Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden are thought to be the two leading figures for the Democratic Party in a post-Obama world.

What also strikes me about Senator Rubio is that unlike some others, whose main ability is to bring hard-core supporters to their feet, he seems eager and capable of persuading those who are not on his side yet who may be amenable to his point of view. A friend of mine says he gets the sense from Rubio that he hasn’t spent his life in a political echo chamber, only hanging around like-minded individuals. He has the capacity, I think, to reach people who aren’t members of the NRA or the Federalist Society, the Tea Party or the American Conservative Union. The ability to find connection with people who aren’t already supporters is a fairly valuable skill in politics–and for a party that is regularly losing presidential elections, a necessary one.

The governing agenda Marco Rubio sketched out last week will hardly be the final word, but it is a very good starting point for discussion. Its aim is to broaden the appeal of the GOP without violating the party’s core principles. Other Republicans, particularly those thinking about running for president in 2016, will attempt to occupy this space as well. That’s all to the good, since the GOP has a formidable task: to reconnect with a middle America that looks different than it once did.

I’ve pointed out before that during the GOP nomination contest in 2012—involving dozens of state Republican primaries, more than 20 debates, and tens of millions of dollars in ads—issues such as upward mobility, education, middle-class concerns, poverty, strong communities and safe streets, corporate welfare, cultural renewal, and immigration either were hardly mentioned or were discussed in the most disaffecting way possible. There was more talk about electrified fences and self-deportation than there was about higher education reform, social and economic opportunity, or the modernization of our governing institutions.

Marco Rubio wants to change that. So do other talented and ambitious Republicans. More power to them.
130  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Hillbilleries - Champaign Breakfast ) on: July 01, 2014, 11:37:09 AM
Popularity falling with no one else running.
Approval below 50%.
Book sales disappoint.
Book tour a disaster.
She is not very good at politics.
Questionable fire in belly.
Doesn't want to clean up O' messes.
People want real change.
People don't want more Clinton Bush.

Wash Times, Wes Pruden, today

Not to mention age and health issues x 2.
131  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Supreme Court sides with employers over birth control mandat on: June 30, 2014, 05:11:15 PM
Supreme Court sides with employers over birth control mandate
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/06/30/supreme-court-sides-with-employers-over-birth-control-mandate/

The 5-4 ruling, in one of its most contentious cases of the year, recognizes for the first time the religious rights of (closely held) corporations.
132  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Prudent Bear: No Bubble? on: June 30, 2014, 05:01:32 PM
A less optimistic view than we have been seeing:

No Bubble?
June 27, 2014  by Doug Nolan, Prudent Bear
http://www.prudentbear.com/2014/06/no-bubble.html#.U7HYc1OJVld
Fed hawks are beginning to make some noise.

...the Bubble is so comprehensive – so systemic – that the greatest financial Bubble in human history somehow goes largely unappreciated – hence unchecked.

...The past 25 years have been unique in financial history. Indeed, the world is trapped in a perilous experiment with unfettered finance - with no limits on either the quantity or quality of Credit created. Closely associated with this trial in unchecked electronic finance (“money” and Credit) has been runaway experimentations in “activist” monetary management. Just as crucial is the experiment in unconventional economic structure – including the deindustrialization of the U.S. economy, with the corresponding unprecedented expansion of industrial capacity throughout China and Asia. This has engendered a period of unmatched global economic and financial imbalances – best illustrated by the massive and unrelenting U.S. Current Account Deficits and the accumulation of U.S. IOU’s around the globe.

...there has been no effort to reform either a patently flawed global financial “system” or a reckless policymaking doctrine. Instead, global central bankers have turned only more “activist,” drifting further into the bizarre (that passes for “enlightened”). The world’s leading central banks have resorted to rank inflationism, massive “money” printing operations specifically to inflate global securities markets. And the resulting raging “bull” markets ensure bullishness and a positive spin on just about everything. The sophisticated market operators play the speculative Bubble for all its worth, while the unsuspecting plow their savings into stock and bond Bubbles.

Credit is inherently unstable. Marketable debt instruments exacerbate instability. A financial system where Credit expansion is dominated by marketable debt (in contrast to “staid” bank loans) is highly unstable - I would argue unwieldy, whimsical and prone to manipulation. And a monetary policy regime that specifically nurtures and backstops a system dominated by marketable securities and associated speculation is playing with fire. Importantly, the more deeply central bankers intervene and manipulate such a system and the longer it is allowed to inflate – the more impossible for these central planners to extricate themselves from the financial scheme.

I’m fond of a relatively straightforward analysis that does a decent job of illuminating the state of ongoing U.S. (marketable securities) Bubbles. From the Fed’s Z.1 “flow of funds” data, I tally Total Marketable Debt Securities (TMDS) that includes outstanding Treasury securities (not the larger Federal liabilities number), outstanding Agency Securities (MBS & debt), corporate bonds and municipal debt securities.

My calculation of TMDS began the 1990’s at $6.28 TN, or an already elevated 114% of GDP. Led by explosive growth in GSE and corporate borrowings, TMDS ended the nineties at $13.59 TN, for almost 120% growth. Over this period, GSE securities increased $2.65 TN, or 209%, to 3.916 TN. Corporate bonds jumped 185% to $4.564 TN. It is worth noting that total Business borrowings expanded 9.2% in 1997, 11.5% in 1998 and 10.4% in 1999, excess that set the stage for the inevitable bursting of the “tech” Bubble.

The Fed’s aggressive post-tech Bubble reflation ensured already dangerous excess was inflated to incredible new extremes. On the back of a doubling of mortgage borrowings, TMDS expanded 102% in the period 2000 through 2007 to $27.50 TN. Over the mortgage finance Bubble period, Agency Securities jumped 89% to $7.40 TN. Corporate bonds surged 154% to $11.577 TN. Municipal bonds rose 135% to $3.425 TN.

This unprecedented Credit expansion fueled various inflationary manifestations, including surging asset prices, spending, corporate profits, investment, GDP and trade/Current Account Deficits. After beginning the nineties at $6.227 TN, the value of the U.S. equities market surged 409% to end the decade at $19.401 TN. As a percentage of GDP, the nineties saw TMDS jump from 114% to 147%. Spurred by crazy technology stock speculation, Total Securities – TMDS plus Equities – jumped from 183% of GDP to end 1999 at 356%. Although Total Securities to GDP retreated to 284% by 2002, mortgage finance Bubble excesses quickly reflated the Bubble. Total Securities ended 2007 at a then record 378% of GDP.

A “funny” thing happened during the post-mortgage Bubble’s so-called “deleveraging” period. Since the end of 2008, total TMDS has jumped $8.348 TN, or 29%, to a record $37.542 TN. As a percentage of GDP, TMDS ended Q1 2014 at a record 220%. Even more importantly from a Bubble analysis perspective, in 21 quarters Total Securities (debt & equities) inflated $27.2 TN, or 61%, to end March 2014 at a record $72.039 TN. To put this in context, Total Securities began 1990 at $10.0 TN, ended 1999 at $33.0 TN and closed 2007 at a then record $53.01 TN. Amazingly, Total Securities as a percent of GDP ended Q1 at 421%. For comparison, Total Securities to GDP began the nineties at 183%, ended Bubbly 1999 at 356% before peaking at 378% in a more Bubbly 2007. No Bubble today? “Valuations in historical range”?

Let’s return to “A Bubble is predicated on leverage.” Yes, Total Household Liabilities declined $715bn from the 2008 high-water mark (much of this from defaults). Yet over this period federal liabilities increased almost $10.0 TN. Corporate borrowings were up more than $2.3 TN. On a system-wide basis, our system is inarguably more leveraged today than ever.

Many contend there is significantly less speculative leverage these days compared to the heyday (“still dancing”) 2007 period. I’m not convinced. Perhaps there’s less leverage concentrated in high-yielding asset- and mortgage-backed securities. However, from today’s vantage point, there appears to be unprecedented “carry trade” leverage on a globalized basis. I’ve conjectured that the “yen carry trade” – using the proceeds from selling (or borrowing in) a devaluing yen to speculate in higher-yielding securities elsewhere – could be one of history’s biggest leveraged bets. Various comments also suggest that there is enormous leverage employed in myriad Treasury/Agency yield curve trades. I suspect as well that the amount of embedded leverage in various securities and derivative trades in higher-yielding corporate debt is likely unprecedented.

When it comes to leverage, the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet is conspicuous. Fed Assets will end the year near $4.5TN, with Federal Reserve Credit having expanded about $3.6 TN, or 400%, in six years. Few, however, appreciate the ramifications from this historic monetary inflation from the guardian of the world’s reserve currency. I find it astonishing that conventional thinking dismisses the market impact from this unprecedented inflation of central bank Credit.

Over the years, I have argued that “money” is integral to major Bubbles. A Bubble financed by junk debt won’t inflate too far before the holders of this debt begin to question the rationale for holding rapidly expanding debt of suspect quality. In contrast, a Bubble fueled by “money” – a perceived safe and liquid store of nominal value – can inflate for years. The insatiable demand enjoyed by issuers of “money” allows protracted excesses and maladjustment to impart deep structural impairment (financial and economic).

I’m convinced history will look back and view 2012 as a seminal year in global finance. Draghi’s “do whatever it takes,” the Fed’s open-ended QE, and the Bank of Japan’s Hail Mary quantitative easing will be seen as a fiasco in concerted global monetary management. The Fed’s QE3 will be viewed as an absolute debacle. After all, QE3 incited an unwieldy “Terminal Phase” of speculative Bubble excesses throughout U.S. equities and corporate debt securities, along with global securities markets more generally.  It unleashed major distortions throughout all markets, including sovereign debt.

A quick one-word refresher on “Terminal Phases:” Precarious. Their inherent danger arises from egregious late-cycle speculative excess and attendant maladjustment coupled with timid policymakers. Over recent years I have repeatedly invoked “Terminal Phase” in my analyses of a progressively riskier Chinese Bubble backdrop impervious to hesitant policy “tinkering.”

Here at home, we’re beginning to hear the apt phrase “The Fed is behind the curve.” Traditionally, falling “behind the curve” indicated that the central bank had been too slow to tighten policy in the face of mounting inflationary pressures. “Behind the curve” dictated that more aggressive tightening measures were required to rein in excesses. These days, “behind the curve” is applicable to an inflationary Bubble that has taken deep root in stock and bond markets. With the Yellen Fed seen essentially promising to avoid even a little baby-step 25 bps rate bump for another year, highly speculative Bubble markets can blithely disregard poor economic performance, a rapidly deteriorating geopolitical backdrop and the approaching end to QE. Worse yet, market participants are emboldened that “behind the curve” and the resulting dangerous market Bubbles preclude the Fed from anything but the most timid policy responses. A dangerous market view holds that, after instigating inflating securities markets as a direct monetary policy tool to stimulate the economy, the Fed would not in any way tolerate a problematic market downturn.

June 26 – Bloomberg (Steve Matthews and Jeff Kearns): “Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis President James Bullard predicted the central bank will raise interest rates starting in the first quarter of 2015, sooner than most of his colleagues think, as unemployment falls and inflation quickens. Asked about his forecast for the timing of the first interest-rate increase since 2006, he said: ‘I’ve left mine at the end of the first quarter of next year.’ ‘The Fed is closer to its goal than many people appreciate,’ Bullard said… ‘We’re really pretty close to normal…’ If his forecasts bear out, ‘you’re basically going to be right at target on both dimensions possibly later this year… That’s shocking, and I don’t think markets, and I’m not sure policy makers, have really digested that that’s where we are.’”

The same day Bullard was talking hawk-like, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond President Jeffrey Lacker was also making comments that should have the markets on edge. Countering uber-dove Yellen, Lacker stated that the recent jump in inflation was not entirely “noise.” Interestingly, he suggested that the Fed follow closely the FOMC’s 2011 exit strategy. “It’s not obvious to me a larger balance sheet should change any of our exit principles. I still think we should, as our exit principles say, be exiting from mortgage backed securities as soon as we can...” And following the lead of Kansas City Fed head Esther George, Lacker believes the Fed should allow its balance sheet to begin shrinking by ending the reinvestment of interest and maturity proceeds. Bullard also said the Fed should consider ending reinvestment.

Market ambivalence notwithstanding, I’m sticking with my analysis that the Fed can’t inflate its balance sheet from $900bn to $4.5 TN – and then end this massive monetary inflation without consequences. Things get even more interesting when talk returns to the Fed’s 2011 “exit strategy” road map. Regrettably, instead of exiting the Fed doubled-down – literally. And Dr. Bernanke may now say (while earning $250k) that the Fed’s balance sheet doesn’t have to shrink even “a dime.” Yellen and Dudley likely agree. But there’s now a more hawkish contingent that has other things in mind, and I don’t believe they will be willing to simply fall in line behind Yellen as officials did behind Greenspan and Bernanke.

Actually, I believe the so-called “hawks” (i.e. responsible central bankers) are gearing up to try to accomplish something that might these days appear radical: normalize monetary policy. Read “Systematic Monetary Policy and Communication” presented this week by Charles Plosser. Read Esther George’s “The Path to Normalization.” Re-read Richard Fisher. While you’re at it, read John Taylor’s op-ed from Friday’s WSJ: “The Fed Needs to Return to Monetary Rules.” http://online.wsj.com/articles/john-taylor-the-fed-needs-to-return-to-monetary-rules-1403823464  I’m with Taylor (and Plosser!) on having and following rules. I’m also with Bullard: “I don’t think markets… have really digested… where we’re at.”
133  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 'Real News' sites on: June 30, 2014, 04:32:11 PM
Nice lists of sources!  Links for the two GM added:

http://www.atimes.com/    Asia Times
 
http://www.scmp.com/frontpage/international     South China Morning Post
134  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: India-US on: June 30, 2014, 04:26:21 PM
Thinking of foreign policy and our headfake pivot to Asia, I have not heard a peep out of this administration in terms of reaching out to the new government in India.  India seems like quite a good natural ally for the United States as a partial balance against unfriendliness coming out of Russia and China .  Are we really in a committed, monogamous and satisfying relationship with Pakistan?  Hasn't that pretty much run its course.  What does Pakistan offer us for the future, compared with India, if we can't work with them both?

YA posted the following regarding Mr. Modi and his relationship with the US: 

"Modi will go slow with the US and wait for the Americans’ overtures before taking the first step. The US has pursued a policy of denying a visa to Modi over his alleged but unproven involvement in the Gujarat pogrom of 2002, and has foolishly stuck to this policy when the entire West has changed its stance toward Modi. Obama called to say that visa will not be an issue...but it may be too late...YA"

Still waiting for those overtures?  Not really.  Unfortunately the US is mostly irrelevant to India. 

A brief lookup on the incident in question:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2002_Gujarat_riots
"In 2012, Modi was cleared of complicity in the violence by a Special Investigation Team appointed by the Supreme Court of India."
(A landslide electoral victory in a peaceful country further indicates he is cleared.)

Modi doesn't just harbor some deep, bad feelings toward the US, the new Prime Minister of the world's largest democracy is barred from visiting the US due to a suspected terror/riot incident.  (While Barack Obama is co-authoring books with Bill Ayers and hobnobbing with the PLO and moderate terrorists in Syria.)

While we are doing nothing in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, Egypt, Libya and a few other hot spots around the world, and while China is accelerating its militarization and Russia is expanding its territory, you would think that between golf games we might court India a little bit for some future strategic cooperation.  Just a thought. 
135  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The war on the rule of law on: June 29, 2014, 01:58:24 PM
"and those who have protected those officials — need to be removed from office now, not two or three years from now when we may finally have a scrupulous attorney general. This is why the Constitution’s impeachment clause makes clear that the political process of removing malfeasant officials from power provides no double-jeopardy protection against a later criminal prosecution for the same misconduct"

So what does it take to impeach these officials?

And won't impeachment simply die in the Senate?

I believe impeachment requires only a simple majority in the House.  Removal from office requires 2/3 majority of the Senate.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supermajority

It would die in the Senate, yes, but if they take their responsibilities seriously it would require them to take it up seriously in a trial and conduct a vote.  If done before the election, there are several hot-seat Dems who would have to give it careful consideration, Landreau, Begich, Hagan, Prior?  And there are others who may be sick and tired of this administration bringing down the good name of transparency and liberalism, lol.  After the election it still cannot be done on a party line vote.  As intended, impeachment of anyone requires significant support from both sides.

The impeachment proceedings would cause SOME press coverage of the case against them, and the trial in the Senate could get quite testy.  )

This is all time and energy not devoted to the administration's transformation project so in that sense we all win no matter the outcome.

Obviously if R's bring a weak case and get no crossover support it could easily backfire on them too, like budget showdowns, etc.
136  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Hillbillary Clintons long, sordid, and often criminal history on: June 29, 2014, 11:32:56 AM

Is there any chance that she has not already called the IRS commissioner's boss to get this company stopped?

I wonder if Bill envisions only marital fidelity when he thinks about the title of her book.
137  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The US Congress; Congressional races on: June 29, 2014, 10:46:50 AM
Agreed.  There was also the unsavory matter of McDaniels' people photographing Cochran's senile wife.  Plausible denial was in place but still the whiff of it was not pleasant.

It is strange to see which gaffes take down which politicians.  That was going to be way out of bounds.  Yet these politicians parade their families in front of the delegates and voters with the 'explicit implication' that it makes them a better man.  Then go to Washington, party with the young lovelies while leaving spouse back home to fend for herself.

WashPost has a negative piece on McDaniel again today.  There won't be enough Cochran voters this time who voted in the Dem primary to overturn this.  Still the tea party made an impact!  A sitting, popular Republican Senator was defeated if you only count Republican votes in a Republican primary, by a flawed candidate and campaign, for the express reason of straying from conservative principles.

A few others should take note.
138  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Hillbillary Clintons long, sordid, and often criminal history on: June 28, 2014, 08:08:26 PM








http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2014/06/the-week-in-pictures-video-edition.php
139  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Immigration issues, Infant, toddler, and abandoned child crisis at the border on: June 28, 2014, 07:50:20 PM
The current border crisis has sunk the President's and his party's scheme on immigration flooding.  Here is a rare case of someone mainstream saying aloud what should be obvious:
http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2014-06-27/immigration-reform-is-dead-obama-is-in-trouble

Minors are being dumped in this country as a consequence of the current policies and the announced intentions of this administration.  The crisis proves the border is not secure, which was a precondition for almost all of the amnesty negotiations that have now stalled.  Secure the border first.

It is a little like hearing the argument that al Qaida and terror groups are on the run while they over-run us in Benghazi and a host of other countries.  In this case, those in congress who argued the border is secure - enough, did so in bad faith.  Those in the Executive Branch who say it failed to carry out the law.

The perpetual immigration deal offered to conservatives is much like Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown and setting it up again and pulling it away again, over and over and over.  Each time she says she won't pull it away this time.  In this story, we are Charlie Brown and we didn't want to kick the ball in the first place, just trying to be good sports - while playing with lying weasels.

I favored pursuing a "comprehensive agreement".  But that is not possible when key people do not negotiate in good faith.  

The current crisis proves what everyone already knew.  Our borders are not secure.

We already passed a recent law requiring the securing of the border.  It was called the "Secure Fence Act of 2006".  It passed the Senate by 80-19.  That included a lot of Republicans.  Like healthcare, it left discretion with the secretary of the department, homeland security in this case, to say the border is secure or not with or without a fence.  Leaving discretion does not mean cabinet secretaries can lie to the American people or lie under oath in front of the congressional oversight committees.

Why should the next law be passed before the last law is implemented?  Right now Republicans, especially in the House, are accused of doing nothing but that is not true.  Republicans and responsible people everywhere are patiently waiting for the Executive Branch to do it's job.

Now that we know the 2006 law is being ignored, why not take appropriate actions.  Assuming the President is too big to impeach, why not impeach each cabinet official who refuses to upholding and implement the law.  Like Nixon's staff, one by one they can resign, tell the truth, or face impeachment in the House and a trial in the Senate.
140  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: June 28, 2014, 12:33:23 PM
Very funny ccp!  I think if not for working out with the mini dumb bells he wouldn't be able to handle the giant single scoop ice cream come with such ease.

141  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The US Congress; Congressional races on: June 27, 2014, 03:47:11 PM
It occurs to me to mention that Tea Party McDaniels, who just lost to RINO Cochran in Mississippi had quite a string of comments on issues in which race was involved that left me feeling , , , uncomfortable.

If so, then maybe it was best to defeat him in the Republican primary, but wrong to do that by undermining the process.  Republican establishment put their money into a nasty robo call campaign, aimed at Democrats,  trashing the tea party.

“The time has come to take a stand and say NO to the tea party,”
http://dailycaller.com/2014/06/22/robocall-allegedly-recruiting-dem-votes-for-gop-sen-cochran-bashes-tea-party-alleges-racism/#ixzz35sGTPirL

If McDaniel uncomfortable quotes on race, why not highlight those quotes, and target Republicans, instead of trashing the tea party and targeting black Democrats with out of state, Republican establishment money.

Club for Growth wasted about 3 million on this race, and the Republican establishment wasted even more, all that could have gone to defeating Democrats elsewhere.
142  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Sen. Rob Portman on corporate and other tax reform on: June 27, 2014, 12:55:52 PM
Ohio Senate Rob Portman is right on the money with this tax proposal.

Yet the same Senator put money and political support into the fiasco in Mississippi that leads to the reelection of "interest group liberalism" in the Republican party instead of articulating a clear voice for change.  http://www.politico.com/story/2014/06/how-thad-cochrans-campaign-pulled-it-off-108276.html  http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/real-lesson-mississippi_795729.html

Too bad to have all the right ideas and not care about implementing them.
143  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness - Too Big to Jail on: June 27, 2014, 12:42:19 PM
Nice to see the Glibster visit the Twin Cities this week,
meeting with a lowly "average" citizen,
 "frustrated with the economy"
who turned out to be a past paid Democratic "field organizer"!
http://www.torontosun.com/2014/06/26/obama-aims-for-day-in-the-life-of-minneapolis-woman,

He came to warn us about the immediate threat of CO2 and global warming
while consuming 53 thousand gallons of jet fuel per day
and leaving Air Force One on at the airport, idling during the entire visit,
as it always is.
http://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/washington-whispers/2011/04/22/earth-day-ends-obamas-53300-gallon-trip

He made a surprise stop at a popular saturated fat factory, The Grand Avenue Creamery
for over-priced ice cream in a trendy location,
holding up capital city traffic,
and enjoyed a "Juicy Lucy" saturated fat burger and fries,
with the ordinary folk,
while his wife's administration works to take the same pleasures out of meals for school children.
http://www.twincities.com/politics/ci_26040450/obama-bites-into-signature-jucy-lucy-burger-at

Too Big to Jail    http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2013/12/16/is-president-obama-too-big-to-jail/
My proposal is to impeach him after the 2016 election,
with a successor already chosen,
leaving no time on the clock
for blubbering Joe to ever be sworn in
for the highest office in the land.

144  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Glibness: Supreme Court Rules Unanimously Against Obama for the 13th Time! on: June 27, 2014, 12:08:09 PM
http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/381296/supreme-court-rules-unanimously-against-obama-12th-and-13th-time-2012-john-fund

Supreme Court Rules Unanimously Against Obama for 12th and 13th Time Since 2012

By John Fund  National Review
145  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: June 27, 2014, 11:57:21 AM
Downturn caused by weather, and restocking??!  From ccp's post (Media Issues):

"Another drag on growth last quarter was probably also temporary: Companies sharply cut back on their restocking of goods. That wasn't unexpected. It occurred after companies had aggressively ramped up restocking in the second half of last year. The slowdown in the January-March quarter reduced annual growth by 1.6 percentage points, the government said. With growth strengthening since spring began, businesses are restocking at a faster rate again. Inventories grew 0.6 percent in April, the most in six months."

Downturn not caused by, as others including yours truly allege:
a) largest new entitlement
b) largest new taxes
c) largest new regulations - in the history of the republic.

To miss 3% shrinkage is colossal error.  To miss 3% shrinkage when you are an economist forecasting 3% growth is quit-the-profession level error.  To miss it AFTER IT HAPPENED is a jump-out-the-window danger alert.  I hope our own Brian Wesbury works on the first floor of the First Trust Towers!  

Plowhorse growth means slow and lousy growth, but steady and predictable.  They couldn't 'predict' this downturn in the first 2 3/4 months AFTER IT HAPPENED!  Did we really not know the first quarter weather by the end of first quarter?!  Other than amateurs like us and the 'pros' who always predict doom, who saw this coming?  It turns the term Professional Economist into an oxymoron, not one notch above professional journalist.

The greatest irony is that the number one threat that our economy faces, in the view of the current ruling class who just levied the above entitlements, taxes and regulations, is WARMING.  The greatest security threat we face in the world is WARMING.  Not a little fluctuation here and there, but worsening, spiraling, out of control, human caused and life as we know it ending WARMING.  Yet the reason our economy is tanking is UNEXPECTEDLY COLD WEATHER.  Go figure!
146  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Economics, Jonah Goldberg: Mr. Piketty's Big Book of Marxiness on: June 27, 2014, 10:09:43 AM
A long, thoughtful takedown and deconstruction of Piketty's twisted book aagainst capital, by Jonah Goldberg in Commentary Magazine, June 2014:
http://www.commentarymagazine.com/article/mr-pikettys-big-book-of-marxiness/
With the quick slide in sales of Hillary's travel notes, maybe we can get back to real issues! Excerpted here, read it all at the link. 

One: Piketty’s Charge

...It remains to be seen what history will make of Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century, which was released in America in April. But it was so perfectly timed that it joined the ranks of those lightning-in-a-bottle books even before its publication. Piketty purports to offer a “general theory of capitalism,” in the words of the economist Tyler Cowen. His theory is that capitalism inherently leads to ever-widening income inequality that can be addressed only through heavy taxes on accumulated wealth. In December 2013, President Obama prepared the intellectual battlefield for Piketty by declaring that income inequality was now “the defining challenge of our time.” As the enormous and dense tome finally settled in at the top of the charts, Hillary Clinton previewed a presidential campaign stump speech of sorts, which largely focused on Piketty’s core theme: inequality. Even the pope got in on the act. Adding a religious dimension to Piketty’s theories on Twitter, he declared in late April that “inequality is the root of social evil” and called for “the legitimate redistribution of economic benefits by the State.”
...

According to Boris Kachka of New York magazine, “One hundred and eighty years after Alexis de Tocqueville came back to France with the news that he’d found true égalité in America, his countryman has arrived on our shores to deliver the opposite news.”

Taken literally, the comparison between the two writers is ridiculous.
...Capital in the Twenty-First Century is the artillery shell his supporters have long been waiting for to begin the war against “economic inequality.”

Two: Piketty’s Claim

Piketty’s overarching argument is that Karl Marx was essentially correct when he identified what might be called the original sin of capitalism: the problem of “infinite accumulation.” This is the idea that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. According to Piketty, it’s what happened when capitalism was left to its own devices at the end of the 19th century, and it’s what is about to happen in the United States and Europe in the 21st. There was, he says, a brief flattening-out of inequality in the middle of the 20th century, thanks to the devastation of two world wars, which destroyed enormous amounts of wealth and fueled huge spikes in taxation. But otherwise the story has remained the same.

Piketty asks:

Do the dynamics of private capital accumulation inevitably lead to the concentration of wealth in ever fewer hands, as Karl Marx believed in the nineteenth century? Or do the balancing forces of growth, competition, and technological progress lead in later stages of development to reduced inequality and greater harmony among the classes…?

Given this either/or, Piketty essentially sides with Marx. I say “essentially” because there is much bickering about whether it is fair or right to call Piketty a Marxist. Paul Krugman, for instance, finds the idea ridiculous, despite the fact that the very title of the book is an homage to Marx’s Das Kapital and that Piketty says Marx asked the right questions even if some of his answers had “limitations.” Piketty himself rejects the Marxist label, presents his arguments in neoclassical terms, and describes himself as a social democrat.

Others have called Piketty’s approach “soft Marxism.” But with apologies to Stephen Colbert, I’d call it “Marxiness.” Piketty attempts to avoid Marx’s scientistic messianism by proffering caveats like “one should be wary of economic determinism.” Yes, one should. But Piketty has a grating habit of offering seemingly deflating qualifiers and “to be sures” only to proceed—à la an unreconstructed Marxist—to argue as if science and objective truth are unquestionably on his side.

He concludes that the problem with capitalism is that “there is no natural, spontaneous process to prevent destabilizing, inegalitarian forces from prevailing permanently.” Rather, capitalism is structurally (or objectively, as the old Marxists might say) inegalitarian. It is a rigged casino where the winners not only keep winning but don’t deserve their chips in the first place.

His proof comes in the form of r > g, already the most famous mathematical formula since E=MC2. R is the rate of return on capital (investments, interest on savings, rent from land). G is the growth rate of the broader economy. The problem, according to Piketty, is that the rate of return on capital is greater than the growth of the broader economy. He postulates that if capital grows faster than national income, specifically income earned through wages, over time the capitalists will come to own everything unless something stops that from happening.

Piketty dismisses the claim that the free market self-corrects. He essentially rejects the belief that the law of diminishing returns applies to capital. Most economists hold that if there’s too much capital chasing too few opportunities for investment, the return on capital will inevitably drop. Such corrections, in his view, are fleeting shifts in the current of an ever-rising tide of inequality. And even when they occur, they don’t amount to much:

Never mind that such adjustments might be unpleasant or complicated; they might also take decades, during which landlords and oil well owners might accumulate claims on the rest of the population so extensive that they could easily own everything that can be owned, including rural real estate and bicycles, once and for all. As always, the worst is never certain to arrive. It is much too soon to warn readers that by 2050 they may be paying rent to the emir of Qatar.

Piketty asserts that the return on capital (the r in r > g) holds steady at about 5 percent over time. This means that once you’re rich, you keep getting richer thanks to the miracle of compound interest. Inherited wealth, or old money, expands forever—or, as Piketty puts it in a memorable line, “the past devours the future.”

Piketty’s occasional concessions to uncertainty about his most dire predictions illustrate one reason he shouldn’t be considered an orthodox Marxist. He has no grand Hegelian theory of the ineluctable progression of History with a capital H. But who needs dialectical materialism when you have algebra?

Indeed, his primary claim to originality comes from a statistical tendency he discerns through masses of data, according to which the free market yields a society in which the rich not only get richer but get richer faster than everyone else and ultimately leave the poor behind. This is, he says, the “central contradiction of capitalism.” He goes on:

Once constituted, capital reproduces itself faster than output increases. The past devours the future. The consequences for the long-term dynamics of the wealth distribution are potentially terrifying, especially when one adds that the divergence in wealth distribution is occurring on a global scale.

According to Piketty, we are not only returning to levels of income inequality not seen since the 19th century. We are also looking at a potentially eternal future where the overclass rules at the expense of the ever-growing underclasses. It’s economic Morlocks versus Eloi all the way down.

Matters would appear to be hopeless. But not to worry. Piketty has hope. What gives him hope, and what excites so many of his fans, is that this central contradiction of capitalism can be overpowered by the state.

His key proposal is what he calls a “global wealth tax” of 5 to 10 percent off the top for billionaires, 2 percent for people worth 5 million euros or more, and 1 percent for millionaires below that. He also advocates a top marginal tax rate of 80 percent. And that ain’t the half of it—literally. It’s more like less than a quarter of it. “If one follows Piketty in assuming a normal return on capital of 4 percent for the 21st century,” Stefan Homburg of the University of Leibnitz has written, “a 10 percent tax on wealth is equivalent to a 250 percent tax on the resulting capital income. Combined with the 80 percent income tax, taxpayers would face effective tax rates of up to 330 percent.”

How and by whom this money would be collected is kept rather vague, in part because even Piketty concedes that this proposal is “utopian.” More interesting, he is not especially concerned about what to do with these revenues. Leveling the gap between the rich and the rest of us is a much larger priority for him than lifting up the poor. “Confiscatory tax rates on incomes deemed to be indecent” are worthwhile in their own right, he says. Such rates, which reached 90 percent in the United States at one point, were an “impressive U.S. innovation of the interwar years.” He says this even though he concedes that a high marginal tax rate on extremely high incomes actually “brings in almost nothing” (because the rich would simply stop taking proceeds in taxable form). He does concede in a wonderful understatement at the end of the book that “before we can learn to efficiently organize public financing equivalent to two-thirds to three-quarters of national income”—what his desired tax rates would amount to—“it would be good to improve the organization and operation of the existing public sector.” There’s a useful insight.

His comfort with punitive taxation is reminiscent of Barack Obama’s response in 2008 when asked if he would support a higher tax on capital gains even if he knew it would bring in less revenue. Obama answered that he would still favor raising such taxes for “purposes of fairness.” In short, some people don’t deserve the money they have, and the government should take it from them.
...
Three: Piketty’s Data

The general consensus even from very critical economists—and there are many—is that Piketty and his colleagues (chiefly his frequent writing partner, Berkeley economist Emmanuel Saez) have masterfully collected an amazing amount of data that describe some very interesting trends over the past 300 years. They have made massive databases with information culled from tax returns, estate records, and virtually every other source they could find. They plausibly argue that such records are more valuable and accurate than conventional surveys because the sample size of responses from the wealthiest individuals are simply too small to give a clear picture of inequality. Capital in the Twenty-First Century is largely a repackaging of that work. But for Piketty and his fans, it amounts to nothing less than the spread of the Big Data revolution to economic history. Maybe so. But his analysis of those data is far more controversial.

One reason for the controversy is that Piketty oversimplifies the concept of capital. He depicts it “as a growing, homogeneous blob which, at least under peaceful conditions, ends up overshadowing other economic variables,” in the words of economist Tyler Cowen. But different kinds of capital have different rates of return. Right now Treasury bills yield barely better than a 1 percent return, while equities historically have a return of about 7 percent. As Cowen notes in an essay for Foreign Affairs, this alone reveals a certain blind spot in Piketty’s analysis: the hugely significant role of risk-taking in a free-market economy.

The most common and strongest complaint is that Piketty’s arrangement of the data paints a false picture of rising inequality in the United States. Harvard’s Martin Feldstein noted in the Wall Street Journal that Piketty fails to take into account important—albeit arcane—changes in the tax code that have caused business income to be counted on personal tax returns. “This transformation occurred gradually over many years as taxpayers changed their behavior and their accounting practices to reflect the new rules,” Feldstein writes. As an example, “the business income of Subchapter S corporations alone rose from $500 billion in 1986 to $1.8 trillion by 1992.” This leads Feldstein to conclude that Piketty “creates the false impression of a sharp rise in the incomes of high-income taxpayers even though there was only a change in the legal form of that income.”

Feldstein and Scott Winship, of the Manhattan Institute, identify another methodological problem. By focusing on tax returns (instead of household surveys and the like), Piketty fails to take into account the already sizable redistributive elements of our tax code. One in three Americans receives some means-tested government aid today. And that percentage will only grow as people live longer in retirement than ever before. In other words, social security, housing assistance, food aid, etc. don’t show up in Piketty’s portrait of inequality. Winship also notes that his method lumps together many young workers who might live at home and spouses who work only part time. Perhaps more significant, in Piketty’s data, capital gains are registered as a one-time windfall. In other words, if you buy shares in a mutual fund and you hold onto that asset for 25 years, the gains you realize when you sell are counted as income in a single year. But in fact, they’ve been earned over a quarter century. And by “excluding non-taxable capital gains,” Winship wrote in National Review,“most wealth accruing to the middle and working class, which comes in the form of home sales or 401(k) and IRA investments, is invisible in Piketty’s data.”

Then there is Piketty’s use, or abuse, of r > g. “Pretty much every economics textbook will tell you that r > g,” writes American Enterprise Institute economist Andrew Biggs. “But none of the textbook models take from this that the capital stock will rise endlessly relative to the economy. Most of them hold that it stays pretty constant, and the historical evidence supports that view.”

Indeed, as Homburg notes, historical evidence shows that the divide between wealth and income doesn’t eternally widen simply because r is greater than g. The evidence for this can be found in Piketty’s own book, which shows that for the last two centuries, the wealth-to-income ratio in the United States and Canada has remained fairly stable. This North American exception is important because, unlike Europe and Japan, we were not subjected to the physical devastation of the world wars (a topic I will return to later).

Homburg, the American Enterprise Institute’s Kevin Hassett, and a team at the Sciences Po in Paris, moreover, argue that the recent widening of the wealth-to-income gap in the United States that Piketty reports is largely a function of a housing boom in the past 30 years. This fact complicates the story. The housing boom has benefited rich people, to be sure, but it has also been fueled by a massive expansion of home ownership among not only the wealthy but also the middle and lower classes (though not in proportion to gains by the wealthy). “The largest single component of capital in the United States is owner-occupied housing,” notes the liberal economist Lawrence Summers in his review of the book for Democracy. “Its return comes in the form of the services enjoyed by the owners—what economists call ‘imputed rent’—which are all consumed rather than reinvested since they do not take a financial form.”

Also, housing booms cannot go on forever. If you exclude housing from other forms of wealth or capital (Piketty explicitly uses the terms interchangeably), these economists argue, the return on capital is less robust. “In the U.S.,” the Sciences Po economists write, “the net capital income ratio of housing capital was the same in 1770 as it was in 2010 and there is neither a long run trend nor a recent increase of this ratio.” They add: “This type of situation, where a small share of the population owns most of the housing capital, appears to be far from the current situation of developed countries, where the homeownership rate varies between 40 percent and 70 percent. The diffusion of homeownership is likely to slow or even reverse the rise of inequality regardless of trends in housing prices.”  Ultimately, the Sciences Po economists found that their conclusions about inequality in recent years “are exactly opposite to those found by Thomas Piketty.”

Other critics raise a different objection. According to Saez, the largest portion of rising wealth has been in the growth of pension savings, which is a very good thing by most accounts. This is important for two reasons. First, pensions, while disproportionately held by the wealthy, are nonetheless very widely held (by teachers, policemen, autoworkers, et al.). Second, as Forbes’s Tim Worstall notes, pension wealth is generally not inheritable. Indeed, by design, it is intended to be spent.

But in order for Piketty’s invincible confidence that “the past will devour the future” to hold, wealthy people can’t spend down their money, because then it would circulate through the broader economy, raise the fortunes of others, and reduce their own net wealth. But one needs only to look outside the window to see that they do. The wealthy spend their money on cars, houses, boats, and, of course, their own children. Doing so depletes their own wealth holdings and increases the incomes of the less wealthy who provide these goods. They also spend it on museum wings, hospitals, charities of all kinds (even this magazine, a 501(c)3 to which you should be donating if you’re not already), and even progressive reform efforts of the kind Piketty surely endorses. Whatever the motive, they spend down their capital stock relentlessly—a major reason, in the United States and Canada especially, the wealth-to-income ratio has stayed relatively constant. As Feldstein notes, Piketty’s assumption about the rich might be true if every individual rich person lived forever.

...one must conclude that what its supporters have hailed as an irrefutable mathematical prophecy might have to be downgraded by everyone else into the well-informed hunch from a left-leaning French economist—a significant drop in confidence level, as the statisticians might say.

And this is hugely inconvenient for those holding aloft Capital in the Twenty-First Century as though it were the Statistical Abstract of the United States—because that would mean all of Piketty’s policy proposals and dire predictions for the future are based on a guess about the future, a guess he has falsely portrayed as an immutable law.

Four: Piketty’s Faith

Appeals to scientific fact are powerful only if the science holds up. The problem is that Piketty’s whole case sits on what could be called a one-legged stool: Remove that leg and there’s nothing left to hold it up but faith. Marxism suffered from a similar weakness. So long as its “scientific” claims remained uncontested and unexamined, Marxism had a huge advantage. Once it became clear that the science in “scientific socialism” was nothing more than clever branding, all that was left was faith.

The radical philosopher Georges Sorel (1847–1922) recognized that Marx’s Das Kapital was next to useless as a work of scientific analysis. That’s why he preferred to look at it as an “apocalyptic text… as a product of the spirit, as an image created for the purpose of molding consciousness.” And for generations of revolutionaries, intellectuals, artists, and activists, it served that purpose well. Marxism lent to its acolytes a certainty they could call “scientific”—an indispensable label amidst a scientific revolution—but, as Sorel understood, that was a kind of psychological marketing, a Platonic “vital lie” or what Sorel called a useful “myth.” Indeed, Lenin’s most significant contribution to Marxism lay in using Sorel’s concept of the myth to galvanize a successful revolutionary political movement.

Marx tapped into the language and concepts of Darwinian evolution and the Industrial Revolution to give his idea of dialectical materialism a plausibility it didn’t deserve. Similarly, Croly drew from the turn-of-the-century vogue for (heavily German-influenced) social science and the cult of the expert (in Croly’s day “social engineer” wasn’t a pejorative term, but an exciting career). In much the same way, Piketty’s argument taps into the current cultural and intellectual fad for “big data.” The idea that all the answers to all our problems can be solved with enough data is deeply seductive and wildly popular among journalists and intellectuals. (Just consider the popularity of the Freakonomics franchise or the cult-like popularity of the self-taught statistician Nate Silver.) Indeed, Piketty himself insists that what sets his work apart from that of Marx, Ricardo, Keynes, and others is that he has the data to settle questions previous generations of economists could only guess at. Data is the Way and the Light to the eternal verities long entombed in cant ideology and darkness. (This reminds me of the philosopher Eric Voegelin’s quip that, under Marxism, “Christ the Redeemer is replaced by the steam engine as the promise of the realm to come.”)

For the lay reader of Capital, this might seem ironic, given Piketty’s own criticisms of the economics profession. He mocks his colleagues’ “childish passion for mathematics and for purely theoretical and often highly ideological speculation” and “their absurd claim to greater scientific legitimacy, despite the fact that they know almost nothing about anything.” He decries the “scientistic illusion” that emerges from statistical lightshows. “The new methods often lead to a neglect of history and of the fact that historical experience remains our principle source of knowledge,” he writes. It is true that the economists he’s talking about don’t deal with real-world data but with abstract mathematical models masquerading as economic theory. Nonetheless, he would be well advised to consider that towering trees of data can blind you to the more complex nature of the forest.

With almost the sole exception of left-wing Salon columnist Thomas Frank, virtually none of his reviewers—positive and critical alike—have commented on the fact that Piketty has a remarkably thumbless grasp of historical context. “Piketty’s command of American political history is, quite simply, abysmal,” Frank correctly declares. ...

...Piketty sees the super rich as an undifferentiated agglomeration—a single static class bent on protecting its own collective self-interests. But the rich are not a static class, any more than capital can be reduced to a homogenous blob. Fewer than 1 in 10 of the 400 wealthiest Americans on the Forbes list in 1982 were still there in 2012. (Lawrence Summers notes that if Piketty was right about the stable return on capital, they should have all stayed on the list.) Of the 20 biggest fortunes on the Forbes list in 2013, 17 (85 percent) were self-made. Of the three remaining entries, only one—the Mars candy family—goes back three generations. The Koch brothers inherited the business their father created, but they also greatly expanded it through their own entrepreneurial zeal. The Waltons of Walmart fame inherited the family business from Sam Walton, a self-made billionaire from quite humble origins.

Nor are the poor and the middle class static. As a statistical artifice, there will always be a bottom 1 percent, just as there will always be a top 1 percent. But that doesn’t mean that if you are born in the bottom 1 percent, you will stay there. Some of Piketty’s fans seem confused about this, appearing to believe that economic inequality is synonymous with low economic mobility. There may indeed be a link between inequality and low economic mobility. After all, rich people by definition have advantages poor people do not. But there is no iron law that says any individual person must stay in his narrow economic bracket for life; the Morlocks can become Eloi. Indeed, there remains an enormous amount of churn in our economy; 61 percent of households will find themselves in the top quintile of income for at least two years, according to data compiled by economists Mark Rank and Thomas Hirschl. Just under 40 percent will reach the top 10 percent, and 5 percent will be one-percenters, at least for a while.

Piketty himself offers an extensive analysis of the Forbes list of the wealthiest people in the world in an attempt to prove that today’s richest people are much richer than they were in 1987 and that the “largest fortunes grew much more rapidly than average wealth.” He says the data show that wealth grew by an inflation-adjusted 7 percent, even higher than the normal 4-to-5 percent return implicit in r > g. In what seems a generous nod, Piketty even concedes that if you jigger the timespan—starting from, say, 1990 instead of 1987—the rate of return might drop a bit. But one problem remains: Piketty leaves out that the people on the list are almost all different people.3 The economist Stan Veuger, writing for U.S. News & World Report, looked at the same list and found that the top 10 individuals collectively earned about 0.5 percent on their capital during the period Piketty says “the rich” got richer. And, Vueger notes: “If it weren’t for Walmart, the wealthiest people in the world would actually have lost about half of their wealth in the last 25 years.”

Five: Piketty’s Warning

Piketty’s insistence that “historical experience remains our principal source of knowledge” and that economists need to get out of their abstract cocoons becomes all the more tone-deaf when we get to the question he barely addresses at all: Why should we care? So there’s income inequality. So what? For his part, Martin Wolf of the Financial Times raved about Capital, but conceded that the work has “clear weaknesses. The most important is that it does not deal with why soaring inequality…matters. Essentially, Piketty simply assumes that it does.”

The Economist’s Ryan Avent objected to Wolf’s criticism noting that Piketty finds income inequality “unsustainable” because it will either lead to a few (or even a single person) owning everything or to bloody revolution. Piketty does suggest as much—but he makes nothing resembling a sustained philosophical, historical, or ethical case to support his views. Rather, he breezily and unpersuasively assumes and asserts such conclusions as if they are the sorts of things everybody knows. ...

Six: Piketty’s Threat

Piketty is convinced that income inequality “inevitably instigates…violent political conflict.” Is that actually true? And if it is, is such violence justified? Skepticism is warranted on both counts, as history suggests.

For example, the French Revolution was about inequality, but not first and foremost economic inequality. Inherited titles, the power of the Church, the unjust rule of what Edmund Burke called “arbitrary power,” and other tangible examples of legal or formal inequality played enormous and mutually reinforcing roles. The American Revolution, likewise, was about political inequality, as were later fights in this country over abolition and civil rights. Economic inequality was a symptom, not the disease—at least according to countless revolutionaries, abolitionists, and civil-rights leaders.

The postwar history of the West actually makes a hash of Piketty’s sweeping presumption. He argues that the years 1950 to 1970 were a “golden age” of economic equality. If so, why did the greatest period of social unrest in Europe and the United States in the 20th century come at the height of this golden age in the 1960s? That unrest spilled over into the 1970s, but the domestic terrorists who roiled Germany and Italy and the crime wave that devastated the United States had an extremely tangential relationship to income inequality at best. Then, pollsters tell us, in the 1980s—when the West took a wrong turn, according to Piketty, thanks to the policies of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan—social contentment started to rise and continued to rise, with the usual dips, all the way into the 1990s. One small example: In 1979, 84 percent of Americans told Gallup they were dissatisfied with the direction of the country. In 1986, 69 percent were satisfied.

So, just looking at the historical record, the notion that greater income equality by itself yields social peace seems insane.

Seven: Piketty’s Capitalism

“The consequences for the long-term dynamics of the wealth distribution are potentially terrifying,” Piketty writes. For instance, Piketty fears that whenever the return on capital really starts to outstrip national growth, “capitalism automatically generates arbitrary and unsustainable inequalities that radically undermine the meritocratic values on which democratic societies are based.” That is open to debate, to put it mildly. Bill Gates, Sam Walton, Larry Ellison, Mark Zuckerberg, Sergey Brin, Fred Smith, and others became billionaires because they created goods and services of real value to consumers; there was nothing “arbitrary” about it. In fact, most of them didn’t achieve their wealth, strictly speaking, from “capital” in the Pikettyesque sense at all. They mostly earned it from technological innovation. Piketty seems to believe, without marshaling much if any evidence, that such accretions of wealth undermine meritocratic values—when in fact, in a very real sense, the wealth creation over the past 30 years collectively constitutes the most extreme example of meritocratic advancement the world has ever seen.

Do the masses resent their wealth? It doesn’t appear so, or if they do, it is not a major concern. As inequality has risen over the last 30 years, the share of the public who think that that the “rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer” has stayed fairly constant (80 percent told Harris pollsters they agree with that statement in 2013 compared with 82 percent in 1990). The number dipped a bit in the 1990s when inequality was increasing but wages were rising. But, in May, when Gallup asked voters what they saw as “the most important problem facing this country today,” a mere 3 percent volunteered the gap between rich and poor (which gives you a sense of how out of touch with the concerns of Americans some of Piketty’s biggest fans are and why, for instance, they wildly overestimated the significance of Occupy Wall Street at the time, and even in retrospect). Polls consistently find that Americans are much more concerned about creating jobs and making the economy grow than fighting income inequality or redistributing wealth. A poll in January conducted by McLaughlin & Associates (for the YG Network) found that Americans by a margin of 2:1 (64 percent to 33 percent) prefer expanding economic growth to narrowing the gap between rich and poor. In 1990, Gallup asked Americans whether the country benefits from having a class of rich people. Sixty-two percent said yes. In 2012, 63 percent said yes.

It seems that most Americans simply want a fair shake. They don’t really begrudge the success of others, and to the extent they do, they don’t want to do much about it. It’s hard to see how any of this amounts to an inequality-driven powder keg of social unrest waiting to explode.

A third claim—one can’t call them arguments because they don’t rise to that level—is that the super rich will rig democracy to their advantage. This, too, has a faint Marxist echo, featuring as it does the assumption that capitalist overlords form a homogenous political class bent on exploitation. One must only read the newspaper to know that this is nonsense on stilts. At this very moment, George Soros, Tom Steyer, and other liberal billionaires are in a hammer-and-tongs political battle with Sheldon Adelson, Charles and David Koch, and other conservative or libertarian billionaires. And the evidence that either side has the power to buy elections is discredited almost every November. This is not to say that our democracy couldn’t be healthier or that wealthy special interests do not cause real problems, but America is hardly being run today by characters out of a Thomas Nast cartoon. It’s being run, instead, by the son of a teenage single mother from Hawaii, the son of a barkeep from Ohio who became speaker of the House, and a miner’s son from Nevada who grew up in a shack with no running water before becoming majority leader of the Senate—none of them born into wealth, to put it mildly.

Eight: Piketty’s Choice

Piketty is shockingly unconcerned with the fact (which he acknowledges) that one of the driving forces of U.S. income inequality is rising global equality. The world’s poor are getting much richer, in large part because they are doing a lot of the sometimes backbreaking and manual labor that poor and middle-class people in rich countries once did. This clearly creates significant political and economic challenges for wealthy countries eager to maintain high domestic-living standards, but from the vantage point of someone who believes in universal economic rights, that is a small price to pay, no?

Thanks to capitalism, we have seen the single largest alleviation of poverty in human history. In 1981, 52 percent of humanity lived in “extreme poverty.” They could not provide for themselves and for their families such basic needs as housing and food. According to a recent study by Yale and the Brookings Institution, by the end of 2011, that number had fallen to 15 percent. They credit globalization, capitalism, and better economic governance (i.e., the abandonment of Marxism and similar ideologies). Even for economic nationalists, how is that not a staggering triumph for the ethical superiority of capitalism?

That is also the story of the West in the 19th and 20th centuries. Piketty might be right that whenever capitalism runs amok, the rich get richer faster than the poor get richer. Even so, the poor still get richer. The economic historian Deirdre McCloskey beautifully chronicles how for nearly all of history (and prehistory), the average human lived on the equivalent of $3 per day. What she calls the “great fact” of human advancement is that, thanks to the rise of democratic capitalism, that small figure no longer holds wherever democratic capitalism has been permitted to work its magic.

Even more troubling, Piketty places enormous emphasis on the role of the world wars as a great leveler of inequality and the primary driver of the postwar “golden age.” But ask yourself a question: If you were a remotely sane human in 1900 and you were given the choice of

(a) getting richer, though at a slower rate than the very wealthiest, so that in 1950 there was a lot of economic inequality but you and your kids were still much better off; or

(b) facing two horrendous and cataclysmic global wars in which whole societies were razed and a hundred million people died violently and you (along with the rich) were made poorer for it, and would die at a younger age,

What would you have chosen? It appears Piketty finds Option B awfully tempting. And that is madness.

Nine: Piketty’s Justice

In little more than a few throwaway sentences, Piketty asserts that confiscatory taxes on wealth are morally required as a matter of social justice. That an economist who has ensconced himself in the Parisian velvet of the social-democratic left for nearly all of his adult life believes such things is hardly surprising, particularly given his confidence that extreme wealth is essentially the arbitrary product of an “ideological construct.”
But this does not absolve him of the responsibility of making a case.

Piketty begins Capital in the Twenty-First Century with a quotation from the Declaration of the Rights of Man, the operating document of the French Revolution: “Social distinctions can be based only on common utility.” He concedes elsewhere in the book that the “social distinctions” to which it refers had to do with the hereditary “orders of privileges of the Ancien Regime” and not with economic inequality. Even so, he insists, we must breathe new life into the concept of “common utility”:

One can interpret the phrase more broadly, however. One reasonable interpretation is that social inequalities are acceptable only if they are in the interest of all and in particular of the most disadvantaged social groups. Hence basic rights and material advantages must be extended insofar as possible to everyone, as long as it is in the interest of those who have the fewest rights and opportunities to do so.

The notion that wealth—or, to put it another way, private property—is an arbitrary social distinction that can be erased for the betterment of the have-nots is incredibly radical. One might even call it Marxist (or at least “Marxy”). Given that, an argument on its behalf should be extended and defended. But aside from a perfunctory reference to the philosopher John Rawls’s “difference principle,” which says that justice should be weighted toward the least advantaged people in society, he does not do so. He is more than comfortable letting it sit as largely self-evident.

Where he breaks with Marxism is the means by which he would reward the have-nots: not the seizure of all property but the mere soaking of the rich in order to seize the returns on the means of production. Piketty’s obsession with tax hikes as a cure-all is almost a perfect mirror of how liberals see the supply-side obsessions with tax cuts. It is this idée fixe that allows him to summarily dismiss other proposals that might get us to his preferred destination without confiscating the ill-gotten gains of the well-to-do. For instance, Tyler Cowen and National Review’s Kevin D. Williamson point out that if Piketty’s assumptions about the long-term returns on capital are correct, then we would be crazy not to transform social security into a system of privately held investment accounts. Boldly expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit—which would necessarily increase the tax burden of the wealthy—might also do more to solve the problem, assuming it is a problem. An aggressive tax on consumption instead of income would, according to many economists, boost growth and have the added benefit of taxing the Gilded Age lifestyles of billionaires instead of merely taxing billionaires for the alleged crime of existing. But none of these has the satisfying bang of that 80 percent marginal tax rate—or, even more thrilling, the 10 percent “global tax” on billionaires’ filthy lucre.

And then, of course, there are the countless reforms that lie outside the realm of tax tables. The data are clear that marriage delivers roughly as much bang for the buck as going to college. Raising children in a stable two-parent home is a better guarantor of lifetime economic success than crude interventions by the state. But while Piketty is happy to opine at great length about the Gilded Age matrimonial lifestyles of the rich and famous, drawing deeply on Jane Austen and other sources to paint a vivid picture, he is uninterested in the same issues down the socioeconomic ladder.

Ten: Piketty’s Class

Why does Piketty reject the more romantic path of the classic Marxist? You know—“Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win”—that kind of thing?

One answer to this question explains not only Piketty’s thinking but the response to his work as well: Piketty is a member of the ruling class. Piketty’s way puts Piketty and his friends in charge of everything. A one-time adviser to the Socialist politician Ségolène Royal, a star academic and a columnist for Libération, Piketty is a quintessential member of what the economist Joseph Schumpeter identified as the “new class.” Schumpeter’s prediction of capitalism’s demise hinged on his brilliant insight that capitalism breeds anti-capitalist intellectuals. Educators, bureaucrats, lawyers, technocrats, journalists, and artists, often the children of successful capitalists, always raised in the material affluence of capitalism, would organize to form a class whose collective interest lay in seizing economic decisions from the free market. As Deirdre McCloskey writes: “Schumpeter believed that capitalism was raising up its own grave diggers—not in the proletariat, as Marx had expected, but in the sons of daughters of the bourgeoisie itself. Lenin’s father, after all, was a high-ranking educational official, and Lenin himself a lawyer. It wasn’t the children of auto workers who pulled up the paving stones on the Left Bank in 1968.” No, it was actually people like Piketty’s own parents.

There is a reason the most passionate foes of income inequality tend to be very affluent but not super rich, intellectuals like Paul Krugman and other journalists eager to set the threshold for confiscatory tax rates just beyond their own income levels. But this sort of class war—the chattering classes versus the upper classes—is only part of the equation. Power plays a huge part as well. A full-throated endorsement of classic leftist radicalism would set a torch to Piketty’s own tower of privilege. The State, guided by experts, informed by data, must be empowered to decide how the Rawlsian difference principle is applied to society. Piketty’s assurance that inequality “inevitably” leads to violence amounts to an implied threat: “Let us distribute resources as we think best, or the masses will bring the fire next time.” Once again the vanguard of the proletariat takes the most surprising form: bureaucrats (the true “rentiers” of the 21st century!). A revealing sub-argument running throughout Capital is that we need to tax rich people in ever more, new, and creative ways just so we can get better data about rich people! To borrow a phrase from James Scott, author of Seeing Like a State, Piketty is obsessed with making society more “legible.” The first step in empowering technocrats is giving them the information they need to do their job.

This is what places the Piketty phenomenon squarely in the tradition of Croly and, yes, Marx himself. Piketty’s argument, with its scientific veneer and authoritative streams of numbers, is a warrant to empower those who think they are smarter than the market—and who feel superior to those most richly rewarded by it.
147  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: soccer on: June 27, 2014, 09:28:33 AM
Soccer is a good game, like a really slow version of hockey.  Hockey is a great sport but actually moves too fast to be appreciated as a spectator sport, especially on television.  The cameras have no trouble keeping up with the action in soccer. 

The other difference, besides slow action, Coulter picks up in no.5.  Why would you design a sport of skill, proficiency, adroitness, and remove the top two things most capable of acquiring intricate control and skill?

Coulter: (5) "You can't use your hands in soccer. What sets man apart from the lesser beasts, besides a soul, is that we have opposable thumbs. Our hands can hold things. Here's a great idea: Let's create a game where you're not allowed to use them!"

Another game that (oddly) restricts the use of hands is volleyball.  Fingertip control would make it too easy to acquire skill!  https://volleyballreftraining.com/usavreftrainingblog/?p=3007

I wonder if a soccer fan with a life threatening injury would choose a surgeon who is only allowed to use his feet.
148  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economics, the stock market , and other investment/savings strategies on: June 25, 2014, 11:21:25 PM
As you said earlier, it is the policies.  Wesbury and others are looking for better results, reasons for optimism and ways to make money in THIS economy.  My interest is only in changing the policies.
149  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Plow horse! It's what's for dinner! on: June 25, 2014, 11:32:22 AM

1st Qtr US contraction is now at 3%.

GDP growth in North Dakota was 13%. It is as if we are not all pursuing th same policies.
150  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: iCleveland Indians targetted on: June 25, 2014, 11:20:29 AM


No. It is still legal to portray white people of Scandinavian ancestry as ruthless savages.
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