Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People


The politics of perception

One of the more surprising things of late, at least to me, is the short memory the left seems to have.  As I’ve observed them over the years, one of the things I’ve noticed is they seem to understand the saying “in politics, perception is reality.” Or at least they did.  And it was why they tried to seize and control the narrative.  If they could fashion the perception of the people to be to their advantage, then the “reality” would follow.  One only has to think back of the 8 years of GW Bush to watch that in action.

But now it seems they’ve either forgotten that point or think they’re immune to it.  Or maybe they’re just better on the offense than the defense.

Take the IRS scandal. They continue to push the line that it is a phony scandal.  But what’s the perception of the people when it comes to the IRS in general?  Well, you’ll find very few who harbor kind thoughts about the agency, even if it has never crossed their path during their lifetime.   The IRS is a tax agency and no one is particularly fond of tax collectors.  So when the agency is implicated in an apparent scandal, the left trots out the “phony scandal” meme expecting that sort of a hand-wave to magically make the scandal disappear off of the public’s radar screen.

However, it hasn’t, has it?  Why? Because the public’s perception of the IRS fully allows what is being said about the agency could be true.  They have absolutely no problem believing that the IRS was used for political purposes. The public’s interest in the scandal has remained high.  So perception being “reality”, the left trying to deny something that the public perceives as being true or at least having some truth to it isn’t a good situation to be in, is it?

Immigration has the same problem.  While the left would like to characterize what is happening on the border as something like a “children’s crusade” and then damn anyone who is against it as hating children (their usual “got to the extreme” tactic at work), the public perceives this differently.  That’s evident by the protests in various towns where the government is trying to house these illegals.  So again, the left is trying to create a meme the public just doesn’t buy.  They understand what unregulated and uncontrolled access means in terms of cost, disease and many other factors.  Perception?  That Democrats are defending the indefensible and trying to blame the problem on others.  The fact remains that this White House has never seriously addressed meaningful immigration reform … even when Democrats had solid majorities in both houses of Congress and a Democrat in the White House.

A third problem the left faces is an incompetent president.  He seems more and more disengaged, confused, and weak.   The meme the left continued to push during the earlier days of Obama’s term was that those who criticized him were racists.  But the public perception has built over the years has little to do with skin color and a lot to do with character or the lack thereof.  Foreign policy disaster after foreign policy disaster are hard to deny.  Oh Democrats have certainly tried to put a good face on all of it, but it remains a disaster to even the most low information voter.  You can almost literally see America’s power waning as this man remains in the White House.  And the lack of respect he’s shown throughout the leadership of the world points to much more that “race”.

This isn’t a secret to most of the public.  So when the left tries to fight the perception of incompetence and ineptness with “racism”, it sounds incredibly hollow.  Incompetence is usually fairly obvious.  In this case, it is very obvious.  Add to that the strident application of “racism” broadly against anyone who criticizes Obama and it fits most of the population at some point or another.  It’s not an argument meant to persuade, but instead to shame.  And when individuals assess their motives for saying what they said and realize that the left is just flinging poo in an effort to shut them up, “perception becomes reality”.

These certainly aren’t the only problems the left and Democrats face.  But they’re the most obvious.  Perception is being fashioned daily by a president who simply isn’t seen as credible anymore by a very large portion of the population.  And instead of understanding that and attempting damage control, they double down and defend the indefensible.

You have to wonder what the toll of such a defense will be in both the midterms and the next presidential election.

~McQ

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Tumblr
  • Digg
  • Reddit
  • email
  • Print
  • Google Bookmarks


Economic Statistics for 22 Jul 14

In weekly retail sales, Redbook reports a 3.7% increase from the previous year. ICSC-Goldman reports a weekly sales decline of -0.4%, and a slow 2.8% increase on a year-over-year basis.

The Consumer Price Index rose 0.3% in June, but only 0.1% less food and energy. On a year-over-year basis, the CPI is up 2.1% overall, and 1.9% less food and energy.

The FHFA House Price Index rose 0.4% in May, and is up 5.5% on a year-over-year basis.

Existing home sales rose a sharp 2.4% in June, to a 5.04 Million annual rate.

The Richmond Fed manufacturing index rose from 3 to 7 in June.


Dale’s social media profiles:
Twitter | Facebook | Google+

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Tumblr
  • Digg
  • Reddit
  • email
  • Print
  • Google Bookmarks


The (potential) unravelling of ObamaCare

In the DC Circuit this week:

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit delivered a huge blow to Obamacare this morning, ruling that the insurance subsidies granted through the federally run health exchange, which covered 36 states for the first open enrollment period, are not allowed by the law.

The highly anticipated opinion in the case of Jacqueline Halbig v. Sylvia Mathews Burwell reversed a lower court ruling finding that federally run exchanges did have the authority to disburse subsidies.

Today’s ruling vacates the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) regulation allowing the federal exchanges to give subsidies. The large majority of individuals, about 86 percent, in the federal exchange system received subsidies, and in those cases the subsidies covered about 76 percent of the premium on average.

The essence of the court’s ruling is that, according to the law, those subsidies are illegal. They were always illegal, and the administration never had the authority to offer them. (According to an administration official, however, the subsidies will continue to flow throughout the appeals process.)

Don’t get to excited about this yet.  It was a 3 judge panel. And it will likely go to the Supreme Court. Finally, in a different Circuit (4th) a ruling says the subsidies are legal:

A different circuit court ruled today that subsidies offered through federally run exchanges are authorized on the law. This creates a circuit court split, which increases, but does not guarantee, the chances of an eventual hearing by the Supreme Court. It is also possible, and arguably even more likely, that the circuit split will be dealt with via en banc review.

Bottom line: a heavy shot across the bow of the sinking ship ObamaCare.  If the DC Circuit finding survives the review and an appeal to the Supreme Court, then foundering ship will take the next shot below the water line.  As for the law, it’s not going to get changed anytime soon with a Republican House.

As for the law, the DC Court said it was pretty clear to them:

“We conclude that appellants have the better of the argument: a federal Exchange is not an ‘Exchange established by the State,’ and [the relevant section of the law] does not authorize the IRS to provide tax credits for insurance purchased on federal Exchanges,” the decision says.

The law “plainly makes subsidies available only on Exchanges established by states,” the ruling says. “And in the absence of any contrary indications, that text is conclusive evidence of Congress’s intent. To hold otherwise would be to say that enacted legislation, on its own, does not command our respect—an utterly untenable proposition.”

Plain law, literally interpreted and applied.  Certainly not what we’re used too.  So let’s see how convoluted this gets moving up the line.  My guess is it will be unrecognizable after the lawyers begin to redefine terms and words and make their arguments.  By the end of it, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to learn that “federal exchanges” now means whatever the IRS wants it to mean.  But clearly, the way to kill this monstrosity is to starve it.  And the way you starve it is to defund it … even if you have to do it bit by bit.

~McQ

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Tumblr
  • Digg
  • Reddit
  • email
  • Print
  • Google Bookmarks


The problem(s) with the left

This article has been making the rounds.  It’s a list of 10 reasons a person who was firmly ensconced on the left decided they could no longer abide on the left.  You see that on the other side as well. Just think Little Green Footballs and you’re there.

Usually these sorts of articles are all about self-justification as the person tries very hard to justify to themselves and their erstwhile friends on whichever side they’re deserting the reasons for their departure.

But the person who wrote this article does more than that. She manages to actually touch on and articulate things I’ve observed over the years as well. You might say that due to a certain amount of introspection, the scales suddenly fell away from her eyes.

What struck me as genuine was her description of someone we see show up here often and pretty much do exactly this:

Straw men and “In order to make an omelet you have to break a few eggs.”

It astounds me now to reflect on it, but never, in all my years of leftist activism, did I ever hear anyone articulate accurately the position of anyone to our right. In fact, I did not even know those positions when I was a leftist.

“Truth is that which serves the party.” The capital-R revolution was such a good, it could eliminate all that was bad, that manipulating facts was not even a venial sin; it was a good. If you want to make an omelet, you have to break a few eggs. One of those eggs was objective truth.

Ron Kuby is a left-wing radio talk show host on New York’s WABC. He plays the straw man card hourly. If someone phones in to question affirmative action – shouldn’t such programs benefit recipients by income, rather than by skin color? – Kuby opens the fire hydrant. He is shrill. He is bombastic. He accuses the caller of being a member of the KKK. He paints graphic word pictures of the horrors of lynching and the death of Emmett Till and asks, “And you support that?”

Well of course THE CALLER did not support that, but it is easier to orchestrate a mob in a familiar rendition of righteous rage against a sensationalized straw man than it is to produce a reasoned argument against a reasonable opponent.

On June 16, 2014, Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank published a column alleging that a peaceful Muslim was nearly verbally lynched by violent Islamophobes at a Heritage Foundation-hosted panel. What Milbank described was despicable. Unfortunately for Milbank and the Washington Post’s credibility, someone filmed the event and posted the film on YouTube. Panel discussants, including Frank Gaffney and Brigitte Gabriel, made important points in a courteous manner. Saba Ahmed, the peaceful Muslim, is a “family friend” of a bombing plotter who expressed a specific desire to murder children. It soon became clear that Milbank was, as one blogger put it, “making stuff up.”

Milbank slanders anyone who might attempt analysis of jihad, a force that is currently cited in the murder of innocents — including Muslims — from Nigeria to the Philippines. The leftist strategy of slandering those who speak uncomfortable facts suppresses discourse and has a devastating impact on confrontations with truth in journalism and on college campuses.

Ironic chuckle bubbling up?  The “omelet/eggs” metaphor is a favorite of whom?  And who is the Don Quixote of straw men, constantly putting them up and whacking them a good one.

Read the whole thing … it’s worth it.  It’s just that particular one of the ten listed reasons hit right on the spot we’ve all witness any number of times right here at QandO with our “visiting professor”.   It’s like she knows him personally down to one of his favorite sayings.

~McQ

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Tumblr
  • Digg
  • Reddit
  • email
  • Print
  • Google Bookmarks


Observations: The QandO Podcast for 18 Jul 14

This week, Michael, and Dale talk about The Malaysian Airlines tragedy, Obama, and aggressive policing.

The podcast can be found on Stitcher here. Please remember the feed may take a couple of hours to update after this is first posted.

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Stitcher. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Tumblr
  • Digg
  • Reddit
  • email
  • Print
  • Google Bookmarks


The most important reason the left’s “War on Coal” is wrong

Energy Matters takes a look at the progress of the green energy renewables that were supposed to be saving the day and justifying the “war on coal”:

“So while we can expect that hydro will continue to provide most of the energy generated by renewables for some time to come it isn’t likely to contribute to decarbonizing global energy generation any more than it already has. If decarbonization is to be achieved by expanding renewables the expansion will have to come in wind, solar and biomass. So let’s take hydro out and see how far growth in wind, solar and biomass has carried us along the decarbonization path so far…Clearly they still have a long way to go.”

Ya think?!

~McQ

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Tumblr
  • Digg
  • Reddit
  • email
  • Print
  • Google Bookmarks


Economic Statistics for 17 Jul 14

Housing starts fell a sharp -9.3% in June, following May’s -7.3%, to a 0.893 million annual rate.

The general business conditions index of the Philadelphia Fed’s Business Outlook Survey jumped 6.1 points to 23.9 in July, which is the highest since March 2011.

Initial jobless claims fell 3,000 last week, to 302,000. The 4-week moving average fell 2,500 to 309,000. Continuing claims fell 79,000 to a recovery low of 2.507 million.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index fell 0.1 points to 37.5 in the latest week..

The Fed’s balance sheet rose $14.8 billion last week, with total assets of $4.398 trillion. Reserve Bank credit increased $12.3 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 Money Supply decreased by $-12.4 billion last week.


Dale’s social media profiles:
Twitter | Facebook | Google+

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Tumblr
  • Digg
  • Reddit
  • email
  • Print
  • Google Bookmarks


“Economic patriotism” equals “stay here and pay punitive taxes to cover our ruinous spending habit”

“Economic patriotism” is the new meme that Democrats are throwing around to demonize companies that try to avoid taxes here in the US, i.e. you’re not a patriotic company if you attempt to avoid taxes the Dems think you should be paying.  Kevin Williamson covers it:

Jack Lew, late of Citigroup and currently of the Obama administration, has issued a call for “economic patriotism.” This phrase, which is without meaningful intellectual content, is popular in Democratic circles these days. Ted Strickland, the clownish xenophobe and nearly lifelong suckler upon all available taxpayer teats who once served as governor of Ohio, famously denounced Mitt Romney as a man lacking “economic patriotism” during the 2012 Democratic convention. President Barack Obama has used the phrase. It’s not that I do not appreciate lectures on “economic patriotism” from feckless former executives of dodgy Wall Street enterprises, guys who get rich monetizing their political celebrity, and second-rate ward-heelers from third-rate states; it’s just that nobody ever has been able to explain to me what the term is intended to mean.

The proximate cause of Mr. Lew’s distress is the fact that many U.S. firms either are up and leaving the country entirely or are acquiring foreign competitors in order to reorganize themselves as companies legally domiciled in friendly tax jurisdictions.

Now we’re not talking about 3rd world countries here … just countries that are much friendlier to business and have a lower tax rate.  For instance:

U.S. pharmaceutical firms in particular have been in a rush to acquire partners in order to escape punitive U.S. corporate taxes for the relatively hospitable climates of Ireland, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands. Walgreen’s, a venerable firm that, like the lamentable political career of Barack Obama, has its origins in Chicago, is considering abandoning its hometown of 113 years for Switzerland. Eaton, a Cleveland-based manufacturer of electronic components, moved to Ireland. The list goes on.

Note that in spite of the would-be class warriors’ “race to the bottom” rhetoric, these firms are not moving to relatively low-wage countries such as China or India. Switzerland is not a Third World hellhole — especially if your immediate point of comparison is murderlicious Chicago, which endures more homicides in a typical July than gun-loving Switzerland sees in a typical year. The Netherlands is not Haiti, and Ireland is not Bangladesh.

Got an ironic chuckle out of his point about Chicago. Maybe some might consider they’re moving out of a 3rd world country if they’re Chicago (or Detroit) based.

Anyway, all of these places have one thing in common – lower taxes, less regulation and a friendlier business climate than exists in the US.  What they face here is the reason they’re becoming “unpatriotic”.  It is more than just taxes:

Mr. Lew is correct in his assertion that relative tax rates are a main driver in the desire of firms to relocate, though it is not the only driver — arbitrary and unpredictable regulation, a lousy tort environment, and unstable public finances surely play a role as well. The United States has the highest statutory corporate-income-tax rate in the developed world, and though effective rates are typically lower than the nominal rate, that is more of a bug than a feature: Our corporate-income-tax regime is riddled with handouts and political favoritism. Crony capitalism is not an inspiring condition for firms looking to make long-term investments.

The point of Democrats and their use of “economic patriotism”, of course, is to demonize and attempt to shame companies that seek relief from the business crippling effects of this government.  If the company doesn’t stay to be bled dry by the Dems to finance their utopian and big government schemes, well, they’re just “unpatriotic”.

Williamson summarizes:

“Economic patriotism” and its kissing cousin, economic nationalism, are ideas with a fairly stinky history, having been a mainstay of fascist rhetoric during the heyday of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s favorite “admirable Italian gentleman.” My colleague Jonah Goldberg has labored mightily in the task of illustrating the similarities between old-school fascist thinking and modern progressive thinking on matters political and social, but it is on economic questions that contemporary Democrats and vintage fascists are remarkably alike. In fact, their approaches are for all intents and purposes identical: As most economic historians agree, neither the Italian fascists nor the German national-socialists nor any similar movement of great significance had anything that could be described as a coherent economic philosophy. The Italian fascists put forward a number of different and incompatible economic theories during their reign, and the Third Reich, under the influence of Adolf Hitler’s heroic conception of history, mostly subordinated economic questions as such to purportedly grander concerns involving destiny and other abstractions.

Which is to say, what the economic nationalism of Benito Mussolini most has in common with the prattling and blockheaded talk of “economic patriotism” coming out of the mealy mouths of 21st-century Democrats is the habit of subordinating everything to immediate political concerns. In this context, “patriotism” doesn’t mean doing what’s best for your country — it means doing what is best for the Obama administration and its congressional allies.“Economic patriotism” and its kissing cousin, economic nationalism, are ideas with a fairly stinky history, having been a mainstay of fascist rhetoric during the heyday of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s favorite “admirable Italian gentleman.” My colleague Jonah Goldberg has labored mightily in the task of illustrating the similarities between old-school fascist thinking and modern progressive thinking on matters political and social, but it is on economic questions that contemporary Democrats and vintage fascists are remarkably alike. In fact, their approaches are for all intents and purposes identical: As most economic historians agree, neither the Italian fascists nor the German national-socialists nor any similar movement of great significance had anything that could be described as a coherent economic philosophy. The Italian fascists put forward a number of different and incompatible economic theories during their reign, and the Third Reich, under the influence of Adolf Hitler’s heroic conception of history, mostly subordinated economic questions as such to purportedly grander concerns involving destiny and other abstractions.

Which is to say, what the economic nationalism of Benito Mussolini most has in common with the prattling and blockheaded talk of “economic patriotism” coming out of the mealy mouths of 21st-century Democrats is the habit of subordinating everything to immediate political concerns. In this context, “patriotism” doesn’t mean doing what’s best for your country — it means doing what is best for the Obama administration and its congressional allies.

Another adventure in short-term political gain trumping a coherent economic policy that is pro-growth, pro-jobs, etc.  Nothing new in that, but I think the summary helps focus it’s purpose. And it has nothing to do with “patriotism” or “economics”.

~McQ

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Tumblr
  • Digg
  • Reddit
  • email
  • Print
  • Google Bookmarks
1 2 3 ... 535

Old QandO

michael kors outlet michael kors handbags outlet michael kors factory outlet