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Saturday, March 19, 2011

Gallup Finds U.S. Unemployment at 10.2% in Mid-March

Underemployment was also unchanged from the end of February, at 19.9%

PRINCETON, NJ -- Unemployment, as measured by Gallup without seasonal adjustment, was at 10.2% in mid-March -- essentially the same as the 10.3% at the end of February but higher than the 10.0% of mid-February and the 9.8% at the end of January. The U.S. unemployment rate is about the same today as the 10.3% rate Gallup found in mid-March a year ago.

Gallup's U.S. Unemployment Rate, 2010-2011

The percentage of part-time workers who want full-time work was 9.7% in mid-March -- essentially unchanged from the 9.6% in both February measurements and higher than the 9.1% at the end of January. The percentage of the U.S. workforce that is working part time but wanting full-time work is the same now as was the case a year ago.

Percentage of Americans Working Part Time and Wanting Full-Time Work, 2010-2011

Broader Underemployment Was Unchanged in Mid-March

Read the full article here.

How Obama will figure your taxes

The Audacity of Golf

by Mark Steyn
March 19, 2011 4:00 A.M.

No-Change You Can Believe In!

By the time you read this, President Obama will be taking a well-deserved break from the 54th hole of today’s scheduled golf game and the grueling responsibility of picking out his Final Four priority high-speed-rail projects on ESPN by relaxing on a beach in . . . Libya? Japan? No, Brazil. Oh, here he is now:

“Tall and tan and young and lovely

The boy from Spendaholica goes walking

And when he passes

Each one he passes

Goes ‘Aiiieeeeee . . .’”

Hey, it worked in 2008, and who’s to say the same old song won’t exercise its seductive charm all over again in 2012? That’s the way the president’s betting. As he told a gathering of high-rolling Democratic donors in Washington last week: “As time passes, you start taking it for granted that a guy named Barack Hussein Obama is president of the United States. But we should never take it for granted. I hope that all of you still feel that sense of excitement and that sense of possibility.”

Well, no, I couldn’t honestly say that I do. I mean, I always like the bit in the movie where 007 says, “The name’s Bond. James Bond,” but generally he follows it by rappelling into a hollowed-out volcano and taking out the evil mastermind while disabling the nuclear-launch codes with three seconds to spare. I’m not sure I get quite the same “sense of excitement” from the Obama version:

“The name’s Bond. James Hussein Bond.”

“I’m afraid you’re growing rather tedious, Mr. Bond.”

Speaking of names, the new stimulus-funded Amtrak station in Wilmington, Del., is to be named after Vice President Biden. Say what you like about Obama, but he made the naming of train stations run on time. We should never take it for granted that a guy named Joseph Robinette Biden is a railroad halt in the northeast corridor. I hope that all of you still feel that sense of excitement and that sense of possibility. I couldn’t be more excited if Robinette Hussein Robinette were president.

In 2008, Obama offered Hope and Change. This time round he’s offering the Hope of No Change. Life goes on. When your president’s middle name is Hussein, trust me, that’s all the change you guys need. Harry Reid says he doesn’t even want to talk about the possibility of opening discussions to consider raising the possibility of contemplating the thought of the merest smidgeonette of changes to Social Security for another 20 years. Senator Reid, 71, told MSNBC this week, “Two decades from now, I’m willing to take a look at it.” Big of you. No-Change You Can Believe In! The Audacity of Torpor.

There may be more takers for this than my friends on the right would wish. On Libya, the Audacity of Golf seems to have done the trick: Nobody’s in the mood for a no-fly zone in another thankless distant hellhole just as Iraq and Hoogivsastan have dropped off the news. And yeah, gas seems to be going up, and, when 40 percent of Americans work in minimal-skill service jobs, it makes a difference to the economic viability of those jobs whether you’re driving there at a dollar-eighty per gallon or four bucks. “We have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe,” said Steven Chu, now Obama’s energy secretary, in 2008. We’re getting there. It’s just shy of ten bucks per in Britain, but there’s no reason a fuel policy for small, densely populated nations can’t work for Wyoming, because we’re investing in all those high-speed rail links. So you’ll be able to commute from your home in Rattlesnake, Nevada to your job in North Rattlesnake, Nevada via the Joseph Robinette Biden Delaware, Lackawanna, Atchison, Topeka, Sante Fe & Canadian Pacific High-Speed Interchange Facility & Federal Stimulus Mausoleum in Wilmington.

Franklin Graham: World’s Christians in Grave Danger

The Muslim Brotherhood, with the complicity of the Obama administration, has infiltrated the U.S. government at the highest levels and is influencing American policy that leaves the world’s Christians in grave danger, warns internationally known evangelist Franklin Graham

“The Muslim Brotherhood is very strong and active here in our country,” Graham tells Newsmax. “We have these people advising our military and State Department. We’ve brought in Muslims to tell us how to make policy toward Muslim countries.

“It’s like a farmer asking a fox, ‘How do I protect my hen house?’"

That same Muslim Brotherhood is fomenting much of the rebellion and the deteriorating social order roiling the Middle East, forcing millions of Christians to flee for their lives, says Graham, son of beloved evangelist Dr. Billy Graham, and founder of The Samaritan’s Purse international charity.

“Under [Egypt’s Hosni] Mubarek and [Jordan’s] King Hussein and other moderate leaders, Christians had been protected,” Graham says. 11 million Christians live in Egypt and I ear for them, because if the Muslim Brotherhood comes to power, you’re going to see a great exodus of Christians. Same thing in Tunisia and Lebanon. I fear for the church because the Muslim Brotherhood is going to be a very terrible thing.”

Read the full article

And there's this:

Franklin Graham: Japan Quake, Tsunami Feels Like End Times

March 19th: A Day for War?

How ironic is this? - Reggie

MARCH 19, 2011
OBAMA: 'Today we are part of a broad coalition. We are answering the calls of a threatened people. And we are acting in the interests of the United States and the world'...

MARCH 19, 2003
BUSH: 'American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger...

The Case Against Mitch Daniels

Currently, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels is being billed as a genuine conservative who can defeat Barack Obama, reform the federal government, and balance the budget. Yet a close examination of the governor's record and statements reveals that he is actually a strident liberal who cannot be taken seriously.

It has frequently been said about Mitch Daniels that he "turned deficits into surpluses" as governor. The only problem with this claim is that it's not true. According to the CNBC/, which annually ranks states according to business climate, Indiana has a $1.4-billion budget deficit as of FY2011.

That same CNBC/ list ranked Indiana as barely 21st out of 50 states -- i.e. in the middle of the peloton, trailing Democrat-run states such as Massachusetts and Washington. Indiana is 42nd in terms of the quality of its workforce, 44th in quality of life, 26th in access to capital, and 22nd in technology and innovation. In only three categories does Indiana make it to the top ten: the cost of doing business, infrastructure (mostly due to federal infrastructure programs), and business friendliness.

This is how badly Indiana ranked in late 2010, more than five years after Daniels was sworn in as governor. A state that ranks 44th in terms of quality of life? No, thanks.

When Daniels was director of the OMB, he performed equally miserably: he turned budget surpluses (America's first since FY1969) into deficits. He also oversaw the enactment and funding of the No Child Left Behind Act, the prescription drug entitlement, and increases of funding for the ED and the DOT, as well as the reinstatement of farm subsidies (which were largely abolished in 1996 under the Freedom to Farm Act) and the creation of ethanol subsidies (later increased by his successors). Daniels' response to the OMB's critics was that a balanced budget "is not the highest priority." The deficit continued to grow during Daniels' entire tenure, and it peaked in FY2004 at $400 billion under the last budget devised by Daniels. It was later reduced to $162 billion in FY2007 by his successors.

During the 1980s, Ronald Reagan proposed to abolish the Department of Education entirely to reduce the budget deficit and allow states to manage their own education affairs. In the 2000s, President Bush and Mitch Daniels greatly increased the Department of Education's budget and the degree of federal involvement in education. And the results are dismal: the high school dropout rate, for example is 30%.

Daniels started the year 2011 with a good idea -- a proposed right-to-work law -- and then backed down after Democrats boycotted the state legislature. But Daniels needs to realize that if he's elected president, Democrats will often behave this way; they will not hesitate to do anything to sabotage conservative policies and the democratic political process. How can conservatives trust such a man if he backs down under Democratic pressure? When air traffic controllers went on strike, Ronald Reagan sacked them all.

U.S. Ready to Launch Missiles into Libya

This video is from earlier today. We have attacked Libya since this report. Very disturbing. - Reggie

Art Katz

This is an excerpt of a message spoken by a man named Art Katz.  May it penetrate our hearts.

- Michael

NYT, There You Go Again

by Sarah Palin on Friday, March 18, 2011 at 4:04pm

This article is cross-posted from Sarah Palin's Facebook page.

The New York Times just can’t seem to get much of anything right lately. No wonder they’re facing economic and reputation woes. Their article today falsely reporting on my record as governor is full of spin, and I shall call them out on it.

Regardless of the recent political posturing, ACES (Alaska’s Clear and Equitable Share) is a success for all stakeholders who want more domestic energy supplies for our great country. The Alaskan people (who collectively own the natural resources, via our state constitution), the resource producers who bid on the right to develop our oil and gas, and consumers all benefit under ACES. It incentivizes production and development. It works.

Amazingly, to the uninformed (or to those who really don’t want to incentivize oil exploration in America) ACES is spun to sound like an oil windfall profits tax and its progressivity is made to sound excessive. In reality, it was born of a need to have a tax structure that did three things:

1. It could not be created under a cloud of political corruption and self-dealing like the former Alaska administration and legislature’s PPT oil valuation structure. That’s a critical fact that is now frequently overlooked years later. Remember the legislators and oil industry players who went to jail because of bribes leading to votes in favor of the former administration’s PPT, which was unfairly tilted in favor of the resource producers against the resource owners (i.e., the people of Alaska)? Have we conveniently forgotten the fact that a corrupt process brought forth PPT, and I and others set out to change it by cleaning up the corruption?

2. It had to align the interests of Alaskans and the oil producers through exploration and production credits in partnership so that they benefit proportionally from commercialization of Alaska’s sovereign resources. This is very different from a government overtaxing personal or corporate income in which the government has no ownership stake in whatever it is that is being taxed.

3. It had to use a progressivity system that protects the producers from commercial strain when oil prices are low; otherwise the producers would seek development opportunities elsewhere. ACES does incentivize industry, but beware that Big Oil will always do what it does best for its shareholders: it will look out for its bottom line and always claim that it needs even more tax breaks. More power to them for trying, but resource owners deserve A CLEAR and EQUITABLE SHARE (ACES) of the value of their commonly-owned oil and gas.

ACES accomplished all three. The current criticism of this fair valuation makes no real sense. As an article at Big Government notes:

“The number of oil companies filing with the Alaska Department of Revenue has doubled indicating that competition has indeed increased. Alaska has the second most business friendly tax set-up — up two spots since the passage of ACES. Additionally, a report from Governor Parnell’s Department of Revenue indicated that 2009 yielded a record high in oil jobs. Even more recently, the newest employment numbers from Alaska show that oil job numbers were higher in January 2011 than in January 2010, indicating that jobs are growing at the seasonal level. Parnell argues that state revenues are in jeopardy, but it is estimated that his proposal would reduce revenues by $100-200 million.” 

Most importantly, Alaska enjoys a $12 billion surplus thanks to ACES and the sound fiscal policies of my administration. I put billions of dollars aside in savings accounts (though I could have easily spent those billions and made a lot of friends with big-spending legislators on both sides of the aisle), and I continued to veto excess spending and Obama stimulus funds, and chopped earmarks by 86% – much to the chagrin of liberal legislators who were used as “sources” in the article. It’s kind of amusing to see state legislators claim credit for the surplus when they didn’t vote for ACES, and they cried to high heaven when I vetoed their wasteful spending on their special interest projects.

Of course, I could have made a lot more friends in Juneau if I had spent the surplus. But I chose to put billions in savings for a rainy day and return a portion to the people of Alaska. (It was their money after all.) I paid down hundreds of millions of dollars into our under-funded state pension plans, then set aside another billion for forward-funding education. I fought the union’s demands for more benefits, engaged in hiring freezes, and cut frivolous state expenditures – again, much to the chagrin of those who spend other people’s money recklessly. That’s sound fiscal policy. I’m proud of it, and Alaska is stronger today because of it.

Now, if others would like to claim credit for it, that is fine. As Ronald Reagan used to remind us: “There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn't mind who gets the credit.” Amen!

But let’s not pretend that ACES wasn’t a key factor in the surplus, and let’s not pretend that it hasn’t been a success.

As for AGIA, our long-awaited natural gas pipeline project is moving along according to plan. A huge partnership was developed with Exxon and TransCanada when I put the project out for competitive bids, instead of using behind-closed-door schemes that would have screwed the public. Alaska will help America become energy independent, despite anti-energy politicos claiming AGIA won't work. It’s already got the 50-year dream off the dime and in the works. See, competition works. So does a transparent process.

- Sarah Palin

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Daily News: March 18, 2011

Ronald Reagan & George W. Bush

by Mark Levin on Friday, March 18, 2011 at 8:46am

This article is cross-posted from Mark Levin's Facebook page.

My friend Pete Wehner took my criticism of President George W. Bush and some of his most senior staff as a challenge to compare Bush to President Ronald Reagan.  Comparing Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush is like comparing Margaret Thatcher and John Major.  That's not to put down Bush or Major, both of whom were fine leaders, but they were not the historical figures their former staffers and supporters insist.

Who said? "I've abandoned free-market principles to save the free-market system." Well, those words would never have passed Reagan's lips.  It was infamously said by Bush, in defense of his massive spending spree in the last weeks of his presidency.  There's nothing conservative about it.  But it sums up Bush's lack of confidence in the free market system, and his repeated and excessive use of government intervention in American society. 

Bush never claimed to be the conservative Reagan was, nor did he spend his early political career challenging GOP orthodoxy, which, until Reagan won in 1980, was mostly incoherent mush of the Rockefeller-Scranton-Nixon-Ford-Bush/41 kind. George H. W. Bush and other mainstream Republican primary challengers sought to thwart Reagan because, they insisted, his conservatism would be rejected by the voters.  Now, Pete insists that as president, Reagan's record, in virtually all respects, is inferior to George W. Bush's, in advancing conservative principles.  This is not only counter-intuitive, it is factually defective.  As I proceed with this discussion, I believe it will become evident. 

Some final prefatory thoughts.  I've noticed since President Bush's departure, former staffers strain to rewrite his record, particularly respecting spending and his embrace of big-government.  Is not Bush proud of his policies?  Is not Bush proud of the steps he believed he needed to take to "save the free market?"  Most were not forced compromises but actual policies and actions he affirmatively supported.  Why is it necessary to insist that Bush was an enthusiastic conservative when, in fact, he was not?  I am not exactly sure how his governing philosophy can be defined, but I don't think it is helpful to his legacy to run from a record which he is proud of.  And being defensive about his record is not the same thing as attempting to defend it.   

Among the many great things Reagan did included his expansion and strengthening of the Republican Party and the conservative movement, both of which Bush left in a shambles even before he left office.  Actually, it wasn't just Bush, but Bush paid precious little attention to either, which helped the Democrats take the House in the 2006 election and led to a complete electoral debacle in 2008.      

The point is that aside from the policy details, which I briefly delve into below, a president can be uplifting, visionary, and legacy-setting.  Reagan was all that.  This is not to make him a larger-than-life figure, but to accurately put in him context with his successors.  Reagan was an articulate and constant advocate of conservatism.  Bush was not all that articulate in his public statements, period.  And it is too bad.  In private, he was engaging and well-spoken.  But communication skills matter. 

My friend Pete Wehner, the former Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of the White House Office of Strategic Initiatives to President Bush, is unimpressed by Reagan's conservatism but evocative of Bush's.  Let's take a brief look.  First, some important perspective.  As summarizes nicely:

"The late 1970s had witnessed the triumph of Marxist ( governments in Angola and Nicaragua. El Salvador seemed ready to follow suit. The U.S. had been humiliated by the outcome of the Vietnam War (1975)( , and the Soviets seemed secure in their unrelenting mission to conquer Afghanistan.

"Islamic fundamentalists had come to power in Iran. They had captured 52 embassy Americans as hostages ( , and the Jimmy Carter ( administration had made a bitterly unsuccessful attempt to rescue them.

"As a result of Carter Administration policies, the American military was plagued by low morale, low pay, outdated equipment, and practically zero maintenance on what did exist. Important U.S. military personnel were not reenlisting; it just wasn't worth it to them. In fact, thousands of enlisted men's families survived on food stamps.
"The U.S. economy was struggling, burdened by seemingly unstoppable inflation. High tax increases and an upward spiral of interest rates were an everyday occurrence for Americans. The United States seemed in an era of limits; the country seemed to be running out of oil, and in practice, U.S. foreign policy had adopted a stance of co-existence with the Soviet Union and China."

Now, to Pete's points.

1. Illegal Immigration.  Pete writes, in part: "Reagan ... signed a bill granting amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants, something Bush never supported. And in a 1984 campaign debate, Reagan went so far as to say, 'I believe in the idea of amnesty for those who have put down roots and lived here, even though sometime back they may have entered illegally.'”

Actually, Reagan was pressed by members of Congress in both parties to embrace some form of amnesty.  He came up with a plan that was very much like Bush's Comprehensive Immigration Reform, but involved far less illegal aliens.  As then-Attorney General Edwin Meese wrote in 2006, in part:

"President Reagan set out to correct the loss of control at our borders. Border security and enforcement of immigration laws would be greatly strengthened—in particular, through sanctions against employers who hired illegal immigrants. If jobs were the attraction for illegal immigrants, then cutting off that option was crucial.

"He also agreed with the legislation in adjusting the status of immigrants—even if they had entered illegally—who were law-abiding long-term residents, many of whom had children in the United States. Illegal immigrants who could establish that they had resided in America continuously for five years would be granted temporary resident status, which could be upgraded to permanent residency after 18 months and, after another five years, to citizenship. It wasn’t automatic. They had to pay application fees, learn to speak English, understand American civics, pass a medical exam and register for military selective service. Those with convictions for a felony or three misdemeanors were ineligible.

"If this sounds familiar, it’s because these are pretty much the same provisions included in the Comprehensive Reform Act of 2006, which its supporters claim is not amnesty. In the end, slight differences in process do not change the overriding fact that the 1986 law and the recent Senate legislation both include an amnesty. The difference is that President Reagan called it for what it was."

However, as Meese also wrote: "The lesson from the 1986 experience is that such an amnesty did not solve the problem. There was extensive document fraud, and the number of people applying for amnesty far exceeded projections. And there was a failure of political will to enforce new laws against employers. After a brief slowdown, illegal immigration returned to high levels and continued unabated, forming the nucleus of today’s large population of illegal aliens. So here we are, 20 years later, having much the same debate and being offered much the same deal."

My friend Pete is, I believe, a Burkean, or at least an admirer of Burke.  The point being that despite the 1986 law and its failure, Bush proceeded to quadruple down on Reagan's amnesty with an even more dramatic and thorough amnesty bill, even though the experience and knowledge gained from the 1986 law should have informed Bush to act otherwise.  The Heritage Foundation that the law Bush would have signed, had it reached his desk, and which Bush encouraged, would have attracted tens of millions more aliens into the country -- illegal aliens who would be legalized and who, in turn, would attract millions of family members to emigrate to the U.S. as well.  And there is great debate over whether border enforcement aspects of the bill would have been enforced, just as this critical aspect of immigration enforcement was ineffectively supported  after Reagan left office, in part resulting in the presence of  12 million or more illegal aliens in America today.  It is fair to argue that Reagan, in the first instance, supported a flawed policy.  Meese does not believe Reagan would have made the same decision twice.  What's Bush's excuse?

Therefore, when Pete says that Bush never supported amnesty, he's incorrect.  Bush supported massive amnesty, but was loath to admit it, and he did so without learning from Reagan's experience.  But the public knew better and pressured their representatives to oppose it.  The people learned the lessons Bush, Ted Kennedy, John McCain, and others, apparently had not.      

2. Supreme Court.  Pete writes: "Regarding the Supreme Court, Reagan appointed Antonin Scalia, among the greatest jurists in history. But he also appointed Sandra Day O’Connor and Anthony Kennedy, both of whom turned out to be fairly problematic from an originalist perspective. Bush appointed two terrific conservative jurists to the High Court, John Roberts and Samuel Alito, and no O’Connor or Kennedy clones."

Again, some background.  Reagan's first choice for the seat now occupied by Kennedy was Robert Bork.  Reagan nominated the most accomplished conservative jurist and thinker of our time to the Court. knowing it meant a brutal confirmation battle in the Senate.  After the dust cleared, in a relatively close vote Bork's nomination was defeated.  Reagan next chose Douglas Ginsburg, an outstanding conservative-libertarian former chief of the Reagan Justice Department's Antitrust Division.  He was forced to pull out due to personal issues which, by today's standards, probably would not have sunk his nomination.  Reagan settled on Kennedy, then, by all accounts, an originalist on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.  There was no indication of his later activism.  Reagan's nomination of Sandra Day O'Connor resulted from his decision to put a woman on the Court, where none had ever served.  He asked his staff to find a highly qualified individual who would reflect his view of judging.  Barry Goldwater, among others, recommended O'Connor.  People forget that there was not a significant number of conservative women jurists at the time.  During her earlier years on the Court, O'Connor actually was pretty decent from a conservative perspective.  But she obviously "evolved" and her approach to judging became mostly incoherent.   

In praising Bush's nominees, and comparing them favorably to Reagan's, Pete ignores some obvious facts.  He makes no reference to Harriet Miers, which is odd.  Bush nominated Miers in 2005 to replace O'Connor.  The vast majority of conservatives were appalled, and rightly so.  It appeared to be a brazen act of cronyism.  I have no doubt Miers is a wonderful person, but Bush's decision to put her on the Court was mind-boggling.  Had her nomination succeeded, Sam Alito, who Pete rightly praises, would not be an associate justice today.  Moreover, John Roberts and Alito are both alums of the Reagan administration.  I personally worked with Alito during my time at Justice.  Scalia and Clarence Thomas were Reagan alums.  Reagan also promoted William Rehnquist to the position of Chief Justice.  All the originallists on the Court today came through the Reagan administration.  Indeed, Reagan Justice Department was used to build an entire farm team of great conservative lawyers who one day, Reagan hoped, would become future judges and justices. The Department of Justice included such legal heavy-weights as Ted Olson (who won the Bush-Gore Supreme Court decision), Scalia, Alito, Roberts, Ginsburg, John Bolton, Brad Reynolds, Chuck Cooper, and scores of others.   Meese and Olson were also instrumental in forging the Federalist Society, which was a rich source of talent and counsel to Bush. Reagan did not have that advantage.

Importantly, the entire debate over originalism began under the Reagan administration, particularly by Meese, to fundamentally alter the public and legal perception and reality of judicial review. This is not to downplay the fact that the Roberts and Alito nominations are worthy of praise.  Bush deserves much credit in that regard.  But Pete's argument is a surprisingly selective rendering of history from someone who knows better.  

3. Taxes.  Pete writes: "Reagan was the architect of the historic 1981 tax cut, one of the most significant pieces of economic legislation in American history. Bush cut taxes multiple times as well, though the cuts were not nearly as large. At the same time, Reagan, unlike Bush, increased taxes many times during his presidency — including what was then the largest tax increase in American history (the TEFRA tax)." Let me elaborate on the Reagan tax cut via Lee Edwards's account to make sure that folks who were not around at the time understand the huge significance of what Reagan accomplished, and the trail he blazed.

"It would take fireside chats with the American people, deals with boll-weevil Democrats in the House of Representatives, pep talks with discouraged aides, and even near death from an attempted assassination, but on August 17, 1981, President Reagan signed the Economic Recovery Act (ERTA) into law. It was the tax reform Reagan had been urging for decades. Newsweek called it a "second New Deal potentially as profound in its import as the first was a half century ago.'

"The measure cut all income tax rates by twenty-five percent, with a 5 percent cut coming that October, the next 10 percent in July 1982, and the final 10 percent in July 1983. The law also reduced the top income tax rate from 70 percent to 50 percent, indexed tax rates to offset the impact of inflation, and increased the tax exemption on estates and gifts. Conservatives have consistently argued that ERTA was a prime factor in the economic growth that prevailed throughout the 1980s.

"There followed sixty straight months of economic growth, the longest uninterrupted period of expansion since the government began keeping such statistics in 1854. Nearly fifteen million new jobs were created -- a total of eighteen million by the time Reagan left office. Just under $20 trillion worth of goods and services, measured in actual dollars, were produced from 1982 to 1987. To give some notion of how much that is, by the end of 1987 America was producing about seven and a one-half times more every year than it produced in John Kennedy's last year as president.

"The expansion was felt everywhere, as conservative economists had predicted, including in the government's own income. Total federal receipts in 1982 were $618 billion. Five years later, federal receipts were just over $1 trillion, an increase of $398 billion. More than enough, one would have thought, to satisfy all but the most eager advocate of the welfare state.

"And as Reagan had promised, the military benefited the most from the economic growth. In President Carter's last budget, America spent just under $160 billion on national defense. In 1987, the Reagan administration spent $282 billion, more than twice as much on the military. During Reagan's first seven years, he was able to expend over $1.5 trillion on national defense, "a staggering amount by anyone's standards.'"

Reagan was not able to accomplish all we may have wanted, including cutting spending as deeply as we hoped and opposing all tax increases, but he was tremendously successful in taking a major first step which future presidents could follow.  And to his credit, Bush did follow in instituting important yet less bold tax cuts.

What Reagan did do in trying to cut federal spending is veto spending bills.  In fact, I can recall two occasions when the federal government was shutdown, albeit for short periods, over his spending (and policy) disagreements with Congress in 1981 and 1984.  There were no shutdowns under Bush.  Reagan issued a total of 78 vetoes, Bush only 12.  Bush was, I believe, too timid in this regard.   Reagan was much more fierce in his desire to contain spending.  And he wasn't worried about a "new tone," either.

When Reagan entered office after the disastrous Jimmy Carter years, inflation was about 12%; mortgage interest rates averaged, on traditional loans, as high as 16%; unemployment was 7.5% and rising fast; oil and gas prices were through the roof at the time; and America was headed for a historically difficult recession.  Respectfully, Bush came to office in a far better economic climate left by a Republican Congress and Bill Clinton, although it is likely the economy was experiencing the beginning of a recession.

As for Reagan raising taxes -- having slashed tax rates across the board to low levels unheard of then and which are unlikely to be matched in decades to come, in this context Pete then mentions Reagan being responsible for numerous tax increases, including "then the largest tax increase in American history (the TEFRA tax)."  I recall, at the time, that congressional Democrats had agreed to cut $2-$3 dollars in spending in exchange for $1 dollar in tax increases.  The Democrats never made the cuts, an important lesson for today's Republican leadership.  By itself, however, this is meaningless.  What would be useful is an analysis of the net outcome at the end of a presidency resulting from tax cuts and increases.  The reason is simple: if there are massive tax cuts at the beginning of a presidency, and several tax increases (and further cuts) during following budget cycles, what's relevant is the net.  As Dr. Daniel Mitchell put it: "Reagan did sign several tax increases after his 1981 Economic Recovery Tax Act, but the cumulative effect of those unfortunate compromises was relatively modest compared to the positive changes in his first year. When he left office, he bequeathed to the nation a tax code with meaningful and permanent tax rate reductions. The Bush tax cuts, by contrast, expire at the end of this year, and virtually all of the pro-growth provisions will disappear. This doesn't mean Bush's record on taxes was bad, but it certainly does not compare to the Gipper's."

Spending.  Pete writes: "President Reagan gets the nod over Bush on federal spending, especially in his first year, when Reagan made a real run at cutting domestic spending. Still, under Reagan, spending increased by around one-quarter in real terms. Federal spending as a percentage of the economy was higher during the Reagan years than during the Bush years, though Bush inherited a more advantageous starting position. Under Reagan, the national debt increased from just over $700 billion to more than $2 trillion (this included the defense build-up at the end of the Cold War); for Bush, the figure increased from $3.4 trillion to $5.8 trillion (including the costs of two wars).  Some conservatives are highly critical of Bush’s Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), though history will vindicate that decision because much of the TARP money has been repaid, and its cost to taxpayers is lower than even its strongest early supporters expected (see here"

This is a misleading.  The figures provided by the CBO, linked through Wikipedia, show the following respecting the national debt as a percentage of GDP: the end of Reagan's first term 43.8%, the end of Reagan's second term 53.1%; the end of Bush's first term 63.5%, the end of Bush's second term 83.4%.  Furthermore, the problem with TARP was not only the enormous amount of taxpayer money used to subsidize financial institutions but the fact that it created a precedent for government intrusion in the marketplace not seen since Herbert Hoover laid the foundation for Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal.  The size and scope of Bush's federal intervention cannot be easily dismissed.  Bush used $17.4 billion in TARP for loans to GM and Chrysler, even though Congress had rejected subsidizing those companies -- and, as best I can tell, without specific statutory authority.  He also signed the $152 billion Economic Stimulus Act of 2008 and the $300 billion Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008.   

In 2007, before much of Bush's massive increases in discretionary spending, the CATO Institute compared the annual growth of spending by presidents since 1964, adjusted for inflation.  It concluded that Bush's increase in discretionary spending far exceeded not only Reagan's, but LBJ's: Bush 5.3%, LBJ 4.6%, Ford 3.0%, Carter 2.4%, Reagan 1.9%.

Last month, Dan Mitchell wrote: "Since February is the 100th anniversary of Ronald Reagan's birth and I still haven't gotten over my man-crush on the Gipper, I figured it would be interesting to look at Reagan's fiscal record, particularly to see whether he was successful in restraining the growth of domestic spending.

"There is lots of good information in the Historical Tables of the Budget, which is produced by the Office of Management and Budget. I was particularly fascinated by the data on inflation-adjusted total domestic spending (discretionary and entitlements), which can be obtained by adding columns E and H of Table 8.2.... Reagan managed to limit average domestic spending increases to less than one percent per year. These figures, which are adjusted for inflation, show that spending has grown more than five times as rapidly during the Bush-Obama years."

Frankly, it is absurd on every level to compare Reagan's spending (and tax) record to Bush's.  Bush was an enthusiastic interventionist.

Entitlements.  Pete writes: "The complaint about Bush is that he was the architect of a prescription-drug entitlement. Fair enough, though it should be said that because of free-market reforms, the cost of the plan was 40 percent below the estimates, an unheard of achievement ( But even if one opposed the Medicare prescription-drug plan, one should take into account Bush’s decision to put his political capital behind Social Security reform, including personal retirement accounts. The effort was unsuccessful but politically courageous. No president, including Reagan, attempted reforms nearly as far-reaching. Reagan agreed to a plan to save Social Security that included large payroll-tax increases. In addition, Reagan enacted what at the time was the most dramatic expansion of Medicare coverage since its inception, including a complex system of price controls."

I actually agree with Pete to the extent he says that Bush proposed reforms to Social Security.  But it is hard to argue for Social Security reforms when you are also fighting for the biggest expansion of entitlements in 40 years with the Medicare prescription drug program.  Most conservatives rightly consider this utterly irresponsible, despite the lower cost estimates referenced by Pete.  All that proves is that an already unsustainable program will become unsustainable a little later, yet still sooner than otherwise would have occurred but for the Bush prescription drug program.  Reagan never proposed or implemented anything close to what Bush did in this one act.  To suggest otherwise is nonsense.  Bush touts this as an accomplishment.  Why do his former staffers try to persuade us that it was good conservative policy?

While not strictly an entitlement, but close enough, I would add that Reagan also attempted to eliminate the Department of Education.  Among his most fervent opponents was Howard Baker, who was Senate Majority Leader at the time (and who had been George Will's favorite candidate in the 1979 Republican presidential primary).  Reagan also attempted to block-grant most of the Elementary and Secondary Education funding, and much of it was.  Conversely, Bush insisted on a significantly increased federal funding and policing role in local education, including the "No Child Left Behind" program, with the help of Ted Kennedy.  This not only goes to spending but, again, the appropriateness of the level of federal intervention promoted by the Bush administration.  After 9/11, Bush also created the massive Homeland Security Department, with its endless layers of bureaucracy and overlap and massive budget, and federalized airport security (whose members are likely to soon be unionized).   

Terrorism.  Pete writes, "Reagan was impressive in some respects, including ordering the bombing of Libya in the wake of the 1986 discotheque bombing in West Berlin. On the flip side, Reagan retreated from Lebanon after the 1983 bombing of a U.S. Marine barracks. (In one of his fatwas, Osama bin Laden cited the pullout as evidence of American weakness.) Reagan also agreed to sell arms for hostages — and not just to any nation, but to the Iranian regime led by Ayatollah Khomeini. Bush, in contrast, was unyielding on terrorism."

The issue is national security, not terrorism per se, but I understand Pete's desire to constrict the discussion.  But I am not so obliged.  Reagan had to rebuild the U.S military.  He had to confront Soviet and communist expansion in our hemisphere, in Africa, in Afghanistan, and he was successful as any president could be in all those regions.  Hence, when Bush came to office, there was no Soviet Union left to deal with.  No small accomplishment, but one Pete ignores.  Reagan attempted to kill Gaddafi for his murder of Americans through terrorist acts.   But in 2008, Bush actually paid Libya reparations for the bombing and opened diplomatic relations with the terror state.  This would be the same regime the Democracy Project advocates insist we obliterate today (a view, incidentally, I share).  So, when Pete says Bush would never have authorized arms to Iran for the release of hostages (which Reagan supported only after getting reports that CIA official and hostage, William Buckley, was being brutally tortured), we do know that Bush authorized reparations to a regime that paid terrorists to blow an passenger jet out of the sky, killing scores of Americans.    This does not seem "unyielding on terrorism to me."

Respecting the terrible killing of our Marines in Lebanon, the problem Reagan faced was not one of omission or passivity or priorities.  It was not so clear who was responsible at the time, or who or how to effectively strike.   Reagan was not one to duck a retributive strike against terrorists.  I would also caution Pete that although bin Laden mentioned it, let me suggest that bin Laden didn't need that act of terrorism or any other excuse to motivate him to unleashed the 9/11 attacks on our country -- or what he hopes to unleash even now -- after the Bush administration's war on terrorism. 

Social issues.  Pete writes: "Both presidents were rock solid on abortion — though Bush probably has the policy advantage given his judicial nominations, his stand on embryonic stem cell research, his support for the Born Alive Infants Protection Act, and his opposition to partial-birth abortion and human cloning. Bush also promoted a constitutional amendment opposing same-sex marriage, an issue Reagan didn’t confront. On gun control, Reagan favored the Brady bill, while Bush was a stalwart defender of the Second Amendment."

Let me try to unravel this. How were Bush's judicial nominations better than Reagan's on the abortion issue?  Am I missing something?  I guess Pete is talking about the Supreme Court.  Kennedy and O'Connor were considered pro-life when nominated.  In Akron v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health, the first case in which O'Connor was involved in the abortion issue, she voted with Rehnquist and Byron White for life.  It is hardly logical to hold a president responsible for the changed positions of life-time appointed justices whose records and representations when nominated are of a similar philosophy but change down the road.  Furthermore, if there is a distinction on the circuit courts, what are they?

The science relating to embryonic stem cell research and human cloning was not advanced enough during the Reagan presidency to make them issues.  That said, Bush's position on stem cell research was actually a compromise. See here and here  Moreover, I am pleased Bush signed the Born Alive Infants Protection Act.  It was legislation spear-headed by, among others, Senator Rick Santorum.  Is there any doubt Reagan would have signed it?  Reagan's support for the Brady bill was unfortunate.  I recall, perhaps inaccurately, that Bush did support the Reauthorization of the Assault Weapons Ban, although it did not pass in Congress at the time.  But why limit the discussion to only the Second Amendment.

Bush signed McCain-Feingold into law despite campaigning against it in 2000.  More than violating his campaign pledge, the law was an affront to political speech.  In Citizens United, the Court rolled backed major aspects of it (all the Reagan alums, including Bush's two appointees, voted in the majority and against Bush).  On the other hand, Reagan's commitment to the First Amendment and free speech was evident in his FCC's deregulation policies, which lead, in part, to the birth of modern talk radio.  And when it comes to another part of the Constitution, equal protection, Reagan would never have signed on to legal arguments defending racial preferences in Gratz v. Bollinger and Grutter v. Bollinger.

Finally, Pete gratuitously asserts that Bush was Israel's best presidential friend.  I have no idea what he means, since he does not explain himself.  Most Republican presidents have been supportive of Israel.  But if I had to choose one who stands out from the others, it would be Richard Nixon for his efforts in the 1973 Yom Kippur War.  Nixon agreed to replace all of Israel's aircraft and tank losses, pledged U.S. military support, and faced down the Soviet Union, which wanted to come to the defense of its Arab allies, who were taking a beating shortly after they had launched their attack.  Nixon soon quadrupled U.S. aid to Israel and the U.S. replaced France as Israel's largest arms supplier.

I doubt I will succeed in persuading Pete of very much, given his admirable loyalty to President Bush.  I am a big fan of the president myself, but not all his policies -- particularly much of his fiscal policies.  I think it is worthy to defend Bush, especially if you worked for him and believe in his actions.  But there is no need to base that support on claims of fidelity to conservatism when, in fact, such claims are often fanciful and incredible.  Of course, no president is perfect, and that includes Reagan, for no person is perfect.  There is no shame in defending Bush's policies for what they are and for what you believe they accomplished.

I have spent more time than I should on this reply as I have other work-related deadlines.  But I did so not primarily to move Pete off his positions, but to hopefully inform third parties who read these debates and provide them with a perspective different from Pete's and many Bush advocates/former staffers, which I believe is more accurate. 

Obama Nominee Crumbles Trying To Defend WH Budget Deception

from March 17, 2011

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

They Both Work Against US

Michael Ramirez Cartoon
click image for larger view

Hands Off the Obamacare Slush Fund

Don't look now, America, but we have been lied to once again by politicians who yearned for perks, position and power. Unfortunately, this time it was, and is, Republicans. They told us if we would give them the House majority they would repeal ObamaCare and defund it. It may be time for a 3rd party. - Reggie

Speaker of the House John Boehner, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and House Republican Whip Kevin McCarthy have consistently blocked efforts by Reps. Steve King and Michele Bachmann to defund the so-called "Obamacare slush fund" via the continuing resolution or House spending bills, despite being told by House Republican leadership staff that they could do so under current House rules.

"There is no way we can include their [Bachmann and King's] amendment; it would just bog us down and undercut the leadership goal of getting real cutting done through negotiations with Democrats and the White House," says a leadership aide, sticking to talking points generated out of Cantor's office after Tuesday's vote in the House to extend funding for government through early April.

Bachmann and King have been pressing to zero out the $105 billion that funds the Obama Administration's implementation of the president's health care plan.

Despite broad support among the American public for Congress to draw back spending on Obamacare, it has done nothing to remove the $105 billion that the previous Congress had allocated. Under the terms of the funding allocation, about $5 billion is budgeted for implementation purposes in FY2011, while another $100 billion has been appropriated for FY2012 through 2020.

The Daily News: March 16, 2011

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The $4-Per-Gallon President

by Sarah Palin on Tuesday, March 15, 2011 at 4:27pm

Is it really any surprise that oil and gas prices are surging toward the record highs we saw in 2008 just prior to the economic collapse? Despite the President’s strange assertions in his press conference last week, his Administration is not a passive observer to the trends that have inflated oil prices to dangerous levels. His war on domestic oil and gas exploration and production has caused us pain at the pump, endangered our already sluggish economic recovery, and threatened our national security.

The evidence of the President’s anti-drilling mentality and his culpability in the high gas prices hurting Americans is there for all to see. The following is not even an exhaustive list:

Exhibit A: His drilling moratorium. Guided by politics and pure emotion following the Gulf spill instead of peer-reviewed science or defensible law, the President used the power of his executive order to impose a deepwater drilling moratorium. The Administration even ignored a court order halting his moratorium. And what is the net result of the President’s (in)actions? A large drilling company was forced to declare bankruptcy, the economy of the region has been hobbled, and at least 7 rigs moved out of the Gulf area to other parts of the world while many others remain idle. Is it any surprise that oil production in the Gulf of Mexico is expected to fall by 240,000 bbl/d in 2011 alone?

But that’s just the Gulf. There’s also the question of a moratorium on the development of Alaska’s Outer Continental Shelf. It seems the Obama Administration can’t agree with itself on whether it imposed a moratorium there or not. The White House claims that they didn’t, but their own Department of the Interior let slip that they did. To clear up this mess, Gov. Parnell decided to sue the DOI to get a solid answer because such a federal OCS drilling moratorium would violate federal law.

Exhibit B: His 2012 budget. The President used his 2012 budget to propose the elimination of several vital oil and natural gas production tax incentives. Eliminating these incentives will discourage energy companies from completing exploratory projects, resulting in higher energy costs for all Americans – and not just at the pump. According to one study mentioned in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, eliminating the deduction for drilling costs “could increase natural gas prices by 50 cents per thousand cubic feet,” which would translate to “an increased cost to consumers of $11.5 billion per year in the form of higher natural gas prices.”

Exhibit C: His anti-drilling regulatory policies.

Read the full article here.

Fear the Media Meltdown, Not the Nuclear One

The March 11 earthquake off the coast of Japan has been an unprecedented disaster. Now estimated to have been a magnitude 9 earthquake — one of the top five earthquakes measured since reporting started in 1900 — it was the result of a “megathrust [1]” in which an area of sea floor bigger than the state of Connecticut [2] broke free and moved under the force of colliding tectonic plates. It was so strong that it literally moved the entire island of Honshu eight feet to the east. The earthquake was then followed by a tsunami comparable to the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004 — but since the epicenter of the quake was only a few miles off the coast of Japan, the tsunami struck the heavily populated coast of Honshu with almost no warning, basically washing many coastal villages off the face of the earth.

The earthquake and tsunami seriously damaged reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi (“number one”) and Daini (“number two”) in Okuma, in Fukushima Prefecture, and also damaged the Onagawa plant in Miyagi Prefecture. In total, of the 55 nuclear power generation plants in Japan, 11 have been forced to shut down, cutting power generation capacity in Japan dramatically and forcing the country to adopt a series of rolling blackouts. It would seem impossible to overstate the severity of the crisis.

The media, however, has risen to the challenge, with a combination of poor information, ignorance, and alarmism, along with antinuclear activists passing themselves off as unbiased experts.

Let’s try to make some sense of it all.

Basics of How Reactors Work

The Fukushima plants have several reactors built on the same basic design, either by GE or by Japanese companies licensed by GE. These are all “boiling water” reactors, which means just what it sounds like: the heat of the nuclear reaction boils water; the steam generated is used to drive turbines and thereby generate power. The water in direct contact with the reactor core known as “coolant” is nothing particularly special, just demineralized; water itself isn’t very susceptible to becoming radioactive, but minerals and contaminants in the water can be. If the water is purified, there’s less radioactive waste to deal with.


The cooling water is pumped past the reactor core in normal operation to get the energy with which power is generated, and of course to cool the core. If there’s an accident, the reactor is shut down by inserting the “control rods,” made of some material that absorbs neutrons and so slows the nuclear fission from which the reactor gets its power. Even a shut down reactor continues to need cooling, however; there’s an immense amount of residual heat still left in the reactor core. This means continuing to run the pumps, and of course with the reactor shut down they can’t be run from the reactor’s power, so there are diesel generators as a backup, and batteries as a further backup to the generator.

If all the cooling fails for some reason, the accumulated heat can’t escape; the water boils away, and once it’s gone, the materials that make up the reactor core break down. This is a Bad Thing, because the controls on the reactor fuel also break down; it starts to heat up again. This is what’s called a meltdown. When this happened at Chernobyl, the reactor core quickly became hot enough to vaporize the reactor’s fuel and a good part of the other material around it, leading to an explosion that destroyed the building that housed the reactor.

To prevent that from happening in commercial reactors in the capitalist bloc, the reactor is inside three concentric safety vessels: first, the “boiler” itself; second, a massive steel bottle; and third, an even larger and more massive reinforced steel, concrete, and graphite outer containment vessel. In case of a meltdown, the whole reactor should be contained within the steel secondary containment vessel, but if it’s not, the molten reactor core drops to the graphite floor of the third vessel, where it spreads out across the floor. This causes the reactor to stop, and it can cool naturally. Eventually the pieces can be cleaned up.


This whole structure is then inside a big conventional steel building that is the outside wall of the reactor complex.

What happened at Fukushima Daiichi

Read the full post here.

The Daily News: March 15, 2011

Monday, March 14, 2011

S.E. Cupp Interviews Deroy Murdock

S.E. Cupp is back from vacation and interviewed conservative, Deroy Murdock on her Insider Extreme show today. I had never heard of this guy and I really enjoyed his responses to the questions posed. 

During the interview, Cupp talks about the NPR scandal, reveals her displeasure with James O'Keefe's editing tactics and references a story on The Blaze. That story is here.

As you know, I'm not a professional at video capturing so the beginning and end are a little messy but the heart of the interview is intact. - Reggie

The Daily News: March 14, 2011

If you don't normally watch The Daily News, please, watch this one. - Reggie

Study Guide: Japan, meltdowns, and the debt

Daniels and Obamacare, Round Two

When conservatives start defending expansion of government, we’re in serious danger.

Indiana governor Mitch Daniels’s policy director, Lawren Mills, Grace-Marie Turner of the Galen Institute, and Bob Goldberg of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest take exception to my NRO article “Mitch Daniels’s Obamacare Problem.” In brief, the trio believes that Daniels’s expansion of government-run health care is a conservative triumph. I can’t believe we’re even having this conversation.

To recap, the Healthy Indiana Plan, which Daniels signed into law in 2007, bears the following similarities to Obamacare:

1. Both expanded Medicaid, which crowds out private insurance — Obama to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, Daniels to 200 percent.

2. Like Obamacare, the Daniels plan raised taxes to pay for part of its expansion of government-run health care. (Daniels’s 126 percent hike in Indiana’s cigarette tax mirrors Obama’s 159 percent hike in the federal cigarette tax.)

3. Like Obamacare, the Daniels plan pushes part of its cost onto other states. Taxpayers in other states bear two-thirds of the spending burden (through the portion of Medicaid funding that comes through Washington, D.C.), and Daniels has proposed making other states pay even more.

4. Just as Obamacare will cost more than projected, an independent review found that Daniels’s cigarette-tax hike hasn’t kept pace with Indiana’s share of the spending, and further spending overruns may be on the horizon.

5. Both Obamacare and the Daniels plan contain a “slacker mandate.” Obamacare mandates that insurers cover “children” on their parents’ policies up to age 26. Daniels mandated that insurers do so up to age 24. (A similarity I overlooked in my original article.)

Turner says the Daniels plan “could not be more different” from Obamacare. I’ve just listed five ways that it could. And it gets worse:

6. Daniels has accepted Obamacare grants and is implementing an Obamacare “exchange” in Indiana — something he is under no obligation to do, contrary to what Turner claims.

That’s enough to cause problems for the repeal effort were Daniels to be the GOP’s presidential nominee.

Mills, Turner, and Goldberg defend the Daniels plan with an argument that boils down to this: Daniels expanded Medicaid with health savings accounts, and that makes it okay.

In fact, it may seem counterintuitive, but if anything, the fact that Daniels used HSAs makes his Medicaid expansion worse.

I support HSAs because they allow workers to reclaim control over a portion of their health-care dollars, and I support expanding them so workers can control all their health-care dollars. Within the context of Medicaid, however, the advantages of HSAs are actually a problem. Medicaid is welfare. By offering Medicaid enrollees the freedom and opportunity for wealth accumulation that HSAs create, the Daniels plan makes Medicaid more attractive, and thereby lures more people out of private insurance and into dependence on government.

Turner writes, “Cannon calls this a ‘taxpayer-funded health savings account’ and makes it sound like the state is handing out cash. It’s not. He needs to get his facts straight.” Actually, I wrote, “the government hands out coverage plus something a lot like cash.” Which is true: Enrollees can spend their HSA funds on any provider they choose, and whatever they don’t spend rolls over. That makes Indiana’s Medicaid HSAs a lot more attractive than either traditional Medicaid (which few doctors accept) or Medicaid managed-care plans (which limit coverage to a provider network). The only ways these taxpayer-funded HSAs are unlike cash is that enrollees can spend them only on medical care and must forfeit them if they leave the program. The incentive to remain enrolled in Daniels’s Medicaid expansion is therefore greater than in the rest of Medicaid. And if you do leave, there’s a use-it-or-lose it incentive to spend the taxpayers’ money before you go, which runs completely counter to the whole idea of HSAs. “It sounds to me,” Turner writes, “like Governor Daniels got the incentives right.” Really?