Wednesday, October 10, 2012

October 10, 2012

We Need a Better Debate
by Michael Tanner
October 10, 2012

If there was a bigger loser than President Obama on that Denver debate stage last week, it was the conversation about our national debt and the fiscal crisis threatening this country. Throughout the 90-minute debate, both candidates made frequent references to the deficit, the debt, or balancing the budget, but showed little willingness to actually do anything about it.

As of the night of the debate, last Wednesday, our national debt was $16.153 trillion. Let’s put that in perspective: The New York Yankees have the biggest payroll in baseball. For $16 trillion, you could pay the Yankees for 81,000 years, and still have money left over for a couple of free-agent pitchers. And, speaking of New York, $16 trillion could buy all the real estate in New York City — 20 times over. If we were to stack $16 trillion of one-dollar bills on a football field, it would cover the field to a depth of more than two miles. Alternatively, a single stack of 16 trillion one-dollar bills would be 1.085 million miles high, enough to reach the moon and back, twice over. If we were to pay our national debt back at the rate of $1 per second, we could wipe it out in a mere 507,000 years.

Beginning to get the idea? We are talking about a lot of money. Each American’s share of that debt is nearly $53,000.

And that’s the good news.

Our official national debt numbers do not include the unfunded future liabilities of entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare. But even under the most optimistic projections, those liabilities, the difference between projected benefits and revenue, total more than $59 trillion. Other projections suggest that they could run to more than $111 trillion. Thus, our true debt actually is somewhere between $75 trillion and $127 trillion.
But in the face of this looming wave of red ink, both candidates more or less ducked.

Governor Romney laid down a useful marker, promising that he would cut any program that was not worth “borrowing money from China to pay for it.” Yet he was so unwilling to offend any potential voting group that he proposed no serious budget cuts. In fact, Romney seemed to spend most of his time explaining all the spending that he wouldn’t cut: defense spending, Medicare, Social Security, education spending; basically, nothing except Big Bird and Obamacare. Public broadcasting is certainly ripe for the cutting block, but given that PBS accounts for 0.01 percent of federal spending, we’ll still be doing a lot of borrowing from China.

Meanwhile, President Obama has not quite doubled the federal debt, as Governor Romney suggested, but he has increased it by $6 trillion during his first four years in office, compared to a $4.9 trillion increase over George Bush’s eight years. Instead, he attacked Romney for wanting to cut much of anything at all.

The president did trot out the old and discredited $4 trillion deficit-reduction plan that he has periodically offered over the past couple of years. But most of the spending cuts he vaguely hinted at were little more than smoke and mirrors: reductions already enacted as part of last year’s budget agreement, savings from previously scheduled pull-outs from Iraq and Afghanistan, interest savings from these budget gimmicks, etc.

The heart of the president’s plan was another call for raising taxes on the rich (and the not-quite-so rich, such as those earning $250,000 per year). But the president’s idea of balancing the budget on the backs of the evil 1 percent is as much of a myth as his proposed spending cuts. If the president received every penny in tax increases that he wants, he would raise roughly $390 billion annually. That might be enough to wreck the economy, but it isn’t going to come close to solving the problem. In fact, it will barely cover all the new spending that the president wants, let alone pay down the debt. As the president likes to say: It’s not ideology; it’s arithmetic.

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Transparently Biased Against Disclosure
by Brent Bozell
October 9, 2012

Team Obama came out of that disastrous first debate blaming the debacle on one thing after another, finally settling on the most vicious excuse. Mitt Romney only won because he was a brazen liar. David Axelrod was obnoxious enough to cite as his moral witness one Bill Clinton, who is certainly an authority on lying with a barrel full of chutzpah.

Axelrod pledged in every interview that Team Obama would be holding Romney accountable. Fine. That’s political theater. But is there anyone in the media who holds Team Obama accountable? Most journalists are too busy hounding Romney. Bloomberg News is an exception. It is willing to look at how Obama’s campaign promises are faring.

Obama came into office pledging to create “an unprecedented level of openness in government” and to “act promptly” to make information public. Surprise, surprise: Obama is just another politician. In June, Bloomberg reporters filed Freedom of Information Act requests with 57 federal agencies. The reporters sought data on a very basic level: taxpayer-supported travel by Cabinet secretaries and top officials. Just eight of the agencies met the 20-day window for disclosure required by law. Of 20 Cabinet-level agencies, only the Small Business Administration responded within the legal time limit. (Who knew that Obama elevated SBA to Cabinet-level status in January? A lot of good it did.)

The records of five other Cabinet-level departments -- Commerce, Labor, Treasury, the Office of Budget and Management, and the U.S. Trade Representative -- were turned over to Bloomberg past the deadline. “Fourteen either haven’t fully complied or haven’t responded at all, including the Department of Justice -- whose mandate includes enforcing compliance of disclosure laws.”

Bloomberg acknowledged the government processed over 600,000 FOIA filings last year. “But it was the president and his attorney general, Eric Holder, who publicly designated openness and transparency as the guiding lights of this administration. The benchmark of timely disclosure is their own. And unlike other inaugural promises -- world peace, say, or campaign finance reform -- this one seemed within grasp.”

Some refusals were laughable. The State Department, for example, said it couldn’t compile travel records for Susan Rice, the ambassador to the United Nations, until July 2013, more than a year after the request was made.

The media love to march around saying “sunlight is the best disinfectant” and alleging that they’re in favor of government transparency. But when Democrats are in power, they don’t really believe in spending any time on that “openness” blather.

Conservative activist and author Christopher Horner has laid out an astonishing case against the Obama administration in his new book “The Liberal War on Transparency.” Don’t plan on seeing Chris in a big “60 Minutes” piece or a two-hour PBS documentary.

Remember how the liberal reporters all yammered away about how they were entitled to all of Sarah Palin’s e-mails as governor of Alaska? Media organizations sued to gain access to 13,000 Palin e-mails. Where are those “reporters” now? Why the silence over Team Obama? Because the media are Team Obama.

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Of Skull and Podiums - The Incompetent President
by Richard Fernandez
October 9, 2012

Chris Rock tweeted shortly after the first Obama-Romney debate that “Obama is bringing Bin Laden’s skull & setting it on the podium for the next debate.” But Mitt Romney‘s speech attacking the president’s foreign policy serves notice that Osama’s skull may not be enough to keep him back; the criticism he delivered suggests he’s going to mix it up.

Andrew Sullivan, who only a few days ago was serenely confident in his champion, is so traumatized that he can barely stand to watch Obama climb back into the ring.
Look: I’m trying to rally some morale, but I’ve never seen a candidate this late in the game, so far ahead, just throw in the towel in the way Obama did last week – throw away almost every single advantage he had with voters and manage to enable his opponent to seem as if he cares about the middle class as much as Obama does. How do you erase that imprinted first image from public consciousness: a president incapable of making a single argument or even a halfway decent closing statement?
It’s a sight he’s trying to forget. But Sullivan’s always looking to throw away information. The image he ought to be trying fix in his mind shouldn’t be of Obama wilting under Romney’s humorous chafing but of Obama alone with Putin; of Obama alone with the Chinese premier; of Obama alone with representatives of America’s enemies and rivals without Jim Lehrer to help him out.

Some people haven’t forgotten the president’s meltdown though. He was in L.A. trying to convince big donors to keep backing him and vowing to “close the deal.” With a billion dollars of campaign money riding on him, Obama knows he’s going to disappoint a lot of people who aren’t used to being disappointed if he doesn’t come out swinging against Romney.

One complicating factor now weighing on his shoulders is whether to order drone strikes on the suspected perpetrators of the Benghazi attack. Eli Lake says “five administration officials tell The Daily Beast that the White House is now weighing whether to pursue those responsible through law enforcement or via military means like drone strikes or special operations.” In what has come to be the characteristic absurdity of his administration, the secret operation was being discussed in the New York Times.
The existence of the list was first reported this week by The New York Times. It was compiled with input from several U.S. intelligence agencies and is being constantly revised and edited as new information comes in to the CIA’s Counter-terrorism Center. Some U.S. intelligence officials say there is enough detail to begin military operations to kill or capture 10 of the operatives tied to the planning of the attack.
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