Joe Taxpayer

bidenBeyond the parade of tax-cheats nominated or occupying cabinet posts, the tax returns of Obama and Biden demonstrate how easier giving becomes as zeros are added to your paycheck. They also reveal another startling hypocrisy rampant among Democrats—they want taxpayer sacrifice but are unwilling to do it themselves. Obama gave away 6.5% of his adjusted total income—$2,656,902 and Biden, just .2% of his $269,256.

In case anyone wonders why so many of America’s richest are liberals itching for tax hikes, just look at these tax returns. The Obamas donated 6.5% and are still left with over $2.5 million.  Poor Joe couldn’t give much. How could he keep up with D.C’s power elite if he gave away an Obama like 6.5% of his paltry $269,256? Where would he go for suits?

Politics of Meddling

turkey_euHe came to listen, not to lecture. Yet after yesterday’s push for Turkey’s acceptance into the EU, I wonder if Europeans Obama-glow has worn off. Aside from a few missteps, like his snooze inducing presser with Brown and his ‘French’ town hall, the President and his prompter had them weak-kneed and star-struck. So, they must have been taken aback when Obama continued the ugly American habit of minding other countries’ business.

“Turkey is bound to Europe by more than bridges over the Bosphorous. Centuries of shared history, culture, and commerce bring you together. Europe gains by diversity of ethnicity, tradition and faith – it is not diminished by it. And Turkish membership would broaden and strengthen Europe’s foundation once more.”

But according to a poll released by the German Marshall Fund and the Compagnia di San Paolo in late 2007, only 21 percent of Europeans believe that their culture would be enriched enough to support Turkey’s bid for EU membership. 21 percent. Merkel and Sarkozy strongly oppose EU membership for Turkey.

Imagine the outrage and furor if, during his speech before the United States Congress, French President Sarkozy had made a plea to legalize the more than 20 million illegals currently living in the United States? After all, they would enrich our culture, add to our diversity and benefit our commerce. It would have been a classic ‘mind your own bees wax’ moment.

We should let the EU member nations and their citizens decide Turkey’s fate. Controversial mosque construction, whether to permit ‘burkinis’, and attacks on free speech, are matters for Europeans, not Americans. And if the recent Turkish resistance to the Danish Prime Minister’s nomination to lead NATO is any indication of future battles in Brussels, well, then maybe the concerns of Sarkozy and Merkel have merit.

Maybe Europeans don’t believe that the old continent, “gains by diversity of ethnicity, tradition and faith.” The riots in Paris, the cartoon controversy in Denmark and the attacks on their freedom might have them a bit spooked.

Nigel Farage, the UK Independence Party leader, calls the idea “a disaster, and advises Mr. Obama to “remember that while he’s been elected President he’s been elected President of the United States only.” Good luck with that…

Stimulating the G20

 

BRITAIN G20 DINNERHe had them at bonjour. Anarchists and mainstream Europeans lauded the arrival of the ‘anti-Bush’ in London yesterday, as G20 leaders met to coordinate their cure for a crisis whose origins some would prefer to ignore. But not French President Sarkozy who noted Wednesday evening: “The crisis didn’t spontaneously erupt in Europe.”

 

Aside from the American President’s second questionable diplomatic gift, an iPod presented to the Queen, it’s the diverging opinion on how to solve the crisis making non-English headlines. The French and Germans are strongly opposed to Obama’s push for stimulus. Already overloaded with entitlement spending, they differ philosophically from a President whose budget wouldn’t qualify his country for EU membership.

 

The nonpartisan CBO contends that President Obama’s budget would incur a debt-to-GDP ration of 5.3 percent for the fiscal years 2010 to 2019. The President’s advisors have argued that his healthcare, education and energy initiatives would increase revenue, thus reducing the unsustainable deficits. But how will going green help spur corporate growth among factories and businesses whose taxes are bound to soar even higher than the tax rates which are some of the highest in the world?

 

Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi supports the French and German focus on tougher regulation, as opposed to unproven deficit-creating stimulus. In today’s column, La Repubblica’s Federico Rampini openly questions Obama’s leadership qualities by likening his ability to dictate the international agenda to former President Jimmy Carter. He called it a “historic low for America.”

 

France’s Sarkozy summed up the European opposition best—“We want a capitalism of entrepreneurs, not a capitalism of speculators.” The biggest crisis in a century wasn’t their fault, and although Obama is reticent to place blame, it’s clear and understandable why other leaders are eager to identify the cause. Because without acknowledging what went wrong, why and who is responsible, solving and preventing future disasters become impossible. Unregulated hedge funds and derivatives must be tackled.

 

According to France’s L’Express, the IMF was a big winner at the G20—its capacity went from $250 billion to $750 billion. In an attempt to demonstrate his concern for the third world, Obama additionally wants the IMF to sell off $20 billion of its gold reserves to help the poor in third world countries. Beyond making a compassionate impression, another motive might have been at play, as his budget calls for taking away charitable deductions from Americans making over $250k. Someone has to pick up the slack for Feed the Children. 

 

Bush bashers were eager to move beyond the cringe-inducing international summits of the past and into an era of change. While non-English speaking Europeans who aren’t keyed into U.S. political minutia continue to be wowed by his smile, presence and remarkable story, foreign leaders and dedicated observers are getting a clearer  picture.

Spanish Judge Weighs Guantanamo Trial

gonzalesAccording to El Pais, Spain could be the first country to allow a criminal case targeting U.S. officials for their involvement in the planning and transfer of ‘illegal combatants’ to Guantanamo. The most prominent on the list of possible indictments is Alberto Gonzales, White House Counsel during the implementation of the Guantanamo project.

Translated from El Pais:

The judge, has reopened the case, saved since March 2008, and has been transferred to the prosecutor of the Audiencia Nacional to inquire about whether to admit the criminal complaint filed against the six lawyers who participated in the preparation, approval and implementation of the legal framework in Guantanamo.

This lawsuit was filed by the Association for the dignity of prisoners, reports the SER for the purpose of investigating a crime against the international community to this group of lawyers working for Undersecretary of Defense for the Attorney General or as advisers to George Bush.

Ditch the Dollar?

dollar_chart1For years, economists, journalists and pundits have been predicting an end to the U.S. dollar as the reserve global currency. And for years, mainstream Americans and politicians have ignored the warning, presuming that the wolf-criers are simply anti-capitalist or anti-American.

But with the Fed’s most recent round of printing $1.2 trillion in ‘quantitative easing’, the only easing going on is the value of the dollar. To battle deflation, low housing prices and a crippled credit market, the Federal Reserve’s bold action will perhaps prove effective, but in the long-term might also prove the impetus to cede America’s leading superpower status.

America’s sugar daddy has already cautioned against the mind numbing spending spree taking place on Capitol Hill and the White House. They’ve slipped the hint—there are limits to their generosity. As long as their investments prove profitable, China will remain our loan sharks, but the minute the spending and printing begin bringing down their balance sheets, they will walk away. And so will the world.

Not only China has voiced concern, next week another ally plans to recommend ditching the green-back—the UN. Russia has been on the ‘ditch to dollar’ bandwagon for years and has kept up the rhetoric this week by calling for a global supercurrency.

From Reuters:

Currency specialist Avinash Persaud, a member of the panel of experts, told a Reuters Funds Summit in Luxembourg that the proposal was to create something like the old Ecu, or European currency unit, that was a hard-traded, weighted basket.

Persaud said that the United States was concerned that holding the reserve currency made it impossible to run policy, while the rest of world was also unhappy with the generally declining dollar.

“There is a moment that can be grasped for change,” he said.

“Today the Americans complain that when the world wants to save, it means a deficit. A shared (reserve) would reduce the possibility of global imbalances.”

What would the United States economy look like without the supremacy of the dollar? Hopefully, we will never know…

The Forgotten Ones

foreclosuresForeclosures were up 30% in February, but an important group of Americans remains sidelined in the current tug-of-war between the bailout cheerleaders and those fiscal conservatives ready for a new tea party. They aren’t the whiners standing on their homes refusing to leave after borrowing more than they could afford, and yet, they aren’t a part of the justifiably angry American mob forced to strap on a load for their shortsighted house-flipping neighbor.

 

They are the forgotten ones.

 

They are the lower deck passengers on the Titanic, who by no fault of their own, bought a ticket, er, a house, when destiny had set an iceberg in the name of Fannie, Freddie and Barney Frank in their road.

Homebuyers who purchased a house in 2002 or 2003, who’ve had to relocate for work or personal reasons, qualify. Perhaps they have been forced to default on their homes and blacken their credit for the very first time. And no journalist, action group or even the President has mentioned what will happen to them.

 

As the statistics continue to shock, regular Americans with good credit are facing an inescapable reality—ditch the house or keep the 763 credit score. At the end of last year, 12% of all mortgage holders were at least a month late on their house payments or in foreclosure. Just how many of those 5.4 million homeowners were formerly upstanding borrowers but simply caught in an impossible situation? They didn’t buy too much house and they didn’t do a $60,000 bathroom remodel with a sauna, Jacuzzi and a flat-screen overhead. They simply bought at the wrong time and were forced to move at the wrong time.

 

While Citi and Bank of America are considered to big to fail, everyday Americans who were unlucky enough to get caught in the crisis will be forced to pay for a very long time. Their credit score qualifies for used car lenders who scream ‘bad credit ok’ and little else, while Citi and BoA’s reckless decision making has garnered not a single negative consequence, apart from Uncle Sam approving which five star resort will hold their conferences. Maybe they’ll have to endure a four and a half star hotel without the private Sheryl Crow concert and forgo the private golf clinic with David Leadbetter. Poor things…

 

But what will become of those ’02, ’03 Titanic lower-deckers? Will their credit remain ruined, and if so, won’t these same irresponsible banks miss out on a large opportunity for profit?

 

 

Rough Week

obama_brown_460_803433c1With each day and each decision, the Obama Presidency grows more and more disturbing.

Just last week, before a joint press conference with Prime Minister Gordon Brown, we were told not to mind that pesky 50% decline in our retirement portfolios.

“The stock market is sort of like a tracking poll in politics. You know, it bobs up and down day to day. And if you spend all your time worrying about that, then you’re probably going to get the long-term strategy wrong,” he advised.

Tracking polls bob, but they bob between five and ten points max, and bobbing is rising and dipping, Mr. President. This market is dipping. It’s not bobbing up and down like a buoy in the water. Since your election, Wall St. is only bobbing down.

And speaking of poor Gordon Brown, he, along with the rest of the British public, left Washington disillusioned last week after learning just where Britain ranks on Obama’s hierarchy of countries. Middle of the pack. From the Telegraph:

… the mood music of the event was at times strained. Mr. Brown handed over carefully selected gifts, including a pen holder made from the wood of a warship that helped stamp out the slave trade – a sister ship of the vessel from which timbers were taken to build Mr. Obama’s Oval Office desk. Mr. Obama’s gift in return, a collection of Hollywood film DVDs that could have been bought from any high street store, looked like the kind of thing the White House might hand out to the visiting head of a minor African state.

Those critical of U.S diplomacy under Bush won’t be heartened by the new attitude at Foggy Bottom. Sunday, a State Department official responded to the criticism in the Telegraph:

“There’s nothing special about Britain. You’re just the same as the other 190 countries in the world. You shouldn’t expect special treatment.”

Stockholders, business owners, Europeans, and a more disheveled than usual Gordon Brown all had to feel a little less enamored with the American messiah. One group, however, had reason to sing and dance, if only singing and dancing weren’t forbidden to them.

On Sunday, in an interview with the New York Times, Obama expressed a willingness to reach out to moderates in the Taliban. I suppose by moderates, he means those Talibani who prefer hangings to beheadings or those ‘moderates’ who whip girls for educating themselves as opposed to burning schools along with their teachers.

‘Moderate’ wife beaters don’t exist, nor do ‘moderate’ al-Qaeda members. Using that term either underscores a cultural ignorance or a commitment to pacifism at all costs.

The most troublesome aspect of last week, however, wasn’t Obama’s minimizing of the ‘bobbing’ stock markets, his clumsy state visit with Brown or even his openness to ‘moderate’ Taliban fighters. It’s his approval rating hovering around 60%.

Obama is likeable, and in today’s American culture filled with ‘atta-boys’ and ‘good trys’, he might well have to cause WWIII to garner any scrutiny or negative judgments.

 

Sorry Newsweek, We Are Not All Socialists

we-are-all-socialists-largeNewsweek has spoken.

The New Deal, FDR and bloated government are all the rage, as liberals, err, progressives, Kumbaya with their socialist idols in Europe. Reagan’s model for economic growth has led to economic failure, and last November, Americans voted for big government, for change. Completely ignored, however, is the ironic position staked out by the Italian and French President who look to cure the crisis by spurring growth.

They understand it, because they’ve lived it. Tax hikes and expansive government will only solve one problem: how to shrink the GDP. Last week, in the face of a couple million screaming communists, err, socialists, President Sarkozy stood strong.

This from Bloomberg:

French President Nicholas Sarkozy defied calls for more aid to consumers, saying his 26 billion- euro ($33 billion) plan to spur investment will cushion a deepening economic slump and increase productivity.

Sarkozy, who last week faced the biggest protests against his policies since his 2007 election, told a nationwide television audience late yesterday that he would cut a business tax by 8 billion euros next year, while he stuck to proposals to trim civil-service jobs and curb spending on hospitals.

Sarkozy’s television appearance last night, where he took questions from four journalists, marked his response to Jan. 29 demonstrations. The police said 1.1 million people protested, while Confederation Generale du Travail, the second-biggest French labor union, put the total at 2.5 million.

“I must listen to protesters,” Sarkozy said. “I also have to listen to all those who didn’t demonstrate, those who are working and who are suffering as well.”

A survey before the protests showed 55 percent wanted Sarkozy to press ahead with reforms, according to TNS Sofres, a Paris-based pollster that asked the question on Jan. 27-28.

In Italy, Berlusconi’s government is focused on providing incentives to consumers who buy anything from cars to furniture.

I’m not familiar with global bond markets, credit default swaps and other crucial factors in the current crisis. What I am familiar with is socialism, and despite the proclamation in this week’s Newsweek, a socialist, I am not. Liberals like Obama remain fixated on the Europolitics of the past, the Veltronis of the old continent. President Obama’s recent note to Veltroni, a ‘reformed’ communist opponent of Berlusconi, promised a continued friendship with the United States. One small problem. Veltroni isn’t the Italian Prime Minister. Conservative Berlusconi is, and he’s waiting to receive his first note…

Iran Launches Satellite

ahmadinejad3Throughout the ’08 campaign, Obama promised to engage America’s enemies through direct talks. Bush’s bullying hadn’t worked and America needed change. Finger-wagging was out. Diplomacy and gentle prodding were in.

 

According to various news reports, and the not too secretive Iranian bullies-in-chief, meetings between the Obama administration and Tehran have already begun. And we can see that the new diplomacy is working, working to get Iran to the nuclear finish line even faster. In launching their satellite today, they now have ballistic missile capabilities. The White House responded with a quick statement: Iran is not acting responsibly with satellite launch.

 

In last week’s Al-Arabiya interview Obama promised an ‘extended hand’ if Iran was willing to ‘unclench’ its fist. But really Mr. President, why should Iran stop their nuclear program? Why should they act ‘responsibly’ as you suggested? As avowed enemies of the United States, Israel and western democracies, it’s in their interest to not cooperate…

 

And I thought naivete was passé.

Aznar on Obama and more…

aznar1Former Prime Minister of Spain gave an interview to  France’s Le Figaro and had some interesting comments on the new President of the United States and the world-wide financial crisis. (translated from French)

LE FIGARO. – With Barack Obama, do you think U.S. policy will change?

Jose Maria Aznar. – I think there will be no radical change, even if the new president has raised many expectations. The threats to the world in general and the United States in particular are the same for Barack Obama as for George W. Bush. The priority for him is to save the U.S. from the economic crisis. There will be a new style but the answers will not be fundamentally different, because the room for maneuver is very limited. In Europe, many believe that Americans have elected an anti-American in the United States. It is a mistake. Barack Obama is an convinced American, committed to the values and history of the United States.

So, Europeans weren’t simply embracing Obama because he was the anti-Bush; they were also attracted to the notion that he might be an anti-patriot. I’m sure that flag lapel pin attached to President Obama’s jacket isn’t comforting to our internationalist friends in socialist circles abroad.

 

 Aznar also gave his opinion on the economic crisis:

We have an obligation to save the banks, because without a sound financial system, there is no economy. But one must make economic reforms. More flexibility and freedom in the economy, lower taxes, less spending, more stabile budget, less government intervention.

LE FIGARO: But Europeans are doing the opposite?
Exactly. And this is why I am convinced that the United States will emerge from the crisis before Europe.

And regarding Europeans pulling their weight in the Afghan conflict?

Europeans need to strengthen their presence in Afghanistan, as called for Barack Obama?

Yes, they should, because it can not be in an Alliance, claim the benefits of security and do not contribute. Yet I do not think the Europeans will respond positively to this request.