Tag Archives: president obama

What Comes After Trillion?

In recent weeks and in an effort to curb growing outrage and voter disaffection, President Obama has shown up everywhere, save  the guest judge chair on ‘American Idol’. From town halls to prayer breakfasts, on prompter and off, the President has been seen pimping his budget and defending his prescription for the U.S. economy, which is predictably focused on government, not business, creating jobs.

He’s also appeared a bit touchy in recent days. In his State of the Union, he denied that his healthcare plan is a result of some ‘Bolshevik plot,’ and sought to blunt nasty ‘communist’ or ‘socialist’ aspersions cast by those evil tea-partiers.  It’s easy to see why he’d want to avoid such labels, however true they might be. Forget economic output comparisons between old Europe and the United States over the last thirty years and just examine last week’s market reaction to Spain and Portugal’s budgetary crises. Spending and raising debt ceilings hasn’t helped their respective economies. Add Greece to that mix as they are trying to get spending under control. 

Obama has repeatedly pledged to restore fiscal discipline to Washington, yet his budget would more than double the current debt, increasing it to $26 trillion over the next decade. Forty cents on every dollar spent in the budget is borrowed. And while it would be nice if maybe our loan shark was Canada or Britain, China continues to invest in our debt. With each security sold or Wall St investment made, Beijing wields more influence and hinders further criticism of their monetary, trade, or human-rights policies.

What can Americans expect from these borrowed Chinese dollars? How will the President use this debt to catapult the U.S. economy into prosperity? 

His budget spells it out.

Under the ‘Reviving job creation and laying a foundation for economic growth’ section Obama outlines his recipe to grow jobs. ‘Investments’, spending, are programmed for education, clean energy and infrastructure to lay a foundation for long term job growth. He provides high-speed rail with $5 billion over five years, $1 billion in this year’s budget. Just how will hi-speed rail create jobs and sharpen America’s competitive edge?  

Adopting this particular European idea is folly on so many levels. European cities are much closer together and their highways are radically inferior; there just isn’t enough room for road expansion. Another reason for a viable European railway—weather. Many businessmen from Milan take the train to Turin or Venice to avoid fog which, in the winter, can create hours of delays. In addition, gas is more expensive. Choosing between spending 80€ to fill up your tank or 20$ to take a train, is a no-brainer. And when Europeans visit America, they rent cars; they don’t purchase Amtrak tickets.

In addition to the ‘I wanna be like Europe’ nonsense, the President fails to understand that multi-nationals aren’t flocking to China and India for their infrastructure; it’s their cheap labor and lower taxes. Cutting-edge is not a herd of cows meandering about the roadway unimpeded, it’s I-95 from Miami to New York.  

Another bedrock of the new Obamaconomy is clean energy. Not only does the new budget allow for $54.5 billion in ‘green’ loans, it encourages “new nuclear facilities and a range of renewable energy projects that reduce greenhouse gases and pollutants, while simultaneously creating jobs and contributing to long-term economic growth.” Energy efficiency is a critical component, but perhaps it would be better to fund those programs when the economy is on solid footing.

Another baffling mention in a growing economy subsection is the $1 billion Michelle Obama childhood obesity project. It would be altogether different if this $1 billion were to feed starving American children, but as it stands, we are going to be borrowing from the Chinese to better nourish overweight children. 

The budget also lays out plans to bring grocery stores and other ‘healthy’ food retailers to ‘food desert’ communities.

Where to start…Shouldn’t Publix or Whole Foods decide where to put their stores? And what exactly is a ‘food desert’ community? Inner cities? Maybe if bag boys weren’t scared to push Grandma Edith’s cart to her car, Whole Foods might consider the idea. Government doesn’t need to help businesses decide how to expand profits. That job falls to management and their expertise.

 As Americans watch their friends and family lose jobs with no end in sight, they see a President more interested in remaking the nation than strengthening the economy. Since their own wealth hasn’t been enhanced through second mortgages and house flippers, they aren’t apt to believe that borrowing from China will result in an economic renaissance.

 If fiscal conservatives don’t win in November and get a handle on these trillion dollar deficits, Americans better familiarize themselves with a new term—quadrillion.

Advertisements

The Nobel Prize and ‘Cookie Diplomacy’

obama_looking_up Today’s announcement of President Barack Obama as the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize winner, “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples,” illuminates the organization’s preference for lofty talk over worthy actions. Heretofore, President Obama has failed to make progress in Afghanistan, Iran and North Korea, but Nobel voters have rewarded his apologetically deferential rhetoric anyway.

Gone are the days of victories, verifiable accomplishments and winners, because western society now prioritizes effort over results. 

Arafat promoted peace as he prepared suicide bombers to attack Israel. Mohammed el-Baradei, former head of the IAEA, inspected, and now Iran is as close as it has ever been to possessing nuclear weapons.  Al Gore talked a good green game, as his home consumed twenty times the electricity of an average American home. All of these men were awarded the Nobel Prize for peace, because for the committee, accomplishments don’t matter—politics do.

Clearly, Obama’s ‘cookie diplomacy’ has had quite an impact, not only with American liberals, but with elites in Western Europe. To understand this complex ‘cookie diplomacy’, one need not look to Iran or North Korea, but to Sudan.  Yes, the poster children for bad behavior have become the latest subjects for the Obama policy of unconditional engagement. The U.S. envoy to Sudan, Air Force Maj. Gen. J. Scott Gration, senses change sweeping the only country led by an indicted war criminal, and despite the millions of displaced and dead Darfuris, the Maj Gen. sees ‘cookies’ as a way to end the hideous atrocities perpetrated by the Arab Sudanese against the African Darfuris. Yes. Cookies.

 Washington Post:

 “We’ve got to think about giving out cookies,” said Gration, who was appointed in March. “Kids, countries — they react to gold stars, smiley faces, handshakes, agreements, talk, engagement.”

 These policies are more apt to work in Neverland than in Sudan. And they aren’t simply doomed to fail, they are doomed to exacerbate an already tragic situation. Experienced diplomats and rebels fighting the government have tried to educate Gration in the ways of the Sudanese regime.

 Again from the Washington Post:

John Prendergast, co-chairman of the Enough Project, a human rights group advocating tougher, multilateral sanctions against Sudan, said Bashir and his top advisers respond only to pressure. “They do not respond to nice guys coming over and saying, ‘We have to be a good guest,’ ” he said. “They eat these people for dinner.”

Adam Mudawi, a Sudanese human rights activist who has seen envoys come and go, put it more bluntly: “In six months, he’ll find out,” he said. “They are liars.”  

Appeasement, ‘cookie diplomacy’, call it what you will, it’s everywhere. Last week, another Nobel winner, the Dalai Lama visited Washington D.C, and for the first time in ten visits, a sitting U.S. President rejected a meeting in order to gain favor with the Chinese. Apparently, budget deficits and healthcare reform rank higher than human rights on Obama’s curious priority scale.

Imagine winning the Cold War, WWII or the Korean War with a box of Nestle Tollhouse…it would have been nice.  I’m afraid that until Obama’s foreign policy grows up, we’ll all—save the lefties—be eschewing cookies in favor of a nice swig of Maalox.

It’s Called Courage, Mr. President

iran_soccer_playersMany politicians and citizens hold up ‘bipartisanship’ as the ideal, claiming that the ‘middle’ is where Americans want to live and be governed, but most of us know the truth—the label of conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat, instructs the way we live and the way we vote.

Elections have consequences, but as a conservative, it is painful watching the rapid devolution of America via: ‘employee free choice act’, increased federal oversight of businesses, raised taxes, the oncoming inflation resulting from a nonsensical monetary policy, defense cuts, and the acknowledgement, before the Arab world, that yes, Americans torture. The President for change has been busy, but again, he is merely setting out to accomplish what he promised—redistributing wealth, health-care for all and turning the last superpower into just another member of the UN and NATO with a vote, not a voice.

These policy disagreements are natural, but there are behaviors we expect from our President which transcend policy. Save the Code Pinkos and lunatics on the fringe, I believe all Americans demand courage from our Commander-in-Chief, which is why his silence on Iran is so troubling. Whether President Obama chooses to believe it or not, around the world, Americans are looked upon as cheerleaders for freedom. Those Iranians braving jail, beatings and death to protest the fraud perpetrated by the Ayatollah and the midget, carried signs in English—not aimed at Gordon Brown—but toward the captain of freedom’s cheerleaders.

Perhaps the revolutionaries should have written those signs in French. Here’s French President Sarkozy, from The Wall St. Journal:

The President yesterday denounced the “extent of the fraud” and the “shocking” and “brutal” response of the Iranian regime to public demonstrations in Tehran these past four days.

“These elections are an atrocity,” he said. “If [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad had made such progress since the last elections, if he won two-thirds of the vote, why such violence?” The statement named the regime as the cause of the outrage in Iran and, without meddling or picking favorites, stood up for Iranian democracy.

Aside from convincing Twitter to delay its maintenance schedule, President Obama has been mute, until yesterday, when he dropped the hammer, saying he had ‘deep concerns’ about the election. What about the protesters murdered by the government, Mr. President? Aren’t they worth mentioning?

After living abroad and traveling extensively, I’ve learned more about the unique character of the American people. When you rip apart the labels and facades, you’ll see a people who loathe nuanced positioning, especially when freedom is at stake. We crave courage and clarity from our leaders.

You might not like it Mr. President, but you have a duty to those Iranians who are willing to die for their vote and also those Americans who expect their leader to embody the ideals which set us apart.

To those brave Iranians marching, tweeting, posting and wearing the green of Mousavi on their arms while competing in international soccer competitions, we salute you.

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.

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.