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November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

The following two paragraphs, as well as the following graphic, are from the Thanksgiving special edition of the Patriot Post.

President Ronald Reagan often cited the Pilgrims who celebrated the first Thanksgiving as our forebears who charted the path of American freedom. He made frequent reference to John Winthrop's "shining city upon a hill."

As Reagan explained, "The phrase comes from John Winthrop, who wrote it to describe the America he imagined. What he imagined was important because he was an early Pilgrim, an early freedom man. He journeyed here on what today we'd call a little wooden boat; and like the other Pilgrims, he was looking for a home that would be free."


 

Blogging may be light until El Growler Grande returns after the Thanksgiving weekend.

November 25, 2008

Your Federal Tax Dollars At Work

In his press conference today, President-elect Barack Obama “vowed . . . to scour wasteful spending from the federal budget to help offset an investment in a huge recovery plan to jump-start the ailing economy,” according to a NY Times story to be published on Wednesday.

He need look no further than the federal farm programs administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The GAO issued a report last month (requires Adobe) in which they told Congress:

“USDA does not have management controls, such as reviewing an appropriate sample of recipients’ tax returns, to verify that payments are made only to individuals who do not exceed income eligibility caps and therefore cannot be assured that millions of dollars in farm program payments it made are proper. GAO found that of the 1.8 million individuals receiving farm payments from 2003 through 2006, 2,702 had an average adjusted gross income (AGI) that exceeded $2.5 million and derived less than 75 percent of their income from farming, ranching, or forestry operations, thereby making them potentially ineligible for farm payments. Nevertheless, USDA paid over $49 million to these individuals.” (emphasis added)

Among the excuses reported by USDA officials were:

“resource constraints that hamper its ability to examine complex tax and financial information as well as a lack of authority to obtain and use IRS tax filer data for such purposes—contribute to the department’s inability to verify that each individual who receives farm program payments complies with income eligibility provisions. However, USDA does not routinely sample individuals receiving farm payments to test for income eligibility; instead, its annual sample selected for review is based primarily on compliance with eligibility requirements other than income. The 2008 Farm Bill directs USDA to use statistical methods to target those individuals most likely to exceed income eligibility caps. (emphasis added)

“The 2008 Farm Bill will increase the number of individuals likely to exceed the income eligibility caps. That is, with lower income eligibility caps under the 2008 Farm Bill, the number of individuals whose AGI exceeds the caps will rise, increasing the risk that USDA will make improper payments to more individuals.”

Sure looks like yet another example of Congress caring more about shoveling our tax dollars to their special interests rather than ensuring that federal programs are designed with effective internal controls.

HT: Taxpayers for Common Sense 

UPDATE (11/26/08): In their coverage of the introduction of President-elect Obama's budget director, Peter Orszag, the Wall Street Journal reports "the President-elect singled out farm subsidies for the rich," and based it on the same GAO report cited above. The Journal notes, however, "there is the small matter of where Senator Obama was on this issue when we really needed him . . . The vote in the Senate was 82 to 13. Mr. Obama missed the roll call, issuing a campaign statement . . . ." Another not so small matter involves the 535 members of the U.S. Congress.

November 24, 2008

Bailout Round-up VI - Stimulus Packages

A lot has happened since we last growled about the financial crisis on October 6. It seems every passing day brings a story of another company or industry being bailed out  or some stimulus package being concocted.

Today, the Wall Street Journal reported on the announcement this afternoon by President-elect Barack Obama of his economic team. He also called for a "stimulus package to deal with the immediate crisis," adding the "economy (is) in distress." That raises the question of whether a stimulus package is the proper economic medicine and just how effective past stimulus packages have been.

Russell Roberts, economics professor at George Mason University, wrote in an op-ed titled, “Don’t Just Do Something, Stand There,” in the Wall Street Journal on October 31:

“By acting without rhyme or reason, politicians have destroyed the rules of the game. There is no reason to invest, no reason to take risk, no reason to be prudent, no reason to look for buyers if your firm is failing. Everything is up in the air and as a result, the only prudent policy is to wait and see what the government will do next. The frenetic efforts of FDR had the same impact: Net investment was negative through much of the 1930s.

“The next administration is unlikely to do any better. Mr. Bernanke is perhaps the greatest living authority on the Great Depression, yet he has failed to stem the damage. Messrs. Paulson and Bernanke are confronted with a sick patient. They have antibiotics. They have a scalpel. But is there any evidence from the last seven months that they understand the underlying cause of the illness, or how to cure it?
“Worst of all are the political incentives that are unleashed when Washington promises to spend a trillion dollars (and counting). No one can spend such money wisely even if they want to. The information about who needs to be bailed out and who needs to fail is too complicated. Inevitably, such decisions will begin to be more about politics than economics.”

Could the politicians even solve the current economic problems if they had the necessary information? Not likely according to Brian Riedl, a fellow at the Heritage Foundation. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed on November 14, he explains:

“Government stimulus bills are based on the idea that feeding new money into the economy will increase demand, and thus production. But where does government get this money? Congress doesn't have its own stash. Every dollar it injects into the economy must first be taxed or borrowed out of the economy. No new spending power is created. It's merely redistributed from one group of people to another.”

In an op-ed posted the previous day at CNN.com about a bailout for the Big Three automakers, Dan Mitchell of the Cato Institute wrote:

“A taxpayer bailout would be a terrible mistake. It would subsidize the shoddy management practices of the corporate bureaucrats at General Motors, Ford and Chrysler, and it would reward the intransigent union bosses who have made the UAW synonymous with inflexible and anti-competitive work rules.

“Perhaps most important, though, is that a bailout would be bad for the long-term health of the American auto industry. It would discriminate against the 113,000 Americans who have highly-coveted jobs building cars for Nissan, BMW and other auto companies that happen to be headquartered in other nations.

“These companies demonstrate that it is possible to build cars in America and make money. Putting them at a competitive disadvantage with handouts for the U.S.-headquartered companies would be highly unjust.

“A bailout also would be bad for General Motors, Ford and Chrysler. The so-called Big Three desperately need to fundamentally restructure their practices. More specifically, the car companies need to endure some short-term pain in order to restore long-term viability. But that won't happen if politicians raid the treasury."

Michael Spence, a 2001 Nobel laureate for economics, tried to answer the question of whether a bailout will work in an October 6 essay in Forbes. He concludes:

“If the due diligence was done well, market prices (including housing prices) will, over time, return to something like the intrinsic values, at which point the government will be inclined to sell the assets/mortgages at a measured pace. Will this work? It could. No one knows for sure. But $700 billion is not enough additional capital. The bailout will, therefore, stand or fall on whether it succeeds in causing private capital to return to the sector.”

In a Pajama Media essay on November 21, Dan Mitchell takes on the Keynesians and argues it is a myth that government spending ‘stimulates’ the economy. He explains:

“The people who lend the money to government generally are not the same people who get money in their pockets because of the new spending or tax rebates, but that’s not important. The Keynesian theory is based on the notion that there will be an increase in overall spending power, yet that clearly is not the case. Some advocates of this theory get a bit more creative and say that Keynesianism works because it increases consumer spending rather than the money sitting idle. But money that is unspent by consumers does not sit idle. It winds up in the banking system someplace and is used to finance investment spending. So-called stimulus programs, at best, shift how national income is used so that more gets consumed rather than invested, but at noted earlier, there is no increase in overall economic output.”

Mitchell also writes, “The real-world evidence also confirms that Keynesianism is a failure. Indeed, it was a failure even before Keynes published The General Theory in the mid-1930s.”

Arnold Kling, an adjunct scholar at Cato and a former economist at the Federal Reserve Board writes in the American Enterprise Institute’s “The American:

“Main Street remains suspicious of government plans to buy distressed mortgage assets. Leading politicians and newspaper editorials are struggling to explain how the financial bailout will help Main Street. They see that the challenge is to get the American people to come around.

“In fact, it is the elites who are badly misguided. The reality is that the Paulson plan is nothing more than a government assistance package for a declining industry. It has been embraced eagerly by Democratic politicians who welcome the enhanced power they will enjoy as a result of merging Big Finance with Big Government.

“The American people are being given two reasons to support the bailout, namely, that it is needed to prevent another Great Depression and that it will actually earn a profit for taxpayers. Both rationales are suspect.”

It seems appropriate to close with the following comment by Anna Schwartz during an interview in the Wall Street Journal. Ms. Schwartz is the co-author with Milton Friedman of “A Monetary History of the United States" (1963). It is considered by many to be "the definitive account of how misguided monetary policy turned the stock-market crash of 1929 into the Great Depression."

"(F)irms that made wrong decisions should fail . . . You shouldn't rescue them. And once that's established as a principle, I think the market recognizes that it makes sense. Everything works much better when wrong decisions are punished and good decisions make you rich. (The trouble is) that's not the way the world has been going in recent years."

UPDATE (12/9/08) Title renumbered to "VI" since "V" was posted October 9, 2008.

November 23, 2008

A World Without Prices

Thomas Sowell’s column posted last Tuesday at Townhall.com is, to say the least, priceless. It would be a world where you would "not have to worry about ugly little things like price tags." Want a Rolex or a Rolls-Royce, you just go get one, or even two. Don’t believe there is such a world? Sowell writes:

“There is such a world. It is the world of political rhetoric. No wonder so many people are attracted to that world. It would be a great place to live.” (emphasiss added)

The column should be “required reading” for every citizen before they enter a voting book. Sowell treats us with such verbal treats as:

“Politicians have more ways of escaping from prices than Houdini had ways of escaping from locks. When savvy pols want to hand out goodies, but don't want to take responsibility for raising taxes to pay for them, they can tax people who can't vote -- namely the next generation -- by getting the money by selling government bonds that future taxpayers will have to redeem.”

He concludes with the following:

“But there really is no free lunch, except in the world of political rhetoric, a world that so many want to be in, where they can play Santa Claus without even the cost of buying a costume.”

What a wacky place -- the world of political rhetoric.

November 22, 2008

Arlington County A Caring Community?

Back on August 2, 2008, we were reminded of a request by a former member of the Arlington County Board to the County Manager for a list of examples of Arlington County as a “caring community” when we growled about the news that WMATA will be installing luxurious bus stops along Columbia Pike complete with heated seats, heated floors, and WiFi capability, among other conveniences, and paid for by $2 million from Arlington County taxpayers.

Well, seems the Arlington County Board has more compassion for those earning $150,000 annually than those earning under $25,000 annually. That is the case according to the 2007 report on “Tax Rates and Tax Burdens: Washington Metropolitan Area,” (reuires Adobe) issued September 2008 by Washington, DC’s Deputy Chief Financial Officer. According to the acknowledgements section of the report:

“Each year the Government of the District of Columbia, Office of the Chief Financial Officer, Office of Revenue Analysis publishes Tax Rates and Tax Burdens: Washington Metropolitan Area as required by D.C. Code 47-817.  Taxpayers and government officials in the District of Columbia have a significant interest in the relative tax position of the District compared to the surrounding jurisdictions.”

The acknowledgements section also recognizes “the time, effort and courtesy of officials in the Washington metropolitan area who cooperated in providing information for this report.” Part I of the study says:

“This study compares the state and local tax burdens on a hypothetical family of three in six major metropolitan Washington area jurisdictions: the District of Columbia; the Maryland counties of Montgomery and Prince George's; the Virginia counties of Arlington and Fairfax; and the City of Alexandria in Virginia.  Each jurisdiction provides its own level of services and imposes various taxes to raise funds to pay for those services.  The study does not attempt to compare the level of services provided by each jurisdiction.

“The hypothetical family in this study consists of two wage-earning spouses and one school-age child.  Families with annual gross income levels of $25,000, $50,000, $75,000, $100,000, and $150,000 for each jurisdiction are analyzed.”

The study acknowledges it “is not intended to measure the overall level of taxation in a jurisdiction; rather, it attempts to measure a hypothetical tax burden for a family given the assumptions noted. There is no single "best" way of measuring tax burdens.” Given that plus the assumptions, Table 2 in the report, labelled “Major State and Local Tax Burdens for a Family of Three Residing in Selected Washington Metropolitan Area Jurisdictions, Calendar Year 2007,” shows the following:

  • $25,000 income level: Arlington County ranks #1 with a tax burden of $2,993, Alexandria #2 ($2,857), and the District of Columbia #3 ($2,831).
  • $50,000 income level: Prince George’s County ranks #1 ($5,467), Montgomery #2 ($4,838), and Arlington #3 ($4,444).
  • $75,000 income level: Prince George’s County ranks #1 ($8,430), Montgomery #2 ($7,598), and Arlington #3 ($7,221).
  • $100,000 income level: Prince George’s County ranks #1 ($11,409), Montgomery #2 ($10,469), and Arlington #3 ($9,557).
  • $150,000 income level: Prince George’s County ranks #1 ($16,367), Montgomery #2 ($15,202), District of Columbia #3 ($13,861), and Arlington #4 ($13,631).

So much for the compassionate Arlington County Board, eh?

November 21, 2008

Persistence Rewarded For Robin Ficker

Yesterday’s Washington Post reported that Montgomery County's Robin Ficker gained “his first victory in a 34-year quest to curb county taxes.” The Post explained:

“Ficker's measure, known as Question B, is intended to make it more difficult for the County Council to exceed Montgomery's charter limit on property tax revenue. By the time council members take up the budget in the spring, the measure will require a unanimous vote to surpass the limit, rather than the current requirement of seven votes.”

In a separate story, the Post reported that "Montgomery politicians were kicking themselves, or their colleagues, for letting the former state delegate sneak one by . . . ." The Post's reporter explained it thus:

"Usually when a Ficker proposal has been on the ballot, Democrats, unions and even the Chamber of Commerce unite behind a "vote no" campaign, saying that Ficker's approach would hamstring important government spending."

So high taxes motivates even the liberals in Maryland’s Montgomery County. Unfortunately, however, the reporter seems to think that all government spending is important. No consideration that the panjandrums in Montgomery County will finally have to prioritize how the county spends taxpayers money, thus eliminating a lot of "feel good" spending.

Good work, Mr. Ficker. Your persistence was rewarded.

November 20, 2008

Real Estate Tax Rate Could Jump 16%

Arlington County Manager Ron Carlee has projected a $40 million gap in the FY 2010 budget that will need to be eliminated by tax increases, spending cuts, or some combination of the two, according to his report to the Arlington County Board (agenda item #36 of the Board’s November 18 recessed meeting).

The Arlington Sun-Gazette’s Scott McCaffrey writes in his lede the shortfall “would require a combination of an increase in the real estate tax rate of up to 16.5 percent and cuts to existing services,” adding:

“Carlee said closing the gap between projected revenues and expenses, without cutting programs, would require a 14-cent increase in the current real estate tax rate of 84.8 cents per $100 assessed value.

“Such a huge tax increase would be politically unpalatable to County Board members, and Carlee said he would recommend cuts in services to help lessen the tax burden.”

McCaffrey reports there has “a surprise jump in student enrollment, up 850 students from previous calculations,” adding:

“Based on the revenue-sharing agreement between the county government (which has taxing authority) and school system (which does not), the increase in the student body will result in $7.1 million shifted away from government services and handed over to the schools.”

Regarding assessments, the Sun-Gazette reports:

“County staff are now projecting that residential home assessments could decline 5 percent in 2009, and say they can’t predict how the current economic environment will affect commercial assessments. In the last two years, it has been a healthy commercial sector that has kept the county government’s finances afloat.”

Never fear. I’m sure County Board members will have the concerns of taxpayers foremost in their minds. Hey, want to buy a bridge?

UPDATE (11/21/08): For the official Arlington County story line, here is the county's press release, which says, "Board directs County Manager not to increase tax burden on average home value." (emphasis added)

November 19, 2008

U.S. Rep. Jim Moran Is November’s Porker

Back on November 4, we growled about some members of Congress wanting to do away with 401(k) retirement plans. Part of that growl included a You Tube video of Rep. Jim Moran (D) explaining certain “simplistic notions” about wealth redistribution. For that contribution to economics, Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) named him its November Porker of the Month. According to the CAGW press release:

“The remark occurred during an October 27, 2008 Indian-American Forum Candidate Night in suburban Virginia with his challenger Mark Ellmore (R). Rep. Moran stated “Now, in the last seven years, we have had the highest corporate profit ever in American history, highest corporate profit.  We’ve had the highest productivity. The American worker has produced more per person than at any time.  But it hasn’t been shared and that’s the problem.  Because we have been guided by a Republican administration who believes in this simplistic notion that people who have wealth are entitled to keep it and they have an antipathy towards the means of redistributing wealth.  And they may be able to sustain that for awhile, but it doesn’t work in the long run.”

“Rep. Moran’s punitive conclusion about creating wealth reflects the prevailing ethos of the current Congress,” said CAGW President Tom Schatz. “His remarks offer a window into the soul of the congressional leadership and offer a bare-knuckled preview of the kind of confiscatory policies taxpayers can expect now that there are even fewer fiscal conservatives on Capitol Hill. This Congress intends to reward hard work and productivity with a government-mandated ‘sharing’ program.”

“It is no surprise that Rep. Moran cannot grasp the concept of benefiting from the fruits of one’s labor because all he has ever produced is hot air.  He entered politics soon after graduate school, where he must have majored in putting his foot in his mouth. In 2003, he said, “If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we would not be doing this.” In June, 2006 he told a local group that when he took the helm of a House appropriations subcommittee he was going ‘to earmark the s__ out of it.’”

CAGW says it’s “Porker of the Month” award “is a dubious honor given to lawmakers, government officials, and political candidates who have shown a blatant disregard for the interests of taxpayers.” The award seems well-deserved.

UPDATE (11/21/08): Ilya Somin, blogging at Volokh Conspiracy, explains why she doesn't "approve" of the "egregious Jim Moran." 

November 18, 2008

Using Taxpayer Dollars For What?

Yesterday, we growled about global warmers caught “cooking the data” “that underpin the worldwide alarm over global warming.” We also growled that because of their belief that global warming is caused by human activity, the Arlington County Board approved a residential utility tax to pay for their FreshAIRE initiative, which was launched in 2007.

Now, thanks to the November 2008 issue of Organization Trends (requires Adobe) from Capital Research Center, we learn that taxpayer dollars have been used to help the United Nations inspired group, ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability, “show U.S. cities how to enact climate change policies.” According to the CRC:

“For years, the (U. S.) EPA has generously supported supported ICLEI programs. The federal government agency not only underwrites the organization’s operational costs, but it also serves as a source of funding for local governments that want ICLEI to help “green” their cities. Over the past 11 years, ICLEI has received between $250,000 and $1,500,000 annually in EPA grants to fund its CCP Campaign and emissions analysis software. In 2006, it reported $904,000 in government grants (out of $3.3 million in total revenue) on its IRS 990 tax form, the most recent available.

“The federal National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) gives ICLEI grants for its Climate Safe Cities programs . . . .

“Likewise, the EPA funds ICLEI’s Urban Heat Island Mitigration . . . .

“Liberal and environmentalist groups also subsidize ICLEI operations. In 1997, George Soros’s Open Society gave ICLEI a $2,147,415 grant to support its Local Agenda 21 Project, also sometimes known as Communities 21. These are ICLEI-funded city projects that promote “Sustainability.” They draw their inspiration from the Rio Earth Summit, the 1992 United Nationals environment conference in Brazil.”

A reminder that the full costs of government involves much more than what shows up in government budgets. To paraphrase Everett Dirksen, a little here and a little there, and pretty soon you're paying a lot of taxes.

November 17, 2008

Global Warmers Caught Cooking The Data

As a result of accounting scandals at such corporate entities as Enron, Tyco International, and WorldCom, Congress enacted the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, according to Wikipedia. Section 404 of the act “requires management and the external auditor to report on the adequacy of the company's internal control over financial reporting.” Where are NASA's internal controls over climate change reporting?

Thanks to the United Kingdom’s Telegraph for reporting on the questionable numbers being used to to tout global warming. Yesterday’s Telegraph began:

“A surreal scientific blunder last week raised a huge question mark about the temperature records that underpin the worldwide alarm over global warming. On Monday, (NASA’s) Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), which is run by Al Gore's chief scientific ally, Dr James Hansen, and is one of four bodies responsible for monitoring global temperatures, announced that last month was the hottest October on record.

“This was startling. Across the world there were reports of unseasonal snow and plummeting temperatures last month, from the American Great Plains to China, and from the Alps to New Zealand. China's official news agency reported that Tibet had suffered its "worst snowstorm ever". In the US, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration registered 63 local snowfall records and 115 lowest-ever temperatures for the month, and ranked it as only the 70th-warmest October in 114 years.”

Van Helsing at Moonbattery wraps it up nicely by writing:

“The GISS got the alarming numbers it wanted by carrying over some temperatures from the previous month. As even Al Gore probably knows, September tends to be warmer than October.

“Hansen et al. were caught not by the increasingly irrelevant mainstream media, but by the blogs Watts Up With That and Climate Audit. The GISS's response was to discover a new "hotspot" in the Arctic — despite the fact that sea ice there is 30% more extensive than it was at this point last year.” (the two blogs can be accessed via the Telegraph article)

Even worse, the Telegraph reported  that “last week's latest episode is far from the first time Dr Hansen's methodology has been called in question.”

Thanks to their belief that global warming is caused by human activity, the Arlington County Board approved a residential utility tax on the consumption of electricity and natural gas when they adopted the FY 2008 budget in April 2007. Both taxes were capped at $3.00 each with the money used to pay for, among other things, their FreshAIRE initiative.

Two questions, at least! First, are the internal controls at NASA, including those involving the reporting about global warming, as good as those in the private sector. This seems especially important since the chairman of the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which was established to be “an objective source of information about climate change, is “a former railway engineer with no qualifications in climate science, according to the Telegraph.

Second, will the Arlington County Board now admit they had little or no real scientific basis for initiating their FreshAIRE initiative, and, consequently, there is no need for the revenue from the residential utility tax? Yet today, the Arlington County bureaucrats will donate 1,000 of the so-called compact flourescent light bulbs to three affordable housing providers -- AHC, Paradigm, and Wesley Housing, according to the online Arlington Sun-Gazette.

November 16, 2008

Waste + Mismanagement At Justice Department

Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) is the ranking member of the U.S. Senate’s Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information & International Security. Last month, he issued the report, “Justice Denied: Waste & Mismanagement at the Department of Justice,” one “in a series of oversight reports on federal agencies.” (overview in .html or full report in .pdf) In the cover letter to taxpayers, he wrote the report:

“is meant to shed light on various challenges facing the agency that should be addressed by DOJ management and congressional oversight.  In light of its incredible size and extensive bureaucratic red tape, the federal government is incapable of prioritizing spending and requiring measurable results from those entrusted with billions of hard-earned tax dollars to help carry out its crucial missions.  I believe that you, the American taxpayer, deserve better.”

In the report, Sen. Coburn “identifies over $10 billion in mismanaged, inefficient, duplicative, wasteful, and questionable spending at the DOJ.” (emphasis added) And although Congress appropriates “more than $23 billion annually to the Department of Justice,” the department “ended the last two fiscal years with more than $1.6 billion in unspent and unobligated funds.” A few of the findings from the report’s “quick facts” (requires Adobe Reader) include:

  • “DOJ spent at least $312 million over seven years on conference attendance and sponsorship.  In 2006, the most recent year for which figures are available, the agency sent 26,000 employees (one fourth of its total workforce) to conferences and spent $46 million in the process.”
  • “Since 2005, the number of hours that DOJ employees have been charged with being absent without leave increased from more than 93,000 hours per year, to more than 125,000 hours in 2007 – an increase of 34 percent in just two years.”
  • “Despite their known ties to terror and their being under investigation by DOJ, the agency has funded, endorsed, or otherwise legitimized these same Islamist groups and Muslim Brotherhood affiliates in the U.S., even though DOJ itself is currently investigating these groups.  For example, DOJ has funded and supported The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Muslim Brotherhood affiliate considered by the U.S. government to be a front for terrorist Hamas.  Specifically, in 2005, DOJ’s Community Relations Service hosted a seminar in Houston with CAIR entitled “Building Cultural Competency,”7 and CAIR is a current member of DOJ’s Hate Crimes Task Force in Sacramento, California.”
  • “Several DOJ agencies, including the U.S. Marshals, the DEA, and the FBI, have public affairs staff that act as liaisons to Hollywood movie producers.  DOJ’s most notable Hollywood efforts can be found at the FBI, which has had staff working with the entertainment industry since the 1930s. 9  FBI public affairs staff, who are also responsible for working with non-fiction programs like America’s Most Wanted to find and capture criminals, must divide their time to work with Hollywood.  Some of their recent efforts have included helping with fictional movies such as The Kingdom, Shooter, and Breach, and television programs like Without A Trace, and CSI.”

In his cover letter, Sen. Coburn provides the Internet address to his tip page, or you can mail it to him at his committee office: Senator Tom Coburn, 340 Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 20510.

November 15, 2008

Dealing With Good And Bad Decisions

 "(F)irms that made wrong decisions should fail . . . You shouldn't rescue them. And once that's established as a principle, I think the market recognizes that it makes sense. Everything works much better when wrong decisions are punished and good decisions make you rich. (The trouble is) that's not the way the world has been going in recent years."

--- Anna Schwartz, co-author, with Milton Friedman, "A Monetary History of the United States" (1963). "the definitive account of how misguided monetary policy turned the stock-market crash of 1929 into the Great Depression."

HT Wall Street Journal Interview

November 13, 2008

Clip It, Save It

An editorial in Tuesday’s Investor’s Business Daily noted: “Few presidential candidates have made more specific promises to American voters than Barack Obama. They came so fast and furious in the latter part of the campaign, you'd be excused for not keeping up.” IBD put together a checklist of some of them, which you may want to save until 2012 as a handy reference. Below are just the tax promises:

  • “Give a tax break to 95% of Americans.
  • “Restore Clinton-era tax rates on top income earners.
  • “If you make under $250,000, you will not see your taxes increase by a single dime. Not your income taxes, not your payroll taxes, not your capital gains taxes. Nothing."
  • “Dramatically simplify tax filings so that millions of Americans will be able to do their taxes in less than five minutes.
  • “Give American businesses a $3,000 tax credit for every job they create in the U.S.
  • “Eliminate capital gains taxes for small business and startup companies.
  • “Eliminate income taxes for seniors making under $50,000.
  • “Expand the child and dependent care tax credit.
  • “Expand the earned income tax credit.
  • “Create a universal mortgage credit.
  • “Create a small business health tax credit.
  • “Provide a $500 "make work pay" tax credit to small businesses.
  • “Provide a $1,000 emergency energy rebate to families.”
Other categories of promises included energy, environment, labor, national security, social security, education, spending, and health care. Use the link to the IBD editorial, and save the list for 2012!

November 12, 2008

Virginia General Assembly Goes Merrily Along

On Monday, USA Today reported that spending by  state and local government was cushioning the national economy. Well, it seems members of the Virginia General Assembly have been doing their share for the past 10 years by plundering Virginia’s taxpayers, according to yesterday’s Richmond Times-Dispatch, which reported, “A legislative study says Virginia’s budget has ballooned by about 80 percent in the past decade.” And that’s not adjusted for either inflation or population growth.

But let’s go directly to the source, and not depend on the media for the news. The “key findings” in the report of the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) draft report (requires .pdf), “Review of State Spending: 2008 Update,” are:

  • “Over the past decade, Virginia’s operating budget has increased 80 percent."
  • “Adjusting for the effects of inflation (which increased 29 percent between 1999 and 2008) and population growth (Virginia’s population grew 12 percent over the period), the budget increased by 23 percent, an average annual increase of 2.4 percent."
  • “Budget growth remains concentrated in a few State agencies and programs. Eight of the 153 agencies accounted for nearly 70 percent of all budget growth over the past ten years. Eleven of the 204 budget programs also accounted for about 70 percent of all budget growth during the period."
  • “General fund budget growth was also dominated by a few large agencies, reflectng policy decisions and initiatives of the Governor and General Assembly during the period."

Never fear how to read that news, though. The liberal editorialists at the Roanoke Times warn us to be prepared to hear that “80 percent” figure a lot, beginning the editorial:

“Eighty percent. Virginians should brace themselves to hear that figure a lot, especially once the General Assembly convenes next year. Lawmakers, bloggers and activists who wage a crusade against government will be sure everyone knows state spending grew 80 percent over the last decade. They just won't explain that the number is recklessly simplistic.” (emphasis added)

Actually, the Roanoke Times abuses the issuance of JLARC’s draft report in an attempt to bludgeon "lawmakers, bloggers, and activists" opposed to higher taxes and bigger government. After all, the more important JLARC finding is that the budget grew 2.4%% over and above inflation and population growth each and every one of the past 10 years. Since “sustainability” is a liberal mantra, the Roanoke Times editorialists should know that such budget growth is not sustainable.

November 11, 2008

Making Drunken Sailors Look Good

Yesterday’s USA Today reports that “Even as the economy slides into recession, many state and local governments continue to spend freely and expand their workforces.” The newspaper goes on to say:

“State and local spending jumped 7.4% in the third quarter compared with a year earlier, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis reports. Hiring increased faster than in any sector except health care.

“Total state and local revenue grew just 2.6% in the third quarter. Sales tax collections fell 0.6% as consumers cut spending.

“The government spending boom has helped cushion the economic downturn. It also has put many states and cities on a path toward large budget shortfalls during the next year if spending isn't cut or taxes raised.”

The wonders of fiscal responsibility? Not!

November 10, 2008

Did Voters Really Vote For Change?

Most people know the American people voted last Tuesday for the presidential candidate who promised “hope and change.” Less well know, however, are the many “ballot issues” that were on ballot all across the nation. According to the National Taxpayers Union, their analysis shows “voters often chose prudent stability -- not radical change - when it came to matters affecting their pocketbooks.” NTU reports that:

“At the state and local level, election results likewise revealed no sudden enthusiasm for a new wave of tax-and-spend policies. Measures to abolish the income tax in Massachusetts and reduce income tax rates in North Dakota were soundly defeated, but in Colorado voters upheld the strictest tax and expenditure limit in the country. Known as the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights (TABOR), the law holds the growth of taxes and spending to the annual change in inflation and population, refunds excesses to taxpayers, and requires voter approval for higher taxes. NTU and its allies faced at least a 20 to 1 funding disadvantage against teacher unions and several business interests who backed a measure to gut TABOR, but prevailed when voters rejected the harmful changes to TABOR by a 55 percent-45 percent margin.

A few more examples, according to NTU include:

  • Arizonans defeated a proposal to require consent from a majority of registered voters in an affected locality -- not just a majority of those showing up at the polls -- to enact a tax hike. However, they passed a measure that will permanently ban the imposition of any transfer tax on property such as homes.
  • Minnesotans gave the nod to a 3/8-cent sales tax increase for outdoors and arts programs, but Coloradans nixed a 2/10-cent sales tax hike for aid to the developmentally disabled.
  • In Florida, citizens gave a thumbs-down to a plan that would have provided cities and counties greater latitude to propose local-option sales taxes. More than halfway across the country, Nevadans said "no" to allowing the state to make changes to sales and use tax laws without prior voter consent.
  • Taxes that officials thought were easier to "sell" proved not to be. In Maine, a measure to repeal taxes on alcoholic and other beverages that helped fund the state's health care program passed by a 2 to 1 margin. A major hike in Colorado's severance taxes on oil and natural gas, designed to stoke resentment over energy firms' profits, failed overwhelmingly at the polls.
  • Although bond issues on state ballots tended to pass, there were some notable close calls for high-speed rail in California, for libraries in New Mexico, and for water sanitation in Maine. A $5 billion plan for renewable energy projects actually lost by a wide margin in California.

Guess one can say there is not as much hope for change as the Left would like to think.

November 09, 2008

Where Is The Tipping Point?

With the electorate choosing the far left candidate on Tuesday, it’s not surprising to find many of the conservative pundits wondering when and how conservatives can take back the presidency and Congress. Some wonder if President-elect Obama (D) and the Democratically-controlled Senate and House of Representatives will overreach, and go too far with their desired programs. Not so Mark Steyn, who writes in his weekend column for California’s Orange County Register:

“I disagree with my fellow conservatives who think the Obama-Pelosi-Reid-Frank liberal behemoth will so obviously screw up that they'll be routed in two or four years' time. The president-elect's so-called "tax cut" will absolve 48 percent of Americans from paying any federal income tax at all, while those who are left will pay more. Just under half the population will be, as Daniel Henninger pointed out in The Wall Street Journal, on the dole.

“By 2012, it will be more than half on the dole, and this will be an electorate where the majority of the electorate will be able to vote itself more lollipops from the minority of their compatriots still dumb enough to prioritize self-reliance, dynamism and innovation over the sedating cocoon of the Nanny State. That is the death of the American idea – which, after all, began as an economic argument: "No taxation without representation" is a great rallying cry. "No representation without taxation" has less mass appeal. For how do you tell an electorate living high off the entitlement hog that it's unsustainable, and you've got to give some of it back?

“At that point, America might as well apply for honorary membership in the European Union. It will be a nation at odds with the spirit of its founding, and embarking on decline from which there are few escape routes . . . .”

As RedPlanetCartoons.com puts it in the cartoon below, "Bob the Gardener" just might decide to plant shrubs next year.

 

November 08, 2008

A Fiscally Bipolar Arlington County Government

First, it was the county’s spinmeisters touting the results of the latest satisfaction survey in which “overall satisfaction (was) rated 29% above national average.” (July 17, 2008 press release) Next, “Arlington named nation’s top ‘wealth center.’” (August 19, 2008 press release)

Then in October, the county announced a hiring freeze and spending reduction to close a $10 million budget gap. (October 9, 2008 press release) Now this week, the Arlington Sun-Gazette reports the “delayed arts center proposal (is) headed to (the) County Board. The newspaper’s Scott McCaffrey asks:

“Is it an example of the county government’s commitment to the arts, and an effort to breathe vibrancy into Rosslyn? Or will it be seen as proof that the government just can’t stop spending, even in the wake of an economic downturn?

“Those are the parameters of the debate as County Board members this month take up the oft-delayed proposal to turn the former Newseum space on Wilson Boulevard into a county arts center.”

McCaffrey furthers points out:

“The board will be considering the proposal as it starts grappling with a budget shortfall estimated at $14 million, which could open the door to critics who wonder why the government would embark on an arts center even as it has frozen hiring and is likely to start imposing cutbacks on other programs.”

Why bipolar? In a recent report, “county officials estimated it will cost about $3 million to rebuild the former museum space to meet new needs, and another $3 million in operating costs.” So which is it? And, how do you spend as much as $6 million for something that is clearly not a government function when you’re facing a $14 million or larger deficit?

Taxpayers seeking an answer should contact the Arlington County Board. Use the contact information (phone number and e-mail address) available in the right hand column.

November 07, 2008

When It's Great To Work For The Government

Neal McCluskey of the Cato Institute has a great post today at Cato’s blog -- Cato @ Liberty. He even provides a link to Meat Loaf singing “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad.” In fact, Neal titles the post, “Sing It to the NEA, Mr. Loaf!”

What got into Mr. McCluskey today? First, he notes the “wailing and gnashing” of teeth over school budget cuts, pointing to this item at the LA Times website. Then he provides the following piece of news from a Fox News business report:

“Nearly all of the major sectors of the economy lost jobs. The only industries that saw job gains in October were the education, government and health sectors — which are often considered recession-resistant.” (emphasis added)

Neal concludes by saying:

“That’s a trifecta of security for public school nurses, but pretty good news for teachers and administrators as well. After all, two out of three ain’t bad!”

Recession-resistant eh? Something to remember when the Arlington County Manager and Superintendent of Schools make their recommendations for cost-of-living adjustments next spring.

November 06, 2008

What Will The Shifting Sands Bring?

Since yesterday’s Growls featured former President Ronald Reagan’s famous 1964 speech, “A Time for Choosing,” that he gave on behalf of 1964 GOP candidate Barry Goldwater, it seems appropriate to follow that with columnist George Will’s column today in RealClearPolitics.com in which he asks, “What Would Goldwater Do?”

After noting that in 1980, Walter Mondale “spoke of voters wielding ‘their staggering power,’” Will writes:

“This year's energized electorate did that, thereby proving, among other things, that bad governance is good for turnout, a fact that should give pause to people who think high rates of voting are unambiguous indicators of civic health.”

Will then mentions the vote totals in several recent elections, and the “ideological sorting out” that goes on, before pointing out:

“Although John McCain's loss was not as numerically stunning as the 1964 defeat of Barry Goldwater, who won 16 fewer states and 122 fewer electoral votes than McCain seems to have won as of this writing, Tuesday's trouncing was more dispiriting for conservatives. Goldwater's loss was constructive; it invigorated his party by reorienting it ideologically. McCain's loss was sterile, containing no seeds of intellectual rebirth.”

Then, Will explains the shifting outcomes of the 1936 and 1960 election before concluding:

“Still, the Republican Party retains a remarkably strong pulse, considering that McCain's often chaotic campaign earned 46 percent of the popular vote while tacking into terrible winds. Conservatives can take some solace from the fact that four years after Goldwater won just 38.5 percent of the popular vote, a Republican president was elected. (emphasis added)

“The conservative ascendancy that was achieved in 1980 reflected a broad consensus favoring government more robust abroad and less ambitious at home -- roughly the reverse of Tuesday's consensus. But conservatives should note what their current condition demonstrates: Opinion is shiftable sand. It can be shifted, as Goldwater understood, by ideas, and by the other party overreaching, which the heavily Democratic Congress elected in 1964 promptly did.” (emphasis added)

How soon will the sand start shifting, again?

November 05, 2008

A Time For Choosing

On October 27, 1964, former President Ronald Reagan gave a speech on behalf of Barry Goldwater, the Republican presidential candidate. Here are a few portions from “The Speech.” The link is to a verbatim transcript at the Reagan Foundation. Ir has 4,626 words, and prints out about 14 pages.

“Not too long ago two friends of mine were talking to a Cuban refugee, a businessman who had escaped from Castro, and in the midst of his story one of my friends turned to the other and said, "We don't know how lucky we are." And the Cuban stopped and said, "How lucky you are! I had someplace to escape to." In that sentence he told us the entire story. If we lose freedom here, there is no place to escape to. This is the last stand on Earth. And this idea that government is beholden to the people, that it has no other source of power except to sovereign people, is still the newest and most unique idea in all the long history of man's relation to man. This is the issue of this election. Whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capital can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.”

“In this vote-harvesting time, they use terms like the "Great Society," or as we were told a few days ago by the President, we must accept a "greater government activity in the affairs of the people." But they have been a little more explicit in the past and among themselves--and all of the things that I now will quote have appeared in print. These are not Republican accusations. For example, they have voices that say "the cold war will end through acceptance of a not undemocratic socialism." Another voice says that the profit motive has become outmoded, it must be replaced by the incentives of the welfare state; or our traditional system of individual freedom is incapable of solving the complex problems of the 20th century. Senator Fullbright has said at Stanford University that the Constitution is outmoded. He referred to the president as our moral teacher and our leader, and he said he is hobbled in his task by the restrictions in power imposed on him by this antiquated document. He must be freed so that he can do for us what he knows is best. And Senator Clark of Pennsylvania, another articulate spokesman, defines liberalism as "meeting the material needs of the masses through the full power of centralized government." Well, I for one resent it when a representative of the people refers to you and me--the free man and woman of this country--as "the masses." This is a term we haven't applied to ourselves in America. But beyond that, "the full power of centralized government"--this was the very thing the Founding Fathers sought to minimize. They knew that governments don't control things. A government can't control the economy without controlling people. And they know when a government sets out to do that, it must use force and coercion to achieve its purpose. They also knew, those Founding Fathers, that outside of its legitimate functions, government does nothing as well or as economically as the private sector of the economy.”

“No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this Earth. Federal employees number 2.5 million, and federal, state, and local, one out of six of the nation's work force is employed by the government. These proliferating bureaus with their thousands of regulations have cost us many of our constitutional safeguards. How many of us realize that today federal agents can invade a man's property without a warrant? They can impose a fine without a formal hearing, let alone a trial by jury, and they can seize and sell his property in auction to enforce the payment of that fine. In Chico County, Arkansas, James Wier overplanted his rice allotment. The government obtained a $17,000 judgment, and a U.S. marshal sold his 950-acre farm at auction. The government said it was necessary as a warning to others to make the system work. Last February 19 at the University of Minnesota, Norman Thomas, six-time candidate for President on the Socialist Party ticket, said, "If Barry Goldwater became President, he would stop the advance of socialism in the United States." I think that's exactly what he will do.”

HT Mark Levin Show for providing a link this evening to "The Speech" at Americn Rhetoric, which includes an mp3 audio. As Mark notes, "this is exactly what's going on today.

November 04, 2008

Your 401(k) Could Be Next

In an editorial yesterday in Investor’s Business Daily, the newspaper wrote:

“There are plenty of ways to play the redistribution game. One is to get rid of deductions for retirement savings, and Democrats are considering a plan to do just that.”

IBD begins the editorial saying:

“What the presidential candidates say now is important, but it's Congress that ultimately shapes tax law. Voters should be listening not just to Barack Obama and John McCain, but also to Democrats who hold key positions in Congress — particularly in the House, which has sole power under the Constitution to originate revenue bills.

“So what are powerful House Democrats thinking these days? For one thing, they're not happy with 401(k)s. Granted, no one who has 401(k) money in the stock market has much to be happy about. But it's not just the loss of investor wealth that has Democrats questioning these tax-advantaged retirement plans. They also dislike the plans' freedom of choice and the size of 401(k) tax deductions for higher-paid workers.

“The so-called "tax subsidy" of 401(k) plans comes to $80 billion a year, and its biggest beneficiaries are employees in higher tax brackets. A worker making $35,000 and paying income tax in the 15% bracket gets a $525 break by setting aside 10% of pay in a 401(k). A worker making $150,000 and paying in the 28% bracket gets $4,200 from the same 10% deferral.

“You can see why this irks the spread-the-wealth party . . . .”

Some voters in Arlington County and other parts of Virginia’s 8th Congressional district may appreciate the following explanation gleaned from a You Tube video of Rep. Jim Moran (D) explaining the principle of economics at an October 31 candidates’ debate:

“The last seven years has seen the highest corporate profit . . . but it hasn’t been shared and that’s the problem . . . Simplistic notion that people who have wealth are entitled to keep it and they have an antipathy towards the means of redistributing wealth . . . and (capitalism) doesn’t work in the long run.”

To further appreciate Rep. Moran’s understanding of the nation’s political economy, check the Weekly Standard blog that includes his famous quote regarding the use of taxpayers’ money, “When I become chairman [of a House appropriations subcommittee], I'm going to earmark the sh** out of it.” It.” There’s also a “bonus video” with “Moran freaking out on constituents who dare to ask Democrats to take at least a bit of responsibility for the housing crisis.”

November 03, 2008

Some Thoughts for Election Day

“To win votes, politicians feign a god-like capacity to "feel your pain" and to be deeply concerned about persons they've never met.  Mature people, of course, don't take such poses seriously.

"At the very least, voters should heed Charles Dickens's warning, issued in A Tale of Two Cities, against persons who deal in "second-hand cares" - that is, persons who are "principally occupied with the cares of other people."  This great novelist observed that "second-hand cares, like second-hand clothes, come easily off and on.”

-- Donald J. Boudreaux, Chairman, Economics Department, George Mason University

HT Cafe Hayek, where Mr. Boudreaux co-blogs with his colleague Russell Roberts

UPDATE (11/3/08); This quote by Edmund Burke, a leading political thinker of 18th century England, from 1784:

“The people never give up their liberties but under some delusion.” 

November 02, 2008

Thank Media For What We Don’t Know

Ask my family one thing about me, and they’ll probably tell you I talk about little other than politics. I admit it, I’m a news junkie. Which leads me to say that if Sen. Obama wins Tuesday’s presidential election, he will owe a gigantic debt to the news media, or what Rush Limbaugh calls the Drive-Bys.

On Friday, Rush Limbaugh provided his listeners “a montage of Charlie Rose and Tom Brokaw trying to figure out who Obama is.” The essence of it is that news media icons Tom Brokaw of NBC and Charlie Rose of PBS do not know who presidential aspirant Sen. Barack Obama (D) is. Take your choice from: 1) 4:09 minute segment from Charlie Rose’s October 30 interview with Tom Brokaw admitting they know almost nothing about Obama; 2) a 31-second audio montage of sound bites available at You Tube; and 3) transcript of the audio montage from the Rush Limbaugh Show’s website, which follows:

ROSE:  I don't know what Barack Obama's worldview is.

BROKAW:  No, I don't, either.

ROSE:  I don't know how he really sees where China is.

BROKAW:  We don't know a lot about Barack Obama and the universe of his thinking about foreign policy.

ROSE:  I don't really know.  And do we know anything about the people who are advising him?

BROKAW:  Yeah, it's an interesting question.

ROSE:  He is principally known through his autobiography and through very aspirational (sic) speeches.

BROKAW:  Two of them! I don't know what books he's read.

ROSE:  What do we know about the heroes of Barack Obama?

BROKAW:  There's a lot about him we don't know.”

As Rush quipped, “Incredible!” My sentiments, exactly.

Yes, there has been some effort to fill-in what Sen. Obama means by hope and change, but it is random and scattered at best. For example, in an interview with Iowa public broadcasting in November 2007, Sen. Obama advocated ‘price signals’ to change peoples’ behaviors. He then admitted that when government takes from companies (taxes anyone?) those companies do nothing but raise their prices on consumers. Essentially, he said the middle class can sit in a dark house while the power companies figure out how to produce power at a lower cost. Watch this presidential aspirant in his own words, thanks to this video posted by Little Green Footballs.

If you think that is radical, watch this video from a January 2008 interview Sen. Obama had with the San Francisco Chronicle. The entire transcript is also provided, thanks again to Little Green Footballs, but here’s the substance:

“Let me sort of describe my overall policy. What I’ve said is that we would put a cap and trade system in place that is as aggressive, if not more aggressive, than anybody else’s out there . . . So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can. It’s just that it will bankrupt them.”

Note what LGF adds: “NewsBusters points out that the SF Chronicle didn’t mention this statement in their article based on this interview. Shocka!“

Shocking? Shocking, indeed! Tell me I shouldn’t think that paying for another Washington Post, New York Times, or another liberal newspaper does anything but continues their incompetence. The same applies to the liberal broadcast media. I’m willing to be convinced the Drive-Bys aren't "in the tank" for Sen. Obama, however.

November 01, 2008

The Politics Of Crowds

After almost three days, it is quite rare to find a newspaper’s opinion piece still in the “top 5” of its most popular emailed items. However, one such item from Thursday’s Wall Street Journal’s opinion pages is still there. Written by Fouad Ajami, professor of Middle Eastern Studies at the School of Advanced International Studies of Johns Hopkins University, the essay begins:

“There is something odd -- and dare I say novel -- in American politics about the crowds that have been greeting Barack Obama on his campaign trail. Hitherto, crowds have not been a prominent feature of American politics. We associate them with the temper of Third World societies. We think of places like Argentina and Egypt and Iran, of multitudes brought together by their zeal for a Peron or a Nasser or a Khomeini. In these kinds of societies, the crowd comes forth to affirm its faith in a redeemer: a man who would set the world right.”

“As the late Nobel laureate Elias Canetti observes in his great book, "Crowds and Power" (first published in 1960), the crowd is based on an illusion of equality: Its quest is for that moment when "distinctions are thrown off and all become equal. It is for the sake of this blessed moment, when no one is greater or better than another, that people become a crowd." These crowds, in the tens of thousands, who have been turning out for the Democratic standard-bearer in St. Louis and Denver and Portland, are a measure of American distress.

“On the face of it, there is nothing overwhelmingly stirring about Sen. Obama. There is a cerebral quality to him, and an air of detachment. He has eloquence, but within bounds. After nearly two years on the trail, the audience can pretty much anticipate and recite his lines. The political genius of the man is that he is a blank slate. The devotees can project onto him what they wish. The coalition that has propelled his quest -- African-Americans and affluent white liberals -- has no economic coherence. But for the moment, there is the illusion of a common undertaking -- Canetti's feeling of equality within the crowd. The day after, the crowd will of course discover its own fissures. The affluent will have to pay for the programs promised the poor. The redistribution agenda that runs through Mr. Obama's vision is anathema to the Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and the hedge-fund managers now smitten with him. Their ethos is one of competition and the justice of the rewards that come with risk and effort. All this is shelved, as the devotees sustain the candidacy of a man whose public career has been a steady advocacy of reining in the market and organizing those who believe in entitlement and redistribution.”

Take a few moments to read the essay in it’s entirety. You won’t be disappointed. Near the end, Ajami writes:

“America is a different land, for me exceptional in all the ways that matter. In recent days, those vast Obama crowds, though, have recalled for me the politics of charisma that wrecked Arab and Muslim societies. A leader does not have to say much, or be much. The crowd is left to its most powerful possession -- its imagination . . . The morning after the election, the disappointment will begin to settle upon the Obama crowd. Defeat -- by now unthinkable to the devotees -- will bring heartbreak. Victory will steadily deliver the sobering verdict that our troubles won't be solved by a leader's magic.”