Water bottles and other campaign debris

Ever since 2008, conspicuous fainting episodes have occurred with bizarre regularity at President Obama’s campaign rallies.  Some wider attention came earlier this week when Obama, who offers a consistent, canned response to these potentially serious collapses, inadvertently called for a “paralegal” instead of a paramedic. Michael Medved, who has documented this phenomenon since the beginning, has a good point regarding the displays: how does the Commander-in-Chief know it’s just a swoon and nothing more serious?

The fainting routine, with Mr. Obama’s predictable admonition to eat food, drink water, and remain calm,  is quite possibly meant to bolster his image as a confident, competent leader. He can have own mini Bush-with-a-bullhorn moment, giving gentle nanny state prescriptions that earn laughter from the adoring crowd. But one Medved caller this week had an alternate take: with the president habitually 20-60 minutes late to appointments, and belting out stump speeches nearing an hour, it would be no surprise if the fainting fans were genuine and not crowd plants.

Why do mainstream journalists, the “dinosaur media” if you will, turn a blind eye to Obama and his fellow Democrat’s campaign gimmicks?  Who knows what other minutia have gone undocumented while the media combs over Romney’s vacation photos, his financial arrangements, and his 1999-2002 status at Bain?

Of course it’s the substance and not the minutia that matters.  Yet, it was with some pain that I learned of new–if trivial –criticisms from two Hollywood geek icons.  Mark Hamill, the actor who played Luke Skywalker in Star Wars, recently knocked Mitt Romney as “not human.”  His critique hinged on how awkwardly the governor responded to a sip of lemonade.  Really?  Hamill’s observation rivals Matt Damon’s fearful, perhaps bigoted babble from 2008 that managed to mention Sarah Palin, dinosaurs, and nuclear codes in the same breath.

Giving good company to Hamill is Wil Wheaton, who played the star ship’s resident whiz kid on Star Trek: The Next Generation.  He took the occasion of a recent George Bush interview to lament the loss of life and treasure the 43rd president instigated with a “war of choice.”  It’s regrettable the actor doesn’t understand that jihadis have free will or that all wars are embarked upon as a deliberate exercise.

The men who once played space teens on film and television can now–fittingly enough–join Cher, who apparently left Earth so she could avoid breathing the same air as Mitt Romney.  Celebrities’ reflexive gags make nice conservative water cooler talk, but they also indicate just how impervious some sections of the country are to reality.

Let’s return from our Hollywood excursus to Washington, where we get a different taste of the same liberal worldview.  The media, after four days of burying its head in the sand, has reluctantly picked up on President Obama’s “You didn’t build that” gaffe.  And while ABC moved quickly to paint it as out of context, The Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto insists the gaffe was a genuine betrayal of a deeply liberal inner attitude.

If you read the wider quote from Obama, Taranto has solid reasoning: “that” refers to the singular and proximate “business.”  Obama would have said “those” if he were referring to the earlier bridges and roads.  Yet, I would entertain the possibility of a simple slip up, since “you didn’t build that” has more of a rhetorical impact than “you didn’t build those.”  It also reminds us of MC Hammer’s sweet refrain, “U can’t touch this.”

Is all this attention unfruitful nitpicking?  Not inasmuch as it draws focus to the real and gaping philosophical chasm that separates Democrats from Republicans.  Undeniably, economic policy is ultimately driven by a sense of who “owns” growth and success.

What does lack substance is the liberal canard that the rich need to “pay back” for all they’ve been given.  Not that Republicans deny a need for some government in the first place!  High income earners already pay much more than the rest of us under our already progressive tax regime.  And all the while, we can’t deny the abounding opportunity that many of those earners’ businesses provide.

There is no need for top income earners to pay “us” back or forward, for that matter.  But we could use comprehensive tax reform, a closing of loopholes and lowering of rates that Romney and a Republican Congress will deliver if elected.  If only our electorate can navigate the field of campaign season debris first.


How Buffett bluster boomerangs; or, Taxosaurus Rex

The unvarnished rhetoric coming out of the White House over the past two weeks has been just too delectable for conservative commentators.  In a recent WSJ piece, Daniel Henninger suggests that Democrats’ furious assault on Paul Ryan’s budget plan is desperate “thermonuclear” overkill.  Indeed, all the accusations of Social Darwinism and “trickle-down” economics cannot make up for Democrats’ utter lack of seriousness when it comes to the national debt.

As the White House rolled out the practically inconsequential yet politically expedient Buffett Rule this week, I was amazed at the justification given by allied economist Alan Krueger.  The Christian Science Monitor quotes:

“In addition to fairness, in fact it’s a step in the direction of economic efficiency,” said Alan Krueger, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors. The Buffett rule allows people to “devote more effort what their focus should be, which is to their jobs and job creation … rather than restructuring their income to minimize their taxes.”

He’s alleging that the tax increases economic efficiency.  But how does government spend anyone’s money better than they themselves would?  During the global high tide of state central planning in the 1940s, F.A. Hayek explained cogently in his The Road to Serfdom who spends money best: the one who earns it.

When given other people’s money, legislators face the temptation of buying constituents’ votes with pork rather than allocating it wisely.  Then the money goes to bureaucrats, who are not careful enough with it.  Their lack of accountability flows from the political difficulty of de-funding them.  It is the original income earner who best appreciates the sweat and effort it took to get the money.  She appreciates the reality that her income might dry up tomorrow, and so will handle it more carefully than the central planners.

According to his critics, the car elevator in Mitt Romney’s mansion is a bad thing.  But he used his own money, which he only earned in the first place by benefiting others in voluntary transactions.  And the construction provided gainful employment to all sorts of craftsmen.

President Obama, meanwhile, either had to grow our debt or tax money out the economy to give us public project flops like Solyndra and the constipated stimulus weatherization projection.  Money that otherwise would have been carefully spent in private hands was squandered by legislators and bureaucrats.

Of course, not all government spending is bad; some spending is necessary.  But Krueger’s claim that a tax increases efficiency overlooks government’s great tendency towards inefficiency.

The case against the Buffetteers may be clearer when we look at that favorite magic word of progressives and liberals, “investment.”  Any public project from education to high-speed rail becomes an unmitigated good if it can be spoken in terms of investment.  But our current, low tax rates vindicate private investments as an even greater good.  This is why Buffett and Obama pay less in taxes than their secretaries.  The Monitor quotes Marco Rubio:

“What [Americans] need to understand is the reason why he may pay less than his secretary, in terms of the rate, is that she makes her money on a paycheck and he makes his money on investments,” Senator Rubio said. “We have always wanted Warren Buffett to, instead of putting that money in a coffee can, to take his money and invest it, because that created jobs.”

As much as the Buffett-minded would increase taxes on private investment earnings, they would demolish the incentive to invest and crash the stock market.  In this way the Buffett Rule boomerangs back on itself.

Class envy can’t lift up the poor, but it can bring us all down.  Let’s all move past the Buffett distraction.

SOTU 2012: The Tax Loophole Jump

SOTU 2012:The Business Tax Loophole Jump


There were some nice things about Tuesday’s State of the Union Address:  Representative Gifford’s recovery, the accomplishments of our awesome Navy SEALs, and Mitch Daniels’ well-spoken and clever GOP response.  And there were some not so nice things.

Looking at the fiscal picture, President Obama’s speech boiled down to two proposals: shuffling business tax credits and asking for more money on things we already spend a lot on.  Among the various behaviors the President aspires to manipulate through a fresh scrambling of our already deeply convoluted tax code: who businesses hire, how much they pay those employees, what  manufacturers make, and where they make those things.  Has the White House not gotten one of those memos on tax simplification?  What ever happened to the recommendations from the Simpson-Bowles report they commissioned?  All of the new tax credits (read: loopholes) will only distort market behavior.  And market distortions are “what got us into this mess.”

Then there are the new outlays he requested.  First, to create a new bureaucracy, the Trade Enforcement Unit.  I think he is going for the Jack Bauer vote by calling it a unit, as in “Counterterrorism Unit (CTU).”  Its a worthy cause, but can’t it be done by retasking existing agencies?  Next on the list is money to transform community colleges into “community career centers.”  I don’t know what they were before if not that!  Just a place to find a date for Friday night?  Finally, he asked us to fork more money over for teachers.  But it seems like school voucher programs don’t count.  Democrats only accept more money for education when it doesn’t threaten unions.

I don’t think our President has managed to outdo himself in 2012.  Last year’s “Winning the Future” (WTF) theme with $53 billion for high speed rail projects is just too tough to beat.  And that outlandish record will hopefully stand if this State of the Union address is President Obama’s last.

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