Friday, February 27, 2009

What Will Obama’s Budget Cost You? $25,573.48… EACH!

Posted by Warner Todd Huston (Profile)

Friday, February 27th at 7:44AM EST

Obama is about to unleash a $3.552 TRILLION budget on this poor nation. So, if we each of us were expected to fork over our share of that tab, what would it cost us? Well, according to Toby Harnden, blogger for the Daily Telegraph, it would amount to $25,573.48 each.

I don’t know about you but, I just don’t have it.

So how much will President Barack Obama’s budget cost us? The projected 2010 budget of $3.552 trillion can be found on page 114 of the “New Era of Responsibility” budget here.

The US Census bureau estimates that the current US population is 304,059,724. Dividing the $3.552 trillion by that gives us close to the $11,833 that Drudge came up with. ABC’s Jake Tapper reports that there wil be $989 billion in new taxes over the next decade.

I’m an American taxpayer and the starkest figure is what this could cost me. The latest figure I could find for the number of US taxpayers is 138,893,908 returns in 2007 here. By my reckoning, that’s $25, 573.48 each.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Posted by Rep. John Shadegg

Last night President Obama said, “I asked this Congress to send me a recovery plan…Not because I believe in bigger government - I don’t.”


If that’s true, why was every single policy the President suggested last night…big government?

Mr. President, if you don’t like big government, perhaps you should consider not making it the centerpiece of your administration. That makes about as much sense as holding a fiscal responsibility summit days after passing one of the biggest spending bills in history.

Wait. That already happened.

Okay, how about this: saying you don’t like big government while promoting it, would kind of be like railing against earmarks while getting ready to sign a bill with, oh say, 9,000 of them.

Wait – that’s also really happening, house Democrats passed it today.

I guess we’re seeing a trend. The President tells the American people he’s not into big government, while he proposes expanding government. It’s like that high school crush you didn’t want to tell anyone about.

But of course, it’s not much of a secret in this case. After all, it’s hard to hide things like trillion-dollar spending bills and pork stacked a mile high. I’m also sure Americans will notice when the government tries to take over their health care and raise their taxes. And they won’t be happy.

There’s a reason, Mr. President, lines in your speeches saying you don’t like big government are a big hit – it’s because, believe or not, people hope you mean it.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Hey! Let's allow Big Brother to keep track of our highway mileage!

Rick Moran
As it stands now, road maintenance is funded largely through the gas tax. It is a pretty fair way to allocate the tax burden since the more you drive and use those roads, the more taxes you pay.

But our new Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood doesn't think we're getting enough cash as a result of the gax tax - or at least not enough for the Obama administration. So, instead of the gas tax, there are proposals to fund road building and maintenance by charging drivers for every mile they drive.

How would the government know how much to bill you for your driving? They want to stick a GPS device in your car and monitor where you go and how much you drive. Of course, they would also be able to determine who you visit, what stores you shop at, and all sorts of other juicy information that Big Brother would love to get his paws on:

"We should look at the vehicular miles program where people are actually clocked on the number of miles that they traveled," the former Illinois Republican lawmaker said.

Most transportation experts see a vehicle miles traveled tax as a long-term solution, but Congress is being urged to move in that direction now by funding pilot projects.

The idea also is gaining ground in several states. Governors in Idaho and Rhode Island are talking about such programs, and a North Carolina panel suggested in December the state start charging motorists a quarter-cent for every mile as a substitute for the gas tax.

A tentative plan in Massachusetts to use GPS chips in vehicles to charge motorists by the mile has drawn complaints from drivers who say it's an Orwellian intrusion by government into the lives of citizens. Other motorists say it eliminates an incentive to drive more fuel-efficient cars since gas guzzlers will be taxed at the same rate as fuel sippers.

Besides a VMT tax, more tolls for highways and bridges and more government partnerships with business to finance transportation projects are other funding options, LaHood, one of two Republicans in President Barack Obama's Cabinet, said in the interview Thursday.

"What I see this administration doing is this — thinking outside the box on how we fund our infrastructure in America," he said.

I've got a great idea, Ray. Instead of "thinking outside the box" on this, let's just put this back in the box, close the lid, seal it, and never bring it out again.

This is a bad idea on so many levels one wonders at the brazenness of the Obama Administration and whether the press would make a stink about such a massive intrusion into the privacy of American citizens.

Chances are, they would meekly accept it as the price to pay for "energy independence" or "to stop global warming" or any other excuse the Administration could use to keep track of us.

We can always stop driving, I guess.

Reverend Wright lives on in the Obama administation

Meghan Clyne of the Weekly Standard reports that President Obama has appointed Reverend Dr. Otis Moss Jr. to serve on the President's Advisory Council established as part of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships (did you get all that?). Moss is the father of Reverend Otis Moss III, who succeeded the infamous Jeremiah Wright as the spiritual leader of the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, which Obama attended for something like 20 years.

Moss Jr. himself has close ties to Wright. According to Clyne, they shared a mentor in Samuel DeWitt Proctor, who helped give rise to black liberation theology. Ironically, it was the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference that sponsored Wright's appearance at the National Press Club last April -- the one that finally caused Obama to break with his racist, anti-American pastor.

Moss is full of praise for Wright. Last February, after Wright's anti-American ravings had come to light, Moss said he had been blessed by Wright's "genius, his creativity, his scholarship, his discipleship, his sensitivity as a prophet, and. . .his rhythmic poetry." Moss' own rhetoric is less deranged than Wright's but, as Cline shows, it is inflammatory enough. And Moss is the co-author, with Wright, of a book that refers to U.S. education and health care policy as "weapons of mass destruction."

Moss should fit in well on Obama's new Advisory Council. Other members include black liberation theologist Vashi McKenzie, who has preached at Trinity, and Jim Wallis a former (?) Marxist and a defender of Wright.

Even before breaking with Wright, Obama argued (in his Philadelphia speech) that his pastor and those like him didn't get that America had changed from when they were young. Yet Obama has now selected a misguided (according to him) "race man" to advise on spiritual matters.

Apparently, Obama finds it useful to keep the grievances of Wright and Moss alive even though he knows, and his election confirms, that they are seriously outdated.

Dear President Obama:

I have a straightforward question, which I hope you will answer in a straightforward way: Is it your intention to censor talk radio through a variety of contrivances, such as "local content," "diversity of ownership," and "public interest" rules -- all of which are designed to appeal to populist sentiments but, as you know, are the death knell of talk radio and the AM band?

You have singled me out directly, admonishing members of Congress not to listen to my show. Bill Clinton has since chimed in, complaining about the lack of balance on radio. And a number of members of your party, in and out of Congress, are forming a chorus of advocates for government control over radio content. This is both chilling and ominous.

As a former president of the Harvard Law Review and a professor at the University of Chicago Law School, you are more familiar than most with the purpose of the Bill of Rights: to protect the citizen from the possible excesses of the federal government. The First Amendment says, in part, that "Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press." The government is explicitly prohibited from playing a role in refereeing among those who speak or seek to speak. We are, after all, dealing with political speech -- which, as the Framers understood, cannot be left to the government to police.

When I began my national talk show in 1988, no one, including radio industry professionals, thought my syndication would work. There were only about 125 radio stations programming talk. And there were numerous news articles and opinion pieces predicting the fast death of the AM band, which was hemorrhaging audience and revenue to the FM band. Some blamed the lower-fidelity AM signals. But the big issue was broadcast content. It is no accident that the AM band was dying under the so-called Fairness Doctrine, which choked robust debate about important issues because of its onerous attempts at rationing the content of speech.

After the Federal Communications Commission abandoned the Fairness Doctrine in the mid-1980s, Congress passed legislation to reinstitute it. When President Reagan vetoed it, he declared that "This doctrine . . . requires Federal officials to supervise the editorial practices of broadcasters in an effort to ensure that they provide coverage of controversial issues and a reasonable opportunity for the airing of contrasting viewpoints of those issues. This type of content-based regulation by the Federal Government is . . . antagonistic to the freedom of expression guaranteed by the First Amendment. . . . History has shown that the dangers of an overly timid or biased press cannot be averted through bureaucratic regulation, but only through the freedom and competition that the First Amendment sought to guarantee."

Today the number of radio stations programming talk is well over 2,000. In fact, there are thousands of stations that air tens of thousands of programs covering virtually every conceivable topic and in various languages. The explosion of talk radio has created legions of jobs and billions in economic value. Not bad for an industry that only 20 years ago was moribund. Content, content, content, Mr. President, is the reason for the huge turnaround of the past 20 years, not "funding" or "big money," as Mr. Clinton stated. And not only has the AM band been revitalized, but there is competition from other venues, such as Internet and satellite broadcasting. It is not an exaggeration to say that today, more than ever, anyone with a microphone and a computer can broadcast their views. And thousands do.

Mr. President, we both know that this new effort at regulating speech is not about diversity but conformity. It should be rejected. You've said you're against reinstating the Fairness Doctrine, but you've not made it clear where you stand on possible regulatory efforts to impose so-called local content, diversity-of-ownership, and public-interest rules that your FCC could issue.

I do not favor content-based regulation of National Public Radio, newspapers, or broadcast or cable TV networks. I would encourage you not to allow your office to be misused to advance a political vendetta against certain broadcasters whose opinions are not shared by many in your party and ideologically liberal groups such as Acorn, the Center for American Progress, and There is no groundswell of support behind this movement. Indeed, there is a groundswell against it.

The fact that the federal government issues broadcast licenses, the original purpose of which was to regulate radio signals, ought not become an excuse to destroy one of the most accessible and popular marketplaces of expression. The AM broadcast spectrum cannot honestly be considered a "scarce" resource. So as the temporary custodian of your office, you should agree that the Constitution is more important than scoring transient political victories, even when couched in the language of public interest.

We in talk radio await your answer. What will it be? Government-imposed censorship disguised as "fairness" and "balance"? Or will the arena of ideas remain a free market?

By Rush Limbaugh

Online survey

Who is the most important person?

1. Obama
2. Jesus
3. Martin luther king

This is very sad.

Dow since Obama took office

Dow opened on Jan 20 at 8230, closed today Feb 20 at 7365.
The market shows it's approval every day. It is showing
that business is not happy with the way things are going.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Stimulus will lead America in the direction of Western New York

By Michael Filozof

If you want to know what President Obama's new style of government-led, Democratic Party economic and political policies will bring to the country, you need look no further than Western New York -- and what you'll see isn't pretty. Nearly every item in the Obama economic and political agenda -- from health care to taxes to unions to gun control to government schemes to spend money to "stimulate" the economy -- has already been tried here, but the region remains stagnant and moribund.

The economy of Western New York and the cities of Buffalo and Rochester are, for practical purposes, socialist. The private sector is nearly dead, government is the largest employer, and taxes and union membership are the highest in the nation. As a result, economic growth is nil, and the population continues to migrate to the Sun Belt at an alarming rate.

It would be an understatement to say that the region is a Democratic Party stronghold; "uni-party rule" is a more accurate description. Buffalo has not elected a Republican mayor since 1962. Party registration in Buffalo's Erie County favors the Democrats 150,000. Republicans have been reduced to a permanent minority here, and it's not unheard of for lifelong Democrats - former Erie County Executive Joel Giambra, for example - to switch party labels to Republican only after they could not obtain the Democratic nomination. The Democratic Party also controls the Governor's office and both houses of the State Legislature, along with 26 of the state's 29 House seats and both Senate seats.

Mere possession of a handgun, even in one's home, requires a government permit, which can take up to a year to obtain in some counties. The federal "assault weapons ban" which expired nationwide in 2004 -- but which President Obama promised to reinstate on a permanent basis -- has been codified into state law and remains in effect here.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, New York State has the highest rate of union membership in the country. Nearly 25% of the workforce here is unionized. Virtually all public sector employees here are unionized, and richly compensated as a result. In 2008, a Buffalo cop caused a stir by milking the overtime and seniority rules to earn nearly $200,000 in his last years on the job, enabling him to retire with a pension of $100,000 per year. Unionized city school district janitors can earn between $70,000 and $100,000 per year. In the private sector, bankrupt auto parts maker Delphi, a major employer in Lockport, is staggering under the weight of its union contracts, and American Axle recently closed a unionized facility in Buffalo.

The public sector dominates here. Data from the Census Bureau in 2004 indicated that there were 95,300 public sector employees in the Buffalo-Niagara Metropolitan Statistical Area out of a total labor force of 547,000; by comparison, only 66,400 were employed in manufacturing and 20,300 in "construction and mining." Only the category of "trade, transportation, and utilities" produced more private-sector jobs - 102,000 - than government.

In 2008, the three largest employers in Buffalo were all in the public sector. The State of New York employed 16,500, the Federal government 10,000, and the City of Buffalo 8,200. Of the top three private sector employers, two -- Kalieda Health with 10,000 employees Catholic Health Systems with 4,900 -- were hospitals, heavily reliant on state and federal aid. HSBC Bank, with 5,800 employees, rounded out the top three.

Health care remains a major employer in the region because the population is aging. Medicare and Medicaid provide substantial funding to the health-care industry. But Medicaid here is out of control. New York's Medicaid system the costliest in the nation, double that of California's. Medicaid here pays for just about everything. Several years ago a public outcry caused the state's Medicaid system to stop paying for Viagra for convicted sex offenders, but it continues to fund abortions.

Things are not much better in nearby Rochester. For decades Rochester was a company town, home of the once-mighty Eastman Kodak Co. But Kodak has been shedding jobs for three decades, and in 2006 the University of Rochester, a non-profit educational institution, surpassed Kodak as the city's largest employer.

The high rate of public employment requires a substantial tax burden to support it. A 2008 study by the Tax Foundation found that 8 of the top 10 counties in the nation with the highest property-tax burdens were in Western New York. Niagara County was ranked number one, Monroe County number two, and Erie County number seven. But residents here do not merely pay high property taxes; the combined state and county sales tax in Erie County is a staggering 8.75%, and the state levies an income tax that averages 5% as well. The state even demands that residents pay sales taxes on items purchased by mail or on the Internet and shipped into New York from other states. The state recently raised nearly 100 taxes and fees to meet this year's budget; even so, Gov. David Paterson is predicting a $15 billion budget deficit for next year.

The enormous sums of money flowing into government coffers gives politicians the means to dictate the terms on nearly everything. Almost nothing here is decided solely by market forces in the private sector. Political operatives spend public money at the behest of favored interest groups, and consequently nearly every idea for "economic development" involves some harebrained scheme carried out by socialist-type planning that invariably fails.

In 1978, Buffalo began construction on a light rail/subway system. The first portion of the system -- which eliminated auto traffic on Main Street -- was only 5 miles long and opened in 1984 at a cost of $500 million. The system flopped. Planned extensions of the rail line never materialized, and ridership dropped from 7.1 million on 1996 to 5.6 million in 2006. By 2008, even more public money was committed to re-opening Main Street to traffic.

In 2000, some were optimistic about private sector investment when Adelphia Communications Company announced plans for a $125 million office in downtown Buffalo. But by 2002 Adelphia, $2.3 billion in debt, went bankrupt and its principal owners, John and Timothy Rigas, were sent to prison on fraud charges.

The next plan, announced in 2004, was to commit $66 million in public money to entice hunting and fishing retailer Bass Pro Shops to build a 250,000 square foot outlet in downtown Buffalo. Advocates of the plan claimed that the store would bring 3 to 5 million people per year downtown and anchor an "economic revitalization." Nearly five years later, despite the commitment of tens of millions in taxpayer dollars, Bass Pro has not materialized.

Equally ridiculous schemes have been hatched in Rochester. Several years ago, city leaders somehow became convinced that residents of Toronto, a city of 5 million with major league sports, theater, and world-class restaurants, were just beside themselves with desire to come to Rochester, a city of 219,000 with minor-league sports and way off-Broadway entertainment. They solicited bids for companies to run a ferry operation across Lake Ontario, and guaranteed sums of public money to construct harbor facilities for the project.

The ferry was launched in June 2004 -- and went bankrupt by September. The chagrined leaders of the city then decided to use tax dollars to purchase the ferry at a bankruptcy auction for $32.5 million, and contracted with another company to operate the vessel. The project went belly-up for a second time in 2005, forcing the city to sell the vessel at a loss, and pay millions to fulfill other financial commitments related to the ferry.

More recently, a plan was announced in 2007 to commit $50 million in state funds to demolish existing structures in downtown Rochester, which would enable PAETEC Co., a telecommunications firm, to move its headquarters about 10 miles from suburban Fairport to downtown. But by 2008 PAETEC's stock dropped below $1 per share, and the company announced that it was losing millions and would cut more than 200 jobs, putting its new office building plans on hold.

Even the highly-touted "green energy" is present here: Niagara Falls has produced "green energy" for over 100 years, but it's heyday is long past. Today, hundreds of wind turbines dot the hills of rural Wyoming County, but they are not a significant source of either jobs or industry.

Despite these repeated gimmicks to stimulate economic growth, the private sector here has failed to prosper, taxes remain astronomical, and the public "votes with its feet." In 2008, Forbes magazine listed Buffalo as one of the top 10 "fastest dying cities." The previous year, Harvard economist Edward Glaeser wrote an article entitled "Can Buffalo Ever Come Back?" The subtitle was "Probably Not -- and the Government Should Stop Bribing People to Stay There."

Glaeser argued that decades of public spending -- on office towers, sports arenas, urban renewal, and the light rail system -- failed to halt Buffalo's population decline from a high of 585,000 in 1950 to under 290,000 today. The surrounding area has not fared much better; census data shows that the Buffalo-Niagara Metropolitan Statistical Area lost 51,000 people since 2000. Ditto for Rochester; the city's population fell from 328,000 in 1930 to 219,000 in 2000.

People who leave the area tend to head for the low-tax, pro-growth, right-to-work states of the Sun Belt, especially North Carolina and Florida.

But at least the people have someplace to go. If the Obama "stimulus" program replicates the same kind of heavy-handed political agenda and tax policies found in Western New York on a nationwide basis, where will the people go then?

Dobson students question Obama's plan

A Dobson High School Advanced Placement government class with strong opinions about Barack Obama watched the president's speech Wednesday on a small, grainy TV in the corner of their classroom.

Principal, student talk hoops with Obama

Obama lays out plan amid hundreds at Dobson

Some of the students attentively watched the speech, giving questioning looks and comments, shaking their heads and laughing at some of Obama's words. Other students listened, occasionally glancing up to watch, while texting on their cell phones, reading a book or finishing school work.

The gymnasium's events were shown simultaneously in rooms throughout the Mesa school, and teachers were given discretion on whether to show the speech, the students said.

The students in the class were hopeful things will work out, but questioned whether Obama's plan would actually work to dig the country out of its economic woes. They also expected a longer speech.

Senior Syna Daudfar took some notes during the speech and was among the most vocally opposed to Obama's words.

At one point, when he talked about the costs of his stimulus plan, senior Maaike Albach and Daudfar looked at each other and said, "uh-oh."

"Overall I think it's a good idea, but he's not addressing the issues of the economic crisis," said Daudfar, a John McCain supporter who added that he leans more toward being a moderate conservative. "The spending bill he just passed is just progressing the Democratic agenda rather than addressing the economic issues in the country."

Daudfar thinks Obama's plan is backward and deals with the "less important stuff" first. "Bailing out businesses" and "providing better regulatory systems for giving out money to businesses" should have been first, he said.

"If businesses can't afford to hire people, then people won't be able to work and pay off their mortgages," he said. "It's kind of like putting money into a funnel."

Albach, who is also a Republican, said Obama's plan sounds good, but she questioned how Obama can want to rely on "people's responsibility" when that is "what got us in this economic crisis in the first place."

"This puts us more into debt," said Albach, 18. "It's a horrible situation we're in."

Senior Brandon Miller wore a shirt with the words, "Hitler gave great speeches, too" above a picture of Obama.

Miller said he had been an Obama supporter "because of his speeches," but after debating the issues in this class and looking more into Obama's policies, his vote was swayed toward McCain.

He showed a video on his camera he had just taken of the president's minutelong motorcade and talked about what a "great experience" it was to watch it. Miller had also spent a couple of hours in front of the school, hanging out and watching the protesters.

"Even though I don't support him, I think it's cool he's here," said Miller, 18. "I just don't believe all the things he's telling us. His goal is just too big and broad."

Miller wanted to hear more about the costs and guidelines the stimulus bill entails.

Senior Katelyn Meyer, who also leans more toward being a Republican, said Obama's plan sounds good, "but it's easier said than done."

"I like the refinancing part, and I like the part about mortgages, but I'm afraid we're going to put the money in but won't see any effect," said Meyer, 18, who still thought it was "cool" to say that the president was at her school, even though she didn't get to see him live.

The students also questioned why Obama chose their school for his speech since he wasn't talking about education and wondered how much money the district spent on beautifying the campus while district positions and services are being cut.

District officials noted this week that the landscaping project completed over the weekend at Dobson was already in the works and was just expedited by the president's visit. Funding came from voter-approved bonds.

New sod was laid in front of the school Tuesday, and Daudfar said, "The joke at the school is they're going to take it away when he (Obama) leaves."

AP government teacher Jeff Sherrer said his students "feel very strongly about the issues, maybe more than the general population." He thought at least one of his students was outside protesting, and he had planned to take his students outside as a class project to show them what was going on, but didn't get the chance.

"These kinds of kids really get into it," Sherrer said. "During the election, we had lots of debates on the issues."

Rick Santinelli, a reporter for CNBC

The protests are starting, even from the mainstream media.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Whats the rush?

When congress had to get the Tarp bill passed back in October, we had to get it passed right away or the economy was going to fall apart. The passed it fast, the banks kept the money and didn't do what they were suppose to do with it. the economy didn't fall apart.

Obama had to have the stimulus bill passed right away. So fast that the house and the senate had to pass it Friday of the economy possible would not ever recover. Both the house and senate passed it without reading what was in the $787 billion bill. After the rush Obama took a long weekend in Chicago and will not even sign it until Tuesday. The dems also said it would be posted online so everyone could read it for 48 hours before a vote. there just wasn't enough time the country was going to fall apart if it wasn't done Friday. Now waiting until Tuesday is fine to sign it. I don't get it. All the lies.

Friday, February 13, 2009

How can they be so stupid, to vote on the biggest spending bill in history without even reading it.

It might be called a stimulus bill, but it’s far from stimulating reading. At 1,434 pages, and written in the usual incomprehensible legalese, the stimulus is going to be passed unread by members of Congress. That’s no fault of theirs, blogs Jimmie Bise at the Sundries Shack; to read the bill in time, they would have to average 640.5 words per minute for 13 hours.

“If anyone needs a potty break, they’d better take the bill with them,” Bise writes. Democrats say we need the bill fast, but pushing for a 9am vote seems a little much. “Just know as you’re at work tomorrow," he wrote yesterday, "that the Democrats will be voting to spend about $800 billion dollars without having the foggiest idea what they’ll be spending it all on.”

Feinstein blows our Pakistani cover

Until now, most people assumed that the US conducted its Predator strikes on Taliban and al-Qaeda targets from bases in Afghanistan. Now, however, Senator Dianne Feinstein has exposed a Pakistani partnership on Predator launches that the previous administration tried to keep quiet. Her offhand remark may put the entire program in jeopardy:

A senior U.S. lawmaker said Thursday that unmanned CIA Predator aircraft operating in Pakistan are flown from an airbase inside that country, a revelation likely to embarrass the Pakistani government and complicate its counterterrorism collaboration with the United States.

The disclosure by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, marked the first time a U.S. official had publicly commented on where the Predator aircraft patrolling Pakistan take off and land.

At a hearing, Feinstein expressed surprise at Pakistani opposition to the ongoing campaign of Predator-launched CIA missile strikes against Al Qaeda targets along Pakistan’s northwest border.

“As I understand it, these are flown out of a Pakistani base,” she said of the planes.

Until now, that was a closely guarded secret. The drone attacks are incredibly unpopular among the Pakistani public, and the US didn’t want to undermine the current, democratically-elected government in Islamabad. They wanted to give the Yousef Gilani government deniability on their cooperation with the American military in order to keep our options for attack open.

This isn’t the first time Feinstein has blown a sensitive operation by opening her mouth, either. Californians will recall that Mayor Feinstein called a press conference to discuss the Night Stalker case, a string of violent rapes and murders that terrified the entire state. She divulged previously-confidential information about Richard Ramirez’ shoes and gun — and on hearing it, Ramirez promptly dumped them into the bay on his way out of town, eliminating key evidence in the case.

This exposure will cause much greater damage. The Pakistani public will almost certainly demand an end to these Predator flights, which have been highly successful at decimating terrorist leadership in inaccessible areas of the Pakistani frontier. Without that kind of tactic available, we will have to fall back to more intrusive and potentially less effective overflights from Afghanistan. This could allow our enemies breathing room to rebuild their networks in the region, and put us on a collision course with Islamabad on our efforts to fight them. At the very least, Feinstein has just complicated the diplomatic situation for Barack Obama by an order of magnitude.

A Reckless Approach to Governance

Posted by Ed Feulner (Profile)

Friday, February 13th at 3:15PM EST

For the last 35 years, educators and analysts at The Heritage Foundation have been intimately involved in the nation’s great public policy debates. In all that time, we have never encountered legislation with such far-reaching and revolutionary policy implications as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act currently before Congress. And never have we seen a bill more cloaked in secrecy or more withdrawn from open public exposure and honest debate.

In addition to being the single most expensive bill ever proposed, this measure calls for a massive expansion of the federal government’s reach into the day-to-day life of virtually every citizen, business and civic organization in the nation. That, in itself, should be the subject of an extensive public conversation and thoughtful debate. Instead, we have seen Congressional leaders schedule snap votes on a 1,434-page bill that no one — repeat, no one — has had a chance to read in its entirety, much less digest and deliberate.

This bill has been advertised as an economic stimulus bill — despite the fact that the Congressional Budget Office estimates it will actually weaken our nation’s long-term economic growth. While the stimulative utility of the bill is, at best, questionable, it would unquestionably rewrite the social contract between the American people and their government. For example:

* The bill reverses the bipartisan and highly successful welfare reforms of 1996 and drastically expands the welfare state. For instance, it will start rewarding states for adding people to their welfare rolls, rather than for helping them find gainful employment. And contrary to long-established practice, it will entitle able-bodied adults without children to receive cash assistance.
* It does extreme violence to the concept of federalism—bailing out states that have spent irresponsibly at the expense of taxpayers in states that have been fiscally prudent.
* It greatly shifts the responsibility and power over health care delivery and decision making from individuals to government. Among other things, it would create a new federal health board to decide which medical services are “effective” in America, paving the way for government effectively to overrule the clinical decisions of private physicians.
* It deliberately censors religious speech and worship on school campuses by prohibiting use of any “stimulus” funds for facilities that are used for sectarian instruction, religious worship, or a school of divinity.

The list goes on. These and similar provisions will mean fundamental changes in our society. In many instances, the bill would establish policies that directly challenge widely held American values.

We are appalled that Congress is even contemplating such profound changes with so little openness and due diligence. In the past, major policy changes in our welfare system, or health care, or trade policies, etc., were always, quite properly, preceded by extensive public conversation and full debate. That is how a democracy should make important decisions.

The failure of Congress and the Administration to allow that debate is damaging to our democracy. Both chambers of Congress suspended their budget rules to push it along. And both the President and the leaders of the House and Senate have violated their solemn promises that the bill would be available for several days of public review prior to voting, so that the American people might have a chance to learn what is in the bill and to make their views known to their elected officials.

This reckless approach to governance can only undermine public faith in our elected officials and our government as a whole. We call on Congress and the Administration to live up to their promises and stated ideals, and give the democratic process a chance to work.

Caterpillar Employees Reject Obama and his Reckless Spending Package

While visiting Caterpillar headquarters in Peoria, IL, yesterday, President Obama instructed employees of the construction company to tell their representative, Congressman Aaron Schock (R-IL), to support his $800 billion spending package.

On the floor of the House this morning, Schock announced that not one single employee came up to him after Obama’s speech — and that, contrary to the president’s claims, every one of the 1,400 telephone calls to Schock’s office from Caterpillar workers has been in opposition to the “stimulus” bill.

Borders Bookstore now makes Obama the religion for your children

This is a picture taken at a Borders Bookstore in Dallas, TX.

This is in the children’s section.

SURPRISE! Dems Break Promise: Stimulus Bill to Floor Friday by Connie Hair 02/12/2009

In a press conference Thursday, the House Republican leadership spoke candidly about being kept out of the House-Senate conference on the Obama-Pelosi-Reid so-called “economic stimulus” bill. They confirmed they had not yet seen the text of the bill as of 4 p.m.

Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said he was unsure how many Democrats would vote with Republicans again on this bill but that he thought Republicans “may get a few” Democrats to side with them. The fact that the Demos have now broken their promise to have the public able to see the bill for 48 hours may drive more Dems into the Republican camp.

“[I] don’t know, ‘cause they haven’t seen the bill either,” Boehner said.

“The American people have a right to know what’s in this bill,” Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind) told HUMAN EVENTS after the press conference. “Every member of Congress -- Republicans and Democrats -- voted to post this bill on the internet for 48 hours, 48 hours ago. We’ll see if the Democrats keep their word.”

Actually -- as of 5:15 pm, the Democrats had broken their word. The stimulus bill -- which we still haven’t seen -- will be released late tonight and will be brought up on the House floor at 9 am tomorrow.

The following statement was released by Majority Leader Steny Hoyer at 4:57 p.m.:

"The House is scheduled to meet at 9:00 a.m. tomorrow and is expected to proceed directly to consideration of the American Recovery and Reinvestment conference report. The conference report text will be filed this evening, giving members enough time to review the conference report before voting on it tomorrow afternoon."

Meanwhile, at an earlier presser Thursday, Pelosi -- while talking about legislation regarding school construction funds -- said it was vital to see the language of a bill before making decisions. had the following quote:

“With all of this you have to see the language. You said this --- I said that --- I understood it to be this way --- you know, we wanted to see it in writing and when we did that then we were able to go forward."

"Around here language means a lot. Words weigh a ton and one person's understanding of a spoken description might vary from another's. We wanted to see it. And not only just I had to see it, I had to show it to my colleagues and my caucus. We wanted to take all the time that was necessary to make sure it was right."

Congressional members are also exchanging barbs via the popular social network Twitter. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) twittered, "Don't know when we're going to vote. Will the no votes delay vote just because they can? Speed is important. They know that."

House Republican Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) twittered back, “Those in favor of speed over commonsense may just be afraid of letting the People know what they are ramming through.”

UPDATE: The Democrats finally made the bill's language available around 11 p.m. Thursday, approximately 10 hours before members meet Friday to consider the bill and 38 hours short of the time promised Americans to review the bill.

Will this bill stimulate the economy? Ecomomist say no.

WASHINGTON — The compromise economic stimulus plan agreed to by negotiators from the House of Representatives and the Senate is short on incentives to get consumers spending again and long on social goals that won't stimulate economic activity, according to a range of respected economists.

"I think (doing) nothing would have been better," said Ed Yardeni, an investment analyst who's usually an optimist, in an interview with McClatchy. He argued that the plan fails to provide the right incentives to spur spending.

"It's unfocused. That is my problem. It is a lot of money for a lot of nickel-and- dime programs. I would have rather had a lot of money for (promoting purchase of) housing and autos . . . . Most of this plan is really, I think, aimed at stabilizing the situation and helping people get through the recession, rather than getting us out of the recession. They are actually providing less short-term stimulus by cutting back, from what I understand, some of the tax credits."

House and Senate negotiators this week narrowed the differences between their competing stimulus plans. In so doing, they scrapped a large tax credit for buying automobiles that would've caused positive ripple effects across the manufacturing sector. They settled instead on letting purchasers of new vehicles deduct from their federal taxes the state and local sales taxes on the cars they bought.

The exception to this is for buyers of plug-in hybrids, cars that run off a battery that can be charged at home or in the office. Buyers of these vehicles, available in very limited supply, could get a tax credit of up to $9,100.

A Republican-backed proposal that would've provided a $15,000 tax credit to first-time homebuyers also was scaled back dramatically. Instead, the compromise provides first-time homebuyers a tax credit of up to $8,000, and it doesn't have to be repaid over the life of the mortgage. Incentives already in place offer buyers a $7,500 credit that must be repaid, so the bill is an improvement, but short of what many economists think is necessary.

Another reason that some analysts frown on the stimulus is the social spending it includes on things such as the Head Start program for disadvantaged children and aid to NASA for climate-change research. Both may be worthy efforts, but they aren't aimed at delivering short-term boosts to economic activity.

"All this is 25 years of government expansion jammed into one bill and sold as stimulus," said Brian Riedl, the director of budget analysis for the Heritage Foundation, a conservative policy research group.

The view wasn't much more supportive on the other side of the political spectrum. In a brief on the stimulus compromise, William Galston, a senior fellow at the center-left Brookings Institution and a former Clinton White House adviser, warned Thursday that a bank-rescue plan being finalized will make the $789 billion look like "pocket change."

"While the stimulus bill is a necessary condition for economic stabilization and recovery, it is hardly sufficient," Galston wrote. "As the lesson of Japan in the 1990s shows, fiscal stimulus without financial rescue yields stagnation — at best."

" . . . Serious observers believe that recovery cannot begin until we acknowledge that losses in the financial system amount to some trillions of dollars, rendering many institutions insolvent. The temptation will be to muddle along, hoping that these institutions can gradually regain strength without putting massive amounts of taxpayers' money at risk. If we go down that road, we are likely to end up with zombie banks whose balance sheets are riddled with near-worthless investments — banks that cannot lend to credit-worthy customers and who cannot trust one another," Galston wrote.

With the economy in a tailspin, doing nothing isn't an option, however.

"Something is better than nothing, and bigger was better than smaller in terms of the stimulus needed," said Chris Varvares, president of prominent forecaster Macroeconomic Advisers in St. Louis. "The economy needs a fiscal jolt."

Even some proponents of a stimulus are disappointed, however. Harvard University economist Martin Feldstein, a former adviser to President Ronald Reagan, was an early supporter. He said that government is now the only engine left to spark economic activity, but he said that the compromise falls short of what's needed.

"If the choice is between the current bill and an improved bill, I would say wait and improve the bill," Feldstein told CNBC on Wednesday after the compromise was announced. "I am disappointed with the structure of this bill."

Like Yardeni and other analysts, Feldstein wanted more incentives for consumers to make big purchases that have ripple effects across the economy. When a car is purchased, it helps not only the carmaker, but its suppliers, the trucking companies and railroads that transport cars, the states that issue license plates and so on.

Still, could this stimulus get the U.S. economy back on its feet?

By itself, probably not. The stimulus plan, however, is supposed to work in tandem with new efforts by the Treasury and the Federal Reserve to rid banks of distressed assets that are poisoning their balance sheets, and with other federal efforts to halt mortgage delinquencies and foreclosures. Much will depend on the details of both federal attack plans, which the Obama administration promises are coming soon.

There's also the problem of time. Much of the stimulus is to be spread over a two-year period or longer — and 2009 looks increasingly bleak.

A Wall Street Journal survey of 52 mainstream economic forecasters published Thursday found that while most forecasters still think there could be slow growth by the second half of the year, that won't offset steeper-than-projected declines in the first half of 2009.

That means this is essentially a lost year for the economy. Most scenarios envision the economy picking back up again next year.

The president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in a speech in Detroit Thursday, tried to put a brave face on the tough year ahead. Thomas Donohue acknowledged that big business didn't get in the stimulus bill some of the tax-relief measures it most wanted, but promised the Chamber's support.

"The bottom line is that at the end of the day, we're going to support the legislation. Why? Because with the markets functioning so poorly, the government is the only game in town capable of jump-starting the economy," Donohue said.

The house passes this crap bill.

WASHINGTON (AP) - Handing the new administration a big win, House Democrats passed President Barack Obama's $787 billion plan to resuscitate the economy on Friday despite a wall of Republican opposition. The bill was approved 246-183 and sent to the Senate, where a vote was scheduled late Friday afternoon.

That vote was to be held open for hours, waiting for Ohio Democrat Sherrod Brown, who was attending a memorial service for his mother and then flying back to cast the deciding vote.

Senate passage would meet a deadline of sending the bill to Obama before a congressional recess begins next week.

The 1,071 page, 8-inch-thick measure combines $281 billion in tax cuts for individuals and businesses with more than a half-trillion dollars in government spending. The money would go for infrastructure, health care and help for cash-starved state governments, among scores of programs. Seniors would get a $250 bonus Social Security check.

Told that no Republican backed the measure, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs reacted by citing another number: "3.5 million jobs that we look forward to saving or creating."

Seven Democrats voted against the bill.

Republicans said the package won't work because it has too little in tax cuts and spreads too much money around to everyday projects like computer upgrades for federal agencies.

"This legislation falls woefully short," said House GOP Leader John Boehner of Ohio. "With a price tag of more than $1 trillion when you factor in interest, it costs every family almost $10,000 in added debt. This is an act of generational theft that our children and grandchildren will be paying for far into the future."

The final $787 billion measure has been pared back from versions previously debated in order to attract support from three Senate GOP moderates—Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania. Their help is essential to meeting a 60-vote threshold in the Senate, required to overcome a Republican objection that the bill adds to the deficit.

The bill originally passed the Senate by a 61-37 tally, but Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., suffering from brain cancer, is not expected to vote this time.

Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., who withdrew his nomination to be Obama's Commerce secretary, said he would vote against the bill.

Democrats lavished praise on the measure, which combines tax cuts for workers and businesses with more than a half-trillion dollars in government spending aimed at boosting economic demand.

"By investing in new jobs, in science and innovation, in energy, in education ... we are investing in the American people, which is the best guarantee of the success of our nation," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

The plan is the signature initiative of the fledgling Obama administration, which is betting that combining tax cuts of $400 a year for individuals and $800 for couples with an infusion of spending for unemployment assistance, $250 payments to people on Social Security, and extra money for states to help with the Medicaid health program for the poor and disabled will arrest the economy's fall.

Local school districts would receive $70 billion in additional funding for K-12 programs and special education and to prevent cutbacks and layoffs and repair crumbling schools. There's about $50 billion for energy programs, much of which goes to efficiency programs and renewable energy.

Some $46 billion would go to transportation projects, not enough to please many lawmakers.

Negotiators insisted on including a $70 billion tax break to make sure middle- to upper-income taxpayers won't get hit by the alternative minimum tax and forced a reduction of Obama's signature tax break for 95 percent of workers.

The AMT was designed 40 years ago to make sure wealthy people pay at least some tax, but is updated for inflation each year to avoid tax increases averaging $2,300 a year. Fixing the annual problems now allows lawmakers to avoid difficult battles down the road, but economists say the move won't do much to lift the economy.

Republicans pointed out a bevy of questionable spending items that made the final cut in House-Senate negotiations, including money to replace computers at federal agencies, inspect canals, and issue coupons for convertor boxes to help people watch TV when the changeover to digital signals occurs this summer.

"This measure is not bipartisan. It contains much that is not stimulative," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., Obama's rival for the White House. "And is nothing short—nothing short—of generational theft" since it burdens future generations with so much debt, he added.


Associated Press Writer Ben Feller contributed to this report.

Here is how we vote on spending bills now.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A Raw Deal for American Families

The Democrats’ trillion dollar spending bill provides $1.10 per day in tax relief to workers, while saddling every American family with $9,400.00 in added debt.

Following are some very tentative quick facts on the trillion-dollar “stimulus” spending deal slated to be rushed through the House and Senate today or tomorrow by Congressional Democrats, as compiled by the Office of House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH). These are based on best estimates on legislative text and scoring and may be subject to revision. Keep in mind that the Democrats haven’t actually released the actual text yet.

1. Generational Theft. The final agreement will cost each and every household more than $9,400 in additional debt (including interest on the bill), paid for by our children and grandchildren.
2. Paltry Tax Relief for Working Families and Small Businesses. The “Making Work Pay” tax credit at the center of the plan amounts to $1.10 a day, not even enough to ride the bus one-way to work.
3. Massive Government Expansion. The final agreement is almost as much as the annual discretionary budget for the entire federal government.
4. A Trillion-Dollar Spending Bill. The $789.5 billion final agreement slated for a House vote either today or tomorrow will exceed more than $1 trillion when adding in the interest of approximately $300 billion between 2009-2019.
5. Unnecessary Spending That Won’t Create Jobs. Apparently included in the final “jobs” bill is money for plug-in vehicles, money for STD prevention, and money for ACORN (via the Neighborhood Stabilization Program and CDBG program). The final agreement also creates new programs and funds existing programs that can be used to fund earmarks and pork-barrel projects.
6. The bill contains enough spending - $789.5 billion – to give every man, woman and child in America $2,600. $789.5 billion is enough to give every person in Ohio more than $68,000.
7. Supporters of the bill say it saves or creates 3.67 million new jobs. But, the data they are circulating shows only 3.46 million – that’s 210,000 fewer than their talking points claim, 500,000 fewer than President Obama promised, and a staggering 2.74 million fewer than the 6.2 million jobs that would be created by the House GOP alternative.
8. The bill creates 31 new programs totaling $97 billion (31% of all appropriations) and expands 73 programs by $92 billion which are part of the regular appropriations process, not “stimulative spending.”
9. Almost one-third of the so called “tax relief” in the bill is spending in disguise, meaning that true tax relief makes up only 26% of the total package – a far cry from the 40 percent that President Obama had requested.
10. A provision tucked in the bill will further increase government involvement in health care by putting bureaucrats – not doctors - in charge of health care choices for families and seniors.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The trade war that the Democratic Congress is inviting

Posted by Soren Dayton (Profile)

Tuesday, February 10th at 12:31PM EST

Canadian unions are urging retaliation against a Buy America provision:

Two of Canada’s largest unions are urging the federal government to adopt a Buy Canadian policy similar to the proposal that has been criticized in the United States.

The Europeans and the Chinese haven’t kicked in yet. President Obama and the Democrats in Congress are standing at the edge of a precipice, trying to decide whether to jump and further damage our economy.

H/T Greg Mankiw.

Obama kills the ability for the Oil companies to drill off the coast. there goes the gas price again.

Let’s put aside for the moment that this story is from PMSNBC and “Bush era” refers to the long-past times of approximately six months ago. In the latest in a series of panders nods to the desires of his Leftist supporters, the President has overturned President Bush’s offshore drilling plan.

From the article:

The move comes a week after the Interior Department shelved energy leases on 130,000 acres near two national parks and other federally protected lands in Utah.

In Congress, Democrats have long wanted to rewrite the rules on royalties from offshore drilling, arguing that energy companies have been paying too little.

In the words of my near-twin here on RS, NightTwister, “$6/gallon gas, here we come”

Don’t forget to send those thank-you cards and letters to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Oh, and also - Ken’s brother John T. Salazar is up for re-election next year….those of you in his district out in Colorado can thank his bro’ by supporting John’s opponent in 2010. Tell him Ken Salazar sent you.

PS: Just heard about this - help Heritage fight this one - go to and support a conservative approach to energy independence.

PPS: Yet more - this time, from the American Petroleum Institute, which points out:

Secretary Salazar’s announcement means that development of our offshore resources could be stalled indefinitely. That would delay Americans’ access to nearly 160,000 new, well-paying jobs, $1.7 trillion in revenues to federal, state and local governments and greater energy security.


Monday, February 9, 2009

12 American Solutions for Jobs and Prosperity

This is from Newt Gingrich. This make much more sense than the current spending bill that Obama is trying to pass.

1. Payroll Tax Stimulus. With a temporary new tax credit to offset 50% of the payroll tax, every small business would have more money, and all Americans would take home more of what they earn.

2. Real Middle-Income Tax Relief. Reduce the marginal tax rate of 25% down to 15%, in effect establishing a flat-rate tax of 15% for close to 9 out of 10 American workers.

3. Reduce the Business Tax Rate. Match Ireland’s rate of 12.5% to keep more jobs in America.

4. Homeowner’s Assistance. Provide tax credit incentives to responsible home buyers so they can keep their homes.

5. Controlling Spending So We Can Move to a Balanced Budget. This begins with eliminating Congressional earmarks and wasteful pork-barrel spending.

6. No State Aid Without Protection From Fraud. Require state governments to adopt anti-fraud and anti-theft policies before giving them more money.

7. More American Energy Now. Explore for more American oil and gas and invest in affordable energy for the future, including clean coal, ethanol, nuclear power and renewable fuels.

8. Abolish Taxes on Capital Gains. Match China, Singapore and many other competitors. More investment in America means more jobs in America.

9. Protect Our Right to Vote in the Workplace. We must protect a worker’s right to decide by secret ballot whether to join a union.

10. Replace Sarbanes-Oxley. This failed law is crippling entrepreneurial startups. Replace it with affordable rules that help create jobs, not destroy them.

11. Abolish the Death Tax. Americans should work for their families, not for Washington.

12. Invest in Energy and Transportation Infrastructure. This includes a new, expanded electric power grid and a 21st century air traffic control system that will reduce delays in air travel and save passengers, employees and airlines billions of dollars per year.


Writer Charles Platt during his stint as a Wal-Mart employee in Flagstaff, Ariz.
Writer Charles Platt during his stint as a Wal-Mart employee in Flagstaff, Ariz.

Some people, usually community activists, loath Wal-Mart. Others, like the family of four struggling to make ends meet, are in love with the chain. I, meanwhile, am in awe of it.

With more than 7,000 facilities worldwide, coordinating more than 2 million employees in its fanatical mission to maintain an inventory from more than 60,000 American suppliers, it has become a system containing more components than the Space Shuttle - yet it runs as reliably as a Timex watch.

Sheltered by rabble rousers who forced Wal-Mart's CEO to admit it "wasn't worth the effort" to try to open in Queens or anywhere else in the city, New Yorkers may not fully realize the unique, irreplaceable status of the World's Largest Retailer in rural and suburban America. Merchandise from Wal-Mart has become as ubiquitous as the water supply. Yet still the company is rebuked and reviled by anyone claiming a social conscience, and is lambasted by legislators as if its bad behavior places it somewhere between investment bankers and the Taliban.

Considering this is a company that is helping families ride out the economic downturn, which is providing jobs and stimulus while Congress bickers, which had sales growth of 2% this last quarter while other companies struggled, you have to wonder why. At least, I wondered why. And in that spirit of curiosity, I applied for an entry-level position at my local Wal-Mart.


Getting hired turned out to be a challenge. The personnel manager told me she had received more than 100 applications during that month alone, chasing just a handful of jobs. Thus the mystery deepened. If Wal-Mart was such an exploiter of the working poor, why were the working poor so eager to be exploited? And after they were hired, why did they seem so happy to be there? Anytime I shopped at the store, blue-clad Walmartians encouraged me to "Have a nice day" with the sincerity of the pope issuing a benediction.

I found my first clue in the application screening process. A diabolically ingenious quiz probed for my slightest hesitation or uncertainty regarding four big no-nos of retailing: theft, insubordination, poor timekeeping and substance abuse. (The quiz also tried to make sure that I wasn't accident-prone.) After I cleared that hurdle, I was called in for an interview. At the Flagstaff, Ariz., store where I applied, this took place in a vinyl-floored, gray-walled, windowless room, tucked away at the back of the store and crowded with people sitting on cheap folding chairs at cheap folding tables. Some of these people were talking on phones, some were doing job interviews, some were typing on computer terminals, and some seemed to be eating lunch.

I sat at a table that was covered in untrimmed fabric under a protective layer of sticky transparent vinyl, like a couch cover. I'd seen better-looking decor at firehouse bingo evenings. Was Wal-Mart going out of its way to emphasize its commitment to cost-cutting? I guessed that the utilitarian ethic was so deeply embedded, it was just taken for granted.

A friendly lady in her 50s, wearing the Wal-Mart Smile, sat opposite me and started asking questions from a printed form. Meanwhile another job applicant was going through his interview right behind me. Privacy, apparently, was as unaffordable here as tasteful decor.

"Are you easy to work with?" the lady asked. Since I couldn't imagine anyone being dumb enough to say "No," I concluded that the content of my answer must be irrelevant, and the way I answered must be the real issue. To judge from my interviewer's sunny demeanor, enthusiasm and sincerity were key. Fortunately, I had no problem reflecting her positivism, because I was becoming so fascinated with the Wal-Mart phenomenon, I really did want to work there.

I managed to satisfy her expectations, and then went through two additional interviews, followed by a drug test, before I received formal approval. It may have been one of the most intense hiring processes I've been through; hardly the schedule of a company that didn't care who it hired, or employees who didn't care about getting a job.


A week later, I found myself in an elite group of 10 successful applicants convening for two (paid) days of training in the same claustrophobic, windowless room. As we introduced ourselves, I discovered that more than half had already worked at other Wal-Marts. Having relocated to this area, they were eager for more of the same.

Why? Gradually the answer became clear. Imagine that you are young and relatively unskilled, lacking academic qualifications. Which would you prefer: standing behind the register at a local gas station, or doing the same thing in the most aggressively successful retailer in the world, where ruthless expansion is a way of life, creating a constant demand for people to fill low-level managerial positions? A future at Wal-Mart may sound a less-than-stellar prospect, but it's a whole lot better than no future at all.

In addition, despite its huge size, the corporation turned out to have an eerie resemblance to a Silicon Valley startup. There was the same gung-ho spirit, same lack of dogma, same lax dress code, same informality - and same interest in owning a piece of the company. All of my coworkers accepted the offer to buy Wal-Mart stock by setting aside $2 of every paycheck.

They were less enthused about health benefits, which offered minimal coverage during our first six months. The full corporate plan would kick in after that, but seemed to require significant employee contributions. Still, my fellow trainees assured me that health plans at other retail chains were even worse, and since the federal government had raised the limits for Medicaid eligibility, that was an option for people with children. (In the time since my experience at Wal-Mart, the company has improved its health plans significantly.) The assistant manager who served as our trainer was still in her 20s, highly motivated, friendly, smart, and perceptive. Naturally she overflowed with Wal-Mart positivism. In fact she projected the feel-good sincerity of a Baptist running a bake sale.

Still, she wasn't afraid to tackle the topic of termination. During our initial six months on the job, we would be on probation on a "three strikes" basis. One major screw-up would trigger a session of "verbal coaching." (Since positivism is endemic in Wal-Mart, words such as "discipline" are seldom used. The goal is self-improvement.) A second offense would trigger some written coaching. On the third offense, the employee would be sent home to think long and hard about what happened, and would have to come back the next day with a good argument for not being fired. In effect, Wal-Mart would say, "You seem to be a hopeless case. Now tell us why we're wrong." We were given only a handful of outright prohibitions. No swearing in the store, for instance - not even the word "damn," because some people might be offended. No funny-colored hair or blatant skin piercings, because some people might be offended. In fact almost all the rules devolved to the sacred principle of never, ever offending a customer - or "guest," in Wal-Mart terminology.

The reason was clearly articulated. On average, anyone walking into Wal-Mart is likely to spend more than $200,000 at the store during the rest of his life. Therefore, any clueless employee who alienates that customer will cost the store around a quarter-million dollars. "If we don't remember that our customers are in charge," our trainer warned us, "we turn into Kmart." She made that sound like devolving into some lesser being - a toad, maybe, or an ameba.

And so we came to the Wal-Mart Pledge. Solemnly, each of us raised one hand and intoned: "If a customer comes within 10 feet of me, I'm going to look him in the eye, smile and greet him." Having pledged ourselves, we encountered the aspect of Wal-Mart employment that impressed me most: The Telxon, pronounced "Telzon," a hand-held bar-code scanner with a wireless connection to the store's computer. When pointed at any product, the Telxon would reveal astonishing amounts of information: the quantity that should be on the shelf, the availability from the nearest warehouse, the retail price, and (most amazing of all) the markup.

All of us were given access to this information, because - in theory, at least - anyone in the store could order a couple extra pallets of anything, and could discount it heavily as a Volume Producing Item (known as a VPI), competing with other departments to rack up the most profitable sales each month. Floor clerks even had portable equipment to print their own price stickers. This was how Wal-Mart detected demand and responded to it: by distributing decision-making power to grass-roots level. It was as simple yet as radical as that.

We received an inspirational talk on this subject, from an employee who reacted after the store test-marketed tents that could protect cars for people who didn't have enough garage space. They sold out quickly, and several customers came in asking for more. Clearly this was a singular, exceptional case of word-of-mouth, so he ordered literally a truckload of tent-garages, "Which I shouldn't have done really without asking someone," he said with a shrug, "because I hadn't been working at the store for long." But the item was a huge success. His VPI was the biggest in store history - and that kind of thing doesn't go unnoticed in Arkansas.

He was invited to corporate HQ as a guest at a management conference. "It was totally different from what I expected," he told us. "I thought it would be these fatcats talking about money, but no one even mentioned money. All they cared about was finding new ways to satisfy customers. I met everyone including the chairman of the company."


After my two days of instruction I returned for the first real day of work. Inevitably, it was anticlimactic. The essence of life on the sales floor should be obvious to anyone: It is extremely boring.

I had chosen the pet department, which sells goldfish, cat food, dog food and accessories. As I patrolled the aisles, repositioning misplaced items and filling gaps in the shelves, I realized that Wal-Mart "guests" really are like guests. They are visitors who move things around and create a mess before they go home. Cleaning up after them was not very different from doing housework.

My amiable, laid-back department supervisor had been doing this kind of thing for 15 years. When I asked him why, he took a moment to process the question. He had to think back to other employers he'd worked for in the distant past. None of them, he said, had treated him so well.

What exactly did he mean by that?

His answer lay in the structure of the store. "It's deceptive, because Wal-Mart isn't divided into separate stores like a mall," he said. "But really, that's how it works. Each section is separate. This is - my pet store! No one comes here and tells me how to run it. I could go for weeks without a supervisor asking any questions." Here was the unseen, unreported side of the corporate behemoth. Big as it was, it was smart enough to give employees a feeling of autonomy.

During my few subsequent days as a Walmartian, everyone at every level was friendly and decent toward me. No one had the slightest clue that I might write about my experiences; no one even knew that I had a former career as a journalist. Still, they behaved like poster children for enlightened capitalism.

My supervisor reminded me unfailingly to take my mandatory two (paid) quarter-hour breaks during each eight hours of working time. I was cautioned never to abbreviate my lunch hour. Most of all I was encouraged to educate myself using instructional videos on computer terminals at the back of the store.

These videos served Wal-Mart's self-interest by teaching skills ranging from customer service to the art of lifting heavy boxes without hurting your back. I was paid to view them, and was rewarded with an increased hourly rate when I finished the course.

My starting wage was so low (around $7 per hour), a modest increment still didn't leave me with enough to live on comfortably, but when I looked at the alternatives, many of them were worse. Coworkers assured me that the nearest Target paid its hourly full-timers less than Wal-Mart, while fast-food franchises were at the bottom of everyone's list.

I found myself reaching an inescapable conclusion. Low wages are not a Wal-Mart problem. They are an industry-wide problem, afflicting all unskilled entry-level jobs, and the reason should be obvious.

In our free-enterprise system, employees are valued largely in terms of what they can do. This is why teenagers fresh out of high school often go to vocational training institutes to become auto mechanics or electricians. They understand a basic principle that seems to elude social commentators, politicians and union organizers. If you want better pay, you need to learn skills that are in demand.

The blunt tools of legislation or union power can force a corporation to pay higher wages, but if employees don't create an equal amount of additional value, there's no net gain. All other factors remaining equal, the store will have to charge higher prices for its merchandise, and its competitive position will suffer.

This is Economics 101, but no one wants to believe it, because it tells us that a legislative or unionized quick-fix is not going to work in the long term. If you want people to be wealthier, they have to create additional wealth.

To my mind, the real scandal is not that a large corporation doesn't pay people more. The scandal is that so many people have so little economic value. Despite (or because of) a free public school system, millions of teenagers enter the work force without marketable skills. So why would anyone expect them to be well paid?

In fact, the deal at Wal-Mart is better than at many other employers. The company states that its regular full-time hourly associates in the US average $10.86 per hour, while the mean hourly wage for retail sales associates in department stores generally is $8.67. The federal minimum wage is $6.55 per hour. Also every Wal-Mart employee gets a 10% store discount, while an additional 4% of wages go into profit-sharing and 401(k) plans.


As for the horror stories: Let's take a couple of random examples. Unpaid overtime? Maybe it happened at some stores in the past, but an instructional video warned me that if anyone in management ever encouraged such a heinous transgression, I should report him to his superiors immediately. Illegal aliens? That particular news story really referred to a cleaning company retained by Wal-Mart. The cleaning company hired the illegals.

You have to wonder, then, why the store has such a terrible reputation, and I have to tell you that so far as I can determine, trade unions have done most of the mudslinging. Web sites that serve as a source for negative stories are often affiliated with unions., for instance, is partnered with the Service Employees International Union; is entirely owned by United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. For years, now, they've campaigned against Wal-Mart, for reasons that may have more to do with money than compassion for the working poor. If more than one million Wal-Mart employees in the United States could be induced to join a union, by my calculation they'd be compelled to pay more than half-billion dollars each year in dues.

Anti-growth activists are the other primary source of anti-Wal-Mart sentiment. In the town where I worked, I was told that activists even opposed a new Barnes & Noble because it was "too big." If they're offended by a large bookstore, you can imagine how they feel about a discount retailer.

The argument, of course, is that smaller enterprises cannot compete. My outlook on this is hardcore: I think that many of the "mom-and-pop" stores so beloved by activists don't deserve to remain in business.

When I first ventured from New York City to the American heartland, I did my best to patronize quaint little places on Main Street and quickly discovered the penalties for doing so. At a small appliance store, I wasn't allowed to buy a microwave oven on display. I had to place an order and wait a couple of weeks for delivery. At a stationery store where I tried to buy a file cabinet, I found the same problem. Think back, if you are old enough to do so, and you may recall that this is how small-town retailing used to function in the 1960s.

As a customer, I don't see why I should protect a business from the harsh realities of commerce if it can't maintain a good inventory at a competitive price. And as an employee, I see no advantage in working at a small place where I am subject to the quixotic moods of a sole proprietor, and can never appeal to his superior, because there isn't one.

By the same logic, I see no reason for legislators to protect Safeway supermarkets with ploys such as zoning restrictions, which just happen to allow a supermarket-sized building while outlawing a Wal-Mart SuperCenter that's a few thousand square feet bigger.

Based on my experience (admittedly, only at one location) I reached a conclusion which is utterly opposed to almost everything ever written about Wal-Mart. I came to regard it as one of the all-time enlightened American employers, right up there with IBM in the 1960s. Wal-Mart is not the enemy. It's the best friend we could ask for.

Charles Platt is a former senior writer for Wired magazine.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

CBO To The President: Your Stimulus Plan Stinks

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has taken a good look at the President’s stimulus plan. It does not like what it sees:

President Obama’s economic recovery package will actually hurt the economy more in the long run than if he were to do nothing, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said Wednesday.

CBO, the official scorekeepers for legislation, said the House and Senate bills will help in the short term but result in so much government debt that within a few years they would crowd out private investment, actually leading to a lower Gross Domestic Product over the next 10 years than if the government had done nothing.

CBO estimates that by 2019 the Senate legislation would reduce GDP by 0.1 percent to 0.3 percent on net. [The House bill] would have similar long-run effects, CBO said in a letter to Sen. Judd Gregg, New Hampshire Republican, who was tapped by Mr. Obama on Tuesday to be Commerce Secretary.

It would, of course, behoove Senator Gregg to tell his soon-to-be-boss that the stimulus plan being pushed by the Obama Administration will have deleterious long term effects. I am surprised that CBO actually believes the plan will work in the short term, given the mountain of evidence indicating the stimulus bill to be an impending short term failure. At bottom, even if one assumes that Keynesian stimulus can work–and let us remember that historically, it hasn’t–the current legislative package is nothing more than a mini-budget that is more dedicated to funding Democratic domestic priorities than it is to stimulating the economy. Americans asked for an economic jump start. What they got instead was a Christmas tree for Democratic special interest groups.

President Obama now wants to address the country on Monday to revive support for his stimulus plan. The impending address presumes that the problem with the current legislative effort behind the stimulus plan is a public relations issue. It is not. Rather, the problem is that the legislative package the Administration is trying to sell has no intellectual credibility behind it and would constitute a massive public policy failure. No address will work unless it includes words like “we are scrapping this turkey of a bill and starting over.”

Friday, February 6, 2009

It looks like a deal

From Powerline blog
February 6, 2009 Posted by John at 6:22 PM

"Moderate" Senators have apparently agreed on a $780 billion pork bill that reportedly will draw three or four Republican votes. The reduction in the bill's size was achieved by reducing both spending and tax cuts; I haven't seen any details on what the changes were. The process still has some distance to go; House Democrats are already talking about restoring whatever spending was cut by the Senate in conference (not the tax cuts, though).

The important thing, I think, is that Barack Obama and the Democrats own this bill, and they will own the consequences that almost certainly will result: delayed recovery (although this will be impossible to prove), unprecedented deficits, tax increases and inflation. Republicans, meanwhile, continue to come up with better alternatives, most recently John Thune's proposal to scrub the entire pork bill and:

...replace it with a $936 billion across-the-board-middle-class tax rebate for 182 million Americans. The amendment would result in a tax rebate of $5,143 for single filers and $10,286 for married couples who file jointly.

That's obviously a better idea, but it wouldn't increase the power of government, so the Democrats aren't interested.

One question: is there a single Democratic pundit who has acknowledged what an awful bill the Dems have cobbled together? No observer of any sophistication could seriously defend what the Democrats are doing, but I haven't seen any Democratic pundit show enough integrity to acknowledge what we all know. Maybe some have and I missed it; I don't read liberal pundits very assiduously.

UPDATE: Senate Republicans are rebutting press claims that the "compromise" bill costs $780 billion:

The $780 billion figure doesn't include the $46.5 billion in amendments added to the stimulus bill this week. According to our numbers, the deal is at least $827 billion, $7 billion MORE than the House passed bill. With debt, that comes to $1.175 trillion total cost for the new deal.

You know things have come to a sad pass when reporters try to tell us that a pork bill costs *only* $780 billion.

Cool video for National Guard by Kid Rock.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Labor secretary for Obama has tax issues also.

Is another Obama nominee in trouble? A Senate panel today postponed a vote on his nominee to be labor secretary, Hilda Solis, after USA Today laid out her husband’s tax problems. The newspaper reported today that Sam Solis paid $6,400 to settle liens dating back 16 years against his business. Shortly afterward, the committee said it would give the administration time to investigate.

It’s not clear if the information is a deal-killer. “She’s not a partner in that business,” said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs. “We’re not going to penalize her for her husband’s business mistakes.” A statement from the Senate panel, headed by Ted Kennedy, suggested Solis might survive, Reuters notes: “We will continue to work together to move this nomination forward as soon as possible.”

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Pelosi: Every Month “Stimulus” Isn’t Passed, 167% of American Population Will Lose Their Jobs”

No wonder she wants population control included in the “stimulus” plan so badly: more people means way more unemployment!

Consider: There are currently just over 305 million people in America. However, as Rep. Pelosi (D) warns us in the video below, “Every month that we do not have an economic recovery package, 500 million Americans lose their jobs.”
Wow. Now that’s some powerful stuff there. Who says Democrats from San Francisco aren’t the sharpest knives in the drawer?

Then again, maybe this is an example of the same Obamathematics that turned 12 dead in Kansas tornadoes into “10,000 dead, an entire city destroyed.” The ratios sure seem to be fairly consistent…

In the Spirit of Bipartisanship, I Wholly Approve This Plan

It has been probably two years since I have agreed with Markos Moulitsas about anything. But it appears that Barack Obama really is bringing change to this country, because I fully endorse the Moulitsas Deficit Reduction Act of 2009.

Here’s how it works:

Since the only time rich DC party insiders seem to get around to paying their taxes is when nominated to Obama’s cabinet, I’d require that they all be nominated to Obama’s cabinet. Suddenly, these people would discover this strange creature called the “accountant” who would quickly identify failed tax payments totaling in the tens (or even hundreds) of thousands.

Collectively, the Treasury could raise hundreds of billions, while Obama would continue to vouch for their “integrity”. It’s a perk of being part of that club.

As for the rest of us poor shlubs, don’t forget to carry that one when doing your taxes. We don’t get to be treasury secretaries when we screw up.

Well said, sir, and a fine idea to boot. Get on the horn and call your Senator today and tell them to support the Moulitsas Deficit Reduction act of 2009. The Obama Administration and our country need this revenue at this time of economic crisis.

Also, open thread, and apologies for not opening one sooner.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

3 of Obamas picks for cabinet have tried to not pay taxes.

This Geithner, the guy that's been appointed Treasury secretary, failed to pay his taxes and his nanny's taxes, too. "No big deal. Oh, no, we need this guy so much, we can't let these little technicalities hold him back." He didn't pay his taxes! He was audited by the IRS. Now one of the things about this that's curious to me, he worked at the IMF, the International Monetary Fund and apparently when you work there you're an independent contractor, you are self-employed, as such, there are no tax deductions, you are paid the gross. Thus it is up to you to file quarterly estimates.

He didn't do this for a number of years on the basis that it just slipped his mind? That he wasn't aware? The guy ran the New York Federal Reserve. He is said to be the only guy that can run the Treasury department to bail us out of all the problems that we're in, and he doesn't know about -- I just find this hard to believe. Forgot it? The nanny thing is one thing, that's equally as problematic, but the thing about this that gets me is that he's getting a pass and claimed not to know he had to pay taxes on gross income. I know he didn't blame his wife like he didn't blame anybody else, but some of this stuff is just unbelievable.

These are the smartest people in the world, and they get away, whether they're in Chicago or in Washington, of acting in the stupidest ways you can possibly imagine educated people to act. Jose Serrano, a Democrat congressman from New York, has proposed an amendment to the constitution to repeal the Twenty-Second Amendment. Now, for those of you who voted for Obama, the Twenty-Second Amendment is the amendment which limits the presidency to two terms of four years. Jose Serrano not waiting for the inauguration, they want to eliminate the Twenty-Second Amendment so that Obama could perhaps serve forever.

Tom Daschle has withdrawn as the nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Maybe President Obama should do what he did following Bill Richardson's withdrawal as the Commerce Secretary nominee -- look to a Republican. There's a better chance of avoiding an ethics problem that way.

UPDATE: Nancy Killefer, Obama's nominee for "Chief Performance Officer," an OMB position, has also withdrawn due to tax payment issues.

I'm reminded of David Frum's story about the legendary Harvard Law School professor Paul Bator, whose course in civil procedure I had the privilege of taking when he visited at Stanford. David recalls how Bator, one of the few conservatives teaching at an elite law school, told his class the story of James Landis. Landis was a famous New Deal figure, the dean of Harvard Law School, and a friend and adviser to the Kennedy family. It was widely assumed, when John Kennedy became president, that Landis would be nominated to the Supreme Court -- until it was discovered that Landis hadn't filed tax returns for years.

Bator's comment was: "What is it with these liberals?"

JOHN adds: Maybe the commercial was the last straw.

The Obama administration is off to a surprisingly rocky start. They ran a great campaign, but after only two weeks in office the wheels are starting to come off. Nothing that can't be remedied--yet--but it's going to be a long four years if Team Obama doesn't get its act together.

Monday, February 2, 2009

PROMISES, PROMISES: No lobbyists at WH, except ...

WASHINGTON – Barack Obama promised a "clean break from business as usual" in Washington. It hasn't quite worked out that way.

From the start, he made exceptions to his no-lobbyist rule. And now, embarrassing details about Cabinet-nominee Tom Daschle's tax problems and big paychecks from special interest groups are raising new questions about the reach and sweep of the new president's promised reforms.

Maybe he shouldn't have promised so much, some open-government advocates say. They're willing to cut him some slack — for now.

On Jan. 21, the day after his inauguration, Obama issued an executive order barring any former lobbyists who join his administration from dealing with matters or agencies related to their lobbying work. Nor could they join agencies they had lobbied in the previous two years.

However, William J. Lynn III, his choice to become the No. 2 official at the Defense Department, recently lobbied for military contractor Raytheon. And William Corr, tapped as deputy secretary at Health and Human Services, lobbied through most of last year as an anti-tobacco advocate. Corr says he will take no part in tobacco matters in the new administration.

"Even the toughest rules require reasonable exceptions," said White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.

That was a big step back from Obama's unambiguous swipe at lobbyists in November 2007, while campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination. "I don't take a dime of their money," he said, "and when I am president, they won't find a job in my White House."

The waivers granted for Lynn and Corr caused some in Washington to wince. But others, including many longtime advocates of tougher ethical standards, suggest it all says as much about deeply ingrained practices — and even necessities — in Washington as about a new president.

"Sometimes you can over-promise," said former Sen. Warren Rudman, a Republican from New Hampshire.

"This government is very complicated," he said. "Often you'll need people with a lot of experience in certain areas," and current or former lobbyists sometimes fit that bill best.

"It was probably a mistake to come down so hard on lobbyists," said Melanie Sloan, who is not shy about criticizing lobbyists or politicians as executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. "I think the Obama folks' intentions were great here," she said. "But sometimes you realize you can't actually govern on just what you campaigned on."

Sloan and others said embarrassments over Daschle, one of several top Obama appointees with a history of influencing government for clients, should not detract from the president's first-day vow to sharply limit the role of lobbyists in his administration.

Daschle, a former senator tapped to head Health and Human Services, is not technically a lobbyist. But he was paid more than $5.2 million over the past two years as he advised health insurers and hospitals and worked in other industries such as energy and telecommunications.

Fred Wertheimer of Democracy21 is one of Washington's best-known advocates of more open and honest government. He called Obama's executive order "unprecedented and almost revolutionary in nature" and "a direct attack on the culture of Washington and the way business is done here."

"A few waivers will not undermine it," he said, provided they are justified and limited.

The best way to limit the influence of wealthy special interests, Wertheimer said, is to increase public funding for presidential elections and restrict the amount that private business can pump into campaigns and politics. That could pave the way for tighter restrictions on influence-peddling in Congress, he said.

Obama declined public financing for his campaign so he could raise and spend hundreds of millions of dollars on his own. Some people saw that a virtual death knell for campaign public financing, but Wertheimer said he believes Obama will deliver on aides' promises to help "repair the system."

Daschle, the former Senate majority leader from South Dakota, strikes many in Washington as a good example of why the revolving door between government and highly paid private-sector jobs can be troubling, but also why an outright ban on such movements would be unwise.

Even Republicans praised Daschle's cerebral, soft-spoken approach to government and politics, and his expertise on subjects including health care. He didn't choose to leave Congress for a high-paying job, but was defeated in a close re-election bid in 2004.

Once out, he was attractive and valuable to all sorts of government-regulated industries, even if he never registered as a lobbyist who could make straightforward appeals for or against legislation affecting his clients.

He received more than $2 million over two years as a senior policy adviser for the Washington law firm Alston & Bird. He also earned more than $2 million in consulting fees from InterMedia Advisors LLC of New York, an investment firm specializing in buyouts and industry consolidation. An associate let Daschle use his car and driver, for which Daschle had to pay late taxes and interest.

Several health groups also paid Daschle $15,000 or more to speak to their gatherings.

"He welcomed every opportunity to make his case to the American public at large, and the health industry in particular, that America can't afford to ignore the health care crisis any longer," said his spokeswoman Jenny Backus.

Wertheimer, of Democracy21, said that rather than dwell on Daschle's problems or the Corr and Lynn waivers, he focuses on Obama's executive order and the hope of progress to come on public financing of campaigns.

The executive order "laid down a mark," Wertheimer said. "More has to be done, and tough battles have to be won."


Associated Press writer Julie Pace contributed to this report.

Michele Bachmann: The perils of spending like it's 1929:

By Michele Bachmann
Star Tribune
January 29, 2009

It's been almost one year and $1.5 trillion since the government began its historic slate of financial bailouts -- and all we have to show for it is red ink dripping from our nation's balance sheet.

Congress has been busy writing checks to everyone from Detroit automakers to Wall Street day traders. We're now nearing a historic $11 trillion debt. Each time Congress goes to the taxpayer ATM, it claims that this will be the bailout that gets the economy moving again.

For instance, on the night the Senate passed the $700 billion Wall Street bailout, the Senate's finance chairman, Max Baucus, confidently declared: "I'm very proud of what we did. This is going to mark the time when we've turned the corner. And we will begin to see this financial crisis beginning to abate."

But things got only worse. And despite the serious risks to our long-term stability, this failed strategy of big-government stimulus continues in full force. This week, in fact, President Obama and the Democratic Congress asked for another near-trillion in federal deficit spending.

Their plan promises an agenda styled after the economic policies of the Great Depression -- government jobs programs, enormous infrastructure spending, huge amounts of pork and a slew of government handouts. But before we return to the 1930s, we may want to review a little history.

The stock market collapse of 1929 brought a crashing halt to the Roaring Twenties. But President Herbert Hoover's response to the economic crisis ensured that it became a genuine catastrophe. Contrary to popular perception, Hoover did not respond to the downturn with inaction or indifference -- rather, he pursued a series of misguided big-government adventures that lengthened and deepened our economic woes.

Hoover not only dramatically hiked income and import taxes, but he instituted big-government spending programs all but identical to those being debated today. Hoover's Reconstruction Finance Corporation tried to ease economic pain by funneling tax money to state governments, local governments, banks and a variety of businesses. His Federal Home Loan Bank Act extended loans in an effort to increase low-income housing -- beginning the ill-fated history of federal intervention in the housing market.

These measures proved a dismal failure, and things got only worse. In the 1932 campaign, Franklin Roosevelt actually attacked Hoover for his big-government policies, decrying Hoover's presidency as "the greatest spending administration in peacetime in all of history."
Yet, once elected, Roosevelt not only maintained Hoover's programs, he used them as a foundation for his titanic New Deal expenditures. He even expanded Hoover's failed housing program and launched the now-infamous mortgage giant Fannie Mae. And even in the face of a staggering 25 percent unemployment, FDR held fast to the big-government philosophy -- jobs programs, handouts, tax hikes -- and, as a result, presided over a decade of economic misery.

FDR's own treasury secretary, Henry Morgenthau, had to admit as much in 1939: "We are spending more than we have ever spent before, and it does not work. ... We have never made good on our promises. I say after eight years of this administration we have just as much unemployment as when we started. And an enormous debt to boot!"

Instead of pursuing the tragic economic policies of Hoover and FDR, we should follow the model of presidents who successfully met the economic challenges of their times and ushered in prosperity. In recent memory, Presidents John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan dramatically cut taxes to stimulate growth and create jobs -- and their policies succeeded.

When Jimmy Carter left office, the economy was slumping, unemployment was higher than today and inflation was in the double digits. Reagan's economic policy, which included massive tax cuts, reversed a worsening situation, and the economy surged on every level -- 17 million jobs were created, employee compensation increased, inflation was conquered and the longest peacetime boom in our history was born.

So with two paths ahead -- one that emphasizes tax reform and one that emphasizes big government -- the right path is clear. We either learn from the mistakes of history or we repeat them

Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

© 2009 Star Tribune. All rights reserved.