Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Tim Geithner is now too big to fail. The economic crisis is too dangerous to let a man who is too big to fail sit on the sideline. Geithner must be “Superman.” He must have powers that are extraterrestrial, as there is no one else in the financial sector that has the ability to put the economy back on track again according to President Obama and members in the Senate who approved of his nomination.
Well folks, all I can say is if you liked the way the economic crisis has been handled under the Bush Administration, you will no doubt be thrilled with what’s to come. For those who expected change, brace yourselves for a difficult dose of reality. Real change would have been a free-market solution. Instead, Geithner will continue policy that will further erode the free market and expand the power of the government.
Tim Geithner has not sat idly on the sidelines for the past year. He has already had extensive involvement in the government’s response to the financial mayhem. Based on Geithner’s record, he seems to think that bailouts are the solution. He advocated the rescue of Bear Stearns and played a key role in the rescues of American International Group (AIG), Bank of America and Citigroup. It’s a good thing that top executives in these companies put the funds to good use. AIG felt lavish executive retreats were necessary. Bank of America paid huge bonuses to Merrill Lynch executives. Citigroup partnered with the New York Mets baseball team by paying a $400 million naming-right expenditure to call the stadium where the Mets play “Citi Field.” Some may rightfully argue the cost/benefit of such a decision, and it would be a legit argument if the company did not receive federal money. Besides, I thought the credit markets were frozen!
Based on the testimony Geithner gave at his confirmation hearing, I am left wondering what exactly those “superpowers” are.
Geithner said, “Senators, the ultimate costs of this crisis will be greater, if we do not act with sufficient strength now. In a crisis of this magnitude, the most prudent course is the most forceful course.” He says Obama’s stimulus plan “will meet that test.” (1)
It is interesting that the scare tactics continue in an effort to give the government an excuse to spend trillions of dollars and hold stakes in our largest banks; when in reality, this “crisis” isn’t even close to what was experienced in the 1970’s. Has Geithner seen Obama’s stimulus plan? Perhaps he could explain how the same tax incentives that were part of Bush’s plan last year and the massive government spending that includes handouts to states to fund safety-net programs as well as free contraceptives would stimulate the economy. The aim is to stimulate the economy isn’t it? It’s possible that Speaker Pelosi was thinking about a different kind of stimulation…
Geithner mentions the Senate’s passage of the second Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) tranche, but says “we have to fundamentally reform this program” to ensure there’s enough credit to support the recovery. He also says the nation needs “investments” in infrastructure, a strategy “to get us back as quickly as possible to a sustainable fiscal position” and then “comprehensive financial reform” so the world will “never again face a crisis of this severity.” (1)
It seems that Citigroup didn’t have a problem getting credit. Nowhere in his testimony does Geithner mention repeal of the Community Reinvestment Act – the act which played a key role in the housing debacle. This act forced banks through government mandates to loan money to people who could not afford to repay which led to the birth of the subprime mortgage market. Instead of overusing the word “crisis,” his plan should focus on transparency and prudent lending standards.
Geithner may not wish to tip his hand at the moment, but I would expect to see proposed changes to the Financial Accounting Standards Board Statement Number 157 which has failed in the attempt to value illiquid assets and has earned the phrase “mark-to-make-believe accounting.”
As for infrastructure spending…there is an idea that’s never been tried before. His expertise in economics should reveal to him that most of the benefits of infrastructure spending are delayed and could take effect during an inflationary period. In addition, the money is rarely used for what it was intended, and we don’t see real economic growth when the government spends money. History has proven that the government cannot spend the country out of recession. This kind of spending can make our dollar worthless, however!
Geithner’s responsibilities also include oversight of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). It is comical that we entrust a person who has evaded taxes to be in charge of the IRS. Geithner claims his mistakes were innocent. However, if they were innocent, should America have confidence in a man who has difficulty using Turbo Tax (a software that people with no accounting/financial background can easily use), has difficulty understanding IRS Publication 503, and doesn’t realize he has to pay Social Security tax, Medicare tax and employed an immigrant housekeeper who lacked proper work papers?
In summary, Geithner’s appointment further illustrates that there is no real change in Washington. In addition to Geithner’s tax problems, there is a very questionable record of “expertise.” He’s played a pivotal role in managing TARP funds. It’s quite clear that the first half of TARP funds were misspent. As President of the New York Federal Reserve Bank, his supervision of corporate giants like Citigroup was questionable. Although Geithner talked about holding such institutions to the highest regulatory standards, the record shows that New York Fed relaxed the standards as the company bet big on subprime mortgages and had massive risk exposure to other perilous investments.
So why is it that we have so much confidence in people such as Geithner to fix a problem when they have shown poor judgment and played a role in causing the problem? Answer: the elite financial club has its benefits.
This column is also cross posted at our new website: http://www.conservativetoday.org/
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
The manner in which the media has portrayed Obama would lead one to believe that the coronation of a monarch was taking place in America as opposed to swearing in its 44th President. The masses couldn’t be happier. People have gone to great lengths to be a part of this historic event. From school closings and vacation days from the jobs that they once feared they would lose to opening up tight budgets to allot for the purchase of all of that special Obama paraphernalia. The most expensive inauguration in America’s history (makes Sarah Palin’s $150,000 wardrobe look like pocket change) would lead one to believe that the economy may be recovering. If only that were the case…
The day after Obama’s victory, I wrote a column titled “America’s Impending Hangover: How it’s Love Affair with Obama Will Be Short-lived.” Today’s inauguration will mark the peak of “Obamamania.” It is now time for him to deliver on the mountain of promises in which he campaigned. He has roughly one year to blame George W. Bush. However, after that time period, the Kool-aid will run out; and people will expect results. Let’s go through some of the highlights of Obama’s promises, and the ones he has already broken…
I predicted that this would be the area in which Obama would deviate off his campaign rhetoric the most. Remember his promises to end the Iraq war? Remember how he said he would begin withdrawing troops on his first day in office? We’ve gone from that analogy to his retention of Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense – whose team he harshly criticized throughout the campaign. Obama never acknowledged that the surge allowed exactly what he wished – a responsible transition to the Iraqi army. One had to dig deep for this information, as the mainstream media would never report any kind of success in Iraq. However, the media will be changing its tune shortly on this topic in order to give Obama credit for the victory in Iraq – something that was well in hand long before he took office. For all of you anti-war folks out there - don’t be too disappointed when he escalates the war in Afghanistan. That’s one promise I believe he’ll keep.
Obama’s pledge to close Guantánamo Bay is sheer political rhetoric to please his left-wing constituents that donated big money to his campaign. The bottom line is he cannot close this camp without a plan for its detainees. What kind of a plan could be devised on our soil to incarcerate suspected militant combatants - dangerous enough to the point where their home country will not take them back? Obama knows if he leans too far left on matters of national security, and America suffers an attack under his watch; the love affair is over. He has a second term to think about.
In my last column, I have already outlined the major flaws in Obama’s so called stimulus plan. In this column, I’ll focus more on what is absent from the plan that should be part of that plan.
Let’s begin with the housing debacle. Nowhere do I see a call to repeal the Community Reinvestment Act.
- The act that forced lending institutions to loan money to people who had no financial means to repay (so much for the deregulation argument)
- The act that artificially drove the cost of housing “through the roof” by adding droves of buyers to a market in which they did not belong
- The act that is largely responsible for the rapidly declining housing prices and foreclosures
Stay tuned for a more detailed analysis, as this topic deserves a separate column.
The number keeps changing, but as it stands now, Obama plans to create 3 to 4 million new jobs within the first two years of his presidency. Last I checked, the private sector creates jobs; and the government makes it more difficult, but we’ll roll with this for illustration purposes. If we go with the conservative estimate of 3 million, that’s roughly 4,110 new jobs per day. Our unemployment rate is currently 7.2 percent. If we net 28,770 new jobs per week, he’ll have that number back down to a stable 5 percent in no time! If that is the case, then there is no need to extend unemployment benefits, as it would be counter productive.
Obama has championed the age-old failed tactic of borrowing and spending to prosperity. It’s never worked in the past; it’s not going to work now. Instead of multi-billion dollar bailouts for individual states, the banking industry and other failed politically connected businesses, absent are reduced tax rates and government spending. Real change would have been proper implementation of supply side economics which has NEVER been done. President Reagan was close; but he failed to restrain government spending and reduce the size of government to sustain long-term success.
In summary, our new President has come to a crossroad. In order to be successful and continue to ride the wave of adoration and idolization, he must abandon his extreme left-wing ideology. Otherwise, when the world feels the effect of America’s 1+ trillion dollar deficits, this “slobbering love affair” (as Bernie Goldberg accurately describes it) will soon be over.
Monday, January 19, 2009
The Conservative Today website, forum and blog will be going live January 20, 2009. It is no coincidence that happens to be the same day as Obama's inauguration ceremony; we conservatives must step up to the plate to thwart ever-increasing liberal tendencies in this country. Obama's inauguration marks a historic event for both parties. Never in this country's history has there been such a blatant power shift in the wrong direction and now is the time to start fighting for 2012.
Moral of the story is, stop by on opening day and show your support by checking out the articles and everything else we have to offer! If you feel so inclined, we are also in need of financial support, so if you can spare some change, that's great too. Please beware that there is a percentage deducted from each transaction that comes our way via paypal, so if you can be generous that's awesome!
The Conservative Today Staff
Thursday, January 8, 2009
One great myth is that Herbert Hoover tried the classical approach by staying out, and the economy only became worse as a result. Nothing could be further from the truth. Herbert Hoover raised taxes on the top marginal rate as well as tariffs. The top marginal rate was raised from 24 to 63 percent. The tariff hike became known as the "Smoot Hawley Tariff" and was the largest tariff hike in U.S. history. Excessive tariffs severely impacted imports and exports. This robbed the American consumer of low cost imports. Consumers were forced to pay higher prices as a result of fewer products on the market to satisfy demand as well as higher labor costs of American made goods. Declining exports resulted in fewer overseas consumers purchasing their products which hurt businesses. It was Hoover who started the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC). These actions prove that Hoover's approach was in no way indicative of laissez-faire economics. Hoover's policies failed and paved the way for Franklin Roosevelt's big government expansion called "The New Deal".
Franklin Roosevelt's (FDR) New Deal contained an expansion of existing Hoover policies. Three years after Hoover raised the top marginal rate, FDR raised the top marginal rate from 63 to 79 percent. Entrepreneurs were not going to make many investments in a lagging economy to give ¾ back to the government in the slight chance they would make a profit. FDR enacted Hoover's idea of the RFC which was supposed to give low rate loans to struggling companies. Our government decided which troubled companies would get the loans and which ones would not. What ended up happening in many cases was government bureaucrats gave low rate loans to their friends and supporters regardless of whether they were in need.
In addition to raising the top marginal rate, FDR also enacted tax increases on inheritance, corporate income, and excess profit taxes. Social Security excise taxes on payroll also affected business expansion and hiring. Excise taxes were levied on all kinds of different products. Alcohol, cigarettes, matches, candy, gum, margarine, fruit juice, soft drinks, cars, tires (including wheelchair tires), telephone calls, movie tickets, playing cards, electricity, and radios are examples of the products that had excise taxes put on them. These excise taxes were often paid by middle and lower income people - the very people The New Deal was supposed to help.
Perhaps the worst program was the "National Industrial Recovery Act" (NIRA). This program forced manufacturing companies to pay wages that were above market levels. This put an additional load on already struggling companies which made it more expensive to hire and keep employees. This also affected the consumer who was forced to pay higher prices for goods and services. The "Agricultural Adjustment Act" paid subsidies to farmers to produce fewer crops, which was supposed to raise the value of crops and save the farming industry. This resulted in fewer crops produced so less crop workers were hired. As a result, the struggling American had to pay higher prices for food. The "National Labor Relations Act" gave unions more power in workplaces. This led to countless strikes, less production, and fewer jobs. It has been estimated there were as many as 14 million strike days in 1936 and 28 million strike days in 1937.
A study was conducted by UCLA economists Harold Cole and Lee Ohanian in 2004 based on 1929 data provided by the Conference Board and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The study concluded that the New Deal prolonged The Great Depression by about seven years. Prices across 19 industries averaged 23 percent higher while gross domestic product (GDP) was 27 percent below where it would have been without the New Deal. Cole and Ohanian estimate the NIRA account for 60 percent of the weak recovery. They claim without the NIRA the Depression would have ended in 1936 instead of 1943, only to be saved by World War II. After two years the US Supreme Court repealed the NIRA because it was considered unconstitutional. That did not stop the FDR administration from ignoring certain industries once protected by NIRA who continued to collude and price fix for another four years. Cole concluded the study by saying "…recovery would have been very rapid had the government not intervened."
The average unemployment rate in the 1930s was over 17 percent. It reached it's height in 1933 with a peak of almost 25 percent. One may ask how FDR was able to serve four terms if these policies were so bad. One theory, according to Jim Powell, author of the book "How Roosevelt and His New Deal Prolonged the Great Depression," could be due to the fact that most of the New Deal programs were spent in political swing states in the West and the East where incomes were 60 percent higher than in the South. The Southern states were among the poorest states in the union at the time and received the least amount of money for New Deal programs. One can conclude that it appeared though FDR may have bought his four terms in office by distributing more Federal dollars where it would most benefit his political career.
FDR is continuously touted as the model for liberal fiscal policy, and we can clearly see the New Deal was an expensive and miserable failure. With the Democrats in full control today, we will certainly hear more about how the government has to get involved to deal with this economic crisis. This economy, while in a recession, does not come close to the problems we were facing in the 1930s. However, our government has only scratched the surface on how they can save us from ourselves and further deepen the current crisis. If our government does enough, it very well could create an economy that would be worse than anything we have ever seen before.
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
We’ll begin with the tax proposals. Obama’s plan includes the following: On the individual side, he proposes a $500 individual tax credit ($1,000 for couples). On the business side, the proposal consists of an extension of the Net Operating Loss (NOL) carryback feature to 5 years (currently 2 years), tax credits to businesses that create jobs or avoid layoffs, increasing the amount that allows small businesses to write off a wide range of expenditures up to $250,000 (currently $175,000) and doubling the renewable energy tax credit.
Fiscal conservatives understand that tax cuts only work when they are coupled with spending restraints – not when they are used as an inducement to win bipartisan support. Speaking of inducement; when the tax code is used to encourage behavior, the result is never what was intended.
The problem with Obama’s individual tax credits is 1) checks of this nature were part of the Bush plan in early 2008, which failed to “stimulate” the economy; and 2) if this credit is made a permanent part of the tax code, many of the recipients are people who already have no federal income tax liability which basically makes it a form of welfare.
On the business side, there is a catch to the NOL carryback feature. Write-offs are retroactive to expenditures made as of January 1, 2009. In other words, businesses have to invest the money in order to receive the credit. The problem with giving tax credits to businesses that hire or avoid layoffs is that businesses who were already planning on hiring will be the only ones to benefit from the credit. Troubled businesses that are forced to let workers go will not be saved by a small tax credit. Chalk this up to Obama’s lack of private sector experience. Apparently, he hasn’t looked into the costs of TOTAL compensation for a worker.
Many of these tax credits are nothing more than extensions of the credits already enacted by the Bush Administration, yet we were led to believe that John McCain was Bush’s third term! In all seriousness, it is most unfortunate that the Obama Administration will not play the card that the Bush Administration missed – addressing the fact that the United States has the SECOND HIGHEST corporate income tax rate in the world. Instead of playing games with tax credits that have ridiculous stipulations, reducing the corporate income tax rate would bring relief to ALL sectors of business while simultaneously encouraging business to come back to the United States. More businesses in the United States leads to job opportunities and will curtail jobs being lost to tax-friendly overseas environments. In addition, businesses would have fresh capital to grow and expand.
Moving on to the spending side of this turkey….
Most of the spending in Obama’s plan is nothing more than welfare to individual states. Up to $200 billion is being proposed to expand the federal share of Medicaid which makes one wonder exactly how that will stimulate the economy. A majority of the remainder will be used to spur the growth of federal infrastructure spending. When was the last time infrastructure spending has pulled the economy out of recession? Another problem with infrastructure spending is that the money is rarely spent on what it was intended. When money of this nature is allocated to states, it’s time for politicians to become famous. It’s time for a new community center or a face lift for a school. There is no political publicity in road and bridge repair. Besides, if they actually were fixed, then it removes politicians’ ability to complain that there is a lack of funding! Lastly, infrastructure spending does not happen immediately as there are numerous federal mandates (government red tape) that require strict compliance. It is very likely that the economy could be in an inflationary expansion period by the time the spending proposals take effect.
In short, the Obama plan grossly misses the mark. In addition, the $800 billion price tag is abhorrently understated. Obama’s plan will end up well over the $1 trillion mark if Congress approves. Reckless government spending at a time where our national debt is creeping up to 70 percent of our gross domestic product can make the last bout of inflation look mild. Let's not forget that "crisis" is a friend of the state. The scare tactics being used as a means to inject billions of dollars of "artificial" money into the economy will only pave the road for bigger problems in the future.
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
May it be going to work, doing an assignment, washing the car, doing taxes, etc. Whatever it may be, we've all had many times where our motivation for doing something was solely based on our mental discipline. Our duty to do something right, morally or otherwise, pushes us beyond our instinctual and emotional limits and finish the job we set out to do.
In a society geared towards individuality, we have the tendency to forgo personal responsibility and rely on blaming outside influences. Your kid acts out? It's a disease and not your parenting. Your eating habits suck? It's Big Food's fault and not your patronage of fast food joints. Your grades are low? It's the school's fault and not your twenty missing assignments. I know first-hand. I was and still am at points flawed in the sad skill of deflection of responsibility.
In this society that is geared towards maximum individuality, we are missing our societal discipline more so than ever before. The blame for the recession (which is well documented on this blog) being the most recent of a string of irresponsibility being passed around to anyone but the individual.
Since the invasion of Iraq, we have slowly given in to selfish views on how to fight it and the greater War on Terror. Arguments for surrenderer have always had a tinge if selfishness. When I was a leftist, I know my arguments came out of a childish and paranoid fear of a greater war and absolute power in the hands of a few. The war has had little impact on the real material wealth of the country in compared to other wars and events, so there is no basis in the greater economy (as many leftist love to argue about).
It comes down to personal beliefs and the need for the individual to be right, even if its against the best interests of their country. Sometimes the personal goes too far. There is an unhealthy love of individual righteousness in many people instead of a healthy love of simple individuality.
There are times in our lives when our discipline will mean the world to someone or to a group or to a town or even to our country. There will be times we have to temporarily put aside our personalities and our individuality and step up to help someone else.
You don't have to give up your individuality forever.
Your rights won't disappear with your duty as a citizen of a free nation.
Your duty as a citizen protects your rights.
Friday, January 2, 2009
Then we have the Main Stream Media (MSM). Never before had I seen such blatant irresponsible journalism in my life. They moved Obama to ‘messiah’ status. Failing to report on important issues surrounding his campaign. Wright, Ayers, Rezko to name a few. They gave him a ‘cakewalk’ throughout the primaries and the election. They refused to ask him tough questions about … well ANYTHING. The love affair they had with him was both obvious and sickening and completely unforgivable.
Of course, the way the MSM treated McCain and Palin is a much different story. They attacked both on personal issues, especially Palin and her family. McCain is a revered war hero who did many great things as a Senator. Palin worked her way up from the PTO to Governor of one of the largest states in the country. It seemed as though any good that they did meant absolutely nothing to the MSM. They crucified Palin on any and all levels they could. From her being a beauty queen when she was younger to false accusations that her son Trigg was really her daughter Bristol’s.
And we cannot forget the voters. More black Americans voted in this election than in the history of elections since they won the right to vote. Why - Simply because Obama is half black. Black Americans are the majority Democrats, however, they do not typically come out to vote. Could it be because Obama paid an offshoot of ACORN over $800,000 to ‘get out the vote’? I doubt it. There were also hoards of college students voting in this election. While college students are typically liberal, they too typically do not vote. It was also clear that neither of these groups truly knew what was going on in our country today (as in who lead Congress – Zogby Poll of Obama voters). They only knew that McCain is Republican and so was Bush. They completely disregarded or did not care about Obama’s very liberal message during the campaign. OR they bought into his promises of taxing the rich to give them money. Either way, most of them were completely uninformed regarding Obama’s past and the current events in this country AND abroad.
Let us also not forget feminist groups like NOW, who blatantly and hatefully were against Palin as soon as she was nominated. Why – simply because she is pro-life. Never mind that she is a professional woman who also has a family. Forget that she has worked hard to get where she has due to diligence and brains. No, those things aren’t enough for the femi-nazi groups. In order to be truly backed by these so called women who support women you just have to be pro-choice or pro-abortion. Palin represents an entirely different feminist woman in this country. ALL women should have been and be proud of what she has and will accomplish. To think that Palin alone with abolish Roe v Wade is extreme ignorance on their part. These women claim to be smart but frankly, they are just plain stupid and arrogant.
Alas, I have to give Obama credit – he ran a fantastic internet campaign that totally hit the younger voters. He got millions of dollars (from who knows where) and used it wisely. McCain or whoever would have run against Obama didn’t have a chance. With the free ride from the media, the uneducated voters and millions of dollars, Obama was really a shoe-in. McCain seemed to gain momentum after choosing Palin but he blew it when he voted for the bailout. McCain should have got down on that Senate floor and in front of the Senate and the entire world voted NO. THAT is the McCain that we all know. Let’s face it, McCain’s campaign was not run well. Obama’s campaign was run the complete opposite.
There is so much more I could add to this but I don’t want to put people to sleep. I keep wondering if I should be pessimistic or optimistic about 2009. Obama seems to be gearing more towards centrist choices (pissing off liberals in the meantime). He has not come out and said he will not raise taxes on business or anyone in 2009 though. This is what keeps me fearful. I’m not sure how much economic history he has read but maybe that is what he should be looking into before January 20th. If he goes forward with the plans he touted during his campaign, this country is in big trouble. If he leans more centrist as he seems to be, the we have hope - yes I said it - we have hope! Because otherwise all we’ll have is change – BAD change.