Monthly Archives: July 2014

Third World 48210

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water_shutWe’ve picked on Illinois as an example of the consequences befalling states governed for decades by Liberal Democrats: sticky-fingered crony capitalism, atrocious schools, self-defeating taxation, government accounting that would land any private-sector CFO in prison, and ultimately insolvency.

Illinois suffers from all those ills and California isn’t far behind. The gold-coasters of Chicago and Beverly Hills could save themselves by learning from the spectacle on display in Detroit.

The ghastly result of generations of one-party rule by Democrats, Detroit flails to pull back from the brink of becoming—there’s no kind way to say this—a third world basket case.

The bills have finally come due, figuratively and literally, for decades of the kind of governance only leftist unions, community organizers, and limousine Liberals would dare to defend, and the bankrupt city is taking the step—noncontroversial in ordinary first-world locales—of shutting off water service to people who ignore their bills.

Many do. Detroit is holding more than $90 million in delinquent water bills for 90,000 customers. The shutoffs triggered the predictable guerrilla street theater and exploitation of supposed “victims” by the hard-core Left.  But there’s nothing new in that:  exploitation is what Detroiters are used to.

The leading opponents of Detroit’s struggle for solvency and functional governance are Left-wing unions, accompanied by lots of arrested-development types who imagine themselves championing human progress by demanding that others give them things for free.

What’s relevant is that this can happen anywhere. Anyone who saw the Madison mobs in 2011 knows they had Wisconsin following Detroit’s path and would take it the rest of the way if given the chance.

Take your cues from National Nurses United, the AFL-CIO, PETA and the Sierra Club, and you, too can create a bankrupt, third-world kleptocracy.

Political Power

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next generation LED light bulbListening to constant “renewable” energy hype, many assume it’s the natural choice to save money and the environment.  A report this month from the Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC) quantifies how wrong that is.

Efficient hydropower isn’t considered environmentally pure enough by the green pressure groups driving the renewable Microbus. The renewables they like, chiefly wind and solar, add trivially to U.S. power supplies and would hardly exist but for government coercion forcing their economically nonsensical use. And the recent PSC analysis verifies that they cost a lot more than energy sources that work a lot better.

Nationwide, wind and solar, as far as we can tell the only power generation technologies approved by the Sierra Club, provide, respectively, 4.13 percent and 0.23 percent of total electricity production. That’s according to the Department of Energy, which tries to make these things look as good as possible.

Wisconsin is one of 30 states with a mandatory (as of 2006) renewable energy standard. The ten percent standard was reached last year, prompting green tub-thumping to increase the mandate, i.e., move the goal line.

But even keeping the goal line where it is, consumers get sacked. According to the PSC’s July 1 report on rate impacts of the renewable standard, during 2011 and 2012 Wisconsin consumers paid $340 million more for electricity than they otherwise would have, to cover extra costs incurred by utilities to furnish renewable energy.

Remember, we wouldn’t be doing any of this except for the Liberal hobbyhorse of man-made global warming. And credit the PSC for confirming what many know intuitively but few could prove. Its concrete numbers now show what you get when energy choices are dictated by Liberal politics: so little energy as to yield inconsequential environmental benefit, and needless additional cost for unsuspecting consumers.

Club for Shrinkage

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Furniture truckIn the world of economic thought, there are groups like Club for Growth on one hand and Obama-Jack Lew-Dick Durbin Democrats on the other:  the Club for Shrinkage.

The CFS is on a tear because U.S. corporations are increasingly attracted to the strategy of “tax inversion,” buying a foreign company and relocating the corporate headquarters where the acquisition is domiciled, escaping the 35 percent U.S. corporate tax rate—more like 40 percent with state taxes—by far the developed world’s highest.

The U.S. Treasury takes a hit because of this, but then the Treasury’s been taking a long, ongoing hit for years because of taxes it doesn’t collect when U.S. companies decline to repatriate foreign earnings, lest a third and then some disappear.

Now Chicago-based Walgreen’s is contemplating a deal that highlights the absurdity of U.S. corporate taxation. Walgreen’s has been maneuvering to buy Alliance Boots, a Swiss firm of similar profile, and relocate the corporate HQ to Bern, despite virtually all Walgreen’s sales taking place here.

The Left’s cynical response is to see unpatriotic behavior whenever a company balks at coughing up 40 percent.

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew intones that a “new sense of economic patriotism” is needed, and Illinois’ Senator Dick Durbin castigates Walgreen’s, saying customers who are “deeply patriotic” will walk away.

Lew identifies sensible tax reforms as the remedy for inversions—a laughable ploy from an administration so determined to thwart reform that it appointed Montana Democrat Max Baucus Ambassador to China to get him out of the Senate when he started closing in on a bipartisan, pro-growth tax code.

Americans aren’t so stupid as to equate lying down for the tax man with love of country, and Democrats pushing that line succeed mainly in showing how comprehensively they misrepresent what animates the American idea.

You can learn from your friends…

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Landscape with boomerang on overgrown sandy beach.For more than a decade we’ve regarded the global warming issue as a race against time. Not in the sense of “doing something” before there’s catastrophic overheating, but in the sense of what happens first: the never-ending variation of Earth’s climate making obvious nonsense of alarmist theory, or the aspiring green totalitarians panicking society into desperate taxation and regulatory schemes, then slamming the cell door shut behind us.

The week before last Australia illuminated a ray of hope, repealing a two year-old tax on carbon dioxide emissions. As significant as the repeal is the anger over the tax itself:  Last September the tax brought down the Labor Party government that enacted it.

In 2008, candidate Barack Obama felt free to tell the San Francisco Chronicle his plans to regulate carbon dioxide would cause electricity prices to “necessarily skyrocket,” knowing his adoring media fans would keep it out of their stories.  He’s still trying to accomplish with EPA regulation what a solidly Democrat-controlled Senate wouldn’t touch, but Australia’s lefties passed the tax and paid the price.

On the day of repeal, business leaders were talking about lower prices for electricity, natural gas, and groceries—things voters tend to care about.

No doubt it’s just coincidence that the next day, South Korea’s finance minister asked to postpone a carbon dioxide emissions trading plan over concerns about—you guessed it—the impact on  his country’s economy.

We think it prudent to pay attention when the Aussies and the South Koreans, some of America’s better friends internationally, decide it’s wise to take a second look at the consequences of climate alarmism.

You can learn a lot by listening to your friends.  You might even learn that when you’re doing something stupid, there’s always the option to stop.

Is the net closing on the IRS?

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netConsidering who runs the U.S. Department of Justice, it’s hard to be optimistic about an honest investigation of the Internal Revenue Service and its political targeting of Conservatives.

Nevertheless, no matter how hard the media try, people can tell there is something to see here.

Lois Lerner popped up again the week before last, in news that she’d told colleagues to be careful what they wrote in emails because Congresspersons might ask to see them.  Is it just us, or is that something you wouldn’t expect a public official to say unless they had something ugly to hide?

Still, Lerner strikes us as unlikely to be the strategic mastermind behind a nationwide program of political suppression, so it might be about time to suggest she start weighing her choices between spending several of her retirement years in an orange jumpsuit, or spilling on whoever put her up to the commission of what smells like a long string of federal felonies.

If felonies they are, it will be verified sooner or later. Dealing with a rancidly politicized Justice Department is one thing, but when federal judges get into the act, demanding to see the evidence, that is quite another.

And it looks like the evidence will be—or at least was—abundant. Monday brought word that more IRS employees (“fewer than 20”) have suddenly been found to have suffered computer crashes and loss of email. Interesting, that the higher the stakes go in gaining access to those documents, the more of them disappear. The growing number of people with potential liability means a growing probability that someone will talk. The fate of the First Amendment may come down to an IRS employee who can’t cope with the thought of prison.

The Saboteurs

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SaboteursWe once remarked to a colleague about the difficulty of naming a foreign adversary that had done as much in armed conflict to threaten the future viability of the United States as a free country as Barack Obama has done as president.

The colleague’s reaction was to question our sanity.  That was about a year ago. We wonder what he thinks now.

Over the weekend we found, carefully concealed amid news of chaos erupting around the world, that the invasion across our southern border has been much larger than the administration has been letting on.

Earlier, prominent Democrats openly advocated for throwing open the border to all comers, without heed for national security or public safety concerns, essentially pushing to discard U.S. sovereignty.

And as for those national security concerns, it’s obvious that kids from Honduras aren’t the only ones who can figure out that there are virtually no obstacles to entering this country, whatever your purposes.

As if the prospect of terrorists entering from virtually anywhere in the world weren’t bad enough, the failure of border enforcement threatens to trigger a public health crisis of staggering proportions. It’s a sign of the times that an elected official who tries to do his job—or who tries to do the job others are supposed to do and refuse—can expect to come under attack for trying to protect the country. Just ask the governor of Texas.

And if you’re thinking at least the border is remote and a long way off from Wisconsin, think again. Hundreds of immigrant children could be coming here.  Voters have 105 days before the November election, to contemplate whether they’re willing to trust any candidate whose party expects to benefit from this anarchy.

Forget Impeachment

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Voter Ballot - Democrat or RepublicanWe don’t wish to be unkind to people who mostly share our sentiments, but those demanding to impeach Barack Obama need to brush up on how that works, and then brush up on the politics.  The last time congressional Republicans tried impeachment, with an arguably stronger legal case, it turned the country against them and cost seats they couldn’t afford to lose.

Which is not to say the standard for removing a president should be the opposition party’s chances of escaping political cost. That would give us the banana republic governance Barack Obama seeks to practice: unbridled political muscle and stop-me-if-you-can.

But it emphatically is to say a party seeking to demonstrate that it’s led by grown-ups and serious about constitutional governance—a demonstration we think most Americans yearn for—will ask the country to support stressful and divisive actions only if they can be reasonably expected to succeed. Pronounced tendencies toward theatrics without prospect of ultimate success (e.g., government shutdowns or an impeachment trial presided over by Harry Reid,) are one respectable reason why many voters remain wary of the GOP. The sheer awfulness of the Obama alternative is the key reason fewer stay wary today.

To crystallize the political implications, consider who’s talking loudest about impeachment: Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden, and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, judging by the spam fundraising emails we see.  They regard impeachment as a gift, rallying a demoralized leftist base. If loose-cannon Republicans hadn’t brought it up, they might have fabricated the threat themselves.

Impeachment is a non-starter if Democrats keep the Senate majority and unnecessary if Republicans capture it.  Control of the Senate means the difference between Obama appointing one or more open socialists to the Supreme Court for life, and Obama appointing nobody.

Forget impeachment. Win some elections.

The Sleazy Way Out

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iStock_000029960092SmallDoubtless there are people who object to the Obama administration on racial grounds, overlooking the legitimate grounds on which they ought to object.

The inevitability of this being true—we’ll always have bigots—can be a powerful if disreputable weapon for one sufficiently shameless to employ the racial manipulation he imputes to others.

Meet Attorney General Eric Holder.

Mr. Holder’s whine—a strategic whine as opposed to a self-pitying one—got another airing on Sunday morning TV as he announced he’d challenge Wisconsin’s presumptively racist voter ID law.

Savor the quotes. This takes practice:

“There’s a certain level of vehemence, it seems to me, that’s directed at me [and] directed at the president,” Holder told ABC. “You know, people talking about taking their country back. I don’t think this is the thing that is a main driver, but for some there’s a racial animus.”

Nice touch. Simulate good faith by graciously conceding that not everyone who disagrees with the Obama administration is bigoted, while planting the suspicion that they probably are.

Let us submit other reasons for “a certain level of vehemence.” For instance, the open attempt to transform the whole country into the kind of place millions fled in recent centuries, preferring to live the way we still try to live here.

Vehemence is the rational response when a faculty-lounge leftist pops up, full of animosity toward the nation that elevated him to high office, saying,” Okay, America, time to turn you into something else.”

The current administration entered office with an unprecedented reserve of goodwill, and was elected twice by this supposedly bigoted nation.  Sleazy accusations of racism are an easy way out, changing the subject from what this administration is to how it appears on camera. The first of those two is what matters.

Burke’s Blunders

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Oops!!We think we’ve finally figured out the core strategic concept behind the Mary Burke for Governor campaign:  Commit every imaginable blunder as early as possible, exhausting the supply of potential embarrassments before most voters start paying attention.

At least that would give gullible Democrats an excuse to believe the past week’s pratfalls were evidence of some crafty strategists at work.

In fairness, the Burke campaign probably can’t be directly blamed for the announcement that its candidate has been endorsed by the American Federation of Teachers. We have a hard time imagining a campaign organization so politically tone-deaf as to ballyhoo the fact that its candidate, a member of the Madison School Board, is who the teachers union longs to see occupying the governor’s office. Have they considered the implications of someone inquiring what the affection between Burke and the teachers’ union means for Madison taxpayers?

Then there was last week’s report that Burke, as Doyle administration Commerce Secretary, sent more than $12 million taxpayer dollars down the rabbit hole to lure a company that had no intention of expanding in Wisconsin and had actually laid off hundreds of employees before Burke’s boondoggle.

But the biggest blunder of all was last week’s proclamation by candidate Burke herself that she would outlaw all out-of-state contributions to candidates in Wisconsin elections. Never mind the apparent ignorance of First Amendment considerations, Burke is evidently so cynical that she expects no one will notice she’s already raised more than $1 million outside Wisconsin.

In recent elections, Wisconsin Democrats have benefited massively from out-of-state contributions, conspicuously from left-wing unions. Burke has clearly embraced the Leninist dictum: Always accuse your adversary of that which you yourself are about to do.

A Temporary Triumph

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constitutiontextReading last Thursday’s Supreme Court decision on non-recess “recess” appointments, the first thing that struck us was that the opinion was written by Justice Breyer, a reliable Liberal. Then came the Conservative commentary in full celebration mode, trumpeting a 9-0 smackdown of administration lawlessness.

Sorry, it was a setback, not a smackdown.

Justice Antonin Scalia wrote a concurring opinion noting that the Constitution specifically allows recess appointment to positions vacated during a recess and defining the recess as the break between sessions, not a brief interruption of Senate business. Obama’s National Labor Relations Board appointments met neither standard. Anyone who finds this confusing probably has something up his sleeve.

In finding the appointments unconstitutional, the court’s Liberals didn’t warn Obama not to try it again so much as counsel him that he might have gotten away with it if only he hadn’t been so eager.

The Liberals ruled that “a recess of more than 3 days but less than 10 days is presumptively too short” to meet the requirements of the Recess Appointments Clause. Translation: Have Harry Reid keep the Senate in recess for ten days and wave through any appointees who are too politically radioactive to be confirmed.

Scalia wrote that the court’s majority “replaces the Constitution’s text with a new set of judge-made rules” that may or may not reduce recess appointments but will “have the effect of aggrandizing the Presidency beyond its constitutional bounds and undermining respect for the separation of powers.”

There are two and a half years left for Obama to hone his lawbreaking skills, and we don’t know what will follow him. By way of undoing a couple of years of bad practice last Thursday, the court may have opened the door to—in Scalia’s word—“unimagined” abuses later on.