Monday, February 8, 2010

Doubling Down On Stupid

The Obama administration is doubling down on stupid all over the place. Observe...

"Every economist says I created or saved 2 million jobs"

Jake Tapper is a little confused, and so am I. The White House supposedly abandoned the “saved or created” jobs metric because of its fantasy elements and prefers now to count jobs “funded” through Porkulus, an order that came from one of the chief economists in the White House, Peter Orszag. So why did Obama claim to a Nashua, New Hampshire audience on Tuesday that he had “saved or created” two million jobs?

“Now, if you hear some of the critics, they’ll say, well, the Recovery Act, I don’t know if that’s really worked, because we still have high unemployment,” the president said. “But what they fail to understand is that every economist, from the left and the right, has said, because of the Recovery Act, what we’ve started to see is at least a couple of million jobs that have either been created or would have been lost. The problem is, 7 million jobs were lost during the course of this recession.”

Every economist? A good rule of thumb to consider the truthfulness of any speaker is his use of the terms always, never, none, all, and every. Those terms usually provide a key for a lie or a gap in knowledge — and Tapper points out the truth:

At the end of November, Congressional Budget office Director Douglas Elmendorf wrote that because of the stimulus bill “in the third quarter of calendar year 2009, an additional 600,000 to 1.6 million people were employed in the United States..”

But clearly other economists are much more skeptical, including Dan Mitchell at the libertarian Cato Institute, and J.D. Foster at The Heritage Foundation.

Some economists say the whole notion of counting “saved or created” jobs is impossible. Harvard University labor economist Lawrence Katz told ProPublica that trying to count how many jobs have been saved or created is “a silly exercise.”

And in fact, in December the Office of Management and Budget director Peter Orszag issued a directive scrapping the whole “saved or created” construct.

Why is the “saved or created” meme “a silly exercise”? Economic policies will get judged on whether they promote growth in both production and jobs. On that metric, Obama flopped in his first year. Prior to the 2007 recession, the US started on the path of both production and job growth within 12 months of the start of the recession. Obama took office in the 13th month, three months after a financial collapse. Twelve months later, we’re still shedding jobs with no end in sight. That’s the real measure of economic policy, and so far, Obama’s failing.

Nominee holds for me, but not for thee

Yesterday, at his talk with Senate Democrats, Obama went after Republicans for putting holds on his nominees— a procedural right afforded all senators.

"I don't have a GSA administrator, even though I nominated somebody who was well qualified several months ago, and nobody can tell me that there's anything particularly wrong with her," Obama said. "They're blocking her because of some unrelated matter."

The Washington Post notes today that Obama himself joined in holds on three Bush administration nominees:

In 2005, a year after his election to the Senate, Obama placed a hold on Susan Bodine to lead the Environmental Protection Agency office that oversees Superfund and emergency cleanup programs because the agency had missed a deadline on new regulations for lead paint exposure.

In September 2006, Obama and Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) blocked Robert L. Wilkie's nomination as a Defense Department assistant secretary over a long-delayed Pentagon report on Midwestern wind farms.

And Obama joined with other Democrats in October 2007 to block the nomination of Hans von Spakovsky to the Federal Election Commission. Von Spakovsky later withdrew; Wilkie and Bodine were eventually confirmed.

But a White House spokesperson said holds are way worse when Republicans do them, so there.

Backroom deals

John McCormack says that Democrats just can’t help themselves, but I don’t think that’s quite right. They’ve been helping themselves to heaping piles of pork dollars by cutting deals in backroom negotiations, for instance — and they want to keep right on helping themselves with our tax dollars. In fact, House Democrats want to double down on cutting deals in the dark:

The health care bill is in trouble, but a series of narrow deals — each designed to win over a wavering senator or key interest group — is alive and well, despite voter anger over the parochial horse-trading that marked the rush toward passage before Christmas.

With the exception of Nebraska Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson’s “Cornhusker Kickback,” which alienated independent voters and came to symbolize an out-of-touch Washington, none of the other narrow provisions that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid inserted into the bill appear to be in any kind of danger as Democrats try to figure out the way ahead.

Not only that, House liberals want to reopen the labor deal struck just days before Democrats lost their 60-vote majority — not to dial it back but to provide more generous protections from the tax on Cadillac insurance plans.

Ben Nelson’s Cornhusker Kickback will get stripped from the bill — mainly to protect Nelson from the wrath of his constituents, who got angry when Nelson reneged on a pledge to ensure that no federal dollars would subsidize abortions or abortion coverage. However, Mary Landrieu’s $300 million Louisiana Purchase will survive despite being three times as expensive as the Cornhusker Kickback. So will an exemption on Cadillac-plan taxes for Michigan, as will $500 million to Massachusetts for Medicaid reimbursements and $600 million to Vermont, for its “leadership” on cost control.

Basically, the Democrats have decided to embrace the entire notion of backroom deals and opacity in government despite the clear lesson from the Massachusetts special election. Democrats promised transparency, but delivered lobbyist-driven perks for unions instead. Now they’re talking out of both sides of their mouths, as Politico makes clear by using John Kerry as an example:

“It is very clear from the process that took place in the final days of the bill that Americans are disturbed about the process,” said Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.). “I believe it would be important for us to take out the egregious items.”

Does that mean he might forfeit the money for Massachusetts?

Not at all. Kerry argued the funding was completely legitimate because Massachusetts has already used significant state resources to extend benefits beyond what the current federal Medicaid rules require.

“I don’t think adjusting for Medicaid costs for states that have already done some things is inappropriate,” Kerry said. “I’m not for a single-state fix. I’m for every state in the country that has taken action, to have that reflected somehow, and that should be part of the fix.”

Kerry’s remark highlights an axiom of Washington: Every deal is egregious except your own.

In other words, Kerry was for transparency and fiscal responsibility at the same time he was against them. Just when you thought Kerry couldn’t possibly top his 2004 performance on vacillation, he manages a flip-flop with a double twist. This time, he has plenty of company in his own caucus, but Kerry at least should have learned a lesson from his own constituents when they elected a Republican, Scott Brown, to the Senate for the first time in 38 years.

The Democrats won’t learn this lesson until voters force a lot of them into retirement in the fall, which looks more and more certain with each attempt to cut deals with lobbyists and stretch rules to the point of breaking them to get their wildly unpopular statist bill passed.

There's much, much more. Basically, I think we've gotten to the point where anything Obama says is actually the opposite of what he's going to do. As a thought experiment, just try watching a speech of his sometime with the understanding that he'll do the opposite of what he's saying he'll do.


Anyway, here's Michael Ramirez's take on probably the most ridiculously stupid double-down:

And we've been over that many, many times before.

The point is that the American people aren't stupid. More pointedly, the American people don't take kindly to condescending snobs who lie to our face and treat us as if we're too stupid to figure out that they're lying to our face. If nothing else, that one thing would cause all sorts of headaches for Obama and the Dems in November. But, combined with the fact that they're doing it over policies that the American people DO NOT WANT, it's going to be a woodshed thumping.

And a well-deserved one, at that.

There's my two cents.

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