So much can go south when one goes missing for a week.
Imagine my surprise, after the first week in several years in which I had no access to newspapers, television, or the Internet, to be re-plugged into the web on Tuesday, digging back through the news of early August, and wondering if Harold Camping was just a couple of months early.
In terms of finance, the stock market had its worst day in years on Monday — its sixth worst percentage loss ever —on the heels of losing 7.2% in the prior week. And that week was before ratings agency Standard and Poors (“S&P”) downgraded U.S. debt, on which more in a moment.
During the past several days, the yield on a U.S. government 10-year note has plummeted to about 2.2%, roughly equaling its panic levels reached briefly during the heart of the financial crisis in 2008.
Imagine my surprise to read that after the market closed last Friday, S&P downgraded U.S. sovereign debt for the first time in our nation’s history. Some argue that S&P wanted to make a political statement, and that its comments about political brinksmanship during the debt ceiling debate were a shot at Republicans. But make no mistake: This first-ever downgrade of U.S. debt happened on President Obama’s watch. S&P has done more damage to Barack Obama’s re-election chances than any other person or single event has.
It’s not just my opinion: Since the debt downgrade, betting odds on Obama’s re-election have dropped from about 56% to 50.5%, by far his lowest betting odds during his first, and increasingly likely to be his only, term.
During this week’s Black Monday, the market’s first opportunity to react to the downgrade, investors in American stocks lost a trillion dollars, more than seven percent of our GDP for the entire year. Think about that for a second.
In the early afternoon on Monday, President Obama decided to lead from behind again, offering another uninspiring, formulaic press conference. Perhaps telling Obama what investors think of him, the market proceeded to fall another 200 points. As the National Post’s (Canada) Matt Gurney put it, “His speech might have been a futile gesture, but it was still a bad futile gesture.”
Yes, imagine my surprise to miss just one week of trading and find stocks — and Obama’s re-election chances — fully 10% lower and U.S. debt no longer AAA-rated by S&P.
But that wasn’t the only shock upon returning to my plugged-in high-tech news-junkie everyday life. Imagine my surprise, anger and sadness to learn of the shooting down of a U.S. military helicopter in Afghanistan, ending the lives of 30 Americans including members of “SEAL Team Six,” the group of warriors who brought justice to Osama bin Laden. President Obama mentioned this tragedy at the end of his Monday “vanity press conference,” sounding as detached and robotic as we’ve come to expect from him lately.
How strange a change in a man who won election in large part due to soaring rhetoric: his words fail him now even in the presence of his teleprompter, and even on a subject that should instill genuine passion in a Commander in Chief. Ah, were he only that in spirit and character, instead of continuing to lead from behind, blaming everyone but himself for everything that befalls his presidency. Perhaps a new slogan for a Republican challenger: “Barack Obama: he just wasn’t as shovel-ready as we thought.”
And imagine my surprise to see pictures of riots, fire bombings, looting, beatings, and general mayhem in cities and towns across England. It’s Rodney King, British style, on a massive scale. Nile Gardiner, one of Britain’s best columnists (though he is based in Washington, D.C.), makes the point that “If British shopkeepers had the right to bear arms, vicious thugs would think twice before looting.” No doubt. After all, as Gardiner continues, “Britain’s gun laws are among the most draconian in the world, yet the nation has some of the highest levels of violent crime and burglary in the West, and there is no shortage of gun crime in major cities such as London and Manchester.” It’s unlikely that gun rights will stage a real revival in Britain, but here’s hoping…
Tuesday, checking news from my thin fog of jet lag, was not without shocks of its own, both pleasant and not so pleasant: On the bright side, the results in the Wisconsin recall elections are, despite the brave face the unions are putting on, a disaster for the left. They went “all in” to beat Republican state senators and only beat two out of six — and those two had serious vulnerabilities — incinerating millions of dollars of union members’ dues money in the process.
And earlier in the day, the Federal Reserve Board announced that it would keep short-term interest rates near zero for two years. It’s an unprecedented statement by the Fed, not only because it substantially limits its range of action but also because three voting members of the Board dissented from the action, something which hasn’t happened in 19 years.
Imagine my surprise to hear Ben Bernanke imply that Barack Obama’s economic policies will continue to be so ineffective (or counter-productive) that the Fed is writing off any chance of substantial economic growth until well after the next presidential election. When you look at it that way, The Bernanke’s move makes sense: There’s no reason to suggest the job-and-growth-creating entrepreneurial class will or should take any risk, start or expand any business, or hire anyone, until this president and his tax cheat treasury secretary, are gainfully unemployed, trying for the first time in their unproductive lives to make a living in the private sector they understand so little about.
Imagine my surprise to hear Al “Rent Seeker” Gore’s expletive-laden tirade against those who are skeptical of human impact on climate — which is to say those who threaten the value of Gore’s large stakes in “green” technology companies whose success requires a gullible and spendthrift government willing to funnel taxpayer money down the Gore rat hole. Sorry, Al, nobody’s buying that “the very existence of our civilization is threatened”; we’ve figured out that it’s your portfolio that’s threatened. OK, I really wasn’t surprised by any of this, but it’s so much fun to hear Gore say “bulls—t” that I had to mention it.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?