The Obama Watch

The Obama Watch

Defining Challenges Down

By 2.19.14

It’s the “defining challenge of our time,” declared President Obama, referring to income inequality in the American economy.

A good start for Mr. Obama in reducing the hardships that exist in the poorer segments of this economy — an economy with 13 million more people receiving food stamps than when he took office in 2009, the slowest recovery since World War II, and the lowest percentage of the population in 36 years participating in the labor force — would be to make it his “defining challenge” to discover and publicize how his administration’s policies have weakened economic growth, slowed job creation and lowered income increases, especially in the bottom income quintiles.

Starting off his first term, what didn’t work was Obama’s recovery strategy of bashing “the rich” and selling political boondoggles as “shovel ready” stimulants to employment.

What also didn’t improve job growth, raise incomes or reduce inequality were the incentives in the Affordable Care Act for companies to switch full-time employees to part-time workers and not expand workforces beyond 49 employees.

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The Obama Watch

Of Course He Should Be Impeached

By 2.17.14

Last week, Jeffrey Lord asked the following question in this space: “Should Obama be impeached?” I have enormous respect for Lord, and agree with virtually everything he writes, but his column reflects an unsettling trend in the way many view this issue. Most pundits and politicians discuss Obama’s serial violations of the Constitution as if mulling an interesting academic subject. They ponder such arcana as the definition of “high crimes and misdemeanors,” the number of Senate votes required to convict an impeached President, the effect of the process on the GOP’s electoral prospects in 2016, ad infinitum. Few, however, discuss impeachment as a serious possibility or even a rational course of action.

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The Obama Watch

Mr. President, Suspend Davis-Bacon

By 2.7.14

The president once again is calling for a massive investment in infrastructure projects. In his State of the Union address, he argued that money saved by simplifying the tax code could then be invested in repairing and building bridges, roads, ports, and other key infrastructure.

Regrettably, all these proposed public works projects would be covered by the Davis-Bacon Act of 1931 (D-B), an outdated, anachronistic federal statute that mandates the payment of “prevailing wages” (read "union scale") for all workers on federally funded construction projects.

D-B unnecessarily inflates construction costs, imposes wasteful bureaucratic paperwork requirements on contractors, and allocates employment opportunities unfairly. It would seriously undermine this latest phase of the president's proposed infrastructure program. But, of course, the statute is the sacred cow of labor unions.

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The Obama Watch

The Fox and the Attention Hog

By 2.5.14

Bill O’Reilly’s interview with Barack Obama before the Super Bowl proved as unstimulating as the game. O’Reilly had hyped the interview as the equivalent of a momentous boxing match. With characteristic humility, he said it would be like when “two boxers go into the center of the ring, that is exactly the way it is when an alpha interviews an alpha.”

The most interesting question came not from O’Reilly but from a viewer, who wanted to know: “Mr. President, why do you feel it’s necessary to fundamentally transform the nation that has afforded you so much opportunity and success?” Obama rejected the premise of the question, saying, “I don't think we have to fundamentally transform the nation.” That glib denial of the record — he promised fundamental transformation in 2008 — characterized most of the interview. Then again, perhaps he meant that now that he has fundamentally transformed the country with Obamacare and his other measures he is content with America.

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The Obama Watch

Misstate of the Union

By 2.1.14

Here in Florida every popular joke seems to involve a doctor. The latest one is about Sam, the freshly insured Obamacare patient who goes to see the new doctor assigned by his plan. The medic checks him top to bottom and then steps out for a moment. He comes back in with the blood-pressure cuff, saying: “The only thing I need to recheck is your pressure which read dangerously low the first time.”

While fastening the cuff, the doctor tells Sam that because of his new policy there would be a higher co-payment, 200 dollars. The mechanism now adjusted, the doctor takes Sam’s blood pressure. Good news! It is no longer low… if anything, a little on the high side…

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The Obama Watch

The Muzak State of the Union

By 1.31.14

The meaning of words still matter beyond how they sound.

It’s easy to forget that listening to President Barack Obama sometimes, like during the State of the Union Tuesday.

While watching it I kept thinking of friends’ language poetry class in college, where the point was to string words together in a pleasing manner purposely disconnected from meaning -- in order to create a new meaning.

Those poems baffled me then just as President Obama’s speech did the other night because reality is so different from the one he talked about and the self-contradictions overflowed. For example:

He wants a country that continues to put its “collective shoulder to the wheel of progress.” And he told Congress, “I’m eager to work with all of you.” But if that doesn’t work out, he said, “Wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do.” Apparently too impatient to even try the togetherness strategy he revered as America’s historic model, he vowed in coming weeks to sign an executive order raising the federal minimum wage on new federal contracts.

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The Obama Watch

Aided and Abetted by Extraterrestrials

By 1.30.14

American astronomer J. Allen Hynek shuffled off this mortal coil in 1986, but I wonder what he would have made of this week’s State of the Union address, which as far as I can tell vindicated a good bit of his research. Hynek tried to codify relative strangeness by outlining differences between “close encounters” of the first, second, and third kinds. His 1972 book explaining that classification impressed filmmaker Steven Spielberg back in the day, and could be understood as an ascending scale of oddity, depending on whether you saw an unidentified flying object, noticed that the UFO had an effect on your environment, or swore on top of the two previous impressions that an inexplicably animated creature of some sort was also present. 

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The Obama Watch

The Opportunism Society

By 1.29.14

Obama doesn’t believe in opportunity so much as opportunism. In Tuesday night’s State of the Union, he made slippery use of the word opportunity as a euphemism for more big government. 

Other presidents would have said that a love of “freedom” united all Americans. But Obama changed freedom to “opportunity”: “what I believe unites the people of this nation, regardless of race or region or party, young or old, rich or poor, is the simple, profound belief in opportunity for all — the notion that if you work hard and take responsibility, you can get ahead.”

Obama prefers the word opportunity to freedom, as opportunity implies a large government role in creating it. At the same time, trying to improve his slumping poll numbers with more moderate language, he didn’t want to talk blatantly about government-mandated equal outcomes. But that’s what “opportunity” essentially means under his political philosophy.

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The Obama Watch

The King Is Naked

By 1.28.14

It is very important to silence the man who first cries out, ‘the king is naked,’ before others pick up the cry.”
— Valentin Moroz, Soviet Dissident

It’s State of the Union night.

And the state of Obama’s America is not good.

The news is out. The king is naked. The Emperor has no clothes.

Jobs: Ninety-two million Americans are out of the workforce.

Health Insurance: Five-plus million Americans who had health insurance have now lost that health insurance. As many as 25 million more could lose their insurance this year. All of it due to Obamacare.

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The Obama Watch

Obama’s Inequality Baloney

By 1.27.14

The big story that’s simultaneously being spotlighted from the Vatican to the White House, from Oxfam to newly elected Mayor Bill de Blasio in New York City, is economic inequality and the purportedly overly-skewed and unjust distribution of wealth.

“The human rights group Oxfam reported that the wealth of the world's 85 richest people is equal to that of the poorer half of the world's population,” reported Voice of America on January 20.

In other words, the wealth of a little group of people who can easily fit into two Mercedes party buses is equal to the combined wealth of the 3.5 billion people who make up the bottom half of the world’s population.

That’s nothing new. Wrote Jeffrey Goldberg in 2011 in Bloomberg Businessweek, regarding the Wal-Mart heirs, “In 2007, according to labor economist Sylvia Allegretto, the six Walton family members on the Forbes 400 had a net worth equal to the bottom 30 percent of all Americans.”

In other words, six people who can fit nicely into a new Cadillac Escalade have more dough than a third of all Americans.

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