Getting A Pro-Constitution Court

A neighbor and I were discussing the ramifications of the Supreme Court’s decision on Obamacare a few days ago when he made the comment, “That was a really black day for America. Maybe the worst in many years.”

His remark got me thinking. Which was the more momentous date? When the Court issued its verdict on June 28? When the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was enacted into law and signed by the President in March 2010? Or was the most critical date November 2008, when a lot of gullible Americans accepted Barack Obama’s promises for “hope and change” and elected him President?

Of course, they are all important dates in history. But it’s pretty obvious, isn’t it, that the first and second would never have happened if it weren’t for the third? Elections have consequences. One of the biggest consequences of the next one is that whoever wins the Presidency will probably get to appoint two or three new members to our Nation’s highest court.

Think about it. Three current members of the Court — conservative stalwart Antonin Scalia, liberal dependable Ruth Bader Ginsburg and occasional swing vote Anthony Kennedy — will all reach their 80s during the next Presidential Administration. Assuming some or all of them retire sometime over the next four years, whoever is nominated to succeed them could change the Court’s complexion for decades to come.

As you know, a Federal judgeship is a lifetime gig. The average length of service on the Supreme Court is currently 25 years. But with nominees getting younger and younger and with longevity increasing, new appointees could serve for 30 or 40 years.

If you think Chief Justice Roberts had to turn logic on its head to find that Obamacare was Constitutional, just wait until you see what an even more liberal Court will allow. It’s hard to imagine that such a court would find any expansion of Federal power unConstitutional.

While I’m certainly willing to agree that June 28 was a bad day for liberty in this country, I can think of many others that were worse. In fact, in my humble opinion, it wasn’t even the worst Supreme Court decision I can remember. For that dishonor, we have to go back almost 40 years, when the Court voided the anti-abortion laws of 46 States in Roe vs. Wade. That decision (which came on a 7-2 vote), caused more death, destruction and controversy than any other ruling in my lifetime.

Another damaging day in judicial history was way back in May 1954, when the Court ruled (unanimously, by the way) in Brown vs. Board of Education that “separate but equal” educational facilities would no longer be allowed in this country.

Today, most of us would probably agree that separate facilities could never be equal. And that trying to use the police power of the State to keep races separate was a huge mistake. Segregation created some monstrous injustices at the time and a legacy of bitterness and resentment that has lasted to this day.

But in its decision the Supreme Court did much more than simply declare that separate educational facilities were inherently unequal. The ruling paved the way for a massive Federal takeover of education in the United States. It led directly to such insanity as cross-town busing, to achieve some dubious level of integration that was dictated by a Federal judge.

Until that time, it was generally understood that a Supreme Court decision was “the law of the case.” But with the Brown decision, it became “the law of the land.” The judicial branch of government had usurped the power of the legislative branch. The Court was issuing dictates that would never have been approved by Congress or the individual States.

At the time, there was an enormous amount of opposition to the Federal courts assuming these vast new powers. I remember helping distribute a powerful little book called Nine Men Against America. There were even calls for Congress to rein in the Court by limiting its authority or trying to remove some of its members.

One of the things that makes our system of government so remarkable is all of the ways that our Founding Fathers tried to limit the power of the central government. In school we were taught that the Constitution would not even have been adopted were it not for the addition of those first 10 Amendments known as the Bill of Rights. It’s been a long time, however, since any justice (or most politicians, for that matter) paid more than lip service to the 9th and 10th Amendments.

Remember hearing about all of the “checks and balances” the framers put in place between the three branches of the Federal government: executive, legislative and judicial? We know that the first, the executive, gets to appoint nominees to the Supreme Court (and other Federal courts). And that the second, the legislative, gets to approve or deny those nominations.

But Congress’ power over the judiciary doesn’t end there. Our Founding Fathers were determined to give the people’s representatives, the Legislature, additional ways to check the other two branches of government. One was the ability to declare some issues “off limits” to the courts, by voting to remove their “appellate jurisdiction.”

The other check that Congress was given over the other two branches of government was the power of impeachment — that is, the ability to present charges against members of the courts and even the President.

In the 1960s, when the John Birch Society launched a nationwide movement under the slogan “Impeach Early Warren,” many people weren’t even aware that the Constitution gave Congress such a power — or, for that matter, what it meant or how it would be exercised.

I don’t think Congress has ever voted to impeach a member of the Supreme Court. Bill Clinton was the first President since Andrew Johnson to even have impeachment charges leveled against him.

At the time, I questioned whether lying about a tryst with an intern approached the level of misconduct that our Founding Fathers envisioned before a sitting President would be impeached. A majority of members of the House must have agreed, because Smilin’ Bill wasn’t charged. (What he no doubt heard from Hillary when she got him alone is another matter entirely.)

What are the chances that Congress will use either of these Constitutional remedies to rein in the Supreme Court? Pretty darned close to zero, I’m afraid.

That means if you want to see more pro-Constitution decisions from the Supreme Court, you’d better make sure the next appointees share your appreciation for our founding document. Otherwise, we’ll just get more justices whose oath to uphold the Constitution means as little to them as the one Barack Obama took obviously means to him.

In other words, if you want to change the Court, you’d better begin by changing the guy in the White House.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

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Corrected: Original stated Andrew Jackson, not Andrew Johnson, had impeachment charges brought against him.

Obama’s ‘Victory’ Could Spell His Defeat

So Chief Justice John Roberts joined the liberal wing of the Supreme Court to decide that Obamacare, including the hugely unpopular “mandate,” is perfectly OK under the U.S. Constitution.

Now all three branches of the Federal government — the legislative, the executive and the judicial — have agreed to support the biggest expansion of government power in the history of this Republic. To say I’m aghast would be the understatement of the week.

Aghast, but not surprised. Let’s be honest: The Supreme Court has a lousy record of telling the Federal government it can’t do something. As far as the nine members of the Court are concerned, the 9th and 10th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution don’t exist.

Of course, Roberts had to twist the facts like a pretzel to justify the ruling. Barack Obama had insisted that Obamacare “absolutely” was  not a tax. The measure’s supporters in Congress said the same thing, over and over again.

Now comes the Supreme Court saying that of course it’s a tax. If it were to be judged based on the Commerce Clause or the Necessary and Proper Clause (two phrases in the Constitution that liberals love to use to justify every possible expansion of federal power), a majority of Court members said it would clearly be unConstitutional.

I’ll leave for another day speculation about why Roberts ruled as he did and gave himself the task of writing the majority opinion. Justices Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito dissented: “… to say that the Individual Mandate merely imposed a tax is not to interpret the statue but to rewrite it.”

Exactly. The bill’s defenders were desperately afraid that the Court would rule against Obamacare. When it didn’t, they were ecstatic.

But their glee won’t last for long. Two things are going to happen that will turn their rejoicing into anguish. One will occur later this year, the other further down the road.

The first will be massive Republican gains this fall. Consider: Before the Court’s ruling, some 55 percent to 60 percent of potential voters said they opposed Obamacare. Now that they know it will be shoved down their throats, they should be furious. Many of them are. Pollster Scott Rasmussen put it this way: “The conservative interest in the election was already much higher than that of moderates and liberals. It went up to really stratospheric levels right after the ruling.”

In the majority opinion, Roberts wrote something that will come back to haunt every liberal supporter of this odious law:

“We [the Court] possess neither the expertise nor the prerogative to make policy judgments. Those decisions are entrusted to our nation’s elected leaders, who can be thrown out of office if the people disagree with them. It is not our job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices.”

Is there a single Democrat anywhere running for election this fall who will brag about foisting this massive tax increase on the country? I don’t think so. I predict we will see a ton of them “thrown out of office,” to quote the Chief Justice.

Fox News commentator Dick Morris put it this way: “So this really puts Obamacare front and center as the leading issue in the 2012 campaign. In a real sense it makes the 2012 campaign a carbon copy of the 2010 campaign — and we all know how that turned out.”

A lot of liberals are worried about this very thing. In a fundraising appeal on the eve of the Court’s decision, Ted Kennedy’s son Patrick predicted: “If the Court upholds the law, dangerous Tea Party extremists will go on a rampage.”

Don’t you just love the liberals’ scare tactics? Of course, no conservative will go on a rampage. The Tea Party types will do something the left will find much worse. They’ll vote — in larger numbers than ever before. And they’ll get a bunch of their friends and neighbors to do so as well.

Remember, the 2,300-page monstrosity that created Obamacare contains at least 21 tax increases. Estimates are that it costs taxpayers more than $800 billion. And get this: The majority of those increases will hit families earning less than $250,000 a year.

So much for Obama’s promise that his healthcare proposals would “never be purchased with [a] tax increase on middle-class families.” Tea Party favorite Sarah Palin used just four words to describe the situation: “Obama lies; freedom dies.”

When The Other Shoe Drops

What if I’m wrong and Republicans don’t enjoy enough legislative victories this year to repeal Obamacare?

If Obama wins re-election and the Democrats retain control of the Senate, I still think Obamacare will end up on the ash can of history. Here’s why.

Once Obamacare is fully in force and insurance companies are required to accept every possible applicant — no matter what pre-existing conditions they may have — you can bet that healthcare premiums will skyrocket.

When that happens, for many people it will be cheaper to simply pay the penalty rather than cough up the money for the premiums. After all, why shouldn’t they delay getting coverage until they actually need it? Just think what would happen if you could wait until your house was on fire to buy insurance on it. Who would be dumb enough to buy it before you needed it?

The only way to prevent this from happening is to make the penalties higher than the cost of insurance. But I don’t see that ever happening, even with a Congress filled with Nancy Pelosis and Harry Reids.

Margaret Thatcher once said, “Socialist governments traditionally do make a financial mess. They always run out of other people’s money. It’s quite a characteristic of them.”

That’s the same problem Obamacare will encounter. The faster the plan is put in place, the sooner it will collapse. Of course, in the meantime, the government will do everything in its power to keep us tax cows producing as much milk as possible. It won’t be pleasant having every last dollar it can grab squeezed out of us.

Rather than waiting until the iron bars are around your neck, locking you in place in the dairy barn, wouldn’t it be a good idea to accept Roberts’ challenge and get the law repealed?

The only way to do that is by replacing the people who passed it. Of course, that means starting in the White House. But that won’t be enough if the Democrats still control the Senate.

We’ve got our work cut out for us, folks. Better get busy.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

What Happens Now?

No justice at Justice. Surprise, surprise. The Justice Department announced last Friday that it will not prosecute its boss, Attorney General Eric Holder, for contempt of Congress. Deputy Attorney General James Cole sent a letter to House Speaker John Boehner declaring that “We will not prosecute an executive branch official under the contempt of Congress statute for withholding subpoenaed documents pursuant to a presidential assertion of executive privilege.” What happens now? My bet is a lot of bluff, blustering and rhetoric, but not much else.

Encouraging people to steal. An op-ed article in The New York Times several months ago carried the subhead “Why I stole Wi-Fi for years – and you should, too.” The author claimed that her neighbors’ decision to leave their Wi-Fi networks password-free “was essentially a gift, an ethereal gesture of kindness.” Sure it was.

More proof the free market works. Here’s an amazing statistic: The southern white rhinoceros, which was almost extinct a century ago, has enjoyed an amazing comeback. There are now an estimated 20,000 of the beasts in Africa. What made the difference? Encouraging private ownership of the animals. This promoted breeding, permitted controlled trophy hunting and even allowed rhino horns to be harvested humanely. (They grow back.) As a result, death from poachers, starvation and natural predators has all but disappeared.

A dramatic way to make the point. College students who want to show how offensive it is to base anything — including student admissions — on race have been known to organize a treat of an event: affirmative action bake sales. Wikipedia states: “A typical pricing structure charges $1.00 for White and Asian males, $.75 for White and Asian females, $.50 for Latino, Black, and Native American males and $.25 for Latino, Black, and Native American females.” The protests have taken place at many campuses across the country, much to the dismay of liberal groups and some college officials.

–Chip Wood   

 

Your Vote Matters

Finally, Obama said something I agree with. President Barack Obama was roundly criticized for his long, disjointed and uninspiring speech on the economy two weeks ago. But he said something in his conclusion that I’m sure most conservatives would agree with: “Your vote will finally determine the path that we take as a nation — not just tomorrow, but for years to come.”

Food stamp use explodes. Remember when Bill Clinton bragged that his welfare reform was taking Americans off the dole? The Administration of Barack Obama sure has reversed that. At the end of fiscal 2008, the food stamp program cost taxpayers $34.6 billion. Today, the tab has more than doubled, to $78 billion, with one in seven Americans on the dole. And believe it or not, the Department of Agriculture is spending millions of dollars on an advertising program to get even more people signed up. They’ve even got a $500 million bounty to reward States for finding more participants.

Meanwhile, families’ net worth plummets. A report by the Federal Reserve says that the average American family’s net worth dropped almost 40 percent between 2007 and 2010. It went from a high of $126,400 in 2007 to just $77,300 in 2010 — a level last seen in 1992. Most of the decline was attributed to the sharp drop in housing values. Family income is also falling, from an average of $49,600 in 2007 to just $45,800 in 2010. Does anyone want to bet that things have gotten better in the past 18 months?

How much will this matter in November? What do Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin have in common? First, they’re all considered toss-up States in the Presidential election. Whoever wins most of these electoral votes will undoubtedly win the White House. But second, they are all States where voters approved an amendment to the Constitution declaring that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.

–Chip Wood   

Eric Holder Has To Go

The House of Representatives is about to vote on whether to declare Eric Holder, our Attorney General, in contempt of Congress. And by the time you read this, the Supreme Court will have issued its long-awaited ruling on the Constitutionality of Obamacare.

Unfortunately, I’ll have to wait until next week to comment on both events. Thanks to publishing deadlines, I have to finish this column before the House takes its vote and the Court renders its verdict.

But I don’t have to wait another minute to predict that it’s just a matter of time before Holder is no longer our Nation’s top law-enforcement officer. While the list of unConstitutional excesses by this Administration is longer than both of my arms, Holder’s bungling mismanagement of the Fast and Furious crisis, followed by his outright defiance of Congress, is reason enough to color him gone.

What’s gotten lost in the whole contrived controversy over Holder’s claim of executive privilege is how this uproar began. In 2009, someone in the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives approved plans to let some 2,000 illegal weapons in the United States get into the hands of a Mexican drug cartel. The idea was to track where the guns went, so they could nail some drug kingpins.

A bad idea went terribly awry in 2010, when Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was killed in a shoot-out with drug traffickers. A firearm found out at the scene was traced to the botched Federal program.

Congress decided to investigate how this whole mess happened. And that’s when Holder’s Justice Department made a huge mistake. It sent a letter to Congress in February 2011 flatly denying that any such program ever existed.

The House Oversight Committee didn’t buy it and demanded to see various reports and communications. One of the items that subsequently came to light was an email in March of last year from then-acting ATF Director Kenneth Melson urging the Justice Department to “back off the letter.” But it took another seven months before Holder’s agency acknowledged the existence of the Fast and Furious program and admitted its previous claims weren’t true.

That would have been a very good time for Holder to abide by the old maxim, “If you mess up, ’fess up.” Instead, he took the opposite tack and dug in his heels. So far, Justice has given Congress only a tiny fraction of the documents it has requested, insisting that all of the others are somehow protected by executive privilege.

Claims of executive privilege can apply when you’re talking about communications between the President and the people who work for him, such as the Attorney General. But not when you’re trying to keep a duly constituted Congressional committee from learning about communications within a Federal department.

In a lead editorial last week, The Wall Street Journal noted the curious contradictions and dangerous implications of what’s happening here:

Did White House officials know and approve Fast and Furious before it went awry, and did they advise the Justice Department on how to respond to Congress’s investigation into the operation’s failure?

How can the President invoke a privilege to protect documents he and the White House are supposed to have had nothing to do with?

And what is so damaging or embarrassing in those documents that Mr. Obama is now willing to invest his own political capital to protect it from disclosure—at least until after the election?

The last three words contain the key to the current unpleasantness. Obama would like nothing better than to put off any resolution until after Nov. 6. And I think it’s safe to assume that Holder would like to keep his cushy job for as long as possible. Who could blame him?

If a majority of House members do vote to hold the Attorney General in contempt, then what happens? It would be up to a U.S. Attorney to prosecute the case — which means he would be prosecuting his own boss. Does anyone see a potential conflict of interest there?

On the other hand, Holder could order the U.S. Attorney not to prosecute. Wouldn’t Republicans have a field day with that one?

Unless Republicans in the House agree to meekly back down (something I don’t see happening), it won’t be long before Holder is gone. Some 115 Republican members of Congress have signed a no confidence resolution against Holder. Dozens already called for his resignation. Several members of the Senate, including two members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, echoed that demand.

Holder has been very obliging in the past about doing whatever his boss in the White House wanted. This included refusing to enforce the Defense of Marriage Act and declining to prosecute New Black Panther Party members who were caught on tape in November 2008 trying to intimidate voters.

So I have no doubt that when Barack Obama wants to shove him out the door of Justice, Holder will quickly oblige. As I said before, you can color him gone. But don’t get me wrong. This doesn’t mean that justice has been done at Justice. We’ve got a long way to go — at least until January — before that happens.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

King Obama Flouts The Law Again

What a difference a year makes — especially if you’re running for re-election and your pollsters tell you that you’re in deep doo-doo.

Last July, Barack Obama told his favorite Hispanic group, the National Council of La Raza, that he knew “some people want me to bypass Congress and change the laws on my own.” He admitted that the idea was “very tempting.” Then he added, “But that’s not how — that’s not how our system works.”

In September, he expanded on this theme when he spoke to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. “I wish I had a magic wand and could make this all happen on my own,” he said. But then he noted, “But we live in a democracy, and at the end of the day, I can’t do this all by myself under our democratic system.”

Just to make sure that all of the politicians present understood what he meant, the former professor of Constitutional law added, “If we’re going to do big things — whether it’s passing this jobs bill, or the DREAM Act, or comprehensive immigration reform — we’re going to have to get Congress to act.”

But as I said, that was then, this is now. And now Obama needs all the Latino votes he can get. So, a few days ago, he decided to heck with Congress and our Constitution; he’d just issue an edict to change the rules.

Effective immediately, the President said, the United States would no longer try to deport any young people who are in this country illegally. If they were brought to this country as children and are not yet 30 years old, they’ll get a free pass for the next two years. The only stipulations are that they have no criminal record and have completed high school, earned a GED diploma or served in the military.

No one knows for sure how many illegals will benefit from the new rule, but estimates are that the number could be as high as 800,000. And no one knows how many votes this ploy will garner the President in November, but it could be several million.

So, once again, we have the disturbing specter of the President of the United States — the Numero Uno government official who, per the Constitution, is responsible for seeing that Federal laws are fully and fairly enforced — blithely announcing that he is going to ignore the law of the land and do whatever he wants.

Of course, this isn’t the first time such a thing has happened. It isn’t even the fourth or fifth time it’s happened. It’s been a hallmark of Obama’s Administration almost from his first year in office, when he said that the Federal government would not enforce the Defense of Marriage Act.

Right now, the Justice Department is waging war on officials in Florida because the Governor there wanted the election rolls purged of any people who are not legal residents of this country. That sounded pretty reasonable to me. But I guess someone in Washington realized that a lot of those illegal aliens were voting for Democrats, so maybe the Florida officials should be stopped.

Oh, and don’t you dare suggest that it is reasonable and proper for potential voters to be asked to prove that they are really who they say they are before being given a ballot. Never mind that you can’t board an airplane, buy alcohol or order a prescription without showing legal identification. Voter ID laws, we’re told, are the worst sort of discrimination since Jim Crow laws were rampant in the South.

Another example of the Obama Administration’s delight in flouting our laws was the so-called bailout of General Motors and Chrysler. Rather than following the traditional rules of bankruptcy, Obama’s car czar rigged the game. Bondholders had billions of dollars stolen from them and given to the Democrats’ friends in the United Auto Workers union.

By the way, it’s not just us crazy right-wingers who are saying this. In “Obama’s policy strategy: Ignore laws,” Politico reported: “On issue after issue — gay rights, drug enforcement, Internet gambling, school achievement standards — the administration has chosen to achieve its goals by a method best described as passive-aggressive.”

I disagree. Acts like these aren’t merely passive-aggressive. They are flagrantly unConstitutional!

At the top of the list of Obama’s defiant flouting of our Constitution, though, has to be his eagerness to wage war. He is not alone in this, of course. The last time a President asked Congress for a declaration of war before committing our troops to fight and die was after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. But the fact that every President since then has ignored the Constitution doesn’t make it right.

Every schoolchild in America is taught that we are supposed to be a Nation of laws, not the whims of men. Does anyone really believe this anymore? How can we, with the example being set by the scofflaw in our Nation’s highest office?

Meanwhile, we wait in vain for our Senators and Representatives to demand a halt to this unConstitutional usurpation of their powers. Every single one of them took an oath of office to “protect and defend” the Constitution of the United States.

Maybe they should be required to read it, so they’ll have a better idea of what their job is supposed to be — and just how blatant this theft of their responsibilities has become. If they won’t, then it’s up to us to replace them this November with people who will — beginning with the guy in the White House.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Taxmageddon Looms

Another recession coming? The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office confirmed something I wrote about in Are You Ready For Taxmageddon. The CBO estimates that if the George W. Bush-era tax cuts aren’t renewed at the end of this year, our economy will contract by 1.3 percent in the first half of 2013. Gross domestic product is already pretty anemic, increasing just 2.2 percent for the first quarter of this year.

Another Democrat abandons Obama. Artur Davis, a four-term Congressman from Alabama who was one of Barack Obama’s earliest supporters, shocked the Democratic establishment by announcing that he was becoming a Republican. Quoting a phrase first popularized by Ronald Reagan, Davis said that the Democratic Party had left him, not the other way around. But the national media, which loved to publicize any Republican dissent with George Bush, has been conspicuously silent when a Democrat jumps ship.

Mitt Romney is raising some big bucks. Last month, the Mitt Romney campaign raised more money than the Barack Obama campaign. According to official accounts, some $77 million poured into coffers of Romney and the Republican Party in May. This was some $17 million more than Obama raised, even counting the big bucks fundraiser at George Clooney’s house.

The quote of the week. Actually, this one comes from a Peggy Noonan column in The Wall Street Journal two weeks ago: “Any president will, in a presidential election year, be political. But there is a startling sense with Mr. Obama that that’s all he is now, that he and his people are all politics, all the time, undeviatingly, on every issue. He isn’t even trying to lead, he’s just trying to win.” Indeed, he is.

–Chip Wood

Union Membership Dwindling

Labor losses are mounting. I mentioned in Wisconsin Vote Stuns The Left how membership in the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees plummeted in Wisconsin once the State stopped taking union dues from their paychecks. But it turns out that union support is declining in other States as well. The Wall Street Journal reported: “In the 12 months ended in February, Ohio’s membership fell 8.5%, Pennsylvania’s dropped 3.4% and Michigan’s declined 11.7%.” Look for union clout to continue to decline as more and more States challenge their power and more and more members decline to pay their dues.

Another promise Obama didn’t keep. Union supporters in Wisconsin are still smarting over the lack of support they received from President Barack Obama. Many of them remember this promise the candidate made in 2007: “If American workers are being denied their right to organize and collectively bargain when I’m in the White House, I’ll put on a comfortable pair of shoes myself, I’ll walk on that picket line with you as president of the United States of America.” But when push came to shove, apparently raising funds in Hollywood was more important than marching with workers in Wisconsin.

The stock market could soar. I just got an interesting email from market analyst Gary Halbert about the anticipated Supreme Court ruling on Obamacare. He says that “If the High Court renders ObamaCare unconstitutional later this month, and I think it will, we could see a MONSTER RALLY [his emphasis] in stocks.” He anticipates that the court will render a decision by June 25, before it adjourns for the summer. Let’s hope he’s right.

Now that’s an expensive lunch. Every year, Warren Buffett agrees to let the Glide Foundation, a charity that helps the homeless in San Francisco, auction off a lunch with him. The winning bid earlier this month hit a staggering $3.5 million. For that kind of money, I hope the bidder (who thus far has chosen to remain anonymous) gets the best investment advice of his life.

–Chip Wood

 

 

Is Bill Clinton Sabotaging Obama’s Re-Election?

My, my, my. Is it my imagination, or are things starting to get a bit testy between the most popular former Democratic President in America, Bill Clinton, and the current occupant of the White House?

There’s been a rumor floating around Washington for weeks that the Clintons and President Barack Obama are going to cut a deal to make Hillary Clinton the Vice Presidential candidate. Joe Biden would plead health reasons for stepping down, and Hillary Clinton would resign as Secretary of State to run in the No. 2 slot. This would give the Democrats a much stronger ticket for 2012 — and Hillary Clinton a virtual lock to be the Democratic nominee four years from now.

It’s a juicy tidbit, but I don’t believe it for a moment. I suspect Dick Morris was much closer to the truth when he appeared on Sean Hannity’s TV program last week. The glee was obvious in his voice when the Republican pundit declared, “Bill Clinton does not want Barack Obama to win.”

Then he dropped the following bombshell: “I’ve spoken to several good friends who are staunch conservatives who have had a lot of exchanges with Bill Clinton in private. At one point, one of them quotes him as saying, ‘You have six months to save the country.’”

Now, I can believe that the Clintons are still upset over the way Obama snatched the Democrat nomination from Hillary Clinton four years ago. And I have absolutely no doubt that a lot of conservatives are convinced that we have six months left to save the country.

But I don’t believe for a second that Bill Clinton said that — especially not to anyone he knows is a staunch conservative. I wish it were true, but I don’t buy it.

What I can believe is that Bill Clinton is sick and tired of being told by the Obama team that he has to “clarify” yet another remark he made. The gaffes (and his corrections) are becoming downright embarrassing.

First the former President praised Mitt Romney’s “sterling record” at Bain Capital. Please note: That wasn’t said at some private fundraiser or some off-the-record meeting. No, Clinton made the remark during a highly publicized television interview. This was no slip of the tongue; it was thought out and calculated.

Clinton went on to rub some salt in the wound, saying that Democrats shouldn’t cast private equity as “bad work.” Talk about giving the Republicans fodder for a Romney TV commercial! That sentiment is the polar opposite of the Obama campaign’s strategy to demonize Romney’s career at Bain, where they’d have you believe he earned his hundreds of millions of dollars by destroying companies and costing thousands of workers their jobs.

So Obama’s people got on the phone to Clinton’s people. Within a matter of hours, the ex-President “clarified” his remarks. Romney’s policies would be “calamitous” for the Nation, smilin’ Bill proclaimed.

The accord didn’t survive the week. Two days later, Clinton said that Congress should extend all of the Bush-era tax cuts that are scheduled to expire at the end of year. I could almost hear the screams of “w-h-a-a-t-?” that erupted from the Obama campaign headquarters when they heard about this one. Obama had repeatedly made it clear that he would veto a continuation of tax cuts for “the rich.”

Nor is Clinton winning any friends in the White House by his continued insistence that the candidates should focus on the issues, not merely run a ton of attack ads against the other. The coming election should be about “competing visions for the future,” he’s said over and over.

But Obama wasn’t honest about his vision for America when he campaigned for the Presidency four years ago. Why would anyone expect him to be any more forthright today? The last thing Obama wants to run on is his record.

Charles Krauthammer, who has to be one of the slyest commentators on National television, said that Clinton is acting more like a double agent for Romney than a fan of Obama.

I won’t go quite that far. But of one thing I’m certain: The guy is too darned clever to be making so many “mistakes.” If I were Obama, I wouldn’t want him driving the campaign bus for me — or packing my parachute, for that matter.

By the way, the Clintons are not the only royal family of Democratic politicos who have had it up to here with Obama. In his bestselling book Amateur: Barack Obama in the White House, Ed Klein says that John F. Kennedy’s daughter, Caroline Kennedy, privately refers to the President as “a liar and worse.” This is quite a change from 2008, when she became the first prominent Kennedy to endorse Obama. Prior to that time, Kennedy support for Bill and Hillary Clinton was pretty much unanimous.

During the 2008 primary campaign, Caroline wrote that, “I have never had a president who inspired me the way people tell me that my father inspired them. But for the first time, I believe I have found the man who could be that president — not just for me, but for a new generation of Americans.”

The man, of course, was Obama.

Once they were in the White House, however, Michelle and Barack Obama became “too busy” to return the favor. Klein says that early in his Presidency, Kennedy sent Obama a lengthy memorandum about education reform and asked to meet with the President to discuss it. The White House never bothered to reply.

Then, in 2011, Kennedy once again tried to meet with the President when her family and the Obamas were vacationing close to each other on Martha’s Vineyard. Once again, the President declined to meet with her. “A presidential snub had turned into an insult,” Klein says.

Oh, speaking of insults, Klein also reports that the President and first lady have made catty remarks about the Kennedys to White House guests, including how badly they dress and how shabby their homes are. Caroline Kennedy, on her part, is quoted as saying that shaking hands with the first lady was “like shaking hands with a cold fish.” Klein concludes this section by quoting Caroline as saying, “I can’t stand to hear [Barack Obama’s] voice anymore.”

By the way, Klein will be one the keynote speakers at this year’s FreedomFest in Las Vegas, where I’ll once again serve as master of ceremonies. I’ll try to get some more juicy tidbits for you when I meet him.

Personal Liberty Digest™ contributor Wayne Allyn Root is the opening speaker for the event.

Other powerhouse speakers at this year’s conference, which bills itself as “the world’s largest gathering of free minds,” include Judge Andrew Napolitano, Senator Rand Paul, Whole Foods founder John Mackey, Forbes publisher Steve Forbes and a host of other luminaries.

For all the exciting details, go to www.freedomfest.com. And note that if you register in June, you’ll receive a free silver American Eagle when you arrive. If you do come, be sure to say hello. I always enjoy meeting with Personal Liberty Digest™ readers.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Wisconsin Vote Stuns The Left

It’s been amusing to hear all the liberal talking heads on TV trying to claim that Tuesday’s vote in Wisconsin was no big deal. My friends, it was a very big deal indeed. In fact, it just may mark the beginning of the end of union power in this country.

Let’s be very clear about what was at stake in this election. It wasn’t just about ending collective bargaining for government employees. It wasn’t even about how much of their pay union members should contribute for their pensions or their healthcare. While these issues are important, they pale in comparison to what really mattered.

The paramount issue was whether the government could force someone to belong to a union in order to hold a job and deduct union dues from his pay without giving him any say in the matter.

Governor Scott Walker and a Republican majority in the Wisconsin Legislature ended that sweetheart deal for public-sector unions in the State. The results have been catastrophic for the bully boys (and girls) of collective bargaining.

Once the law went into effect, no State employee could be forced to join a union in order to hold a job. Dues would no longer be deducted automatically; employees had to specifically request the deduction of union dues from their paychecks.

Given a choice, guess what happened? Tens of thousands of former union members said “no thanks.” As a result, union membership and dues fell like a safe being dropped out of a window.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) is the second-largest public-sector union in Wisconsin. The largest is the National Education Association.

Prior to the passage of the Walker reforms, AFSCME had 62,818 members in Wisconsin. Six months after the new law took effect, the number had declined to just 28,745 dues-paying members. In other words, once they weren’t forced to be union members, more than 50 percent headed for the doors.

Bryan Kennedy, the president of the American Federation of Teachers in Wisconsin, said that failure to recall Walker “spells doom” for his union. Let’s hope he’s right.

None of this should come as a surprise. Time after time and in State after State, whenever right-to-work laws have replaced compulsory union membership, the results have been the same: More and more workers refuse to support unions. As President Barack Obama’s team will tell you, it takes a heck of a lot of “community organizing” to make up the difference.

Fifty years ago, more than half of the blue-collar workers in America were members of a union. Today, only 7 percent of private-sector employees are union members. That is what happens when people are given a choice. A huge percentage of them will choose to keep the money they earn, rather than let some ham-fisted organization spend it — allegedly on their behalf.

Get government involved and the results are dramatically different. The percentage of government employees who belong to a union is about 37 percent. The total number of union members has skyrocketed, thanks to the explosive growth of government at Federal, State and local levels.

Walker won the Governorship in 2010 by promising to bring some fiscal sanity to Wisconsin, which was facing a $3 billion deficit. To do that, he said that union members would have to start contributing “their fair share.” (Sound familiar?)

His “5 and 12” plan called for government employees to pay more for their lavish pensions and their generous healthcare plans. Under the Walker proposal, contributions to the pension plans would climb to 5.8 percent of their pay. This was still a sweetheart deal compared to what private-sector workers get. Most of the latter have no pension whatsoever; those who do contribute, on average, a lot more than 5.8 percent of their pay toward their retirement.

Healthcare is even more expensive. The average private-sector worker pays 21 percent of the premiums for his or her coverage; government employees in Wisconsin paid just 6 percent of the costs of their health insurance, or less than one-third as much. The Walker plan would double that figure to 12.6 percent — still a bargain by almost any measure.

Union members in Wisconsin went absolutely ballistic at the thought of having to dig into their own pockets so much. Tens of thousands of them marched on the State Capitol in Madison, in a sort of local “Occupy” movement. When that wasn’t enough to intimidate the Legislature, 14 Democratic Senators fled the State. Yep, they high-tailed it to Illinois, so there wouldn’t be enough voters left in Madison to form a quorum.

That standoff lasted for a while. When a vote was finally taken, the Walker proposals passed handily. Union officials and their Democratic allies immediately launched a highly publicized petition movement to demand a recall of Walker, his Lieutenant Governor and four Republican State Senators. Thousands of union volunteers poured into the State. They ended up collecting more than 900,000 signatures for the petition — way more than the 400,000 needed to force a special election.

On Tuesday, the unions and their Democratic allies got what they said they wanted: a chance for the public to vote “aye” or “nay” on the Walker reforms. After one of the most costly and divisive campaigns in State history, a record number of voters showed up at the polls.

Bless their hearts! They gave Walker an even bigger victory than they did in 2010, when he defeated Tom Barrett (yes, the same guy) by 5.5 percent of the votes cast. This time his victory was even bigger; he carried the State by 53 percent to 46 percent.

Let’s not forget that other Governors, including Mitch Daniels in Indiana and Chris Christie in New Jersey, have seen their popularity soar the more they have challenged teachers and other union members.

By the way, I suspect Obama’s pollsters had a much better idea of what was going to happen in Wisconsin than the number crunchers at CNN. How else can you explain Obama’s invisibility in what was clearly going to be one of the most important pre-November elections this year?

Oh, sure, Obama issued a lukewarm endorsement of Barrett from the safe confines of the White House. But when it came time to press the flesh and energize the crowds in Wisconsin, the President was nowhere to be seen. Nor was Vice President Joe Biden.

Remember, Obama and Biden carried the State handily in 2008. Afterwards, the Veep told an enthusiastic crowd of union loyalists, “We owe you!” Sure thing, buddy. But not enough to risk getting some egg on their faces this time around.

Does Walker’s stunning victory mean that Wisconsin is “in play” for Romney this fall? Time will tell. But in the meantime, is that a groundswell I hear saying “Walker for VP?”

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Feds To Florida: Stop

No fair purging the voter rolls. Officials in Florida believe that as many as 182,000 non-citizens may be on the voter rolls in the Sunshine State. So Republican Governor Rick Scott ordered election officials to identify any ineligible names and purge them from the list. Now, however, the U.S. Department of Justice has ordered the process stopped. It says it must approve in advance any changes in voter-registration procedures. The Feds can’t allow any discrimination regarding who gets to vote — especially with major elections coming up in a few months.

Big Gulp meets Big Brother. Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire Mayor of New York City, has a bold new program to combat rising obesity in the city. He wants to ban restaurants, movie theaters and even street carts from offering containers that hold more than 16 ounces of sugary drinks. “New York City is not about wringing your hands; it’s about doing something,” Bloomberg told The New York Times. What’s next: mandatory exercise classes in the city’s parks?

A bounty for Obama’s grades. While critics are eager to dig into any shenanigans they can find to pin on Mitt Romney — even going back to his prep school days — they’ve been strangely silent about Barack Obama’s refusal to release his grades from college. So a conservative website is now offering a $20,000 reward to anyone who sends them his transcripts from Occidental College, Columbia University or Harvard Law School. So far, no one has come forward to claim the money.

That promise didn’t work out so well. Thanks to James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal for reminding us that when Congress was debating the first “stimulus” bill, the Administration of Barack Obama claimed that the $831 billion spending spree would create so many new jobs the unemployment rate would drop to 5.7 percent. So after the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 was rammed through Congress, what happened? Even using the government’s very questionable statistics, unemployment was at 8.2% in May.

–Chip Wood     

 

Thinking Of Fleeing The United States?

Wowee, some folks are sure angry that Eduardo Saverin, one of the co-founders of Facebook, decided to unfriend the country that helped make him a billionaire.

Senators Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Robert Casey (D-Pa.) called a press conference two weeks ago to announce the introduction of the Ex-PATRIOT Act. The letters stand for “Expatriation Prevention by Abolishing Tax-Related Incentives for Offshore Tenancy.” I’ll bet somebody spent hours coming up with that one.

The measure would also bar individuals like Saverin from ever re-entering the United States.

Schumer couldn’t help sounding a little spiteful when he declared: “Saverin has turned his back on the country that welcomed him and kept him safe, educated him and helped him become a billionaire. This is a great American success story gone horribly wrong.”

Clearly, Schumer would have changed “fleeing” in the headline above to “fleecing.”

For the record, let it be noted that Saverin paid every penny of taxes the Internal Revenue Service said he owed before he left our shores to become a citizen of Singapore. But that’s not enough for the greedy Senators. Their measure would impose a 30 percent capital gains tax on all of the assets of any American who dared to renounce his citizenship. It was predicted that Saverin’s Facebook shares would be worth about $3.5 billion after the initial public offering; that would have been a $1 billion bite.

Singapore, by contrast, has no capital gains tax; so it would appear that Saverin had a hefty financial incentive to make the move.

Nevertheless, the new Facebook billionaire issued a statement denying that he was leaving the U.S. to avoid paying taxes.

“I have paid and will continue to pay any taxes due on everything I earned while a U.S. citizen,” he said. He added that he was “very grateful to the U.S.” for the advantages he enjoyed since 1992, when he moved to the United States from Brazil. His decision to renounce his U.S. citizenship, he declared, “was based solely on my interest in working and living in Singapore.” Sure thing, Eduardo.

When I first heard this story, I couldn’t help but compare the threats and accusations against Saverin to the treatment another American billionaire received when he decided to relinquish his U.S. citizenship.

John Templeton was an investor and mutual fund pioneer who renounced his U.S. citizenship in the 1960s and moved to the Bahamas. The move saved him an estimated $100 million in taxes when he subsequently sold his interest in Templeton Growth Fund, an investment firm he started in 1954.

But rather than threats of being drawn and quartered, Templeton was honored and feted. He was granted both Bahamian and British citizenship. In fact, he was subsequently knighted by Queen Elizabeth in recognition of his many charitable activities. At the time of his death, it is estimated that Sir John had given away more than $1 billion. His numerous gifts included establishing the Templeton College at the University of Oxford. He left the bulk of his fortune to the John Templeton Foundation, which manages the Templeton Prize for Progress toward Research or Discoveries about Spiritual Realities.

Templeton clearly believed he was a better steward of his wealth than our government would be since he took such a drastic step to reduce his tax bite, including what his estate would have to pay upon his death. But doesn’t every American who reduces his tax bill by making charitable contributions do the same  thing? By the way, this must even include Barack and Michelle Obama, who have made substantial gifts to charity. If they thought the government could spend the money better, why not just pay it in taxes?

When Templeton died four years ago at the age of 95, he was still one of the most admired and respected financial figures on the planet. I think it’s safe to say that Saverin will not be afforded the same affection and respect that Templeton enjoyed.

It turns out that an increasing number of Americans have decided to head for other shores. While the numbers are still a tiny fraction of our population, the trend is unmistakable: According to official figures, a mere 235 Americans gave up their nationality in 2008. Three years later, the number was more than seven times higher: 1,780 disgruntled Americans did so in 2011.

But that’s a pittance compared to the number of expats who have moved out of the United States without surrendering their citizenship. An estimated 6 million citizens live outside our borders. While that does not absolve them from paying taxes here, they do enjoy some substantial advantages — including, in many cases, a substantially lower cost of living.

So what about you? Are there any circumstances that would persuade you to pack your bags and head for another country? If you’ve already left our shores, I hope you’ll use the comments section below to tell us why you did, when it happened and where you went. I’m sure a ton of readers will be interested in your reasons — and your experiences.

If you are thinking of becoming an expat, where would you go? If the amount of economic freedom you will find in your newly adopted country is an important consideration, then you need to know about the Index of Economic Freedom. It’s a study that’s done every year by the Heritage Foundation, in cooperation with The Wall Street Journal.

You won’t be surprised to learn which countries head the list. Hong Kong is in first place, with Singapore right behind. Trailing those two Asian countries are Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, Canada and Chile. Sad to say, the United States has slipped to 10th place on the list. Frankly, I was a little surprised we haven’t dropped further.

There were no surprises, either, at the bottom of the list. North Korea was dead last, with Zimbabwe, Cuba and Libya not doing much better. Other gems in the bottom 10, in descending order, were Equatorial Guinea, Iran, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burma, Venezuela and Eritrea. I don’t think you’ll find your own personal Shangri-La in any one of them.

As for me, while I have enjoyed visiting many of the world’s garden spots (and a few places that were more like garbage dumps), there isn’t one I’d consider making my permanent home — not even if it would save me a fortune in taxes.

Besides, I’m having too much fun in the fight for freedom here to seriously consider leaving. I hope you are, too.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Nobama

More people join the ‘anybody but Barack Obama’ club. It was no surprise that Mitt Romney won the Republican primaries in Arkansas and Kentucky last week. But did you hear what happened on the Democratic side? Forty-two percent of the voters in the Democratic primaries in those two States voted against the incumbent President. In Kentucky, where there wasn’t even an opponent on the ballot, Democrats selected “uncommitted.” That’s almost as embarrassing as what happened in West Virginia, where 41 percent of Democratic voters chose a prison inmate rather than our current President.

Taxmageddon could derail the economy. As discussed in last week’s Straight Talk, tax increases already set to take effect in January will cost taxpayers an additional $500 billion a year. Some economists estimate that it could knock 3 percentage points off the Nation’s gross domestic product and warn that another recession is all but inevitable unless Congress takes action to block this massive tax grab.

More Americans leave the workforce. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 63.6 percent of American adults were considered to be in the workforce in April — the lowest percentage since 1981. Some 88 million Americans have “chosen” not to be in the workforce — the highest level in history.

Fudging the unemployment numbers. The previous item helps explain why the Administration of Barack Obama can claim that the unemployment rate fell to 8.1 percent in April. And another eye-opener from the Bureau: Only 41.6 percent of people with jobs work more than 35 hours a week — the definition of having a full-time job.

–Chip Wood

Are You Ready For Taxmageddon?

Thanks a lot, Congress. It looks like you’ve really stuck it to us again. This time, just sitting on your hands and doing nothing is going to cause the biggest tax increase in our Nation’s history.

On Feb. 18, The Washington Post reported:

On Dec. 31, the George W. Bush-era tax cuts are scheduled to expire, raising rates on investment income, estates and gifts, and earnings at all levels. … The Social Security payroll tax will pop back up to 6.2 percent from 4.2 percent… And new Medicare taxes enacted as part of President Obama’s health-care initiative will for the first time strike high-income households.

The potential shock to the nation’s pocketbook is so enormous, congressional aides have dubbed it “Taxmageddon.”

Taxmageddon won’t be the result of one massive new assault on our wallets. Instead, it will come from tax cuts expiring in seven categories, along with new tax increases taking effect because of Obamacare.

The biggest of the bunch will come from the expiration of Bush tax cuts that were passed in 2001 and 2003. At the time, proponents argued that the only way to get enough Democrats to support the measures would be to include a cap on how long they would be in effect. As a result, our lawmakers agreed that the tax reductions would expire on Dec. 31, 2012.

Although Democrats love to refer to the measures as “tax cuts for the wealthy,” the across-the-board tax cuts actually reduced taxes for almost everyone who paid any income tax. Some 60 percent of the benefits went to middle- and low-income taxpayers.

Curtis Dubay of the Heritage Foundation prepared a detailed analysis of the tax hikes that are about to hit us:

Almost 34 percent of the tax increase from Taxmageddon comes from the expiration of the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts. These cuts are best known for reducing marginal income tax rates, but they also reduced the marriage penalty, increased the Child Tax Credit and the adoption credit, and increased tax breaks for education costs and dependent care costs.

In other words, they will impact just about everyone who pays any income taxes in this country.

We’re not talking about puny increases, either. Taxpayers at every level will be affected, with some of the greatest increases hitting people at the bottom of the ladder. For example, the lowest bracket is currently 10 percent. Beginning in January, it will jump to 15 percent — a 50 percent increase.

This “bracket creep” will affect every taxpayer. All of the existing brackets will go up at least 10 percent. Thus, 25 percent will become 28 percent; 28 percent becomes 31 percent; 33 percent climbs to 36 percent; and 35 percent rises to 39.6 percent. If you’re in the top tax bracket, congratulations! Your tax bracket just went up 13.14 percent.

That’s not all. Wait until you see what the new taxes in Obamacare will do to you. I’ll get to those in a moment.

People who depend on savings and investments will be hammered even harder than wage earners. Right now, the maximum Federal tax rate on long-term capital gains is 15 percent. Starting next year, that will go up to 20 percent — a leap of 33 percent. Those collecting dividends will suffer even more: The maximum rate will skyrocket from the existing 15 percent to a hefty 39.6 percent. (Assets acquired after Dec. 31, 2000, and held for at least five years don’t get hit quite as hard.)

In other words, the thriftiest among us — the people who carefully managed their household budgets, saved some money for the future and invested those funds in stocks, bonds and CDs — will be hit the hardest. The government attack on savings makes it seem almost as though there is a scheme in Washington to punish senior citizens and make them more dependent on government.

Almost every wage earner in America will pay more in taxes when the payroll tax cuts are allowed to expire. In his 2009 State of the Union address, Barack Obama promised: “If your family earns less than $250,000 a year, you will not see your taxes increased a single dime.”

Well, guess what? It turns out he wasn’t quite telling the truth — something a lot of us have pointed out many times.

Also scheduled to expire is a temporary fix of the Alternative Minimum Tax. The AMT was originally sold to a skeptical public as a way to make sure “the rich” pay their fair share – which, of course, it never did. In 2013 it will scalp a lot more than the top 1 percent of taxpayers; current estimates indicate 34 million taxpayers will fall victim to it.

Remember the phase-out rules for itemized deductions? The big spenders in Congress came up with the bright idea of eliminating most of the credit high-income taxpayers got for deductions on mortgage interest, State and local taxes, and charitable giving. The phase-out was eliminated in 2010. But it will be back in full force next year, unless Congress acts before then.

By the way, don’t think that only “the rich” will be affected here, either. If you’re a married couple with an adjusted gross income of $175,000, better be prepared to lose a big bunch of the money you can deduct from your Federal tax bill. If you’re married but filing separately, that ceiling drops to just $87,500 — a long way from Barack Obama’s $250,000 limit.

And here’s an even more frightening thought: The $500 billion in increased taxes that Uncle Sam wants to take from us in 2013 will just be the beginning. As our economy continues to grow, so will the impact of all these new and higher taxes.

Just because these tax increases don’t take affect for seven more months, don’t think we’re not feeling the effect today. As Dubay explains:

Although these tax increases will not start raising new revenue until next year, they are having a negative impact on the economy today. Families, businesses, and investors need to know how much tax they will pay in the future before making important economic decisions. The uncertainty caused by Taxmageddon means they are stuck in neutral while they wait for President Obama and Congress to act. This is slowing job creation and stopping many of the millions of unemployed Americans from going back to work.

So there you have it: higher taxes on all of us, plus fewer new jobs being created and an economy that just stumbles along, all because Congress refuses to act.

I hope you’ll remember this — and remind your neighbors about it — when it comes time to vote for a new Congress this November.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Red State Giving Obama The Blues

Losing North Carolina? In last week’s column Barack Obama’s Really Bad Day, I discussed how Obama’s endorsement of same-sex marriage could hurt him in North Carolina — a State he carried by a razor-thin margin in 2008. The latest Rasmussen poll says it’s already happening; Mitt Romney has taken a decisive 51 percent to 43 percent lead over the President in the Tar Heel State. Adding to the Democrats’ woes, several gay-rights groups are demanding that that they move their national convention to another State to punish North Carolinians for supporting an amendment to the State constitution declaring marriage as a union of one man and one woman.

JPMorgan Chase can afford the loss. The media have been filled with stories about how some errant trades in its London office cost banking biggie JPMorgan Chase about $2 billion. But I haven’t seen any mention of the fact that the losses represent just a fraction of the $25 billion the bank received in bailout money. One big difference between bankers and bureaucrats is that the former will learn from their mistakes, not just keep repeating them.

The Greek crisis produces a new vocabulary. Will other European nations agree to pay “drachmail” to keep a “grexit” from taking place? If not, could the “Acropolypse” lead to “Eurogeddon” ultimately? These are just some of the new words being coined to describe the possibility that Greece will leave the European Union. No one knows for certain if such a “grexit” will take place, of course — or even what the consequences of it would be.

That small nation has a big impact. The financial headlines make it appear that Greece is the most important country in the world right now. Investor concerns about what will happen there have lopped billions of dollars off stocks in this country. But consider: Wal-Mart is just one of the 30 companies that comprise the Dow Jones industrial average, yet Wal-Mart’s worldwide annual revenue and annual Medicaid spending are 40 percent larger than Greece’s entire economy. Doesn’t it seem strange that such a small economy could have such a huge impact on the world?

–Chip Wood

 

You Just Think You’re Unemployed

Where have all the workers gone? If you don’t have a job, but you’re no longer looking for work, guess what? You’re not counted among the unemployed.  The Washington Post reports that if the same percentage of adults were in the workforce now as when Barack Obama took office, the unemployment rate would be 11.1 percent. While if you go back to when George W. Bush was sworn in, the unemployment rate would be 13.1 percent. I guess this means that if everyone stopped looking for work, Obama could claim the unemployment rate was 0.

They’re back — sort of. After hibernating most of the winter, when it was too cold to sleep in most Northern parks, the Occupy Wall Street crowd chose May 1 to announce that they were back in business. But hardly anyone paid any attention to their call for “people to refrain from shopping, walk out of class, take the day off of work and other creative forms of resistance disrupting the status quo” on the traditional communist holiday (International Workers’ Day). What say we all ignore them? That would certainly get their goat.

Too broke to declare bankruptcy? Here’s a story that had me scratching my head. CNNMoney claims that hundreds of thousands of Americans who would like to declare bankruptcy can’t afford to do so. That’s because it can cost $1,500 or more to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection. The same study estimates that 200,000 people used their tax refunds this year to pay to file for bankruptcy.

Harvard’s absurd “minority” professor. Elizabeth Warren, the Harvard Law School professor who is running for the Senate against Republican incumbent Scott Brown in Massachusetts, seems to be a little red-faced these days, if you’ll pardon the expression. It seems her claims to be part Native American are a little shaky. There’s no actual proof that her great-great-great-grandmother was a Cherokee, just “family lore.” Harvard still claims she is an example of their “minority” hiring, however.

–Chip Wood

Barack Obama’s Really Bad Day

When there’s something to celebrate, it’s called a red-letter day. A black-letter day, on the other hand, is “a day on which a great incident of misfortune happened or has happened.” Well, Barack Obama had a black-letter day last week. In fact, May 8 may go down as the turning point in his re-election campaign — the day voters made it clear he would be a one-term President.

There were four pivotal events on May 8. Let’s begin with the one that may have been the most telling: the Democratic primary in West Virginia. Did you know that Obama’s primary opponent there got 41 percent of the vote and actually won 10 counties?

Unless you live in West Virginia, you probably didn’t even know that the President had a primary opponent there. But here’s the most amazing part: His opponent didn’t make a single public appearance in the contest.

He didn’t because he couldn’t; he was in jail at the time!

That’s right. Keith Judd, the guy who came close to defeating an incumbent President in West Virginia’s primary, is better known as inmate No. 11593-051 at the Beaumont Federal Correctional Institution in Texas.

All Judd had to do to get on the ballot was file the proper paperwork and pay a $2,500 fee.

WSAZ.com reported that Judd said: “Some outside supporter provided that to the Secretary of State; I do have outside support. I’m unaware of who that particular person was, and whether it was a person or a collection of persons.”

Judd has a history of entering various contests. According to New Mexico Telegram, Judd ran three times as a write-in candidate in New Mexico: twice for Mayor of Albuquerque and once for Governor. Judd himself told WSAZ.com that he’s been a perennial Presidential candidate since 1996. The Associated Press reported that in 2008, his name was on the Democratic Party ballot in Idaho.

I guess every inmate needs a hobby.

And I’m not surprised that four out of 10 Democratic voters in West Virginia would prefer anyone to Obama. After all, the President has made it clear he’ll do everything he can to destroy the coal industry in this country.

Prohibit businesses from burning coal, and there’s no reason to mine the stuff. Destroy coal mining, and you pretty much destroy the economy of West Virginia. That’s not hard for the folks there to understand. So it’s really no surprise that a lot of voters there would prefer anybody — even a jailbird — over the incumbent President. Look for every Democrat in the State to distance themselves as far as possible from the President in their own campaigns.

Obama’s re-election committee knows they didn’t have a chance of carrying the State. They wrote it off long ago. But if West Virginia doesn’t matter to the Democrats, North Carolina certainly does. The State is viewed as so crucial to Democratic prospects this year that they decided to hold their national convention in Charlotte.

So what happened when North Carolinians went to vote last week? They voted overwhelmingly in favor of adding a new amendment to the State Constitution, declaring that marriage is between one man and one woman.

Obama and Joe Biden had publicly opposed the measure. Bill Clinton even recorded robocalls against it. And when pollsters queried citizens before the vote how they felt about it, many people in the State claimed they weren’t in favor of it.

But it turns out there can be a big difference between what people say in public and how they vote in private. Voters in North Carolina turned out in record numbers for the election. And once they closed the curtain behind them, 61 percent of them voted to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Period.

(By the way, about 20 percent of Democratic voters checked “no preference” in the Presidential primary. Since Obama carried the State by a slim 14,000-vote margin in 2008, you have to think his prospects are iffy for winning it again this year.)

So what did the President do? The very next day after North Carolina passed a gay marriage ban, he came out in favor of gay marriage. That’s a strange way to get voters in the Tar Heel State enthusiastic about your candidacy, wouldn’t you say? This issue could even put a dent in the nearly unanimous support he receives from black voters.

Of course, the media have gone absolutely gaga over the President’s announcement. They’ve been waiting 3.5 years for his position to “evolve” this far. Newsweek magazine put the President’s face on the cover under the headline “The First Gay President.” A rainbow-colored halo appeared above Obama’s head.

The Democrats are counting on the President’s position to win them more support than it costs them. Time will tell if they’ve guessed right. Certainly, it won’t hurt him in Hollywood. A $40,000-a-head fundraiser at George Clooney’s house a few days later raised more than $15 million for Obama’s re-election coffers. But Hollywood isn’t the heartland. And the louder the gay rights brigade gets, the more votes it will cost them.

For our last two examples of Obama’s really bad day, let’s turn to the Midwest. One of the most important primary elections this year took place in Indiana, where voters told Richard Lugar it was time for him to retire from the Senate.

I almost said they decided to send him “back home.” But actually that was part of the problem. It seems Lugar hasn’t had a legal residence in Indiana for decades. For years, he listed a house he sold in 1977 on his voter-registration form.

Lugar had not faced a primary opponent since he was first elected to the Senate in 1976. But this year, conservatives united behind Richard Mourdock, a well-known and popular state official. Mourdock had the support of several Tea Party groups, the Club for Growth and Freedom Works.

So much for rumors that the Tea Party movement was a one-time phenomenon.

The Lugar campaign resorted to the same sort of scare tactics we’re going to see a lot of this year. In one TV commercial, a white-haired grandmother-type says, “He’s not thinking, is he? No idea of consequences, what this means to people. He’s going to ruin people.” While she speaks, the following sentence appears: “Richard Mourdock has a plan to cut every senior’s Social Security by nearly $2,500 a year.”

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w_l-RTcGeS0&w=560&h=315]

Happily, Hoosier voters didn’t buy it. Lugar received less than 40 percent of the primary vote, despite blatant appeals to Democrats and independents to vote for him in the Republican primary. Will this momentum carry Mourdock to victory in November? We’ll find out in six months.

Finally, please direct your attention to Wisconsin, where we won’t have to wait nearly so long for an answer. As you’ll recall, labor unions have spent millions of dollars there and imported thousands of activists to force a recall election for their nemesis, Republican Governor Scott Walker.

That election takes place on June 5. But the primary to pick his opponent was also held a week ago Tuesday. And significantly enough, more people cast ballots for Walker than for any other candidate.

One day, four elections. And four warnings for the left that a whole lot of voters want to see some changes made — just not the ones Obama and his buddies are trying to shove down our throats.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Racists For Obama

I wondered how long it would take for someone to raise the issue of racism in this year’s Presidential election. The answer came sooner than I expected. Last week, The New York Times ran the story “4 Years Later, Race Is Still Issue for Some Voters.”

In case you thought the story might be an exposé of the virulent hatred of America by some of President Barack Obama’s more extreme supporters (such as his longtime pastor Jeremiah Wright), forget about it. That’s old news and obviously not worth discussing any more. Heck, for the mainstream media, it was hardly worth discussing four years ago.

Nor was the story about the near unanimity of black voters to support a member of their own race worth discussing. Obama is expected to receive 95 percent of the black vote this year, just as he did in 2008 — no matter who his opponent is or what the issues are. Of course, there’s nothing racist in that.

No, the emphasis of the story was on how a tiny minority of white voters –especially those in “economically depressed regions with high proportions of white working-class residents” — said they wouldn’t vote for Obama because he is black.

So it’s OK for blacks to vote for Obama specifically because he is black. But it’s racist if a white votes for another white because of his skin color. Does anyone see a bit of a double standard here?

Of course, such bias (dare I say prejudice) has been around for a long time. Many liberals believe the only way to make up for decades of discrimination is to go overboard the other way. “Equality” wasn’t enough; we needed affirmative action and a new kind of discrimination.

Thus, it has become perfectly OK for this country to commemorate Black History Month. And, of course, every college that wants to keep its professors happy better offer a bunch of courses celebrating black achievements. But can you imagine the furor that would erupt if anyone dared propose teaching a class on white achievements?

What got the Times reporter so rattled was her concern that Obama’s race could keep him from being re-elected this year. As Sabrina Tavernise explained, “As Mr. Obama braces for what most signs suggest will be a close re-election battle, race remains a powerful factor among a small minority of voters.”

Of course she means a “small minority” of white voters. Had she broadened her survey to include blacks, she could have written that race mattered to “a large majority.” In fact, it matters to a very large majority. Blacks supported Barack Obama over John McCain in 2008 by a margin of almost 24-1. But of course there’s nothing racist about that.

The Obama campaign is doing everything it can to make sure that this particular history repeats itself. There is even a special section on the campaign website on “The Obama Administration’s Accomplishments for the African American Community.” Click here to see what I am writing about.

Then Tavernise hits her audience with the zinger:

“Given Ohio’s critical importance as a swing state that will most likely be won or lost by the narrowest of margins, the fact that Mr. Obama’s race is a deal-breaker for even a small number of otherwise loyal Democrats could have implications for the final result.”

Now that is a bunch of baloney. What are the odds that someone who voted for Obama four years ago (when he carried Ohio by a comfortable margin) will vote for his opponent this year because Obama is black? Does she really think this is something the voters didn’t know in 2008? Her argument that anti-black bigotry could cost Obama the election this year is ridiculous.

If Obama loses, it won’t be because a majority of voters reject his race. It will be because they reject his policies.

What Republicans Should Do

Faced with the fact that blacks will once again overwhelmingly vote for Obama this year, what should Republicans do?

The most absurd argument I’ve heard is that they should select Condoleezza Rice as Mitt Romney’s running mate. Sure thing. And how much of the black vote will go to Romney because he has a black female on the ticket?

Let’s face facts: If Romney got four times as many black votes as McCain did four years ago, that would still be as insignificant as a mosquito biting the Hulk. In 2008, the black vote came to 12.1 percent of the total. Obama captured 95 percent of it. Does anyone think there is anything Romney could do to keep Obama from getting the overwhelming majority of it again?

Nominating Condoleezza as Vice President to fragment the black vote makes as much sense as choosing a union leader to make inroads in the union vote. Or a bureaucrat to get the government worker vote.

If Romney is to have any kind of chance this year, he must select someone who will get potential voters to work like crazy for his election. Those dedicated doorbell pushers and yard-sign displayers aren’t going to come from the liberal side of the ledger.

To use a phrase you’ve heard hundreds times before (and will hear a thousand more times before this November), Romney has to choose a candidate — and stake out positions — who will motivate the base. That isn’t Rice.

Heck, I suspect it isn’t even a black whose views I do support, such as Walter Williams, Thomas Sowell or Representative Allen West. Although any of those three articulate defenders of American principles would sure add some fire to the race. Could you see any of the three debating Joe Biden? Now, that’s a confrontation I’d pay good money to see.

I hope the left will continue to bang on the “if you oppose Obama you must be a racist” drum because the more they do, the more votes it will cost them. This one just doesn’t play in Peoria anymore. In fact, the only place it does work is the Obamas’ former church. Oh, and maybe Al Sharpton’s congregation.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

It’s All About The Money

Obama having trouble raising big bucks. The headline in The New York Times read “Obama Sees Steep Dropoff in Cash from Major Donors.” It looks like the big givers aren’t opening their wallets as they did in 2008. This time, most donors are giving less than $200 each. While the total lags behind the record amounts he collected in 2008, Barack Obama’s war chest is predicted to hit $1 billion this year — far more than Mitt Romney will have on hand. The President has already appeared at more than 100 fundraisers in the past year.

George Soros writes some big checks. One major Barack Obama supporter who isn’t cutting back is George Soros. The ultra-liberal billionaire proudly announced that he will give $1 million to the super-PAC American Bridge 21st Century and another $1 million to the advocacy group American Votes. Both organizations favor causes on the left side of the political spectrum.

Canada stops making cents. The Royal Canadian Mint has produced its last penny. Ceremonies at the Mint’s manufacturing facility in Manitoba marked the end of a 150-year tradition. The coin cost the Canadian government 1.6 Canadian cents to mint; its elimination will save the country about $11.15 million a year. But don’t bother collecting them; with an estimated 20 billion pennies still in circulation, their value isn’t expected to rise anytime soon.

Money isn’t that important to this champion. Masters champion Bubba Watson shocked many golf fans when he withdrew from this year’s Players Championship, saying he wants to spend more time with his wife and newly adopted 2-month-old son. “The Players is one of the best weeks of the year but bonding with my son and wife is what it is all about right now,” Watson tweeted. The golfer was favored to win a big chunk of this year’s prize money: $1.7 million for the winner and a total purse of $9.5 million.

–Chip Wood

 

Washington Crucifies Job Creators

Well, hot diggity dog. At least one mean-spirited, overzealous Washington regulator got what was coming to him this week. Al Armendariz, a regional director of the Environmental Protection Agency, was forced to quit his job when some of his intemperate remarks got publicized. It would be great if the same thing happened to a few thousand of his fellow bureaucrats.

Armendariz was in charge of enforcing EPA regulations in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana and New Mexico. He was appointed to his post in November 2009 by President Barack Obama and quickly demonstrated a zeal for the job. He was infamous for his office’s harsh prosecution — many would say persecution — of any company that fell afoul of EPA regulations.

In a lecture two years ago, Armendariz explained his “philosophy of enforcement” to the audience:

It was kind of like how the Romans used to, you know, conquer villages in the Mediterranean. They’d go in to a little Turkish town somewhere, they’d find the first five guys they saw, and they’d crucify them. And then, you know, that town was really easy to manage for the next few years.

That’s a pretty chilling and cold-blooded attitude, wouldn’t you say? Notice that guilt or innocence has nothing to do with Armendariz’s methodology. All he’s concerned about is how quickly and how ruthlessly he can intimidate his subjects.

How would you like to have someone with this philosophy determining the future of the company you work for? Or founded? Or any private enterprise in this country, for that matter? Well, the sad truth is, there are thousands of petty tyrants like Armendariz working for your government — and being paid by your tax dollars — in hundreds of Federal bureaucracies. The only unique thing about Armendariz is that he got caught.

Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.) deserves a tip of the hat for shining a spotlight on this particular cockroach. It happened because Inhofe decided to investigate an EPA vendetta against Range Resources, a drilling company the EPA accused of contaminating local water supplies. A lengthy investigation exonerated the firm, but not until Armendariz and his staff had done as much damage as they could to the company. As you probably know, the only energy producers the Administration of President Barack Obama likes are the wind and solar ones that need millions of dollars in Federal subsidies to survive. In the case of Solyndra Inc., $500 million in subsidies couldn’t keep it going.

But if you’re a for-profit producer of coal or oil or natural gas, forget it. You’ve got a big, bright bull’s eye painted on the middle of your back. And it was put there by Obama and his environmentalist buddies.

The Wall Street Journal recently published a lengthy opinion piece by Bob McDonnell, in which the Virginia Governor lamented how the Obama Administration pulled the rug out of from under plans to develop his State’s offshore oil and gas resources. He explained, “In 2010, Virginia was poised to become the first state on the East Coast permitted to produce oil and natural gas offshore.”

But the plans were nixed by Washington “with little explanation and even less regard for the strong bipartisan and public support for the offshore initiative.” Three months later, the Administration added insult to injury when it announced plans to subsidize wind-power development in Virginia’s waters.

And the same thing is happening from the Gulf Coast to Alaska. Profit-making (and tax-paying) private companies that want to develop our oil and gas resources are told “no way, Jose.” One project in Alaska that McDonnell cites could have created 55,000 new jobs annually — not to mention $145 billion in new payroll and $193 billion in additional government revenue. In case after case, it was a government bureaucrat — not the marketplace — that put the kibosh on the project.

And don’t get me started about the Keystone XL pipeline. Thanks to the Administration’s intransigence, thousands of jobs — and billions of barrels of oil — that could have been flowing from Canada to Texas and Oklahoma may now be going to China.

By the way, it’s not just Federal regulators who can promulgate some crazy rules. So can State and local governments, as many homeowners can testify. Just ask Joseph Pomares, who was recently cited for having “standing water” in a birdbath he added to a rental home he owns in Astoria, N.Y. A new regulation to the health code there makes landlords responsible for any infractions found on their property that could lead to the “breeding or harborage” of mosquitoes. It seems regulators there take their responsibilities to prevent West Nile virus very seriously. The citation he received advised Pomares that he was in violation of Article 151 of the city’s health code and could face a $2,000 fine if the situation was not remedied at once.

No doubt I could fill 100 more pages with similar injustices and outrages across this country. I was going to say that it was no doubt impossible to estimate the cost of complying with all the rules and regulations that have been inflicted on us by a Big Nanny government run amuck.

But if I said that, I’d be wrong. It turns out that the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a pro-free market think tank in Washington, has undertaken precisely such a study. And CEI says the total cost to our economy of government regulation amounts to a staggering $1.75 trillion a year.

To help put that price tag in perspective, CEI reports “Regulatory costs exceed all 2008 corporate pretax profits of $1.463 trillion.” How many jobs has it cost us? It’s impossible to know for certain, but the number is likely in the millions.

Speaking of unemployment, permit me to repeat something I pointed out in a Chip Shots item last week. Administration officials have pointed with pride to the latest unemployment figure, which allegedly has fallen to 8.2 percent. This is based on claims that 120,000 new jobs were added to the economy in March.

But buried deep in the report is the news that far more Americans who got new jobs dropped out of the labor force that month. The “no longer looking for work” numbers swelled by 164,000.

Just think about it: If every unemployed person stopped looking for work, our unemployment rate would be 0. That’s the sort of “recovery” this administration is giving us.

In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson said that King George had “erected a Multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.”

Frankly, compared to what this Administration has done to us, our rebellious forefathers had it easy. Don’t you agree?

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

King Of The Fundraisers

Obama is busy raising campaign funds. Although Barack Obama condemned “the corrosive influence of money in politics” in his State of the Union speech this year, it turns out that he wants to get his hands on as much of it as possible. A new book by Brendan J. Doherty, The Rise of the President’s Permanent Campaign, says that Obama has held more re-election fundraising events since taking office than the combined total of all five of his predecessors in the Oval Office. Doherty found that as of March 6, Obama had held 104 fundraisers.

How your money is spent. Three years ago, Barack Obama promised that his stimulus program would “create or save” 16,000 jobs in New Hampshire. Turns out he was only off by 15,155 jobs. The latest audit of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act confirmed that the $766.5 million in taxpayer dollars spent in the Granite State paid for the equivalent of 845 full-time jobs. Don’t you love how your taxes are “invested”?

Why not just reduce her taxes? I’m glad to report that the pious fraud known as the Buffett Rule seems to be dead in the water — at least this year. The measure to raise taxes on America’s millionaires got a lot of publicity when Warren Buffett complained that his secretary was taxed at a higher rate than he was. Before the measure is reintroduced in Congress, I have a different suggestion: Why not reduce Federal spending enough so that we could lower everyone’s taxes? That would certainly help stimulate our economy, don’t you think?

How the Obamas reduced their taxes. And speaking of lowering taxes, here’s something to consider: Even though the top income-tax rate in this country is close to 40 percent, our President and his wife paid only half that figure last year. How? By giving away 22 percent of their income to charity. While I applaud their altruistic generosity, isn’t it interesting to note that they were in effect saying they thought private charity would spend their money more effectively than if they paid it in taxes and let government do it? Hmmmm.

–Chip Wood