Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Non-Percent: America's Working Class of "John Does";Updated

Our nation's political messaging has often been one of dichotomy--splitting America in half to pit us against each other. Both political parties are guilty of engaging in this kind of talk. Some Democrats in recent years have discussed America in context of the 1% (the wealthiest Americans) versus the 99% (the rest of us), essentially trying to capitalize on the pitting the nation's proverbial "haves" versus "have-nots". Meanwhile, some Republicans have seen things in the context of the 53% of Americans who pay federal income taxes versus the 47% of those who do not, in essence trying to dichotomize Americans as either productive or lazy. The truth is not every "one percenter" is greedy, nor is every ninety-nine percenter selfless. Not every fifty-three percenter has a strong work ethic, nor is every forty-seven percenter lazy.  In reality, the dichotomy (and the disconnect too) comes between the permanent political class and the American people--primarily the working class. The working class primarily would fall into the 99% or the 53%. These individuals are self-sufficient enough to not be dependent upon the government, but not wealthy enough to be of importance to most politicians seeking campaign donors.

Too often, the working class are political pawns for union bosses and Democrats and frequently only discussed in the context of the "small business owner" for the pro-business (but infrequently pro-market) Republicans. There are rare politicians, however, who recognize that the working class are not political pawns, nor are they a class of citizens the government needs to do something for. They are a class of citizens that the government needs to stop doing something to! Tony Lee and Stephen Bannon co-wrote a great piece at Breitbart yesterday highlighting Governor Palin's ability to connect to the working class and how the Senate immigration bill has been a slap in the face to the working class:
"Meanwhile, the upper middle classes in coastal cocoons enjoy the aristocratic privileges of having plenty of cheap household help, while having enough wealth not to worry about the social costs of illegal immigration in terms of higher taxes or the problems in public education, law enforcement, and entitlements," Hanson wrote. "No wonder our elites wink and nod at the supposed realities in the current immigration bill, while selling fantasies to the majority of skeptical Americans." 
Last Friday, a panelist on Fox News's Hannity's panel of black conservatives, which included Sirius XM Patriot's David Webb and Breitbart's Sonnie Johnson, emphasized that the Senate's immigration bill would have a "detrimental impact" on black Americans. 
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), one of the most critical opponents of the immigration bill, noted that the bill would hurt working class Hispanics in addition to all working class Americans and the "poorest among us." Sessions noted that according to the CBO report, the bill would have a devastating impact on wages of Americans looking for job security, and it would raise the unemployment rate while only solving 25% of the illegal immigration problem. He posited that between 30 million and 50 million workers will be added to the labor force in the next ten years, completely destroying the possibility of upward mobility of working class Americans of all backgrounds. Yet, Republican senators like Murkowski (R-AK), Rubio (R-FL), Ayotte (R-NH), McCain (R-AZ), and Graham (R-SC) voted for the final bill. "Why would any Member of Congress want to vote for a bill at a time of high unemployment, falling wages?" Sessions asked on CBS's Face the Nation on Sunday. 
For Republicans to win back the majority and the presidency, they need to win the so-called Reagan Democrats and a new generation of working class minorities who will have to become Reagan Democrats 2.0. They need to win over the father who got laid off from his manufacturing job and has a child who did everything society said to do--go to college, get a degree, find a decent-paying job in the technology industry--and now may meet the same fate his father did when the labor market is flooded with an influx of cheap immigrant labor brought to do jobs Americans supposedly do not want to do. 
These Americans that the immigration bill most adversely impacts make up the backbone of this country and see in Washington a permanent political class who are against them and think they "can't cut it." They see in Palin, though, someone who fights for them because she simply "gets" it--and them.
Governor Palin linked the above mentioned piece on her Facebook page, commenting in part:
Once again, I’ll point out the obvious to you: it was the loss of working class voters in swing states that cost us the 2012 election, not the Hispanic vote. Legal immigrants respect the rule of law and can see how self-centered a politician must be to fill this amnesty bill with favors, earmarks, and crony capitalists’ pork, and call it good. You disrespect Hispanics with your assumption that they desire ignoring the rule of law. 
Folks like me are barely hanging on to our enlistment papers in any political party – and it’s precisely because flip-flopping political actions like amnesty force us to ask how much more bull from both the elephants in the Republican Party and the jackasses in the Democrat Party we have to swallow before these political machines totally abandon the average commonsense hardworking American. Now we turn to watch the House. If they bless this new “bi-partisan” hyper-partisan devastating plan for amnesty, we’ll know that both private political parties have finally turned their backs on us. It will then be time to show our parties’ hierarchies what we think of being members of either one of these out-of-touch, arrogant, and dysfunctional political machines.
The immigration bill does negatively impact the working class, but the political connected will benefit. Although he ultimately voted for the bill, Democratic Senator Leahy would boost corporate cronyism. Big GOP donors ultimately want "comprehensive immigration reform" to pass as well. What will the House GOP do? Will they cave to political pressure in order to receive the needed money for their next re-election--their own constituents be damned?

The immigration bill is not the only way that the working class is being passed over for the sake of the political connected class. Look no further than the next divisive issue de jour--climate change. Earlier this week, President Obama gave a speech touting his next "green" push. This push was gleefully described by an Obma adviser as a needed "war on coal". The war on coal has already started, however. In President Obama's home state of Illinois, in the blue collar town of Decatur, nearly 500 Caterpillar workers were laid off this past Spring. Caterpillar is the world's largest maker of mining equipment, and with decreased coal mining, less mining equipment needs to be manufactured. Meanwhile, President Obama is promising $8 billion more in green energy loan guarantees in his new climate change plan. Past is often prologue,and in  the 2009 stimulus package, 80% of Department of Energy loans went to companies with connections to Obama donors. It would surprise no one if this new round of loan guarantees again go to the political connected. Suffice it say, yet again, the working class gets a pink slip while the permanent political class get "green slips".

The working class are not simply a voting bloc, however. They are the backbone of our country and the essence of Americana's John Does. As so well voiced in "John Doe's" speech in Frank Capra's "Meet John Doe" (H/T to this great Rebecca Mansour piece from 2009):
We are the meek who are supposed to inherit the earth. You’ll find us everywhere. We raise the crops; we dig the mines, work the factories, keep the books, fly the planes and drive the buses. And when a cop yells: "Stand back there, you!" He means us, the John Does!
America's John and Jane Does are the hope of the earth. The permanent political class would do well to recognize them not as a group to be placate or to be pandered to, but instead as the very people who made America what it is today and who make it what it could be tomorrow, if the permanent political class does not transform America into something unrecognizable.

  Crossposted here and here.

 Updated: Please read this wonderful post by Gary Jackson with a great reference to "Meet John Doe".

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Obama Administration Declares War on Loretta Lynn's Father

Today, in a climate change speech President Obama declared war on Loretta Lynn's Father." Let me be clear", President Obama stated as he wiped away sweat from his brow while speaking in the seasonable late June temperature, "if we're going to reduce carbon emission, we're going to have redistribute jobs from those who mine dirty coal to those who put together clean, green solar panels. This means that folks who have followed in Mr. Webb's footsteps as coal miners are going to have to find some other line of work".

This news came as a shock to Cook County clerk Sissy Spacek. Spacek said, " Mr. Webb has been a consistent Democrat vote here in Cook County since the Kennedy administration. I don't understand why the President would tarnish the image of one of his most consistent voters".

However, Jay Carney, the President's press secretary said in a rare moment of actual candidness, "Look, The President doesn't want promote the violence of this family. I mean really, Butcher Holler? What kind of name for a town is that? As we've beefed up drone surveillance on Senator Paul's constituents following his filibuster, we've seen that town more frequently. Plus, Loretta Lynn writes songs like "Fist City". That kind of lyrical violence is unacceptable".

The Obama administration has asked Ashley Judd to take the lead on this latest war, although such an appointment would require approval of the Senate. Both Senators McConnell and Paul are fully prepared to filibuster this nomination.

Note: The above post is merely satire. Please only read it as such. Crossposted here.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Gov. Palin Calls out "Flip Flops" and "Carve-out Bribes" in the Senate Immigration Bill

Earlier today, Governor Palin called wrote on her Facebook page:
Politicians wonder why we can't trust them? Campaign flip-flops like this and carve-out bribes in the Amnesty Bill for politicians like Begich &Murkowski to exempt AK seafood workers.
She then linked to a Townhall piece highlighting Senator Rubio's "flip flop" on amnesty and featuring this clip from one of his 2010 debates:


 Regarding those"carve out bribes" in Alaska that the Governor references, a piece by Byron York highlights the deal given to Senators Begich and Murkowski given in exchange for their votes. From my brief  "Binging" of deals for votes in this bill, there seems to also be deals for Florida's cruise industry, Colorado's ski industry, South Carolina's meat industry, and New York's Irish population. Additionally, there is a special deal for Nevada's gambling industry. Perhaps the bill should be re-named the "Last Frontier, Centennial, Sunshine, Empire, Palmetto, Silver" Kickback. There's still time before the vote, however, and according to the President, there's 51 more states to go!

Crossposted here.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Re-Visiting the Palin Doctrine: Why Gov. Palin's Comments on Syria Shouldn't Surprise Anyone

One of the lines that stood out in Governor Palin's speech at the Faith and Freedom Coalition last week centered on her disapproval of aiding the Syrian rebels. "Both sides are slaughtering each other as they scream over an arbitrary red line 'Allahu akbar' ... I say let Allah sort it out.", Palin said at the event. This line drew headlines,  predictable outrage from neoconservatives, and even surprise from some. However, it should not be surprising. Over the last few years, Governor Palin has articulated a foreign policy that rejects the false choice between neoconservatism and non-interventionism. She has spoken not only about when America should not intervene militarily, but also when they should not provide other forms of assistance to volatile regions around the globe.

In May 2011, Governor Palin gave a speech at a "Tribute to the Troops" event where she laid out a clear, 5 point "doctrine" of when American troops should be involved:
There’s a lesson here then for the effective use of force, as opposed to sending our troops on missions that are ill-defined. And it can be argued that our involvement elsewhere, say in Libya, is an example of a lack of clarity. See, these are deadly serious questions that we must ask ourselves when we contemplate sending Americans into harm’s way. Our men and women in uniform deserve a clear understanding of U.S. positions on such a crucial decision. I believe our criteria before we send our young men and women—America’s finest—into harm’s way should be spelled out clearly when it comes to the use of our military force. I can tell you what I believe that criteria should be in five points. 
First, we should only commit our forces when clear and vital American interests are at stake. Period. 
Second, if we have to fight, we fight to win. To do that, we use overwhelming force. We only send our troops into war with the objective to defeat the enemy as quickly as possible. We do not stretch out our military with open-ended and ill-defined missions. Nation building is a nice idea in theory, but it is not the main purpose of our armed forces. We use our military to win wars. 
Third, we must have clearly defined goals and objectives before sending troops into harm’s way. If you can’t explain the mission to the American people clearly and concisely, then our sons and daughters should not be sent into battle. Period. 
Fourth, American soldiers must never be put under foreign command. We will fight side by side with our allies, but American soldiers must remain under the care and the command of American officers. 
Fifth, sending in our armed forces should be the last resort. We don’t go looking for dragons to slay. However, we will encourage the forces of freedom around the world who are sincerely fighting for the empowerment of the individual. When it makes sense, when it’s appropriate, we will provide them with material support to help them win their own freedom.
This kind of "doctrine" of limited military intervention has continued to guide her analysis of America's foreign policy, as I highlighted in a post in August 2011:
Today, in her Facebook post, Governor Palin offered her thoughts on the recent activity in Libya, evaluating the situation realistically and cautiously and highlighting how the “Palin Doctrine” would be applied in practice. She cautioned against “triumphalism” and warned of co-opting of Libyan liberation and the future Libyan government by radical Muslim groups like the Islamic Libyan Fighting Group and al Qaeda, as is being done in Syria. Much in the same way, she had warned against the takeover of Egyptian government by the Muslim Brotherhood after the ousting of President Mubarak in February. She also warned against committing troops to being involved in missions in Libya that would not be in America’s best interest, much in the same way that she blasted President Obama in April when she questioned President Obama’s lack of clarity on Libya and his decision to place US troops under foreign command. Her statement today was a weaving of multiple points of her military doctrine into a clear vision of what America’s role should be in Libya following the defeat of Gaddafi.
Following the attack on the Benghazi consulate last fall, the Obama administration issued an apology for the you tube video red herring that served as a scapegoat for the attack. At that time, Governor Palin ripped the president for "waiving the white flag", as it ran counter to the constitutional protection of free speech, and urged the president to withdraw troops if their mission was to be counter to protecting the freedoms of Americans:
Look, if our fearless leaders insist on waiving the white flag like this, they may need to bring our troops home from the Middle East. No more blood, no more U.S. treasure spent, not one drop, if those in control of our troops' lives and tax dollars going into things like this are going to capitulate, wait, apologize for a first amendment right of ours, freedom of speech, that our troops are over there fighting for. Sean, our commander in chief is contradicting what we believe our troop's mission is and that is to protect freedom.
Governor Palin's foreign policy vision is not so narrow, however, as to only consider the use of American troops abroad, but also America's financial resources. In May 2011, Governor Palin wrote:
Throwing borrowed money around is not sound economic policy. And throwing borrowed money around the developing world is not sound foreign policy. Foreign assistance should go to American allies that need it and appreciate it, and for humanitarian purposes when it can truly make a difference.
Foreign assistance of any kind should be reserved for allies and should be for humanitarian purposes only. Again, considering Governor Palin articulated this sentiment more than two years ago, it should surprise no one that Governor Palin believes that America should not intervene in Syria by providing arms to al Qaeda rebels.

Our political media across the spectrum try too often to dichotomize foreign policy, as if political leaders must either be Ron Paul or George W. Bush. This, of course, is a false choice. The "Palin doctrine" provides an America-centric alternative to neoconservatism and non-interventionism.

Crossposted here and here

Friday, June 21, 2013

Congressional Candidate Erika Harold Must Be Over the Target

Erika Harold, Republican candidate for the 13th Congressional district, is being described as "a glimmer of hope for the Illinois GOP" and "a formidable candidate". Those very reasons just may be why, months before the 2014 GOP primary, Harold is already being attacked.

Harold has a compelling background. She is multi-racial woman in her early thirties and a Harvard educated lawyer. Harold is also a former Miss America. She won the coveted crown in 2003 and used the scholarship money she won to pay for law school. Harold is challenging an incumbent Congressman, Rodney Davis, who just took office earlier this year. In 2012, shortly after the GOP primary, Congressman Tim Johnson retired. The Republican party in the 13th district was tasked with finding someone to take Johnson's place on the November ballot. Candidates were asked to put for their names if they were interested in being considered. From those names, four preliminary candidates were chosen. Both Rodney Davis and Erika Harold were among these candidates. A series of forums were held where these potential candidates shared their views. GOP chairs from the counties represented in this district were then charged with the task of choosing the candidate to represent the party in November's election. Davis, a longtime Congressional aide and the interim executive director of the Illinois GOP, ultimately became the choice of the county chairs. The voters of 13th district were never given a choice. That, in part, is why Harold is running. Harold told the Washington Examiner in an interview earlier this month, " I think it’s important for the party that the primary voters within the district have the final say on who represents them going forward".

In that same interview, Harold also spoke about oft-spoken political "war on women":
“If I thought that the Republican Party wasn’t a welcoming place for women, I wouldn’t run, because making sure that women have the ability to pursue their aspirations both professionally and within their families is something that’s very important to me,” Harold replied when The Washington Examiner raised the topic during a phone interview conducted in two parts on Thursday and Friday. 
Harold added that she wants “to show that principles of economic freedom and limited government are not part of the ‘war on women’ but can actually empower women.”To that end, she suggested that “it’s important for our party that we do promote strong women in the Republican Party, because that’s a great way of showing that, not only is there no war, but that we support women that want to stand for conservative principles.”
Harold articulates a clear message about the empowerment that the free market can bring women and her belief that the Republican party is welcoming to women. Unfortunately, Harold has been targeted by people within her own party. On Wednesday, the Montgomery county GOP chair, Jim Allen, a supporter of Davis, launched a sexist and racially charged attack on Harold through an email, saying:
Rodney Davis will win, and the love child of the DNC will be back in Chicago by May working for some law firm that needs to meet their quota for minority hires. ...The little queen touts her abstinence. Now, Miss Queen is being used like a street walker and her pimps are the Democrat Party. These pimps want something they can't get.
Allen's attack is not only vile and absurd; it is demonstrably false. Harold got to where she is on her own merits, not as a result of a law firm's need to fulfill quotas. As someone who was a delegate to the 2004 RNC convention and who strongly espouses conservative principles, she is hardly a "love child" of the DNC. Harold responded by noting that such comments had "no place in the public discourse" and that she wanted to remain focused on a positive campaign. Sadly, sexually charged attacks are common place when conservative (and minority) women take on the establishments of their own party. Sarah Palin has been referred to as the " supreme commander of MILF-istan" by pundit Tucker Carlson and referred to as a Spice Girl during her mayoral campaign in the mid 1990s.  Indian American South Carolina governor Nikki Haley was called a "raghead" and  was hit with allegations of an affair by men within her own party during her 2010 gubernatorial run. 

The Davis campaign and RNC chair Reince Prebius rightfully called for Allen's resignation, and on Thursday, Allen resigned from his chair. To borrow from a World War II term, if Erika Harold is taking flak; she must be over the target. Flight crews knew that if they were taking flak from the enemy, they must be over their target (doing their job effectively). Those who choose to take on the establishment of their own party are often attacked. Women like Sarah Palin and Nikki Haley especially can attest to that, but that puts Harold in pretty good company.

Crossposted from the New Agenda.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Buzzfeed Catches Up with Joan Walsh and Kathleen Parker Having Brunch in the Hamptons

by Buzzfeed editorial staff

En route to investigating a story on the Top 10 Persian Cats of the Hamptons for our new feature--the Felines of Long Island, we happened to run into two of today's top political opinion writers--Joan Walsh and  Kathleen Parker--who were having brunch at one of the most exclusive spots in the area. By the time we spotted them, Walsh was already on her fifth mimosa, but both Walsh and Parker agreed to answer a few questions. Below is our transcript:

Buzzfeed: You both wrote excellent, insightful pieces recently about Sarah Palin's speech last week at the Faith and Freedom Coalition. What do you think of Palin's role in the conservative movement?

Parker: She has no impact on conservatives. She's extremely irrelevant. That's why I wanted to write about Mama Grizzly's maleficence-- because people need to be informed about inane irrelevance. Palin is all about parity. Can you believe it? I think that is all they teach at the University of Idaho--potatoes and pregnancy. The University of Idaho just doesn't educate you like Florida State where I attended.

Walsh: I know, right? Can you believe white people? Look. Palin is just a parody of her hateful self. Here at Salon, we've done a lot of investigative research on race and vileness. It turns out that a lack of melanin is correlated with absolute awfulness. Alaska goes months and months without much sun, you know. That keeps you pale. But, that's exactly what makes Palin attractive to those racist redneck conservatives.

Parker: Racist redneck That's a great alliteration, Joan! I'll have to remember that one. Speaking of rednecks, who you really need to watch  for is Honey Boo Boo. She is a lot smarter than Palin. She supported Ivy League educated President Obama in the last election.

Buzzfeed: Ah yes, Honey Boo Boo. Hasn't her show lasted longer than your show with Elliot Spitzer?

Parker: What are you trying to say, feline fanboi?

With that retort, Buzzfeed decided to let the ladies return to their brunch. Walsh and Parker were beginning to turn a very bright shade of green anyway, so we decided to leave before we caught whatever they had.

Please stay tuned for our new series of the Felines of Long Island!

Disclosure: This is only satire. So please, don't fall prey to a Suzi Parker scoop. 

Crossposted here and here.

Monday, June 17, 2013

President Obama's Top Five "I Am Not..." Statements

 The late, great Margaret Thatcher once said, "being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to say you are, you aren't". The inverse statement is true as well--if you have to say you aren't, you are. Over the last several months, there seems to be a pattern of denial from President Obama. This goes beyond his denial of knowledge on  Benghazi talking point changes, IRS targeting of conservative groups,  and other scandals. These are denials not of what he's done, but who he is and to whom he is compared.

1. I'm not Dick Cheney

In an interview with Charlie Rose that will appear later tonight, President Obama denies recent comparisons to the former Vice President:
“Some people say, ‘Well, you know, Obama was this raving liberal before. Now he’s, you know, Dick Cheney.’ Dick Cheney sometimes says, ‘Yeah, you know? He took it all lock, stock, and barrel,’” the president told interviewer Charlie Rose in the exchange recorded Sunday, according to excerpts of the transcript published by BuzzFeed. “My concern has always been not that we shouldn’t do intelligence gathering to prevent terrorism, but rather are we setting up a system of checks and balances?”
President Obama denies comparisons to Dick Cheney, yet through double negative rhetoric confirms he does support "intelligence gathering" that may may mean that individuals' privacy could be violated. Additionally, while the purpose may not be to prevent terrorism, he supports collecting massive amounts of data on Americans (and sharing it within government at all levels) when it comes to the issue of healthcare, immigration, and education. The candidate who ran as a proponent of civil liberties is hardly that anymore. In fact, polls show just the opposite.

2. Jay Carney's Denial of the Obama comparison to Richard Nixon

Last month, following questions from the White House press corps surrounding the IRS targeting of conservative groups and the handling of Benghazi (among other questionable behavior), press secretary Jay Carney denied comparisons to Nixon.


On second thought, perhaps President Obama is right. He isn't Nixon. President Nixon took responsibility for his arguably less corrupt actions.

3. I'm not a socialist

In an interview with the Spanish language channel Univision in late 2012, President Obama denied that his ideology mirrored that of the Castro brothers and the late Hugo Chavez.  While America has certainly not suffered the same ill fate of these countries mired in socialism for years, the President has aimed to bring more and more industries under greater control of the State--from the auto bailout early in his presidency to the government control of healthcare under Obamacare to his student loan takeover.  Additionally, he a signed into law a massive stimulus bill and has a strong desire to put a heavier tax burden on the rich.

4. I'm not a dictator

5. I'm not an emperor

 Denials #4 and #5 are essentially the same with slightly different wording. In a press conference in March, President Obama responded to a reporter's question about working with Congress by essentially bemoaning that  he "was not a dictator" and could not dictate to Congress to "do the right thing".  Just a few weeks earlier, he quipped during a Google hangout, that he was "not emperor of the United States" and that his job was to "execute laws that are passed". President Obama has regularly criticized Congress for not doing his bidding, but isn't that part of the "checks and balances" that he supposedly supports (at least when he is trying to deny the aforementioned comparison to Dick Chaney)?  President Obama has made it clear that when it is possible he will try to govern by going around Congress. Additionally, while he may claim to be a "dictator", he has signed legislation into law that dictates an awful lot to the American people and businesses. Looking at Obamacare alone, Americans are mandated to purchase health insurance, most employers are required to provide it, and all are required to cover contraceptives.  Would the President prefer to be called a "mandator"?

What is particularly interesting is that four of these five denials came in response to reasonably direct questions posed by a friendly press corps. The press is even asking the President about these common perceptions of the American people. Denial is not just a river in the Christian persecuting, war-on-women country of the Arab Spring. It is a defensive mechanism employed by the President when his rhetoric consistently doesn't match his actions. Crossposted here and here.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Unintentional Message (and Lesson) of "The Internship"

Over the weekend I saw the Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson movie " The Internship" (trailer shown above) Vaughn (Billy) and Wilson (Nick) played two veteran watch salesmen who had lost their jobs in part because people don't wear watches anymore, but simply check their cell phones to determine the time. Billy ultimately lands two internships at Google for both himself and Nick where they were placed in a group with other (much younger) interns who were still in college.

During one scene, this group of interns discuss their concerns of finding a job after college. One of the college-aged interns said to Billy and Nick (paraphrasing), " You could achieve the American Dream. The American Dream isn't the same for us. It isn't guaranteed". I found this line intriguing.  It is clear that this movie takes place in the present day. Thus, Hollywood and Google are essentially admitting that the Obama administration has not created confidence for young millennials seeking jobs after college. Hollywood, of course, is notorious for being quite Left in their political ideology. Also, Google is very tight with the Obama administration. Yet, both Hollywood and Google--whether intentionally or not--indicated that liberal ideology (and hope and change) have not lived up to the expectation of millennials. There are two key issues to consider when looking at the economic hope of those in their late teens to mid twenties--1) their educational choices 2) their means of funding their education.

The group of millennials depicted in the movie would likely enter the technology field, a field where there are more opportunities for jobs than other fields. However, some students are choosing fields that are not particularly employable. This, plus a sustained poor economy, has contributed to 48% of those with a college degree working in a job that does not require such education. This is not to say that people should forgo college, but the liberal ideal of universal college education is wrong. A high school graduate with a strong work ethic should not be frowned upon, nor should a high school graduate who seeks training at a technical school. In fact, likely due in part to our culture's emphasis on intellectual output over tangible output, skilled trades like carpentry and car mechanics are among the ten hardest jobs to fill in America.. As a researcher in academia, I certainly don't want to downplay intellectual output, but our society needs a myriad of outputs to continue to be the strongest nation in the world. As Governor Palin wrote in a post earlier this Spring:
It’s crucially important today for young people to think about the big picture when making education decisions. And the big picture is the goal of self-reliant business opportunities based on work ethic and not entitlements. One of the reasons I aggressively encouraged vocational training opportunities as governor of Alaska is because they lead to good paying jobs and happy careers. Young people should not be pressured into assuming that a college degree is the only path to employment today. It’s not. Some college degrees obviously lead to clear professions, like those in the medical and engineering fields, but that’s not the case with many of the liberal arts degrees young people today gravitate toward either because they aren’t sure what they want to do after college or because they’ve been led to believe that college life is a sort of rite of passage for any career. That might have been the case once, but the salary and career opportunities a liberal arts education alone can get you have been dramatically limited these days. It’s so sad to see young people holding expensive college diplomas that come with no practical job opportunities. 
Follow your dreams, by all means. But don’t be blind to the fact that your dreams might be achieved outside of acquiring an outrageously expensive traditional college degree. Do not be lulled into thinking that good jobs grow on trees or that the government will somehow take care of you. The bottom line is – as my dad always told me – find out what you love to do, then find out how to make a living doing it. Learning a trade can do both. No one can take those vo-tech real life skills away from you.
It's not only the choice of educational training that makes the difference; it is also how you fund it. For all the flack Governor Palin received for taking five years to graduate from college and for changing schools multiple times, she did something few people do--graduated from college with no debt. The governmental subsidization of education has lead to public higher education costs to increase 250% since 1982, which makes it harder for college to be affordable. However, it is still achievable. Some students are fortunate enough to have parents who fund their entire education. Some are able to obtain scholarship to assist them, and some work during college and summer breaks to pay for college and/or help mitigate the need for student loans.

Student loans, like any other construct with government intervention, have become a political football. In 2010, nearly concurrently with the passage of Obamacare, President Obama signed a student loan overall that wiped out fees paid to banks who act as intermediaries in administering student loans (i.e. the federal government took over the student loan industry). President Obama noted at the time (emphasis added):
Mr. Obama portrayed the overhaul of the student loan program as a triumph over an “army of lobbyists,” singling out Sallie Mae, the nation’s largest student lender, which he said spent $3 million on lobbying to stop the changes. “For almost two decades, we’ve been trying to fix a sweetheart deal in federal law that essentially gave billions of dollars to banks,” he said. The money, he said, “was spent padding student lenders’ pockets.
Things haven't changed since the three plus years after the bill took effect. The student lenders' pockets are still being padded, but now those pockets are Uncle Sam's pockets. In fiscal year 2013 alone, the federal government will reap $51 billion in "profit" from these student loan borrowers. This profit is greater than that of Exxon Mobil or Apple.

As was the case last year, student loan rates are set to double on July 1st, thus perpetuating the political game between Congressional Republicans and the Obama administration. The House has passed a bill that would make loan rates fluctuate based upon market rates, while the Obama administration wants rates fixed (i.e. controlled by the government). Politicians continue to use students as a political football, and the Department of Education is reaping the benefits. Students need to make smart choices in their education, but the government must stop trying to "fix" things only to pad their own pockets.

There is every reason for hope for millennials, and I say this as someone who is on the "old" end of that generation. America is rife with opportunity if people are willing to work hard enough, be rational, and plan ahead. Abraham Lincoln, one of our most famed presidents, did not have a college degree, but he had wisdom--and an ax. Lincoln is quoted as saying, " if I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I'd spend six hours sharpening my ax”. He prepared for the goal ahead of him, and he was efficient. Millennials can act in the same manner by making wise decisions with educational, occupational, and financial choices. The American Dream is still achievable, in spite of a government that acts as a barrier. Crossposted here and here.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

How Big Government and the Permanent Political Class Facilitate Scandal

Yeah, the permanent political class – they’re doing just fine. Ever notice how so many of them arrive in Washington, D.C. of modest means and then miraculously throughout the years they end up becoming very, very wealthy? Well, it’s because they derive power and their wealth from their access to our money – to taxpayer dollars. They use it to bail out their friends on Wall Street and their corporate cronies, and to reward campaign contributors, and to buy votes via earmarks. There is so much waste. And there is a name for this: It’s called corporate crony capitalism. This is not the capitalism of free men and free markets, of innovation and hard work and ethics, of sacrifice and of risk. No, this is the capitalism of connections and government bailouts and handouts, of waste and influence peddling and corporate welfare. This is the crony capitalism that destroyed Europe’s economies. It’s the collusion of big government and big business and big finance to the detriment of all the rest – to the little guys. It’s a slap in the face to our small business owners – the true entrepreneurs, the job creators accounting for 70% of the jobs in America, it’s you who own these small businesses, you’re the economic engine, but you don’t grease the wheels of government power.  
  -Governor Sarah Palin, September 3, 2011
More than a year and a half later, prescient Palin is still right,and there's a reason she uses the phrase "permanent political class" rather than simply "D.C. politicians". The permanent political class does not just include elected officials, but also those who have become entrenched in the federal government in some manner due to government's constant growth. The permanent political class also include revolving door appointees who oversee various agencies, donors who get plum ambassadorships, and bureaucrats whose connection to government allow them to unethically pad theirs and others' pocketbooks. The expansion of government provides the perfect breeding ground for corruption, cronyism, and unethical behavior--compounding the scandalous assault on America's liberties.

Meet Mike McConnell. McConnell is the vice chairman of Booz Allen Hamilton-- the government contractor whom Edward Snowden worked for prior to fleeing to Hong Kong and informing the world that the government was seizing the phone records of Americans. McConnell has netted $1.8 million in Booz Allen Hamilton stock sales in 2013 and has secured over a billion dollars in government contracts. Of course, there is nothing wrong with making money off investments or profiting from your business's success. McConnell, however, is not simply a successful private sector businessman. McConnell was head of the NSA during President Clinton's administration before going to Booz Allen Hamilton in 1996. He has revolved back to the public sector when President Bush selected him as director of national intelligence in 2007 before returning to Booz Allen Hamilton in 2009. As the Daily Beast summarizes (emphasis added):
In 2007 he returned to government employment when President Bush selected him to be the second director of national intelligence (a bureaucratic position created out of the 9/11 Commission to manage bureaucracy). According to excerpts of Dana Priest and William Arkin’s Top Secret America: The Rise of the New American Security State posted by The Washington Post, as DNI, McConnell pushed for increases in intelligence contracting. After serving as DNI, McConnell returned to Booz Allen in 2009 as executive vice president in charge of the firm’s intelligence business. In 2011 he was named vice chairman of the company.
That revolving door sure is nice, huh, Mr. McConnell? While a government appointee he pushed for more contracting, then return to the private sector to reap the private sector fruits of his public sector lobbying.

Next, let's meet Howard Guttman. Guttman was a major donor to both President Obama's 2008 campaign and his 2009 inauguration (who also, as an Obama surrogate, bashed Governor Palin's parenting skills). President Obama returned the favor by giving him an ambassadorship in Belgium. It has recently been revealed that Guttman's security detail allegedly turned a blind eye when Guttman solicited underage prostitutes. Additionally, the investigation into these matters have been halted by the state Department. The is a prime example of the way things work for the permanent political class. Political donations lead to plush appointments, and wrongdoing is swept under the rug.

Additionally, a story broke earlier this week that scores of federal bureaucrats may have benefited financially or facilitated insider trading from having foreknowledge of changes in Medicare policy:
The surge of trading in Humana’s and other private health insurers’ stock before the April 1 announcement already has prompted the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate whether Wall Street investors had advance access to inside information about the then-confidential Medicare funding plan. 
Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) told The Washington Post late last week that his office reviewed the e-mail records of employees at the Department of Health and Human Services and found that 436 of them had early access to the Medicare decision as much as two weeks before it was made public. 
Grassley’s investigators have interviewed Hayes and private-sector political-intelligence consultants. But Grassley made clear Friday that while the SEC continues to investigate who made large trades in advance of the Medicare announcement, he will focus on adding transparency to the political-intelligence-gathering process, including asking more about “how the government handles market-sensitive information.” That kind of data, he said, “should be available to everyone at the same time, not handled loosely in a way that allows special access to some individuals.”
In mid April, just a few weeks after this trading spike and just ahead of the reporting deadline, Congress and the President overturned a provision of the STOCK Act that, in part, removes the requirement for some government officials to report their stock trades and other financial information. It has not been revealed if these hundreds of federal employees made trades with foreknowledge of the policy change, and it is unclear if any of these individuals were among those "senior officials" who would have been required to report their financial information if the STOCK Act provision would have remained.  Whether it was the bureaucrats themselves or others who benefited, this proves to be yet another example of the permanent political class benefiting at the expense of the American people.

Additionally, such unethical activity points to the concern with the burgeoning $100 million industry of political intelligence (an oxy moronic phrase, of course) where these consultants provide information to Wall Street based upon action in Washington D.C.. The bigger government becomes, the bigger this industry becomes and the greater the opportunity for the permanent political class to benefit at the expense of taxpayers. Legislation has been proposed to require political intelligence consultants to register,similar to the way that lobbyists do. However, such proposals were shot down by people like Congressman Eric Cantor, whose wife works in securities and investments and who received a lot of campaign donations from the industry, as Peter Schweizer detailed in a Forbes article in April:
But the Grassley provision was struck down. Leading the charge to kill the political intelligence language were House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-CT). When Rep. Cantor introduced the House version of the bill, it lacked provisions to regulate the political intelligence industry. Asked why the measure had been omitted, Rep. Cantor’s spokesperson Laena Fallon said the language was “extremely broad” and that the “unintended consequences on the provision could have affected the first amendment rights of everyone participating in local rotaries to national media conglomerates.” 
What Cantor and Lieberman failed to mention were their relationships to the financial services industry. In the 2012 election cycle, Cantor raked in $896,900 from securities and investment firms. And his wife, Diana Cantor, is an investment committee member for an investment adviser that manages almost $900 million in private fund assets. During the 2010 election cycle, Sen. Lieberman bagged over $2 million in campaign donations from securities and investment firms, the most of any industry.
As government grows, more opportunities arise for the permanent political class--be they politicians, political appointees, donors, or bureaucrats--to benefit at the expense of taxpayers and to engage in scandalous activity. These is the result of one party's policies or leadership, it is the result of an ideology where the hand-in-hand relationship of  "big business" and  "big government" is seen as preferable to the invisible hand of the free market.

Crossposted here and here.