Sequestration Standoff Solution

Regular readers know that we here at AWildDuck have a love-hate relationship with the US president. We endorsed him in the November election, but we had some blunt and critical reservations. Of course, bluntness is our trademark style, but in this case, we explained a schism in ethos that reduces the effectiveness of the American president.

Mr. Obama rivals Bill Clinton in his command of foreign policy. He has an innate understanding of democracy, law and homeland security. He is an ethical man with good ideas about helping to elevate those who cannot help themselves. But he lacks a fundamental belief in free market economics. He is suspicious of wealth—and for some reason, he thinks that someone earning 100 times as much as another individual should pay far more than 100 times as much in taxes after you deduct basic living costs for both individuals. Although supporters refute the “socialist” label that is tossed from the right, it is not completely unjustified. Recall how Obama railed against corporate ‘fat cats’ who fly on corporate jets. Obama feels that it is not sufficient to build a safety net for the poor, he has a mission of doing it by soaking the rich.

No compromise: Obama wants higher taxes on high earners

Of course, the problem is that there is not enough wealth in the 1% to address the hole that we have dug. More importantly, he fails to accept the basic premise of capital in-centives. Did he miss a principle taught in every first-year economics class in the free world? Time for a refresher. If you slept through that class, here is the Cliff Notes version: If we punish individuals who build business, employ the middle class and already pay the lion’s share of taxes, then these individuals will build empires elsewhere.

So, since we really do like Mr. Obama, what is a Wild Duck to do?

In the build up to possible Sequestration (America’s newest fiscal cliff), we believe the solution is for Republicans to let the budget ax fall where it may. Don’t compromise on letting the White House legislate ever higher disproportionate tax tiers. That plan is not only divisive, it is a path of economic suicide. It can only lead to capital flight.

Today, in a Wall Street Journal editorial, John Boehner explains that the idea for automatic and across the board budget cuts originated with the White House, but we dispute that looming cuts were designed solely to force bipartisanship and scare legislators into crafting a more palatable plan. Nonsense! Sudden and drastic cuts are necessary to demonstrate to our creditors that we understand our obligations. We cannot continue to renege on debts and fleece our own grandchildren, by continuing to spend beyond our means.

As we go to press, sequestration is 10 days away. In a speech tonight (Feb 19, 2013), Mr. Obama stood before a gaggle of first responders, insisting that the indiscriminate cuts mandated by sequestration would result in layoff of thousands of safety personnel, teachers, airport security and flight controllers, and result in the cancellation of the Head Start program and urgently needed upgrades to an aircraft carrier.

Analysts say that Obama has the high ground. They say that if economic malaise ensues, Republican legislators will be held accountable. We agree. That’s because he is not only an ethical man, he is poised and articulate. And of course, as Republicans often complain, he is extending his campaign mode instead of offering to compromise with legislators.

So, with apologies to Jonathan Swift, we wish to proffer our own modest proposal. An idea on how Republicans can seize the high ground without giving in: We humbly suggest that Republicans announce a press conference immediately. “Hello, America…We understand that indiscriminate cuts would cripple the economy and penalize the needy. We will compromise. We cannot stand by and watch senseless cuts, and so we offer to work with the president on sensible cuts.” Since we cannot seem to agree on taxes, we will work hand-in-hand with the president to reduce the deficit by prioritizing the cuts that are mandated.

If sequestration targets indiscriminately, allow Obama to discriminate.

Indiscriminate cuts disastrous?  So, discriminate, Mr. Obama.

Of course, we are in the midst of a crisis, so we won’t limit our cuts to obvious waste. We will make the tough choices and target all those programs that the president never mentions in his popular stump speeches. Hmm-m-m. Where to start? How about you, Mr. President? Any ideas?

This position, will remind Americans that while the president points to the calamity that accompanies cuts to teachers, firefighters, air traffic controllers and battleships, he never cites the other end of his list. What programs can be eliminated or cut way back?. It’s easy to denounce pork and graft, but where will the real belt-tightening begin? Since the wealth of the 1% doesn’t amount to a hill of beans, this is a discussion that really needs to be vetted. And very soon.

Let’s be clear: We support President Obama. In most of his pursuits and methods, he has our admiration and endorsement. But it’s time that this Harvard Law student gain macro-economic perspective. We think that an offer to let the president take the lead in slashing the budget will turn the conversation and take the wind out of his argument that the deficit can be addressed by soaking the wealthy.

Try as he might, nothing the president can do will soak the wealthy. It is not realistic. It will only move the wealth out of the United States, along with the jobs, the technology, the Nobel Prizes and the economic gains that follow it.

As we go to press, it’s reassuring to see The Wall Street Journal agrees that mandated cuts driven by a firm deadline may not be a bad thing. But this is not exactly our point. In our opinion, they needn’t be across-the-board.

— Ellery Davies is editor of AWildDuck. Once in awhile,
he returns to his roots and becomes a political pundit.

Barack Obama: A Qualified Wild Duck Endorsement

Check out this February Sequestration update:
Let it occur. But shift tough decisions to Obama

It is with mixed feelings that Wild Ducks endorse Barack Obama for a second term as US president. Here is our armchair analysis of his good points, bad points and a few that are not-too-good/not-too-bad or unclear…

The Good

  • Character: Barack Obama is an ethical man. He is honest, trustworthy and cares about protecting the vulnerable. Despite his ascent into the upper class, he is class-agnostic; a rare quality in politics. “Character Counts”, a catch phrase of past elections, is often twisted by the far right. But as sentiments go, it fits.
  • Pro Choice: No matter how divisive the issue, reproductive decisions should never be fettered by legislation. It is not a communal issue. It is private & personal. Obama understands this.
  • Gay & Lesbian Rights: Barack Obama is the first president willing to recognize the rights of homosexuals (supporting the right to marry, repealing Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell). Sexual orientation is not a conscious choice. Gay citizens are what they are. Even if it involved choice, it is clearly a personal issue and should not be the target of statutory discrimination. We must get past a tendency to project moral and religious beliefs upon our neighbors. Obama has set a new course for tolerance and acceptance in all sectors of society and at great personal risk.
  • Human Rights: Obama falls on the side of human rights and dignity, even when it is difficult (torture, sweatshops, prison labor, etc.)
  • Mixing religion into affairs of state: Obama understands that governments should be agnostic.
  • Consistency: In this area, Obama presents a clear contrast to Mitt Romney.
  • Health / Obamacare: I have never delighted in socializing any aspect of the economy, nor forcing Americans to purchase anything. Let’s face it: Forced health premiums are a tax, no matter how you sugar coat it. But with this life & death issue, I don’t see how we can avoid socialized health care. It works in Massachusetts and it is preposterous that Romney now distances himself from that program.
  • Military: Obama strives for peace, but uses force where necessary. He has not failed us.
  • Military: Obama understands that it cannot be viewed as the driving sector for the entire economy. Romney wants too much military. And he cloaks it with the unfounded fear of a weak America.
  • Environment: Despite assurances that the US will source more oil & coal, Obama certainly understands global warming, erosion, and pollution better than Mitt Romney.
  • Risk: Obama has never been risk averse. (Possible exception: His failure to stand up to teachers unions). He faced great risk taking on the economic stimulus, gay marriage and health care despite the potential for popular backlash.
  • US Stature: I vehemently disagree with Romney’s characterization of Obama’s “Apology Tour”. Obama wasn’t apologizing. He addresses the very accurate perception that America is arrogant and tends to use military might to unilaterally push economic or social policy abroad. He has not yet had much success in this area. But I give him points for moving in this direction.
  • He is as American as apple pie: Donald Trump is downright daffy.  [Scroll down]…

On Donald Trump: “This all dates back to when we were growing up together in Kenya.”

The Bad & The Questionable

Barack Obama has established trust and executive credibility beyond doubt. But, with four years to demonstrate progress and competence, he has been weak in two critical areas: Domestic economy and improved employment. A president wields significant influence regarding the role of government in free markets. As unemployment barely falls back to the same 7.9% of his first-term oath, one wonders if Obama could not have pulled harder to get a rabbit out of the hat. He has failed to show aggressive action on the real, underlying engine of a robust economy: private sector jobs and exports.

Moreover, Wild Ducks disagree with the fundamental basis of his economic doctrine:

  • Government’s role in capital markets: Obama tries to pick winning technologies for public investment and he propped up auto manufacturers and banks. Although some of these ‘bets’ may have paid off, it is not clear that the US economy would have been worse in the absence of direct intervention.
  • Taxes: Obama has acquired a reputation for being a socialist. It is not an unfair label. Wild Ducks are concerned that Obama exhibits a lack of capitalistic perspective. Most citizens accept the obligation of a public safety net for those who are out of a job, out of luck or desperate. It’s one thing to use public funds, but it’s another thing, altogether, to tax disproportionately. He disparages those who build businesses and as a result achieve wealth. He has a penchant to use taxes for redistribution and to tinker with private enterprise and free markets. He unabashedly rallies to his base with fervent cries to soak-the-rich. Just listen to him rail against anyone who owns or flies on an executive jet.
  • Failure to take on the national debt: As the nation moved past the initial economic stimulus, Obama had no grand scheme to address the elephant in the closet. He missed an opportunity for a broad based assault on the biggest threat to prosperity in the new century. This one issue could prematurely stifle a great nation. It is likely to loom over our children’s generation as the most damning setback to lifestyle and financial security.
  • Jobs: In this area, Obama has some progress, but not enough. Despite gradual economic recovery, employment is not rising quick enough to save homes, save marriages, and save nest eggs. Of course, the national debt, a skilled work force and education go hand in hand.
  • Questionable support for Israel: Israel is a critical, strategic ally and a worldwide engine of science, technology and capital growth. The people of Israel share our ideals. Most Americans care that Israel remain safe within its borders.
    In March 2012, Obama assured Benjamin Netanyahu “America will always have Israel’s back.” But the promise rings hollow. Obama’s positive sentiments are countered by callous action. Many mixed signals here… Obama has snubbed Israel on at least two occasions. His public pressure on delicate political and security issues has emboldened Palestinians.
  • Nuclear Iran: Obama is uncertain or unclear in articulating a hard line against a nuclear armed Iran. Regardless of US-Israeli relations or the price of oil, Obama should have drawn a “red line” at the United Nations meeting in September, rather than forcing Benjamin Netanyahu to make things clear.

    US fails to draw a line. Bibi makes it clear.

    Obama concedes that Iran has acquired nuclear technology, has built or refined components of a weapon, and that they have the capacity to assemble these pieces. Yet, he claims that Iran does not present a risk to regional peace, because there is no evidence that they have obtained a delivery vehicle. The reasoning is naïve and reckless. Iran is a led by religious zealots who spew hate and constantly threaten to obliterate their neighbor.

The Not so Bad / Not so Good & The Unknown

  • Education: Too much is unknown. During the Clinton era, this was Hillary’s hot button. But we didn’t see compelling policy directives from Obama during his first term. If it does not surface during a 2nd term, we will be disappointed. One can only hope that Obama pushes for expansion of the charter school model and a “de-fanging” of teachers unions. These unions are pro-Obama. This could be attributed to Romney’s unpopular statement about class size. (He doesn’t feel that it impacts the quality of education). In fact, union agenda is often at odds with a quality education. The good news is based on first-hand experience: An education system does not require wads of fresh cash. It can be built around the provably successful charter school model. Obama may have been reluctant to advocate for charter schools during his first term, because it would gut his union support. In a second term, he needn’t appease a constituency that exists only to secure the jobs of burned out incumbents. It is our hope that Obama musters his Mojo and his well-deserved reputation for standing up to special interests.
  • NASA: A tough one. Under both Bush & Obama, the space agency was severely defunded. Yet, private programs are beginning to fill gaps. We don’t know Obama’s impact on facilitating private efforts or how much the nation can put into NASA. For now, Wild Ducks give Obama a “Pass”, but acknowledge that his broad impact is yet unknown.

What about Romney?

If there is a sufficient demand, AWildDuck will create a similar Pro/Con list for Mitt Romney. But we confess that it will be difficult. Romney’s major “PRO” is the fact that he has business experience and certainly has a more innate belief in unfettered, capitalist market mechanisms. But it would be very hard to ascertain his position on many social and government issues. In our opinion, he waffles like Aunt Jemima. While this may sound biased and trite, consider two striking examples:

  • Mitt Romney claims that he would not limit a woman’s freedom of reproductive choice, yet in the same week, he assured conservative media pundits that he will sign any anti-abortion law that crosses his desk.
  • Romney criticizes a national health care program modeled almost entirely on his own initiative as governor of Massachusetts. A fact made even more absurd by the fact that the program is a success. Why is Romney so against it for other states? How can he take credit for one while disparaging the other with gusto?

In our opinion, Romney distorts Obama’s record to suit his message. Obama does this too, but Romney has elevated the distortion to an art form. Our main problem with Romney is that he is disingenuous.

Ducks side with Barack Obama on 83% of issues and with Mitt Romney on 57% of issues—weighted for each issue by importance to the respondent. With whom do you side? Take this quick, non-partisan survey. The results may surprise you!

I’m Ellery Davies, and I approved this message.