Good Policy, Bad Politics

At almost anytime in history we’d be in favor of a capital gains tax cut. A capital gains tax is a tax on investment, after all, and that’s something governments should always encourage rather than discourage.

Still, there’s a certain tone deafness to President Donald Trump seeking a capital gains tax cut at this particular moment, and the few remaining Republican who care about constitutional checks and balances are obliged to resist how he’s planning to go abut it./div

The political problem with capital gains tax cuts has always been that too many Americans don’t care to wade through all the economic theory, making it easy to demonize them as “tax cuts for the rich.” In fact most of the benefits do accrue to the already wealthy, as they tend to invest more often an in larger sums. The added economic activity and subsequent revenue growth benefits all Americans, but in a time of polarized politics of resentment, that’s just more economic mumbo-jumbo too many Americans don’t want to hear.
According to all the polls Trump is currently losing in his bid for reelection, which is not surprising given that 30 million are out of work and the Gross Domestic Product has shrunk by more than a fourth in the past year due to a coronavirus that has killed more than 60 million Americans. Trump has described the death tool as “It is what it is” and continues to hold out hope that “It will just go away the way things just go away,” which strikes many voters as callous and no substitute for a plan. Trump also points to recent stock market gains as proof a a rapid economic recovery.but few of those 30.1 million Americans who are out of work. At the moment, pressing for capital gains tax cut only plays to a widespread perception that Trump cares more about his billionaire buddies and donors than the average guy. It’s good policy, but for now bad politics,
Any change in the tax laws must be done through the legislature, and with the Democrats holding a strong majority in the House of Representatives, so Trump is hoping to get around that with an executive. This would quickly lose in the courts, with even the two Trump appointees voting with a majority. Trump can order the Treasure Department to index capital gains to inflation, which would have the same effect. Some Republicans who rightly urailed against similar efforts at executive overreach during the Obama administration, and don’t care to be hypocrites about it now. Most Republicans don’t care about the hypocrisy, confident their supporters won’t notice of won’t mind, but Trump can’t afford any erosion of party support,
Otherwise, it’s another brilliant move by Trump.

— Bud Norman<

Executive Orders Under Cover of Fire

With all the media attention being paid to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech before Congress today, now is a perfect time for an American president to launch some pet policy that would not fare scrutiny well. Thus, White House spokesman Josh Earnest seized the opportunity Monday to announce that President Barack Obama is “very interested” in the idea of raising taxes through executive action.
Whether he was joshing or in earnest was hard to say, as always, but the White House spokesman was quick to add “Now I don’t want to leave you with the impression that there is some imminent announcement, there is not, at least that I know.” This was unsettling enough, even before he further added that “the president has asked his team to examine the array of executive authorities that are available to him to try to make progress on his goals.” All this came in response to a question about a proposal from self-proclaimed Socialist and Vermont Rep. Bernie Sanders to raise up to $100 billion dollars by closing various corporate tax loopholes through executive action, which we expect the president would find very interesting, and as Earnest himself admitted, “The president has certainly not indicated any reticence in using his executive authority to try and advance an agenda that benefits middle class Americans,” so we take it as more or less a policy statement.
Nit-picky conservative types will note that the Constitution is rather explicit about the legislative branch having the sole authority to levy taxes, but it says the same sort of old-fashioned blather about immigration law and carbon regulations and any number of other things that no one seems to care much about these days, and lately all that Constitution stuff doesn’t seem to matter much. Some insufficiently-lobbied corporation or another will surely find it cost efficient to challenge any executive ordered tax increases in court, and the Republican majorities in both houses of Congress might yet find some means of resistance, but the past many decades of congressional delegation to the executive bureaucracy provide enough legal precedent to stretch the case out over many years, and it will likely take even longer than that for the Republican leadership to stiffen its spine. If corporate tax increases are so written by the all-powerful president, so it likely will be done.
How a hefty $100 billion corporate tax hike would “advance an agenda that benefits middle class Americans” will of course go unexplained. Many middle class Americans work for corporations, and are unlikely to benefit from new taxes that hinder their employers’ international competitiveness at a time when the American economy is already suffering from the world’s highest corporate tax rates, and every last one of us buys something or another from a corporation, so we’ll be paying the taxes that corporations will merely be charged with collecting. Some additional revenues will be raised, we suppose, and assurances will surely be offered that the money will be spent wisely, but the most likely argument we can surmise is that not only those darned corporations but all the people who work for them and anyone who occasionally buys something from them must be punished.
Somehow or another this should advance the agenda of the president’s party, which every leap year always seems to find a majority of Americans who will fall for this sort of thing. When the corporate employees get their pink slips, and the corporate customers notice increased prices, they’ll be all the more eager to punish those hated corporations. If that pesky Netanyahu is still grousing about such minor matters as Iran getting nuclear weapons, it will be all the easier.

— Bud Norman

The Separation of Powers and Other Constitutional Irrelevancies

Much of what we learned in our school days has been rendered obsolete by the march of progress. An automotive class once taught us how to rebuild a carburetor, a skill that has proved useless in dealing with the fuel-injected automobiles we have subsequently owned. We once prided ourselves on our ability to sift through card files and Periodicals of Publications and arcane volumes gathering dust on library shelves to come up with needed information, but even that skill has atrophied with infrequent use over the past many years of internet search engines. Our recollection of food pyramids and global cooling and the rest of what they kept yakking about in our health and science classes is vague, but we assume most of that is also out of fashion.
All that stuff they taught us about the Constitution and its checks and balances and separations of power and how a bill becomes law is apparently no longer applicable, as well, although we’re not at all sure this is progress.
An up-to-date curriculum would now teach students that the president has the unilateral power to make immigration law, enter treaties with foreign powers, enforce carbon regulations that even the most left-wing Congress in history explicitly declined to pass, and assume control of the internet without even answering any questions from Congress. Even when the most left-wing Congress in history did grant the president’s request by passing the abominable Obamacare law the president insisted that it be implemented according to his most politically advantageous timetable rather than according to what is written into the law, and that part about subsidies being available only through state exchanges is apparently to be ignored entirely because it doesn’t say what the president wants it to say. Now the president intends to enforce gun control regulations, so it seems all that stuff we were taught about the Second Amendment and its right to bear arms will also need revision.
The president’s latest dictate doesn’t ban AR-15 rifles, only the bullets that go in them, but this will make little difference to the law-abiding owners of those weapons. For some reason the AR-15 is an especially offensive firearm to the left, probably because its appearance is so similar to that of the weapons used by that nasty military of ours, to the extent that the last round of post-school-shooting hysteria offered up legislation to ban it, but the fact that Congress voted down the idea is apparently no longer an impediment to its implementation. There’s still some resistance to the president’s executive actions in both the courts and the House of Representatives, but enough of the Republicans in the Senate are resigned to the president’s unilateral power to make immigration that it might well be so. The White House has offered a “tweet”-sized explanation that “We’re a nation of laws, but we’re also respecting the fact that we’re a nation of immigrants,” which doesn’t seem very respectful of the notion of lawful immigration, but so the president has “tweeted” and so shall it be done. At least we’re able to grouse about it on this electronic forum, but it remains to be seen if that will out-last the Federal Communication Commission’s new regulations, which the FCC chairman declined to explain to the duly-elected members of Congress.
All of this will be perfectly fine with the president’s more devoted admirers, who much prefer him to that old system of checks and balances and separations of power and how a bill becomes a law, but they ought to be asking themselves how they’d like such powers to be in the hands of a Republican president. It could happen some day, after all, and would not only easily un-do all the presidential proclamations of the Obama era but unleash a wide range of policies that would surely unsettle the left. They could expect some help from principled conservatives who support the ends but not the means, and perhaps the courts will offer some restraints on the executive branch after years of wrangling over President Obama’s orders, and of course the press will suddenly be outraged, but we expect they will find it  a dangerous precedent.

— Bud Norman

The Border Battle Begins

The Republicans showed some fight on the issue of illegal immigration Wednesday, with a majority of the House of Representatives voting to withhold funding for the Department of Homeland Security to enact President Barack Obama’s executive orders granting amnesty to an estimated 5 million illegal immigrants, and we were glad to see it. Their efforts might yet prove futile, given the longer terms and weaker wills in the Senate and the full fury of the open borders lobby and the way Obama usually gets away with these things, but we’re heartened by the feistiness.
House Speaker John Boehner, long derided by the more robustly conservative members of his party as too accommodating to the president, even delivered a full-throated denunciation of Obama’s extra-constitutional attempts to re-write immigration that the most rabid right-wing radio talker would be hard-pressed to top. The speech cited the 22 separate occasions when Obama clearly stated that he did not have the legal authority to issue the executive orders being contested, noting that Obama has “ignored the people, ignored the constitution, and even his own past statements.” Although 26 Republicans helped the Democrats defeat an amendment that would have blocked an executive order deferring deportations of illegal immigrants who arrived here as children, and another seven bolted on an amendment to delay “immigration priorities,” the watered-down version got unified party support. There won’t be such unity in the Senate, where several Republicans have a long history of sharing the party’s big business wing’s preference for cheaper labor, but the House vote represents an overwhelming consensus among the grassroots that could jam the congressional phone lines and mailboxes and thus force a majority to go along.
Everyone expects the bill will be further watered down in the Senate, though, and even the weakest brew is likely to result in a veto that even the most improbably unified Republican party does not have the votes to override. The Republicans could still prevail by withholding funding for the Department of Homeland Security, but that would severely test any politician’s feistiness. Already The New York Times is describing the House vote as “approving legislation that would revoke legal protections for millions of unauthorized immigrants, including children, and put them at risk of deportation,” and the National Journal was making much of those “moderates” and “centrists” among the Republicans who voted against the amendments and worrying that the majority Republican position “could imperil their re-elections in 2016.” The Times cannot explain how an executive order to negate existing law is a “legal protection” for “unauthorized immigrants,” nor can The National Journal explain why the terms “moderate” and “centrist” enjoy such a positive connotation as they intend, and they don’t want to mention those dissenting Republicans would only imperil their re-election chances because they Represent majority-Latino districts that are never supposed to vote for Republicans in the first place, but it’s an indication of how a shut-down of the Department of Homeland Security would play out in the press.
The Republicans will happily cough up some generous amount to fund all of the department’s vital anti-terrorism functions, just not the parts that would invite millions more illegal immigrants and perhaps a few terrorists to happily traipse across the southern border, and this should prove a politically advantageous position. The Third World’s unfettered access to the United States of America is not widely popular, even in those Latino-majority districts that have unaccountably elected Republican representatives, and revanchist groups such as La Raza and the owners of companies reliant on cheap unskilled labor do not constitute a majority of the voting public. That tale about racist Republicans picking on poor brown children will be oft-told, however, and the president does have a way of getting away with these things.
This will all take weeks or maybe months to sort out, and we’ll keep attuned to the latest developments. In the meantime, we’re hoping for more Republican feistiness.

— Bud Norman

Tanks for Nothing

Several months before all the furor in Ferguson, Missouri, we were chatting with an old friend about the many police forces around the country which were lately acquiring such surplus military equipment as tanks and armed aircraft. Our friend is a conservative of the old-fashioned law-and-order variety and couldn’t understand the controversy that had briefly boiled up about it in right-wing circles, even if it was a result of an Obama administration program, but he had to admit we had a point when we wondered if the President and his Attorney General intended that the equipment would be used to put down a race riot. The notion that the government was gearing up to put down broader dissent against some planned outrage would have once seemed paranoid to both our friend and us, but we agreed that these days it doesn’t seem so far-fetched.
The conversation came to mind when the most recent race riot broke out in Ferguson, following a grand jury’s decision not to indict a white a white police officer for the shooting of an unarmed teenager when irrefutable evidence showed that it was a case of self-defense, and the President and his Attorney General warned against excessive police force and a governor of the same party waited until much of the town had been burned and looted before deploying the National Guard. Our most dire fears have not yet been realized, but our suspicion that all that surplus military equipment sold to police forces was not intended to put down a race riot seemed clearly confirmed. Further confirmation came Monday when the President announced yet another of those executive orders he’s so fond of, this one ordering that the various agencies selling the equipment keep careful track of it and review any “significant” incidents in which it is used.
Seen in the broader context of the president’s efforts to assure the rioters that he understands their rage about police officers defending themselves against deadly threats, it appears likely that those reviews will find fault with any use of the equipment for such routine law enforcement responsibilities as putting down race riots. A generous interpretation would be that he’s merely trying to keep the story alive for a few more days to distract attention from his executive order legalizing five million or so illegal immigrants and thus inviting millions more in to enjoy the blessings of post-racial America, and that the executive order was merely meant to distract attention from the eight trillion or so of national debt that has already been added during his administration, or any of the scandals at the Internal Revenue Service or the National Security Administration or Department of Justice that make the more paranoid theories seem not at all far-fetched, but we still can’t help wondering how all the surplus military equipment is intended to be used.

— Bud Norman

Another Falling Rock Star

The shows are less frequent now, the crowds are smaller and they’re leaving early to beat the traffic, and President Barack Obama seems to have reached that inevitable stage of decline in every rock star’s career. There’s no evidence of drug binging or dressing room demolitions or any of the other “Behind the Music” cliches, but there is obviously the usual denial.
With his party expected to take another shellacking in next Tuesday’s mid-term elections, and the formerly adoring press already laying the blame on his sagging poll numbers, Obama is reportedly infuriated with the Democratic candidates who have been trying to distance themselves from his record. Yet another one of those unnamed White House officials told The Washington Post that Obama “doesn’t think they have any reason to run away from him, he thinks there’s a strong message there,” and given the president’s actions the quote is all to believable. Obama gave the Republicans a sound bite for countless attack ads when he declared that “I”m not on the ballot, but make no mistake, these policies are on the ballot,” has done little to hide his intentions to write executive orders that would grant amnesty to millions of illegal aliens and impose other unpopular policies just after the elections, has resisted popular outcry for a ban on travel from Ebola-stricken countries, and otherwise has acted with little regard for the electoral fortunes of his fellow Democrats. He seems to believe that it’s still ’08, when he had more fainting fans than Elvis in ’56 or The Beatles in ’64 or Michael Jackson during the “Thriller” heyday, which is common to faded rock stars insulated by the last of the die-hard groupies.
Such hubris will eventually prove troublesome, as it always does. A Republican Senate to go along with a Republican House will make the political equivalent of a ’68 comeback special all the more difficult, even if it does provide Obama with something to rail about to the delight of the last remaining fans, and nothing in the president’s repertoire suggests that he’s capable or learning any new tunes palatable to a changing audience. The noble fight he’ll no doubt wage against those evil Republicans will please what’s left of the fan base, but not with the majority of Americans who elected his congressional antagonists. The man who once stood between faux Greek columns provided by Madonna’s stage designer and wowed a packed house with promises to fundamentally transform America and heal the planet and slow the rise the oceans will have to settle for the stimulus and Obamacare and a few million more restive and resented illegal aliens as his legacy, and none of it will ever be regarded as golden oldie.
The royalty checks will still arrive and there will be a lucrative gate at the nostalgia tours as well as the corporate speeches, however, and our long experience of passé rock stars suggests that will be enough to sate the president’s ego. One can only hope that the public will be wised up that next time it elects an experienced politician with a practical understanding of economics and statecraft rather than a rock star to be president, and short of that it will at least elect someone more in the Roy Orbison or Chuck Berry mode, but our long experience of America’s popular culture suggests it’s only a faint hope.

— Bud Norman

Playing the Impeachment Game

Reports indicate that President Barack Obama is planning to issue executive orders that will effectively grant amnesty to millions of illegal aliens, and there is much speculation that he will do so with the intention of provoking impeachment charges. The notion is so outrageous, so far removed every standard of presidential behavior that at this improbable moment in American history it seems all too plausible.

The speculation is predictably coming from outraged Republican congressmen, who can be counted on to find such executive orders so highly provocative that it appears Obama “is begging to be impeached,” but is also being fueled by Democrats both inside and outside the administration. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest was accusing the Republicans of secretly planning impeachment even before the reports of an executive-ordered amnesty surfaced, a senior advisor to the president acknowledges that the move “will certainly up the likelihood that (Republicans) would contemplate impeachment at some point,” and the party’s allies in the media are already salivating over the prospect, and the fund-raising letters to the true Democratic believers are already exploiting the issue. Presidents don’t usually beg to be impeached, but this one might once again prove an exception to the usual rules.

One can easily imagine the theory that might have been devised by the political minds within the White House, insulated by layers of security and the comforting blanket of the mainstream news coverage, about how it all might work. The story, which will be respectfully repeated at the top of every evening network newscasts often enough to make it sound believable, is that the racist and xenophobic rednecks of the Republican party so hate our brown-skinned brethren that they refused to act according the president’s wishes and he was therefor forced against every instinct of his adjunct professor of constitutional law’s soul to boldly act alone. With sets designed by the same guy that did Madonna’s tour and the soundtrack music by Beyonce the production will a huge hit with the public, the necessary number of Democrats will hold firm no matter what and the president will be acquitted by the Senate, and the Republicans will suffer the same drubbing in the mid-terms that followed their failed attempt to remove President Bill Clinton from office. At the very least it will distract all attention from the sluggish economy and proliferation of part-time jobs and Obamacare’s latest troubles and the fighting in Gaza and Ukraine and Libya and Syria and the South China Sea and the nuclear weapons program in Iran and the scandals at the VA and the IRS and the NSA and the rest of the alphabet soup and everything else that currently has everyone expecting the Democrats will suffer a drubbing in the mid-term elections.
At the most it could even rescue Obama’s presidency from its current unfavorable standing and restore him to his former heroic status, much as President Andrew Johnson’s little-noted presidency is on occasion fondly recalled for his successful defiance of another impeachment attempt. In Johnson’s case the radical Republicans wanted him to impose a harsher Reconstruction on the defeated Confederate states, and Obama would have surely been among their number if he’d been around at the time, but at this point he’ll probably take whatever favorable historical analogy he can get. The inevitable failure of any attempt to remove Obama from office will also leave him free to flout whatever constitutional limitations on his office he might choose, and by the time the courts get around to imposing whatever restrictions they can get past the Obama appointees he’ll be safely ensconced poolside at his fabulous California mansion and awaiting the glowing the reviews on the memoir that earned him a $20 million advance.
It’s so crazy it might just work, but we see risks that the domestic policy advisor from La Raza might not have included in the briefings. While an impeachment trial would certainly draw almost all attention away from all those other pesky issues that are pulling down the president’s poll numbers, it would also shine a glaring spotlight on immigration policies that are every bit as unpopular. Public opinion polling shows that most Americans have no desire to grant amnesty to the millions of immigrants who have illegally flooded an already tight labor market and strained schools and social service agencies, and even in such allegedly liberal areas as Massachusetts there are large and angry protests springing up wherever the recent influx of illegal minors is being shipped. Obama’s reportedly imminent executive orders would not only be defying Congress, which is always a risk-free political proposition, they would also be defying public opinion, which is always a rash move no matter how the media support.
The impeachment ploy depends on the missteps of the Republicans, which of course increases its odds of success. Thus far the Republican leadership has declined to take the bait, and although we’re no fans of the Republican leadership we think that for the moment this is the wisest course. Any noise about impeachment prior to the election will only distract from issues more favorable to the Republicans, will energize a Democratic base that is currently dispirited, won’t have any hope of a favorable outcome so long as the Democrats retain an unquestioningly loyal majority in the Senate, and even if a miracle were to occur the most favorable outcome would be President Joe Biden. The public outrage that is sure to follow the president’s amnesty orders could give the Republicans solid majorities in both houses of Congress, although not enough in the Senate to win an impeachment verdict without a few very scared red-state Democrats, but until then talk of impeachment is fanciful.
It might well be necessary, though, if the executive orders are far-reaching as they’re described and the most obvious implications of the Internal Revenue Service scandal are proved no matter how fortuitous the computer problems turn out to be, but that tricky question will be best addressed after a successful mid-term election.

— Bud Norman

Every Picture Tells a Story

Perhaps it’s just our skewed right-wing perspective, but President Barack Obama seems to be losing his once unerring knack for public relations.
Consider that carefully posed and widely disseminated photograph of the president with his sleeves rolled up and his tie loosened as he shares a beer and a game of pool with the governor of Colorado. The image is obviously calculated to portray the President of the United States as a regular sort of guy and easy-going fellow you’d like to have a drink with, which is just the sort of thing that helped him win the presidency in the first place, but it seems to us not quite right for a moment so far into a second term. Especially at a moment when tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors are pouring over the nation’s relatively nearby southwestern border and even the local Democrats are noisily clamoring for some presidential attention. One of the rare Democratic congressmen from Texas described the photo-op as “bizarre,” “aloof,” and “detached,” and we’re inclined to agree.
The President did fly down to Texas to meet with the state’s Republican governor, who controversially considered forgoing the usual handshake-on-the-tarmac photo-op, but the visit to the Lone Star State was devoted mostly to fund-raisers and did not include a visit to any of the makeshift detention camps where the Central American urchins are being piled up. The oversight is being widely described as Obama’s “Katrina moment,” an allusion to that long-ago time when his predecessor was pilloried in the press and buried in the polls for a perceived indifference to the human toll of a hurricane that had battered the Gulf Coast after he flew over the wreckage rather than land and interfere with the rescue efforts. The press was more eager to seize the moment against Bush, and would have been just as happy to lambaste him for landing and interfering with the rescue efforts, but even the most sympathetic media have lately had a hard time spinning the invasion of unaccompanied minor illegal aliens as a good news story.
Over at The New York Times’ the loyal scribes gave prominence in their coverage to the president’s predictable gripe that the Republicans were out to get him and wouldn’t set aside their petty political ploys to cough the few billion dollars that he expects will solve the problem, but even there it was impossible to pretend that the president hadn’t invited the invasion when he signed an executive order that promised two years without deportation to any kid who could hop a freight to the United States and that the Republicans have always been a bunch of soft-on-border-security sissies. There’s still some faint hope that the President will still win the amnesty-by-euphism “comprehensive immigration reform” that he’s been pining for the past six years, and the press doesn’t seem quite sure how to portray Obama’s sudden role reversal as a tough-talking border enforcer, especially when they can reasonably anticipate that he’ll eventually revert to his former compassionate self.
We suspect that the White House itself hasn’t yet decided how to spin this disaster, except for the usual play of blaming it all on the Republicans. Just as they thought that alleged-deserter-for-five-ferocious-terrorists swap was going to be a public relations boon, and even trotted out the alleged deserter’s Taliban-bearded and Koran-quoting crazy-pants dad for a photo-op in the Rose Garden, they probably thought an influx of adorably sad-eyed waifs would tug at the heartstrings of a weepy American and nudge that amnesty-by-euphemism bill over the line. With most of the arrivals being scary-looking teenagers, and the younger ones in such unpleasant circumstances that both the press and Congress haven’t been allowed a look, which is such bad publicity that one can only assume the pictures and interviews would be far worse, this is looking like just another recent public relations plan that hasn’t worked out.
Maybe that’s just our skewed right-wing perspective, though. No doubt many Americans are still unaware of being invaded by unaccompanied minor illegal immigrants, and thought Obama looked pretty cool hanging out with that regular guy-looking governor. Eventually the invasion will fade from the news, just as those kidnapped Nigerian girls and the shoddy treatment at the Veterans Administration and the illegal harassment of conservative groups by the Internal Revenue Service have been relegated to the inside pages or dropped from the news altogether, and the image of that cool dude at the pool table will linger.

— Bud Norman

Once the Bottom is Reached

President Barack Obama’s poll numbers have been plunging lately, to the point that a plurality of Americans now consider him the worst chief executive of the post-war era, and the rightward side of the political aisle has been pleased. The rising disapproval bodes well for the Republican Party’s chances in the upcoming mid-term elections, which would make it even harder for Obama achieve the transformation of America that he once promised, and it might even suggest that the public was wised up enough that Obama’s style of liberalism will still be out of fashion even when the next presidential race rolls around, so the schadenfreude is forgivable.
We hope this is so, but still can’t shake a nagging worry that a lack of public adulation will only provoke more outrageous behavior by the president. Once the president gets down to that 35 percent or so that is his absolute floor of public support, most of it coming from black Americans emotionally invested in the first black president and Hispanics eager for more ethnic company and whites dependent on his largesse or unwilling to admit that their naive hero-worship was unfounded, he might well decide there’s use trying to please the ingrates who comprise the rest of the country and just charge ahead on his agenda with no regard for the public’s opinion. We’ve been watching the fellow carefully over the past six years, and he strikes us as that sort of guy.
A more pragmatic president would be moving to the center at a time of plummeting popularity, seeking some sort sort of compromise with the opposition on any number of issues in order to reassure his former supporters that he’s still playing the game on their behalf according to the usual rules, but Obama has ramped up the rhetoric that seems calculated to prevent any deals with the hated Republicans and instead vowed to proceed by rules of his own making. The Supreme Court has lately been finding fault with those new rules, oftentimes even by unanimous decisions that include Obama’s own appointees, but he’s still cocky enough to taunt his opponents by saying “So sue me.” The policies he’s inviting lawsuits over are unpopular enough to cause consternation for the Democratic congressional candidates that he needs to get the policies enacted by constitutional methods, but he seems to have already concluded that such old-fashioned techniques are no longer tenable. Once the voters have ratified their objections at the ballot box, we suspect he’ll only be more insistent on overruling the views of the rubes he has so long despised as bitter clingers to guns and God and the most base prejudices.
That base of support that Obama cannot drop below seems to like that he’s abandoned the usual means of enacting public policy, and won’t mind a bit if he goes even further from that archaic old constitution written by dead white men to give them what the publicly-financed goodies they want. The bitter tone of the president’s recent pronouncements suggest that he no longer cares about the rest of us, and indeed feels betrayed by the public’s disapproval, so once he reaches that rock bottom he’ll probably start smoking in public and berating the less liberal Democrats and letting his freak flag fly. At that point, God help us all.

— Bud Norman

Obama Saves the Planet

Everyone talks about the weather, Mark Twain famously observed, but nobody does anything about it. The witticism held true until Tuesday, when President Barack Obama proudly announced that he was at last going to get all this unruly weather under control. At the very least, he seems intent on keeping a long-ago campaign promise to cause your electricity rates to skyrocket.
Having already brought peace to the world and prosperity to his nation, and restored the dignity and grooviness of his office, Obama told an adoring audience of empty-headed college students at Georgetown University that he will now single-handedly save the planet from environmental destruction. He’s forced to do it alone because his previous efforts to impose a “cap and trade” scheme on the country have been rebuffed in Congress, where even the Democrats are reluctant to sign on to the dubious scientific claims and obvious economic costs, so the planet’s salvation will be achieved by executive order rather than the democratic process. The powers of the presidency are apparently broader than previously assumed, because Obama has somewhere discovered the authority to impose the first-ever limits on carbon emissions from power plants, dictate new efficiency standards for vehicles, appliances, and homes, as well as handing over vast government resources to favored energy industries, which Obama believes will be sufficient to rescue Earth.
Obama’s announcement featured his characteristic disdain for any opposing opinion, as he told the audience that “We don’t have time for a meeting of the Flat Earth Society,” and a number of claims that any reasonable person might question. There’s no doubting that Obama truly believes what he’s saying, though, as there’s no possible political motive for his initiatives. The past 16 years of decline in the warming trends that have defied all the global warming alarmists’ predictions, the leaked e-mails that showed scientists’ efforts to hide that decline, and a slew of dissenting studies have all contributed to a growing public skepticism about the anthropogenic global warming theory, even the true believes aren’t necessarily convinced that American efforts will make much difference on a planet where China and India and the rest of the world are rapidly increasing their carbon emissions, and most people are far more concerned with the sorry state of the economy. Whatever the environmental benefits of Obama’s new regulations, there is no argument that even he could make with a straight face that they will have a beneficial effect on any industry other than the “green energy” sector that has so enthusiastically supported his past campaigns with good wishes and cash.
Anyone who pays for electricity, or pays for things that are manufactured or sold with the use of electricity, will wind up paying more just as Obama once promised. This will surely prove unpopular, but one benefit of doing things by executive order rather than by the popular will expressed through Congress is that members of Obama’s party will be able to plausibly claim they have nothing to do with this nonsense. Look for even the greenest Democrats to distance themselves from these policies, and certainly from the results, but even the feeblest Republicans should be able to derive some benefit.

— Bud Norman