Time To Activate The Sarcasm Font, America!

Our leaders have done it!  The Senate has approved a package of tax hikes, in order to keep our country from tumbling over the “fiscal cliff.”  The vote to approve the bill was 89-8.  Let’s all bask in that warm bipartisan glow!

The deal was brokered by negotiations between Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Republicans.  We should all take comfort that such intellectual titans were doing the heavy lifting on this crucial matter!  Aren’t you relieved that brainy, detail-oriented statesmen like Biden and Senate leaders scrupulously evaluated the wording of the new taxes and their potential economic impact and the loopholes that inevitably must have been part of the deal?  There is every reason to be confident that this carefully considered legislation will not produce any unintended consequences.  After all, the Senate proudly calls itself “The World’s Greatest Deliberative Body.”  I bet they deliberated on this bill for a few minutes, and maybe even longer!  Oh, and Harry Reid is in favor of it.  What more do we need to know?

There’s lots of new taxes in this proposal:  increased estate taxes, increased capital gains taxes, and increased income taxes for those people who, purely through dumb luck and undeserved good fortune, make more than $400,000 a year.  What’s important, though, is that the draconian spending cuts that everyone wanted to avoid would be delayed for two months under this proposal.  Thank God!  That will allow the President, the Senate, and the House even more time to really roll up their sleeves and come up with meaningful spending cuts that wouldn’t be ruinous.  Once the tax increases take effect, of course, our leaders will be eager to make tough spending decisions that will incur the ire of government workers and the special interest groups that are invested in the continuation of every federal program, no matter how ill-conceived, bloated, or unsuccessful that program might be.  Maybe, after two months of thoughtful analysis, our leaders also might decide that what they should really do is impose more taxes on us, and further shore up the revenue side of the budget.  And we can be sure, too, that our leaders won’t wait until the last minute to take action.  Long before the two-month extension period expires, our leaders will have agreed upon well-reasoned spending reductions and program cuts and “revenue enhancements” that will delight every American.

Of course, this well-crafted Senate proposal still needs to be approved by the House of Representatives.  With this kind of quality legislation pending, though, why would any member of the House of Representatives vote “no”?

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The Veep Candidates Square Off

Tonight the second of four national campaign debates takes place.  Vice President Joe Biden and Republican candidate Paul Ryan will go at it for 90 minutes.

I know many conservatives have been slavering for this match-up, and I imagine many Democrats are hoping that Biden can right the ship after President Obama’s underwhelming performance during the first presidential debate.  The veep debate will cover both domestic and foreign policy issues, and will consist of nine 10-minute segments.  The moderator will ask a question, each candidate will have two minutes to respond, and then the moderator will guide the discussion of the issue for the remainder of the time period.  Martha Raddatz of ABC News is moderating, and given the uproar about Jim Lehrer’s laid back approach during the first presidential debate, I expect that she is getting lots of free advice about how she should discharge her moderating duties.

Conservatives are looking forward to this match-up because they believe that Ryan is knowledgeable and capable and Biden is a gaffe machine who inevitably will stumble into some blunder.  That could happen, of course, but I think it’s equally likely that Biden will more than hold his own.  He’s an experienced national figure who’s been through lots of debates before, whereas this will be Ryan’s first time all alone on the big national stage.  If the Democratic ticket wants to bounce back from the President’s poor showing in the first debate, Biden needs to deliver a strong performance.  I’m sure he’s been very focused on making sure that he is adequately prepared.

In the end, I’m not sure that the vice presidential debate means much of anything.  I don’t think anyone votes for a ticket based on the veep — but tonight’s debate should be interesting.

The President’s Golf Outing, And Rules Of The Game

Today President Obama, Vice President Biden, House Speaker John Boehner, and Ohio Governor John Kasich tee off for a round of golf.  They say they will talk about deficit reduction and other political issues as they travel around the course, and also will use the round as a chance to get to know one another better.

Golf can be a good bridge-builder between people who don’t know each other very well, but it also can reveal things about your playing companions that aren’t very positive.  For example, some golfers like to bet on the game every time they play.  There’s nothing wrong with that, but if you do you’d better have been honest about your handicap and you’d better play by the rules.  There’s nothing worse than a sandbagger with a phony handicap who mysteriously manages to shoot a “career round” every time a bet is on the line, or a cheater who drops a ball to avoid a lost ball penalty or kicks his ball into better position.

There are other bad things to watch out for, too.  Is the guy you’ve been paired with a chatterbox, a braggart, or a bore?  Is he a slow player, or an incessant waggler?  Does he give unwanted advice about your swing?  If he is playing poorly, does he give tiresome post mortems about the surprising crappiness of his game?  Does he concede putts that reasonably should be conceded, or does he take “gimmes” that really aren’t “gimmes” at all?  If betting is involved, how does he perform when the match is on the line?  And if he does not prevail, is he a sore loser?

Golf can tell you a lot about a person whom you don’t know very well.  It would be interesting to know what perceptions get formed as a result of today’s leisurely match.

Another Reason Not To Trust Stimulus Statistics (Cont.)

The AP does a critical analysis of Vice President Biden’s comments about the weatherization program funded with “stimulus” funds and concludes that the Veep failed to mention some pretty material points.  No surprise there.

The Obama Administration really should stop talking about the “stimulus” debacle before its loses all credibility.

A Few Words From The Veep

Vice President Joe Biden spoke to the Democratic National Committee on Friday to urge Democrats to shake off their pessimism about the upcoming midterm elections.

I’m not sure that Biden has a lot of credibility in general — I think he may have come up with the unfortunate phrase “Summer of Recovery,” and he confidently predicted that the economy would be producing hundreds of thousands of jobs by now — but I agree with him in this instance.  There is a difference between realism and pessimism.  Realists recognize their shortcomings and develop strategies to try to address them.  Pessimists waste their time hand-wringing.

If life teaches us anything, it is that people who have given up before the contest even occurs usually lose.  If Democrats want to be competitive in November, they need to come up with a theme that they think may work and be loud and proud about it.  Hangdog candidates doing half-hearted campaigning aren’t going to get the job done.

The Chain Of Command

President Obama’s protracted consideration of a new Afghanistan strategy is a bit puzzling.  Obviously, the decision on whether, and if so how, to fight overseas is a critical decision that you would expect would command the President’s careful attention.  Nevertheless, it is odd that the President approved an Afghan strategy in March and now appears to be very publicly reconsidering that strategy. Candidly, I think Presidents are ill-served by public decision-making processes, which often make them look indecisive.  A better approach is to consider the strategy privately and then, when the weighing and balancing has been completed, to announce the new approach.

I know that General McChrystal has been criticized for a speech he gave, in which he expressed his views on options that the President may be considering.  I agree with the sentiment that the military should express its views through the chain of command — although American history is riddled with politically ambitious generals, from Jackson to McClellan to MacArthur.  I think General McChrystal can be excused his misstep, however, in view of the very public nature of the strategizing, where other participants, like Vice President Biden, are openly trumpeting their proposed alternative approaches.

I certainly hope that President Obama is not seriously considering adopting a half-baked, politically motivated “Biden strategy” over a “McChrystal strategy.”  In that regard, I agree with the conclusions articulated in this piece.  I think Joe Biden is one of the most overrated, underachieving political figures of the past 30 years –a blabbermouth, a windbag, a narcissist, shallow and unprincipled.  It is bad enough that President Obama selected Biden as his running mate; it would be an appalling indictment of the President’s judgment if he actually followed Biden’s advice.