Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Obama wants more Haitians in America

Voodoo immigration?

Last year, when Sen. Barack Obama was making the circuit of conventions for journalists of color, the question was whether the prospective candidate was black enough. This year, when he appeared before the UNITY: Journalists of Color convention in Chicago, the presumptive Democratic nominee joked, "I'm too black."

Obama appeared Sunday at the close of the convention in a session aired live on CNN to talk about his observations from his trip to the Middle East and Europe, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. economy and questions from the journalists about faith, affirmative action, immigration and apologies for slavery and to Native Americans.

Asked whether he thought too many immigrants had been allowed into the U.S. and "who should be allowed" into the country, Obama said the issue wasn't whether to let immigrants in but to develop an official policy that makes it easier to become legal and discourages illegal immigration and penalizes employers who use illegal immigrants to avoid paying fair wages. He also said there should be greater equity across the board for immigrants as well, pointing out that "it's much harder for Haitians to immigrate, despite similar circumstances in need" as other groups that have been admitted legally.


Obama’s Trip: No Bounce, Flags, or Wounded Soldiers

Sen. Barack Obama’s international globe-hopping to the Mideast and Europe was meant to burnish his credentials as a foreign policy and potential military leader – the strong suit of his Republican rival Sen. John McCain. Despite the media love fest over the political junket, Obama has yet to pull away from McCain in the polls. His campaign had expected a minimum eight-point lead after Obama clinched the Democratic nomination back in June, with even more momentum moving his way as the campaign progressed.

Both the most recent Real Clear Politics rolling average and the Rasmussen tracking poll that coincided with the end of Obama’s trip this weekend show Obama with just a five-point lead over McCain -- consistent with his numbers for the past two months. [Press reports this weekend have almost completely ignored the Rasmussen poll to only report on a Gallup poll, which showed Obama with a nine-point lead. Not as good as the Newsweek poll from June, which had Obama 15 points ahead of McCain.]

With President Bush suffering low approval ratings, the economy moving into a recession as gas prices surge above $4 a gallon, and growing resentment about the unending war in Iraq, Obama should be pulling away in the polls. But he isn’t. The Obama campaign has been quick to be out front on the bad news, claiming -- at the end of the trip -- it never expected a poll bounce from Obama’s trip anyway. Obama campaign manager David Plouffe told Politico’s Mike Allen: “We wouldn’t expect any sort of -- I guess the term people use is ‘bounce.’”

In fact, during Obama’s global meet-and-greet tour, McCain’s poll numbers have risen in key battleground states like Ohio. As crowds cheered Obama globally, Americans here on the homefront were left wondering if the Illinois senator wants to be their president -- or the president of some other country. [And whether the major U.S. media would at least offer the pretense of objectivity. An MSNBC poll from last week found that 47 percent of the public thought the coverage of Obama’s trip was “excessive.”]

After Obama’s speech to an estimated 200,000 Germans in Berlin, a columnist for Britain’s Guardian newspaper began his review this way: “Barack Obama has found his people. But, unfortunately for his election prospects, they're German, not American.”

Obama's speech to the Germans left much to be desired, from an American’s perspective. For starters, the crowd’s size was beefed up by the fact that the event was billed as a free rock concert for German citizens, with popular musical performers helping to draw the big crowd. Scant U.S. media even noted the warm-up rock draws of reggae artist Patrice and rock band Reamonn.

Then there was the simple stage, with the podium surrounded by three potted plants. Missing was the American flag -- nowhere to be seen. Perhaps Obama’s staff might consider the U.S. flag offensive. And then there was his speech, in which he proudly proclaimed he was in Germany as a “a fellow citizen of the world.”

And there was the spectacle of the presidential wannabe going to a foreign land to apologize about the United States. Obama told his German audience he was sorry about his country because “I know my country has not perfected itself.” [This comment was made in the former seat of Nazi power. A letter to editor published in Obama’s hometown Chicago Tribune noted the irony: “While America may not be perfect, there is no reason to apologize to the Germans, architects of the Holocaust.”]

As for America’s role in saving Germany from the onslaught of Stalinist communism and the subsequent Cold War, there was nothing. There was a rhetorical flourish about the Berlin Wall coming down, but nothing about the great American sacrifice, not to mention how our military might made President Reagan’s call -- “Tear down this wall, Mr. Gorbachev” -- a reality.

There was a fleeting mention of the famous Berlin airlift of 1948 that President Truman ordered to thwart the Soviet blockade that sought to starve West Berlin. As Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby wrote, “Obama seemed to go out of his way not to say plainly that what saved Berlin in that dark time was America's military might. “Save for a solitary reference to ‘the first American plane,’ he never described one of the greatest American operations of the postwar period as an American operation at all. He spoke only of ‘the airlift,’ ‘the planes,’ ‘those pilots.’ Perhaps their American identity wasn't something he cared to stress amid all his ‘people of the world’ salutations and talk of ‘global citizenship.’”

The Hollywood-staged Obama event for a man who has yet to ascend to the presidency didn’t sit well with all the Germans. Germany’s Stern magazine carried the headline "Barack Kant Saves the World." One of their columnists, Florian Guessgen, wrote: "The man is perfect, impeccable, slick. Almost too slick … Obama's speech was often vague, sometimes banal and more reminiscent of John Lennon's feel good song 'Imagine' than of a foreign policy agenda."

Slickness without substance seemed to be the enduring theme of his trip. Among the little hiccups covered up by the major media, there were several gaffes on the global coronation trip. Perhaps the most notable -- and reprehensible -- was Obama’s decision to cancel a visit to wounded American soldiers at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in southern Germany. Apparently, the Pentagon informed Obama that since his visit was a political one, the hospital visit would be only open to him and his official Senate staff. This excluded the press and campaign officials. The Pentagon did offer to allow Obama’s campaign plane to land at the nearby U.S. air base at Ramstein. The media also was to be accommodated there.

Without the photo opportunity and his press entourage, Obama declined to meet the wounded soldiers. At first, Obama’s campaign claimed to the press he decided to cancel the trip to visit the troops because it was "a trip funded by the campaign," and therefore somehow inappropriate. [What is inappropriate about a presidential candidate visiting wounded troops?] But the Obama story belies the fact it was only after the Pentagon closed the event to his traveling press, that Obama’s campaign nixed the event.

Rightfully, McCain noted that it is never inappropriate for a candidate or official to visit U.S. troops. "If I had been told by the Pentagon that I couldn't visit those troops, and I was there and wanted to be there, I guarantee you, there would have been a seismic event," McCain said. McCain continued the attack on ABC News Sunday show “This Week”: “Those troops would have loved to see him, and I know of no Pentagon regulation that would’ve prevented him from going there” without the news media.

The McCain campaign has been quick to pounce on Obama’s obvious slight to the troops and double-talk, airing a new commercial this weekend. “And now, he made time to go to the gym, but canceled a visit with wounded troops,” the ad says. “Seems the Pentagon wouldn’t allow him to bring cameras. John McCain is always there for our troops.” McCain added that Obama “certainly found time to do other things."

One of those other things Obama did was visit Paris and hold a joint press conference with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, typical of an American president visiting the French capital. Interestingly, The New York Times quoted Elysee officials that “Obama aides insisted that an American flag not be displayed alongside the French flag because Mr. Obama is only a visiting senator and not the president.”

There is no protocol preventing an American official from having the flag displayed when abroad. America snubbed once again by a lame excuse.


Obamanomics Is a Recipe for Recession

What if I told you that a prominent global political figure in recent months has proposed: abrogating key features of his government's contracts with energy companies; unilaterally renegotiating his country's international economic treaties; dramatically raising marginal tax rates on the "rich" to levels not seen in his country in three decades (which would make them among the highest in the world); and changing his country's social insurance system into explicit welfare by severing the link between taxes and benefits?

The first name that came to mind would probably not be Barack Obama, possibly our nation's next president. Yet despite his obvious general intelligence, and uplifting and motivational eloquence, Sen. Obama reveals this startling economic illiteracy in his policy proposals and economic pronouncements. From the property rights and rule of (contract) law foundations of a successful market economy to the specifics of tax, spending, energy, regulatory and trade policy, if the proposals espoused by candidate Obama ever became law, the American economy would suffer a serious setback.

To be sure, Mr. Obama has been clouding these positions as he heads into the general election and, once elected, presidents sometimes see the world differently than when they are running. Some cite Bill Clinton's move to the economic policy center following his Hillary health-care and 1994 Congressional election debacles as a possible Obama model. But candidate Obama starts much further left on spending, taxes, trade and regulation than candidate Clinton. A move as large as Mr. Clinton's toward the center would still leave Mr. Obama on the economic left.

Also, by 1995 the country had a Republican Congress to limit President Clinton's big government agenda, whereas most political pundits predict strengthened Democratic majorities in both Houses in 2009. Because newly elected presidents usually try to implement the policies they campaigned on, Mr. Obama's proposals are worth exploring in some depth. I'll discuss taxes and trade, although the story on his other proposals is similar.

First, taxes. The table nearby demonstrates what could happen to marginal tax rates in an Obama administration. Mr. Obama would raise the top marginal rates on earnings, dividends and capital gains passed in 2001 and 2003, and phase out itemized deductions for high income taxpayers. He would uncap Social Security taxes, which currently are levied on the first $102,000 of earnings. The result is a remarkable reduction in work incentives for our most economically productive citizens.

The top 35% marginal income tax rate rises to 39.6%; adding the state income tax, the Medicare tax, the effect of the deduction phase-out and Mr. Obama's new Social Security tax (of up to 12.4%) increases the total combined marginal tax rate on additional labor earnings (or small business income) from 44.6% to a whopping 62.8%. People respond to what they get to keep after tax, which the Obama plan reduces from 55.4 cents on the dollar to 37.2 cents -- a reduction of one-third in the after-tax wage!

Despite the rhetoric, that's not just on "rich" individuals. It's also on a lot of small businesses and two-earner middle-aged middle-class couples in their peak earnings years in high cost-of-living areas. (His large increase in energy taxes, not documented here, would disproportionately harm low-income Americans. And, while he says he will not raise taxes on the middle class, he'll need many more tax hikes to pay for his big increase in spending.)

On dividends the story is about as bad, with rates rising from 50.4% to 65.6%, and after-tax returns falling over 30%. Even a small response of work and investment to these lower returns means such tax rates, sooner or later, would seriously damage the economy.

On economic policy, the president proposes and Congress disposes, so presidents often wind up getting the favorite policy of powerful senators or congressmen. Thus, while Mr. Obama also proposes an alternative minimum tax (AMT) patch, he could instead wind up with the permanent abolition plan for the AMT proposed by the Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charlie Rangel (D., N.Y.) -- a 4.6% additional hike in the marginal rate with no deductibility of state income taxes. Marginal tax rates would then approach 70%, levels not seen since the 1970s and among the highest in the world. The after-tax return to work -- the take-home wage for more time or effort -- would be cut by more than 40%.

Now trade. In the primaries, Sen. Obama was famously protectionist, claiming he would rip up and renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta). Since its passage (for which former President Bill Clinton ran a brave anchor leg, given opposition to trade liberalization in his party), Nafta has risen to almost mythological proportions as a metaphor for the alleged harm done by trade, globalization and the pace of technological change.

Yet since Nafta was passed (relative to the comparable period before passage), U.S. manufacturing output grew more rapidly and reached an all-time high last year; the average unemployment rate declined as employment grew 24%; real hourly compensation in the business sector grew twice as fast as before; agricultural exports destined for Canada and Mexico have grown substantially and trade among the three nations has tripled; Mexican wages have risen each year since the peso crisis of 1994; and the two binational Nafta environmental institutions have provided nearly $1 billion for 135 environmental infrastructure projects along the U.S.-Mexico border.

In short, it would be hard, on balance, for any objective person to argue that Nafta has injured the U.S. economy, reduced U.S. wages, destroyed American manufacturing, harmed our agriculture, damaged Mexican labor, failed to expand trade, or worsened the border environment. But perhaps I am not objective, since Nafta originated in meetings James Baker and I had early in the Bush 41 administration with Pepe Cordoba, chief of staff to Mexico's President Carlos Salinas.

Mr. Obama has also opposed other important free-trade agreements, including those with Colombia, South Korea and Central America. He has spoken eloquently about America's responsibility to help alleviate global poverty -- even to the point of saying it would help defeat terrorism -- but he has yet to endorse, let alone forcefully advocate, the single most potent policy for doing so: a successful completion of the Doha round of global trade liberalization. Worse yet, he wants to put restrictions into trade treaties that would damage the ability of poor countries to compete. And he seems to see no inconsistency in his desire to improve America's standing in the eyes of the rest of the world and turning his back on more than six decades of bipartisan American presidential leadership on global trade expansion. When trade rules are not being improved, nontariff barriers develop to offset the liberalization from the current rules. So no trade liberalization means creeping protectionism.

History teaches us that high taxes and protectionism are not conducive to a thriving economy, the extreme case being the higher taxes and tariffs that deepened the Great Depression. While such a policy mix would be a real change, as philosophers remind us, change is not always progress.


Obama may benefit from the surge

Post below recycled from Taranto. See the original for links

Back in 2005-06, we argued:
With the mainstream media facing a skeptical public and competition from those with other viewpoints, it seems unlikely that Iraq will turn out to be another Vietnam--a war lost in large part because of the media's opposition. Certainly President Bush is determined to stay the course. And it's quite possible that if U.S. troops are still in Iraq in large numbers by 2008, the presidential nominees for both major parties will promise to bring them home--and the winner, once in office, will find he cannot do so.

In the event, John McCain's and Barack Obama's views have been converging, but toward a more moderate position than we anticipated. Even Obama now advocates less-than-total withdrawal. The contrast between the two candidates' past positions, however, is striking. Whereas McCain was ahead even of President Bush in advocating an increase in troop strength, Obama opposed the "surge" and favored a policy that would have led to American defeat. The Times, in its story on the progress against the Madhi Army, credits McCain for his prescience but glosses over Obama's lack of same:
It is part of a general decline in violence that is resonating in American as well as Iraqi politics: Senator John McCain argues that the advances in Iraq would have been impossible without the increase in American troops known as the surge, while Senator Barack Obama, who opposed the increase, says the security improvements should allow a faster withdrawal of combat troops.

In an interview with Katie Couric last week, Obama acknowledged that "U.S. troops have contributed to a reduction of violence in Iraq," but repeatedly refused to say that this meant the surge had worked. Commentary blogress Jennifer Rubin notes a hilarious Obama comment from the Los Angeles Times:
"Sen. Barack Obama acknowledged today that he had failed to understand how much violence would decrease this year in Iraq, but he contended that President Bush and Sen. John McCain, the Republicans' presumptive presidential candidate, had made the same mistake." Well, the difference would be that the surge was even more successful than McCain anticipated. Not really the "same mistake" as trying to do everything to prevent implementation and completion of a successful strategy.

Obama seems to lack the humility and wisdom to admit that he has been wrong. Some would argue that this makes him ill-suited for the presidency, but it isn't clear that the voters will agree. They may be persuaded that the surge's success has reduced the risk of an Obama presidency, and they may be right.

There is something to be said for the idea that a presidential campaign should be about the future, not the past. The notion that Obama deserves to be the next president because he was "right" in opposing the war in 2002--a stand that required no political courage whatever in his ultraliberal Chicago state Senate district--always was ludicrous.

On the other hand, it is to McCain's credit that he backed the surge at a time when public opinion across the country had turned against the war effort. "I would rather lose an election than lose a war," McCain has said. He may get his wish.

The Thrill Is Gone

That was a brief fling, even by European romantic standards. One day after his speech before an adulating Berlin crowd last week, Barack Obama said more NATO troops would allow the U.S. to cut its presence in Afghanistan. The "billions of dollars" saved, he told CNN on Friday, could "finance lower taxes for middle-class families."

Ah, not so fast. On Sunday the Secretary General of the opposition German Free Democrats, Dieter Niebel, responded to Mr. Obama by telling the Bild am Sonntag that "Under no circumstances will the German taxpayer pay with more money and more troops for Afghanistan for tax cuts in the U.S."

Erwin Huber, chairman of the center-right Christian Social Union of Bavaria, called Mr. Obama's statement "a disappointment for Europe and Germany." Mr. Huber, who belongs to the sister party of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats, also said that "it is the opposite of solidarity and partnership when one side is to make more sacrifices and the other gains an advantage from it."

Welcome to President Bush's world, Senator Obama. The myth is that Mr. Bush's "unilateralism" has so antagonized America's allies that they will rush to share more of the war burden once the Texan is back in Crawford. But Europeans have long enjoyed the free ride of U.S. military protection while enjoying even more their freedom to criticize how that protection is provided. Mr. Obama's attempt to link European security commitments to American tax cuts was the kind of "unilateral" political faux pas that won't make European defense burden-sharing any more likely.


Sins Of Commission And Omission By The Mainstream Media

Post below recycled from Discriminations. See the original for links

I have just reported (see post immediately below) that Barack Obama said over the weekend that he supports quotas - more specifically, that he supports affirmative action "when it is properly structured, so that it is not just a quota...."

He will, of course, deny that he said that, but since there is a CNN video confirming it he will no doubt fall back on clarifications and emendations to the effect that he misspoke, or that somehow the CNN video recorder misrecorded what he actually meant.

In this effort of clarification he will be able to point to, and in all likelihood receive confirmation from, mainstream press reporters who can, in this one clear instance, be shown to have heard what they wanted to hear rather than what their subject actually said.

I documented in my previous post that the New York Times and USA Today quoted Obama's "properly structured" obfuscation but neglected to quote his so long as it's "not just a quota" line. Others, however, actually had him saying the opposite of what he said. A few, but only a few, examples:

Houston Chronicle: "I am a strong supporter of affirmative action when properly structured so there it is not a quota...."

Kansas City Star: "I am a strong supporter of affirmative action when properly structured so there it is not a quota...."

Detroit Free Press: "Obama also reiterated that he is a supporter of affirmative action programs if they are properly executed. He said he does not approve of quotas...."

Interesting that both the Houston Chronicle and the Kansas City Star had the same typo ("... so there it is not a quota"). I'm reminded of the student cheater who got caught when the smart student next to him wrote "I don't know this answer" in response to one question, and the not too bright cheater answered that question by writing "I don't know the answer either."

In my previous post I commended the Associated Press and the Chicago Sun Times for quoting Obama correctly. Further research reveals that the Boston Globe and the National Journal also got the "not just a quota" remark just right.


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