Political Perspective

"The facts are unmistakably plain, for those who bother to check the facts." – Thomas Sowell

Month: August, 2012

Paul Ryan–Extreme, Hates the Poor & Down-Trodden

Hardly.

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Unaired & Unedited: Paul Ryan Responds To GM Plant & Simpson-Bowles

Unaired & Unedited: Paul Ryan Responds To So-Called Fact-Checkers Of His RNC Speech

By Greg Hengler @ Townhall (August 30, 2012)

Politifact Lies About Paul Ryan and the Janesville GM Plant

Politifact Lies About Paul Ryan and the Janesville GM Plant

By Stephen Gutowski @ Media Research Center, tv (August 30, 2012)

Last night Politifact Wisconsin issued one of the least factual and most skewed “fact checks” I’ve ever seen. Not only do they bend over backwards to provide cover to one of the most impotent promises President Obama ever made, they also simply lie about the key facts they use to label Paul Ryan’s claim false. Here is Politifact’s ruling: ‘Ryan said Obama broke his promise to keep a Wisconsin GM plant from closing. But we don’t see evidence he explicitly made such a promise — and more importantly, the Janesville plant shut down before he took office.’

‘We rate Ryan’s statement False.’

Let’s start with what Obama said and see if any reasonable human being who isn’t simply shilling for the President could possibly reach the same conclusion as Politifact: ‘I know that General Motors received some bad news yesterday, and I know how hard your Governor has fought to keep jobs in this plant.  But I also know how much progress you’ve made – how many hybrids and fuel-efficient vehicles you’re churning out.  And I believe that if our government is there to support you, and give you the assistance you need to re-tool and make this transition, that this plant will be here for another hundred years.  The question is not whether a clean energy economy is in our future, it’s where it will thrive.  I want it to thrive right here in the United States of America; right here in Wisconsin; and that’s the future I’ll fight for as your President.’

So, President Obama went to the Janesville GM plant and told them that if the policies he supports were enacted, the plant would “be here for another hundred years”. If a presidential candidate comes to your plant and tells you the execution of his policies will keep it open for another hundred years that’s a promise or a guarentee or whatever you want. However, it most certainly isn’t meaningless as Politifact would like us all to believe.

And, of course, President Obama’s policies were enacted but the Janesville GM plant didn’t even survive through all of 2009. Instead, it shut down on April 23rd 2009. Which brings me to the next point. Politifact is just plain lying about when the Jainsville plant closed.

They claim it “effectively” closed in December of 2008. That’s simply false. While the SUV line in the plant was shut down in December of 2008 the plant’s truck line remained up and running until April 23rd 2009.

There’s just no way around that. Throwing in a weasel word like “effectively” doesn’t change anything. The simple fact is that closed factories don’t build trucks.

So, there you have it. President Obama promised the Janesville GM plant would go on building for a hundred years but even after the government bought GM and Obama came into office the plant shut down. That’s the reality of the situation whether the liberals at Politifact like it or not.

If you’re interested in some more on the Janesville plant–

The Janesville Plant

Fact-checking the factcheckers on Ryan’s speech (Update: “As president, I will lead an effort to retool plants like the GM facility in Janesville)

More Importantly, Why Did the Janesville Plant Close?

The saga of the Janesville plant

Health Care Bill: Double Counting Doubles the Crisis

Health Care Bill: Double Counting Doubles the Crisis

By the Mercatus Center @ George Mason University (April 9, 2012)

& don’t forget to check out The Fiscal Consequences of the Affordable Care Act

Obama Camp Melts Down Over Ryan’s Speech

Obama Camp Melts Down Over Ryan’s Speech

By Guy Benson @ Townhall (August 30, 2012)

To the surprise of no one, the ad’s “rebuttals” are misleading and wrong themselves.  Point by point:

(1) They begin with video of CNN reporters discussing accusations of Ryan’s “lies.” This is proof that the Obama campaign sent out a lot of angry emails, and nothing else.

(2) Medicare – Sorry, guys, but it is 100 percent true that Obamacare raided $716 Billion from Medicare to pay for itself.  It does cut benefits to current seniors.  And Paul Ryan’s plan took the president’s Medicare “savings,” and re-routed them back into Medicare to shore up the program.  Mitt Romney’s plan would undo those cuts altogether.  Obama took those cuts and used them to pay for Obamacare.  He has admitted this on camera:

(3) The GM Plant – Part of the factory Ryan mentioned was shut down under Bush, despite the initial GM bailout (which Senator Obama supported).  The plant finally fully closed in April of 2009, during Obama’s presidency, as this report clearly states.  Obama’s problem is that he showed up and made empty promises to pander for votes.  Ryan never said Obama was personally responsible for the plant’s closure, but he accurately stated that it closed down within a year of candidate Obama’s hope-filled speech and remains closed today.  Obama goes on and on about “saving” the auto industry and his economic recovery.  That boarded-up Janesville plant tells a different story.

(4) The Stimulus – Pointing out that Paul Ryan asked that his district receive a slice of a giant, wasteful pie after it was passed — and despite his opposition — is at worst an instance of hypocrisy.  It does not disprove anything that Ryan said in his speech, and it does not change the empirical fact that Barack Obama’s borrowed stimulus has utterly failed based on the metrics for success Obama himself set out for it.

(5) The debt commission – What Ryan said is absolutely correct.  The Obama ad quotes Chris Wallace, who notes that Ryan was on that commission and voted against it.  True.  He refused to abide the section maintaining Obamacare, and voted no on its final findings.  Still, he was intimately involved in the group’s deliberations and proposed solutions.  Not fully happy with the final outcome, he went on to craft two budgets of his own, with numerous elements based on the Simpson-Bowles framework.  The commission’s Democratic co-chairman (Bowles of Simpson-Bowles) has praised Ryan’s proposals to the hilt.  Barack Obama, who convened the commission in the first place after deriding commissions on the campaign trail, completely ignored its recommendations and proceeded to propose to wildly reckless, debt-busting budgets that received a total of zero votes in either house of Congress.  Correctly asserting that Ryan opposed the final Simpson-Bowles recommendations is no way absolves Obama for his demonstrable abdication of leadership on these issues.  It’s more smoke and mirrors — and more petty Obama blame, another central theme of Ryan’s address.

(6) Chris Matthews called the speech “nasty.”  Stop the presses!

UPDATE – More smoking-gun video, this time on the GM plant.  This aired in April 2009.

The ‘You Didn’t Build That’ Speech Revisited

The ‘You Didn’t Build That’ Speech Revisited: Wieseltier Says Romney and Ryan are Lying

By Bill Vallicella @ The Maverick Philosopher (August 29, 2012)

In His Grief and Ours: Paul Ryan’s Nasty Ideal of Self-Reliance, Leon Wieseltier taxes Ryan and Mitt Romney with a simple lie (emphasis added): ‘It is no wonder that Ryan, and of course Romney, set out immediately to distort the president’s “you didn’t build that speech” in Roanoke, because in complicating the causes of economic achievement, and in giving a more correct picture of the conditions of entrepreneurial activity, Obama punctured the radical individualist mythology, the wild self-worship, at the heart of the conservative idea of capitalism. An honest reading of the speech shows that Romney and Ryan and their apologists are simply lying about it. The businessman builds his business, but he does not build the bridge without which he could not build his business. That is all. Is it everything? Surely it takes nothing away from the businessman, who retains his reason for his pride in his business. But it is not capitalist pride that Romney and Ryan are defending, it is capitalist pridefulness.’

Here is the key passage from Obama’s speech (emphasis added): ‘If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet. The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.’

What is the antecedent of the pronoun ‘that’ in the fifth sentence?  The general rule, one admitting of exceptions, is that the antecedent of a pronoun is the noun or noun phrase immediately preceding it in the context in question.  By that rule ‘business’ is the antecedent of ‘that’ and Obama is saying that business owners did not build their businesses.  But since the rule allows exceptions, the context permits a charitable reading: ‘If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build the roads and bridges and other infrastructure without which your business would have been impossible.’

So there are two readings of Obama’s words.  Both are permitted by the words themselves, but one is uncharitable and the other charitable.  On the first what he is saying is plainly false: no business person built his business.  On the second, what he is saying is trivially true and disputed by no one, namely, that no business could be built without various infrastructure already being in place.

On either reading, there is a serious problem for Obama and his apologists.  Either Obama is saying something that everyone, including Obama, knows is false, in which case he is lying, or he is saying something that goes without saying, something disputed by no one.  On the second reading Obama is committing a straw man fallacy: he is portraying his opponents as holding a position that none of them holds.

So if we are going to be charitable, then we ought to tax the president with a straw man fallacy.  But there is worse to come.  Behind the latter fallacy is a fallacy of false alternative.  Obama assumes, without justification, that if you didn’t build the infrastructure without which your business could not exist, then government built it.  Or, to put it in the form of a disjunction: Either you as an individual built the the roads and bridges and tools or government built them for you.  But that is a false alternative.  Not everything that arises collectively is brought about by the government.  Obama confuses government with society.  Only some of what we achieve collectively is achieved by government agency.

Uncharitably read, Obama is lying.  Charitably read, his claim is doubly fallacious and doubly false.  It is false that conservatives maintain a rugged individualism according to which each of us creates himself ex nihilo.  And it is false that what is achieved collectively is achieved by government agency.

Now did Romney and Ryan lie about Obama’s message?  No.  They interpreted his words in a way that the English language permits.  Their interpretation, of course, is uncharitable in the extreme.  After all, no one really believes that business people pull themselves up out of nothing by their own bootstraps.

Is Wieseltier lying about Romney and Ryan? No, he is is just being stupid by failing to make an elementary distinction between sentence meaning and speaker’s meaning.

Obama’s gaffe will be and ought to be exploited to the hilt by the Republicans.  Politics is not dispassionate inquiry but war conducted by other means.

“Presidential”, “Best address of the convention”

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Secretary Condoleezza Rice @ the RNC

Romney’s Tax Plan Can Raise Revenue

Romney’s Tax Plan Can Raise Revenue: IRS data show that limiting deductions for high earners would more than cover the dollars lost by reducing income-tax rates 20% across the board

By Martin Feldstein @ WSJ (August 28, 2012)

Mitt Romney’s plan to cut taxes and offset the resulting revenue loss by limiting tax breaks has been attacked as “mathematically impossible.” He would reduce all individual income-tax rates by 20%, eliminate the Alternative Minimum Tax and the estate tax, and limit tax deductions and loopholes that allow high-income taxpayers to reduce their tax payments. All this, say critics, would require a large tax increase on the middle-class to avoid raising the deficit.

Careful analysis shows this is not the case.

To avoid the resulting uncertainties, I decided to analyze the Romney plan using the most recent IRS data, which is based on tax returns for 2009 and published in the current issue of the IRS quarterly publication. (Although 2009 was a low-income year because of the recession, using that year is preferable to looking back to some earlier period.)

Consider first the cost of the 20% reduction in all tax rates. The income-tax revenue in 2009 before all tax credits was $953 billion. Of this, $49 billion was from taxing dividends and capital gains at reduced rates that would not be subject to further reductions. So the 20% reduction applies to $904 billion and would produce what Washington tax analysts call a “static” revenue loss—that is, the revenue loss if the lower rates didn’t cause taxpayers to change their behavior—of $181 billion.

But past experience shows that taxpayers do respond to lower marginal tax rates by acting in ways that increase their taxable incomes: increasing work effort, receiving more of their compensation in the form of taxable cash rather than untaxed fringe benefits, and spending less of their income on tax-favored forms of consumption that are deducted or excluded in calculating taxable income. More specifically, history shows that a tax cut that raises the after-tax share of earnings that an individual keeps by 10% raises taxable income by about 5%. This implies that the revenue loss from the 20% tax cut would be $148 billion, not $181 billion.

…It only requires knowing if enough revenue could be raised from high-income taxpayers to cover the $186 billion cost.

The IRS data show that taxpayers with adjusted gross incomes over $100,000 (the top 21% of all taxpayers) made itemized deductions totaling $636 billion in 2009. Those high-income taxpayers paid marginal tax rates of 25% to 35%, with most $200,000-plus earners paying marginal rates of 33% or 35%.

And what do we get when we apply a 30% marginal tax rate to the $636 billion in itemized deductions? Extra revenue of $191 billion—more than enough to offset the revenue losses from the individual income tax cuts proposed by Gov. Romney.

This does not mean eliminating all deductions. My preference would be to retain all deductions but to limit their total tax benefit to a moderate percentage of each taxpayer’s adjusted gross income.

Since broadening the tax base would produce enough revenue to pay for cutting everyone’s tax rates, it is clear that the proposed Romney cuts wouldn’t require any middle-class tax increase, nor would they produce a net windfall for high-income taxpayers. The Tax Policy Center and others are wrong to claim otherwise.

Racial Politics

Who Racializes Welfare Reform?

By The Editors @ National Review (August 29, 2012)

The Romney campaign criticizes the Obama administration for gutting welfare reform, and the Democratic chorus sings the familiar refrain: “Racist!” Leading the choir is tingly countertenor Chris Matthews of MSNBC: “When you start talking about work requirements,” he thundered at Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus, “you know what game you’re playing, and everybody knows what game you’re playing: It’s a race card.” This judgment was immediately confirmed by Thomas Edsall of the New York Times and Timothy Noah of The New Republic, among others.

There is racial politics at work here, and, as usual, it is a Democratic initiative.

Before proceeding to the question of Democratic race-baiting, it is worth paying a moment’s attention to the substantive policy question here. As Mr. Noah disingenuously puts it, the Obama administration says it has the authority to give waivers to states “allowing them to experiment with alternative ways to meet the work requirement” imposed by the Clinton-Gingrich welfare reforms. One of the ways in which states could be allowed to “meet the work requirement” is by not meeting the work requirement, i.e., by sending out welfare checks without requiring that nearly half the recipients perform 30 hours of work-related activities (which is not a particularly burdensome standard to begin with). This is important because, as Jim Manzi and others have shown, work requirements are one of the only policy innovations that have been shown in real-world trials to be effective in moving people from welfare to work. Undermine the work requirement and you undermine welfare reform in toto.

Mr. Matthews’s accusations were, as is his style, presented without evidence or argument, and indeed without anything that might even charitably be called intellectual content. That he immediately connects welfare in his mind with race is of course telling: The majority of American welfare recipients are white…

Democrats’ proprietary attitude toward African-Americans is a disgrace, one that nine in ten black voters unfortunately reinforce at every electoral opportunity. Welfare reform is not about limiting the transfer of money from white taxpayers to non-white welfare recipients, but about ensuring that programs intended to help the poor and ease their transition into the productive economy do not in the end damage the poor, corrupt public institutions, and constrain the economy…

“Gutting Welfare Reform”, True? (Answer: Yes)

Media “Fact Checkers” Promote Obama’s Gutting of Welfare Reform

By Amy Payne @ The Heritage Foundation (August 24, 2012)

The Claim: New Rules Will Still Increase Work

CNN’s “fact checkers” claim that “In some small way, the waivers might change precisely how work is calculated but the essential goal of pushing welfare recipients to work—something both Democrats and Republicans agreed to in the 1990s—remains the same.”

This is exactly Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’s defense: that waiving welfare’s work requirements for states under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program will still require states to get welfare recipients into jobs. She maintains that the states will have to “commit that their proposals will move at least 20 percent more people from welfare to work compared to the state’s past performance.”

The Facts: Bogus Measures of Success

Rector meets this claim head-on in his new paper, “Ending Work for Welfare: Bogus Measures of Success.”

‘This standard is vague, first of all, since states do not actually need to fulfill it but merely “demonstrate clear progress toward that goal no later than one year” after they are exempted from the old TANF work standards. Nonetheless, at first glance, this goal looks fairly impressive.

President Obama’s HHS will exempt states from the federal work requirements if they increase by 20 percent the number of TANF cases that lose eligibility due to increases in earnings, a measure called “employment exits.” There are four reasons why a 20 percent increase in the number of employment exits, although it sounds impressive, is a very weak or counterproductive measure of success in welfare reform.’

The four reasons this measure is weak, Rector says:

1. Employment exits will increase automatically when the economy recovers. Virtually every state in the U.S. will experience an increase in its employment exits by 20 percent “compared to the state’s past performance” as the economy moves from recession toward higher employment.

2. States could meet the target simply with better record keeping. A large number of TANF recipients leave the program each month for unknown or unspecified reasons. It seems likely that many states could meet the 20 percent increase target simply by collecting or reporting more accurate data on their current exits.

3. A 20 percent increase in exits is insignificant. An increase in employment exits of 20 percent is actually a very small change. The average state has a monthly TANF caseload of around 40,000 families and an annual caseload of perhaps 80,000. Each state has around 600 employment exits from TANF each month, or 1.5 percent of monthly caseload. According to Obama’s new welfare system, the state can be fully exempt from the work standards written in the TANF law if it raises its employment exits from 600 per month to 720. Why is it reasonable, fair, or wise to exempt the remaining 39,000 welfare households from workfare participation just because an extra 120 have left the rolls?

4. More employment exits indicate a larger caseload. The number of employment exits generally rises when the size of the welfare caseload rises, and it falls when the caseload falls. This is due to routine caseload turnover.

Rector concludes that “The number of employment exits is thus meaningless as a method for assessing the TANF program. Employment exits is a sham measure of success that creates the impression that welfare dependence is being reduced when, in reality, the number of persons on welfare is constant or rising.”

Be sure to read point #3.

Related resources:

Not So Fast, ‘Fact-Checkers’ by Robert Rector @ National Review

GAO: Obama Admin. Did Change Work Requirements In Welfare Law