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Atlas Is Sorta Shrugging

"They Did It!"

The president just concluded a frenzied “jobs” bus tour to explain why unemployment is at 9.1% -- after borrowing nearly $5 trillion in stimulus the last three years. You know the usual suspects responsible for our, not his, malaise: George Bush did it; the Republican obstructionists in the Congress who were wary of approving another $2 trillion in debt did it; the Tea Party did it; Standard and Poor’s did it; the Japanese earthquake did it; the Japanese tsunami and nuclear accidents did it; the Middle East unrest did it; the European debt crisis did it; new technology like ATM machines did it. Obama has cited these culprits and many more -- though never either himself or his advisors who took a weak recovery and turned it into a near recession.

Where Are They Now?

Unofficial and sometimes presidential economic advisor Paul Krugman is increasingly petulant, blaming too little borrowing for the dismal 9.1% unemployment rate, some two years after the recession that began in December 2007 “officially” ended in June 2009. (Note the Zeno-like paradox of too much never being quite enough.) Remember the presidential advisors  -- Austan Goolsbee, Peter Orszag, Christina Romer, Larry Summers -- who, in the euphoria of the hope and change election sweep of November 2008, advocated a World War II-like new level of federal indebtedness. They are now quietly back on Wall Street, back to their tenured academic perches, or considering departure. They remain either mum or in op-eds visibly confused about why a strong recovery did not follow a strong recession in the manner of all other post-war ups and downs.

So there seems to be genuine confusion -- and fear -- on the part of leftist economic advisors that the capitalist engine that fuels their redistributive government for some unknown reason is not running on all cylinders and thus cannot quite continue to make the money that even capitalism’s critics count on for support. It reminds me of the please, please letters alumni receive when annual giving to their almae matres is down, and the left-wing president’s mega-salary and the center for gender studies are possibly imperiled.

Start Hiring, Stupid!

Both the president and his supporters fault supposedly self-interested corporations and “the rich” who sit on “trillions of dollars” in capital and won’t hire new workers or make massive purchases of equipment. They are the real cause of record budget deficits, unsustainable aggregate debt, credit downgrading, high unemployment, a nose-diving stock market, sluggish growth, near-zero interest rates, explosive trade deficits, sky-high energy and food prices, a still ruined housing market, and a general fear of new hyperinflation.

There is some truth to Obama's screed, though not quite in the way he thinks. So let me be perfectly clear and make no mistake about it and let's be honest: The employers of America have taken a time out, despite the fact that now might be a good time to gear up for the inevitable recovery. They haven’t let the resting world fall entirely from their broad shoulders, but they have bent over for a bit and the globe is tottering on their upper arms.

Consider why after nearly three years our tired Atlas is starting to slouch.

The Slurring and Smearing

Every president lets slip a smear now and then. The key is that there should be little consistency or frequency in his targeting. But with Obama there is both monotony and predictability. He clearly does not like private businesses -- except the super wealthy who are liberal and share his refined tastes and politics and have enough millions in “unneeded income” that they figure they will either die before or weather through our transition to European democratic socialism.

Of course, one Huey Long--like “fat cat,” an occasional adolescent “millionaires and billionaires,” a once-in-a-while juvenile “corporate jet owners,” a few 1960s-like “spread the wealth” or “redistributive change” slips, a single petulant “unneeded income,” or a sole pop-philosophizing “at some point you’ve made enough money,” or even on occasion the old socialist boilerplate “those who make over $250,000 should pay their fair share” in isolation are tolerable. But string them together and even the tire store owner and pharmaceutical rep are aroused from their 70-hour weeks, and start to conclude, “Hmmm, this guy doesn’t like me or what I do, and I better make the necessary adjustments.” And, believe me, they are making the necessary adjustments.

Play Money

Business people were confused by the Bush bailout. Some gave Obama a pass for Stimulus II (especially those on the receiving end). When we hit $3 trillion in proposed new borrowing, concern rose. Now with nearly $5 trillion recently borrowed and another $10 trillion scheduled over the next eight years, the private sector has concluded that this guy loves trillion-dollar debt because either (1) it fuels big government and more regulations and more dependent constituents; or (2) it will inevitably cause more redistributive taxes on the productive sector; or (3) it will spur inflation and erode the value of accumulated wealth; or (4) all that and more still.