Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Top central banks, including Fed, in pre-emptive strike against euro collapse

Rick Moran

A coordinated action by the world's top central banks in easing dollar swaps will prevent the siezing up of short term credit in the event that things get worse in Europe.
The U.S. Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank and the central banks of Canada, Britain, Japan and Switzerland said in a joint statement they had agreed to lower the cost of existing dollar swap lines by 50 basis points from December 5.
Other measures included setting up bilateral swap arrangements between the central banks so that any bank could tap additional liquidity in their own currencies if necessary. The swap arrangements are good through Feb 1, 2013.
In the United States, the Fed noted that banks were not having difficulty now getting funds in short-term finding markets. But if conditions deteriorate, the U.S. central bank said it has "a range of tools available" to use as a backstop and would deploy them as necessary.
The surprise coordinated move by central banks was aimed at preventing global financial markets from coming under pressure that could potentially lead to a seizing up of credit.
"The purpose of these actions is to ease strains in financial markets and thereby mitigate the effects of such strains on the supply of credit to households and businesses and so help foster economic activity," the banks said in typically stilted language.
It doesn't effect what's going on in the negotiations over the fate of the euro zone directly, but it does offer hope for investors that the flow of credit will remain open in the event of a real meltdown.
Note this: "...the U.S. central bank said it has "a range of tools available" to use as a backstop..." in the event that the worst case scenarios come to pass. This may be another clue that the US Federal Reserve will step in to the crisis if all else fails and it appears that the euro zone will go down for the count. This, despite the White House statement on Monday that denied there were any plans to directly intervene in the crisis.
Europe is considered by the Fed to be "too big to fail."

'How can Europe possibly save itself?'

Rick Moran

So asks Megan McArdle at The Atlantic:
I remain skeptical, in the end, that Germany is going to agree to substantially deeper fiscal integration with Greece and Italy. You hear a lot of people saying that "We know what will work" and lamenting the fact that policymakers won't do it, but if the last four years should have taught us anything, it's that we don't actually know that anything will work.
Don't get me wrong--I think that either an ECB intervention or a eurobond are the only things that are likely to work. But I can also see scenarios where they don't, or where they work for only a short period of time.
The current plan on the table, as I understand it, is for the PIIGS to get bailouts in exchange for letting the more solvent countries step in and run their budgets if they violate budget rules. I can see how this could work, but I can also see how that might be the last straw, and that if the central countries actually tried to execute on this authority, they might find that it doesn't actually exist . . . while their guarantees of that debt very much do. The EU, in fact, has a rather long history of creating toothless institutions that everyone ends up ignoring. If I were German, I'd be thinking really, really hard about that . . . even if I believed (as I do!) that letting the PIIGS go would be vastly more expensive in the short term.
Why might this be unstable? Leaving aside perjoratives about Mediterranean nations (though really--if the Greeks can't collect taxes, how are the Germans going to manage?), there are big problems that bailouts don't fix..."
Bottom line: Germany and France are strong because their exports have exploded under the euro while the southern periphery is weak because their exports remained stagant.
Keeping the euro together requires much more than fiscal integration--all fiscal integration does is turn the peripheral countries into something like those Algerian ghettos ringing Paris. Actually correcting these imbalances is going to require a lot of people in the periphery to get up and move. That's a really tall order. Despite the fabled European multi-lingualism, in my experience, the majority of workers speak English about like I spoke high-school French and college Spanish; well enough to go on vacation, but not well enough to enjoy living in another country. I'm told that this is about standard. And that's just one of the many barriers to movement between countries.
It's not just the Germans who have to ask themselves whether the PIIGS won't eventually say "Enough!" and renege. The bond buyers have to ask the same thing. At this point, it's not entirely clear to me that any solution is credible enough to kick the can more than a very short distance down the road.
Germany is making some tentative moves in the current negotiations toward relenting on the role the central bank will play in any bailouts. But McArdle has it pegged correctly; the problems go far deeper than bonds. They go to the very nature of the "united states of Europe" and the role nationalism and sovereignty will play in the future. Unless the nation states of Europe can leave their sovereignty at the door, the EU will shortly be history and with it, the dream of a united Europe for at least another generation.

Presidential Thanksgiving Message's Pernicious Premise

By Peter Heck

In the first Thanksgiving address given by an American president, George Washington encouraged his fellow citizens in 1789 to join him in "acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness."  Clearly demonstrating an equal grasp on the gravity and meaning of such an occasion, current U.S. President Barack Obama followed in Washington's footsteps by calling this generation of Americans to a day of "eating great food, watching a little football, and reflecting on how truly lucky we are."  Quick, grab a tablet of stone and chisel in that pellet of eternal insight before it escapes our mortal consciousness.
Perhaps the comparison is unfair given that Obama did issue a written statement that thanked God for "the many kindnesses and comforts that grace our lives." Nonetheless, conservative critics pounced, observing that the same president who never misses the opportunity to host an Iftar dinner and extemporaneously proclaim the great benevolence of the God of Islam just totally blanks on the magnanimity of the Judeo-Christian God amidst the very holiday our people have historically set aside to honor Him for His blessings. 
Fox News columnist Todd Starnes fired the first volley, noting that the president's "remarks were void of any religious references although Thanksgiving is a holiday traditionally steeped in giving thanks and praise to God."  From there a bevy of right-leaning commentators attacked the president for his sin of omission.  Might I humbly suggest that a more meaningful critique of the president's speech should focus less on what he didn't say, and more on what he did?
To posit, as President Obama did, that the great prosperity of the United States is the consequence of "luck" is as controversial and radical as anything this president has said during his time in the national spotlight.  Yes, as controversial as proclaiming that Israel should go back to its pre-1967 boundaries.  Yes, as radical as suggesting that knowing whether or not to defend the unalienable right to life was above his pay grade.
Because in a very real way, this comment puts the entire presidency of Barack Obama into context.  It starts making sense out of the muddled picture we have had of Obama and piecing together the fragments of a larger worldview that has been shadowed by the meaningless media caricatures of the man.
Taken by itself, crediting luck as the source of American greatness could perhaps be excused as a slip of the tongue or a lazy retreat behind a tired rhetorical cliché.  But when placed in context and added to other previously isolated statements to make a combined symphony of thought, it explains why the president seems so uncomfortable and confused when asked about American exceptionalism.  It explains why he obstinately omits reference to the Creator God as the source of man's rights when quoting from the American Declaration of Independence.  It explains why he frequently seems ashamed of American preeminence, feeling obligated to bow before foreign leaders or apologize profusely for our national sins -- real or imagined.  It explains both a foreign and a domestic policy designed to relegate America to the role of world participant rather than world leader.
President Obama misunderstands the significance of American greatness because he misappropriates its foundational source.  In his secular socialist worldview, America's riches were not the reward from One whom Abraham Lincoln called the "beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens."  They were not the result of a national obedience to the Natural Lawgiver, nor the consequence of a national commitment to conform to the timeless truths of His moral order.
No, to the man who is now the face of the free world, they were nothing more than the byproduct of an advantageous role of the civilizational dice.  If a transcendent being was involved, it was only to spin the globe blindfolded and un-ceremonially plop its finger down randomly on the United States, instigating a flood of prosperity that was no more purposeful than it was deserved.
That is why, in Obama's mind, there is nothing more exceptional about America than Britain or Greece, why we have no right to admonish the human rights atrocities occurring with impunity in China, why America should presume to hold no position of moral superiority in our dealings with foreign thugs and tyrannies, why our time is better spent apologizing for our arrogance than recommitting ourselves to the glorious truths of our founding.  And it's why food and football are just as likely to cross his lips on Thanksgiving as is the One to Whom we have, at the direction of presidents far greater than Barack Obama, historically rendered thanks.
If anything, this unfortunate episode reminds us of why Thanksgiving 2012 will offer a brand new reason for national gratitude.

Ayers' pet project funded by Obama 'stimulus' plan

Taxpayer money also channeled to school founded by top White House adviser's mom

President Obama's "stimulus" legislation helped to fund an education initiative associated with Weather Underground terrorists Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, according to a recently released book.
"Red Army: The Radical Network that must be defeated to save America" contains new information about Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's own radical ties while revealing how stimulus funds also went to a school founded by the mother of top White House adviser Valerie Jarrett.
"Red Army" authors Aaron Klein and Brenda J. Elliott dedicate two chapters to investigating Obama's education policies.
In one revelation, the book details how the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, or ARRA, provided $650 million to the Investing in Innovation Fund, or i3, as it is called. That year, Duncan announced his agency was accepting applications for i3 grants from educational nonprofits, individual school districts or groups of districts.
The winning i3 grantees included the Erikson Institute in Chicago, which requested just shy of $5 million for its project, "Achieving High Standards for Pre-K-Grade 3 Mathematics: A Whole Teacher Approach to Professional Development."
"Red Army: The Radical Network that must be defeated to save America" exposes the extremists behind Occupy Wall Street along with the radical socialist network that seized political power in Washington over decades, shaped Obama's presidential agenda and threatens the very future of the U.S.
One of the three faculty founders, and president of the institute from 1994 to 2001, is Barbara Taylor Bowman, the Irving B. Harris Professor of Child Development. Bowman is the mother of Valerie Jarrett.
In December 2009, Duncan honored Bowman at a luncheon. Bowman served as Duncan's consultant on early learning for the first six months after he was named secretary of education.
Others in Obama's orbit associated with the Erikson Institute include one of its former trustees and members of the executive committee – the late Thomas Ayers, father of Bill Ayers. Dohrn, Bill Ayers' wife, also served on the Erikson board.
In his 1998 book "A Kind and Just Parent: The Children of Juvenile Court," Ayers calls Bowman a "neighbor and a friend."
Obama had earlier connections to Erikson, Klein and Elliot found. The Erikson Institute was among the first 35 school partnerships awarded funds in December 1995 by the Chicago Annenberg Challenge. Ayers was a founder of the Challenge; Obama was hired in 1995 as the group's first chairman.

Obama and Ayers worked on education together since at least 1988.
That year, in response to a Chicago summit that documented the poor quality of education in the city, Chicago United, a group founded by Ayers' father, formed a community advocacy coalition called the Alliance for Better Chicago Schools, or ABC. Thomas Ayers was the chairman and CEO of Commonwealth Edison.
When he created his ABCs Coalition in June 1988, Thomas Ayers included Obama in the coalition, Klein and Elliott found. Obama at the time was director and lead organizer of the Developing Communities Project, or DCP, an institutionally based community organization on Chicago's Far South Side. Obama's first job in Chicago was his DCP position.
The contact for the ABCs Coalition, on which Obama served, was none other than Bill Ayers himself, who at the time was at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
More Ayers ties
"Red Army" further documents how Obama's DCP included on its board Bill Ayers' brother, John Ayers, also a key player in Chicago's school reform movement. John Ayers is now vice president and treasurer of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
Archived papers from former Chicago mayor Harold Washington show that not only Ayers but also Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Father Michael Pfleger – Obama religious advisers who were controversial during the 2008 presidential campaign for their inflammatory remarks – were on Obama's DCP youth counseling advisory committee.
Obama accused of deliberately overloading economy
"Red Army" exposes the radical socialist network that seized political power in Washington over decades, shaped Obama's presidential agenda and threatens the very future of the U.S.
The book documents how Obama and progressive Democrats are deliberately overloading the U.S. financial system, using socialist designs to remake the economy.
With nearly 1,500 endnotes, it documents how these radicals aim to remake the American financial system with massive government control.

The Casualties of the Government's War on Obesity

By William Sullivan

"It takes a village to raise a child," as noted and self-proclaimed progressive Hillary Clinton advocates, and according to this mindset, when adults allow their children to be obese (apparently, it's invariably a choice), the "village" should have not only the right, but the duty to save the child from irresponsible parents' hands. 
In recent years, medical science has reinforced the social stigmas that have been associated with being fat.  It is now accepted far and wide that fat people are a menace to their own personal health, and to the American progressive, they are a menace to society as they seek to communalize health care delivery in this country.  So progressives unconsciously offer their socialistic panacea.  They advise that the government be given control to influence individual choice in order to quell the obesity "epidemic" via specified taxation upon unhealthy foods, while subsidizing healthy foods, health education, and fitness programs.
That may be all well and good to ensure that adults begin altering their lifestyles to reflect the state's health standards, but children are another story.
According to an ABC News article:
Taking obese children from their families has become a topic of intense debate over the past year after one high-profile pediatric obesity expert made controversial comments in the Journal of the American Medical Association advocating the practice in acute cases.
"In severe instances of childhood obesity, removal from the home may be justifiable, from a legal standpoint, because of imminent health risks and the parents' chronic failure to address medical problems," Dr. David Ludwig co-wrote with Lindsey Murtagh, a lawyer and researcher at Harvard's School of Public Health.
One such "acute case" is described in this article about an anonymous third-grade boy and his mother.  The boy weighed over 200 pounds when he began being monitored by social workers and enrolled in a health advocacy program.  After briefly losing a bit of weight, he again began to gain, which prompted the Department of Children and Family Services to ask "a juvenile court for custody of the boy."  Their request was granted.
To my surprise, this was the only information necessary for many Americans, conservatives and progressive alike, to indict the woman as a careless mother and applaud the state's decision to confiscate the child.  Notable conservative talk radio host Joe Pagliarulo is one of those voices.  During his Monday morning rant, a female caller challenged the host's opinion, citing unknown genetic dispositions and the mental anguish and confusion the child will undoubtedly suffer as a result of the court's decision.  He disregarded her concerns, assuming them to be a joke.  When I voiced similar concerns via e-mail, he responded by assuring me that the mother is "a parent who obviously is neglecting the health needs of her child."
There are a few points in the local (and far more detailed) report that perhaps Mr. Pagliarulo and others of his opinion might have missed in conjuring such damning assessments, though.  It is perhaps pertinent to note that aside from sleep apnea (for which he is treated), the child suffers no diagnosed disease -- the child was confiscated not for the "parents' chronic failure to address medical problems," but because of the "medical conditions he is at risk for," raising the question of whether there was an immediate need for these measures.  Drawing a history of negligence in regard to the mother would be difficult, too, considering that she has a sixteen-year-old son described as "tall and thin."  If anything, she's shown that she is not holistically and abusively allowing gluttonous behavior in her household.
Likely, it was also not considered that "other than having a weight problem, the boy was a normal elementary school student who was on the honor roll and participated in school activities."  "Was" is aptly used in this sentence.  One has to wonder how he will return to such normalcy after being seized by authorities "from his school" and limited to seeing his mother for only two hours a week for being too fat.
Given that the mother vehemently expresses love and care for her son, that she willfully complied with requests to enroll her son in a suggested health advocacy program while making strides to change his lifestyle, and that the family has a verifiable history of obesity, it would appear that the "village" overstepped its bounds.  And it wouldn't be the first time for such a thing.  Ten years ago, "3-year-old Anamarie Regino, weighing 90 pounds, was taken from her parents and placed into foster care" for two months.  When her condition did not improve, she was "returned to her parents" and was "later diagnosed with a genetic predisposition."  Upon reflection, her mother lamented, "They say they did it for the well-being of the child, but it did more damage than any money or therapy could ever do to fix it."
And the sad truth is that Regino is right.  For these mothers and these children, the damage is lasting and irreversible.  These mothers suffer unjust condemnation and have been robbed of their right to enjoy a portion of their short lives alongside their children -- which for many is the greatest blessing that life provides.  And the children, already plagued by everyday social stigmas that come with obesity, have to come to terms with an even deeper disassociation from normality.
The "village," however, is unscathed, and remains assured of its own righteousness despite having acted not upon any intimate assessment of their specific situations, but upon a wholesale condemnation of obesity and an unwavering belief that the "village" can better care for a child than a family.
It is time we demand that the government scale back its influence upon the American family, particularly where obesity is concerned, as it is clear that the government is not capable of properly assessing its complex causes or risks.  And ultimately, we must reject once and for all the notion that "it takes a village to raise a child."  It takes personal care and genuine love to raise a child.  And that is something even a Utopian village simply cannot provide.

Vice Economics

By Bill Croke

Years of living in Wyoming deprived me of a vice that unlike all others I never gave up, playing the lottery. Wyoming --thanks to an anti-gambling faction in the state legislature and a regular thumbs down from voters in past statewide referendums -- does not participate in the national Powerball lottery (the proceeds of which are used to support "education," but that's another piece in itself). The casino operated by the Northern Arapahos on their Wind River Reservation is beyond state jurisdiction.
I knew people in Cody who drove forty miles north to Belfry, Montana to get their tickets. Now that I live in Salmon, Idaho, I simply pick them up at the nearest convenience store. Twice a week I invest in a Powerball Quick-Pick ticket. I say "invest" because the investment promises a possible return of $3 to multi-millions, and you have to -- as the saying goes -- be in it to win it. Last week somebody in Pennsylvania won $59 million. A couple of weeks before that a Connecticut ticket scored $254 million. Unlike other players I don't ritually use the same numbers week after week, but take the random Quick-Pick. But other rituals are familiar: signing the ticket and checking the numbers online, or via a phone recording or newspaper.
Of course, the odds of taking the grand prize are astronomical. The 195 million to one odds of hitting the jackpot has been compared to blindfolding yourself and then on your hands and knees locating a pea placed on a football field. At eleven million to one, one is more likely to be the victim of a shark attack tenfold. It's 5 million to one to hit the $200,000 prize (50 percent more likely than the shark attack), 723,000 to one to win $10,000. Throw in the lower tier prizes ($100, $7, $4, $3), and the player has a 35 to 1 chance to win something. I have hit two $4's and a $7 and these merely paid for the next few upcoming tickets.
The ticket costs a dollar, so my annual expenditure is $104. A friend tells me that this sum is a "tax on stupidity," but if that's the case then I'm not as stupid as I used to be. After all, gambling (or its modern euphemism "gaming") is the only vice that promises that aforementioned possible dividend.
I drank rather heartily for years and the only investment return I gained from that were hangovers. I'm guessing that I spent that $104 on a sometimes weekly basis during my bibulous career. Even just a six pack of beer in the pre-microbrew 1970s-'80s cost two or three times what I spend on one Quick-Pick today.
I was a cigarette smoker until about twenty years ago. At the time a pack of cigarettes -- depending on the brand -- cost approximately two dollars (it's twice that and more today). I smoked roughly a pack per day, so I'm guessing that I spent fifteen bucks per week (occasionally buying a full carton was more economical, of course). This adds up to $780 annually. The only thing I got from smoking was the chance (hopefully now diminished) to develop lung cancer or emphysema. Certainly no multi-million dollar payoff there. No high-end real estate transactions or international travel. No weekends at the Ritz in Paris. The two bucks per week I now devote to lottery tickets bought one pack of smokes in 1990.
Like many folks who came of age circa 1970, I dabbled in my share of drugs, especially marijuana. My current non-participatory research tells me that dope is more potent and pricey nowadays. Legal medical marijuana distribution seems to be yet another aspect of an insanely expensive healthcare system. Small amounts of weed so strong that it will not only get you high, but, well, maybe in touch with your ancestors.
In 1972, just graduated from high school, I had a job in a warehouse that netted me $90 per week. I devoted $20 of this paycheck to a weekly one ounce bag of pot, which back then was a good deal. It was rather tame stuff, commonly referred to as "commercial Mexican weed." The better "Acapulco Gold" and Colombian stuff were rare and went for $40 and more, and was mostly beyond my means. I don't think I spent the $20 every single week, but if I did the annual bill came to $1,040 -- over a grand, and ten times my current lottery ticket bill. For this investment I risked tangling with law enforcement and jail time. My dealer was a high school friend who displayed his wares in an elegant alligator-skin briefcase. Always entrepreneurial-minded, we planned to invest our share of George McGovern's promised $1,000 tax credit for low income Americans (McGovern dropped this scheme from his platform before election day, but I was probably too stoned to notice) in a projected retail marijuana business. So I cast my first vote in a presidential election accordingly. Fortunately, the majority of the American electorate was wiser than I.
The libertarian in me says "What the hell?" but I do wish I'd never spent all that money -- so long ago -- on dope, booze, and cigarettes. So, today, my motto can be found printed at the bottom of every Powerball ticket I buy: "Please play responsibly."

No Newt Is Good Newt

By Stuart Schwartz

He is the king of flip-flops, the emperor of hypocrisy, the czar of opinions a mile wide and an inch deep.  Mitt Romney?  Not by a long shot -- because when it comes to core values, conservative or otherwise, Romney tips the top of the belief-o-meter compared with Newt Gingrich.  And it is a lesson conservatives should learn now, before the actual primary voting begins.  For the Tea Party, for evangelicals, for the ordinary Joe and Jane who believe in American exceptionalism and hard work and God, for the like-minded concerned with the path of the Republic -- no Newt is good Newt.
Newt Gingrich is for Newt.  Period.  The end.  This consummate Beltway insider and lobbyist will say anything, do anything, and pander to any and all in his lifelong pursuit of...Newt.  He is a more facile and intelligent, an older and whiter and chunkier version of Barack Obama, whose single defining trait is overweening narcissism.  And just as Barack begins each day with an admiring look in the mirror, Gingrich is second to none in his appreciation of the glory that is Newt.
Welcome to Newt World.  This is the same world inhabited by the elites of both parties, a world where values are well-articulated but are, in the end, just talk.  Does that mean he won't seek to apply traditional American values to a government gone wild?  No, he may...or may not.  It depends upon who cheers the loudest, not worldview and values.
But he's conservative, you say -- he articulates so well our vision. Y es, he does -- and then just as easily voices the opposite, using a strategy of redefining words that Mark Krikorian of National Review Online pronounces "sleazy."  Newt is to policy what Bill Clinton is to sex: I do but I really don't because "do" really means "don't" -- except when I say it means "do."  This is why he can take the Tea Party line of opposing government energy subsidies while supporting green energy subsidies and ethanol, why he can attack Obamacare while promoting a government takeover of the health industry, and why he can appear "practically spooning" Nancy Pelosi in commercials about the need for government action on global warming while doing the same and opposite with the Tea Party.  In public and private, Newt is entirely Newt.  Policy Newt is, Business Insider summarizes, the same as Married Newt, who "was leading the impeachment of [Bill] Clinton while diddling his Congressional aide."
The best explanation for Newt policy and values comes in the 1951 Disney classic Alice in Wonderland: Alice could have been talking about Newt World when she said of her ideal world, "[E]verything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is because everything would be what it isn't. And contrary-wise; what it is it wouldn't be, and what it wouldn't be, it would. You see?"  Yes, says American Thinker blogger Selwyn Duke, I see...I see a man whose flip-flops make me wonder "what kind of core the man has."  Well put.  The answer, of course, is that Newt's core is straight from the low end of the window and door aisle at Lowes: hollow molded composite.  Nothing real about it.  But in Washington, it works.
Newt Gingrich is not the Great Man-Linked-to-Past-Great Men the conservative elites have been so fond of painting.  One writer for the American Spectator, for example, compares him to Winston Churchill.  Conservative insiders generally view Gingrich with the same love and affection with which he views himself, possessing an "intellectuality" that quite takes the Beltway Breath away.  The Beltway Breath, of course, is similar to the Beltway Brain in that it is extraordinarily light and consists mostly of equal parts hot air and alcohol.  This is not to be confused with the Beltway Character, which acts much like the market as it establishes the trading price of values and integrity.  And Newt has Beltway Character in spades, which allows him to lambaste the role of lobbyists and government in creating the financial crisis, all the while being paid by those same government institutions.
In Newt World -- which is but a Beltway Breath away from Clinton Kingdom, Kerry Country, and John Edwards Cellblock -- contradictions are simply evidence of depth and ideas.  So when true conservatives shake their heads in dismay and say about him that "[i]deas come to you easily when you have no principles to get in the way of your roaming untrained intellect," they are missing the point.  His rise to the top of the Republican heap impresses the conservative and progressive elites for whom hypocrisy is mother's milk and character is what you have when you don't have taxpayer dollars lining your pockets and live in flyover country.

On the other hand: Newt, as flawed as he is, is preferable to Barack Obama or any other candidate offered by the Democrat Party.  Yes, Newt is Washington and power lunches and lobbying money and taxpayer dollars, a talking-not-doing denizen of a class that considers talking to be doing.  And he is deeply flawed.  But -- aren't we all?  So, when all is said and done, he is sorta, kinda conservative.  And that, in the age of Obama, is a blessing...and, perhaps, a new beginning.

A Federal Black Friday

By Iain Murray

Black Friday this year was a roaring success. I have heard it said that it is called Black Friday not because it inspires black tempers among shoppers, but because it's the day on which businesses get out of the red and into the black. The federal government, of course, is deeply in the red. It could get, if not into the black, closer to it with a few well-placed sales of its own.
We have just been through an effort to reduce the deficit, of course. The obstructionist left-liberals on the late and unlamented Supercommittee were simply short on imagination. They appear to believe that the only way to raise revenue is to raise taxes. This is akin to a company in financial trouble saying that the only way to increase accounts receivable is to increase product sales. There are other things you can do. For instance, when Ford found itself short on cash during the crisis that hit the American auto industry, it sold off a prized asset, the Volvo brand, for $1.8 billion. This was a huge loss -- Ford paid $6.5 billion for Volvo in 1999 -- but it was a necessary way to raise needed revenue.
Congress has many similar options for raising revenue. The United States is sitting on a large hoard of assets. For instance, the federal government owns almost 30 percent of the land in the United States, most of which is controlled by the four federal land agencies and the Department of Defense. Many of these lands and other federal properties have high commercial potential. Selling some federal lands and buildings will put money in the federal treasury, put unproductive assets to use, and increase local property tax revenue as well as corporate and personal income taxes.
The Feds can also speed up the permitting process for new energy and extractive operations on federal lands. Congress can play its part by expediting the determination of companies' compliance with the exhaustive environmental assessment requirements of laws like the National Environmental Policy Act (giving a short but appropriate window for challenge, of course). Pipeline projects, mines, and even solar power plants could start operating much more quickly on federal lands in this way, bringing in substantial non-tax federal revenue streams.
A speed-up in permitting is long overdue. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) own Inspector General (IG) has just released a report that says the agency has been dragging its feet over the permitting of surface mines in the Appalachians. Almost half of the 185 permit applications reviewed by the IG took an average of 731 days to approve. The EPA says it should take just 144 days. That means that many projects endured almost two whole years of delay -- two years during which those project could have been providing jobs, resources, and federal tax revenue, but couldn't because of EPA ineptitude or possibly even intransigence.
The federal government holds many other valuable assets. Amtrak, for instance, is a continually loss-making service that would bring in cash if privatized. Not only are the track, trains, and stations worth something in themselves, but the opportunity to turn a money pit into a generator of tax revenue is one that many governments around the world have taken. Similarly, privatization of a host of government agencies would bring in revenue both immediately from the sale and into the future through taxation.
In many cases, agencies can be asked to cover their own costs by charging user fees. An example would be the U.S. Forest Service, which should charge users fair market value for recreation and other uses of the lands it manages. These fees would almost certainly recoup the service's $5 billion operating budget.
Not all such assets are tangible. The federal government controls access to the electromagnetic spectrum used for telecommunications. Auctions of spectrum have raised $60 billion in revenues to date. Estimates suggest a further $16 billion could be raised from future auctions.
When Margaret Thatcher embarked on her privatization program in the UK, she was criticized for "selling off the family silver." Yet by doing so she made the British family much more prosperous. From being the "sick man of Europe," when much of its economy was state-owned, Britain became one of the most competitive economies in the world over the next decade following the privatizations. America faces a similar opportunity. All that's needed is the political will.

Germany's Dream of Domination to Come True?

By J. Robert Smith

There's a saying: "Dreams deferred aren't necessarily dreams denied."  Or something like that.  Neither the Kaiser nor the Führer could have imagined, though, that the path to dominance in Europe has nothing to do with war.  It may have everything to do with the failure -- financial and economic -- of Germany's neighbors.  This is a failure that invites -- not resists -- German hegemony.
Europe's gathering failure results from a toxic cocktail drunk throughout much of Europe: welfare statism; bureaucratization; crony capitalism; and the inefficiencies, excesses, and corruption that inevitably spring from the former three.
Germans may not need to ride triumphant throughout Europe on the backs of Panzers (or their modern equivalents).  If Europe's ruling classes have their way, Germany will use its checkbook and credit to bail out its failing neighbors -- or attempt to.  Germany may not have the financial or economic muscle to really do so, but let's put that aside for a moment.  Among European nations, Germany is the strongest of the lot, hence the reason why elites have turned anxious eyes to the Germans (Americans are beginning to run a close second).
Read this astonishing comment by Poland's Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski from a Washington Post article:
I will probably be the first Polish foreign minister in history to say so, but here it is: I fear German power less than I am beginning to fear German inactivity.
Washington Post liberal writer Ezra Klein elaborates:
Sikorski went on to say that the break-up of the Euro zone now poses a larger threat to Poland than tanks, terrorism or missiles. A recent UBS report sheds some light on why: They estimated that the financial crises and bank runs and uncertainty around leaving the Euro zone would cost small, weak countries like Greece 50 percent of their GDP in the first year and 15 percent in the years thereafter. And big, rich countries like Germany wouldn't fare all that much better: UBS thought they'd take a hit of 20-25 percent of their GDP in year one, and 10-12.5 percent in the years after that.
Europe's economic situation is dire.  But a lot of other European elites, who would otherwise be leery of Germany asserting its power, are in step with -- if not out in front of -- the Polish minister.  Who would have thought that elites from across Europe, whose peoples hold an historic distrust of German might, are now practically on their knees begging Chancellor Angela Merkel for deliverance?
Granted, Germany isn't seething with brown shirts these days.  Totalitarian impulses were finally beaten out of the Germans in World War II.  There's no messianic figure emerging in Germany to lead the German people to some glorious supremacy.  Still, there are reasons why sensible Europeans -- those not desperate to save modern statist Europe and their positions in it -- should pause before making Germany the savior.
Let's get back to the earlier point about Germany's ability to save Europe.  As was reported last week, the German economy is beginning to show vulnerabilities.  German bond sales -- at least, initially -- were disappointing.  Yet relative to the rest of Europe, the German economy is strong.  Merkel and the German people -- heretofore reluctant to bailout their neighbors -- may be pressured into trying doing so.
But very little in life is without strings.  There's strong resistance among the German people to attempts to rescue nations whose peoples are viewed as undisciplined and profligate.  If Merkel and other German political leaders buckle to pressure from European elites, then expect them to exact stiff concessions.  Merkel would need to go to the German people showing tangible returns for Germany playing Atlas.  To do otherwise would be political suicide.
And what might those concessions be?  A preeminent leadership role in the EU (or whatever could succeed the EU)?  Preferences for German exports?  Greater say and control by Germany of the financial, economic, and social policies in distressed nations?  Among other considerations, the locus of power in Europe will shift to Berlin, whatever the French pomposity may be.
There is, of course, the very real prospect that Europe will fail despite German -- and American -- intervention.  Yet Germany will still be owed for its efforts.  Germans will have a reasonable sense of entitlement for their trouble.  If Germany can't be remunerated by failed neighbors, Germans will still expect their leaders to seek repayments in other ways satisfactory to them -- or they'll find leaders who will do so.
Consider, too, that a Europe of failed nations is very likely to see widespread social unrest and political upheaval.  The reality that Europeans' cradle-to-grave welfare states can no longer deliver on their promises will send tsunamis of rage across the continent.  Everyone knows from history what a dangerous place Europe is when disordered and roiled.
Germans have an innate and evident sense of order.  Germans are disciplined and have a taste for hierarchy.  Europe convulsed is likely to make Germans greatly uncomfortable.  Already having been invited by their neighbors to shoulder a larger responsibility for Europe's welfare, the Germans will have entrée to assert their will throughout Europe (excepting Russia and its sphere of influence) -- that is, if they decide it's favorable to their interests.
No one can say that Germany elevated to a first-among-equals status in Europe is the opening of a Pandora's Box, but it may be.  It most certainly would set Europe on the road toward German hegemony -- hegemony that throughout the decades, millions upon millions Europeans (and other peoples) stoutly resisted, fought, and died to prevent.
A German-dominated Europe might seem a welcome development to elites who, with each passing day, are increasingly desperate for solutions.  These elites may persuade themselves that the Germans could lead Europe deftly and benignly.  Perhaps, but deftness has never been a trait of blunt Germans, and German benignity is thanks to drubbings in two bloody world wars.  Since World War II, Germans have earnestly reformed their nation.  But the preponderance of history and the German character still raise suspicions.
Better than Germany or any other nation coming to Europe's rescue would be the peoples of Europe throwing off statist yokes to make revolutions -- peaceful democratic revolutions -- in favor of smaller government, free markets, and individual liberty.  The path toward liberty wouldn't be trouble-free; dislocations, challenges, hardships, and pain are bound to occur.  But better to suffer such adversities on the road to greater liberty than to suffer them on the road to serfdom (you pick the type and degree).
From Bismarck through the mid-twentieth century, Germans hankered for European supremacy.  Bismarck and his successors couldn't have guessed that a militarized Germany wouldn't be required to achieve domination.  Germany's rise to European dominance could come thanks to the failures of narrow, petty, feckless, and desperate elites handing Germans the keys to the castle.  Should that come to pass, what a strange and ironic twist of fate it would be.

Entitlement Reform Revolution

By Peter Ferrara

In New Hampshire on November 21, Newt Gingrich, who has just been endorsed by the Manchester Union Leader, unveiled sweeping entitlement reform proposals, discussed in a comprehensive, extensive campaign position paper now available at Those proposals reflect closely my own work over many years, discussed in detail in my recent book, America's Ticking Bankruptcy Bomb.
These reforms taken together would reduce federal spending over an extended period of years by half from what it would be otherwise, solving America's entitlement and fiscal crisis. Yet, these reforms are politically feasible, indeed even popularly appealing, because seniors and the poor would actually gain from them. In fact, they are all based on already enacted reforms, in the U.S. or elsewhere, that have been proven to work in the real world. Remember that even libertarian godfather Friedrich Hayek supported the concept of safety nets for the truly needy, as did Reagan.
The key is that the reforms are all based on modernizing our old fashioned, tax and redistribution entitlement programs to rely on 21st century modern capital, labor, and insurance markets instead. Through such fundamental structural reforms, changing the way the programs work and operate, we can achieve all of the social goals of these entitlement programs far more effectively, serving seniors and the poor far better, at just a fraction of the current cost of those programs. Consequently, we can actually achieve vastly greater reductions in spending than we could ever hope to achieve simply by trying to cut benefits.
These reforms all work more effectively to achieve their goals because they operate through market incentives, productive savings and investment, and competition, rather than simple tax and redistribution. They also all work to contribute to economic growth and prosperity today, rather than detracting from it.
Personal Account Prosperity to Replace the Payroll Tax
Gingrich proposes reforms that would empower workers with the freedom to choose to save and invest what they and their employers would otherwise pay into Social Security in personal savings, investment, and insurance accounts. My own studies with various colleagues over the years show that at standard, long-term, market investment returns, for an average income, two-earner couple over a career, the accounts would accumulate to close to a million dollars or more, depending on how big the account option is. Even lower income workers could regularly accumulate half a million over their careers.
Those accumulated funds would pay all workers of all income levels much higher benefits than Social Security even promises let alone what it could pay. That includes one earner couples with stay at home moms caring for the children. Retirees would each be free to choose to leave any portion of these funds to their children at death.
In retirement, benefits payable from the personal accounts would substitute for a portion of Social Security benefits based on the degree to which workers exercised the account option over their careers. This is where the spending savings come in. The personal accounts don't just reduce the growth of government spending. They shift vast swaths of such spending from the public sector altogether, to the private sector.
Gingrich proposes to start the accounts focused on younger workers first. But over time the accounts would be expanded to take over financing for all of the benefits financed by the payroll tax today. That would ultimately amount to the greatest reduction in government spending in world history.
Moreover, eventually replacing the payroll tax entirely with personal savings and investment directly owned by each worker and his family would provide the greatest reduction in taxes in world history.
In 1981, the South American nation of Chile, then with a Social Security system just like ours, with the same problems, adopted such a personal account option, with astounding success. Virtually all workers chose the accounts within 18 months, and for 30 years now they have paid half the taxes of the old system, in return for at least twice the benefits, while their economy boomed with all the increased savings and investment. Those reforms included a safety net guarantee of former Social Security benefits, which has never suffered a loss or cost due to failure of a personal account to beat the old system. That is also included in the Gingrich plan.
In America itself, such a system was tried in 1981 as well, for local government workers in Galveston, Texas, who still enjoyed an option under the law then to choose an alternative to the current system. Just as in Chile, for 30 years now they have paid much less into their personal account savings and investment system than required by Social Security, but receive much more in benefits. The similar Thrift Savings Plan retirement system for federal employees has similarly worked spectacularly well now for nearly 30 years.
Model legislation providing for such accounts was introduced in 2004 and 2005 by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), now Chairman of the House Budget Committee. I worked closely with Ryan in developing that legislation. A similar proposal is now included in the Ryan Roadmap. On September 12 of this year, Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI) introduced another model bill on which I worked closely as well.
Both bills were officially scored by the Chief Actuary of Social Security as eliminating all future Social Security deficits through the operation of the personal accounts alone, without benefit cuts or tax increases. Indeed, as discussed above, future retirees with personal accounts would enjoy higher not lower benefits. In the process, with full personal accounts the unfunded liabilities of Social Security, currently officially estimated at $15.1 trillion, would ultimately be eliminated entirely, as the personal accounts involve shifting to a fully funded retirement financing system. That would be the greatest reduction in effective government debt in world history. The Chief Actuary's scores for both bills are still available at the official Social Security Administration website.
Under both bills, as well as under the Gingrich plan, workers would be completely free to choose to stay in Social Security as is without exercising the personal account option at all. There would be no benefit cuts or tax increases for these workers either. That is possible because as the Chief Actuary explicitly recognized in scoring the bills, the personal accounts would so obviously be a better deal for workers and their families than the current program that he concluded that 100 percent of workers would ultimately choose the accounts. Of course, under the Gingrich plan, as under both bills, there would be no changes in Social Security of any sort for anyone currently in retirement, or anywhere near retirement.
No other reform would do so much to promote equality of wealth among the American people, not through the economically counterproductive redistribution of existing wealth, but through the creation of new wealth more equally owned. Indeed, based on studies by Harvard Professor Martin Feldstein, full personal accounts would reduce the concentration of wealth in America by one half.
The personal accounts would also funnel mighty rivers of savings and investment into the economy today, promoting economic growth and more jobs and higher wages for working people now. That would also promote more equality.
Block Grant Welfare Back to the States
Gingrich's entitlement reform proposals also include block granting all remaining federal means-tested entitlement programs back to the states, following the model of the enormously successful 1996 reforms of the old New Deal era AFDC program, spearheaded by Gingrich when he was Speaker of the House. These programs are estimated to cost taxpayers $10 trillion over the next 10 years alone.
If any liberal reform had been as wildly successful as those 1996 welfare reforms, every schoolchild in America would have been forced to memorize the details by now. Those reforms involved the ultimate welfare policy dream of President Reagan and his long time welfare guru Robert Carleson, as explained in Carleson's recent posthumously published book Government Is the Problem: Memoirs of Ronald Reagan's Welfare Reformer. I worked directly for Carleson in the Reagan White House.
The reform returned the share of federal spending on the program to each state in the form of a "block grant” to be used in a new welfare program redesigned by the state based on mandatory work for the able bodied. Federal funding for AFDC previously was based on a matching formula, with the federal government giving more to each state the more it spent on the program, effectively paying the states to spend more. The key to the 1996 reforms was that the new block grants to each state were finite, not matching, so the federal funding did not vary with the amount the state spent. If a state's new program cost more, the state had to pay the extra costs itself. If the program cost less, the state could keep the savings.
With these transformed incentives, the old AFDC rolls were reduced by two-thirds nationwide, even more in states that pushed work most aggressively. As a result, in real dollars total federal and state spending on the program by 2006 was down 31 percent from AFDC spending in 1995, and down by more than half of what it would have been under prior trends. Welfare spending could never be cut by 50 percent merely by trying to cut benefits.
At the same time, because of the resulting increased work by former welfare dependents, the poor benefitted as well. Child poverty declined every year, falling by 2000 to levels not seen since 1978, as Ron Haskins of the Brookings Institution reports in his 2006 book evaluating the 1996 welfare reforms, Work Over Welfare. "[B]y 2000 the poverty rate of black children was the lowest it had ever been. The percentage of families in deep poverty, defined as half the poverty level…also declined until 2000, falling about 35% during the period,” Haskins adds. The incomes of the poor formerly dependent on AFDC rose by 25%, now paid by their private employers in the labor market, rather than taxpayers.
Gingrich proposes to extend these same block grant reforms to all other 184 means tested federal welfare programs, including Medicaid, Food Stamps, 27 low income housing programs, 30 employment and training programs, 34 social services programs, another dozen food and nutrition programs, another 22 low income health programs, and 24 low income child care programs, among others. This would amount to sending welfare back to the states, achieving the complete dream of Reagan and Carleson in restoring the original federalism and state control over welfare. It also follows the spirit of the Tea Party movement in restoring power to the states and gaining control over government spending, deficits, and debt.
If the results are anything like those for the 1996 reforms, the total savings for taxpayers would be enormous, and the poor would be much better off. With the states experimenting and competing to put the able bodied to work, instead of taxpayers paying the bottom 20 percent of income earners not to work as today, private employers would be paying them to work, and contribute to the economy.
Repeal and Replace Obamacare
Gingrich's proposed entitlement reforms include as well repealing and replacing Obamacare with Patient Power, as long advanced by John Goodman of the National Center for Policy Analysis.
The classic example of such policy is Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), which were also first recognized in federal law when Gingrich was Speaker. The concept behind HSAs is to start with an insurance policy with a high annual deductible, which reduces the cost of the insurance substantially. The savings are then kept in the HSA to pay expenses below the deductible. Generally, after one healthy year with little or no medical expenses, the patient by the second year would have more than enough in the account to cover all expenses below the deductible.
This transforms the incentives of third party payment. For all but catastrophic health expenses, the patient is essentially using his own money for health care. Whatever he doesn't spend he can keep. So the patient will try to avoid unnecessary care, and look for less expensive care and alternatives for what he does need.
In turn, since patients would now be concerned about costs, doctors, hospitals and other providers would now compete to control costs, as well as maximize quality, as in all normal markets. This competition would become more intense and effective the more widespread HSAs and similar incentives become. These incentives would flow all the way through to the developers of new technologies. Since both patients and health providers are now concerned with costs, technology innovators would now have incentives to develop technologies that reduce costs, as well as improve quality.
Gingrich proposes to control health costs by expanding HSAs throughout the health care system. Workers would be empowered with the freedom to choose them in place of employer provided coverage, the poor would be empowered to choose them for their Medicaid coverage, seniors would be empowered to choose them for Medicare.
Gingrich supports extending similar Patient Power to the poor in Medicaid with designated sums for the purchase of private insurance coverage in competitive markets, resulting in incentives for cost saving choices among competing health insurance alternatives. That would greatly benefit the poor because Medicaid today is structurally an institution serving to deny the poor essential health care just when they are the sickest and most in need of such care. That is because Medicaid does not pay the doctors and hospitals enough to assure such care. But with the above reform, the poor would enjoy the same health care as the middle class because they would have the same private insurance as the middle class, paying market rates for care.
Gingrich supports doing the same for Medicare, with retirees free to choose premium support through the program for the purchase of the private health insurance of their choice, similar to Ryan's proposal. The same approach for the drug coverage of Medicare Part D has proved quite successful in controlling costs. A personal savings and investment account for the Medicare payroll tax during working years would provide additional funds that can be used in retirement for the purchase of private health insurance of the workers' choice, which would result from Gingrich's proposed ultimate expansion of personal accounts.
Gingrich further supports replacing Obamacare with a complete health care safety net assuring essential health care for all, achieved with no individual mandate and no employer mandate. That safety net focused on the truly needy would cost just a fraction of the cost of Obamacare, actually sharply reducing government in the process.
That starts with the provision already in federal law, stemming from the Kennedy-Kassebaum legislation of the 1990s also enacted when Gingrich was Speaker, providing for guaranteed renewability. That means if you already have health insurance, you cannot be terminated because you become sick. That is what health insurance insures against after all, so such termination would actually be fraud, as state law across the country recognized even before Kennedy-Kassebaum. Under this regulation, insurers also cannot discriminatorily raise rates for those who become sick while insured. This law ensures that if you have health insurance, you will be able to keep it as long as you continue to pay the premiums.
The next component involves block granting and reforming Medicaid as discussed above, assuring that no one would suffer without essential health care because they were too poor to buy insurance. The final component would be a high risk pool in each state for the uninsured who never get coverage and then become too sick with costly illnesses like cancer or heart disease to buy it. The uninsured in this case would be able to get coverage as a last resort from the high risk pool, paying what they can based on their income, with taxes subsidizing the pool to keep it afloat. Because only 1-2 percent ever become actually uninsurable like this, this is the most inexpensive option for assuring an essential safety net.
What Gingrich has now proposed is the most cutting edge, advanced, sweeping, entitlement reform, sufficient to solve America's long term fiscal crisis, while better providing for those in need, which is what makes it politically viable and so exciting.

How to Make Sense of the European Union Disaster

By T.S. Weidler

Everything you need to know to understand the European Union can be discovered by simply glancing at the location of its headquarters.  Brussels is in Belgium, which is not a real country, does not have a government, and does not have any money.
Belgium has not had a government for a year and half, yet the capital city (to the degree that a country without a government can have a capital) is host to one of the largest government organizations in the world.  The ironies and paradoxes of the EU are clearly seen in the microcosm of Belgium.
Belgium was invented in 1839, when the powers of Europe decided to carve out sections of the Netherlands and Luxembourg and assigned what resulted the name "Belgium."  This despite the fact that the bit of land was inhabited by Flemish, Walloons, Dutch, French, various Germans, and several other minority groups that had been hostile to each other for centuries.  A group of unelected European leaders stepped in and said, "Let there be Belgium," and suddenly, there was Belgium -- but it was not a nation.  Decrees do not make nations.  Belgium is a haphazard collection of once-independent states with no interest in joining together and substantial reasons not to.
Over the years, Belgian governments have maintained majority rule by offering entitlements and subsidies to every niche group they can find.  This is the only way to get a majority in a country with eleven major political parties divided on ethnic and linguistic lines.  Naturally, it leads to dangerous deficits.  It all came to a halt in the general election of June 2010.  No coalition has been able to strike a deal to create a majority.  Parties join together to form majorities only when there is a significant handout being offered, but with a crashing economy, nobody is willing to continue this charade.  Last week the interest rate on Belgian debt jumped into crisis levels.  Belgium's credit rating has been systematically cycling downward for the past two years.  There is a strong secessionist movement to break into at least two independent nations, while others push for a stronger central authority to enforce unification.  So Belgium hasn't had a government for seventeen months running.
Aside from debt, secession, and anarchy, there is also the matter of national defense.  The powers that breathed Belgium into existence did so on the condition that it remain neutral in military affairs.  Neutrality ensured that France, Germany, and Britain would have a low-lying, centrally located piece of land on which to fight wars, rather than having to deal with the unpleasantries on their own land.  Belgium is whatever Europe needs it to be: a buffer zone when things are hostile, a highway for tanks when you want to go on offense, and a shooting range when the war starts.  It was created for the purpose of hosting other countries' wars and is required to remain neutral so as not to spoil the fun.  It has served this purpose quite well over the years.  It doesn't matter that the various factions that happen to be stuck inside its borders have no desire to run a country of their own.  They have to do it anyway because it is convenient for the rest of Europe.  Belgium would be a joke if it weren't a tragedy.
So it goes for the EU.  Germany would rather not bail out Greece and Italy, and Greece and Italy would rather not be swallowed up by the European leviathan.  Doesn't matter -- they have to do it anyway because Europe is all roped together now.
The EU is not a real country.  It is a collection of independent states that have no national interest in joining forces, and substantial reasons not to.  It does not have a functional government, but it does have just enough of a government to make everyone's life worse, and to run up enormous deficits.  Like Belgium, it has no national defense to speak of and numerous factions that are hostile to one another.
All historical evidence suggests that Europe is a fragmented and dangerous place, with constant wars covering its entire history.  It is the only continent on which something called "The Hundred Years' War" ever happened.  In the last century, some of these constant small battles were saved up and unleashed as the two biggest wars in world history.  But even WWI and WWII were not enough to satisfy the bloodlust haunting Europe.  There was also the small matter of a Soviet occupation of half the continent and countless feuds within feuds.  Italy just completed its 61st change in government in 66 years.  Spain was ruled by a dictator up until 1975 and had its first democratic election in 1977.  Germany, of course, tried to take over the world twice, and always followed the advice of bumper stickers by thinking globally and invading locally.  The effort to make these nations suddenly join together in happiness and love is one of the most foolish ventures ever conceived.  It is unraveling now.  It would be a joke if it weren't tragic.
The EU is Belgium writ large.  A group of unelected officials from around Europe got together and dreamed up the EU, then arbitrarily made it happen.  Now it is in the position of managing the countless factions of Europe.  Constant bailouts and subsidies are the only things that keep everyone happy.  There isn't enough money to keep up the charade, and there are considerable efforts to break it up.  Each nation of the EU is held together by nothing more than the selfish decrees of others.  It is crashing as you read.
Europe has come full circle.  The EU has taken over Italy and Greece and installed unelected puppet regimes there.  Belgium, a puppet nation dreamed up by Europe with no history, no government, and no money, finds itself ruling puppet governments of the two foundational sources of European civilization because they have no money.  In WWII Germany went through Belgium to take over France.  Now Germany is going through Belgium to take over Italy and Greece.
This is all you need to know about the EU.  It is a messy assortment of peoples haphazardly crammed together, with no functional government, saddled with extremely high debt.  Belgium was created as a puppet nation with no historical roots.  Now it's been converted into a base from which all of Europe is held together as a puppet nation with no historical roots.  The EU, like Belgium, is not strong enough to govern its various factions, nor does any freedom-lover desire it to be.  The cradles of European history, Athens and Rome, are swallowed up by a puppet newcomer.  It would be tragic if it wasn't an outrage.
The next EU takeover will probably be Spain, and there will be more after that.  At some point Europe will fall.  The only question is the direction in which it falls.  It may fall into totalitarianism, or it may dissolve back to its historical national divisions.  There are mounting efforts in both of these directions already, and there will be tremendous instability either way.  Do not be surprised if there is war.  Watch what Belgium does.

A Mack by Any Other Name

By Larry Thornberry

What's in a name? Rather a lot in politics, it seems. Florida Congressman Connie Mack IV has officially hopped into the race for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination and has immediately vaulted well ahead of the rest of the Republican field. A poll or two have actually shown Mack ahead of the current liberal incumbent Bill Nelson, who is seeking his third Senate term and is a loyal supporter of Barack O'Barnum and his leftist policies. None of the pre-Mack candidates have come close to leading Nelson. 
Florida conservatives now show evidence of being energized by a race that to this point, even with several capable candidates, has been mostly dead air. Though at this point it's not altogether clear what all the excitement is about.
The word out of the Mack organization for weeks now has been that the son of former Florida U.S. Senator Connie Mack III (1989-2001) would run for the nomination he said he would not pursue in March (using the "spend more time with my family" euphemism for the less cuddly admission, "I don't think I can win this"). Mack announced officially Monday night on Hannity.
Mack has a conservative voting record in the U.S. House, where he has represented the Fort Myers (lower west coast) area since 2005. In his initial campaign remarks he has talked a conservative line:
"The idea that Washington will solve all of our problems is a failed model," Mack said. "Senator Nelson has stood side by side with President Obama, and I don't think I can say it any more clear than that."
And this: "The people of the state of Florida, what they're telling me is they've had enough. They've had enough of the lockstep liberals in Washington fighting for more government control of their lives."
Mack charges that both Obama and Nelson seem to believe that America can spend itself back to prosperity. Mack croons about his concern for the small business owner who is attempting to create jobs but is being held back by taxes and regulation created by the tag-team of Obama and Nelson.
Mack goes on to flog Nelson for his support of the Obama agenda "of more government," which good-solider Nelson has voted with 98 percent of the time, including items such as Obamacare, cap and trade, the Obama "stimulus" slush fund, raising the debt ceiling without end, amen, and other policies that don't sell well in center-right Florida. 
All these things Mack is saying excite Republicans' political erogenous zones. But there exists yet no political instrument sensitive enough to measure the minute differences between what Mack is saying and what the other Republican candidates in this race, in full campaign mode for months, have been saying and getting no traction at all.
So why the excitement about Mack, when none existed for former U.S. Senator George LeMieux, former Florida House majority leader Adam Hasner, and businessman Craig Miller? There's not a palooka among this trio. But in polling to this point they've all finished well behind "someone chosen randomly out of the phone book."
Could the current Mack delirium be just a matter of name recognition? Possibly so. After three terms in the U.S. House, Mack III was a popular U.S. Senator from Florida from 1989 to 2001. Perhaps there's a bit of name miss-recognition going on here too, with an unknown number of poll respondents believing it is the former Senator himself making a comeback. (If there are voters who actually believe Mack IV is in fact his baseball manger and owner great grandfather, I'm really worried about these folks.)
Some pundits and political consultants have said that in addition to name ID, the source of Mack's popularity in the Republican base is that he's seen as more electable than the other candidates. When asked what makes Mack more electable, these worthies become vague.
LeMieux admittedly has too many vowels in his name for anyone to remember how to spell it (I have to look it up every time). But he put together a conservative record in his short time in the U.S. Senate. The same can be said for Hasner's time in the Florida legislature. Air Force veteran Miller put together some real achievement in the private sector, and because of his trade association work he's no political tender-foot either. Of the now four main candidates, Mack is probably the least articulate.
So, we'll have to see if this lasts. Mack may well be the Florida conservative horse for 2012. Or he may just be the flavor of the new month because conservatives were bored with the hand they had been dealt to this point. We already have the example of Rick Perry who jumped immediately into a lead when he was the new kid on the block and faded as voters got to know more about him.
Some of Mack's views on the climate change hustle and immigration may leave Florida conservatives scratching their heads. But, these tics aside, Mack is by any measure well to the right of Nelson. And many Florida conservatives today are saying the good news is there is a hope now of replacing a Florida liberal with a conservative in the U.S. Senate where there was none before.