By Its Own Criteria, the Obama Administration Is An Economic Failure

Lately there has been a fair amount of happy talk from liberal pundits about our supposedly robust economy. Such optimistic evaluations have been guarded, since everyone knows that the jobs picture is still bleak, largely because of runaway legal and illegal immigration. But there is an even more fundamental measure by which the Obama administration is an economic failure.

The 2014 numbers are now in on America’s gross domestic product, the total amount of wealth generated over the course of a year, as best it can be measured. They are grim, as the Wall Street Journal reports:

The Commerce Department’s third estimate of fourth-quarter gross domestic product also showed that the economy slowed in the final months of 2014, putting the growth trajectory on a lower path ahead of an apparent slowdown early this year.

GDP, the broadest measure of goods and services produced across the economy, expanded at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 2.2% in the fourth quarter, the Commerce Department said.

This means that the GDP grew by only 2.2% for the year as a whole, as well. Click to enlarge:

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This is down from last year’s GDP growth of around 3.1%.

Is 2.2% an acceptable rate of economic growth? No, but don’t take my word for it. By the Obama administration’s own standards, it has been a failure.

President Obama submitted his proposed budget for FY 2011 in February 2010. Its tone was triumphalist. Obama had the good fortune to take office in the wake of a financial collapse and a recession, and his budget predicted robust economic growth in the years to come. Table S-1 set out, among other things, the administration’s projections of GDP in future years. Here they are, in millions of dollars, along with my calculation of the projected growth rate:

2012 16,203

2013 17,182 = 6%

2014 18,139 = 5.6%

2015 19,190 = 5.8%

2016 20,163 = 5%

The federal fiscal year runs from October to October, so it is not exactly coextensive with the calendar year, but that discrepancy is immaterial for this purpose. As you can see, the Obama administration expected its policies to product GDP growth of 5% to 6% in 2014, far more than the 2.2% actually experienced, as well as the 3.1% attained in 2013.

As time went by, Obama’s economists realized that the administration’s policies were not producing the growth they had expected. Thus, in February 2012, when the administration released its proposed budget for FY 2013, its projections were revised as follows:

FY 2012 15,602

FY 2013 16,335 = 4.7%

FY 2014 17,156 = 5%

FY 2015 18,178 = 6%

FY 2016 19,261 = 6%

Note that the projection for FY 2013 was revised downward by $847 billion. Still, prosperity was just around the corner, as the administration still expected growth in 2014 to be 5% to 6%, with robust growth thereafter.

Two years later, the numbers had changed again. When the president’s FY 2015 budget was released in March 2014, these were the predicted GDP numbers:

FY 2013 16,619

FY 2014 17,332 = 4.3%

FY 2015 18,219 = 5.1%

FY 2016 19,181 = 5.3%

FY 2017 20,199 = 5.3%

But even then, just one year ago, the Obama administration predicted that economic growth in 2014 would be 4.3% or greater–twice the actual number. The administration’s current projection for FY 2015 is nearly $1 trillion lower than what it expected in 2010. That is around $3,000 per person.

So don’t take my word for it: the Obama administration is an economic failure, judged by its own criteria. Its policies have achieved only a fraction of the economic growth that the administration confidently predicted when it took office. It is remarkable that this failure has occurred, despite exploding energy production and resulting lower prices–which the administration would have prevented, if it could have.

Some, of course, are not surprised. When did cronyism, spiraling government spending, massive government debt, corruption and excessive regulation ever contribute to economic growth? The Obama administration has confirmed something we have known for a long time: left-wing economic policies fail.

Keeping Bill at his best

In the New York Times, Patrick Healy and Amy Chozick worry over Bill Clinton’s role in Madam Hillary’s presidential campaign in a story headlined “To avert repeat of 2008, Clinton team hopes to keep Clinton at his best.” In this case, “keeping Bill at his best” doesn’t mean what it might mean to you or me. There is no mention of Bill’s lady friends — “the Energizer,” for example. No worry about “keeping him at this best” in that department.

In Lausanne, Mr. Motthagi sums it up

The latest from the negotiations with Iran over a deal blessing its nuclear program indicates that the catastrophe should arrive on schedule, before the March 31 deadline. In the New York Times Michael Gordon reports that “Iran’s top negotiator says accord can be drafted.” Gordon’s report should be read in the light of Adam Kredo’s March 26 Free Beacon story “US caves to key Iranian demands as nuke deal comes together.”

None of this comes as any surprise. So far as we can tell, the Obama administration has capitulated to every significant demand made by the Islamic Republic of Iran. Negotiations that were premised on the objective of foreclosing Iran’s path to nuclear weapons will produce an agreement that finances and facilitates them. As Winston Churchill said of the Munich Agreement, “we have sustained a defeat without a war, the consequences of which will travel far with us along our road.”

Unlike the British in 1938, however, most of us have our eyes open. We are not fooled by Hassan Rouhani or the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran. We do not share the vision of the Supreme Leader of the United States

The negotiations have produced one surprise this weekend: the defection of a close media aide to Iranian President Rouahani. The defecting man is Amir Hossein Mottaghi. The Telegraph reports that Motaghi managed public relations for Mr Rouhani during his 2013 election campaign and is said to have quit his job at the Iran Student Correspondents Association. He has sought political asylum in Switzerland after traveling to Lausanne to cover the nuclear talks.

Mottaghi appeared on an Iranian opposition television channel based in London. In his television interview, Mottaghi nicely summed up the negotiations: “The US negotiating team are mainly there to speak on Iran’s behalf with other members of the 5+1 countries and convince them of a deal.”

Will Global Warming Cause Prostitution?

Democratic Congresswoman Barbara Lee has introduced a resolution in the House that is based on the premise that “women will disproportionately face harmful impacts from climate change.” This is parody come to life: world about to end, women and minorities hit hardest! Among the horrors that climate change will give rise to, according to the resolution, is the likelihood that “food insecure women with limited socioeconomic resources may be vulnerable to situations such as sex work, transactional sex, and early marriage….”

Which gives one pause. The Earth is currently cooler than it has been around 93% of the time since the end of the last Ice Age, according to ice core data. Does this mean that the past was an orgy of “sex work”? Well, in some times and places it probably was.

But let’s take this prophecy of runaway prostitution as a typical example of the hysteria that surrounds global warming. Does such extremism make any sense whatsoever? Amid the hoopla, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that global warming theory argues that a doubling of atmospheric CO2 will cause an increase in the Earth’s average temperature of 1 degree C. Alarmists rely on hypothetical positive feedbacks (the most important of which, an alleged increase in water vapor, has already been disproved) to magnify that 1 degree into 3 degrees. Actually, the feedbacks are likely negative, but put that to the side for a moment. The range of change we are talking about–1 to 3 degrees Celsius–is small in relation to temperature variations that already exists.

This site lists the average annual temperature for each of the fifty states. The variation is remarkable. In my home state of Minnesota, the average temperature is 5.1 degrees C. In Alabama, it is 17.1. That is a 12 degree difference, 12 times as much as the theoretical change in temperature due to a doubling of CO2. Would it be a tragedy if Minnesota’s climate were 1/12 of the way closer to Alabama’s? One wouldn’t think so. The widest disparity is between Alaska (-3.0) and Florida (21.5). That is 24 times the change that theoretically would occur from a doubling of CO2.

The point is that people, plants and animals thrive, and have thrived, across a very broad range of temperatures. Polar bears–to take one ludicrously-hyped example–have lived for millions of years under conditions both much warmer and much colder than any now in prospect. People, today, live under a far broader range of temperatures than any prospective change due to global warming, even if the alarmists are right.

I suppose it is conceivable that the particular 1 to 3 degree change forecasted by the global warming hysterics could somehow be different, and bring about catastrophic consequences that we haven’t seen from the much greater variations that now exist, and have existed in the past. But if the alarmists really want to convince us that more CO2 in the atmosphere will bring about an increase in prostitution, they had better present a highly convincing and very specific analysis. Which, of course, they haven’t.

What Really Happened to Harry Reid? Part 2

Scott wrote here about Harry Reid’s announcement that he will not run for re-election, a decision which, Reid was quick to say, was not the result of his “elastic exercise band” accident. In January, I wrote OK, So What Really Happened to Harry Reid? I noted the injuries that Reid suffered on New Year’s Day, in Las Vegas: multiple broken bones around his right eye, damage to the right eye, severe facial bruising, broken ribs, and a concussion. Was all of this really the result of losing his balance because an elastic exercise band broke? That seems unlikely, to say the least.

Anyone who saw Reid would say that he looked like he had been beaten up by a guy with a hard left, maybe using brass knuckles:

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Even now, Reid apparently doesn’t have the use of his right eye:

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When a guy shows up at a Las Vegas emergency room on New Year’s Day with severe facial injuries and broken ribs, and gives as an explanation the functional equivalent of “I walked into a doorknob,” it isn’t hard to guess that he ran afoul of mobsters. Yet the national press has studiously averted its eyes from Reid’s condition, and has refused to investigate the cause of his injuries. To my knowledge, every Washington reporter has at least pretended to believe Reid’s story, and none, as far as I can tell, has inquired further.

This hasn’t stopped people from wondering what happened. Every day, thousands of people Google “What happened to Harry Reid?” or “What really happened to Harry Reid?” So far, more than 90,000 such searchers have found their way to my “OK, So What Really Happened to Harry Reid?” post, which is typically the first thing that comes up on Google:

Screen Shot 2015-03-28 at 3.32.55 PM

A friend of mine was in Las Vegas a week or two ago. He talked to a number of people there about Reid’s accident, and didn’t find anyone who believed the elastic exercise band story. The common assumption was that the incident resulted, in some fashion, from Reid’s relationship with organized crime. The principal rumor my friend heard was that Reid had promised to obtain some benefit for a group of mobsters. He met with them on New Year’s Day, and broke the bad news that he hadn’t been able to deliver what he promised. When the mobsters complained, Reid (according to the rumor) made a comment that they considered disrespectful, and one of them beat him up.

Is that what really happened? I have no idea, but it is a more likely story than the elastic exercise band yarn.

What happened to Reid is not just a matter of curiosity. Everyone knows that the Reid family has gotten rich, even though Reid has spent his entire career as a public employee. It is known that a considerable part of his fortune came from being cut in on sweetheart Las Vegas land deals that included at least one person associated with organized crime as a principal. Was the Senate Majority Leader in the pocket of the Mafia? That seems like a question worth exploring, and yet, to my knowledge, not a single investigative reporter has chosen to look into the matter, even with the obvious clue of Reid’s face in front of them.

The deliberate blindness of Democratic Party reporters hasn’t stopped people from speculating about what really happened to Harry Reid, but so far, at least, it has prevented the story from exploding into a major scandal.

Claiming race-victimization — everyone wants to get in on the act

Recently, Taraji Henson, a well-known actress, accused the Glendale, California police of racial profiling after an officer pulled her son over and questioned him. In a magazine interview, Henson stated:

My child has been racially profiled. He was in Glendale, California and did exactly everything the cops told him to do, including letting them illegally search his car. It was bogus because they didn’t give him the ticket for what he was pulled over for.

Henson tweeted to the same effect during #BlackLivesMatter protests:

Racial profiling is VERY REAL!!! It has happened to me but to my son more and he is only 20!!! Something needs to be done. #SERIOUSLY

And:

I worked my butt off 2 break a cycle. Get my son out of the hood. Thinking his privileged lifestyle would protect him from profiling. #WRONG

Henson went so far as to say she was enrolling her son in the historically-black Howard University rather than the University of Southern California because of the incident.

As Chuck Ross reports, however, the video of the incident in question exploding Henson’s oh-so convenient narrative.

It’s true, as Henson said, that the police didn’t give her son a ticket for the offense for which he was pulled over — driving through a lighted crosswalk while a pedestrian was crossing the street. But the officer declined to ticket the young man as a favor, as Henson now acknowledges.

Add another example to the “no good deed goes unpunished” file.

Here, according to Ross, is what the video showed:

After the officer told [Henson's son] why he was stopped, [he] admitted he had some marijuana in his backpack and a Ritalin pill that was not prescribed to him. He said that he had a license for medical marijuana but that he could not find it. He also said he had smoked marijuana two hours earlier.

“I appreciate you being honest with me about the weed. I do appreciate that because I do smell weed,” the cop said. “So thank you for being honest about that.”

“I do appreciate your cooperation on that, I really do.”

Other officers showed up and searched Johnson’s car for the Ritalin but did not find it. They also found a knife during the search but determined that it was legal. Johnson was also given a field sobriety test, which he passed.

The officer appeared to deal with Johnson in a professional manner. He even helped Johnson out by not citing him for the traffic infraction or for having recently smoked marijuana. Instead, the officer wrote him an order to appear in court to produce the medical marijuana license.

“I’m not going to give you a citation for running that yellow because that would actually put a moving violation on your driving license, and you are going to have to go to traffic school and all that stuff, so I am helping you by not giving you a violation on it,” the officer told Johnson. “All I am going to do is take the weed from you.”

After viewing the video, Henson apologized to the Glendale police and thanked the officer for his kindness towards her son. Maybe now she will let him attend USC, though one hopes she imposes some penalty on him for apparently lying to her about the incident and making her look like an idiot.

But how many police officers face bogus allegations of racism — sometimes, as in Darren Wilson’s case, with devastating impact on their career — due to efforts by wrongdoers to deflect blame through bogus racism allegations, and the eagerness of fools and ideologues to assume the truth of such allegations?

Fred Siegel Explains It All, Part 2

In this second installment of our conversation with Fred Siegel, we explore Fred’s roots as a “social democrat” as it was meant in the postwar era (or until, as Fred explains, the New Left destroyed it in the 1960s), and the evolution of his views because of the Vietnam War, his tutelage under Irving Howe at Dissent magazine, and his thoughts about the “Frankfurt School”—a leftist sect of the early postwar years that may have faded somewhat from view today, but which remains a very important background influence for leftist thought.  This installment is about 7 minutes long:

And if you missed Part 1, you can find it right here.