Sunday, March 29, 2009

GM = Government Mush

At the urging of the Obama Administration, chairman and CEO of General Motors Rick Wagoner is stepping down so that GM can get federal funds in the future. Some are cheering this decision because Wagoner was behind some of the bad decisions GM has made over the years that created the conditions under which they needed a bailout. Others are stating that the government is overstepping its bounds by forcing Wagoner out as an enticement to get more money.

Guess which camp I'm in.

The main problem I see with the Administration's actions is that the Executive Branch doesn't control where funds get sent or spent; that's the Legislative Branch's job. Granted, there's not much chance of Congress not doing what Obama wants, but that's not the point. The point is that it is a sheer power grab that will negatively impact the economy. By giving government the power to determine who runs a company, you give government the power to determine how that company is run. And last time I checked, don't they have a country to run?

On an economic level, the government calling the shots at a company is a bad idea because government officials are not traditionally bound by the laws of supply and demand. When the government doesn't have enough money to cover their expenditures, they can simply print more money. When a business doesn't have enough money to cover its expenditures, it has to either cut costs or go out of business. Anyone else see the problem with letting government take over a business? If not, let me explain it slowly to you. If you get someone in charge of a company who has no clue of how make ends meet, that company won't last very long.

Even more disturbing than the government's hardball tactics with GM is the fact that Wagoner agreed to the terms. Obviously, he probably was responsible for the business decisions that lead to the company's economic troubles. If not, he would have been made the person to blame by the government. Seeing how the government and the general public treated AIG's CEO recently, Wagoner would have been in for a lot of anger directed his way. I'm sure he didn't want to put his family through the hell I'm sure he saw, which could have played a role in his decision.

Having said that, I would have liked Wagoner to stand up for the capitalist system. What would the Obama Administration have done if Wagoner had said, "You know, I'm not going to resign until I'm ready to resign. Sure, we'll be out the federal money you'd be able to give me, but we'll figure out a way to get by without it because the price tag you put on my compliance is far too great for myself, and for this country."

But that would have required courage, and regrettably, these days it's in rather short supply.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Why I Defend AIG

Sure, popular opinion is against AIG, putting any of their defenders in the uncomfortable position of going against the crowd. And I'll admit, I wasn't exactly on their side when the story about their bonuses first broke, but I've come around and am firmly in their camp. This will get me labeled by some as a corporate toadie or worse, but what changed my mind was a simple question, one that should be on the minds of everyone with an opinion on the AIG situation.

Who's next?

With all of the attention focused on AIG right now, it's frightfully easy to overlook the possibility that this is either a first step or another step in some grander plan. Either way, the AIG situation became a testing ground for Leftists to see how they could turn public opinion against a company with a few well-placed lies that fed into the "eat the rich" mentality that is prevalent in today's society. And, boy, did we get played for suckers by the Left. With a few statements from the real criminals (that's Congress for those of you playing along at home) feigning outrage over a condition they knew was happening (because, well, they created the loophole for it to happen), we were ready to pick up torches and pitchforks to storm AIG.

Now, it's only a matter of time before another company gets targeted, and we're whipped into a frenzy again.

We're already seeing some rumblings that could become the next AIG. For example, the NAACP has filed a lawsuit against Wells Fargo, claiming unfair business practices used against African-Americans to force them into bad loans. And given how mortgage companies have already taken a PR beating due to the subprime mortgage crisis, it's not outside of the realm of possibility that Wells Fargo or some other mortgage company/bank to get demonized, thus the cycle continues. Then, it will be another company, and then another, and so on until the public loses all faith in the corporate world and becomes fully vested wards of the state.

Sorry, folks, but I don't swing that way. I kinda like my freedom, and for all its faults, capitalism is the socioeconomic system that gives me the best chance of retaining my freedom.

That's why I defend AIG. And that's why you should, too.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Misplaced Anger

Yesterday, the media circus was centered in Washington, DC, where AIG CEO and chairman Edward Liddy was being grilled. Judging from the comments of some people I overheard and read yesterday, people are more than willing to throw the book at Liddy and heaping the lion's share of scorn on him.

Meanwhile, yesterday Connecticut Senator and Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd admitted that he was responsible for adding the loophole that allowed AIG to give out the bonuses in the first place. He even said that a Treasury Administration official pushed him to add the verbiage. Yet, the day before, Dodd said he had nothing to do with adding the loophole.

The timing of this revelation was rather convenient, wasn't it? After Dodd and his fellow Democrats whipped up a furvor against Liddy and AIG, Dodd let things cool down a bit before admitting his actions helped AIG hand out the bonuses. After all, all the spotlights were on AIG and all the wrong they were doing! Never mind the fact that these bonuses were contractual obligations that had nothing to do with the performance of the company, the Democrats smelled blood in the water and attacked.

But now that it's clear that at least one Democrat, one that had quite a bit of power over the transaction to begin with, caused the loophole that lead to the AIG bonus situation, why are people still upset wtih Liddy? Dodd's actions made it okay for AIG to hand out those bonuses in the first place! And now his fellow Democrats (and more than a few uninformed Americans) want AIG to pay for not breaking the law.

You AIG haters feel foolish enough yet? You should, but you can make up for it by supporting the removal of Chris Dodd from the Senate. Not a fine, not a slap on the wrist, not a resolution against him condemning his role in the AIG bonus situation. He deserves to be out of a job for this.

After all, haven't you guys been saying those responsible for the AIG bonus situation deserve to be unemployed?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Congressional Magic Act

In stage magic, sleight of hand is essential, but sometimes the magician needs to hide his or her true actions with a distraction so that the integrity of the trick is maintained. Usually this distraction is in the form of the magician's assistant, who does something that takes the audience's attention away from the magician for the length of time necessary for the prep work of the trick to be completed.

With the recent AIG controversy, President Obama and Congress have been attempting a trick worthy of David Copperfield. They're directing a lot of attention onto AIG for handing out bonuses. Nancy Pelosi wants the Attorney General to get back the money that Congress feels is excessive from any company that took federal bailout money. President Obama is upset at the greed, as is Barney Frank. Charles Schumer has even suggested that the AIG bonuses should be taxed at 100%.

One tiny problem. They're hypocrites.

Thanks to the good people at, it came out that President Obama received campaign contributions from AIG. Now, I'm not talking about a few bucks here and there. I'm talking $101,332, and he's only #2 on the list! The Grand Poobah of AIG contributions is Senator Christopher Dodd. In fact, the majority of recipients of AIG political contributions turn out to be Democrats, including some of the ones who are complaining the loudest about the AIG bonuses.

Not coincidentally, they're also some of the ones who created the environment for the current economic turmoil.

Listen, I'm not a big fan of AIG's actions, but I'm even less of a fan at the fake outrage expressed by Democrats right now. What they're doing is a version of sleight of hand: blaming an easy target to avoid having to admit how complicit they've been in the situations about which they lament now. And, with the news being full of stories of corporate misdeeds, it's easy to blame Big Business for acting like Marie Antoinette, as it is always easy to go after a faceless organization than it is to look at the deeper causes of a problem. That makes AIG into the magician's (albeit unwitting/unwilling) assistant to the government's magician.

But don't fall for the trick. Now that you know how it's done, you see it for what it is: utter dishonesty from a shameless pack of political wolves.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Rewarding Incompentence

Yesterday, I had a moment when I was convinced the person making a statement had no sense of irony. Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee Barney Frank called out AIG executives for taking what he felt was excessive bonuses after the country bailed out AIG last year. The part that got me was when Frank claimed the bonuses were an example of AIG "rewarding incompetence."

I do have to point out here one fact that Democrats like Frank always seem to overlook when discussing the AIG bailout or any other recent bailout for that matter: Democrats controlled both houses of Congress, and Congress controls spending. No matter how many times Frank and his ilk try to pass the blame for various aspects of the bailouts onto the Republicans or cast aspersions onto AIG, the fact is they could have stopped it all.

But they didn't. In fact, they were some of the biggest cheerleaders for the bailout.

Frank and other Congressional Democrats are also quick to point out the lack of oversight of the spending of the bailout funds. Yet, these are the same folks who could have put in the oversight they now lament wasn't in the bailout bill. If oversight was so important, why didn't Congressional Democrats insist upon it?

Are the bonuses AIG's executives received excessive? Given the company's financial situation, I think they would have been smart to voluntarily forego the bonuses or reduce the amount they took, if for no other reason than to keep people like Frank off their backs. The key word here is voluntarily. They should be smart enough to know that AIG is under the federal microscope since taking bailout money, so their every action will be scrutinized. Having said that, they made the choice to tempt fate (or at least the federal government), and they're going to pay the price for it with a beating in the media.

And while we're here, let me point out something to President Obama. You said yesterday that you may ask for some of the bailout money back from AIG. Under the Constitution, you can't do that because, as I noted earlier, Congress controls spending, and they gave AIG the money. Read up on the separation of powers, Mr. President, and get back to me.

After all of this, Frank did say something I agree with to a point. He said, "Maybe it's time to fire some people. We can't keep them from getting bonuses, but we can keep them from having jobs."

If that isn't a ringing endorsement to send Frank and his Democrat pals in Congress packing in 2010, I don't know what is.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

An Open Letter to Rick Santelli and Jim Cramer

Gentlemen, I'm going to have to take you out to the woodshed over something you did. No, it's not speaking out against Barack Obama and his economic plans. It's letting Jon Stewart humiliate you on "The Daily Show."

To put it simply, "The Daily Show" has the journalistic integrity of a supermarket tabloid. Actually, that's cruel. The supermarket tabloid might actually attempt balanced reporting. Plus, they have more pictures of space aliens than "The Daily Show." The best Stewart has been able to put together on that front is the occasional reference to Dennis Kucinich, but that's beside the point.

The point is that Stewart only looks like a news anchor. The guy was thrown off his game by John Kerry, for the love of Pete! But you two let him run all over you.

Mr. Santelli, you said something that was on the minds of millions of Americans. We are tired of playing by the rules and having our money taken for those who don't play by the rules. And what did you do when "The Daily Show" came a-callin'? You agreed to an interview and then backed out, which Stewart then turned against you. Appearing on his show and defending yourself would have made that a non-issue. He wouldn't have been able to mug for the camera if you had shown up and stood up to his grossly inaccurate characterization of your statements.

Mr. Cramer, you came out against Obama's economic plans, and I think you were right to do so. You have unique perspectives on the economy that most Americans don't, and many still look to you for financial advice. Your demeanor on "Mad Money" is one where you throw caution to the wind and run straight ahead. On "The Daily Show", you were a simpering coward. You let Stewart paint you as a wild-eyed madman without any credibility on anything financial through the use of clips from "Mad Money" where you make erroneous predictions.

In short, gentlemen, you were damned if you did and damned if you didn't. And when it came to defending yourselves against the slings and arrows of outrageous pretend news anchors, you sure as heck didn't. You treated him as though he were untouchable, like you couldn't call him on the carpet for anything he said. Whether it was due to internal pressures from within CNBC to "play ball", the media coverage of your statements done in a way to make you look like oddballs, the attacks from the Obama White House designed to discredit and dismiss you, or internal conflict over your political leanings versus your respective moments of intellectual honesty, you let yourselves down by letting Stewart walk all over you.

And you've let down the Americans who rallied behind you when you stood up to Obama.

It's time to stop cowering before Jon Stewart and "The Daily Show" and start manning up again. It's people like you who need to speak up in spite of the odds. Now is the time for courage, not cowardice.

Choose wisely, gentlemen. The country you save may be your own.

Friday, March 13, 2009

How Stupid Do You Think We Are?

That's right! The horrible economy that we've been hearing about for months isn't as bad as feared, or so says President Obama! Of course the fact that Obama's been spinning tales of economic gloom and doom isn't lost on me.

But what is lost on me is how the Left seems to think we're as dumb as they think we are. Take Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's comments recently about the need for a second stimulus package. And this is only a couple of weeks removed from the passage of the first stimulus package! Fortunately for us, she just said yesterday that a second stimulus package may not be in the cards right now, so I think our pocketbooks may be safe until Pelosi wants more money.

It's not just government where our leaders show contempt for the intelligence of the average American, though. Jon Stewart of "The Daily Show" recently had Jim Cramer of CNBC's "Mad Money" on his show and took Cramer to task for putting entertainment before journalism. Okay, I'm going to overlook the fact that Cramer isn't really a journalist, but I can't overlook the fact that neither is Stewart. He's the host of "The Daily Show" for the love of Pete! Yet, all of the sudden, he's a serious journalist and can criticize others for not following his rigorous journalistic standards of mugging for the camera and delivering jokes?

Even closer to home, the Left is affected by this shortsightedness. When George W. Bush was President, the Left loved to skewer him for leaving the White House and going back to his ranch at Crawford, Texas, when Congress wasn't in session. (Of course, this overlooks the fact that the President never really has a vacation, what with being the leader of the free world and all, but that's beside the point.) Now that Obama has been skipping town for various reasons, where are the people on the Left complaining about Obama going "on vacation"? And let's not forget the fact that Obama's pulling his disappearing act while Congress is still in session. Let me be perfectly clear here: this point isn't about Obama leaving the White House. This point is about how the Left has reacted to it as compared to the way they reacted when Bush did the same thing.

At the heart of all of these situations, and several more that I didn't mention due to space limitations, is the Left's utter contempt for the average American. Granted, there are some people on the Right who are just as contemptuous, and I find it equally disturbing. The difference, however, is that the Right tends to champion the intelligence of Americans, while the Left tends to prey upon it for political reasons. Unfortunately, at least for now, the Left's contempt for the intelligence of the average American is the norm, which gives them the confidence to try some of the idiotic tactics they've pulled so far, such as the incidents I've mentioned here.

But they are making a major miscalculation. We're not as dumb as they think we are.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Spare the Stem Cell, Spoil the Child?

With President Obama's decision to offer federal funding to research an extended number of stem cell lines including embryonic stem cells, the embryonic stem cell research debate has reignited. Talk show hosts, politicians, clergy, and average people all seem to have an opinion on the subject. For some, it's a matter of ethics. For others, it's a matter of science. For still others, it's a matter of practicality.

The scary thing is that they're all right to a point.

From a religious standpoint, there can be no good that comes from the use of embryonic stem cells. Yes, I know there are people of faith who think their use will curtail human suffering and do so with an unformed soul. Yet, I can't help but think that using that baby (and we should be honest that it is a baby we're dealing with here) for the purpose of harvesting stem cells is a poke in God's eye. Furthermore, life tends to be a pretty important concept in many Christian circles. To take one life in the hopes of extending another is, at its heart, playing God. A scientist is making the decision of who lives and who dies, not God. That basis alone should give people of faith a reason to pause.

The scientific perspective may not have the passion of the religious argument, but it's no less important to consider. So far, the bulk of the advances made in stem cell research have been made from using adult stem cells, while embryonic stem cells have yielded disappointing results. Does this mean embryonic stem cells can't be used for good someday? Of course not. The fact is that we may not completely understand the nature of embryonic stem cells yet, which could explain why they haven't been used to their utmost. If scientists can figure out a way to use embryonic stem cells without harvesting them, and from what I've read they have, we may be able to see the fruition of the hope that they've put into embryonic stem cells. In the meantime, we should continue to use the stem cells that have been proven to work and find their limits before we devote too much hope into something that may or may not work.

Then, there's the practical aspect. Advocates of embryonic stem cell research say that the stem cells being used are taken from fertilized eggs that are going to be destroyed, so it's not like they'd be going to waste. The problem with this approach is that it attempts to rationalize a practice that hasn't had a good track record in application. If embryonic stem cells start producing the cures that advocates say they can, that's one thing, but to ignore their failures to date is folly at best. There is simply no practical argument to be made to harvest stem cells from a source only to have those stem cells do nothing.

Embryonic stem cell research is steeped in emotion, science, reason, and faith. Yet, for all of the promise we've heard it can provide, I'm not sure it can be justified until more can be done to show that embryonic stem cells are worth the hype. To some, my position is anti-science, but it's not. If you want to spend money on embryonic stem cells, be my guest, but I will warn you that you may not be pleased with the outcome if the current science is any indication of future success. Until it can be shown that embryonic stem cells are as useful as advocates claim, let's stick with what we know works.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Getting Away With the Perfect Crime?

Watching the House start in on the bank bailout and lament the lack of oversight in the bill President George W. Bush signed makes me laugh. First, one of the people spearheading the effort is the Ross Perot/Casey Kasem amalgam, Dennis Kucinich. But the real reason is the sheer absurdity of the entire "no oversight" argument.

Remember that the bank bailout bill was initiated in 2008. And if you remember your civics lessons, you know that bills originate in Congress. Now, who controlled Congress in 2008? Why, it was...the Democrats. The fact is the only reason the bank bailout bill didn't have oversight in it is because they never put it in the bill. And last time I checked, Bush didn't control Congress.

Yes, Bush signed the bill, but not without the help of Democrats willing to carry water for the Administration, saying that the bill was necessary. Yet, these same Democrats who said the bill was vital to our economy are the ones pretending it was all Bush's fault.

And they're counting on people being willing to ignore the facts or be ignorant of them. Considering the number of Obama voters who thought Sarah Palin was Obama's running mate, I'd say it's a pretty safe bet.

But, I'd be remiss if I didn't point out the inconvenient truth about Democrats and their role in the very bank bailout they lament now. Now, they'll have their little show trial, trot out the executives, lambast them, and let them go, knowing full well that few Americans know that the inquisitors are the biggest sinners of them all.

But I know, and I will never let people forget.