Patterico's Pontifications

4/6/2011

Playing Budget Kabuki—They’re Doing It Wrong!

Filed under: General — Aaron Worthing @ 8:11 pm

[Guest post by Aaron Worthing; if you have tips, please send them here.  Or by Twitter @AaronWorthing.]

A while back I wrote little post I liked, called “How the Porkmeisters Play Budget Kabuki.”  It was an exploration of how the tax and spending types try to snooker you into simultaneously believing that shallow cuts were deep and to try to coerce you into allowing them to spend your money or to tax you.  It was short, sweet, and I liked it.  And then for some reason I just didn’t have the chance to post it right away, and the next thing I knew, it was too old a story to run, but I couldn’t find it in my heart to delete it.

And now today, we have the perfect example of this what that never-published post was talking about in the budget showdown.  For instance, in this Washington Times article, they write:

A shutdown would also cancel Saturday’s [C]herry [B]lossom [P]arade in Washington, will shutter national parks and will mean the Federal Housing Administration can no longer guarantee loans.

For those who aren’t local, the Cherry Blossom Parade is one of the bigger events of the year.  Here’s how this site describes it:

Each year, the National Cherry Blossom Festival celebrates spring in Washington, DC, the gift of the cherry blossom trees and the enduring friendship between the people of the United States and Japan. The Festival produces and coordinates 16 days and 3 spectacular weekends of festivities, primarily free and open to the public.

And this year they were going to have fund raisers to help out Japan after that trifecta of disasters that hit them.  Now maybe you see what they are up to, and maybe you don’t, but for me to make my point, well… I have to pull out that old post.  So this is what I planned to say, around last December:

So keeping government budgets low is in vogue, but there are politicians who really, really want to spend anyway.  What to do, what to do?

Well, what you do is you cut something really visible while continuing to waste behind the scenes.  They did it here in Virginia closing down highway rest stops.  The Oakland police famously explained that budget costs would make them unable to enforce many categories of crime.  And now officials in Vista, California, have said they would turn down half the city lights and lights at city hall.

From the AP article:

To trim $9 million from their budget, Vista officials say they will shut off half of the city’s residential street lights in March unless property owners agree to pay higher lighting fees.

Fees could cost residents of the north San Diego County city between $4 and $20 a year.

In turn, Vista residents complained about bright lights at the new City Hall.

City spokeswoman Andrea McCullough tells the North County Times that lights in the park behind the building have been shut off and lights in front of the Civic Center have been dimmed.

Inside the building, she says lights are being dimmed at 7 p.m. instead of 10 p.m.

Most lights are energy-efficient so dimming them won’t save much, but McCullough says residents will at least know the city is doing its part.

In other words it’s about show.  And of course the city lights—which are important to keeping down crime—will stay off until they agree to pay a higher “lighting fees” a softball word for taxes.

Now, I have no special factual insight here, I am just applying my cynicism to this situation.  But I am willing to bet that in fact, the cuts go no further than the cutting off of lights.  That is, I bet there is enough waste elsewhere in the government that if eliminated, the savings could pay for the costs of lighting the city streets.  They will cut the most visible and most vital services to do two things.  One, to give you the impression that they are really tightening their belt when they are not.  And two, to try to force residents into squealing so that they can plausibly claim that they had no choice but to keep on taxing and spending.

Don’t buy it.  Be more cynical. If you live in those communities, demand transparency in the budget, and find and show the waste they could be cutting, rather than visible and vital services.

And that is what they seem to be doing here.  From a Washington Post piece on plans for the possible shutdown:

The District of Columbia would have no trash collection for at least three days, and the city’s libraries and Department of Motor Vehicles offices would close unless Congress provides the federal funding needed for those operations before Friday, according to senior Obama administration officials familiar with plans for a federal government shutdown.

Trash collection would not start again until one week after the shut down, and street sweeping would be suspended….

Schools will remain open. Police, fire and emergency services personnel will remain on duty.

So at least they are not as cynical as the cops in Berkeley above.  But it seems to me that their plan is to make children complain about not being able to get library books and to make the city fill with trash to put pressure on people to settle for smaller cuts than we need as a nation right now.

But then when reading about all the deprivations we would suffer, the parade of horribles, I saw that plainly they were doing it wrong.  From the Washington Times piece:

(more…)

Bachmann Makes Her Case That She is Qualified to be President (and Paul Ryan Pron)

Filed under: General — Aaron Worthing @ 12:11 pm

[Guest post by Aaron Worthing; if you have tips, please send them here.  Or by Twitter @AaronWorthing.]

A week or so ago I said

I like Bachmann, but I like her as a legislator, not as an administrator.  But look at her resume.  Here’s her official bio.  And here’ the wikipedia page, if that can be trusted.  I see nothing there that suggests she has enough executive experience to be President.

But you know, I always prefer that a person defend themselves, because usually they will do the best job, so here’s Bachmann on why she is qualified:

The Hill’s blog transcribes her words thusly:

I have a very broad, extensive background.

I’m a student of many years. I’ve studied a number of, a wide berth of topics. I sit currently on the Intelligence Committee. We deal with the classified secrets and with the unrest that’s occurring around the world. I also sit on Financial Services Committee.

But again, I’ve lived life.

Tomorrow, I’ll be celebrating my 55th birthday, and I’ve had a wide, extensive life. And again, my background is a very practical, solution-oriented vision.

Yeah, I don’t know about you, but I am underwhelmed and unmoved.  She isn’t ready to be president.  I mean, sure she would do a better job than our current President, but that’s not exactly reaching for the stars, you know?

No, what I said at the time still applies:

It might be the case that by next year Americans will be so sick of Obama that they will vote for almost anyone else.  I am just about there myself and have been there for well over a year.  But it is still important to offer a real alternative, not just someone who’s chief argument is that they couldn’t possibly be worse.

And you know, if we have to pick a Representative with little executive experience, couldn’t it be Paul Ryan?

Here’s video of Ryan explaining his budget proposal:

[Posted and authored by Aaron Worthing.]

Beck Program Off the Air at Fox?

Filed under: General — Aaron Worthing @ 10:50 am

[Guest post by Aaron Worthing; if you have tips, please send them here.  Or by Twitter @AaronWorthing.]

Yeah, it looks pretty well confirmed, although it’s also out of the blue.  And this passage is intriguing:

In the statement on Wednesday, Mr. Beck said he would be starting a “new phase” of a partnership with Roger Ailes, the chairman of Fox News. “I truly believe that America owes a lot to Roger Ailes and Fox News,” he said.

Mr. Ailes said in the statement, “Glenn Beck is a powerful communicator, a creative entrepreneur and a true success by anybody’s standards. I look forward to continuing to work with him.”

But then I think they said something like that when Seinfeld ended, right?  And everyone expected the leads to each get their own hit sitcom, etc.  It didn’t exactly work out like that, did it?

But I think the question was, did Beck decide he wanted to go out on a relatively high note?  Or was there a real cause? By reports his ratings had been going south for a while, and of course the left tried their best to demonize him in the eyes of advertisers.  My favorite was alleging that Beck was raising fears of inflation in order to help the Gold-selling companies that often advertised on the show, as though advertisers don’t generally seek target audiences…

So use this thread to react, speculate about causes, the future, etc.  Like you needed me to tell you to do that.

[Posted and authored by Aaron Worthing.]

Obama ‘12 And The Attack On Idealism

Filed under: General — Stranahan @ 6:01 am

[Guest post by Lee Stranahan]

Barack Obama announced his reelection campaign. He plans to raise one billion dollars. I don’t think he will win and beyond that, based on the successful cynicism that got him elected in the first place I hope he doesn’t win.

Yes, the Republicans could screw this up but if they nominate somebody who has any appeal at all to independent voters, Obama is a one term president. My reasons for believing this go beyond any discussion of ideology or policy. President Obama has deflated his once passionate base by revealing that Candidate Obama was a will-o’-the-wisp; a husk that was conjured up to win the vote and discarded the day after the election.

When I say that this goes beyond ideology, I mean this is a mistake that could have happened to anyone from any part of the ideological spectrum. Some of you may argue Obama is a socialist, Communist, fascist but I think you’re actually giving him way too much credit – he’s an opportunist. In practice, he’s even more of a pragmatist than Nixon was. People can accept presidential pragmatists and even reelect them. What they won’t do, I believe, is reelect a pragmatist who they elected because they thought he was an idealist and a reformer — particularly a pragmatist whose practical results have been fairly dismal. There’s something very compelling about a leader who shows vision and it almost doesn’t matter what that vision is.

This is the thing that I think most scares the political establishment – both Democratic and Republican – about the Tea Party. They seem to mean what they say. They seem to have an actual reform agenda that they actually plan to stick to. This doesn’t mean that there won’t be some compromise along the way but the Tea Party has shown they are keeping their eyes on the prize… which implies that they believe there is a prize.

The attacks on the Tea Party by the White House, the Democratic Party and a complicit press corps are not just about ideology; they are about attacking idealism. They are attacking the very notion of holding a consistent viewpoint and fighting for it. That’s why there’s a drumbeat against "extremism" without ever defining exactly what that extremism is. Having abandoned ideals, the Democrats need to mock, ridicule and destroy the very concept of idealism itself.

It’s the most nihilistic political move one can imagine.

How is Obama playing with his own base? Look at how MSNBC / The Young Turks host Cenk Uygur responds to Barack Obama’s first 2012 campaign commercial. If you’re not a liberal, try to set aside for a moment any ideological differences you may have with Cenk and just focus on how bleak, cynical but realistic his assessment is.

The money quote there is…

Actually do things you believe in…if there are, in fact,things you believe in.

This is a point that I touched on about a year and a half ago when I announced I would no longer be able to support Barack Obama – I simply didn’t know what he stood for. Nothing’s happened in his presidency that clarifies that for me yet either.

Here’s the video I made in January, 2010.

 

I’m not saying that Obama won’t get most of the Democratic vote. He clearly will. However, he can’t count on a fired-up vote — and if this is the way part of his liberal base is feeling, then he has absolutely no hope with independent voters.

- Lee Stranahan


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