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Bankruptcy, Not Bailouts

Friday, February 1st, 2013

America’s bailout economy started many administrations ago, but really went Big Time under President George W. Bush . . . and then went Enormity Time with President Barack Obama.

The Washington Post provides the latest in bailout news by noting an inter-departmental squabble:

The Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program said Treasury approved all 18 requests it received last year to raise pay for executives at American International Group Inc., General Motors Corp. and Ally Financial Inc. Of those requests, 14 were for $100,000 or more; the largest raise was $1 million.

Though this is all quite scandalous, don’t expect policies to change or heads to roll — barring a joint Tea Party/Occupy uprising. The nature of the modern “regulatory” state is clear: government bureaus are quickly captured by the industries they aim to regulate. It’s an old story. The revolving door between business and bureaucracy is as well-established as between journalism and politics.

So why do we have bailouts?

  1. They show that politicians are “doing something”;
  2. They mimic the welfare state logic of “helping the poor” (if, with caustic irony, by stuffing the wallets of the rich);
  3. They aggrandize the showy machinations of the legislative and executive branches at the expense of the branch of government designed to handle massive business failure, the courts.

Perhaps Americans shouldn’t have voted in either an MBA grad (Bush) or a constitutional lawyer (Obama). Maybe what the country needs is a bankruptcy lawyer in the White House.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

The Dictators’ Drones

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

Partisanship leads to mass delusion.

The “targeted” drone runs of George W. Bush and Barack H. Obama have killed thousands of innocent people in foreign lands — without a declaration of war.

The main theme of Greg Greenwald’s terrific and much-tweeted Guardian article, “Obama: a GOP president should have rules limiting the kill list,” is how Americans have deluded themselves by partisan loyalty and trust into caring about constitutional limits only when thinking about “the other guys.” Democrats fear Republicans in charge, but not their own “Messiah” (to use Andy Levy’s term for the president, on RedEye).

Republicans fear The Socialist Kenyan with his finger on the button, setting off cluster bombs and cruise missiles and the like, but applauded the previous, “Texan” president’s bombing runs a great thing, just what the War on Terror required.

But of course, when drone strikes in multiple Muslim countries kill thousands, when innocents are killed “collaterally” (the previous euphemism) but are redefined as “terrorists” because of proximity or familial relationships, and when even American citizens overseas are targeted for kills without any legal framework for such decisions, something has gotten out of hand.

The president is now above the law, like a Roman emperor. Might as well call him “dictator” and let it go at that.

Both progressives and conservatives need to be reminded that the rule of law — as “inconvenient” as it may seem when it comes to fighting terrorism — is there to protect all of us, including those who wield power.

And not merely from others. Also from ourselves.

Why? Power tends to corrupt. No one is immune. And who seeks to be corrupted?

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

The Obama Betrayals

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

In one way, President Obama has had it hard: He inherited a mess.

In another, he has had it easy: His predecessor blew it big time.

As James Bovard put it in his 2004 book, The Bush Betrayal, “George W. Bush came to the presidency promising prosperity, peace, and humility. Instead, Bush . . . spawned record federal budget deficits, launched an unnecessary war, and made America the most hated nation in the world.”

The election of Obama turned foreign opinion around, but his actual policies have proved no advance over his predecessor’s.

Bush started the bailouts; Obama bailed out more.

Bush pushed through an under-funded entitlement, Medicare Part D. Obama leveraged his political capital to take an even bigger step towards socialized medicine.

Bush understandably undertook the Afghanistan venture — but the Iraq conquest and reconstruction betrayed his promise to forswear “nation-building.” Then Obama lingered in Iraq, upped the forces in Afghanistan — long after the rationale became murky — and also attacked a number of other countries, including Libya. So much for the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

But when it comes to America’s misguided War on Drugs, Obama has been especially disappointing. No-one really expected much of Bush. But Obama? He said he’d reverse policy at least vis-à-vis the states that voted in medical marijuana. Yet federal agents continue targeting medical marijuana growers.

We aren’t being served well by the presidents we spend so much time thinking about.

Could it be because they don’t really think much about us?

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.