The Temple Beth Am family expresses its sympathy to the family members of all those who lost their lives in the crash of Continental Airlines flight 3407. Susan Wehle, Cantor at Temple Beth Am, was on board and one of the 50 who lost their lives.
Cantor Susan Wehle has been serving Temple Beth Am of Williamsville, NY since November of 2002. Prior to that she was the Cantorial Soloist at Temple Sinai (Reconstructionist) of Amherst, NY for 9½ years.
In 2004, Susan received Cantorial Smicha from Aleph – the Movement for Jewish Renewal. She has a Bachelors Degree in Judaic Studies from the State University of New York at Buffalo, a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Theatre from the State University of New York at Buffalo, and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Acting from the Goodman School of Drama. She has performed with theatre companies in Buffalo, Chicago and New York City.
Susan has taught musical and spiritual workshops, has conducted youth and adult choirs, and has performed in concerts in the United States, Canada and Israel. She has recently released a CD called “Shirei Refuah v’Tikvah – Songs of Hope and Healing”.
She is the mother of two sons, Jonah and Jake and has two sisters, Eva Friedner and Dana Wehle, and a brother John Wehle.
Temple Beth Am will honor her memory at Erev Shabbat Service tonight, Friday, February 13, 2009 at 7:30 PM. The Service will be led by Rabbi Harry Rosenfeld from Temple Beth Zion, Rabbi Alex Lazarus-Klein from Temple Sinai, and Cantor Barbara Ostfeld.
Funeral arrangements have not been planned at this moment. Grief counselors from Jewish Family Service will be available for Temple Beth Am members, friends, and the community.
Founded in 1955, Temple Beth Am is a mainstream Reform congregation that prides itself on being a “Family of Families.” The Temple offers a wide variety of religious services and spiritual opportunities to its members and anyone interested in exploring Jewish life. These include Erev Shabbat services, Shabbat morning worship and Torah study, High Holy Day and Festival services, youth-led and family Shabbat services, healing services and more.
Temple's cantor was returning from Caribbean
By Dave Andreatta
February 13, 2009
Those who knew her recall Susan Wehle as a person who put others first, and the last text message the 55-year-old mother of two sent before boarding Continental Connection Flight 3407 confirms that opinion.
“If it gets too late text me and I’ll take a taxi,” she wrote at 8:29 p.m. Thursday to Rick Ellis, who had planned to pick up his friend and co-worker at the Buffalo airport.
“That’s the way she was,” said Ellis, the administrator at Temple Beth Am in Williamsville, Erie County, where Wehle had been the cantor since 2002. “She was always thinking of others.”
Wehle had been vacationing in Costa Rica, and was scheduled to take a series of connecting flights through Houston and Newark to arrive home in Buffalo.
The daughter of Holocaust survivors, Wehle was primarily responsible for orchestrating the musical portions of temple services, but routinely went beyond her duties, temple congregants said.
“We thought of her as one of our clergy,” said temple President David Bergash. “She helped run the services, organize hospital visits, bar mitzvahs, bat mizvahs. You name it. She did it.”
Wehle soothed the sick and dying with her music, taught at the temple’s religious school, and two years ago produced a CD of Jewish spiritual music.
“Susan was one of the most brave and brilliant people I had ever met,” said guitarist Gunilla Theander Kester, who accompanied Wehle on the CD. “She had the idea of a CD in her head for years and never gave up on it. She didn’t know the word no in the sense that she knew no limits.”
A steady stream of congregants poured into the temple Friday afternoon. They hugged, cried and told stories of the woman they knew as a fixture at the temple. Her desk in her office was just as she had left it, they said, full of paperwork for projects she had hoped to tackle upon her return.
“Her spirituality, love and kindness for humanity will never be matched,” Ellis said. “The shine in her eyes was just constant.”
A frequent traveler, Wehle had performed in concerts around the country and in Canada and Israel.
Saturday, February 14, 2009
Friday, February 13, 2009
The Punish Mark Sanford Amendment; Update: Durbin defends
February 13, 2009
By Michelle Malkin
Buried in the porkulus conference report is a provision specifically targeting governors who would exercise the choice to refuse stimulus money.
It’s an obvious end-run around the authority of South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, the outspoken GOP fiscal conservative who has staunchly opposed the behemoth federal package.
SEC. 1607. (a) CERTIFICATION BY GOVERNOR — Not later than 45 days after the date of enactment of this Act, for funds provided to any State or agency thereof, the Governor of the State shall certify that: 1) the State request and use funds provided by this Act , and; 2) funds be used to create jobs and promote economic growth.
(b) ACCEPTANCE BY STATE LEGISLATURE — If funds provided to any State in any division of this Act are not accepted for use by the Governor, then acceptance by the State legislature, by means of the adoption of a concurrent resolution, shall be sufficient to provide funding to such State.
This seems blatantly illegal — a complete federal usurpation of states’ budget processes.
Do the members of the Senate GOP Turncoat Caucus approve?
11:15am Eastern. Sen. Dick Durbin is on the Senate floor defending the Punish Mark Sanford Amendment. He scoffs at the “political” views of fiscally conservative state executives and eagerly describes how he will make end-runs around those governors.
Posted by Joyce Kavitsky at 2/13/2009 04:21:00 PM
Gov. Mark Sanford says opposition to the stimulus bill doesn't mean doing nothing to fix the economy.
When a debate as important -- both in terms of policy and politics -- as the one currently rolling around our nation regarding the president's "stimulus" plan takes place, emotion often takes precedence over fact.
Words are ripped out of context, motives ascribed where none may exist, political strategies implemented with limited regard for actuality. This, then, is the playing field we step onto -- as it has long been.
But, as those in South Carolina have often heard me say, it is important to disagree without being disagreeable. So let's take a clear-eyed look at Paul Begala's recent defense of the president, which happened to refer to me by name -- because what I and others have suggested is far from "doing nothing."
First, dispense with the notion that there are simply two options here: Support the stimulus package or do nothing. The Washington Post debunked that idea quite convincingly earlier this week.
In truth, there are a variety of options outside a spending bill of unprecedented scope available in this time of considerable economic distress, including, but not limited to, cutting the payroll tax, opening foreign markets through an expansion of our trade agreements, and reducing our corporate tax, which is among the highest worldwide.
Second, we should all be skeptical of any argument centered on the idea of doing something for doing something's sake. We can't focus on the why and simply ignore the what. And what does this particular rendition of "doing something" actually do?
According to the Congressional Budget Office, the effects of the bill on job growth as early as 2011 would be miniscule. More distressingly, CBO's long-term projections estimate that due to "crowding out of private investment," the package will result in a reduction of our GDP as early as 2019.
As for the jobs created in the short-term, what's the cost? The Heritage Foundation crunched the president's own numbers and came up with this startling figure: for every single job the bill creates, American taxpayers will spend $223,000.
Examining the bill's contents makes clear just how foolhardy that is. What stimulant effect will we get from the $180 million of spending on "diplomatic and consular services?" Should taxpayers really be doling out $300 million for what one newspaper described as "streamlined golf carts?"
And, even though it didn't make it into the final version of the bill, why would anyone even consider letting the very investment bankers whose companies just pulled down a few hundred million dollars in TARP funds to be in line to receive a $15,000 government credit for buying a new Hamptons beach house?
Finally, history shows us quite clearly that a government cannot spend its way out of an economic downturn. It didn't work in Japan in the 1990s, when the 10 stimulus packages implemented over an eight year period failed to prevent the "lost decade." And the New Deal, which the president's supporters are so quick to point to?
Here are the thoughts of Henry Morgenthau, FDR's Treasury Secretary: "We have tried spending money. We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work. ... I say after eight years of this administration we have just as much unemployment as when we started ... And an enormous debt to boot!"
The president's stimulus represents the largest and most invasive economic action in our government's history. For a relatively small number of short-term jobs, this administration and this Congress are poised to mortgage the economic future of my four boys and the millions of young Americans just like them. To me, that's simply not a morally acceptable outcome.
Mark Sanford, a Republican, is governor of South Carolina.
Posted by Joyce Kavitsky at 2/13/2009 04:15:00 PM
Thursday, February 12, 2009
By THOMAS KRANNAWITTER | Posted Wednesday, February 11, 2009 4:20 PM PT
This is the 200th birthday of the first Republican to win a national election, Abraham Lincoln. It is good for Republicans today to remember Lincoln, not to be antiquarians, but to learn from his principled defense of the Constitution.
By becoming students of Lincoln, Republicans can win elections and would deserve to win by helping America recover its constitutional source of strength and vitality.
The greatest political crisis America faces today is neither the recession nor Islamic terrorism; it's not health care, education, immigration or abortion. It is that the United States Constitution has become largely irrelevant to our politics and policies.
All three branches of government routinely ignore or twist the meaning of the Constitution, while many of our problems today are symptoms of policies that have no constitutional foundation.
If we are to recover the authority of the Constitution and the many ways it restrains and channels government power, someone or some party must offer a principled defense of the cause of constitutional government.
They must understand not only the Constitution, but also the principles that informed its original purposes and aspirations, principles found in the Declaration of Independence among other places.
No one understood that better than Lincoln.
Employing a biblical metaphor, Lincoln once described the leading principle of the Declaration of Independence equal natural rights as "the word fitly spoken which has proved an apple of gold to us," while the Constitution stands as "the picture of silver, subsequently framed around it.
"The picture," Lincoln argued, "was made not to conceal or destroy the apple, but to adorn and preserve it."
Lincoln's right. The declaration's assertion that legitimate governments derive "their just powers from the consent of the governed" because "all men are created equal" is precisely why "We the people" are authorized to "ordain and establish this Constitution."
Further, the Constitution limits the power of government because, as the declaration makes clear, the purpose of government is limited to securing the God-given, not government-granted, rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And a government of limited purpose should be one of limited power.
The Constitution, however, has suffered two nearly fatal criticisms: It's old and it's racist.
The former was launched by "progressive" thinkers more than a century ago and backed up by sophisticated theories of social and political evolution. Woodrow Wilson, for example, once compared the Constitution to "political witchcraft."
The charge of racism, mainly due to the Constitution's accommodations for slavery, found its loudest voice during the civil rights movement in the 1960s and following decades. Justice Thurgood Marshall voiced this critique in a 1987 Bicentennial essay when he refused to celebrate the original Constitution of 1787 because, he alleged, it was racist and therefore immoral.
The progressive and civil rights critiques have given us a century of New Freedom politics, New Deal politics, Great Society politics, Third Way politics, Compassionate Conservatism politics and now Responsible politics.
What we need, however, is a revival of constitutional politics. But the Constitution cannot be defended against these powerful criticisms unless someone can demonstrate that the Constitution incorporates principles that are both timeless and good.
And any such defense must confront two stubborn facts: The Constitution was indeed written long ago, and it did offer certain protections for slavery.
It was Lincoln's purpose to remind all Americans, white and black, that political freedom rests on an "abstract truth applicable to all men and all times."
That "abstract truth" is the principle of equal natural rights, a principle that cuts across time and space and is, contrary to progressive opinion, valid always and everywhere.
Regarding slavery, Lincoln explained that a constitutional regime dedicated to the declaration's principle of equality is a regime where slavery must be "placed in the course of ultimate extinction."
"If we do this," Lincoln said rightly, "we shall not only have saved the (constitutional) Union. . . . We shall have so saved it as to make and keep it forever worthy of the saving."
At Gettysburg's cemetery, as he struggled mightily to save the Constitution, Lincoln rededicated America to its original noble purpose in one of the most beautiful speeches of all time.
Lincoln understood that slavery did not make America unique. America's uniqueness is being the first constitutional government built on a foundation of equality and the terrible price America paid for ridding itself of slavery.
Lincoln's constitutionalism, I believe, is the only effective rebuttal to progressive and civil rights criticisms. Thus if Republicans are serious about recovering constitutional government, it's hard to imagine how they would be successful without Lincoln.
With Lincoln, it's hard to imagine how they would fail.
Krannawitter teaches political science at Hillsdale College in Michigan and is author of "Vindicating Lincoln: Defending the Politics of Our Greatest."
Posted by Joyce Kavitsky at 2/12/2009 10:43:00 AM
By INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY | Posted Wednesday, February 11, 2009 4:20 PM PT
Infrastructure: A panel of three unelected judges wants to release up to 57,000 prisoners to relieve overcrowding in California jails. Can't we just include prison construction in the stimulus package?
Read More: Judges & Courts
Think of them as medical clinics with bars. At least that's how U.S. District Court Judges Thelton Henderson and Lawrence Karlton and 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Stephen Reinhardt thought of them when they ruled Tuesday the state must reduce its prison population by much as one-third.
According to these imprudent jurists, because of the overcrowding of California penal institutions "there are not enough clinical facilities or resources to accommodate inmates with medical or mental health needs at the level they require." Poor inmates.
In a 10-page decision, they said overcrowding increased the risk of infectious diseases and that a shortage of doctors, nurses and correctional officers has denied inmates access to needed medical services. There's no mention of the health care needs of their victims.
According to the judges, overcrowding in California prisons is the "primary cause" of the state's "inability to provide constitutionally adequate medical care and mental health care to its prisoners" and "there is no relief other than a prisoner release order that will remedy the unconstitutional prison conditions."
Now all of this may be true, but that does not justify ignoring the main functions of prisons. They are to punish criminals for their crimes and to ensure the health and safety of the general public by physically separating documented predators from their potential victims. If you need more prisons, build more.
Even California Attorney General Jerry Brown, no right-wing zealot he, labeled the order "a blunt instrument that does not recognize the imperatives of public safety, nor the challenges of incarcerating criminals, many of whom are deeply disturbed."
Little note has been made that much of California's prison crisis is due to the crimes committed by illegal aliens invited in through the sanctuary policies of its major cities and their policies of not letting local police notify immigration authorities when suspected illegals are apprehended.
FBI data show that over 95% of arrest warrants issued in Los Angeles for murder are for illegal aliens. Nearly 25% of the California prison population is composed of illegal aliens. Increased border and interior enforcement, coupled with expedited deportation, might help immeasurably.
Study after study has documented the benefits to public safety of increased incarceration rates. Crime rates plummet when incarceration rates rise because of the deterrent effect and because many criminals are repeat offenders who can no longer repeat their crimes.
James Q. Wilson, America's premier social scientist, says scholarly studies "have shown that states that sent a higher fraction of convicts to prison had lower rates of crime, even after controlling for all of the other ways poverty, urbanization and the proportion of young men in the population that the states differed. A high risk of punishment reduces crime. Deterrence works."
Prison is supposed to be an awful place you don't want to go to. If you want adequate health care, don't rob the local convenience store or club your neighbor over the head. Releasing uncomfortable prisoners increases the risk of crime and the social costs to society, jeopardizing the mental and physical health of crime victims.
A study published a few years ago in the University of Chicago's Journal of Law and Economics by economist David Anderson found a net loss of $1.1 trillion a year, or $4,118 per American, due to crime. Wouldn't building more prisons be cheaper?
Maybe California could take some of the vast sums being lost fighting global warming and funding fruitless embryonic stem cell research and use it to build new prisons.
Failing that, the state could use some of the funds promised in Congress' massive stimulus bill. Aside from the construction work, think of all the prison guards, staff, wardens and unemployed bleeding hearts who would find jobs.
Posted by Joyce Kavitsky at 2/12/2009 10:34:00 AM
A proposal initially included in President Obama 's stimulus package that requires entities getting federal funds or tax breaks to use the government's E-Verify program to vet the immigration status of workers is proving to be controversial.
Supporters of the idea say it is needed to prevent illegal immigrants from securing jobs paid for by the stimulus package -- especially in the construction sector, which is slated to receive $104 billion if the measure makes it through Congress intact.
But opponents to including the E-Verification component are complaining about the relative unreliability of the system and its inability to stop people from using fraudulent IDs to get work authorization.
The E-Verify system is operated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security 's (DHS) Citizen and Immigration Services, together with the Social Security Administration (SSA). It is a free, voluntary Internet-based employment eligibility verification system that lets employers compare information from an employee's job application with information contained on DHS and SSA databases to determine work eligibility in the U.S.
According to a DHS description of the program, the SSA database against which the matching is done contains more than 425 million records, while the DHS' immigration databases hold more than 60 million records. In most cases, employers get search
results in seconds.
Only about 100,000 employers out of more than seven million in the U.S. are currently signed up for the program.
Recent enhancements to the system include a photo-screening tool for biometric verification and the availability of naturalization data that can confirm the citizenship status of recently naturalized U.S. citizens. As of this coming May, all federal contractors and subcontractors will have to start using the program when hiring new employees.
The version of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed last week by the House of Representatives , included the E-verify mandate. But that provision has been culled from the Senate version -- prompting frantic lobbying on both sides of the issue to either put it back into the legislation or leave it out permanently.
Steven Camarota, director of research at the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), a Washington D.C.-based immigration watchdog group, estimated that failing to properly vet the employment eligibility of workers under the stimulus plan could result in a large number of undocumented workers getting taxpayer-funded jobs. That could be especially true of the construction sector, where nearly 15% of the workers are illegal immigrants, Camarota claimed.
Camarota argued that there is little reason to oppose the E-Verify program and said that concerns about its reliability have been overstated. He noted that the number of instances where the E-Verify system had mistakenly fingered a worker as being unauthorized for employment was a "tiny fraction" of the overall number of eligibility checks made by employers. In cases where mistakes are made, the process allows for remediation, Camarota said.
He was also skeptical of claims that the E-Verify system would be unable to handle a sudden large-scale increase in employment
eligibility checks, noting it already processes millions of queries. "If there are still bugs to be worked out, including
the stimulus jobs would be good thing," because it would prompt quicker remediation, he said.
Other groups, including The Heritage Foundation , a conservative Washington D.C.-based public policy research group, and The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) have also pushed for the use of E-Verify.
Others, however, said that mandating the system's use in the stimulus package could create problems for both employers and employees -- and could slow the deployment of much-needed infrastructure projects.
Mike Aitken, director of governmental affairs at the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), a trade association in Alexandria, Va., said his group is not opposed to having an efficient and accurate employment verification system. But its use now could unnecessarily delay "shovel-ready" projects.
Many state and local governments that would participate in the program are currently not signed up for E-Verify. Requiring each of them to sign up now, and roll out new processes for procuring workers and checking eligibility, would be needlessly cumbersome, he said. And he expressed concerns about how the system would respond if that number were to increase dramatically as a result of a mandate, Aitken said.
"We don't think E-Verify can handle the massive influx of employers in such a short amount of time," he said. "We don't think it is ready from a capacity standpoint. It will take time to get the system up and ready."
Another issue would be the time needed to validate employees who are erroneously found to be ineligible for work, Aitken said. Such errors can result from something as simple as transposed digits in Social Security numbers, problems with hyphenated
names, and name changes resulting from marriages, he said.
Aitken's organization sent a letter raising those issues to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. , on Wednesday. Also backing the SHRM's position are the National Association of Manufacturers, Association of American Universities and the HR Policy Association.
According to the DHS' own estimates, about 96% of employees are work-authorized within 24 hours, while about 4% receive initial mismatches. Less than one-half of a percent of those mismatches are later confirmed to be authorized to work, meaning the system is generally reliable in spotting mismatches.
Posted by Joyce Kavitsky at 2/12/2009 10:18:00 AM
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Stimulus to ban religious worship: 'This isn't like a convenient oversight, this is intentional' By Bob Unruh
February 06, 2009
President Obama's proposed economic stimulus plan makes a deliberate – and unconstitutional – attempt to censor religious speech and worship on school campuses across the nation, according to a lawyer who argued related cases before the U.S. Supreme Court 20 years ago and won them all.
"This isn't like a convenient oversight. This is intentional. This legislation pokes its finger in the eyes of people who hold religious beliefs," Jay Sekulow, chief of the American Center for Law and Justice, told WND today.
His was the organization that decades ago argued on behalf of speech freedom on school campuses, winning repeatedly at the U.S. Supreme Court. Since then, the 2001 Good News Club v. Milford Central School District decision was added, clarifying that restricting religious speech within the context of public shared-use facilities is unconstitutional.
The problem in the proposed stimulus bill comes from a provision that states: "PROHIBITED USES OF FUNDS. - No funds awarded under this section may be used for - (C) modernization, renovation, or repair of facilities - (i) used for sectarian instruction, religious worship, or a school or department of divinity; or (ii) in which a substantial portion of the functions of the facilities are subsumed in a religious mission."
The wording that specifically targets religious speech already has been approved by the majority Democrats in the U.S. House – all GOP members opposed it. In the Senate, Jim DeMint, R-S.C., proposed an amendment to eliminate it, but again majority Democrats decided to keep the provision targeting religious instruction and activities.
Critics argued schools would accept any money offered, then impose a ban on religious events.
DeMint warned organizations such as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Campus Crusade for Christ, Catholic Student Ministries, Hillel and other religious groups would face new bans on access to public facilities that would not apply to other organizations.
"This is a direct attack on students of faith, and I'm outraged Democrats are using an economic stimulus bill to promote discrimination," DeMint said. "Democrats should be ashamed of themselves for siding with the ACLU over millions of students of faith."
DeMint's comments have been posted online and also are embedded here:
"These students simply want equal access to public facilities, which is their constitutional right. This hostility toward religion must end. Those who voted to for this discrimination are standing in the schoolhouse door to deny people of faith from entering any campus building renovated by this bill," said DeMint.
The senator said the stimulus bill now becomes an "ACLU stimulus" that has the goal of triggering lawsuits "designed to intimidate religious organizations across the nation."
"This language is so vague, it's not clear if students can even pray in a dorm room renovated with this funding since that is a form of 'religious worship.' If this provision remains in the bill, it will have a chilling effect on students of faith in America," he said.
DeMint cited Obama's statement at the National Prayer Breakfast this week that faith "can promote a greater good for all of us."
"This provision is an assault against both. It's un-American and it's unconstitutional. Intolerant and it's intolerable," DeMint said.
The ban on religious organizations is linked to the $3.5 billion intended for "renovation of public or private college and university facilities."
The ACLJ, which focuses on constitutional law, said the provision "has nothing to do with economic stimulus and everything to do with religious discrimination."
"The thing is I litigated these cases on these exact issues 20 years ago," Sekulow told WND. "Not only did we win, two of the decisions were unanimous and the other was 8-1.
"We're seeing a rollback to the 1970s regarding church-state relations," he said. "That's what is troubling. It is a complete rollback that now institutionalizes discrimination through targeting religion."
Sekulow said he already is drafting a complaint that will challenge the constitutionality of the provision, to be used if it isn't removed.
He said under current court precedents, it will be a open-and-shut victory.
However, he also warned that the problem is the damage that can be done within the probable four years it would take to get the issue to the U.S. Supreme Court and what that court would look like at that point.
Under Obama, he said, "there will be an ideology shift." New appointments to the bench by Obama, he said, would be "much more left of where Justices (Ruth Bader) Ginsburg and (Stephen) Breyer are."
On an online forums page, readers were incensed.
- "Here comes the assault against Christian churches … Looks like he's trying to see how much damage he can do in the briefest period of time."
- "Obama is the most dangerous man of our times, period. He will seek to overturn everything our nation was built upon, personal freedom, capitalism, even the rock of faith. And he will seek to do it from within, openly, overtly and boldly. Will Christians now respond to this dangerous man in a strong, unified way? Or will Obama succeed in destroying the fabric of the greatest nation in human history?".
- "He's just following the Saul Alinsky rule (in his book, Rules for Radicals) to 'clothe everything you do in morality' because this is what most effectively fools the 'middle class' into agreeing with what you want to do."
Posted by Joyce Kavitsky at 2/11/2009 03:14:00 PM
Check out these amazing snowstorm images. Orillia Ontario got major league dumped on....
Posted by Joyce Kavitsky at 2/11/2009 10:48:00 AM
February 11, 2009
Although President Obama claimed that economists don't oppose his stimulus package, he's ignoring a whole swath of economists who are quite critical or skeptical that this package will contribute more growth to our economy. Brian Riedl lists quite a few who oppose his approach.
The Obama administration has claimed that virtually all economists support their approach to "stimulus" spending. This is patently untrue. Nobel Laureates Ed Prescott, James Buchanan, and Vernon Smith recently joined 200 other economists signing a letter opposing the legislation. Other notable economists critical of the stimulus package include Nobel Laureate Gary Becker, as well as Robert Barro, Greg Mankiw, Arthur Laffer, and Larry Lindsey. Martin Feldstein, who had been the only notable conservative economist loudly supporting the stimulus, has since changed his mind.Yesterday, Nobel Prize winner Gary Becker and MacArthur Fellow Kevin Murphy took a fair-minded look at the stimulative effect from this package and, while they don't think the effect will be zero, they don't see it having a strongly positive effect on our economy.
More liberal economists such as Alice Rivlin and Alan Blinder have also strongly criticized certain aspects of the spending bill. (See original for all the links.)
In fact, much of the proposed spending would be in sectors and on programs where the government would mainly have to draw resources away from other uses. This type of spending includes adding broadband to rural areas, spending more on health coverage, encouraging scientific innovations, developing renewable energy, as well as many other things.They are skeptical, as are many, that this spending will be temporary. And they remind us that there will be consequences from all this spending that will have a long-term deleterious effect because, as we should know by now, there is no free lunch.
As President Barack Obama recently said, "This plan is more than a prescription for short-term spending -- it's a strategy for America's long-term growth and opportunity in areas such as renewable energy, health care and education." Such spending may encourage long-term growth, but it will have little short-term effect on GDP.
So our conclusion is that the net stimulus to short-term GDP will not be zero, and will be positive, but the stimulus is likely to be modest in magnitude. Some economists have assumed that every $1 billion spent by the government through the stimulus package would raise short-term GDP by $1.5 billion. Or, in economics jargon, that the multiplier is 1.5.
That seems too optimistic given the nature of the spending programs being proposed. We believe a multiplier well below one seems much more likely.
The increased federal debt caused by this stimulus package has to be paid for eventually by higher taxes on households and businesses. Higher income and business taxes generally discourage effort and investments, and result in a larger social burden than the actual level of the tax revenue needed to finance the greater debt. The burden from higher taxes down the road has to be deducted both from any short-term stimulus provided by the spending program, and from its long-run effects on the economy.So Obama's claims that no economist disagrees with his approach is just as dishonest as his attempt to portray the Republicans as advocating a do-nothing approach to the economic crunch. Ask yourselves if you want to have the Congress pass the biggest spending bill in our nation's history in this rushed through manner and based on such prevarications.
We believe that it is incumbent on both supporters and opponents of the bill to thoughtfully evaluate each of these four factors. We recognize that how individuals will come out in their own evaluation of these factors will determine their attitude toward the stimulus package, and that there is considerable ground for reasonable differences of opinion.
Our own view is that the short-term stimulus from the legislation before Congress will be smaller per dollar spent than is expected by many others because the package tries to combine short-term stimulus with long-term benefits to the economy. Unfortunately, short-term and long-term gains are in considerable conflict with each other. Moreover, it is very hard to spend wisely large sums in short periods of time. Nor can one ever forget that spending is not free, and ultimately it has to be financed by higher taxes.
Posted by Joyce Kavitsky at 2/11/2009 10:31:00 AM
February 11, 2009
The three Republicans, Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, and Arlen Specter have all claimed that they won't vote for the final bill if the conference report does much to change the Senate version of the bill. Well, they should get ready to bend that statement because, as the American Spectator reports, the White House is working with the House Democrats to restore the rather minor spending cuts that they are so proud of having carved out to come up with their compromise bill. I predict that much of the spending will be re-imposed and the three Republicans will suddenly find that that spending isn't so bad after all.
It sounds like the approach that the conference is looking towards is to restore some of the spending cuts from the Senate bill and scale back the tax credits and the patch for the AMT that the Senate compromisers had put in.
Meanwhile, the Pelosi Democrats are ticked off at the Republican Three's demands that they don't change the Senate bill.
When MSNBC asked Collins how she would react to the restoration of the House spending plan, she replied, “The Democrats will lose my vote.”So they don't like being told "take it or leave it" by those Compromise Republicans, but they sure want to tell the Republicans in both houses to "take it or leave it." I guess it all depends on who is doing the taking and who is doing the leaving.
Similar remarks by Specter prompted House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), not known for his bellicosity, to fire back at his weekly pen-and-pad session with reporters: “I’m shocked that any senator of any party would say this is the bill we passed, take it or leave it.”
But privately, House Democratic staffers see several areas of potential accommodation, including alterations to the mixture of tax cuts and spending that could result in scaling back a $15,000 homebuyer tax credit, a favorite of the Senate GOP, and $11 billion in deduction of taxes on auto purchases, strongly opposed by Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.).
Pelosi’s ultimate leverage in conference talks, those close to her say, is the fact that Obama himself has indicated he’s willing to go to the mat to partially restore some of the Senate cuts. And they expect a week of intense lobbying by the president personally on behalf of the Obama-Pelosi agenda.
“I can’t imagine that three Republicans would deny what the president wants at the end of the day,” said a top House Democratic aide, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The Democrats seem to be happy to come through with a package and then dare the Republicans to filibuster it.
There was another revealing moment from Tuesday’s Democratic powwow, courtesy of another member in attendance.That's a dare I'd like to see the Senate Republicans take, but I have no confidence in the Compromise Three and their fine-sounding vows to oppose a conference bill much different from the Senate bill.
“There was an outcry within the caucus that was, like, we’d actually like to see them [Senate Republicans] go ahead and filibuster. Let ’em follow through on their threats. ... I don’t think the speaker disagreed.”
Posted by Joyce Kavitsky at 2/11/2009 10:23:00 AM
February 10, 2009
Burlington County Times
It makes one wonder how our politicians justify their statements and actions. To get elected, they tell America what they think it wants to hear. Now they are backing off everything and telling us that what they said is not going to work. They are really out of touch with the average American, as they vote down party lines whether it is good or bad for America.
We now have a treasury secretary who didn't pay his income taxes until he was offered the job. He has now paid them, but guess what - no penalties. Now we have Tom Daschle withdrawn from a cabinet job [because he] also did not pay some income taxes until it was made public. No penalties either. Could the average American get away with this? Is this a double standard? Their fellow Democrats say these are honest mistakes - what a joke. On May 7, 1998, Daschle said anyone who cheats on his income tax should be prosecuted fully. Should we believe these are the best and only men for these jobs?
We are being told only doom and gloom and tough choices have to be made. Yet, we can spend $160 million or more on an inauguration and many other parties. Many politicians lecture us about putting a freeze on our salaries. Congress didn't freeze its sala-ries, they took a pay raise (no news editorials about this). Is this another double standard? Congress is not afraid of losing its salaries, pensions or medical coverage since members contribute nothing towards them. The American taxpayer gives it to them. Are they better than any other American? When they retire they get the same salary, plus their spouses collect too. The answer to this is, they should pay the same as everyone else. Is this another double standard? They talk about the perks of the CEO's, what about them? They sure take care of themselves.
Where can an American apply as [someone seeking asylum]? A single pensioner, after 40-50 years of contributions, gets a monthly allowance of $1,012. A single [asylum seeker] gets a monthly allowance of $1,890, plus an additional social assistance of $580, for a total of $2,470 a month. Who thought of this idea? Now they want to spend billions more on programs that won't stimulate the economy. Do these people know what they are doing to our country? They are out of touch with the average American and leading America down the wrong path.
Posted by Joyce Kavitsky at 2/11/2009 09:19:00 AM
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
February 09, 2009
Mickey Kaus, who is a real tiger on the issue of welfare reform, raises the alarm that part of the $827 billion spending package would start rolling back the work requirements that were the heart of the 1996 welfare reform.
Shouldn't Republicans be making more of a fuss about the provision in the stimulus bill--both House and Senate versions, apparently--that spends $2-3 billion to the states for "temporary welfare payments"? I initially thought Charles Hurt of the N.Y. Post was being alarmist when he suggested the provision would "drastically undo two decades of welfare reforms." The essence of the 1996 reform was ending the individual legal entitlement to AFDC (cash aid to single mothers, basically) and replacing it with state-run programs that, in theory, require recipients to enter the work force. The stimulus bill doesn't rip up that basic deal, as I understand it. But it is part of a larger liberal campaign** to use the recession to weaken work requirements and let millions of non-working single mothers back on the welfare rolls. Specifically, it would apparently reward states that expand their welfare caseloads--even if the increase is only the product of loosened work requirements rather than a worsening local economy.Are the Democrats really trying to take one of the most successful reforms of the past decade and weaken it so that they can get rid of the work requirements? One liberal hopes so.
Nothing wrong with helping states avoid anti-stimulating cuts in a recession. Nothing wrong with targeting money to the poorest, who are most likely to spend it quickly. But why use the aid specifically to encourage expansion of welfare? This isn't "welfare" as only conservative Republicans would define it--i.e. any means-tested assistance. This is welfare as everyone would define it--cash assistance to able-bodied single mothers (or fathers) who may or may not be working, as in the old, despised AFDC program. Better to use the money (and more) to create public jobs*** for these would-be recipients if private sector jobs have dried up, even if that upsets municipal employee unions (which don't want welfare recipients doing jobs their members might do). Don't revive the old AFDC principle that if you have a child, you can count on the government to take care of you with cash aid even if you don't work.
At the very least the extra aid to the states shouldn't be triggered by caseload expansion. (You could, for example, give states aid in proportion to their local unemployment rate.)
You would think this would be a potential killer issue for the GOPs--"See, the Democrats already want to undo welfare reform"--and Obama, being sensitive to the charge, might quickly back down. It's easiest to whack the camel when only its nose is in the tent, no? (See the original for all his links.)
Peter Edelman, a Georgetown Universitylaw professor who left a senior Clinton administration position in protest of the 1996 law, said the Obama administration and Congress should adopt emergency legislation to suspend work requirements and time limits on cash assistance. "The whole construct [of TANF] is to go out and find jobs," he said. "So it's a Catch-22. It's kind of an impossibility."Once again there is no penalty for past mistakes, just more federal money.
For now, lawmakers are considering whether to add to a welfare contingency fund, likely to run out for the first time this year, in an economic stimulus bill.
For some states, the predicament is immediate. The 1996 law replaced a limitless federal stream of welfare money to states, giving instead a fixed amount -- $16.5 billion a year nationally -- and significant spending freedom. In the years when people were leaving the rolls, less of that money went for cash assistance, and virtually all states shifted much of their grants to other help for poor people: child care, transportation, training programs, child welfare.
Now that welfare rolls are surging again, "the flaw is the states did not save enough money," said Ron Haskins, a Brookings Institution senior scholar who worked as a welfare adviser in the Bush White Houseand in Congress. "They have used the TANF block grant for everything under the sun. . . . That leaves them in the lurch."
Posted by Joyce Kavitsky at 2/10/2009 12:41:00 PM
Washington Times EXCLUSIVE: Partisan dirt-digger joins WH office: Resume lacks legal training By Jon Ward
Monday, February 9, 2009
Amid the furor over controversies regarding Cabinet-nominee tax problems and the seismic battle over a nearly trillion-dollar economic rescue bill, President Obama made a little-noticed appointment that is now generating intrigue.
Shauna Daly, a 29-year-old Democratic operative, was named last month to the new job of White House counsel research director. Though she is inside one of the most powerful legal offices in the land, Miss Daly holds no law degree and doesn't list any legal training on her resume.
Her sole experience has been as an opposition researcher for Democratic political campaigns: She helped dig up dirt on rivals, or on her own nominee to prepare for attacks.
The addition to White House counsel Greg Craig's staff has alarmed some Republicans, who consider it a politicization of the office, and has irritated others who say that Democratic lawmakers who railed against Republican opposition researchers in legal positions in the past are now silent.
"Daly does not have the qualifications to be holding a significant position in the White House counsel's office," said Mark Levin, a conservative lawyer and radio-show host who worked in the Reagan White House and as chief of staff for Attorney General Edwin Meese.
"Her only qualification is that she knows how to dig up dirt on other people," he said.
A number of conservative and liberal lawyers and operatives confirmed that it is unusual for someone with Miss Daly's background to be working in the White House counsel's office, though some Clinton-era lawyers said that administration had non-lawyers working in the office.
The White House insists Miss Daly's work will be limited to legal research, like that of a paralegal, and won't stray into political muckraking.
"Shauna will be performing legal research in support of a team of lawyers doing traditional legal work at the White House," said White House spokesman Ben LaBolt.
But even some Democrats said there is reason to be cautious about the presence of a political-opposition researcher inside a White House legal office that is supposed to be free of partisan influence.
"It is important for her to understand this is a new role, and if she ever feels there are politics creeping into her job, she should set up strong barriers to stop that," said Faiz Shakir, research director at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank run by former Clinton administration Chief of Staff John Podesta.
Opposition researchers often use skills honed on a campaign to reveal damaging information about political opponents to reporters. But the move to the counsel's office requires Miss Daly to change her modus operandi dramatically.
"That information stays in-house, and all the information is for the president's counsel," Mr. Shakir said. "Part of it is not talking to the press. That's an important part. It's also making sure your prior relationships understand you now have a new function and cannot operate with them in a way you have prior."
On the Obama campaign, Miss Daly specialized in preparing for political attacks against Mr. Obama.
Thus, one scenario in which her skills would be useful to the White House would involve setting up a "murder board operation," in which political nominees are subjected to simulated political attacks in order to prepare for the real thing.
If that is part of her job description, the timing of Miss Daly's hiring would appear to be a response to problems the Obama administration has experienced with several of its nominees, most recently the withdrawal of Tom Daschle for secretary of health and human services because of a tax problem.
Although the White House confirmed that the counsel's office has taken over the vetting process, it said Miss Daly has not been involved in any vetting of political appointees and will not do any work on future vetting. A separate team of people inside the counsel's office will handle that task, the White House said.
Miss Daly has been doing opposition research for Democratic politicians since just after graduation in 2001 from Smith College. She began in 2002 as a researcher for Sen. Tim Johnson's re-election campaign in South Dakota, and in 2004 she was research director for Betty Castor's unsuccessful run at a Florida seat in the U.S. Senate.
In 2005, she served as research director for the unsuccessful New York mayoral bid of Gifford Miller, then the council speaker. From October 2005 to January 2007, before joining the Obama campaign, she was the deputy research director at the Democratic National Committee.
Mark Corrallo, a communications director at the Justice Department early in the Bush administration, said he was upset not about politicization but what he called a double standard in media coverage.
"If this had been a Republican, then we'd be hearing the howls: 'How can you put a guy who worked in opposition research at the White House counsel's office?' "
Mr. Corrallo raised the example of the political firestorm Democrats raised in 2007 when President Bush tried to name a Republican political-opposition researcher, Timothy Griffin, to a senior Justice Department job, the U.S. attorney for Arkansas' Eastern District.
Democrats attacked Mr. Griffin because he was a former Republican National Committee operative who also worked for senior Bush adviser Karl Rove at the White House, before the U.S. attorney in eastern Arkansas was fired to make way for Mr. Griffin.
The maneuvering drew national attention because it became part of the scandal over the removal by top Justice officials of seven other U.S. attorneys across the country for questionable reasons.
But Mr. Corrallo, who has a long background in Republican politics, including work as a spokesman for Mr. Rove during the CIA leak scandal, pointed out that unlike Miss Daly, Mr. Griffin has a law degree and extensive legal experience as a judge advocate general in the U.S. military.
"Tim had served on a congressional committee as a lawyer. He also prosecuted cases for 10 years in the Army. He's a real lawyer," Mr. Corrallo said. "But because he had worked at the RNC and the White House political office, he was a hack.
"Now come back to this woman, who is not a lawyer, in a newly created position in the White House counsel's office. It's amazing what they're doing. Her background is pure politics, and they put her in the White House counsel's office," he said.
Several Democratic senators who criticized Mr. Griffin - Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, Charles E. Schumer of New York, Richard J. Durbin of Illinois and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island - did not respond to requests for comment.
The White House did not make Miss Daly available for comment.
But Democratic lawyers with experience in the White House defended the move.
Lanny Davis, who served as special counsel to President Clinton from 1996 to 1998, said the presence of a non-lawyer in the counsel's office is "certainly justifiable."
Mr. Davis said he did not have specific knowledge about Miss Daly or of the new position, but that he remembered having non-lawyers doing legal research at the White House counsel's office in the Clinton White House.
"There were certainly interns doing legal research year round. I think we had a full-time or part-time paralegal," said Mr. Davis, who writes a weekly news analysis for The Washington Times called Purple Nation.
Abner J. Mikva, White House counsel from 1994 to 1995, said the same thing.
"We had several non-lawyers attached to the office. One of them was doing research. Others were doing security matters, in addition to the vetting that the White House counsel's office is sort of responsible for," Mr. Mikva said.
Posted by Joyce Kavitsky at 2/10/2009 12:07:00 PM
Have They No Shame? A Power Grab at the Census: The White House is taking control of the census — and the GOP is sounding the alarm by Jennifer Rubin
February 9, 2009
As required by the Constitution, every ten years the federal government undertakes a massive effort to count and gather information about Americans. The information impacts hundreds, if not thousands, of decisions about federal funding and policy. But most importantly, it will be the basis for the redistricting which determines Congressional representation.
The White House has proposed that the director of the Census, a Commerce Department employee, report to the White House. The White House contends this is no big deal. Nevertheless, the move followed  a wave of protest from liberal civil rights groups concerned that they might not succeed in maximizing the count of minority voters if the census remained under the auspices of Republican Judd Gregg, the Commerce secretary nominee.
Republican leaders in Congress are waking up to the implications of the White House’s decision and beginning to sound the alarm. Two Republican congressmen have sent  a letter to the White House protesting the move. The congressmen cited Title 13 of the U.S. Code, requiring that the Census Bureau be administered “within, and under the jurisdiction of, the Department of Commerce.” They contend that “the Executive Branch is limited to providing support for the Bureau in the form of information and resources.”
On Sunday Republicans fanned out on TV to try to raise public awareness of the issue. Minority Leader John Boehner on  Fox News Sunday explained:
It just tells me that the census, the counting of the population of the United States is going to be politicized. This is very simple, Chris, the Constitution says that every ten years there will be a count of all persons who live in the United States. That means that we need to have an actual count. And why this has to be moved from the Commerce Department over to the chief of staff’s office, I would think he’d have better things to do, than to coordinate the census, but apparently they have ideas about what they might want to do to politicize the counting of our population next year.
 Sen. John Cornyn echoed a similar sentiment during his exchange with Chris Wallace:
WALLACE: Senator Cornyn, we now learn that the Obama administration is going to have the director of the Census Bureau report not only to the commerce secretary but also to the White House. What’s wrong with that?
CORNYN: Well, ordinarily, this has been something that the commerce secretary has done, and I think it ought to be done on a competent, as much as possible, nonpartisan basis. And to shift it to the White House to me just politicizes the census, which is not something we should be doing.
WALLACE: And what’s the danger, briefly, of politicizing the census?
CORNYN: Well, because, of course, that determines who gets what congressional districts. States like Texas were going to get probably at least three new congressional districts based on the reapportionment — and then, of course, in drawing those lines, redistricting within states. It’s all based on those census figures. So if you cook the figures up front, I think it distorts that process going forward and undermines the concept of one person, one vote.
Mainstream news reporters also are beginning to discuss the implications of this move. Rick Klein wrote on  The Note:
GOP lawmakers are pointing out that the new structure will effectively leave White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel — a former chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee — in a decision-making position regarding how Census business is conducted.
“The Census is supposed to be not only outside of politics, but transparent,” said Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., the ranking Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. “This implies that President Obama intends on getting a count to his liking. It borders on overt political corruption.”
While the program to count and compile data on Americans might not seems political, the reapportionment of House seats based on the decennial census has huge political ramifications. In addition, the census data will be used to determine funding formulas for a wide range of government programs.
It is ironic that the Obama team selected Republican Judd Gregg to head the Commerce Department as an intended symbol of the Obama administration’s commitment to New Politics. This was supposedly evidence of a less cravenly political style of governing than what many contended was par for the course in the Bush years. Now, it appears the Obama team intends to strip Gregg of real authority over this key responsibility, giving lie to the notion that the Obama administration believes in post-partisanship.
Had this stunt been attempted during the Bush years one certainly would have heard a hue and cry from good government groups, the media, and academics. We no doubt would have heard a chorus of opposition: “The professional public servants are being shunted aside!” And from those so aghast about attempts to suppress or manipulate voting, we would have expected the shrieks: “This is an attempt to politicize the census and stack the deck for reapportionment!” It is not hard to imagine the reaction if the Bush White House had suggested that a supposedly unbiased statistical undertaking should be directed by, say, Karl Rove.
It is unclear what, if any, recourse Republicans might have. If public pressure can be generated, the White House might retreat. (The White House already seems to be  scrambling, trying to belatedly clarify that the Census Director will merely be working “closely” with the White House.) But it is far from certain that the public will see through the White House spin and rise up over something as arcane as control over the census.
Alternatively, Senate Republicans might seek to hold up Gregg’s confirmation until assurances are provided that the census will be not be controlled by political operatives in the White House. Combining disgruntled Republicans with liberal Democrats (who might be loathe to put a conservative Republican in the Obama cabinet) might raise the potential for a filibuster. Nevertheless, Republicans haven’t been successful in mounting serious challenges to nominees so far.
Concerned congressmen might seek to mount a legal challenge. However, the knotty issue of who possess legal “standing” to sue and other legal defenses may dissuade courts from weighing in. (Sources on Capitol Hill report that Republican counsel are mulling over the legal issue.)
It therefore remains to be seen whether the White House can be forced to give up the idea of seizing control of the census and instead to guarantee that it will remain free from political interference. If not, and this issue continues to fester, it will likely shed further doubt on Obama’s claim to be the harbinger of a new era in Washington. In the end, the White House is unlikely to retreat unless overcome by the fear that President Obama’s image — which has taken a beating in the first few weeks of his presidency — might be unduly imperiled. So, for now, Republicans are left to ask, “Have they no shame?”
URLs in this post:
 a wave of protest: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29046718/
 a letter: http://www.newsmax.com/headlines/census_emanuel_republican/2009/02/08/179458.html
 Fox News Sunday : http://gopleader.gov/News/DocumentSingle.aspx?DocumentID=110456
 Sen. John Cornyn: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,489741,00.html
 The Note: http://blogs.abcnews.com/thenote/2009/02/is-obama-politi.html
 scrambling: http://www.cqpolitics.com/wmspage.cfm?docid=news-000003025792
Jennifer Rubin is PJM's Washington, DC, editor. She also blogs at Commentary’s Contentions.
Posted by Joyce Kavitsky at 2/10/2009 09:37:00 AM
Monday, February 09, 2009
By ROBERT L. BRADLEY JR. | Posted Friday, February 06, 2009 4:20 PM PT
More than 200 years ago, Adam Smith determined that economic self-interest advanced the wider commercial good as if led by an invisible hand. Such a self-seeker, he added, "frequently promotes (the interest) of society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it."
But what happens when it's government that defines profit opportunities, and a country's culture deprecates commercial self-interest to the point that business leaders who "do good" are praised over those who "make good"? What happens when the invisible hand is replaced by the grip of regulation, subsidies and "social" responsibility? The current financial crisis provides the answer.
For decades, government has intervened in the mortgage market, in the name of the "public interest." There was the creation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act of 1975 and the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977, the Financial Institutions Reform Recovery and Enforcement Act of 1989 and the Federal Housing Enterprises Financial Safety and Soundness Act of 1992.
There was the demand in 2000 by HUD that Fannie Mae dedicate 50% of its business to low- and moderate-income families. And there was President George W. Bush pushing homeownership for all as the way to prosperity.
Through laws and administrative regulation, Stan Liebowitz and other free-market scholars have shown, governments have pushed private businesses to go far beyond prudent, self-interested profit-making.
In 2000, for example, the Fannie Mae Foundation identified the "Outstanding Accomplishment" of Countrywide Financial Corp. as making almost one-sixth of its mortgages to blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans.
The foundation then went on to praise the firm's "companywide fair lending task force, employee training in fair lending, recruitment of minority employees, employee compensation systems that do not penalize for making small loans and comprehensive 'We House America' campaign to expand homeownership opportunities."
Did anyone bother to ask whether such do-goodism might be at odds with old-fashioned prudence, or whether, in the final analysis, it might be bad for its intended be-neficiaries? Did new-model business leaders dare to think there could be unintended consequences from the post-'60s creed of corporate social responsibility?
The brass at Countrywide were too busy basking in their honors to really care. In 2000, for example, La Opinion, the country's leading Spanish-language newspaper, named Countrywide Home Loans "Corporation of the Year." Perhaps the company's leaders thought narrow prudence would stand in the way of such gifts as the $25,000 they gave to the League of United Latin American Citizens for "educational programs on homebuying."
And Countrywide was hardly alone in the assault on invisible-hand decision-making. A decade ago, a senior managing director at Bear Stearns said this about mortgages made pursuant to the Community Reinvestment Act:
"While credit scores can be an analytical tool with conforming loans, their effectiveness is limited with CRA loans. Unfortunately, CRA loans do not fit neatly into the standard credit score framework. We believe a broader array of credit analysis data is needed to get a clearer perspective of the situation."
Certainly, the people formerly employed by Bears Stearns now have a clearer perspective on the value of those mortgages.
All this might have been learned from the Enron debacle. In response to generous government subsidies, that company moved from its natural gas core into solar power, wind power and other government-dependent "green" energy plays. Enron tried to monetize its political bets by sounding the climate alarm and calling for government regulation of carbon dioxide emissions.
In its prime, Enron was arguably the most politically connected and politically correct company in America, and even created a subsidiary to invest in inner-city, minority-owned businesses. Sure, the company lost money in all of this, but it received a climate protection award from the EPA and a corporate conscience award from the Council on Economic Priorities, among other honors.
And yet, when the company collapsed, progressives screamed about corporate greed rather than about the perils of corporate welfare and "social" responsibility.
Milton Friedman foresaw it all in a prescient 1962 article arguing that business can effectively serve only one master its owners by winning profits in accord with investor expectations, while respecting legal and ethical norms.
Friedman warned against attempting to serve multiple masters: "If businessmen do have a social responsibility other than making maximum profits for stockholders," he asked, "how are they to know what it is?" More important still: What will result?"
Noted Adam Smith, in an observation that has turned out to be more true than he could have imagined: "I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the publick good,"
Government regulation and political correctness are at the root of recent organizational failures that, in turn, have resulted in massive taxpayer-financed bailouts. New government intervention is trying to address the problems created by prior intervention and futilely, it appears.
The remedy is a reliance on invisible-hand profit-making where the good can really crowd out the bad. A new legal relationship between government and the economy is required free-market capitalism in place of political capitalism.
With this should come a new understanding of the proper philosophy of entrepreneurial capitalism tough-love prudence in place of the amorphous doctrine of "corporate social responsibility."
Bradley is CEO of the Institute for Energy Research and author of "Capitalism at Work: Business, Government, and Energy" (M & M Scrivener Press).
Posted by Joyce Kavitsky at 2/09/2009 10:07:00 AM