recession

Land Of The Free? Really?

It's ironic that while the rest of the world is moving toward economic freedom to ignite their economies, United States, under the governance of Washington's liberal elites, has retreated from liberty. It's true. While countries such as Denmark, Ireland, Canada, Switzerland, New Zealand and Australia were high-tailing forward, we moved backward, and Bahrain — Bahrain — is nipping at our heels. These are the conclusions of the The Wall Street Journal/Heritage Foundation annual Index of Economic Freedom. In fact, the report states that the U.S. score, which dropped to ninth in the study, fell from the ranks of the "economically free nations" to that of the "mostly free" ranks. According to the study, the U.S. decline was . . .

largely the result of large government spending increases and passage of President Barack Obama’s health care plan, which severely restricts consumer choice and private health care markets while increasing the size and cost of government.

Also of note is that more than half of the 183 countries in the survey improved their economic freedom, seeking to untangle their governments from the private sector to emerge from recession rather than increasing government's role (see Theodore Bromund at Heritage's The Foundry). The report rated countries' fiscal soundness and openness to trade and investment, government size, business and labor regulation, property rights, corruption, monetary stability and financial competition.

According to Virginia Fourth District Congressman Randy Forbes, who blogs about the study here:

It is clear that huge increases in government spending have impacted our economic freedom as a nation and it shows us that reining in government spending must be a top priority for the 112th Congress. Our nation was built on the premise that we are the “land of the free,” and that includes economic freedom. “Mostly free” should not be an economic option for the United States.

We now are in a period where big government not only threatens our liberty with ever increasing control over our decisions, but with the incomprehensible debt it has accrued in doing so. Debt enslaves people and societies to those to whom it owes the money. That those debts will never be called in is no longer realistic. We may always be be the home of the brave, but land of the free is not a guarantee.

Signs Of The Age Of Obama

More evidence that President Obama is all about the cult of personality and omnipresence eerily along the lines of third world rulers: Road signs in proximity to "stimulus" projects that bear a logo that recalls his campaign trademark. The signs themselves cost millions of dollars, paid for with — that's right — stimulus funds (i.e., taxpayer money). Talk about campaign finance reform. But we're sure that making the signs and designing the logo put people to work in good, long-term, productive jobs that already are lifting us out of the recession.

For example, Illinois spent $650,000 on 950 signs, while Pennsylvania shelled out $157,000; ABC News estimates that $20 million was spent wasted across the country. Fortunately, the Virginia Department of Transportation had enough sense to refuse the signs (Richmond Times-Dispatch). But not to be outdone, Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones seems to have taken a similar path, putting up specially made signs bearing his name next to all street repaving work. Is that trickle down government — or trickle down adulation?

stimsigns

Sign of the times: Obama is everywhere, man, Obama is everywhere.

McDonnell's First 100 Days: The View From The Family Foundation

The Washington Post ran a recent Sunday edition story that suggested a chasm has developed between Governor Bob McDonnell and social conservatives. According to the article, some have become disheartened and feel the governor has let them down while others are more willing to be patient and give the governor time. So, what does The Family Foundation think of the governor's first 100 plus days? Understanding the context of events is always key to accurate analysis. So let’s remember that for the past eight years social conservatives in Virginia have been isolated from the governor's office. Both previous governors were at times openly hostile to traditional values issues. Governor Mark Warner gave $25,000 to the Commonwealth Coalition, the organization that opposed the Marriage Amendment, and regularly opposed our agenda (hear in his own words what he thinks of Christian conservatives). Governor Tim Kaine openly campaigned against the Marriage Amendment and also opposed much of our agenda (though he did work with us on several marriage initiatives). Add to that the fact that in November 2008 Virginians voted for Barack Obama for president, and political pundits (as usual) proclaimed social conservatism dead. Any candidate who wanted to win had to disavow  caring about the unborn and marriage and stick to one thing and one thing only — money (well, the economy).

Enter Bob McDonnell. A long time friend of social conservatives and leader on many of our issues, values voters were energized by a candidate they could call "one of us." While campaigning, candidate McDonnell steered clear of social issues unless asked, focusing on exactly what the "experts" said he had to focus on — the economy. Some social conservatives expressed frustration that McDonnell wasn't more vocal on abortion and other social conservative causes, but many understood that the political climate was such that the majority of voters were most concerned about their personal well-being with an economy in recession and a federal government spending us into oblivion.

On Election Day, social conservatives voted for McDonnell in droves. Exit polling showed that nearly half of McDonnell's voters were self-identified evangelicals. Clearly, they believed that Bob McDonnell was going to be their guy in the Governor's Mansion. As with any constituency, those votes did not come without expectations, and they were high expectations at that.

Once sworn in, he went to work on his campaign promise to bring Virginians a balanced budget without higher taxes, and job development. Most agree that the governor has largely fulfilled those promises — though some are concerned with increased fees in the budget. During his administration's first General Assembly session the governor was relatively quiet on social issues, though his administration did vocally support abortion center safety legislation in the Senate Education and Health Committee. He also renewed an executive order concerning non-discrimination in state hiring practices, but did not include "sexual orientation" as had been done by the two previous governors (though Governor Warner did it in the last month of his administration).

Of course, things didn't go perfectly for the new administration. Social conservatives were particularly disappointed that he chose to issue an "executive directive" concerning hiring practices that included "sexual orientation," and we explained those concerns to him both publically and privately. He did, however, sign the Health Care Freedom Act, the first legislation of its kind in the nation that hopefully will protect Virginians from being forced by the federal government to purchase health insurance. He also protected Virginians from being forced to pay for low-income elective abortions (a major pro-life victory) and ensured that Planned Parenthood can't use the money they make off of their new license plate to perform abortions.

Now, we are just passed the first four months of his four-year term, and some conservatives are expressing disappointment, even outrage, with the governor's actions thus far. Interestingly, I was interviewed for the Post article long before its publication date, and at the time, we were encouraging the governor's office to take a more pro-active approach on social conservative issues. In particular, the discussion surrounded the pro-life budget amendments the governor chose not to introduce — defunding Planned Parenthood and failed embryonic stem cell research. On that issue I said to the Post:

We want him to do more, and we will continue to ask him.

I stand by those words. Once something is in the budget it is difficult to remove it. While we trust that Planned Parenthood will not receive any taxpayer money during this administration, we continue to believe that adding such language to the state budget will protect taxpayers in future years.

But remember the context of my Post interview:

In between my interview with the Post and the article's publication — several days — the governor fulfilled an extremely important campaign promise and reversed the Kaine administration's discriminatory prohibition on prayers offered by state police chaplains. In a press release I said we were "thrilled" with the governor's action, and we are. This was an important and courageous action and Virginians are better off for it. We also asked you to contact Governor McDonnell and thank him as well.

So, how is the governor doing? (Honestly, I think social conservatives need to take a deep breath, and remember that there are still three years and seven months left in this administration. We have to remember the victories he has delivered, while knowing that there is still a lot to be accomplished. But we are confident that the governor understands the concerns we have. There are pressing issues facing our commonwealth and the governor needs to address those issues. At the same time, the culture of Virginia must also be a priority for this administration. We will continue to encourage him to take the lead on family issues that are the foundation to the very economy he is trying to fix (see more of my comments in another article on this topic in the Richmond Times-Dispatch).

The Family Foundation is determined to be strategic in our efforts. We understand the political climate is hostile and we have to accept that incremental victories are victories nonetheless. Those who demand "all or nothing" tend to receive nothing. We are encouraged by the recent actions of Governor McDonnell and continue to believe he will fulfill his campaign promises.

Virginia News Stand: September 22, 2009

Annotations & Elucidations  AP Truth Squad, Distilling Pelosi

After yesterday's super-sized edition, much of today's news is of the national variety, including some spot-on commentary. Among the most eye-catching articles are one in which the Census Bureau reports on the change in lifestyle brought on by the recession, including the delay of marriage; a Muslim girl who ran away from her parents because she converted to Christianity will have her day in court; and Florida school officials are cleared in a case brought by the ACLU over a meal blessing.

Elsewhere, the AP comes out with its second fact check in two weeks disputing claims coming directly from President Obama's golden tongue (see first one here). Yes, Mr. President, your "reform" is a giant tax increase, even if you can get David Letterman to believe otherwise. The AP better watch itself if it keeps reporting the truth. Thomas Sowell writes about facing advantages and disadvantages in life by recounting his own upbringing. Truly inspirational and a must read.

Bryan Fischer examines the dirty connection between the National Education Association and ACORN. If you are a NEA/VEA member and still need a reason to leave this union, please take a look (or forward to someone who does)! Bobby Eberle, Jeremy Wiggins and Dick Morris take more looks at Obamacare, but from different angles (economic, medical and political); while David Limbaugh looks at the administration's ambition to ram through legislation so vastly opposite the desires of the country. Finally, Eberle and Wiggins distill Nancy Pelosi's crocodile tears.

News:

Bolling touts jobs during visit here (The Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star)

New ads by Deeds use foe's '89 thesis (Roanoke Times)

New Deeds ad wagers big on McDonnell's 1989 thesis (The Daily Press)

Dems critique Hamilton's spot on money committee (The Daily Press)

National News:

Census: Recession had sweeping impact on US life (AP/GOPUSA.com)

Political asylum suggested as remedy for Rifqa (OneNewsNow.com)

Obama, Clinton fundraiser indicted (AP/GOPUSA.com)

Senators to start work on revised health care bill (AP/GOPUSA.com)

Senators urge Treasury to end bailout program (AP/GOPUSA.com)

School Officials Cleared in Mealtime Prayer Case (Tasha Easterling/Rightly Concerned Blog)

Analysis:

FACT CHECK: Coverage requirement enforced with tax (AP/GOPUSA.com)

Commentary:

The Underdogs (Thomas Sowell/GOPUSA.com

Obama At Odds With Majority But Undeterred (David Limbaugh/GOPUSA.com)

NEA: Big time supporter of ACORN (Bryan Fischer/Rightly Concerned Blog)

Yes, Mr. President . . . It's a TAX! (Bobby Eberle/GOPUSA.com)

The Cost of Government Health Care — For Doctors (Jeremy Wiggins/Rightly Concerned Blog)

Obamacare: Losing Everyone  (Dick Morris/GOPUSA.com)

Pelosi 'Frightened' by Free Speech (Bobby Eberle/GOPUSA.com)

Pelosi's Crocodile Tears (Jeremy Wiggins/Rightly Concerned Blog)

If Only Wagner's Revenue Projections Were As "Clear," Or, A Campaign Without Communication . . . Yet!

If you haven't heard it by now, and you want a good laugh, listen to Democrat lieutenant governor candidate Jody Wagner's interview this morning with WRVA's Richmond's Morning News host Jimmy Barrett (click here). Barrett gets right to the point and asks the former Kaine administration finance secretary about her missed revenue projections, which have resulted in consecutive budget deficits and multiple budget cuts. I'll give her some credit for her answer — she's at least learned something from the Obama administration, and that's the one thing it's good at: blame, blame and pass the buck, with a litany of boilerplate liberal excuses:

» It was the Bush administration's fault (at least twice);

» At least Virginia isn't as bad off as some other states (that'll make people feel secure);

» Passed the buck to economic forecasting agencies, business leaders and groups, and General Assembly leaders (how about that, Dick Saslaw?);

» But the 6.6 percent revenue growth projection in a slowing economy never gave her pause, even as many in the General Assembly warned the Kaine administration it was too high (she emphatically was "not overly optimistic"); and 

» Repeatedly said, "Let's be clear," (to the point where Barrett mockingly repeated it himself).

Not to mention her defensiveness when Barrett tried to loft her a softball about her campaign — she thought he was trying to blame her for the recession, for which she blamed George W. Bush (again).

All these excuses inevitably led to contradictions. Follow this bit of illogic: If it's the federal government's fault when things are bad, she must then credit it when things are good; if so, we have no reason for state government. So why is she running? She also got defensive when Barrett mentioned the recession came into focus a year ago, and rudely interrupted him to say she wasn't in office then, as well as when he simply asked how forecasts might be improved in the future.

But we still haven't heard the classics from her! Here goes:

On the grossly inaccurate revenue forecasts: 

"If I'm powerful enough to be personally responsible for that, then you want me to be your lieutenant governor."

Then, the absolute best for last: On the Public Policy Poll (a liberal pollster) that shows all three Democrats behind by double digits:

"The Democratic candidates have not yet begun communicating with the public yet and we will be doing that as the campaign moves along." 

So, that entire primary thing back in June was a what? Those television ads she ran . . . ? Those campaign appearances and interviews . . . ?

There you have it. It has nothing to do with her previous job performance, but that she and her ticket mates haven't yet communicated with the public. Don't worry, though. They plan on it. But with interviews like this, Ms. Wagner may want to delay that communication as long as possible.

Virginia News Stand: April 24, 2009

Yesterday we were late, today we're early. Here's your News Stand, where we findthe Democrat candidates for governor tripping all over themselves trying to outbid each other on education spending. They all want to spend more. Of course. Teachers salaries, pre-K, it's all there. Recession? What revenue shortfall? Meanwhile, on the broader political front, the Dems and GOP continue to fight over the extra unemployment insurance doled out in the "stimulus" package. Dems say take it, GOP says it's an unfunded mandate we'll get stuck with after two years, killing job creation. 

Finally, please read Julia Duin's column in the Washington Times about the medical professionals' conscience protections, about to be stripped away by the Obama administration. 

News:

Va. jobless benefits deal unlikely, House Republicans say (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Va. Dems, GOP spar over stimulus for jobless benefits (Norfolk Virginian-Pilot)

Gubernatorial hopefuls vow teacher pay hikes (Washington Times)

Candidates promise Va. teachers pay raises (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Dems debate in Hampton (The Daily Press)

In 2nd debate, candidates vow more education spending (Norfolk Virginian-Pilot)

Candidates Agree on Preschool Spending (Washington Post)

National News:

Pro-life doctors face 'consequences' (Washington Times)

Payday Lender Closes Virginia Operations

As we posted in yesterday's News Stand, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that one of the largest payday lending groups, Check 'n Go, is closing up shop and leaving Virginia. While we would normally frown on the loss of business in our Commonwealth, the predatory lending institutions like this bring no benefit to the citizens of Virginia, and we're glad to see them go. Last year we were proud to work along side a diverse coalition of organizations, including the U.S. Military and the Better Business Bureau, that sought to limit the interest rates payday lenders charge to the same rates, by law, other financial institutions, may charge, and level the playing field. The incredibly high interest rates payday lenders charged trapped Virginians into cycles of debt and put families at risk. Though we were unsuccessful in capping the rate, the General Assembly did approve several restrictions, such as the number of loans an individual can have and remedies for those caught in the debt trap.

While not thrilled with the outcome, it was an incremental step in the right direction. This year, the General Assembly further restricted these lenders after they sought to side-step last year's law (The Family Foundation did not take a position on the issue this year.) Along with the declining economy, where joblessness continues to increase, few people are spending beyond their means. Combined with the new restrictions, payday lenders are finding fewer victims.

One comment from a payday lender in the T-D article was revealing. W. Allen Jones, founder and chairman of Check Into Cash, of Cleveland, Tenn., said, "People will not overspend; they're not confident in their jobs."

Note that, according to this quote, payday lenders were counting on people overspending. Payday lenders were created to take advantage of people's irresponsibility or desperation. This is not a business model that the Commonwealth of Virginia should endorse. As bad as the recession is, at least the bright spot of a payday lender leaving Virginia, has come from it.

Governments Unbothered And Unrestrained

What do you call a quarter of (however small) gross domestic product growth, rising worker productivity and dropping labor unit costs (an inflation factor); a month with a lower unemployment rate, rising factory orders and increased consumer purchases; two straight weeks of declining unemployment insurance claims and a year of increased wages? If you're a liberal running for office or a member of the Mainstream Media, it's a recession. The economy surely isn't in great shape with gas prices as high as they are, along with rising ethanol production decreasing food supplies and increasing food prices (thanks environmentalist wackos). But by no statistical measurement are we in a recession — yet.

We're not the only ones who think that. A major institution agrees: Government.

Perhaps nothing is more disturbing during these unsure economic times than the fact that government, at all levels and across all regions of the country, continues to add jobs to their bureaucracies. According to a recent analysis of all employment sectors, despite the job reductions and efficiencies the private sector has been forced into — created primarily by government policies of high taxation, artificially high energy prices because of a lack of domestic production, and rising food prices because of farm subsidies to grow corn for ethanol at the expense of other crops — the public sector (i.e., government) continues to grow!

Here's an excerpt from an AP dispatch (emphasis added):

On the jobs front, construction companies slashed 61,000 positions in April. Manufacturers cut 46,000 and retailers got rid of 27,000. Those losses were eclipsed by job gains in education and health care, professional and business services, the government and elsewhere.

For what good reason is government growing? If not now, in an economic slowdown, then when will governments clamp down and do more with less? Will it ever stop adding to its payroll? In Virginia, we face a governor and certain legislators ready to jack up the gas tax as that commodity makes its way to $4.00 per gallon.

So it seems government is un-bothered about the slow economy and unrestrained in its appetite to confiscate from those it purports to serve. These same state and local governments complain of tight budgets and revenue shortages, while they rake in ever more money in higher real estate and assorted state and local taxes from hard working families having enough of a time filling up their cars with gas. Politicians always brag about balanced budgets. But balanced budgets don't mean a thing when they grow each year by taking more than is needed from hard working families to fund bureaucracies. That's never right, even in good times. It's especially cruel when times are tenuous.