Wednesday, January 27, 2010

State of the Union

Keep this in mind when watching Obama tonight...while unemployment currently stands at 10% in this country, the jobs market is showing signs of bottoming and the historical timeframe for when jobs start to come back (2-3 years after the start of the recession) is right about now. So when Obama proposes to spend more of your tax money, and your children's tax money, on some nebulous jobs bill (which unless it includes corporate tax cuts, instead of targeted lobbyist back-scratching, will be useless) he's making the purely political calculation that anything he does will be viewed as successful because of the coincidental timing of the business cycle.

Of course, any jobs turnaround will be delayed and muted by his bloated and still-mostly-unspent stimulus package...but if the stimulus package is mentioned at all, he'll take credit for turning the economy around...which again was more coincidental business cycle timing. (If I'm wrong, and his stimulus did fix the economy, then how to explain that we were already turning the corner before a single dime was spent, and we're now well on the way to recovery with 2/3 still unspent?)

At the same time, he's going to make a big deal out of a budgetary "spending freeze" proposal. While racking up a $1.4 trillion deficit, including a $850 billion stimulus package, Obama is going to propose "saving" the country $250 billion dollars - over 10 years, or $25 billion/year. If you're increasing the size of government by $1.4 trillion, while reducing it by $25 billion...well, you understand the general direction of his policies. He'll say the word "freeze" about a dozen times because he wants the idea to sink into your head that he's somehow keeping to campaign promises of reducing the deficit and spending responsibly, but his actions tell a totally different story.

To understand the true meaning of a freeze, however, you need to look at the exceptions. By saying he will freeze nondefense discretionary spending, Obama is excluding so-called mandatory spending, as well as defense, which he has interpreted as defense, homeland security and veterans spending. Without looking at any of the fine print, the freezeā€™s narrow parameters have already excluded the vast majority of annual spending. - Read full article here.

So when you're watching tonight, don't fall (again) for the charm and silver tongue that hoodwinked you into voting for him. Look at his actions and understand the meaning behind his empty words.

I don't want to sound like a Rush Limbaugh anti-Obama demagogue...I'm willing to change my opinion when he changes his actions. Stop running up huge deficits and increasing government power (ie: restricting our freedom) by sending more and more of our money to Washington. Then you'll have my full support.

Tim Tebow update: Hard to believe, but Tebow's mechanics are coming into question this week at Senior Bowl practices. He's having trouble with accuracy, velocity, and resetting his feet when his first read breaks down. His windup at times brings the ball below his waist - by comparison, watch some old Dan Marino clips and see how often that ball dropped below his shoulder. The time and space Tebow requires to throw the football simply won't be available to him in the NFL. One scout called him "Larry Csonka playing quarterback". That pretty much says it all.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The True Measure of a Man

Suddenly, things aren't going Obama's way anymore.

Elected into office along with a Democratic supermajority in the Senate, and a majority in the House, it seemed like Obama had a clear mandate to add $1 trillion to our budget deficit with wasteful earmarks and politically-targeted payouts.

Then, when the economy started to turn, he got credit for this stimulus nonsense, even though 2/3 of it still hasn't been paid out yet.

But now that Scott Brown's victory has killed his health-care package, Obama's acting like a petulant child by lashing out at banks and demanding punitive taxes on for-profit institutions that had the gall to make money while the rest of us weren't.

Robin Hood redistribution isn't the answer. The executives of Goldman Sachs and other large banks are paid by their shareholders to make as much money as possible. It is their job, and if they don't do it well, the shareholders will replace them. You are welcome to think that their compensation packages are too big, and I'd agree with you, but that doesn't mean they should donate more than the current 41% tax rate of their bonuses to the government! (Gregg Easterbrook, who I've written about before, favors a 100:1 maximum spread for employees of the same company, so that the CEO cannot make more than 100 times the lowest-paid employee. This is an interesting thought experiment worth some consideration, although I'm scared to death of the slippery slope of government-mandated compensation.)

If the banks and the bankers did something illegal to bring about the crash, then punish them. Prosecute everyone who leveraged beyond SEC limits, who failed to disclose all required information on loans, or who used off-shore accounts to hide underperforming assets. They'll get no sympathy from me.

But, on the other hand, when you're part of a government that deregulated banks to the point where they could leverage their assets at a 50-to-1 ratio, package mortgages into complicated derivative packages and sell them off to other institutions, short the very assets they were selling to their clients, and then provide a predictably easy monetary policy which encouraged these can't now turn around and demand recompense from those who played along with your rules and made a lot of money.

And then, when you bail them out at 100%, don't force any concessions from their creditors, and don't attach any strings to how they spend the bailout money...don't act astonished when they take that money and line their pockets - legally - with it. A punitive tax will not make up for your lack of foresight, and it absolutely, positively, will not create jobs, which is what this country really needs.

The answer remains the same as always. Encourage investment by reducing taxes and spending.

  • Drop every corporate subsidy and tax exemption from the tax code so that everyone is on a level playing field, then cut the overall rate from 35% to 25%. The lower rate would encourage more business in the U.S. while simplicity would allow for businesses to cut costs. 35% remains the second-highest corporate tax rate in the world, at a time when we need more jobs.
  • Get rid of SarbOx, off-shore drilling restrictions, and 40-year-old nuclear power regulations. Homegrown energy = jobs and security.
  • Permanently lower the capital-gains tax and dividend tax. Incent stock market investment so that businesses have more capital to expand and hire, while investors keep more of their money.
  • Simplify the personal tax code, removing most deductions and reducing the marginal rates across-the-board. This is for my Keynesian friends, so I don't get pigeon-holed as a supply-sider. But really, I'm in favor of more money for everyone - except the government.
  • Slash government spending. As politically uncomfortable as this idea is, it's coming whether we like it or not. You saw from this latest crisis how quickly things can go bad. When our bloated government finally collapses under the weight of its debt, it will happen just as quickly. Everyone will think the problem is 30 years away, right up until the moment it happens. The first step is to kill every dollar of the stimulus that hasn't yet been spent.
  • You want healthcare? Bring back the public option, which was really the only good idea in your panoply of ill-conceived notions. Containing costs through competition - that's the answer, not thousands of pages of lobbyist-approved regulations.

No more Robin Hood bullshit, Mr. Obama. No more taxing-the-rich-because-they're-rich socialism. No more back-room deals with the state of Nebraska or insurance company lobbyists. No more juvenile pouting and petulance because your precious healthcare package was shot down. It's time for some Change We Can Believe In.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Eagles: One and Done

In the aftermath of two straight Texas trouncings, I'm going to step back and try to evaluate this Eagles team objectively. So if you're looking for emotional condemnations of McSuck and Big Incompetent, you'll have to wait until next season.

Here's what the Eagles are: 11-1 against non-playoff teams, 0-5 against playoff teams. And of those games, three against the Cowboys, the Saints, and the Chargers, only one was competitive. The other four games exposed mighty flaws - an inability to stop the run, an inconsistent pass rush, an offensive line that can't block, and consistent mistakes from the linebacker and safety positions.

Some of it was certainly due to injuries; health at this time of year is an underreported indicator of success. The Eagles were missing five projected starters (the Andrews sisters, Stewart Bradley, Jamaal Jackson, Quintin Demps) for the game while the Cowboys were missing zero. Technically, I could count Kevin Curtis as a sixth projected starter, but I'm assuming by this point in the season he would have been passed by Maclin on the depth chart anyway. Cornelius Ingram, who might have developed into an important role-player in 2TE sets, was also out for the year.

Generally, injuries are random and unavoidable, but look again at that list: three of those players were known risks (Andrews, Andrews, Ingram) who were coming off season-ending injuries! Additionally, the positions of safety and tackle were intentionally weakened by the Eagles when they chose not to resign key veterans to those positions. So a lot of the 'randomness' in this case was predictable and easily avoided, or at least prepared for.

The personnel department has a lot of work to do between now and April. 2-3 new defensive starters are needed for next year, at LB, S, and DE. The OL needs more depth, at least, and possible replacements for one or both of the Andrews. Another RB to replace Westbrook and another WR or two to replace Curtis and Brown. A young QB to be scouted and drafted to fill the developmental 3rd QB spot. 1-2 corners must be brought in also, to replace Sheldon down the road and provide some immediate depth.

It's important to remember that the Eagles were 11-5 and in the playoffs, a position that 20 NFL franchises envy. But beating up on bad teams, while failing miserably against good teams, is only a mediocre accomplishment. I refuse to make too much of it. This is a team that went from having the best roster in the league to a middling team with a lot of holes.

And oh yeah, the coach and QB suck. There, I feel better.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

New Year's Day Bowl Wrap

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith -- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God -- not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Leading 44-17 with just over 8 minutes to play, the Gloriously Wonderful Tim Tebow, sporting eyeblack reading EPH 2:8-10, lined up under center and threw deep. After completing the pass, and extending his own personal record for yardage in a BCS game, the Bible-Verse-Wearing Tim Tebow clapped his hands together like a 'gator, and encouraged the crowd to cheer loudly for this lack of sportsmanship. Three plays later, the team of Son-of-a-Preacher-Who-Spends-His-Summers-Ministering-To-The-Less-Stupendous Tim Tebow was in the end zone, celebrating a 51-17 lead and the complete humiliation of an inferior opponent.

Jesus would be proud.

Meanwhile, weasel coach Brian Kelly sat triumphantly in Notre Dame headquarters, watching his former team immolate while altar boys massaged his feet and lit his cigars with burning $100 bills.

And finally, the collective media fellatio of Tim Tebow comes to an end. Now He can move on to the NFL, where He'll attempt to reach his potential as a mediocre fullback. Tebow's not a QB; he doesn't have anything resembling NFL mechanics, and for all the talk you'll hear about Vince Young and the Wildcat and His potential as a QB, the NFL player He most closely resembles is Jim Kleinsasser. Never heard of him? He's been in the NFL for 10 years, as a FB/H-back/TE for the Vikings, and Tebow could absolutely fill a similar role. But He'll never be a QB, so let's just stop pretending now.

Do I sound bitter? I am. The undeserved accolades and hypocritical hero-worship of Tebow have been so incredibly over-the-top for years, that I feel nothing for Him but scorn. Pehaps it's unfair to direct it towards Him, instead of the media machine that created Him, but nevertheless I'm rooting for someone to find Him facedown in a pile of His own vomit, with needles in His arms and a giant purple dildo shoved in His ass.

Penn State nearly pulled defeat from the jaws of victory, almost serving as a case study for why you shouldn't attempt field goals from inside the five yard line. But the most noteworthy thing about that game were the horrible field conditions. It's embarrassing to play a game on that chewed up grass and mud with millions of dollars in sponsorship, ticket sales, and TV contracts at stake. Granted, it would have been fun as hell to be a player, but if you're looking for an entertaining contest between skilled athletes, the High Interest Rates Bowl did not deliver. As long as we're going to host these sham bowls on neutral sites, we could at least choose decent fields with modern-day drainage systems and a grounds crew that covers the fucking field with a tarp during pre-game thunderstorms. But PSU won, beating a quality SEC opponent, so I can't complain too much. They still won't get any national love...but then again, they don't have a baby-faced white QB with biblical bullshit on his face.

Interesting graphic during the game showing JoePa's five undefeated seasons, more than any other coach at a major school. What they didn't mention: One national championship in those five seasons. But who needs a playoff, right?

Another Big Ten team should have won against the SEC, but Northwestern just couldn't stop making mistakes...and in spite of throwing five picks and missing multiple kicks, they ended up just two yards short. Still, a nice day for the Big Ten as OSU handles Oregon as well.