Personal integrity is returning according to this author. Why? Because Americans may start liking tea.(See 1 below.)
Here comes immigration reform and more bruising battles. (See 2 below.)
Wharton's Jeremy Siegel sees more market upside. (See 3 below.)
Have Blue States gotten to the point where they are because of adherence to Liberal dogma or are they victims of the industrial age and failed to adapt to change. In the case of some Eastern and Midwest states that may be the case but not so in California.
Problem is more complex than the author suggests but no doubt liberal laws, unions and poor and corrupt fiscal management is a large part of the blame as well as poor weather resulting in higher living costs. (See 4 below.)
This author explains the two Obamas who reside within our president.
Robert L. Stevenson once wrote a novel about this phenomena.
Medically speaking if you want a second opinion then open this: You Picked a Fine Time to Lead Us.wmv (7169KB) (See 5 and 5a [a repeat] below.)
This is a Muslim I would vote for in a blink of my eye. His comments must be offensive and challenging to a White House more interested in wiping the slate clean and basing our foreign policies on denial. (See 6 and 6a below.)
By Arnold Ahlert
Had an interesting conversation with my health insurance agent yesterday. Despite coming nowhere near my deductible, I was told the cost of my health insurance would increase by $1200 for the coming year. Undoubtedly, many Americans will be having the same conversation very shortly. It was when I began asking questions that the conversation became intriguing — and extremely aggravating.
Although I am more aware of things than the average American as a result of doing these columns, I'd be lying to you if I said I knew every detail about the new health care bill. And I'm not the least bit embarrassed by it. The bet here is a majority of slackers in Congress know even less than I do, and they voted on this American nightmare.
And make no mistake: it is a nightmare for many reasons, but first and foremost — like so many liberal programs — is the deleterious effect it has on one's personal integrity.
According to my insurance provider, this July is when insurance companies can no longer deny care for pre-existing conditions. My policy expires in June. So I asked the rep a logical question: since I'm facing a twelve hundred dollar increase in my premium, but no one can deny me coverage for pre-existing conditions, why shouldn't I just wait until something happens and buy insurance then? Sure, it would likely be more expensive then, but that's assuming I kept paying for it after the crisis passed. The way I see it, why not sign up when you get sick, drop it as soon as you get well, and sign up again when you get sick again?
And that's just until 2014. After that, why not just pay the fine and continue gaming the system?
Only one thing stands in my way: personal integrity.
That's the same personal integrity that keeps me paying my mortgage when I could hop on the government bailout wagon. It's the same integrity that compels me not to spend money I don't have on things I don't need, instead of maxing out a credit card and welshing on the debt — by way of one of those companies whose advertising consists of telling people they can get a fifty percent discount on what they owe "predatory" credit card companies.
In theory, good government is supposed to discourage "moral hazard." This bunch embraces it, from bailing out companies "too big to fail" to underwriting every American who considers himself entitled to walk away from an underwater mortgage, not because he can't afford it, but because he feels no compunction whatsoever to honor a contract he signed.
People like me? The message is crystal clear: integrity is for suckers — sucker.
As I've said many times before, there are three types of people in the world: those who do the right thing, those who don't — and those who straddle the fence with their finger held aloft to see which way the wind is blowing. Right now there's a Category 5 hurricane blowing in the direction of the takers, whose despicable sense of entitlement ought to be shame-inducing.
But it's not. And every time government pats these people on the head and tells them it's "not their fault" for anything, the fence-sitters head down the path of least resistance, knowing that safety in numbers is the best defense for the indefensible. Or as any grade-schooler would put it:
Everyone else is doing it, why not me?
People can rationalize anything. From the street thug who sells crack because "the man is keeping me down" to the suit who pockets millions after running a company into the ground because "he's earned it" — to a government which justifies destroying incentive because "it's unfair that equality of opportunity doesn't yield equality of results" — we are constantly reminded that scruples are taking a beating across the American landscape.
And yet people are fighting back. The Tea Party movement is many things, but the premise behind it is simple: we will not yield to moral anarchy being promoted as social justice. We will not mortgage the future of the country to underwrite the selfishness and irresponsibility of the present. We will not accept expediency as a viable substitute for the rule of law, the most glaring example of which is illegal immigration "reform."
We will not "do it," just because everyone else is.
Progressives think they can infiltrate such a movement and discredit it. Good luck, comrades. Good luck telling Americans with integrity that they're bigots, racists, red-necks, etc. Good luck selling "flexible" morality to people with clear consciences and pure hearts. Good luck persuading them that "clinging" to their faith, their families and the Second Amendment is a fool's errand.
Good luck convincing yourselves that this is nothing more than a political movement.
It's not. Throughout the course of history, human decency has been pushed to the brink of extinction many times. Millions have been exterminated wherever depravity gained the upper hand. But people always fought back, even when it seemed far more hopeless than it does right now.
Despite what progressives think, not every American can be compromised — not with a handout, an entitlement program, or anything else which necessitates abandoning one's integrity for security. Those Americans will not be gulled by the false promises of government-sponsored "happiness" — or the inducement of progressive guilt which posits that life is a zero-sum game in which every winner requires an equal number of losers or victims. They will never feel ashamed for being decent, hard-working, law-abiding Americans, who believe in the Constitution, capitalism and American exceptionalism.
That is why progressive America despises the Tea party movement — but why nothing they do can destroy it.
Progressives will never understand the true greatness of America. They will never understand how a nation which gave the rest of civilization a two thousand year "head start" vaulted past every other country to the top of the heap in less than three hundred years. For them, America is an ongoing tragedy in which the only remedy is atonement — an atonement which requires Americans to lower their hopes and expectations for the future in order to "align" themselves with the rest of the world.
That's what they're selling as hope and change, my fellow Americans.
The Tea Partiers aren't buying. And the bet here is a substantial majority of Americans aren't either. Those Americans may not be officially aligned with the Tea party phenomenon, but they are with it in spirit. It is a spirit that scares the hell of out those frantically trying disparage it by any means necessary.
Such attempts are nothing new. Communists tried containing such a spirit — literally — when they built the Berlin Wall and the rest of the Iron Curtain. Take a good, long look at the that rubble, my progressive friends. That is your future, and it's as inevitable as the sunrise. It's a future determined by the one spark of human nature which has grown dim many times, but will never, ever be completely extinguished:
It's called personal integrity — and it's poised for a giant comeback.
2)Immigration Reform: The New Third Rail: The GOP would be wise to avoid shrill rhetoric and argue instead for more visas for the highly skilled.
By MICHAEL BARONE
Back in August, when he was heading to his Martha's Vineyard vacation, President Obama called on Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration bill. He has renewed that call more recently, and Sens. Charles Schumer and Lindsey Graham say they want to co-sponsor a bipartisan bill. With Democrats holding 59 of 100 Senate seats and 254 of 435 House seats (there are three vacancies), you might think passage would be assured. But you would be wrong.
Prospects for a comprehensive immigration bill look worse than they did when George W. Bush was pushing for one in 2006 and 2007. In 2006 the Republican Senate did pass such a bill, but it never came to a vote in the House, which passed a border fence bill instead. In 2007 a Democratic Senate failed to pass a bill, as Harry Reid, in his first year as majority leader, yanked it from the floor twice.
The problem now, with Mr. Bush back in Texas, is that the immigration issue is political poison for both parties. Any bill that provides legal status to illegal immigrants leaves Democrats open to the charge that they're backing "amnesty" and rewarding those who have broken the law. And vocal Republican opposition to such a bill leaves the GOP open to charges of anti-Hispanic bigotry, with possible backlash at the polls for years to come.
Democrats do have one reason to bring a bill forward. According to the exit poll, Hispanics voted 67% to 31% for Mr. Obama in 2008 and 68% to 29% for Democratic members of Congress. Hispanic politicians like Rep. Luis Gutierrez of Chicago have been agitating for immigration legislation and threatening civil disobedience if one is not passed. An estimated 100,000 people marched in Washington on March 21, the day the House passed the Democrats' health-care bill, in support of comprehensive immigration legislation.
Even so, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, like her Republican predecessor Dennis Hastert, says she will not bring up the issue in the House until and unless the Senate passes a bill. Many Democratic members—Blue Dogs in rural districts, union stalwarts in industrial areas—fear that major reforms could give Republican opponents campaign fodder and cost them their seats in November.
Facts on the ground support such assessments. When immigration bills were debated in 2006 and 2007, unemployment was below 5%. For the last six months it has been hovering around 10%. In mid-decade it was expected that the flow of immigrants, legal and illegal, would continue indefinitely at the same high levels as it had since the early 1990s. Now it seems to have slowed.
The Pew Hispanic Center reported last summer that Mexican immigration to the U.S. from spring 2008 to spring 2009 was only one-quarter the level of 2004-05. The Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) estimates that the number of illegals in the U.S. dropped to 10.8 million in spring 2008 from 12.5 million in summer 2007—a decline of 14%. While the numbers are hard to verify, the CIS estimates that 1.2 million illegals returned to Mexico in 2006-09, more than twice as many as in 2002-05. The Census Bureau estimates that, for the first time since 1970, the nation's foreign-born population declined in 2007-08.
This apparent downturn in immigration and the possible outmigration of illegals tend to undercut the argument for legalization. The argument ran that the nation needed more workers and that otherwise law-abiding and hard-working illegals who paid fines and took a place at the end of line could become constructive citizens. Ineffective enforcement of immigration laws, the argument went, was not their fault and amounted to something like an invitation to cross the border. But now, with high unemployment, we no longer need so many workers. If illegals are returning to their countries of origin in significant numbers, why encourage them to stay?
In addition, the argument that effective enforcement is unfeasible is weaker than it was just a few years ago. One result of the unsuccessful push for comprehensive legislation in 2006-07 was beefed up enforcement. Some 600 miles of border fence have been built, and border-crossing arrests—generally considered a proxy for illegal border crossings—have sharply declined.
Moreover, the e-Verify system for determining the legal status of potential employees has improved. In Arizona, where because of state law use of e-Verify is most common, there's been a statistically significant decline in the foreign-born population, according to the Census Bureau. The possibility of using biometric identification (fingerprinting, facial recognition, DNA, etc.) to keep track of immigrants might make enforcement even more effective.
Increasingly, effective enforcement cuts both ways. One could argue that if we can enforce the law better in the future a one-time amnesty now—similar to President Reagan's 1986 amnesty—would not lead to more illegal crossings. One could also argue that better enforcement means we shouldn't reward those who broke the law in the past.
Most Senate Democrats still seem disposed to vote for a comprehensive bill. But they will need some significant number of Republicans to get the needed 60 votes. And the two Republicans who led the fight for such a bill in 2006-07 are no longer available. John McCain faces primary opposition from immigration critic J.D. Hayworth. His Arizona colleague Jon Kyl is not on board either. And it's not clear how many Republican votes Lindsey Graham, for all his appearances on the Sunday talk shows, can deliver. This is one issue on which Democrats may wish that George W. Bush, with his strong support of a comprehensive bill, were still around.
Mr. Bush's absence may also be a source of regret for Republicans. The instinct of many GOP politicians is to denounce any form of legalization, and in the shrill tones one hears from callers on talk-radio programs. But those shrill tones seem to turn off many voters, not just Hispanics but also suburbanites who favor strict enforcement of immigration laws but shy away from anything that sounds like prejudice against minorities.
Republicans would be well advised to avoid such rhetoric. They should take a cue from Sen. Kyl's work on the 2007 bill, and from the thoughtful 2009 report of a bipartisan panel assembled by the Brookings Institution and Duke University's Kenan Center. Both urged significant reductions in the number of green cards for legal residents' relatives beyond the nuclear family and for a sizeable increase in the number issued to high-skill immigrants. This is the approach taken currently by Canada and Australia, with good results. The argument would be that in our current economy we need fewer job seekers and more job creators.
These reforms would probably not be welcomed by the Hispanic groups that are pushing the Democrats to take up this legislation. But a package that provided limited legalization, further strengthened enforcement, and made room for more high-skill immigrants might be the only way to obtain bipartisan support—and could minimize the damage that each party faces from this emotion-laden issue.
Mr. Barone is senior political analyst for the Washington Examiner, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and co-author of "The Almanac of American Politics 2010" (National Journal).
3)Jeremy Siegel on the Dow Reaching 11,000: 'You've Still Got Upside'
The Dow has closed above 11,000, the European Union is bailing out Greece and the U.S. economy seems to be perking up. Is the future as bright as it looks? In fact, it looks pretty good, says Wharton finance professor Jeremy Siegel. While the Dow's 11,000 close doesn't mean much to professional market watchers, it can give ordinary investors a psychological boost, and it focuses attention on the stock market's fine showing over the past year. According to Siegel, the U.S. economy is in a self-sustaining recovery, no longer dependent on government stimulus -- and while the housing market could take years to make up recent losses, the economy should do well. With interest rates likely to rise, it's a risky time to invest in bonds, but stocks could end the year 8% to 10% higher than they are today, Siegel said in an interview with Knowledge@Wharton.
Knowledge@Wharton: The Dow surpassed 11,000 for the first time, it seems, in ages. Is this something that matters?
Jeremy Siegel:It doesn’t matter in a real economic sense, but more in a psychological sense. Obviously, these are just arbitrary points. But this is the highest position since September 2008, when the crisis really broke out. More illuminating than just looking at the number 11,000 is that the market is only about 22% or 23% off from its all-time high, which was reached in October 2007 when the Dow was over 13,000. We went down 58% and now we are back within a little more of 20%of the high. That shows you that there has been a very significant recovery.
Knowledge@Wharton: You hear about these big numbers like 11,000, 10,000 and so on, and we know mathematically 11,000 is not much different from 10,999. But the analysts are always talking about psychological barriers. Is there any evidence that investors behave differently, that they are encouraged, when you break through one of these ceilings?
Siegel:It does hit the news. It might cause a few investors to say, “Hey, you know what? I think the worst time is over. Maybe I should dabble in stocks again.” Professional traders don’t put any stock in it at all -- although there are a few traders who love to place little bets on whether [the Dow] is going to close above or below [a certain level], and they may push the market around a little bit to try to get their way. But, again, it is mostly a psychological barrier. It sort of causes us to step back and take stock in how far we have come back. That sort of reflection is good for the market.
Knowledge@Wharton: Another item in the news is the recession, and the panel that calls the beginnings and ends of recessions -- always far after the fact -- decided recently that it was too soon to decide whether the recession has ended. Again, is this something that matters, or are the markets way beyond this question?
Siegel: Yes, the recession has definitely ended. What they were more uncertain about was what month it ended, but that is quibbling about history. My feeling is that it was July or August of last year. But there is no question that we are out of it. In my opinion, we are not going to have a double dip. It is just a question of whether we are going to come out of this with moderate growth or surprisingly rapid growth.
The National Bureau of Economic Research [NBER] is, as you say, notoriously late at calling the turning points. I was listening to Jim Poterba, who is the new head of the NBER, saying they are not a forecasting group; they just look at data and try to pick when the turning points of the economy have taken place. Again, I don’t think we should take too much stock in that. The more interesting argument is how strong the recovery is. Of course, there are pessimists out there still who believe we are going to have a double dip. You heard the term “sugar high” being applied so much late last year -- that it’s only the stimulus keeping our economy afloat, and that when it is withdrawn, we are going to sink back into a serious recession.
Knowledge@Wharton: Another item is Greece. There has been a lot of worry in recent months about the economic conditions in Greece. Now Europe has come forward with $40 billion to help, at a relatively low interest rate. Yet the markets didn’t seem to go crazy over the news. Is this, again, something that matters?
Siegel:Greece is a serious drag on the European economy. It really goes beyond whether they are going to default on their debt because the peripheral countries that joined the EU, and particularly Greece, had sudden inflation in their cost structure. Their wages went up. A lot of capital came in. They thought they were rich. They spent a lot. The truth is that the Greek worker did not increase his or her productivity anywhere near in line with how much wages increased. What does this mean? Greek labor and industry are at a very severe cost disadvantage, which is going to drag down the Greek economy for years to come. As I have often said, if they had the drachma, their old currency, the solution would be easy.
It’s not easy, but it’s apparent. You devalue your currency and you become competitive again. Of course, the cost is that imports are more expensive. Laborers don’t get the real income they would have otherwise. But now what you have to do, since everyone is in the euro, is ask the Greek worker not to hold wages constant, but [bear] outright cuts. Some experts are talking about cuts of 20% to bring back competitiveness. When I look at the news from Greece and I see the strikes and demonstrations, this is not about cuts. This is about freezing wages or benefits or reducing some of the overly lavish pension provisions. I doubt whether they can ever achieve the type of wage reduction that many believe would be necessary to bring them back to competitiveness. This may be a problem for not only Greece, but also Portugal and Spain. Spain has an unemployment rate of 20% once again and is in a serious recession.
The big difference is that there isn’t labor mobility in Europe as there is in the United States. When one region is somewhat depressed [in the U.S.], there are jobs elsewhere. Americans move. In fact, we have the most mobile worker group of large countries in the world. We just move where the jobs are. The Greeks are not going to move to Germany, where jobs are, or to France or Belgium. There are cultural and language differences. That lack of mobility makes it even harder for them to make the necessary adjustments.
Knowledge@Wharton: To laymen, it looks like Greece is not that big of a country and we can’t really understand why it is infecting all the countries around it. What is the mechanism that makes that happen?
Siegel: There is a group called the "PIIGS," which is Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain. Ireland is doing some necessary things and it is going to succeed. But we are talking about more than just Greece. Even if Greece is forced to leave the euro, that is terrible. It is unprecedented to leave a currency.
What is also very important -- and this is good for the U.S. dollar -- is that the Chinese and [other] Asians, who have most of the world’s foreign exchange reserves, were accumulating euros over the previous five years because it has been a strong currency, and certainly strong relative to the U.S. dollar. They may now have many second thoughts about accumulating euros. That would probably make them more comfortable with the U.S. dollar. That has a lot of significance, but is mostly a positive for the United States.
The negative, of course, is that if the euro goes down in value, European exports are going to become more competitive and … when we translate euros into U.S. dollars, we will get less and there will be a little less profits. But [the euro] will rise against the U.S. [dollar], which is still the world’s primary reserve currency, to a more solid position in the future.
Knowledge@Wharton: Let’s look at the U.S. One of the areas we dwell on an awful lot these days is the housing market. Some news is good and some news is bad. What do you see happening there, and how is that affecting the broader economy and financial markets?
Siegel:Housing is still extremely sluggish. We are going to get housing starts at the end of this week, but the monthly reports [show] half a million starts on an annualized basis, which are one quarter of what we had during the boom years of 2004, 2005 and 2006 -- a 75% reduction. We have had stability in home prices. In fact, the Case-Shiller [home price] index has been up marginally from the lows it reached around six or seven months ago. There is a lot of debate. I have a little bet with one of my colleagues about whether it is going to go back down another 10%. It probably hit its bottom, but I don’t think it is going to recover for a long time. It could be 15 or 20 years for housing to get back to the level it was during the boom year of 2005.
That said, we can have a fairly strong economic recovery without housing going back into a boom period. Housing is going to be weak for a long time and prices, even if they stabilize, are not really going to go up. There are good values there for first-time homebuyers and that is very positive. But I don’t see a boom in that industry any time soon.
Knowledge@Wharton: There has been some talk recently about whether improvements in the stock market and economy are due to the stimulus efforts from the federal government. What is your view?
Siegel: What we have seen over the last three months are the first signs of a self-sustaining recovery. What I mean by that is that in the first quarter of the year, we did not get any direct fiscal stimulus. There were no tax cuts. There were no rebates. The "Cash for Clunkers" program and even the housing credit expired. Yet, when at the end of April we get the real growth most experts are looking for -- 3% to 3.5% in consumption, which is really quite good -- we don’t have to rely on fiscal stimulus for that positive GDP growth. The economy is beginning to repair itself on its own.
We could argue about how quickly it is repairing itself on its own and how quickly it needs to repair itself to bring down the unemployment rate, but right now I believe -- and many colleagues and fellow forecasters I follow on Wall Street and otherwise, even some who had been skeptical believe -- that we have seen a self-sustaining expansion.
Knowledge@Wharton: Interest rates are very low by historical standards, but are inching up. Mortgage rates have gone up a little over 5% and the 10-year Treasury has been up over 4% -- not every day, but some days. What do you see happening with interest rates?
Siegel: We are going to trend up. But it is interesting. It poked above 4% and then came all the way down to 3.8% again. There is still a lot of demand for bonds and the safety of U.S. securities. I mentioned earlier that foreign central banks are looking a little bit askance at the euro and continuing to buy government bonds. That said, the Federal Reserve by the end of the summer is going to have to start notching up rates, and the 10-year Treasury rate will go above 4% and could be 4.5%. Some experts are even saying 5%. I wouldn’t be surprised to see that.
One should also say that although that’s high from the standard of the last two years, it is still a very low rate if you look over the last 20 or 30 years. Mortgage rates, even though they poked above 5%, are still very good rates -- 30-year fixed up to 6% are good rates. I remember when I was young and thinking of [buying] a house, [a 6% mortgage] would have been a dream. They were 9% and 10% or higher. So we can stand higher rates and still have a healthy economy. But I think the Fed will have to start raising rates.
Knowledge@Wharton: What about investors? A lot of people like to own bonds for safety or as part of a long-term diversification plan. Is it a dangerous time to be in bonds with rates threatening to rise?
Siegel: Certainly with long-term bonds, it is because you are going to get capital losses on them if you are stuck in a 3.5% or 4% bond and interest rates go to 5%. You are going to take a 10% or 15% loss. If you hold it to maturity, you will get it back, but you are stuck for 10, 15, 20 or 30 years in a low-yielding instrument. I do not believe bonds are an attractive investment going forward. It is precisely because I think a stronger economy will bring a rise in interest rates.
Knowledge@Wharton: This week we are entering the earnings reporting season for the first quarter. What are you expecting?
Siegel: A good quarter again. We had two knockout quarters in the third and fourth quarters of last year, with the percentage of firms beating their estimates being at or near highs. Most analysts believe this will be another quarter in which the percentage of firms beating their estimates will be above average, but not maybe quite as strong as the previous two quarters. Nonetheless, as economic growth becomes self-sustaining and the economy becomes stronger, I look at not only the past quarter, but also projections for 2010 earnings. Virtually every week or two, I see an upgrade of those earnings estimates. Earnings estimates are on the upswing, and that is certainly positive for the market.
Knowledge@Wharton: Stocks have had a terrific run in the last 12 or 13 months and have done quite well so far this year. Are the earnings you are talking about already built in to stock prices, or do they have farther to go?
Siegel:They have farther to go. They are beginning to be built in, but there is still a lot of skepticism out there. As I mentioned, a very important indicator of valuation is the price-earnings ratio. Right now, stocks are selling at around 15-and-a-half times projected 2010 operating earnings. Many people say, "Isn’t that about the average?" The answer is yes. But coming out of a recession, that is actually a very low valuation. I did a study about the average price-earnings ratio of the market for the next full year out of a recession and it turns out to be 18 and a half. We are about 15% or 20% discounted from the average price of stocks coming out of a recession. That’s why I still think there is room for stocks to run up.
Knowledge@Wharton: Let’s look briefly at [non-U.S.] stocks, which you have long argued should be a sizable portion of an investor’s portfolio. How do they look? Safe? Encouraging? Frightening?
Siegel: I have been a fan of emerging markets and they have done very well. In fact, they have come back the best of all countries, even outside of China, and are now just about back to their peak levels of GDP. I am still a fan of emerging markets and think they will out perform. Now, people ask me about Europe. Don’t give up on Europe.
First, the low euro gives them a little bit of extra competitiveness. Second, many of them sell internationally and not to Europe itself. Third, European stocks are selling at the cheapest levels now relative to their earnings. They are selling at 10, 11 or 12 times earnings, which is cheap enough given the euro's problems. If you listen to the first part of this podcast, you would be saying, "A minute ago, you were telling us about all the problems there," and I’m saying, "You are getting paid for those problems right now. You are getting them at a discount of maybe 20%." That’s enough to not shun those European stocks.
I am still in favor of global diversification. Probably the only area I am not enthusiastic about is Japan. But Europe still deserves to be held. Emerging markets are going to be strong and they could be over-weighted. And, of course, I think American stocks are going to do well.
Knowledge@Wharton: Regarding American stocks: How far do you think the S&P 500 could go from where it is now?
Siegel: We are at just about 1,200. The high was around 1,450, if I recall. Getting to 1,300 is another 8% this year. We can get there. We have already had about a 5% or 6% run. I was thinking in terms of 10% to 15% this year. It would be on the upper part of my estimate but given some of the recent data, I am very encouraged about consumer spending. The recovery could be even stronger than what I anticipate, which would lead to the upper ranges of my estimate on returns this year. We can get to 1,300 this year. In a couple of years, we will surpass the high, maybe sooner, maybe later. Standard & Poor’s has already come out with its 2011 estimates. On operating earnings at least, it expects to surpass the high. That might be a little bit over-optimistic as those operating earnings are. But it begins to show you that we have moved a long way toward recovery from the severe recession.
Knowledge@Wharton: Fifteen percent in any 12-month period is something to be happy about. Stocks are still the things for the long run in your view?
Siegel: Absolutely. People worry. They say, "I’ve missed it. It is up 80% from a year ago." I’m saying, "No, you’ve still got upside. Don’t feel you’ve missed it all." I wouldn’t use that as a reason to say, "It is too late. I’m not going to go into stocks."
4)Obama's Quiet War on Red States
By J. Robert Smith
President Obama is quietly but gleefully sticking it to red states, which by virtue of less government, lower taxes, fewer regulations, and open shops are typically better off than blue states of the Northeastern, Midwestern, and Californian phyla.
There's an element of score-settling to Mr. Obama's big-governmentism. Blue-state liberals and their Washington allies must chafe at the affront red states pose to the blue states' enlightened liberalism. Big-government states should be so much better off than smaller-government states. Yet it's blue states, not red states, which are suffering decades-old decline and an economic descent marked by steady population loss and abandonment by commerce and industry.
In President Obama's left-tilting universe, these blue states are fortresses of liberal governance. For years, states like New York, New Jersey, Michigan, and California have all marched lockstep in accord with liberal orthodoxies -- with similar disastrous results. There is no question that the '08 recession has hit every state hard, but the states best positioned to recover -- states like Texas and Florida -- will do so by virtue of not being so government-bound.
Facts may be stubborn things, but facts never get in the way of hardcore ideology. It would never occur to Mr. Obama and blue-state liberals to reform in favor of less government, fewer and lower taxes, and fiscal restraint. And imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but liberals don't intend to tear a page out of red-state playbooks -- not unless they wish to forsake the coalition of unions (public and private sector), minorities (the establishments therein), trial attorneys (money), grievance groups (nanny-staters included) and liberal interest groups that keep Democrats in power.
If blue-state Democrats refuse to smell the coffee and raise their standards by lowering government, what's their recourse? How can they hope to stanch the flow of people and capital to the South and West?
That's where the Great Leveler, Barack Obama, comes to the rescue. Mr. Obama's big-governmentism takes a hammer and sickle to red states. Since the likes of David Paterson (NY), Jennifer Granholm (MI), and Ed Rendell (PA) aren't going to change in favor of smaller government and greater liberty, it's time for liberals to load up red states with new health care mandates (many unfunded) and business- and industry-crippling cap-and-trade laws. It's time for much higher taxes generally. It's time for Card Check, which transforms right-to-work states into lockstep adherence to the prerogative of unions to organize.
An obvious question is: "The big government laws that President Obama and congressional Democrats want to enact -- and in the case of Obamacare, implement -- would affect all states, not just red states. Why won't the burden of bigger government harm blue states as well?"
The short answer is that yes, more government added to the big-government weight that blue states already suffer is bound to hurt them, too. But this common sense falls short with liberals, who don't accept that their ideas and polices are root problems. Wealth-generation takes a backseat to redistributionist schemes and the concentration of power in government, anyway. The other thing is that wealth is assumed -- meaning it's assumed that the productive private sector always will create sufficient wealth to feed big and growing government, regardless.
And if the private sector isn't creating sufficient wealth in, say, California or Michigan, then the remedy is wealth transfers via Washington. Washington also borrows on a scale vaster than any state could, and Washington prints money, which states can't. When push comes to shove, blue states expect that Washington will eventually bail them out. And under Mr. Obama's loving hands, "Too Big to Fail" blue states might be right (so long as the national government is solvent).
For liberals, the success of red states like Texas and Utah is immaterial. Liberals view the inadequacy of welfare-statism, lighter business regulations, open shops, and lower taxes in red states as injustices -- injustices that need to be rectified through national government action.
The difference between red states' successes and blue states' failures is somewhere on left side of a spectrum whose center is the contrast provided during the Cold War between East and West Germany and whose right end is anchored by North and South Korea. There's no difference in the DNA of East and West Germans or North and South Koreans. What's different is capitalism.
Some liberals actually concede that blue states are falling behind red states economically. But what these liberals offer are not confessions of big-government failure, but excuses for big government. "Excuse Liberals" argue that their states have large cities with many immigrants, minorities, and poor. Their citizens expect and demand more government services. Public schools come with hefty price tags, and every child deserves quality public education. Big government, whatever its drawbacks, is flat-out necessary.
But the truth differs from what Excuse Liberals argue. The admonition goes that the poor will always be among us, but today's poor needn't become a permanent underclass, which has happened in big cities, especially those in blue states (think Newark, Philadelphia, Cleveland, and Detroit). These poor -- mostly black and Hispanic -- are the prisoners of big-city Democratic machines, which, allied with leaders in minority and poor communities, have stymied the "up and out" dynamic that was once a feature of poverty in America. The poor are always with today's Democrats because in exchange for subsidizing the poor, Democrats get whole blocs of votes in return -- votes that perpetuate their political power.
Someday, historians, unburdened by contemporary ideology and enjoying the advantages of detached perspective, may wonder how so many state governments embraced polices over a protracted period that were so ruinous to the lives and fortunes of their citizens (at least those who didn't flee). The answer will lie not in honest miscalculation or good intentions, but in prejudice -- the hard prejudice of liberal ideology and Democratic pols' taste for power.
That same liberal ideology and taste for power is driving President Obama's efforts to turn red states blue.
5)The Two Obamas
By Miguel A. Guanipa
President Obama is neither inconsistent nor a liar when he takes conflicting positions.
Perhaps you may recall the time when Obama hedged his bets with two rivaling baseball teams, by individually confiding with each team his mutually shared hope for victory over their respective opponents. This was done in a public forum, which made some people wonder whether Obama had been made privy to the existence of that information behemoth known as the internet, where his cunning for juggling multiple loyalties was soon posted.
Predictably, Obama was accused by a few media outlets of deliberately misleading his audiences and trying to curry everyone's favor. Others viewed this report as confirmation of Obama's almost instinctual proclivity for speaking from both sides of his mouth. But the real answer is not as obvious.
Consider first that no mortal man -- not even Bill Clinton -- can retain his sanity, and tolerate the emotionally crippling level of cognitive dissonance that these episodes would suggest our young president lives under on an almost daily basis. I would then submit to you that all of these contradictory declarations from one man are in reality definitive proof of something that I have long suspected is actually the case, and that is that Obama has an evil twin.
Take for instance, a pious Obama, getting his daily dose of spirituality via internet prayers on his trusty blackberry, presumably a testament to his deep and abiding faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; and then another man emerges, who claims to be Obama, in a rather disparaging tone, striking at the heartland that would soon elect him, as one that is overrun by unenlightened proletariat with an unhealthy attachment to their "guns and Religion."
On another separate occasion we find a rather intransigent Obama decreeing that the healthcare debate is pretty much over, and that his sparring partners across the aisle have exhausted their debating privileges, unless, of course, they are willing to discuss the matter in his own terms. Then, oddly enough, we find another man, who looks just like Obama, in a much more congenial tone -- a poser no doubt -- suggesting that he would gladly invite an open and frank discussion, in fact extending an open hand of reconciliation, to the implacable leaders of rogue countries which harbor terrorists, and whose paramount goal in life is to see the United States go up in flames. I know what you are thinking: How can such polar opposite overtures to strikingly different functionaries issue from the same man?
Once again, behold Obama, a man who acknowledges that our children are our future; dispatching Michelle, his tireless help-mate, to the trenches, to stamp out the problem of childhood obesity, and to issue a clarion call for the urgent need of educators who can fulfill the honorable call as mentors and role models for our country's children. No sooner we turn the corner and we find Obama's mischievous twin, appointing a man like Kevin Jennings, founder of the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) -- an organization which conducts seminars for 14 year olds on the art of "fisting" your homosexual partner -- to the post of "Safe-Schools Czar", which is responsible for "promoting the health and well being of students in elementary and secondary schools".
And finally, witness a man, whom we think is Obama, boldly declaring he has always been a staunch supporter of free market principles; and yet somewhere else we find another man, with an uncanny resemblance to the president of the United States, fiercely lobbying for the systematic enforcement of policies that create nothing short of a federal monopoly on the critical drivers of a free economy apparatus such as the automobile industry, Health Care, and banking industry. How can this be?
Clearly these are two wholly separate individuals. There's the one who understands how to tactfully navigate the political realities commonplace to a highly diverse electorate, and would no doubt make a great president; and then there's another, who treks the globe, endorsing destructive policies, and promulgating half-witted edicts that would only be entertained in the mind of a man overly concerned with his own personal aggrandizement; a thoroughpaced egomaniac, and a poor excuse for a Commander in Chief.
One would think that the Obama with the most integrity would find it expedient to rid himself of his evil clone, who keeps going around, loose cannon style, virtually contradicting everything the former claims to stand for, and acting contrary to the values the first one claims to believe in. Such disparities in behavior make Obama look, at best, like a double minded man, and at worst, like a liar; but we all know that Obama does not lie.
Therein lies the profound dilemma that the good Obama twin -- depending on your personal ideology -- finds himself in; which is that given the dual nature of most of the important social and economic challenges that this country is facing, it behooves Obama to have another replica of him catering to one side of the fence, while he tries to assuage the fears of those who are completely opposed to the former. Besides, two is almost always better than one.
But the main reason why Obama does not hastily choose to annihilate his evil twin lies in the fact that both of them do indeed share one thing in common: an unusually deep fondness for one another, which some claim even borders on clinical narcissism.
5a)Obama's Nuclear Posturing, Part Deux
By Charles Krauthammer
There was something oddly disproportionate about the just-concluded nuclear summit to which President Obama summoned 46 world leaders, the largest such gathering on American soil since 1945. That meeting was about the founding of the United Nations, which 65 years ago seemed an event of world-historical importance.
But this one? What was this great convocation about? To prevent the spread of nuclear material into the hands of terrorists. A worthy goal, no doubt. Unfortunately, the two greatest such threats were not even on the agenda.
The first is Iran, which is frantically enriching uranium to make a bomb, and which our own State Department identifies as the greatest exporter of terrorism in the world.
Nor on the agenda was Pakistan's plutonium production, which is adding to the world's stockpile of fissile material every day.
Pakistan is a relatively friendly power, but it is the most unstable of all the nuclear states. It is fighting a Taliban insurgency and is home to al-Qaeda. Suicide bombs go off regularly in its major cities. Moreover, its own secret service, the ISI, is of dubious loyalty, some of its elements being sympathetic to the Taliban and thus, by extension, to al-Qaeda.
So what was the major breakthrough announced by Obama at the end of the two-day conference? That Ukraine, Chile, Mexico and Canada will be getting rid of various amounts of enriched uranium.
What a relief. I don't know about you, but I lie awake nights worrying about Canadian uranium. I know these people. I grew up there. You have no idea what they're capable of doing. If Sidney Crosby hadn't scored that goal to win the Olympic gold medal, there's no telling what might have ensued.
Let us stipulate that sequestering nuclear material is a good thing. But, it is a minor thing, particularly when Iran is off the table, and Pakistan is creating new plutonium for every ounce of Canadian uranium shipped to the U.S.
Perhaps calculating that removing relatively small amounts of fissile material from stable friendly countries didn't quite do the trick, Obama proudly announced that the U.S. and Russia were disposing of 68 tons of plutonium. Unmentioned was the fact that this agreement was reached 10 years ago -- and, under the new protocol, doesn't begin to dispose of the plutonium until 2018. Feeling safer now?
The appropriate venue for such minor loose-nuke agreements is a meeting of experts in Geneva who, after working out the details, get their foreign ministers to sign off. Which made this parade of world leaders in Washington an exercise in misdirection -- distracting attention from the looming threat from Iran, regarding which Obama's 15 months of terminally naive "engagement" has achieved nothing but the loss of 15 months.
Indeed, the Washington summit was part of a larger misdirection play -- Obama's "nuclear spring." Last week, a START treaty, redolent of precisely the kind of Cold War obsolescence Obama routinely decries. The number of warheads in Russia's aging and decaying nuclear stockpile is an irrelevancy now that the existential U.S.-Soviet struggle is over. One major achievement of the treaty, from the point of view of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, is that it could freeze deployment of U.S. missile defenses -- thus constraining the single greatest anti-nuclear breakthrough of our time.
This followed a softening of the U.S. nuclear deterrent posture (sparing non-proliferation compliant states from U.S. nuclear retaliation if they launch a biochemical attack against us) -- a change so bizarre and literally unbelievable that even Hillary Clinton couldn't get straight what retaliatory threat remains on the table.
All this during a week when top U.S. military officials told Congress that Iran is about a year away from acquiring the fissile material to make a nuclear bomb. Then, only a very few years until weaponization.
At which point the world changes irrevocably: the regional Arab states go nuclear, the Non-Proliferation Treaty dies, the threat of nuclear transfer to terror groups grows astronomically.
A timely reminder: Syria has just been discovered transferring lethal Scud missiles to Hezbollah, the Middle East's most powerful non-state terrorist force. This is the same Syria that was secretly building a North Korean-designed nuclear reactor until the Israeli air force destroyed the facility three years ago.
But not to worry. Canadian uranium is secured. A nonbinding summit communique has been issued. And a "Work Plan" has been agreed to.
Oh yes. And there will be another summit in two years. The dream lives on.
6)From the heart of a Muslim - Tawfik Hamid
I was born a Muslim and lived all my life as a follower of Islam.
After the barbaric terrorist attacks done by the hands of my fellow Muslims everywhere on this globe, and after the too many violent acts by Islamists in many parts of the world, I feel responsible as a Muslim and as a human being, to speak out and tell the truth to protect the world and Muslims as well from a coming catastrophe and war of civilizations.
I have to admit that our current Islamic teaching creates violence and hatred toward Non-Muslims.
We Muslims are the ones who need to change.
Until now we have accepted polygamy, the beating of women by men, and killing those who convert from Islam to other religions.
We have never had a clear and strong stand against the concept of slavery or wars, to spread our religion and to subjugate others to Islam and force them to pay a humiliating tax called Jizia.
We ask others to respect our religion while all the time we curse non-Muslims loudly (in Arabic) in our Friday prayers in the Mosques.
What message do we convey to our children when we call the Jews "Descendants of the pigs and monkeys".. Is this a message of love and peace, or a message of hate?
I have been into churches and synagogues where they were praying for Muslims. While all the time we curse them, and teach our generations to call them infidels, and to hate them.
We immediately jump in a 'knee jerk reflex' to defend Prophet Mohammed when someone accuses him of being a pedophile while, at the same time, we are proud with the story in our Islamic books, that he married a young girl seven years old (Aisha) when he was above 50 years old.
I am sad to say that many, if not most of us, rejoiced in happiness after September 11th and after many other terror attacks.
Muslims denounce these attacks to look good in front of the media, but we condone the Islamic terrorists and sympathise with their cause.
Till now our 'reputable' top religious authorities have never issued a Fatwa or religious statement to proclaim Bin Laden as an apostate, while an author, like Rushdie, was declared an apostate who should be killed according to Islamic Shariia law just for writing a book criticizing Islam.
Muslims demonstrated to get more religious rights as we did in France to stop the ban on the Hejab (Head Scarf), while we did not demonstrate with such passion and in such numbers against the terrorist murders.
It is our absolute silence against the terrorists that gives the energy to these terrorists to continue doing their evil acts.
We Muslims need to stop blaming our problems on others or on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. As a matter of honesty, Israel is the only light of democracy, civilization, and human rights in the whole Middle East .
We kicked out the Jews with no compensation or mercy from most of the Arab countries to make them "Jews-Free countries" while Israel accepted more than a million Arabs to live there, have its nationality, and enjoy their rights as human beings.
In Israel, women can not be beaten legally by men, and any person can change his/her belief system with no fear of being killed by the Islamic law of 'Apostasy,' while in our Islamic world people do not enjoy any of these rights. I agree that the 'Palestinians' suffer, but they suffer because of their corrupt leaders and not because of Israel .
It is not common to see Arabs who live in Israel leaving to live in the Arab world. On the other hand, we used to see thousands of Palestinians going to work with happiness in Israel , its 'enemy'. If Israel treats Arabs badly as some people claim, surely we would have seen the opposite happening.
We Muslims need to admit our problems and face them. Only then we can treat them and start a new era to live in harmony with human mankind. Our religious leaders have to show a clear and very strong stand against polygamy, pedophilia, slavery, killing those who convert from Islam to other religions, beating of women by men, and declaring wars on non-Muslims to spread Islam.
Then, and only then, do we have the right to ask others to respect our religion. The time has come to stop our hypocrisy and say it openly: 'We Muslims have to Change'.
Dr. Tawfik Hamid (aka Tarek Abdelhamid), is an Islamic thinker and reformer, and one time Islamic extremist from Egypt. He was a member of a terrorist Islamic organization JI with Dr. Ayman Al-Zawaherri who became later on the second in command of Al-Qaeda. Some twenty-five years ago, he recognized the threat of Radical Islam and the need for a reformation based upon modern peaceful interpretations of classical Islamic core texts.
6a)Surrendering an ally is no strategy at all
By Wesley Pruden
Barack Obama has come up with an interesting strategy for dealing with the evildoers of the world. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Surrender your friends, if necessary.
He wants to make Israel, our oldest and only reliable friend in the Middle East, the guinea pig to see whether the strategy works. What appeared to be a minor flap between old friends only a fortnight ago now looks like an exploitable opportunity for the man who learned about who's evil in the world from a crazy Jew-baiting preacher in Chicago.
The public scolding of Israel and the warning that it must make nice with those determined to "wipe it off the map" are now revealed to be tactics in the plan to make the Middle East over in a way to please the Islamic radicals. The observant among us have seen this coming. America's true friends - Britain, Canada, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Norway and Poland in addition to Israel - have been getting the back of Mr. Obama's hand from the day he took his oath. The commitment to constitutional government and the ancient traditions of intellectual freedom that make up the cultural heritage of the West have been snubbed when not ignored, the natural allies of America lectured to when not insulted.
We're told that it's not nice, and maybe even racist, to notice that Michelle Obama, the elegant first lady who does so many things well, has cultivated her husband's talent for strategic snobbery. She once conceded that she only became proud of America when her husband got to the brink of the presidency, and in a remarkable video of a 2008 appearance that surfaced only this spring, she told of their visiting "his home country in Kenya." Unless she was conceding that she, too, is a "birther," she meant that Kenya is his ancestral and cultural home. This could explain a lot, and it certainly offers insights now into his determination to discard the Israelis in the affections of Americans and replace them with nations alien to the affections of most Americans. Why retain an emotional attachment to the sources of American law and literature when you could bow to the Saudi king and court the leaders of Iran, Syria and Venezuela?
Nothing would please the enemies and adversaries of America - the "outliers," in the trendy term of the moment - like putting the Jews in their place. Mr. Obama and some of his wise men, particularly in the State Department, which has traditionally looked for occasions to lend a hand to the Arab tormentors of Israel, now see their opportunity to impose a "settlement" of the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians. Mr. Obama finally put his game in play this week when he told a press conference that resolving the conflict was "a vital national security interest of the United States." Describing the conflict in these not-so-vague terms gives him the opportunity to prescribe any solution, however malignant or fanciful, just that way. The president, any president, must put the "vital national security interest" of the United States first and foremost. Who could argue with that?
Presidents before him, Democrat and Republican, have regarded Israel's right to survive as unquestioned and inviolate, bound up with America's own traditions of democratic government, and Mr. Obama continues to pay lip service to the American vow to defend Israel's right to survive. But lip service is not much defense against rockets, gunfire and suicide bombs and the contempt of the despots of the world. Conflicts like the continuing small-bore war in the Middle East end up, the president says, "costing us significantly in terms of both blood and treasure." Anyone can see where that argument goes.
This is of a piece with the remarks of Gen. David H. Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Iraq and Afghanistan, to Congress that "the lack of progress" in the Middle East creates a "hostile environment" for the United States. True enough, and the general's frustration is understandable (and shared). Wars have always been dangerous places to be, which is exactly why we send soldiers to such places. If only the Germans had not been so hostile, the Americans and the British could have had a day at the beach on D-Day. Alas, hostile the environment was, and there was no picnic. But the civilized world can be glad it never occurred to President Roosevelt to surrender France.