- The Washington Times - Friday, February 20, 2009

HAIR OF THE DOG

“The Obama people keep telling audiences how ‘smart’ their government is going to be, and Making Work Pay is a clever way to overcome humanity’s unfortunate impulse to save rather than spend in hard times,” Wall Street Journal columnist Daniel Henninger writes.

“The provision will cut the payroll tax in a way that on average puts an extra $8 in a worker’s weekly paycheck. The genius behind this idea is that eight bucks is such a pittance that no one will take the trouble to save it. It will all get spent, and stimulus theory succeeds,” Mr. Henninger said.

“The Obama camp insists that Making Work Pay (the name itself is a mysterious paradox) merely helps workers scrape by in tough times. The tax credit phases out for individuals beyond $75,000 of income and couples at $150,000. In fact, [economist John Maynard Keynes] didn’t much care whether poor people or rich people spent heavily to reignite aggregate demand.

“Still, it looks to me as if there is a Paradox of Virtue in the middle of the Obama stimulus.

George Bush tried stimulus last year by mailing out checks up to about $1,200, and human nature ‘defeated’ that stimulus by saving too much of the check. The U.S. savings rate rose in 2008 to nearly 4 percent. That was bad. The smarter Obama team wants the savings rate this year and next to return toward zero. They want their billions spent, not saved.

“Thus, frugality and prudence are suppressed and the compulsion to spend that got us into this mess is promoted as a necessity. This year and next, Thorstein Veblen’s conspicuous consumption will be a virtue, and Max Weber’s Protestant ethic may be regarded a vice. The world is upside down.

“The Obama hair-of-the-dog strategy, however, may be running into a values-altering headwind. The people have been watching, and what they’ve seen are the wretched excesses of the subprime lending fiasco, the humiliation of Wall Street’s clueless plutocrats, and the self-destructive ambition of Bernie Madoff’s investors. This may force a change.”

CHEER UP

“OK, Mr. President, enough with the doomsday talk already. We get it. Things suck. And they´re going to get worse before they get better,” Mark McKinnon writes at www.thedailybeast.com.

“And we get how it important it was for you to level-set expectations out of the gate, as they were stratospherically out of whack,” said Mr. McKinnon, who was a communications strategist for President George W. Bush.

“We are all in economic rehab now, clear eyed and sober. If we´re not out of work, we know friends and family who are. And those of us lucky enough to have jobs are being showered with resumes. Really good ones.

“So now we want to know that there is light at the end of this bleak, black tunnel.

“It´s time for less mope and more hope. You were elected because you are a walking, talking hope machine. Plug that sucker back in and crank it up to ten.

“There has been some debate in the opinion pages about whether the FDR or Ronald Reagan approach to a bad economy is the best remedy. Putting that aside, there is one thing they had in common: They were unblushing optimists. And they communicated their enthusiasm until their half-full cups ranneth over.

“It´s time to cut the talk about similarities to the Great Depression. First, it sure as hell doesn´t help the markets. Second, it´s not true. Not yet anyway.”

CHIMP CHANGE

The New York Post is apologizing but only to some, the Associated Press reports.

On Wednesday, the tabloid ran a cartoon that critics say links President Obama to a raging chimpanzee shot dead by police in Connecticut.

The drawing showed a dead chimp, with the caption reading: “They’ll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill.”

After two days of protests, the paper posted an editorial on its Web site Thursday saying the cartoon was meant to mock the federal economic stimulus bill, but “to those who were offended by the image, we apologize.”

But the newspaper also said the image was exploited by its longtime antagonists. It said some people who have long-standing differences with the paper saw the cartoon “as an opportunity for payback.”

The editorial calls them “opportunists” and says: “To them, no apology is due.”

SPECTER’S VOTE

“For all the talk these last few days about the ‘death’ of post-partisanship, there could actually be a real-life political casualty tied to President Obama’s Republican outreach: Sen. Arlen Specter,” Amy Walter writes at www.nationaljournal.com.

“If he loses his primary to a more right-leaning opponent next year, it’ll be harder than ever for Obama and congressional Democrats to convince even moderate Republicans of the benefits of bipartisanship,” the writer said.

“In the Senate’s stimulus battle this month, Specter crossed the aisle on 10 out of 23 party-line roll call votes - third behind Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe - and joined the two Maine moderates as the only three GOP votes for the finished package. That won him praise from Obama and liberal supporters of the stimulus, which is not a bad thing in a state as blue as Pennsylvania. But it’s not a good thing in a GOP primary, especially in a state with a closed primary - which means no crossover help from sympathetic Democrats - and a shrinking base of registered Republicans.

“Democratic voters outnumber Republicans in Pennsylvania by over 1.2 million. Just a couple years ago, the gap was less than half that (550,000). Just as the House GOP conference has become more conservative as its ranks have been winnowed, so too has the Republican voting population become more rightward-leaning as its membership has shrunk.

“A poll taken by Muhlenberg College of 400 Pennsylvania voters who switched their party registration status from Republican to Democrat during 2007 and 2008 paints a pretty bleak picture for Specter. These voters are more likely to be well-educated, affluent and supportive of abortion rights: in other words, Specter voters.”

INTO THE ‘SLUDGE’

“Far too little noticed in President Obama’s charm offensive to the Muslim world was a State Department decision to swim with the likes of Iran, Syria and Libya in the sludge of the upcoming United Nations World Conference Against Racism,” the New York Daily News said Thursday in an editorial.

“Quietly, over the Presidents Day weekend, the department said U.S. representatives would participate in preparatory meetings to ‘try to change the direction’ the event is plainly headed.

“Which is toward being a carnival of anti-American, anti-Israel, anti-Semitic rantings, compounded by calls for restricting freedom of speech when exercising that basic right is deemed to defame Islam.

“That’s how the first version of this conference played out in 2001 in Durban, South Africa. And that’s how a steering panel has drafted the agenda for a reprise in April in Geneva.”

BLUNT FOR SENATE

Republican Rep. Roy Blunt announced Thursday that he will run for a U.S. Senate seat from Missouri next year.

“So why now? Why me?” Mr. Blunt said. “It’s an important time. The fight is in the Senate.”

He seeks to replace Republican Sen. Christopher S. Bond, who is retiring. Mr. Bond has held the seat since 1986.

• Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or gpierce@washingtontimes .com.

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