- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 4, 2009

MESSAGE OF DISMAY

“As 2009 opened, three weeks before Barack Obama took office, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 9,034 on January 2, its highest level since the autumn panic. [On Monday] the Dow fell another 4.24 percent to 6,763, for an overall decline of 25 percent in two months and to its lowest level since 1997. The dismaying message here is that President Obama’s policies have become part of the economy’s problem,” the Wall Street Journal said Tuesday in an editorial.

“Americans have welcomed the Obama era in the same spirit of hope the President campaigned on. But after five weeks in office, it’s become clear that Mr. Obama’s policies are slowing, if not stopping, what would otherwise be the normal process of economic recovery,” the newspaper said. “From punishing business to squandering scarce national public resources, Team Obama is creating more uncertainty and less confidence - and thus a longer period of recession or subpar growth. …

“So what has happened in the last two months? The economy has received no great new outside shock. Exchange rates and other prices have been stable, and there are no security crises of note. The reality of a sharp recession has been known and built into stock prices since last year’s fourth quarter.

“What is new is the unveiling of Mr. Obama’s agenda and his approach to governance. Every new president has a finite stock of capital - financial and political - to deploy, and amid recession Mr. Obama has more than most. But one negative revelation has been the way he has chosen to spend his scarce resources on income transfers rather than growth promotion. Most of his ‘stimulus’ spending was devoted to social programs, rather than public works, and nearly all of the tax cuts were devoted to income maintenance rather than to improving incentives to work or invest. …

“The market has notably plunged since Mr. Obama introduced his budget last week, and that should be no surprise. The document was a declaration of hostility toward capitalists across the economy.”

DISILLUSIONED

“You wouldn´t know it some days, but there are moderates in this country - moderate conservatives, moderate liberals, just plain moderates,” New York Times columnist David Brooks writes.

“We sympathize with a lot of the things that President Obama is trying to do. We like his investments in education and energy innovation. We support health care reform that expands coverage while reducing costs,” Mr. Brooks said.

“But the Obama budget is more than just the sum of its parts. There is, entailed in it, a promiscuous unwillingness to set priorities and accept trade-offs. There is evidence of a party swept up in its own revolutionary fervor - caught up in the self-flattering belief that history has called upon it to solve all problems at once.

“So programs are piled on top of each other, and we wind up with a gargantuan $3.6 trillion budget. We end up with deficits that, when considered realistically, are $1 trillion a year and stretch as far as the eye can see. We end up with an agenda that is unexceptional in its parts but that, when taken as a whole, represents a social-engineering experiment that is entirely new. …

“Those of us who consider ourselves moderates - moderate-conservative, in my case - are forced to confront the reality that Barack Obama is not who we thought he was.”

WAR ON INVESTORS

“President Lyndon Johnson’s administration was known for his War on Poverty. President Obama’s will become notable for his War on Prosperity,” Dick Morris and Eileen McGann write in the New York Post.

“We’re speaking, of course, of Obama’s plans to hike income taxes on the most wealthy 2 or 3 percent of the nation. He’s not just raising the top rate to 39.6 percent; he’s also disallowing about one-third of top earners’ deductions, whether for state and local taxes, charitable contributions or mortgage interest. This is an effective hike in their taxes by an average of about 20 percent,” the writers said.

“And soon the next shoe will drop - he’ll announce that he’s keeping yet another of his campaign promises: to apply the full payroll tax to all income over $250,000 a year. (Right now, the 15.3 percent Social Security tax only applies to the first $106,800 of income - you neither pay the tax on income above that, nor accumulate added benefit.) For many taxpayers in this bracket, this hike will raise their total taxes by about half.

“Finally, he’s declaring war on investors by raising the capital-gains-tax rate to 20 percent.”

TEXAS TWO-STEP

A friend and political ally of former President George W. Bush is considering a run for governor of Texas - as a Democrat.

Tom Schieffer on Monday formed a gubernatorial campaign committee so he can raise money, but he told a press conference in Austin, Texas, that a decision on running will not be made for several months, the Houston Chronicle reports.

Mr. Schieffer was the president of the Texas Rangers baseball club when Mr. Bush was general managing partner. Mr. Schieffer served as the Republican president’s ambassador to Australia and then to Japan.

Despite his close association with Mr. Bush, Mr. Schieffer said, he filled out his application to become an ambassador by listing his political affiliation as Democrat.

“I´m not new to the Democratic Party,” he said.

He served as a Democratic state legislator from Fort Worth from 1973 to 1978, and was in the same freshman group of the Texas House as Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, who is planning to challenge Gov. Rick Perry in next year´s GOP primary.

Mr. Schieffer, 61, is the younger brother of CBS newsman Bob Schieffer.

SHOCKED, SHOCKED

“Here we go again. Rush Limbaugh is public enemy No. 1,” Jonah Goldberg writes in the Los Angeles Times.

“Liberal bloggers and media chin-strokers are aghast at Limbaugh’s statement that he hopes Barack Obama fails,” Mr. Goldberg said.

“Well, given what Obama wants to do, I hope he fails, too. Of course I want the financial crisis to end - who doesn’t? But Obama’s agenda is much more audacious. Pretty much every major news outlet in the country has said as a matter of objective analysis that Obama wants to repeal the legacy of Ronald Reagan and remake the country as a European welfare state. And yet people are shocked that conservatives, Limbaugh included, want Obama to fail in this effort?”

• Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or Greg Pierce


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