Biden’s Black Hawk Down

A U.S. Chinook helicopter flies near the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.

July 8, 2021, East Room, Remarks by President Biden on the drawdown of U.S. forces in Afghanistan:

Q Is a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan now inevitable?

THE PRESIDENT: No, it is not.

Q Why?

THE PRESIDENT: Because you — the Afghan troops have 300,000 well-equipped — as well-equipped as any army in the world — and an air force against something like 75,000 Taliban. It is not inevitable.

Q Mr. President, some Vietnamese veterans see echoes of their experience in this withdrawal in Afghanistan. Do you see any parallels between this withdrawal and what happened in Vietnam, with some people feeling —

THE PRESIDENT: None whatsoever. Zero. There’s going to be no circumstance where you see people being lifted off the roof of a embassy in the — of the United States from Afghanistan. It is not at all comparable. … the likelihood there’s going to be the Taliban overrunning everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely.

I live “out in the sticks” as sophisticated power brokers in Washington DC would call my suburb outside Portland, Oregon. I haven’t been to Afghanistan as a citizen, soldier or policy wonk. I haven’t sat in on any high-level foreign policy strategy meetings in the White House or debated military policy in a conference room at a D.C think tank. I haven’t been asked by President Biden or any of his hangers-on what we should do in Afghanistan.

But even I knew the battle-ready 300,000 man Afghan military force was a fiction and that it wouldn’t be long before American helicopters were rescuing desperate people from rooftops in Kabul in a debacle for the ages. Like everything else about the war in Afghanistan, it was all a lie.

Cancelling student debt: Another bad idea from the “free stuff” crowd

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness,” Charles Dickens wrote in A Tale of Two Cities. Thousands of Oregon college graduates in the class of 2019 probably felt the same way.

After years of hard work, they had finally earned their degrees. But 54% graduated with student loan debt. The average debt – $27,542. If it was any consolation, they were not alone. About 45 million Americans (13.7% of the U.S. population) are dealing with federal and/or student loan debt that totals about $1.7 billion.

But fear not, debtors, liberal politicians have been falling all over themselves with plans to help bail you out.

In May 2020, Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) called upon House Speaker Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to prioritize long- term relief in any future COVID-19 response in the form of at least $30,000 in one-time student loan debt cancellation for all federal student loan borrowers 

In September 2020, U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) introduced a resolution  outlining a plan for the next president to use existing authority under the Higher Education Act to cancel up to $50,000 in individual federal student loan debt for Federal student loan borrowers.

Before the Nov. 3, 2020 election, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris called for student loan forgiveness of up to $10,000, and if a student found a job that paid less than $125,000 after graduation, all their student loan debt would be forgiven.

And then there are all the progressive think tanks, unions and special interest groups lined up behind the debt cancellation idea.

In November, a coalition of 236 mostly progressive groups, including the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, sent a letter to President-elect Biden calling on him to cancel student debt using his executive powers on the first day he takes office. Casting their lobbying as a racial justice issue, the letter said, “The ​disproportionate impact​ of student debt on borrowers of color exacerbates existing systemic inequities and widens the racial wealth gap.” 

The progressive Roosevelt Institute, adopting the “No crisis should go to waste” philosophy,  is calling for the cancellation of student, housing, and medical debt as part of a massive covid-recovery plan. Framing student debt as “a product of and a contributor to our country’s shameful racial wealth gap,” the Institute wants student loan forgiveness to go hand in hand with a commitment to funding tuition-free public colleges and universities.

That’s what the most ardent advocates of student loan cancellation are really pushing for – free college, with somebody else, usually simply called “rich people,” covering the cost.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) argued on Nov. 17, 2020 that forgiving student loans would be the “single biggest stimulus we could add to the economy” in these difficult times. And the New York Times said, “Both sides of the debate acknowledge that tackling the $1.7 trillion in student debt nationwide, which is spread among more than 43 million borrowers, would go far toward jump-starting the economy.” But a lot of economists don’t agree. 

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget says the stimulus benefits would be minimal and aimed at those who least need the help. Total student loan debt may be atrociously high, but borrowers often pay back their loans over 10, 15, or even 30 years, so debt cancellation would increase their available cash for injection back into the economy by only a fraction of the total loan forgiveness. “Stimulus dollars that are spent rather than saved provide a stronger boost to near-term economic output,” the Committee has said. 

Continuing current student debt relief policies, including deferring payments and interest, are preferable, as well as income-driven repayment programs under which monthly payments are determined based on a borrower’s income, not the amount of debt. After 20 to 25 years, the remaining debt is forgiven.  

Recently released data from the U.S. Department of Education shows that the national default rate (A federal student loan is considered to be in default if payment is late by 270 days) for FY2017 was 9.70%.  Massachusetts had the lowest loan default rate – 5.83%; Mississippi had the highest –  15.19%.

Oregon had 6,477 borrowers, 10.71% of the total, in default. The Oregon schools with the highest default rate, 7.80%, were Eastern Oregon University and the Pacific Northwest College of Art. The Brookings Institute is predicting a “looming student loan default crisis” that could see 40% of student loan borrowers nationally in default by 2023.

Yes, some of this debt has accrued because of lax government lending standards. As the Wall Street Journal reported on Nov. 23, 2020. “The government lends more than $100 billion each year to students to cover tuition at more than 6,000 colleges and universities. It ignores factors such as credit scores and field of study, and it doesn’t analyze whether students will earn enough after graduating to cover their debt.”

But subsidizing people who run up large college loan debts penalizes those who took their responsibility seriously and acted responsibly, James B. Meigs wrote in City Journal, a publication of the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, a free-market think tank. That leaves a lot of people feeling like chumps, he says. “…the chumps of modern America feel that the life choices they’re most proud of—working hard, taking care of their families, being good citizens—aren’t just undervalued, but scorned,” Meigs wrote. As Jeff Jacoby, a Boston Globe columnist put it, “…a massive bailout of borrowers would be unfair to countless families that saved and worked to pay for college, to say nothing of those who responsibly repaid their loans.”

Then there’s the “moral hazard” of cancelling student debt. It might encourage students to continue running up risky big loan balances on the assumption that their debts will be forgiven at some point. That would cause a distortion of borrowing decisions, making them insensitive to the ability to repay. 

Of course, what if higher education institutions see that it makes sense to continually raise prices because the government will absorb any losses down the road. But that’s another problem.

And Democrats think Biden is the best they can offer?

Biden confused

In September 2019, at the third Democratic presidential debate, an ABC moderator asked Joe Biden:

“…as you stand here tonight, what responsibility do you think that Americans need to take to repair the legacy of slavery in our country?”

Biden answered:

“Well, they have to deal with the — look, there’s institutional segregation in this country. And from the time I got involved, I started dealing with that. Red-lining banks, making sure that we are in a position where — look, you talk about education…make sure that we bring in to help the teachers deal with the problems that come from home. The problems that come from home, we need — we have one school psychologist for every 1,500 kids in America today. It’s crazy. The teachers are — I’m married to a teacher. My deceased wife is a teacher. They have every problem coming to them. We have — make sure that every single child does, in fact, have 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds go to school. School. Not daycare. School. We bring social workers into homes and parents to help them deal with how to raise their children. It’s not that they don’t want to help. They don’t — they don’t know quite what to do. Play the radio, make sure the television — excuse me, make sure you have the record player on at night, the — the — make sure that kids hear words. A kid coming from a very poor school — a very poor background will hear 4 million words fewer spoken by the time they get there.”

Good grief!

 

 

Bloomberg’s money: now what?

bloombergmoney2

Democrats, eager to position themselves as the good guys in the campaign finance debate, weren’t real happy about all that Bloomberg money flowing into the primary campaign.

Bloomberg spent an estimated $500 million in just 100 days on slick TV ads, mailers, about 2400 staff spread around the country and for political-data and polling. Critics, including his Democratic primary opponents, accused him of trying to buy the nomination.

But now that Bloomberg has abandoned his campaign, will the Democrats become more accepting of his pledge to keep spending millions to help Democrats win the presidency and other races in the general election?

Bernie Sanders has said he wants to win with small dollar individual contributions. He’s also said he wouldn’t welcome Bloomberg’s big money help. Joe Biden, who has a history of decrying the role of wealthy people and special interests in elections, has been considerably more flexible in practice.

According to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and Open Secrets, a nonpartisan website by the Center for Responsive Politics that tracks the effects of money and lobbying on elections and public policy, Sanders has raised $134,069,993, about one-third of that in large contributions.

In contrast, the Biden for President committee has raised $68,281,49, about two-thirds of that in large contributions:

A pro-Biden SuperPAC, Unite the Country, has raised an additional $7,919,417 from just 163 donors, with employees of the top three donors (Masimo Corp; Blum Capital Partners; Marcus & Millichap) giving $1 million each. A Leadership PAC, American Possibilities, has donated $432,948 more.

If Bloomberg decides to follow through on his pledge to spend millions to defeat Trump, there are no limits on what he can spend. Since he’s worth an estimated $60 billion, he could be a very big player.

He would be prohibited from coordinating his spending decisions with the eventual Democratic nominee, but that is honored more in the breach than the observance. .

Biden says on his presidential campaign website that he will “reduce the corrupting influence of money in politics.”

“Biden strongly believes that we could improve our politics overnight if we flushed big money from the system and had public financing of our elections,” his website says. “Democracy works best when a big bank account or a large donor list are not prerequisites for office, and elected representatives come from all backgrounds, regardless of resources. But for too long, special interests and corporations have skewed the policy process in their favor with political contributions.”

So much for empty rhetoric.

If Biden wins the Democratic nomination, neither he nor the Democratic Party will try to stop Bloomberg from pouring his money into the campaign to defeat Trump. You can bet on it.

And you still think Joe Biden has all his marbles?

Biden confused

Question at the Sept. 12 Democratic debate:

“Mr. Vice President, I want to come to you and talk to you about inequality in schools and race. In a conversation about how to deal with segregation in schools back in 1975, you told a reporter, ‘I don’t feel responsible for the sins of my father and grandfather, I feel responsible for what the situation is today, for the sins of my own generation, and I’ll be damned if I feel responsible to pay for what happened 300 years ago..’ You said that some 40 years ago. But as you stand here tonight, what responsibility do you think that Americans need to take to repair the legacy of slavery in our country?”

Biden’s response:

“Well, they have to deal with the — look, there’s institutional segregation in this country. And from the time I got involved, I started dealing with that. Red-lining banks, making sure that we are in a position where — look, you talk about education. I propose that what we take is those very poor schools, the Title I schools, triple the amount of money we spend from 15 to $45 billion a year. Give every single teacher a raise, the equal raise to getting out — the $60,000 level.

Number two, make sure that we bring in to help the teachers deal with the problems that come from home. The problems that come from home, we need — we have one school psychologist for every 1,500 kids in America today. It’s crazy.

The teachers are — I’m married to a teacher. My deceased wife is a teacher. They have every problem coming to them. We have — make sure that every single child does, in fact, have 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds go to school. School. Not daycare. School. We bring social workers into homes and parents to help them deal with how to raise their children.

It’s not want they don’t want to help. They don’t — they don’t know quite what to do. Play the radio, make sure the television — excuse me, make sure you have the record player on at night, the — the — make sure that kids hear words. A kid coming from a very poor school — a very poor background will hear 4 million words fewer spoken by the time they get there.”

Moderator

“Thank you, Mr. Vice President.”

 

Ted Kennedy and Al Sharpton: no excuses

(Addendum: Al Sharpton is at it again. The New York Times reported on Nov. 19, 2014,  that Sharpton “has regularly sidestepped the sorts of obligations most people see as inevitable, like taxes, rent and other bills. Records reviewed by The New York Times show more than $4.5 million in current state and federal tax liens against him and his for-profit businesses.”

“Sidestepped” is too polite a word for how Sharpton has behaved. And this is a man President Obama turns to for guidance?)

Reading all about Al Sharpton’s emergence as a respectable political leader and go-to guy for President Obama, I’m reminded of Ted Kennedy.

Liberal Democrats loved Ted Kennedy.

He was the standard-bearer for the liberal wing of the Democratic Party. He was their beloved champion for his work on health care, education, immigration reform, civil rights, voting rights, workers’ rights and other causes.

TeddyKennedyMaryJo

So what did Democrats do when faced with the news that Kennedy’s actions had caused the death of 28–year-old Mary Jo Kopechne when he drove an Oldsmobile 88 into a tidal channel on Chappaquiddick Island in 1969? They stuck with him.

What did they do when it was learned he had left the scene of the accident, consulted with a high-powered group of political and legal advisors, and didn’t notify the police for 10 hours after the accident. They stuck with him.

What did they do when State police detective-lieutenant George Killen said, “Senator Kennedy killed that girl the same as if he put a gun to her head and pulled the trigger?” They stuck with him.
They looked on without reproof when Kennedy’s only punishment was losing his driving license for a year and receiving a suspended two-month jail sentence.

All was forgiven. The liberal special interest groups that depended on his support in the contentious political arena, even the usually outspoken Liberal women’s rights groups, either stayed silent or defended him then and in the years to come. After all, he was one of them, a supporter of their agendas.

And Massachusetts voters continued sending Kennedy back to the Senate until his death on August 25, 2009, after which liberals eulogized him as a great American and a great senator.

“I can think of no one who engendered greater respect or affection from members of both sides of the aisle,” said President Obama in 2009 remarks on Kennedy’s death.

“I just hope we remember how he treated other people…,” said Vice President Biden, ignoring Kennedy’s reputation on the Hill as a “the rules don’t apply to me” boor whose appalling behavior was well documented.

Joyce Carol Oates suggested that even if Kennedy had caused the death of a young woman, he had redeemed himself by accomplishing so much good work thereafter, by his “…tireless advocacy of civil rights, rights for disabled Americans, health care, voting reform, his courageous vote against the Iraq war.”

Liberal’s willingness to excuse Ted Kennedy, even in the face of his clear guilt in the death of a young woman, reminds me of their tolerance for, and even promotion of, Al Sharpton’s ascension to political prominence.

Sharpton’s infamous rise in public notoriety has been well documented.

A 1987-1988 case that drew national attention revolved around Sharpton’s involvement with 15-year-old Tawana Brawley, a black woman from New York who accused six white men of raping her and leaving her in a garbage bag smeared with and covered with racist words written in charcoal.

Sharpton, who accused government officials of trying to cover up for the rapists because they were white, led the way in spurring a national uproar over the case.

brawley_sharpton_custom-1a3219e3e6986346b22e7fb0aea7ab0f3833f78e-s6-c30

He was later rebuked and fined after a grand jury concluded that Brawley had not been the victim of a forcible sexual assault and that she may herself have created the appearance of an attack.

In 1991, Sharpton stirred up black fury in the Crown Heights area of Brooklyn when a Jewish driver hit and killed a black boy, Gavin Cato, with his car.

At the boy’s funeral, Sharpton vilified Jewish “diamond merchants” who killed black children in Brooklyn.

Days of anti-Semitic riots culminated in the murder of Yankel Rosenbaum, an Australian Jew who had nothing to do with the incident, being stabbed to death in the midst of a mob of about 30.

The New York Post reported that after the driver of the car was cleared of charges and left for Israel, Sharpton flew to Tel Aviv to slap the driver with a civil suit. When a passer-by at Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport recognized Sharpton, she shouted, “Go to hell!”
“I am in hell already,” Sharpton replied. “I am in Israel.”

In December 1995, during a Harlem protest stirred up by Sharpton, a black man entered Freddy’s Fashion Mart, a Jewish-owned clothing store, took out a gun, ordered the black customers to leave and set a fire that killed himself and eight other people.

Sharpton was accused of having spurred the devastation by delivering and facilitating incendiary racist and anti-Semitic comments on black radio stations and at the protest.

In Sept. 2013, the New York Post reported that Robert F. Kennedy Jr. had written in a previously secret diary, “Al Sharpton has done more damage to the black cause than [segregationist Alabama Gov.] George Wallace. He has suffocated the decent black leaders in New York. His transparent venal blackmail and extortion schemes taint all black leadership.”

Sharpton, pitching himself as America’s leading advocate of social justice, shows up everywhere there’s a TV camera and a potential racial dispute to be exploited. Most recently, he made himself visible in Ferguson, Missouri.

Now Obama, the Democratic Party and other liberals are legitimizing Sharpton and giving him a highly visible chair at the table.

It’s an appalling comment on their willingness to embrace one of their own regardless of his contemptible actions.

Who lost Iraq? China Redux.

In the years following Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist regime’s loss to the Chinese Communists in 1949, when U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy let loose his ill-founded accusations of communist infiltration in the United States, the country, eager to blame somebody, was wracked with questions about, “Who lost China”?

Senator Joseph McCarthy

Senator Joseph McCarthy

In the 1950’s, U.S. Senate committees studied what was seen as the failure of American foreign policy to prevent the Chinese Communist takeover.  McCarthyism is remembered today as a broad attack on presumed communists and sympathizers in the U.S., but it was also a targeted attack on the State Department’s experts on China, the so-called China Hands, who had told the truth as they saw it. A broad swath of these experts were either forced out the Foreign Service or had their careers completely derailed.

If Iraq falls to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, known as ISIS, after the loss of thousands of American lives and the expenditure of  billions of American dollars, there’s little doubt that a new rallying cry will arise, “Who lost Iraq?”

Sgt. Timothy Davis of San Diego places American flags before the gravestones of those buried at Arlington Cemetery.

Sgt. Timothy Davis of San Diego places American flags before the gravestones of those buried at Arlington Cemetery.

Potential targets are legion, which may well lead to a convulsive period in American domestic and foreign policy.

The blame game is, in fact, already underway.

On June 12, Fareed Zakaria wrote a column in the Washington Post titled, “Who lost Iraq? The Iraqis did, with an assist from George W. Bush”. The Iraqi government is “corrupt, inefficient and weak, unable to be inclusive (of the Sunnis) and unwilling to fight with the dedication of their opponents,” just like the Chinese nationalists were, Zakaria said.

So Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is the one who lost Iraq. But he came to power as a result of “a series of momentous decisions made by the Bush administration,” Zakaria said, so Bush lost Iraq.

But wait a minute. Things were much more settled in Iraq when Obama became president and his foreign policy team was hailing the country’s prosperity, embrace of democracy and relative quiet compared with earlier years. In 2010, Vice President Biden called Iraq one of Obama’s “great achievements”. In 2011, President Obama told troops at Fort Bragg, “We’re leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq.”

Wasn’t it the Obama Administration that made a precipitous withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, encouraging adversaries and leaving the country’s elected government weaker in the face of continuing threats?

Or maybe it was the Obama Administration’s feckless foreign policy in dealing with Syria, with Obama insisting in 2012 that the use of chemical weapons by Syrian President Bashar Assad would cross a “red line for us” and might trigger a U.S. military response, followed by Obama’s failure to follow through.

Perhaps that emboldened not only Assad, but also ISIS, which is already perilously close to Baghdad.

The city of Mosul in Iraq, which ISIS soldiers have taken over.

The city of Mosul in Iraq, which ISIS soldiers have taken over.

Gary Alan Fine and Bin Xu, in “Honest Brokers: The Politics of Expertise in the “Who Lost China?” Debate”, note that much blame has been placed on the advice of a group of men and women labeled neoconservatives who got the U.S. embroiled in Iraq in the first place. “These policy experts have been targeted,” they say. “But more than just being wrong in their expectations, some critics, such as Seymour Hersh, suggest that these policy experts constituted a “cult,” and others allege that they were a group that placed the interests of the Bush administration, the Republican Party, or the state of Israel above that of the United States.”

Regardless of who made the decisions that have led to the current mess, hold on, because the atmosphere is going to get turbulent and all of America is going to feel it.