Category archives: Economics

Spending A Moral Issue

by Tony Perkins

July 22, 2009

A good man leaves an inheritance to his childrens children. That bit of insight is from the wisest man who ever lived Solomon, the author if the Book of Proverbs.

Notice that Solomon is not calling for us to just hold back of little of our savings to leave something for your kids, but rather that it is prudent foresight that leads to investment in future generations.

Such advice would be considered radical in America today, especially in Washington where the nations debt is currently $11.5 trillion, with another trillion projected to be added this year. In fact, for every dollar that the federal government is currently spending, 47 cents is borrowed. When federal, state and local government debt is combined the average familys burden of that debt is almost one million dollars.

As a nation, weve not only lost the biblical ideal that one generation should pave the way for the next by investing in its future, but we have decided by our fiscal irresponsibility to live on Easy Street and let our grand kids and great-grand kids pay the mortgage.

Thats not right, and its got to change. To learn more about how federal tax policy affects your family, click here.

What will ObamaCare do to your current health plan?

by Chris Gacek

July 20, 2009

As the health care debate heats up it is hard to get straightforward, understandable information on the nuts and bolts of how Obamacare will operate. Big picture, no trees, no weeds. Thats what we need. Well, there was an extremely powerful eight minute interview on Mark Levins radio show last Friday (July 17, 2009) that you must listen to. (We make it easy to do so below.)

Mark Levin interviewed Betsy McCaughey, adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute and the chairman and founder of the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths, about the Obama Administrations health care plan. She clearly and frighteningly describes provisions of the current House bill that will reduce care for the elderly and compel all programs to provide regimented, HMO-style care for the rest of us. (FYI, McCaughey served also as the Lt. Governor of New York from Jan. 1995 to Dec. 1998.)

If you would like to listen we are going to provide two ways to do so. First, you can click here and listen or listen below to the eight minute interview using the Family Research Council website:

We want to heartily thank The Mark Levin Show for most graciously giving FRC permission to play the audio from our website.

You can listen or download the entire Friday, July 17, 2009 program from Mark Levins website this is his Audio webpage. Once on the Audio page, do the following: 1) click on 07/17 The Mark Levin Show; and, 2) start the player at 8 minutes, 45 seconds.

I believe this audio will sharpen your focus on the key features of the health bill.

Has CNBC Hoisted the White Flag ?

by Chris Gacek

April 2, 2009

For weeks the FRC Blog has been commenting on the growing prominence of CNBC as a national news outlet.  We have also commented on the liberal counter-reaction against the network.  Our point has been that even though the Left dominates the mainstream media (MSM), in a time of financial and economic crisis the MSM news organs are structurally ill-equipped to deal with stories of such complexity.  CNBC has on-air staff with the smarts and the career training to discuss these matters at a sophisticated level.  The MSM does not have people like this on their programs with a few exceptions (e.g., Lou Dobbs at CNN (who is not MSM)).   Consequently, there has been a tremendous power shift toward CNBC

CNBC is more conservative than the MSM, but it might be fairer to say CNBC is more libertarian and market-oriented.  That being said there has always been a good mixture of liberals and conservatives on CNBC, and many Wall Street players were Obama supporters. 

Well, the Left noticed the increasing prominence of CNBC and a campaign of mau mauing began quickly once Barack Obama became president.  First, Rick Santelli was attacked; this effort was assisted by NBC’s Today Show.  Jim Cramer was next, and his assault by Jon Stewart soon followed.  However, it appears that a larger effort to compromise CNBC is underway, and it may be working.  There is now an entire Leftist-“progressive” website devoted to serving up ideological attacks on CNBC: it is called “Fix CNBC.”  (Go to the website and look at the long list of liberal big-wigs who have signed on.  Amazing.  This is quite an effort.  I wonder who is paying for it?)  Interestingly, Media Matters also  presents an online petition at “Change CNBC,” and the language looks pretty similar to Fix CNBC’s petition.

(Please note: I am not saying we should be unconcerned about conflicts of interest in financial reporting.  See Dan Gifford’s excellent article (“Big Hollywood” website; March 22nd) discussing “Fix CNBC” and the journalistic integrity of business reporting.  However, the house cleaning being called for by these “progressive” groups seems suspiciously timed to protect the Obama political agenda from rigorous analysis and criticism.)

Within the past two weeks, former Vermont governor and former Democratic National Committee head, Howard Dean, was given a two-hour guest role on CNBC’s morning show, “Squawk Box.”  Similarly, on March 31st, doyenne of the Left, Arianna Huffington (founder “Huffington Post” website), was similarly ensconced on the “Squawk Box” for two-hours.  There are reports that Dean will be a regular CNBC contributor.  To the best of my knowledge, neither person has a substantial background in financial or economic matters.

CNBC is flirting with danger here.  I am sure that there have been GOP political figures on the show.  For example, Dick Armey appears on occasion.  However, I have never seen Matt Drudge on “Squawk Box.”  The real test will be if we see the CNBC management interfering with Larry Kudlow’s program at 7:00 p.m.  

Only time will tell whether CNBC fights to maintain its political and intellectual independence.  CNBC may not be perfect, but it does provide analysis of our economic problems that lies outside the MSM groupthink and political agendas.  We should all hope that CNBC survives.

The War against CNBC (and Free Speech) Escalates

by Chris Gacek

March 18, 2009

            You can’t say the FRC blog isn’t timely.  Over the past two weeks my colleague Michael Fragoso and I have written on this blog about the emerging position of CNBC as a major, national news source and the adverse impact of that development on the Obama administration.   

            This state of affairs escalated enormously over the weekend after CNBC’s Jim Cramer was slapped silly on Jon Stewart’s Comedy Central program last Thursday.  Stewart is part of the Democrat-Left-Borg collective that hurtles through space attempting to bludgeon those who oppose their agenda into abject submission.  (For an excellent analysis of Stewart’s completely dishonest attack on CNBC’s Rick Santelli read this post by Dan Gifford on the Big Hollywood blog.)

            Stewart has been on television for years, but I don’t recall that he ever attacked the integrity of CNBC before.  Of course, CNBC never before pointed out that the Obama economic program was failing miserably.  Therein lies the difference.  When was the last time Stewart viciously sandbagged a Lefty guest while declaring his righteous outrage?  Answer: [Hear crickets chirping] Never happened.

            In short, we have entered an unparalleled time in which the Hollywood-media-“news”-industrial-complex makes little or no attempt to pretend that it is not advancing the socialist, anti-family, anti-church agenda of the Left.  Where will Barack Obama be tonight?  On the Jay Leno show, I believe.  The alliance begun during the presidential campaign appears to grow stronger daily.

            In the last couple weeks The Politico (www.politico.com) has published a series of extraordinary stories describing planned attacks originating from the White House and Leftist activist groups targeting political enemies. Read this piece as an example.  As such, it was not surprising that Tony Blankley observed here in today’s Washington Times that the atmosphere in Washington has become incredibly poisonous and ugly.

            Well, folks, about two months down and forty-six to go.  It’s going to get interesting.

Washington’s Omie o kiru

by Family Research Council

March 17, 2009

A U.S. Senator talks of honorable suicide for well-heeled executives who have received company bonuses and then benefited from bailout money from the taxpayers. Armed guards are posted outside the insurance giant AIG to protect its employees from an angry public. The President declares himself outraged at corporate excess. Larry Summers, the Obama Administration’s top economic adviser, says the same. Thus our national economy is fast transforming into a giant kabuki play, or more precisely a sewa-mono, a domestic drama in which theft and suicide are classic themes.

What is becoming of this nation if it is not the puppeteering of what should be an economy of risk and reward where, with reasonable regulation for health, consumer disclosure, and mitigation of monopolies, the government steps back and allows customers and investors to act on opportunity and react to failure? The greed of some private sector actors is real enough, but the umbrage of many political actors rings hollow. Can we recover the bonuses paid to executives who could not keep their businesses profitable? Why, government has made unprofitability the test of whether certain businesses, like certain mortgagees, get aid.

Here is a simpler idea: anyone who receives government bailout aid, direct or indirect, or benefits from a no-bid government contract of any kind, forfeits their right as individuals to donate to federal political campaigns for a period of five years. That would have some genuine impact on this Kabuki cycle

That Curious Phrase: The Commanding Heights

by Robert Morrison

March 17, 2009

Watching Chris Wallace interviewing President Obama’s economics advisor, Austan Goolsbee, yesterday, I was struck by a curious phrase Goolsbee used: “the commanding heights of our economy.” Gosh, that phrase sounded familiar. Goolsbee was responding to Wallace’s question about the President’s 2010 budget message. That document is grandly titled: “An Era of Responsibility.” Actually, “an era” is too modest for this President. His budget proposals will impose crushing debts not simply on the living, but on millions yet unborn, on generations yet to come, if they come. We should be thinking at least in terms of epoch, even perhaps an Obaman Age.

Wallace quoted from the President’s budget message. “While middle class families have been playing by the rules…those at the commanding heights have not…” Goolsbee defended the use of that term: “The President is saying those at the commanding heights have not played by the rules.” Clear enough. Rep. Barney Frank was next up. “I would go back to your conversation with Mr. Goolsbee,” the chairman of the Financial Services Committee replied as Wallace pressed him for specifics. “This is an example of people at the commanding heights of the economy misbehaving, abusing the system,” Frank said.

There it was again. I knew I’d heard that phrase before. Fortunately, we have Google so I didn’t have to go rummaging through my cluttered basement—talk about torture—among my old Russian history books.

 

The commanding heights” is a phrase first used by Lenin. He used it in 1922. It’s when he introduced his NEP—the New Economic Policy—in the newborn and struggling Soviet Union. Under that policy, the severity of Communism’s seizure of the land was relaxed somewhat. Lenin had little choice. “Collectivizing” the land had brought massive famine. Millions were dying.

But Lenin reassured worried Marxists all over the world that he would not betray the world’s first successful Communist revolution. His Bolshevik regime retained control over the commanding heights of the economy—the big industries.

Does this suggest some dark, secretive, Leninist plot by the new Obama administration?

No, that’s not what I’m suggesting. I do say that we are now governed by a group that is not itself fully aware of the source of their ideas.

In a free economy, there really are no commanding heights. Businesses and economic sectors rise and fall with the vicissitudes of the market. Railroads, once dominant, give way to highway trucking (and perhaps back again). An information economy supersedes smokestack industries—and the cleanup of our rivers, lakes, and skies offers testimony to the changes.

Now we are entering a period in which the majority in government view themselves-consciously or not—as occupying the commanding heights of the economy. It’s an experiment that is bound to fail. It has failed wherever it has been tried.

One simple way I tell friends to judge whether Russia is moving toward or away from liberty is to note whether they are seriously discussing burying the mostly paraffin mortal remains of Vladimir Illyich Lenin. For a time in the 1990s, removing Lenin’s body from the mausoleum in Red Square was high on the freedom agenda in the newly liberated Russian Republic. Since our current Vladimir—Putin—took power, however, Lenin’s body is firmly anchored and ritually honored in the heart of Moscow.

We can still strike a blow for liberty over here: Let’s bury Lenin’s language. Let’s bury all of Lenin’s talk of “the commanding heights.” And let’s resist those like Barney Frank who would ascend those heights the better to command the rest of us.

The Daily Show with Tomas de Torquemada

by Michael Fragoso

March 13, 2009

Jim Cramer went on The Daily Show last night to be grilled by Jon Stewart. Liberals everywhere are singing the praises of Stewart, who went in loaded for bear. (See video here-Stewart’s language is saucy: you’ve been warned.) Stewart deftly illustrated the multitudes contained within Cramer-both a loudmouth performer, and a cool, savvy Wall Street operator-and excoriated CNBC, Cramer, and market capitalism in his characteristically self-righteous and crypto-Marxist way (“When are we going to realize in this country that our wealth is work? That we’re workers…”). Apparently finance is serious business and Cramer’s goofy “Mad Money” persona makes Stewart mad. Mad enough that he felt the need to embarrass Cramer for 3 segments in front of his audience of clapping New York sycophants.

And yet, Cramer has been at this for years (I recall watching Mad Money with my friends in college because Cramer’s histrionics and questionable stock advice could be quite entertaining). Why did Jon Stewart decide to take Cramer to the woodshed on March 12, 2009? Why not a month ago-or six months ago, or a year ago, or four years ago? It turns out that Cramer and Stewart have been feuding ever since Stewart began taking shots at Rick Santelli for his “Chicago Tea Party” outburst. This feud, like Stewart’s previous one with Tucker Carlson, is predicated on his infuriating bait-and-switch routine: 1.) Sanctimoniously deliver a sucker punch about a serious political or cultural matter in which there is substantive disagreement; 2.) Respond to counter attack by saying “I’m just a comedian, don’t hold me to high standards! I make jokes! I’m no expert!” 3.) Behave like a smug expert and deliver more substantive criticism. 4.) Respond to next counter attack by saying “I’m just a clown! Watch me make funny faces!” 5.) Repeat until plaudits pour in from Gawker, Huffington Post, and other snark-mongers.

The fact is that Cramer’s shtick has not changed, and yet it is now that Stewart decides to declare Sicilian vendetta. Since Mad Money premiered, and in many ways going back to his stint on Kudlow & Cramer, Cramer has been a clown for the masses and a savant for the privileged-and Whitman-like in his ability to embrace the contradiction. What has changed is this: Cramer, like Santelli before him, went after the “wealth-destroyer,” President Obama. When the self-described liberal Jim Cramer was jumping around, biting the heads off toy bulls, yelling, “BUY! BUY! BUY!” and supporting Barack Obama, Stewart was nowhere to be found. When the self-described liberal Jim Cramer does all the same things but now dares to criticize the patently horrendous fiscal policies of the new President, that’s when Jon Stewart gets mad. Stewart insists it’s “not political,” and yet the timing is anything but.

Perhaps this explains why Obama tolerates the constant bumbling of Robert Gibbs: who needs a Press Secretary when your cult of personality is enough to turn a late-night comedy show into a camera stellata?

The Pro-Obama Attack Machine Rolls On

by Chris Gacek

March 11, 2009

The New York Times jumped into the fray on Monday to help rescue President Obama’s economic policy-making reputation.  This was done in the guise of an analysis piece on the cable business channel, CNBC, that also served as a shot across the bow.  The story by Brian Stelter and Tim Arango entitled, “CNBC Thrives as Hosts Deliver News with Attitude,” lets the cat out of the bag when it intones: “CNBC is now a place for politics…. making the line between reporter and commentator almost indistinguishable at times.”

            What follows is a grab-bag of faux concern for CNBC’s brand and its reputation for journalistic integrity.  Some anonymous back-biting by three CNBC employees is added for good measure.  Blah, blah, blah.  But the rub comes down to this:  “In recent weeks some have perceived the network to be leading the campaign against President Obama’s economic agenda.”  BINGO.

            Well, the folks in the mainstream media (MSM) are clearly irritated because CNBC is now the most important news organization driving the political-economic debate.  The MSM is beginning to realize that it cannot control a news network populated by the brightest reporters on TV and accomplished guests who focus on the hard logic of the markets, interest rates, stock prices, currencies, etc.

            After Rick Santelli, a CNBC reporter from Chicago’s mercantile exchange, blasted the Obama Administration’s mortgage rescue plan he was attacked by NBC’s Matt Lauer on the Today Show.  Similarly, Jim Cramer was dragged to the Today Show for a hazing by Lauer who had to be assisted by CNBC’s Erin Burnett.  Even she couldn’t make it a fair fight.  Cramer just brushed them off.

            Unfortunately for the MSM the news broadcasts on CBS, NBC, ABC, PBS, CNN, and MSNBC are populated with reporters who know relatively little about economics and finance compared to their counter-parts at CNBC, Bloomberg, and Fox Business Channel.  So, when someone like Lauer tries to slime Santelli or Cramer he is totally mismatched.

            This means that serious interviews on the economy now have to be conducted on CNBC.  Yesterday’s interview of Warren Buffet by CNBC’s Becky Quick is a case in point.  Aside from the two-hour length, that interview would not have been possible on the MSM networks.  There are no broadcast TV analogs to Ms. Quick, Joe Kernen, and Carl Quintanilla who are all very, very bright and industry savvy.

            This is not to say that CNBC is perfect.  It has its flaws.  Big Deal.  However, between the network’s excellent morning (“Squawk Box”) and evening shows (“The Kudlow Report” hosted by Larry Kudlow) one becomes engaged in an ongoing conversation about our nation’s political-economic-financial situation.  The point isn’t that CNBC hosts and guests don’t make mistakes or erroneous predictions.  Who hasn’t in this market?

            The point is that CNBC presents its viewers with a window into an ongoing high-level conversation between many of the best minds on “Wall Street” as they try to diagnose and solve the enormous problems we face.  It has been fascinating to watch many themes developed and analyzed over an extended period of time on CNBC.

            This is all to say, that the MSM is incapable of presenting the public with this type of sophisticated, repetitive “longitudinal” analysis that makes it possible to think through the various problems the markets face.  And, with all due respect to the snooty journalism professors who love the Times, this is great journalism.

            Finally, regarding the charges of being political, as Larry Kudlow said Tuesday night to Charlie Gasparino (another CNBC reporter under attack) - (paraphrasing) “I learned a long time ago that if the liberal pundits are coming after you, you must be doing something right.”  Amen, Brother Larry.  Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.

An Open Letter to Larry Kudlow, the Nation’s Irreplaceable CNBC Host

by Chris Gacek

March 5, 2009

Dear Larry:

The Politico reported yesterday “it’s rumored that [Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT)] could face a challenge [in his 2010 Senate re-election race] from CNBC host Larry Kudlow, an opponent who would focus the coming election squarely on the economy.”

Say it ain’t so, Kudlow.

For those not familiar with you, Larry, I provide two links with some fair and balanced info: CNBC, Wikipedia. In short, you are a supply-side economist who served in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the Reagan Administration’s Treasury Department, and various Wall Street firms with distinction. You are a happy guy; an optimist. You are a conservative, and, as I have observed over the years, a much-needed media friend of the pro-life cause - something we at FRC appreciate greatly. And, since the financial meltdown you have been hosting a M-F 7:00 p.m. hour-long market analysis program on CNBC - now called The Kudlow Report.

In my opinion, The Kudlow Report has become the most important news program in America since the financial crash hit in September 2008. Given the deep recession we are experiencing it is understandable that an economy-focused program would reach such prominence. However, I am sure your ratings do not come close to measuring your impact on American politics, but I believe that I am correct.

As a conservative moderator you have exposed the Bush (bad) and the Obama (failing) economic responses to the financial crash to systematic analysis by many of the best thinkers on Wall Street. You provide this invaluable service on a daily basis with great intellectual rigor. What is crucial here is that a supply-side (non-Keynesian) supporter of free markets has this prominent role on America’s foremost business channel. As long as the current economic recession remains unabated, The Kudlow Report will remain the most important source of news on the economy.

This brings me to the alarming rumors of your potential Senate race. I write to urge you to reject any attempts to entice you to run for the Senate in Connecticut.

First, let’s assume that you run and defeat Senator Dodd. Under that scenario, it is fair to say that as a junior senator from Connecticut - in the minority (the GOP cannot take back the Senate in 2010) - you would have no chance of attaining the level of influence you now enjoy on CNBC. Being well down the pecking order in a body of 100, you may be able to get a seat on the banking committee, and you would be able to accomplish some good in the Senate: perhaps an amendment here and there; some oversight questions on TV. Not much to compare with being able to teach the nation about core conservative economic principles every evening while assessing the events of the day and interviewing newsmakers.

Second, the chances are not great that you will defeat Senator Dodd. Yes, he has some vulnerabilities on housing and mortgage policies. That said, he is in his fifth term, and his father was a two-term U.S. Senator from Connecticut. The state is very liberal. Connecticut is unlikely to elect someone who would now have difficulty winning a seat in New Hampshire. In sum, you will most likely lose the race, but the costs would be greater than those associated with a failed campaign - lost time, treasure, and effort.

The greatest cost would come from your absence from CNBC. This would be a heavy price to pay because the nation needs daily access to someone guided by sound doctrine analyzing economic and financial developments. This is the job for which your lifetime of work and training has prepared you - not sitting in the Senate. It is no small responsibility to provide accurate economic news to the people of the United States in the worst recession since the 1930s. Unless you stay focused on the task at hand there is little chance that the American people will receive via cable or television the high-quality analysis of Obama Administration policies that they deserve for 2010 and 2012.

Best wishes,

Chris Gacek
Family Research Council

Been in D.C. Too Long?

by Chris Gacek

February 24, 2009

How do you know that you know way too much about Washington bureaucracies and how they “work”? Here’s how. When you hear CNBC’s Rick Santelli calling for a Chicago Tea Party tax protest this summer, you immediately start to wonder whether he’ll need to get permits from some government entity like the Environmental Protection Agency. And then you wonder whether Illinois permits will be needed also. Well, I plead guilty to having had such thoughts last Thursday.

Fortunately, I am not alone and not nearly as bad off as Scott Ott of the D.C. Examiner appears to be. Ott has written a brilliant, hilarious piece entitled, EPA Arrests Rick Santelli, ‘Chicago Tea Party’ Cancelled.” (See Feb. 24, 2009 ed., p. 14.) The satirical article contains the following slam from President Obama’s press secretary, Robert Gibbs, commenting on Santelli’s arrest for threatening to pollute Lake Michigan: “I don’t know where Mr. Santelli lives, but apparently, like most conservative critics, he has a callous disregard for the lives of the waterfowl, sturgeon and fresh-water mollusks that inhabit the Lake Michigan watershed.”

That’s funny, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Santelli really could be arrested for dumping tea or “derivative securities” (paper) into the Great Lakes. Well done, Mr. Ott.

Andie Coller of The Politico observed today that Gibbs “dismissed [Santelli] as a know-nothing derivatives trader out of touch with Main Street.” Coller then noted that “[a] Rasmussen poll released Monday found that 55 percent of those surveyed thought federal mortgage subsidies to those most at risk of losing their homes would be ‘rewarding bad behavior.’” If I were the White House I would be very careful about trying to roll out a campaign of intimidation and bullying against journalists, in general, and a journalist, in particular, who is very much attuned to public sentiment, is an expert in the numerous cross-cutting markets traded in Chicago, and is the most popular figure on America’s #1 financial news network.

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