In the first presidential debate of 2008, Obama slammed John McCain for voting "23 times against alternative energy, like solar, and wind, and biodiesel" and said that he would make a "significant investment over the next 10 years" in "alternative energy, like solar, and wind, and biodiesel, and, yes, nuclear energy, clean-coal technology." In his inaugural address he promised to "harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories," and in early 2010 stated that "robust clean energy sector is how we will create the jobs of the future, jobs that pay well and can't be outsourced."
Granted, few people foresaw any of this taking place four years ago, but then again that's the point -- predicting future energy trends and related technological developments is incredibly difficult, and it was absurd for Obama to say with any great certainty what the future held.
High Speed Rail
The [California High Speed Rail Authority] released a revised business plan for the system on November 1, 2011, with a new cost estimate of $65.4 billion (in 2010 dollars), almost double the initial budget of $33 billion (in 2008 dollars) approved by [the 2008] referendum, along with a revised completion date was pushed from 2020 to 2033.
None of the Democrats’ nightmares came to fruition. The Republicans’ much-feared financial edge never materialized in the presidential campaign, as President Obama and his allies have been outspending Mitt Romney and outside groups by a healthy margin down the home stretch. Outside GOP groups spent big money on bad Senate candidates and offered muddled messages on behalf of their choices, muting their significant spending edge. And Democratic-aligned super PACs have enjoyed a decisive spending advantage over their GOP counterparts in House races, and are putting races in play that few expected to be competitive months ago.
The reality is the Citizens United ruling has sparked renewed competition across the political spectrum. Far from creating an uneven playing field, the influx of super PAC money has allowed Romney to avoid getting buried by the president’s team financially, given the Democrats opportunities to make deeper inroads against Republicans in the House, and expanded the number of competitive Senate races to historic levels. As Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Executive Director Guy Cecil told The Washington Post, it’s the largest Senate playing field he can ever remember (emphasis mine).
How did all the early doom-and-gloom predictions turn out to be so off-base? Campaign finance reform advocates made the mistake of assuming that more money in the system protects the politicians in power, when in reality, it fosters competition because the money disproportionately goes to the party challenging the status quo. That’s why Democrats have benefited from super PAC spending in the battle for the House, while Republicans have been able to even up the score in the presidential contest and Senate races.
Even opponents of super PACs concede they have made the GOP presidential contest more competitive. “Take away the super PACs,” the Sunlight Foundation’s editorial director told Slate’s David Weigel in February, “and Santorum would have probably had to drop out after Iowa. Gingrich might have had to drop out after South Carolina.”
Super PAC donors such as billionaire investor Foster Friess (a Santorum supporter) and casino magnate Sheldon Adelson (a Gingrich fan) enabled two of Mitt Romney’s opponents to stick it out despite his big fundraising advantage. Such patrons indirectly serve the same function as the wealthy backers who enabled Eugene McCarthy to mount his history-changing anti-war challenge to Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968, before Congress restricted campaign donations.
There is even a super PAC officially dedicated to fostering competitiveness: the Houston-based Campaign for Primary Accountability, which supports challengers to entrenched congressional incumbents. So far this super PAC, whose main backers are three rich guys, has taken credit for the retirement of Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) and the defeat of Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio).
Rather than undermining democracy, Citizens United appears to have had the opposite effect of making even more vibrant.
|Source: John Taylor|
- One justification for Obamacare was the need to cover people with pre-existing conditions who were uninsurable. Towards this end the PPACA created federal high-risk insurance pools, with projected enrollment by the end of 2010 at 375,000. Actual enrollment as of February 2011: just over 12,000.
- The CLASS Act, passed as part of Obamacare and scored by the Congressional Budget Office as generating savings of $86 billion over the next decade, has come to an end after the Obama administration admitted it is unworkable.
- President Obama has been forced to sign repeal of an Obamacare provision which mandated increased tax compliance paperwork -- a tacit admission of the legislation's burdensome nature.
- The GAO has found an Obamacare health insurance tax credit for small businesses to be deeply flawed, which perhaps explains why only 170,300 businesses out of a pool of as many as 4 million potentially eligible companies in 2010 elected to participate in it.
- Obamacare has resulted in health insurance providers deciding to stop selling child-only insurance policies in 34 states.
Cash for Clunkers
- A few billion dollars worth of wealth was destroyed. About 750,000 cars, many of which could have provided consumer value for many years, were thrown in the trash. Suppose each clunker was worth $3,000 at a guess, that would mean that the government destroyed $2.25 billion of value.
- Low-income families, who tend to buy used cars, were harmed because the clunkers program will push up used car prices [there's good reason to think this analysis is accurate].
- Taxpayers were ripped off $3 billion. The government took my money to give to people who will buy new cars that are much nicer than mine!
- The federal bureaucracy has added 1,100 people to handle all the clunker administration. Again, taxpayers are the losers.
- The auto industry received a short-term “sugar high” at the expense of lower future sales when the program is over. The program apparently boosted sales by about 750,000 cars this year, but that probably means that sales over the next few years will be about 750,000 lower [Edwards' prediction appears to have been borne out]. The program probably further damaged the longer-term prospects of auto dealers and automakers by diverting their attention from market fundamentals in the scramble for federal cash.
Beyond follies perpetrated by the Obama administration, events in Wisconsin have provided another lesson in public policy. When in early 2011 Governor Scott Walker proposed, and the Republican-controlled legislature passed, legislation eliminating the right of public sector unions to bargain collectively over pensions and health care and limiting pay raises of public employees to the rate of inflation, the left went berserk.
Indeed, they were so enraged that they almost quite literally stormed the state capitol in protest. President Obama also involved himself in the affair, calling it an assault on unions. Of course, the left insisted that its reaction was not due to selfish concerns about they pay and benefits being reigned in, but rather concern for the greater welfare of the state and its impact on public services.
Perhaps this also explains why voters opted to re-elect Walker in this year's recall election by a margin greater than his original victory in 2010.So far, [Walker's] opponents’ predictions of disaster have not materialized. The state has balanced its two-year budget without tax increases, and local school districts have used their new bargaining power to save money without layoffs or significant increases in class size. Higher tax revenues, the fruit of an improving national economy, have helped. But those who voted for Mr. Walker to show approval for his policies, and not just disapproval for the recall itself, had plausible reasons for doing so.