Apples and oranges, vacation style

The bean-counter of all things White House, Mark Knoller compares vacation days of presidents:

There has been criticism of the president’s vacation at this time. But how does the number of vacation days the president has spent compare to his predecessors? CBS Radio’s Mark Knoller has kept track of presidential vacations for years and supplied the data.

So far, President Obama has taken 61 vacation days after 31 months in office. At this point in their presidencies, George W. Bush had spent 180 days at his ranch where his staff often joined him for meetings. And Ronald Reagan had taken 112 vacation days at his ranch.

 Among recent presidents, Bill Clinton took the least time off — 28 days.

A few points: vacations for all Presidents are “working” vacations, a point Knoller later makes. Reagan and GW both owned the land they went back to, thereby not incurring vast expenses for taxpayers to house staff and Secret Service.

My question for Mark Knoller: how much taxpayer money did each President spend on vacations?

Therein lies the difference.

As for optics, Pundette  laughs off VDH’s suggestions for an “Alternate vacation.” On the cheap and with the people ain’t the Obama way.

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That’s how much it costs taxpayers to subsidize each ticket into the bustling metropolis of Ely, Nevada, and the cause of the great pissing match in DC about the cut in funding to the FAA. From the AP:

On some days, the pilots with Great Lakes Airlines fire up a twin-engine Beechcraft 1900 at the Ely, Nev., airport and depart for Las Vegas without a single passenger on board. And the federal government pays them to do it.

Federal statistics reviewed by The Associated Press show that in 2010, just 227 passengers flew out of Ely while the airline got $1.8 million in subsidies. The travelers paid $70 to $90 for a one-way ticket. The cost to taxpayers for each ticket: $4,107.

Ely is one of 153 rural communities where airlines get subsidies through the $200 million Essential Air Service program, and one of 13 that critics say should be eliminated from it. Some call the spending a boondoggle, but others see it as a critical financial lifeline to ensure economic stability in rural areas.

Steve Smith, executive director of the Jackson, Tenn., airport authority, also has seen empty or near empty flights take off, since the airlines get paid per flight, not per passenger. The subsidy amounted to $244 for each of the 2,514 people who flew out of Smith’s airport last year, though few if any passengers knew that.

“They fly the empty plane so they can still get the money,” Smith said.

Empty planes, empty suits. What’s the difference anymore, eh? Empty planes flying into Ely, Nevada, to line the pockets of the airline, the airport employees, and the single janitor who can clean the entire facility in less than 30 minutes. I’m sure he’s the one who pulls the luggage from the hold, too. Why do we wonder where the money goes or why we’re broke when we subsidize empty flights so that a handful of people can hold on to their jobs? Who’s brilliant idea was it to build an airport in a town of 4,255 people? 

If the bustling tourist town of Ely can’t support an airport on its own sans taxpayer support, then the airport should close.

It really is that simple, y’all.

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The inverse is also true, and more appropriate

Robert Samuelson outlines a ten-point plan to cut the deficit and balance the budget. His plan combines a mix of cuts and tax hikes, but he omits something important from the premise of his argument [emphasis mine]:

Decide to balance the budget over a decade. “Deficit reduction” isn’t good enough. The case for balance (albeit at “full employment”) is simple: discipline. If people want public services, they should be willing to pay for them.

True enough. But if the people do not want public services, the government should then be forced to cut them. The absence of that line of reasoning is part of the reason we’re in trouble. No one starves the beast. No one questions it. And that’s how taxpayers end up subsidizing empty planes to nowhere.

Related: Felonious Monk‘s “Balance the Budget” video. Language warning: not for little ears. Hilarity warning. I had tears streaming from my eyes as I choked on coffee.

Ouch: when libs talk like this, Obama should worry

A liberal Obamaphile pauses to wash the kool-aid from his glass after it comes up empty:

As a practicing psychologist with more than 25 years of experience, I will resist the temptation to diagnose at a distance, but as a scientist and strategic consultant I will venture some hypotheses.

The most charitable explanation is that he and his advisers have succumbed to a view of electoral success to which many Democrats succumb — that “centrist” voters like “centrist” politicians. Unfortunately, reality is more complicated. Centrist voters prefer honest politicians who help them solve their problems. A second possibility is that he is simply not up to the task by virtue of his lack of experience and a character defect that might not have been so debilitating at some other time in history. Those of us who were bewitched by his eloquence on the campaign trail chose to ignore some disquieting aspects of his biography: that he had accomplished very little before he ran for president, having never run a business or a state; that he had a singularly unremarkable career as a law professor, publishing nothing in 12 years at the University of Chicago other than an autobiography; and that, before joining the United States Senate, he had voted “present” (instead of “yea” or “nay”) 130 times, sometimes dodging difficult issues.

A somewhat less charitable explanation is that we are a nation that is being held hostage not just by an extremist Republican Party but also by a president who either does not know what he believes or is willing to take whatever position he thinks will lead to his re-election. Perhaps those of us who were so enthralled with the magnificent story he told in “Dreams From My Father” appended a chapter at the end that wasn’t there — the chapter in which he resolves his identity and comes to know who he is and what he believes in.

Wow, huh? A liberal acknowledges Obama’s disquieting lack of any accomplishments, voting “present” and Alinskyite ability to morph into whatever will get him reelected. But then this bit of selective listening:

When he wants to be, the president is a brilliant and moving speaker, but his stories virtually always lack one element: the villain who caused the problem, who is always left out, described in impersonal terms, or described in passive voice, as if the cause of others’ misery has no agency and hence no culpability

Lack a villain? “Blame Bush” has been the dominant meme of every single Obama speech since day one. If liberals don’t hear “Blame Bush” anymore then poor Obama has to wonder if he should bother opening his mouth at all.  Oh, maybe that’s why he’s still MIA after the downgrade, voting “present” from the bunker.

UPDATE: Oooh! The knives come out. More liberal angst with a “weak” Obama:

At a luncheon in the members’ dining room at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Saturday, a 64-year-old African-American from the Bronx was complaining about Obama’s ineffectiveness in dealing with the implacable hostility of congressional Republicans when an 80-year-old lawyer chimed in about the president’s unwillingness to stand up to his opponents. “I want to see blood on the floor,” she said grimly.

My God. What more do these people want? No opposition? I guess demagoguery and lying through one’s teeth doesn’t count.

A 61-year-old white woman at the table nodded. “He never understood about the ‘vast right-wing conspiracy,’” she said.

ROTFL. Sorry, can’t help myself. Of course that’s why he’s such a poor president.

Looking as if she were about to cry, an 83-year-old Obama supporter shook her head. “I’m so disappointed in him,” she said. “It’s true: Hillary is tougher.”

During the last few days, the whispers have swelled to an angry chorus of frustration about Obama’s perceived weaknesses. Many Democrats are furious and heartbroken at how ineffectual he seemed in dealing with Republican opponents over the debt ceiling, and liberals are particularly incensed by what they see as his capitulation to conservatives on fundamental liberal principles.

In Connecticut, a businessman who raised money for Obama in 2008 said, “I’m beyond disgusted.” In New Jersey, a teacher reported that even her friends in the Obama administration are grievously disillusioned with his lack of leadership—and many have begun to whisper about a Democratic challenge for the 2012 presidential nomination. “I think people are furtively hoping that Hillary runs,” she said.

Will he be primaried? Or will he just signal the death knell for liberalism for this generation? Let’s pray it’s more than one generation this time. In a must-read, Janet Daily bluntly asks the truth:

The truly fundamental question that is at the heart of the disaster toward which we are racing is being debated only in America: is it possible for a free market economy to support a democratic socialist society?

It’s not. Because you eventually run out of other people’s money. 

Say what?

Via Gateway Pundit, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen made a surprise stop in Afghanistan today. 

What do you tell troops in harm’s way when your boss says screw with ’em and make ’em worry? A soldier asks what will happen when the government defaults, and this is what he gets in return:

As we move into a changed likeness there are some other benefits … we’re pretty focused on making sure we don’t break faith with the people who are already in the military.

A changed likeness? Of what, choosing demagoguery and scare tactics and sending a four-star admiral to scare his troops over making the real decisions to put our country on a viable fiscal path again? Some other benefits? Like savaging defense spending rather than shoring up entitlement programs?  Never let a crisis go to waste.

So the military gets the shaft while Joe Biden charges rent to the Secret Service detail protecting the VP and family. Rent. $13,000 thus far and eligible to make $66,000 more. One would think Joe Biden would recognize where that money ultimately comes from, as I doubt anyone could argue that he’s seriously that stupid. He’s not. He just thinks we are.


Ah, a deal: does it even matter?

After reading Mark Steyn at his most scathing, no:

The Democrat model of governance is to spend $4 trillion while only collecting $2 trillion, borrowing the rest from tomorrow. Instead of “printing money,” we’re printing credit cards and pre-approving our unborn grandchildren. To facilitate this proposition, Washington created its own form of fantasy accounting: “baseline budgeting,” under which growth-in-government is factored in to federal bookkeeping as a permanent feature of life. As Arthur Herman of the American Enterprise Institute pointed out this week, under present rules, if the government were to announce a spending freeze — that’s to say, no increases, no cuts, everything just stays exactly the same — the Congressional Budget Office would score it as a $9 trillion savings. In real-world terms, there are no “savings,” and there’s certainly no $9 trillion. In fact, there isn’t one thin dime. But nevertheless, that’s how it would be measured at the CBO.

Like others, I have a hard time fathoming “trillion.” Steyn points out $9 trillion eclipses the combined GDP of Japan and Germany. Still having trouble? Try this. It adds a certain dimension to the debate, no? If we’re incapable of honestly cutting money from our budget now, then we’re headed down the tubes in no uncertain order unless we kick the charlatans out of DC. A goodly number of Republicans included. For-ev-er.

So what lies ahead? Steyn paints a rather dismal picture. Read the rest.

Related: Friday Limbaugh, “You can be proud, Conservatives: Tea Party puts country over party.”

Cross-posted at Pundit & Pundette.

Debt kabuki and Noonan regret: It’s Saturday laundry

Harry Reid and his cronies will shred the Boehner bill and stick it not to “the rich” but to the rest of us. How? Ed Morrissey explains the CBO process of scoring, and how Reid has figured the expiration of Bush tax cuts and the absence of an alternative means tax (AMT) patch will pad the coffers:

Total tax hike over 10 years, according to the GOP analysis?  $3.8 trillion.  And those would not just be tax hikes on the “wealthy,” either.  Those tax hikes would hit the middle class like a freight train, both on basic rates and the AMT creep that Congress has parried for years.  If this analysis is correct, Reid either wants to hit the US with the biggest tax hike in its history, or he’s offering bogus deficit reduction that will never occur.

Oh, I’m sure Obama won’t veto that, eh? We’re being played as rubes. Where are the entitlement discussions? Oh, only military retirement. Rubes, the taxpaying kind. Victor Davis Hanson reminds us how difficult it is to pry the entitlements away from those who vote for their government checks:

About 50 percent of taxpayers don’t pay federal income taxes. Almost half of American adults receive either the majority of or all of their income in some form from government. They are naturally desirous of even more entitlements, in the sense that even higher taxes on the top 5 percent might ensure at least some of the needed revenue to pay for them. And if that echelon must pay 70 percent or 80 percent rather than the present 60 percent of all collected income taxes, it would still not be such a bad thing, inasmuch as the circumstances surrounding their earned income must be somewhat suspicious. In the words of the president, the so-called affluent surely at some point must realize that they have made enough money and have hundreds of thousands in unneeded income that could easily be assessed with higher taxes.

The agenda of the poorer and lower-middle classes is championed mostly by an affluent elite located on the two coasts, who find power and influence in representing “the people,” and are themselves either affluent enough, or enjoy enough top government salaries and subsidies, to be largely exempt from any hardship that would result from their own advocacy of much higher taxes and larger government expenditures.

Nancy Pelosi, et al. They’re sending us straight into servitude for generations to come, but since they own the shackles, it matters not. I guess it’s “fair” that we’re all poor together. I have never understood why liberals subscribe to this vision–that those who succeed must be punished–rather than the Reagan idea: lift everyone up together. I suppose it’s easier to punish.

Finally, regret from Peggy Noonan. I find it humorous to note her own exclusion from the title at WSJ: They’ve lost that lovin’ feeling. In part:

[…] nobody loves Obama. This is amazing because every president has people who love him, who feel deep personal affection or connection, who have a stubborn, even beautiful refusal to let what they know are just criticisms affect their feelings of regard. At the height of Bill Clinton’s troubles there were always people who’d say, “Look, I love the guy.” They’d often be smiling—a wry smile, a shrugging smile. Nobody smiles when they talk about Mr. Obama. There were people who loved George W. Bush when he was at his most unpopular, and they meant it and would say it. But people aren’t that way about Mr. Obama. He has supporters and bundlers and contributors, he has voters, he may win. But his support is grim support. And surely this has implications.

Noonan brands Obama a disaster, and fails to acknowledge the wool was pulled over her own eyes:

But he’s not good at building, creating, calling into being. He was good at summoning hope, but he’s not good at directing it and turning it into something concrete that answers a broad public desire.

And so his failures in the debt ceiling fight. He wasn’t serious, he was only shrewd—and shrewdness wasn’t enough. He demagogued the issue—no Social Security checks—until he was called out, and then went on the hustings spouting inanities. He left conservatives scratching their heads: They could have made a better, more moving case for the liberal ideal as translated into the modern moment, than he did. He never offered a plan. In a crisis he was merely sly. And no one likes sly, no one respects it.

So he is losing a battle in which he had superior forces—the presidency, the U.S. Senate. In the process he revealed that his foes have given him too much mystique. He is not a devil, an alien, a socialist. He is a loser. And this is America, where nobody loves a loser.

Hell hath no fury like a woman who voted for the loser in ’08.

More Saturday reads:

Democrats on the Hill complain Obama isn’t a leader. Oh, the irony.

Unintended consequences for liberals: our economy stinks so badly, the legions of illegals head back home as the Mexican unemployment rate is half of our own. 300,000 have left California. Only 2.6 million more to go. Maybe without the $10 billion annual cost of social services to illegal immigrants, California will be able to right its own sinking budgetary ship.

Cross-posted at P&P.