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A number of you have told me that you don’t look forward to reading the column on your computer screen. That’s not necessary if you have a printer. Print out the column and take it with you to the breakfast table or wherever else you choose to read printed material. (You can also call up past columns in case you missed them.)
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March 12, 2009
When is a federal government handout not a handout?
When you call it a government-subsidized “modification” in mortgage terms in order to stimulate home ownership—a policy which must be at least a first cousin of the disastrous federally-financed easy money program which created the underpriced mortgage mess in the first place—a mess which pushed the American economy and subsequently the world economy down the road to disaster.
Admittedly, there have been efforts to add some safeguards to this latest version of making home ownership a sort of federal welfare program. We can only hope that the new restrictions will make the new version of federal-subsidized cheap mortgage rates something less than another disaster.
It has been estimated that the “mortgage bailout” program will be helpful to 1 in 9 U.S. homeowners.
This does not include the Americans who can now receive up to $8,000 in federal income tax credits if they choose to become first-time homeowners. This new program reflects the Welfare State fantasy that every American family is somehow entitled to home ownership as part of “the American dream.”
President Obama, and those liberal Democratic members of Congress whose cheap-mortgages policy got us into this mess in the first place, believe it is important to avoid the ire of the great majority of homeowners who have acted responsibly, not borrowed more money than they can afford and have made their mortgage payments on time. I suspect that is the major reason the mortgage revision advocates talk of “modifying” the cost of mortgage loan repayments rather than reducing or softening them.
Initial reaction to the bailout plan has not been universally popular among those homeowners who, in the words of The Wall Street Journal, “have been diligently making regular mortgage payments.”
Conservative columnist David Brooks, it seems to me, took a realistic look at the situation in a recent column.
While acknowledging that “idiotic” or self-indulgent behavior by everyone from non-creditworthy mortgage loan borrowers to Wall Street bankers brought on the economic crisis, Brooks said it still make sense “for government for try to restore some communal order…
“To stabilize the communal landscape, sometimes you have to shower money upon those who have been foolish or self-indulgent. The idiots may be greedy idiots, but they are our countrymen. And at some level, we’re all in this together.”
Brooks stopped short of addressing perhaps the toughest question of all, When you have political leaders like Representative Barney Frank and Senator Chriss Dodd indicating they haven’t learned that their irresponsibly mistaken views helped bring on the present financial crisis, what can we hope for in the way of lessens learned that will help us as a nation avoid similar “idiotic” behavior now and in the future?
You don’t have to look very far ahead (how about later this year?) to see cause for concern about further cases of what columnist Brooks describes as “idiotic” behavior.
For example, the liberal editors of The New York Times believe passionately that “modifying” mortgage terms must go beyond lowering interest rates or extending the time for repayment, Times editors recently wrote: “A better way to lower the monthly payments…is to reduce the principal…ultimately the debt itself needs to be greatly reduced.”
Then there are the countless opportunities for further Big Brother federal government intrusion into the lives of the American people by way of the liberal smorgasbord of proposals included in Obama’s recently announced $3.6 trillion tax--and-spend budget proposal.
Tighten your seat belt.
* * *
A political party whose chairman feels the need to figuratively kiss Rush Limbaugh’s ring either needs to overhaul its political philosophy or get a more political savvy party chairman.
In what might be described as a political comic opera if the basic subject matter weren’t so serious, in recent days we have had both Limbaugh and the new Republican Party chairman Michael Steele “clarifying” statements in an effort to repair damage caused by earlier remarks. Steele looks the worst, in my opinion.
And Democratic Party spokesmen are thoroughly enjoying the show and trying to take political advantage of it.
It started with a speech which the controversial radio talk show commentator recently delivered to the Conservative Political Action Conference. Limbaugh declared, “I want Barack Obama to fail.” Limbaugh later said he meant that “I want Barack Obama to fail if his mission is to reconstruct and reform this nation so that capitalism and individual liberty are not its foundation.”
Democratic Party spokesmen jumped at what they saw as an opportunity to deepen the split in Republican Party ranks—a split between the far right conservative element which Limbaugh attracts and the more numerous (in my opinion) moderate conservative Republicans for whom Limbaugh certainly doesn’t speak. White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel fanned the political flames by declaring that Limbaugh is the real head of the Republican Party.
This led newly, elected Republican National Chairman Steele to call Limbaugh a mere “entertainer” whose radio show is “incendiary” and “ugly.”
Within two days, Steele apologized, saying he has “enormous respect for Rush Limbaugh…there was no attempt on my part to diminish his voice or his leadership.”
“His leadership”? Leadership of what? An unfortunate choice of words by the new Republican Party chairman.
So we have the “new look” Republican chairman (Steele is African American) playing into the hands of both Rush Limbaugh and Democratic Party strategists.Bad show for the GOP. Limbaugh is occasionally on target but in terms so indignant if not insulting as to be self defeating to all but his faithful followers (and there are, admittedly, a good many of them).
* * *
It’s not uncommon for an idea to be offered in Congress without any substantial chance that it will pass. Sometimes such ideas promote useful debate.
But it is unusual—extremely unusual and in a current case potentially dangerous—for a proposal to be seriously considered by Congress when the proposal very clearly, is unconstitutional, in the opinion of a good number of constitutional scholars.
The proposal is to give the District of Columbia a voting seat in the House of Representatives. The current District representative in the House does not have voting rights like the 435 other House members.
Whether the District representative in the House should have a vote is a matter of some interest and a proper subject for limited debate and consideration. But to suggest that there is any language in the Constitution which would allow Congress to create voting rights without amendment of the constitution is simply irresponsible.
You amend the constitution by winning approval in two-thirds of state legislatures, not by act of Congress.
Making the proposal more bizarre is linking it to giving Utah an extra seat in the House of Representatives. The argument is that since Utah consistently votes Republican while the District of Columbia residents would consistently vote Democratic, you would not be giving the Democratic Party an advantage.
Giving Utah another Congressional seat to balance a District of Columbia voting seat is not only unconstitutional. It’s downright loony.
* * *
Turning to another proposal awaiting action in Congress, a proposal that makes considerably more sense than the District of Columbia/State of Utah proposition which I discussed above.
I’m talking about a bill introduced by Representative Lee Terry, an Omaha Republican, to give Nebraska a fourth federal district judgeship.
I have seen impressive figures as to the average caseload carried by Nebraska’s three current federal judges. Those caseloads have increased very substantially and are well above the average for federal judgeships around the country.
This not only imposes an unreasonable burden on the judges but it slows the turning of the wheels of justice in our state.
One would hope that the legislation—in which Representative Jeff Fortenberry of Lincoln and Adrian Smith of Gering joined as co-sponsors, is not lost in the avalanche of controversial proposals which the Obama administration has sent flooding into Congress.
* * *
Today, a lighter-touch ending that pokes some fun at myself and my journalistic colleagues.
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