Thursday, April 16, 2009

Extra! Extra! Make bad decisions; get paid for them.

The Taliban are cutting through Pakistan like a knife through butter; the Pakistani government has responded by ceding parts of the country to the terrorists and ignoring the extensive Talibanization of its intelligence service, military, and bureaucracy. David Kilcullen, former adviser General David Petraeus, recently said that Pakistan could collapse within six months; and February report from a task force chaired by no less than former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel and Massachusetts Senator John Kerry said: “We are running out of time to help Pakistan change its present course toward increasing economic and political instability, and even ultimate failure.”

So, what is the Obama administration’s response? Throw US taxpayer money down the rat’s hole. Or in the words of one mainstream Indian journalist regarding US policy: “Terrorism pays!” Obama’s policies are alienating South Asian allies who are laying down their lives fighting the same Islamist enemy we face. They are enabling a Pakistani government that is using our tax dollars to fight our Indian friends; a government that is content to see its country thoroughly Talibanized and to come down on the wrong side of every international conflict, helping the people they are supposed to be fighting; a government that again has agreed to cede parts of the country to the Taliban and let Sharia become the law of those lands. And Obama’s actions tell the Islamists that they can continue “cleansing” Pakistan and Bangladesh of their Hindus, and we will not say a word.

The same philosophy underlies Obama’s foreign policy and domestic blunders. Pakistan’s difficulty is the product of bad and self-seeking decisions. For years, radical Islam has been making serious inroads throughout Pakistani society, but its leaders deliberately chose to ignore it. They did so partly out of fear—fear that radicals might assassinate them; fear that they might alienate a bloc of voters; fear that the radicals would successfully use their opposition to paint them as Zionists or pro-American. And they did so out of greed—greed for the graft that would continue flowing from the minions that were taking direction from the radicals; graft from the billions in petrodollars that were funding radical activities. They did so out of wishful thinking that the radicals would either fade away or join the ranks of other civil servants, more concerned with personal enrichment than any philosophy or social goal. And they did so in some cases because they agreed with the radicals’ short term goals. Now Obama is paying them for a promise (to undo the damage their bad decisions have wrought.

America’s crisis, like Pakistan’s, has an ideological component. The ultra-liberal Community Reinvestment Act forced banks to loan money to people who did not qualify for them with draconian consequences for any bank that dared stay with traditional mortgage criteria even if the applicant was a minority. There was also a greed component in the cushy roles and extensive contributions by lenders to Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Representative Barney Frank (D-MA) to ignore warnings about the system and use their positions to rubber stamp rather than oversee. But most importantly, our problems stem from bad decisions: bad decisions by the auto makers which turned once gold standard businesses into train wrecks; bad decisions by lenders to continue making bad loans; and bad decisions by home buyers to borrow more than they could repay and pretend that their incomes supported the lifestyles they demanded. And how has Obama “taught them a lesson”? By paying them for it.

Rewarding bad behavior—whether in Pakistan or the United States—will do only one thing and that is encourage more bad behavior. Obama did not tell the Pakistanis, “You knew Islamists were taking over your society but chose not to oppose them. Now, in order to get the aid we can offer and become a true ally, you have to change.” Nor did he tell those Americans who made bad business, lending, or borrowing decisions, “The one thing we will not do is enable your bad behavior with the money of Americans who made good decisions.” Instead, he has committed the United States to a policy that seeks to make the untenable viable; that promises not to force people to take responsibility for their bad decisions; that insures bad behavior will continue with regular rewards compliments of US taxpayers.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmm, Dr. Benkin claims to 'fight for basic rights world wide.'
However, when his (and my own) country denied habeas corpus, contact with the outside world, detains people for 5-7 years (now, no other country wants these 'tainted' individuals whether they are actually guilty of anything- wonder why...), and engages in torture, he apparently believes this is just good policy because we're at war. Without putting the two in the same category, Nazi Germany was 'at war.' Does this justify their horrific, anything goes approach - I would hope not! While I am not trying to equate Bush with the Nazi regime, it has been said by people more learned than I that if there is suffering, lawlessness, and inhumane treatment somewhere, no one is truly free and at peace. Also, if our country is engaging in such activity what gives us the right to complain about the actions of other countries or what gives us the time to advocate for an end to rights infringements elsewhere? It is objectively disingenuious.
Also, there were wars in South Asia with killing fields. Does a 'we're at war' so der leader can do whatever he wants hold up? Not unless one relies upon a distinct double-standard. To wit, the US has tried, prosecuted, and severely punished countries, G.I's and others who have engaged in the very same tactics based on the very same logic the Bush Administration deemed legal and humane.
I guess, in order for Dr. Benkin to become concerned about MY rights (and not dismiss most of what I say as preposterous), I must give up my US citizenship, become a journalist in a foreign land, and get arrested. Not what I call a compassionate conservative, but I could be wrong.

Also, with regard to community reinvestment:
1. If a bank seeks to pursue profit in a community, (banks are FOR-PROFIT, let's not forget, except Shore Bank and others) why shouldn't they either have an ethical (dare I say moral) or legal mandate to make loans available based on best-practices (i.e. not to just anyone who applies, though to those who qualifiy). Of course, best-practices like including major expenditures on a country's or corporation's annual budget (i.e. the costs of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan do not appear to be something that the mediocre business-person Bush, Jr and/or Mr. Benkin are familiar with and desire. (Of course, come to think of it, none other than Mark Kirk stated that he doubted 'President Obama's ability to lead based on an apparent lack of business experience.' If only Kirk used the same criteria 4 and 8 years ago, we'd possibly have a tad bit more respect for him.

2. Apparently, Dr. Benkin didn't see the Bush Administration's 2001-2002 press conferences on the 'importance of allowing people who would not traditionally qualify for a mortgage.' Was Bush wrong? Can Dr. Benkin admit this with a straight face.

3. Just because banks signed people up for sub-prime loans
despite their ability to qualify for a prime loan (possibly due to unique compensation practices) does not give Dr. Benkin license to blame the community reinvestment act. I guess Dr. Benkin will next assail the community emergency treatment act. Of course then, the Repubs couldn't say that 'more people don't need insurance, we have ER's (again calling into question the alleged moral superiority and compassion of those on the right side of the aisle). Also, a little research shows that the Community Reinvestment Act was passed in 1977 during a Republican President's Administration. Why people are assailing it now implies partisanship and is contrary to Mr. McCain's VOW to 'do whatever he can to help Mr. Obama help return America to stability and to be a light unto the nations.'

Finally, Dr. Benkin talks about 'bad decisions.' Many would argue that a pre-emptive strike against a sovereign country where Bush Sr. left a dictator in power for over a decade was not the best decision we could have made. To wit, most or all of the crimes Saddam Hussein was critiqued for, even in the run-up to said pre-emptive strike occurred before Bush, Sr. over-ruled his 'general on the ground' to not attack Hussein directly. (For those of you scoring at home Bush Sr. leaving Hussein in power - bad decision #1. Bush, Jr. forgetting about Bin Laden and essentially hoping that the inital gains in Afghanistan would magically remain constant so that our nation could fight for little or no reason in Iraq - bad decision #2.)
Bad decision #3. A tax cut to those who needed it the least, did not ask for it, and who most-likely did not put gains from this tax cut into the economy (either by buying a -bigger- boat or a
-bigger- Hummer than they would have anyhow, instead of additional Hummer's or by investing in the inadequately regulated financial markets - a lot of good those risky decisions did us now.) Also, the idea of a tax cut while spending (of course uniquely tracked and followed funding with no abandon and no ways of seeing what was purchased, whether products or services were actually provided, and whether the contracts were the best value for the cash-strapped nation can also be seen as imprudent - where the Republicans in Congress failed to provide any oversight for 6 years. Oddly, Dr. Benkin had no qualms about these things).

Bad decision #4. Allowing the Medicare Reform Act to be passed based on a severely incorrect estimate of its cost and the actual benefit to the average beneficiary. I would not like to be associated with a donut hole as part of legislation a President of my party wrote and where government agencies and insurance companies cannot utilize volume discounts like the VA and anyone who goes to Costco and Sam's Club.

I am all for a frank, objective debate about differences of opinion. However, when there is a vociferous wish for the current Administration to fail, when there are references to socialism, facism, and Marxism interchangably (where Congress doesn't have a problem with their retirement benefits - i.e. entitlements), and when not a peep was heard from these fiscally conservative, governmental experts for at least 8 years, it calls into question their motives, their ability to deviate from talking points, and their ability to 'respect the President and the Office of the President, and to give him a chance' as many of us Progressives were admonished to do so.

My how times have changed.
Marc Feldstein, MA LSW

5/10/2009 1:24 PM  
Blogger Dr. Richard Benkin said...

Spoken like a true ideologue. Marc has steadfastly refused to admit that anything coming out of the Bush administration could have been right; and has been beating the same discredited drum that whatever problems we have can be laid at the Bush administration's doorstep--even though no less a Democratic ideologue like Alex Baldwin admits that the truth is otherwise.

The fact is that conservatives have made a point of criticizing many actions of the Bush administration--have done for quite some time and still do; yet, the left accuses US of walking lock step while they defend the corrupt and failed policies and practices of Democrats Barney Frank and Chris Dodd, who thankfully will be taking leave of the US Senate in the next election (even the Democrats have given up on trying to make a silk purse out of the Dodd sow's ear).

And, sorry, one personal point. Marc Feldstein wrote that "Dr. Benkin claims to 'fight for basic rights world wide.'" Claims? When Marc gets of his butt and puts himself in harm's way, as I do, to defend those facing attack and who are consigned to their fate by those organizations that claim to defend human rights, then I will take his rather insulting "claims to" with any level of seriousness.

5/10/2009 2:15 PM  

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