Friday, September 28, 2012

Democrats must love the poor, they make so many of them

As American voters move steadily toward the presidential election, the fundamental question that they must answer is whether Barack Obama deserves a second term as president. To answer this question, voters must look at the state of the nation as well as their own lives.

One of the most obvious statistics to examine is the unemployment rate. Although nationwide unemployment is down from its October 2009 high of ten percent, Politifact acknowledged earlier this month that under President Obama the unemployment rate has remained above eight percent for 43 consecutive months. This is the longest sustained period of high unemployment since the Great Depression.

The numbers behind the unemployment rate are even worse. The economy is creating jobs, but not enough to keep pace with the growing labor pool and population. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the percentage of Americans employed has fallen from 65.7 percent in January 2009 to 63.5 percent in August 2012. This means that in spite of President Obama’s claims that he has created jobs, the actual number of Americans working has decreased sharply since he took office.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. population in August 2012 was 314 million. In January 2009 when President Obama took office the population was 305 million, an increase of more than 8 million people. According to the BLS figures, this means that 206 million people were working in 2009. There are currently only 194 million Americans working. In spite of an increase in the population of more than 8 million people during President Obama’s tenure, there are 12 million fewer Americans working.

The situation is not good for Americans who have not lost their jobs either. According to the Financial Times, the U.S. median income has fallen to 1995 levels. The decline started with the onset of the recession in 2008, but has continued to decline throughout Obama’s presidency, long after the recession officially ended and the recovery began.

The problems of unemployment and income have led to an increase in poverty. A year ago the New York Times reported that the U.S. poverty rate was at its highest level since 1993. In raw numbers, more Americans are living in poverty that at any time in the more than half century that the U.S. Census Bureau has been publishing figures on poverty.

The increase in poverty means that the government is spending more money on social safety net programs. Bloomberg notes that food stamp use is at an all time high. Spending on food stamps has more than doubled during Obama’s tenure with more than 46 million Americans now receiving the entitlement.

The increase in safety net spending is straining popular programs such as Medicare and Social Security. According to the Medicare Trustees report, Medicare’s hospital fund has been spending more than it takes in since the onset of the recession. The trust fund will be depleted by 2024. The situation is similar for Social Security. According to the trustees report, Social Security is also spending more than it takes in, a problem made worse by President Obama’s payroll tax holiday. The Social Security trust fund is estimated to run out in 2035. The insolvency of both programs has been accelerated by the recession and slow recovery.

The result of Obama’s spending binge is that the United States has run deficits of more than a trillion dollars in each year of his administration. These deficits have increased the federal debt by 40 percent according to the New York Times. The massive federal debt and the prospect of tax increases to pay for it have contributed to the slow recovery.

Perhaps what is most disturbing about these statistics is that even though President Obama often cites the economic difficulties that he inherited as an excuse for his administration’s difficulties, the Great Recession officially ended in June 2009, less than six months into President Obama’s term. Even though he has annually proclaimed “summers of recovery” since then most Americans are not feeling that the economic situation is improving. The Obama recovery has been in full swing for three years. It doesn’t get any better under the current policies.

The Democrats claim to love the poor and it must be so. Their policies have created millions more poor people. The choice that voters have this fall is between more of these policies that provide the poor with subsistence but little else or pro-growth policies that will revive the economy through freer markets and trimming government.

Originally published on Examiner.com

Monday, September 24, 2012

Will the real party of the rich please stand up?

The release of more of Mitt Romney’s tax returns on his campaign website recently is sure to spark a new discussion on wealth and politics. A letter from Romney’s accountants notes that the Romneys paid an average federal tax rate of 20.2 percent between 1990 and 2009. In 2011, the Romney’s paid an effective rate of 14.1 percent on a taxable income of $13.7 million. Romney’s income was mostly from investment returns which had already been taxed as the corporate income. The U.S. has the world’s highest tax rate on corporate income.

Democrats have long accused the Republicans of being the party of the rich and have attacked Romney’s nomination on the grounds that he would cut taxes on the wealthy and raise them on everyone else. In reality, both Romney and President Obama are millionaires, as are almost half of the members of Congress.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics 47 percent of congressional representatives are millionaires. In the current term, Republicans have 110 millionaires in the House of Representatives compared with 73 Democrats. In the Senate, Democratic millionaires outnumber Republicans 37-30. These numbers are probably a reflection of the fact that the Republicans hold a majority in the House while Democrats control the Senate.

In Georgia, 11 Alive reports that three of the top four representatives are Republican. Rep. Tom Price (R-6) is the wealthiest, followed by Senator Johnny Isakson and Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-11). At fourth is the wealthiest Georgia Democrat, Rep. John Barrow (D-12). Since 2010, Republicans hold eight of Georgia’s 13 House seats and both Senate seats.

For the poorest Georgia representatives, the reverse is true. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-3) is the poorest Republican. Below him are Democrats John Lewis (D-5), Hank Johnson (D-4) and Sanford Bishop (D-2). Interestingly, 11 Alive notes that Johnson has a net worth of zero and Bishop has an estimated net worth of negative $159,496. Bishop’s debt stems from legal bills from a GBI investigation into possible nepotism according to a report from Macon’s WMAZ. Bishop was cleared of wrongdoing.

CNN exit polls from 2008 show that it was Barack Obama who won the millionaire vote that year. Obama won the majority of voters who earn more than $200,000 by a margin of 52-46 percent. Obama also won majorities of voters who earn less than $50,000. John McCain won most of the middle class vote however.

According to CNN’s polling from 2004, George W. Bush handily won both the middle and upper class vote. John Kerry only prevailed with voters who earned less than $50,000. Polling Report shows similar results from 2000. Al Gore won the lower income vote while upper and middle class voters went for Bush.

In general, wealthy voters seem to alternate between the Republicans and Democrats while the Democrats always win lower income voters and the Republicans win the middle class. The last time that a Democrat won the middle class was in 1996 according to CNN when Ross Perot acted as a spoiler and stripped votes away from Republican Bob Dole. The wealthy voted for Dole that year.

A similar result was found in 1992 when Clinton faced George Herbert Walker Bush and Ross Perot. Bush and Clinton split the wealthy vote at 41 percent each according to CNN, but Clinton won both lower and middle class voters.

An interesting experiment is to correlate the ten wealthiest zip codes with political preference. Of these, six are represented by Democrats and four by Republicans. The wealthiest zip code in the country is represented in Congress by Henry Waxman, a California Democrat. The wealthiest Republican zip code is represented by Allen West of West Palm Beach, Fl. In one St. Louis, Mo. zip code ranked eighth on the list there are three representatives. Two Democrats represent half the zip code while one Republican represents the other half.

In contrast, when the poorest zip codes are examined, Democrats represent seven of the bottom ten. The poorest zip code in the country is in the Andover, Mass. district of Democrat Nikki Tsongas.

When the entire congressional district’s wealth is considered, the results are much the same. MeasureofAmerica.org lists the top five congressional districts by income. Of these, the top three are Democratic. The fourth and fifth place districts are Republican.

With respect to the current presidential election, recent polling by Gallup supports the historical trend of low income voters supporting Democrats and Romney wins voters who earn between $48,000 and $99,000. Obama wins a slice of upper middle class voters from $90,000 to $120,000. Currently, Mitt Romney is the favorite of voters who earn more than $120,000 with an almost double digit lead.

In general it can be said that the Democrats have a lock on lower income voters while Republicans almost always win the middle class. Neither party is the exclusive province of wealthy voters, however. The wealthy vote for different goes for candidates of different parties and candidate of the wealthy does not always win. It can be said however, that most of the wealthiest congressional districts do vote Democrat.

Originally published on Examiner.com

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Biblical prophecy case for Obama’s second term

It is difficult to imagine how President Obama could be reelected. The U.S. economy is in the midst of one of the worst recessions (or slowest recoveries) in memory. Unemployment has been above eight percent for his entire term in office. Nearly half of Americans receive some sort of entitlement payment from the federal government. This has caused the federal debt to increase by almost six trillion dollars under his watch, a 50 percent increase in less than four years. At the same time, America’s poverty rate has increased in each year of his administration.

Whether or not there is an economic case to be made for his reelection, President Obama is considered the favorite to win the election in November. A possible explanation for this may be found in one of the world’s oldest and best-selling books.

Over the past several years, similarities have been noted between modern Islamic radicals and clues about end-times theology found in the Bible. In his best-selling 2006 book, “Epicenter: Why the Current Rumblings in the Middle East Will Change Your Future,” Joel Rosenberg presented his theory that Russia and Iran are forming an unholy alliance to attack Israel with nuclear weapons. Rosenberg believes that this looming confrontation was foretold by the Biblical prophet Ezekiel thousands of years ago.

The passage, found in chapters 38-39 of the Old Testament book of Ezekiel, describes an international coalition of Arab nations led by Persia, now called Iran, and a mysterious figure called Gog of Magog. Rosenberg traces historical clues that point to Russia as the modern location of ancient Magog. Ezekiel describes how the coalition will be supernaturally destroyed as they try to attack Israel. Theologians believe that the war of Gog of Magog will usher in the end-time events described by Jesus in the Mount Olivet discourse (found in Matthew 24:25, Mark 13, and Luke 21), the Biblical book of Daniel (chapters 9-12), the Biblical book of Revelation, and other parts of the Bible.

Rosenberg is not the only person who has developed a similar theory of divine intervention to explain as well as predict world events. In 2011, a group of Jewish rabbis stated their belief that the Arab Spring uprisings were paving the way for the Messiah. A few months later, the Iranian government produced a film that described their belief that the arrival of the Mahdi, an end-time figure in Shia Muslim theology, was imminent.

Where does the reelection of Barack Obama fit into this picture? Obama is the most anti-Israel and pro-Muslim president in our history. Since the reconstitution of the Jewish state in 1947, America and Israel have had a special relationship. The United States was the first nation to recognize Israeli independence and is its largest trading partner. The U.S. and Israel have close military ties. On numerous occasions, the U.S. has used its veto power in the United Nations to quash anti-Israeli resolutions.

Since Barack Obama became president, U.S.-Israeli relations have become much more strained. President Obama opposed Israeli settlements in territory captured from the Arabs in the Six Day War of 1967. In fact, Obama proposed in 2011 that Israel return to its largely indefensible pre-1967 borders.

Obama has also restrained Israel from attacking Iran to destroy its nuclear weapons program. On August 30, 2012 Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Guardian, “I don't want to be complicit if they [Israel] choose to do it [attack Iran].” Dempsey stated his belief that an attack would “clearly delay but probably not destroy Iran's nuclear program.” Even more recently, last week the White House announced that President Obama would not meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he visits the United States this month.

While Obama has distanced himself from Israel, he has reached out to Muslim nations. In 2009, he offered “a new beginning” to Muslims in a much-hyped speech in Cairo. That same year, he sent greetings to Iran on Nowruz, the beginning of the Persian new year, in which he said that his administration was “committed to diplomacy” and not “threats.” Since then, the Obama Administration has voiced opposition to Iran’s nuclear weapons program and pursued sanctions while it simultaneously issues waivers for the sanctions and resists setting deadlines for Iran to halt its nuclear weapons program.

In the past two weeks, Obama’s Islamic d├ętente has crumbled. Beginning on the eleventh anniversary of the September 11 attacks, radical Muslims began attacking American embassies throughout the Middle East. The attacks, timed to coincide with the release of a film about Mohammed, began in Cairo. A few hours later, the U.S. Ambassador to Libya was killed in Benghazi along with three other Americans. There have also been attacks and violent protests on U.S. embassies and consular offices in Tunisia, Yemen, Lebanon, Iran, Morocco, and Sudan. There were even Muslim protests at the U.S. embassy in London.

President Obama is uniquely qualified to enable to the Iranians to attack Israel in two ways. First, he prevents Israel from attacking the Iranians before they have a fully capable nuclear weapons system. Likewise, the chance that the U.S. will intervene militarily to destroy Iran’s nuclear capability is almost nil as long as Obama is president. In general, the Muslim world neither respects nor fears the United States under President Obama.

Second, President Obama’s economic policies are weakening the United States to the point where the nation is financially unable to support an army that will intimidate rogue nations and terrorist groups. In the European social democracies that he seeks to emulate, social welfare spending is crowding out defense spending. In the past, Europe could do this because of U.S. military aid and assistance. As the U.S. defense budget shrinks, both Europe and North America, along with much of the rest of the world, could be left defenseless. President Obama’s policy has been to reduce America’s preeminence in world affairs. The events of September 11, 2012 reflect that diminished role.

While war with Iran in the Middle East is likely in either case, Obama’s restraint makes the Ezekiel scenario more likely. If Mitt Romney is elected president, it is much more likely that either the U.S., Israel, or both will launch a preemptive strike to destroy Iran’s nuclear capability before it is completed.

If President Obama is reelected, it is more likely that the U.S. will do nothing and will prevent Israel from doing anything until Iran is ready to launch a nuclear strike. In addition to Israel, that strike is likely to target the United States, possibly with a devastating electromagnetic pulse attack that could destroy much of America’s electrical grid. This would almost totally destroy the U.S. economy and lead to the starvation of millions of Americans. In 2009, President Obama canceled the construction of missile interceptor bases in Poland and the Czech Republic that would have defended against an Iranian missile attack.

With the United States economically and militarily impotent, it would also leave Israel alone in the world. The Jewish state would be isolated in a hostile corner of an uncaring world. To assure the continued flow of cheap oil, most countries in the world would not object to allowing the Muslim nations, led by Iran, to destroy their hated enemy.

Why does God care so much about a tiny country in an isolated corner of the world? It may never be understood fully why God loves Israel and Jerusalem so much, but it is clear from the Bible that he does. There are a multitude of verses about Jerusalem and Israel. In Matthew 23:37, Jesus laments, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing.” Likewise, Psalm 122:6 instructs, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.” As far back as Genesis (12:2-3), God promised Abraham, “I will make of you a great nation…. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse….” Spiritually speaking, Jerusalem, held sacred by the world’s three largest religions, is the center of the Earth.

War with Iran is almost certain no matter who wins the presidential election. The Iranians and other radical Muslims are determined to destroy Israel and the United States. The question is whether it will be on our terms or Iran’s. If Barack Obama is reelected, the war will probably be on Iran’s terms and it will set the stage perfectly for the confrontation foretold by Ezekiel more than 500 years before the time of Christ.

 

Originally published on Examiner.com:
http://www.examiner.com/article/a-prophetic-case-for-obama-s-second-term

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Obama convention bounce is a myth

The supposed post-convention bounce in the polls that President Obama enjoyed briefly seems to have evaporated. Of the three most recent polls, all of likely voters, two show the race as a statistical dead heat. The outlier poll shows Obama with a six point lead.

Rasmussen’s daily presidential tracking poll now shows Obama leading Romney 46-45 percent. Five percent are still undecided while four percent prefer another candidate. Rasmussen notes that when “leaners” are included, Romney leads 48-47. A Washington Post/ABC News poll found similar results. President Obama led Mitt Romney 49-48 among likely voters in that poll. The outlier was the CNN/ORC poll in which 52 percent preferred Obama to Romney’s 46 percent.

In all cases the polls do not reflect the disturbing events of the past few days. On September 11, rioters stormed the U.S. embassy in Cairo, an event which first prompted the Obama Administration to condemn “those who abuse the universal right of free speech” according to Politico. Yesterday, the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans were killed in an attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.

Domestically, the September jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics was disappointing even though the unemployment rate edged down slightly to 8.1 percent as many people stopped looking for work. The 96,000 jobs added in August were below the average for the year and below the number needed to account for population growth. The BLS also revised downward the job estimates for July.

The president may also be potentially embarrassed the teacher strike in Chicago, part of which he represented in the Illinois state senate. Rahm Emmanuel, President Obama’s former chief of staff, is now the mayor of Chicago. The strike returns the issue of public employee unions to the forefront. The Chicago teachers are demanding pay raises even though Chicago Public Schools are currently operating at a $665 million deficit. If the raises are granted, the school system deficit would rise to $1 billion according to the Chicago Sun Times. Pay raises would likely mean that tax increases in a city that already has some of the highest taxes in the nation.

It was also revealed last week that the Department of Justice is suing Gallup, a prominent polling organization. According to the DOJ, the suit relates to whistleblower claims that Gallup overcharged the government for federal contracts. Critics point out that the federal government joined the suit after Obama campaign advisor David Axelrod criticized Gallup’s polling methodology in the wake of a poll unfavorable to Obama. Emails published by the Daily Caller suggest that Axelrod pressured Gallup to change its methodology.

The biggest problem for President Obama in the polls may be one that is totally unseen. In an article on The Hill, Dick Morris points out that pollsters are using a flawed sample. According to Morris, all pollsters are using models based on 2008 turnout. The problem is that the electorate has changed dramatically in the past four years.

For example, in Gallup’s party affiliation poll, Democrats outnumbered Republicans in November 2008 by a margin of 51-40 percent when leaners were included. Since then, however, Democratic Party identification has dropped precipitously. The most current poll shows the two parties almost tied at 49-46 percent favoring the Democrats. This is almost identical to the numbers in November 2010 (44-47 percent favoring Democrats) when the GOP won a landslide congressional victory.

Similarly, the demographic groups that propelled President Obama to power in 2008 do not support him nearly as strongly now. A Gallup poll from 2008 showed that 99 percent of black voters favored Obama. According to Examiner, it is likely that his support among blacks is now far lower due to high unemployment among blacks and the president’s “evolution” on same-sex marriage. Likewise, other polling data suggests that the president’s support among Latinos and young voters may be much lower than it was in 2008. While these groups still support the president, it is by smaller margins and with less enthusiasm than 2008.

In his Hill article, Morris also points out that voters favor the Republican idea that government should “leave me alone” over the Democratic idea that it should “lend me a hand” by a margin of 54 to 35 percent. Most also believe that the country is worse off today than in 2008. Together with President Obama’s low job approval rating, which was recently as low as 29 percent among independents according to Rasmussen, these factors indicate trouble for the president that is not accurately reflected in the polls.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

AOPA offers new free youth membership

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association has announced a new youth membership program called AV8Rs. The program, which is free, is open to youths between 13 and 18 years old and is intended to spur interest in aviation among young people.

According to the AOPA, the initiative is designed to make an early connection with students who may have an aviation interest and “raise awareness of aviation and flight through education, engagement, cultivation and support.” The organization hopes that the AV8Rs will help to reverse the decline in the U.S. pilot population. Increasing costs and a slow economy have combined to shrink the number of pilots at an alarming rate according to Forbes.

The free membership in AV8Rs includes a membership card, an AV8Rs sling bag, and a digital subscription to Flight Training magazine. Additionally, there are AOPA AV8R communities on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, tumblr and Youtube. There is also a newsletter, an AV8R blog written by teens and a help line for young prospective pilots. AV8Rs will also have the chance to win flight training scholarships.

Students interested in aviation have several other options as well. The Experimental Aircraft Association’s Young Eagle program offers free flights for young people between ages 8 and 17. The Civil Air Patrol’s Cadet Program is oriented around the organization’s military background as an auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force. The Boy Scouts of America offers Aviation Exploring as one of its programs for older teens. Several other aviation organizations also offer scholarships.

Since 9/11, many have lamented that increased security has made aviation inaccessible to many kids. The airport fence is now tightly controlled at many airports. The Great Recession and rising fuel prices have made it more difficult to afford flying lessons. Airline bankruptcies, pay cuts, and furloughs mean that the incentive for many prospective pilots is gone. Perhaps programs like AOPA’s AV8Rs will help to restore an interest in aviation among America’s students.

To join AV8Rs, register at the AOPA website.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

AOPA’s FlyQ is now available for Android

AOPA’s popular aviation weather and flight planning app is now available for Android platforms. Last spring, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association released the app for Apple products. The app is free for AOPA members.

Examiner reviewed the Apple version of FlyQ in April and the Android version is not fundamentally different. The app automatically finds the nearest airports when it is opened. The user can tell at glance whether the airport is VFR or IFR as well as other pertinent information like runway layouts and lengths, frequencies, distance, traffic pattern altitude and fuel available.

Selecting an airport brings up more detailed information including navaids and hours of operation. A more detailed airport diagram is available here along with a satellite picture of the airport. A weather tab shows a local radar picture and text weather reports. These can be viewed as raw or decoded reports. A particularly useful feature is the “nearby” tab which finds other airports near the one selected. This makes it easy to look for an alternate. The “services” tab which lists airport businesses and nearby restaurants is also handy. This tab also includes AOPA member comments and FAA notes. The app also includes a search function for airports and weather.

In addition to text weather, a gallery of charts is also available for the U.S. and Canada. These include freezing level charts, airmets, and sig progs. Radar and satellite views are also contained in the gallery.

The app can also use DUATS to file flight plans. This requires the user to input pilot and aircraft data the first time the app is used. This is a somewhat cumbersome process, but it need not be repeated after the information is entered for each aircraft type flown. The Android flight plans seem to be somewhat easier to use than the Apple version.

I have personally used the Apple version of FlyQ on the line for the past several months and have found it to be extremely useful. Other pilots that I have shared the app with have also found it easy to use and helpful as well, particularly for weather.

The app is not without flaws, however. A major problem is that the app downloads weather each time it is opened. This means that, unless you have a wireless connection in your plane, weather information is not available in the air. It would be helpful to be able to recall the weather without establishing a connection in case you want to take another look at the last TAF, METAR or review the NOTAMs while enroute. This is especially annoying because most users will not be able to print from their phone or tablet. Airport data is downloaded once per month and is available offline.

Second, the Apple version defaults to the raw (coded) weather reports, while the Android version uses the translated reports. There does not seem to be a way to change this default. In either version, it would make sense to allow users to set their preference. Otherwise it would seem that raw reports would be preferable since the vast majority of pilots should be familiar with weather codes. While the default cannot be set, users can toggle between raw and translated reports.

Like the Apple version, the Android FlyQ is limited to U.S. airports. Canadian weather charts are available in the gallery, but there is no weather or airport data for Canadian or Caribbean airports. Flight plans cannot be filed to or from airports outside the United States. This limits the utility of the app.

Finally, many pilots seem to agree that flight planning is better left to other platforms. Most of the pilots that I fly with prefer to use FltPlan.com. Fltplan.com enables flight planning to destinations outside the U.S. as well as offering the ability to print flight plans and weather from a computer. It is free as well.

AOPA’s FlyQ app is not perfect, but it is very good. The weather and airport functions provide quick and easy access to information. Since the app is free for AOPA members, the price is right as well. In fact the app is more useful than some commercially available apps with similar functions.

Originally published on Examiner.com:

http://www.examiner.com/review/aopa-releases-flyq-app-for-android?cid=db_articles