woody_zimmerman_118_2007This is a time of many surprises across the country. I’ll review a few of them here, for my readers.

The Non-end. To the great surprise of self-styled “prophet” Harold Camping and unknown numbers of his followers, the world did not end at 6 PM on May 22, 2011, as he had predicted. (Shocked is wot ‘e was!) Mr. Camping had told the world that his research had revealed the true date of the Second Coming of Christ. He had encouraged his followers to divest their holdings and prepare for the Rapture. (This is Christians’ term for believers meeting the returning Christ in the air – thus escaping death.)

Widespread earthquakes predicted by Mr. Camping did not occur. For the most part, the world trundled along peacefully – well, as peacefully as the world can trundle – as Doomsday came and went. Actually, this was not Mr. Camping’s first go at predicting the End of Days. He previously predicted it for 1994, but later claimed he had made a mathematical error when 1994 passed without incident. (Republicans did take control of the Congress for the first time in 40 years, but otherwise the world did not end.)

Secular scoffers made much sport of Mr. Camping, in particular, and Christians, in general, over this recent fiasco, in which over $100 million was spent, world-wide, on advertising warning that the jig was finally up. Various Christian leaders had asked Mr. Camping to transfer his funds to them before May 22, but he evidently declined on unknown grounds. (Better safe than sorry, is my guess.)

Bible-literate people – hopefully including most Christians – know that one cannot know the precise time of Christ’s return. Speaking of the end of the world, Jesus said, “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (NIV, Matthew 24:36) There is no need to interpret this completely clear statement. It means that anyone who says he “knows” the date is blowing smoke (in a suitably religious way, of course).

So we give the Boo of the Week to Harold Camping for misleading people and causing them to lose their savings and property (while enriching himself). But BOTW also to his ignorant followers for believing him. If they knew the Bible, they wouldda realized the whole thing was bogus.

Surprising Economic News. Big media has spent much of this past week expressing “surprise” at the economy’s “unexpectedly” poor showing during May. Only 54,000 private-sector jobs – which even Our President finally seems to recognize are the only ones that matter – were created during the month. This was far below official expectations of over 200,000. Unemployment has gone up another tick, to 9.1% – the second increase in as many months. Factory orders are down. Gas prices have zoomed past $4 a gallon. Pundits are now talking openly of a “double dip” recession.

Meanwhile, the federal government is hemorrhaging debt. A $1.7 trillion deficit is expected for FY11. Dems did not even submit a FY11 budget when they held both houses of Congress. Our Dear Leader, along with most Democrats, are doing nothing about federal spending except denouncing budget proposals put forth by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-VA) – especially with respect to Medicare. In this, they believe they have found a 2012 campaign-issue which will regain the Congress for them, and re-elect Mr. Obama.

Lately, Democrats have seized on the victory of their candidate, Kathy Hochul, in a special election for the House of Representatives seat from New York’s 26th district, as a hopeful sign for their side. Ms. Hochul won 47.4% of the vote, defeating the Republican candidate, Jane Corwin (42.4%), and Tea Party candidate Jack Davis (9.1%) by attacking the Ryan budget proposals on Medicare. Amidst the media excitement over this “magic bullet” that could save Mr. Obama’s 2012 re-election prospects, it somehow went unnoticed that Ms. Hochul did not win a clear majority, while GOP/conservative candidates split a majority of 51.5%. Maybe ignoring federal overspending – while demagoguing GOP proposals that try to attack the problem – will work as an election strategy in 2012. But Democrats banking on “Mediscare” to save their guy in 2012 could be in for a really big surprise.

Businesses not hiring. Obama administration officials, including the president, have expressed “surprise” that businesses are not “stepping up” to new hiring. Mr. Obama has said this directly, in recent public comments. Really, he is astonished. Where is business’s public spirit? Could racism be at work here? Is it possible that business is not hiring because he’s black? (It’s as good a theory as any other.)

In truth, the president’s comments on the subject betray his complete miscomprehension of how private business works. In government – which comprises Mr. Obama’s entire field of experience – lawmakers pass laws calling for expenditures on new programs. They either raise taxes or borrow money to fund the programs, and staff them with new hiring. Mr. Obama thinks private-sector business works that way, too.

I am not the only one beginning to see that he honestly doesn’t realize that businesses hire new staff only when their commerce has expanded, or when they have confidence that their commerce will expand. Businesses do not hire out of “public spiritedness,” or to help the country (or particular politicians). If business prospects are good, they will hire, no matter what color the guy in the White House is. And if prospects are not good, they will not hire, even if the president is lily-white. It is all strictly business.

Part of what is spooking business is the “tax bomb” waiting to go off at the end of 2012, when the “extension” of the Bush tax rates will expire (again). Mr. Obama was very pleased with himself when he extracted an agreement to extend those rates only two years, in the lame-duck congressional session of 2010. This left the way open for tax rates to go up automatically, after his re-election in 2012. Pretty brilliant, eh? (All the reporters and pundits from Big Media said so.)

What they didn’t say – and probably didn’t even understand – was that Mr. Obama queered his own economic recovery right there – right then! Two years is an eternity to a politician – especially to a liberal – but to businessmen it is very short term. The ink on the extension bill was scarcely dry before business began looking toward the uncertainty represented by those rates expiring on December 31, 2012. The double-dip slowdown began at that point. Six months later, it is becoming clearly noticeable. Only Democrats and their Big Media acolytes think of all this as a “surprise.” It means that what is just around the corner is not “prosperity,” but some really big new surprises (at least to them).

Oil Prices in “Surprising” Rise. Obama administration officials simply cannot understand why gas prices have zoomed up by nearly $2 a gallon since The One was inaugurated. To quote Inspector Clousseau: “Infamous powers are at work!” Surely this doubling of both oil and gasoline prices is the nefarious work of greedy Big Oil or larcenous “speculators.” The Obama administration and their Democrat allies in the U. S. Senate have attacked both with renewed vigor in recent weeks.

Ordinary Americans are wise to the situation, however. Anyone with half a brain can see that both supply and demand affect price. The supply side is the issue with oil, right now. A year ago, in the midst of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill crisis, Mr. Obama made a great show of environmental responsibility by clamping a drilling moratorium on operations in the Gulf of Mexico. It was supposed to last six months, but it earned him so many “green” points that he extended it. Economists warned that this would certainly drive oil prices up, but those warnings were waved off. Now, the chickens are coming home to roost. Naturally, the steep climb of oil prices – and the accompanying climb of gasoline prices at the pump – is a complete …well… surprise to everyone in Mr. Obama’s inner circle.

A president can schmooze voters and the media on many economic things with smooth, hypothetical rhetoric about “visions” and the country’s glorious future. Unemployment, for example, only affects 10-15% of the working-age population. Retired or working people may have some concerns about unemployment, but it doesn’t affect them directly. Gas prices, on the other hand, affect everyone who drives a car. There is nothing hypothetical about them.

Savvy politicians in the Obama circle know this, of course. They realize that this is a real danger zone for their guy. No previous president (or follow-on candidate) has survived gas prices at this level, starting with Richard Nixon and continuing through Jimmy Carter, George H. W. Bush, Al Gore, and John McCain. Voters will not countenance high gas prices, and they unfailingly punish presidents and presidential heirs accordingly. If current prices persist until a year from now, Mr. Obama can kiss his chances for re-election good-bye. Not the slightest “surprise” (or conspiracy) will be involved.

Oil-spill Non-disaster. When a million barrels of oil were spewing into the Gulf, following the explosion that destroyed BP’s Deepwater Horizon platform, some environmentalists were predicting that marine life and human activity in the region might be affected for a century. More alarmist prognosticators predicted that the Gulf might never entirely recover from this “unprecedented” disaster. Reporters regaled us with footage of oil-soaked birds and tar-balls on the Gulf beaches.

A year later, though, the situation is very discouraging for TV crews dressed in fashionable windbreakers and safari-togs, looking for follow-on stories of the Environmental Disaster in the Gulf. Real scientists – as opposed to environmental political advocates – are coming out of hiding to announce that there is no disaster. Indeed, there is precious little evidence that anything untoward ever happened.

Experts now point out that the entire Gulf of Mexico is rich in oil-eating-microbes, nourished by oil-seepage that has been going on under the sea for millennia – perhaps since prehistoric times. In concert with the sea’s ceaseless emulsifying action, those microbes have been doing their work for the past year, leaving little evidence of the gooey stuff for info-guys and gals to film and gush over. The disaster that was going to make Mr. Obama’s bones as the supreme environmental warrior is a bust. Surprise!