— National Politics —

February 23, 2013


As the Sequester Dominates the Weekend Political Talk.....

Marc Comtois

....keep this in mind.

1) There are no cuts as regular people define them. Just a reduction in the planned for "regular" growth that Washington, D.C. cooks into the budget pie year after year.

2) The sequester was President Obama's idea in the first place. Bob Woodward:

My extensive reporting for my book “The Price of Politics” shows that the automatic spending cuts were initiated by the White House and were the brainchild of Lew and White House congressional relations chief Rob Nabors — probably the foremost experts on budget issues in the senior ranks of the federal government.

Obama personally approved of the plan for Lew and Nabors to propose the sequester to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). They did so at 2:30 p.m. July 27, 2011, according to interviews with two senior White House aides who were directly involved.

Nabors has told others that they checked with the president before going to see Reid. A mandatory sequester was the only action-forcing mechanism they could devise. Nabors has said, “We didn’t actually think it would be that hard to convince them” — Reid and the Republicans — to adopt the sequester. “It really was the only thing we had. There was not a lot of other options left on the table.”

A majority of Republicans did vote for the Budget Control Act that summer, which included the sequester. Key Republican staffers said they didn’t even initially know what a sequester was — because the concept stemmed from the budget wars of the 1980s, when they were not in government.


December 21, 2012


Cicilline on the Congressional Budget Committee

Patrick Laverty

As if we needed any further evidence of how messed up our Congress is, we certainly got that yesterday with the news that Congressman David Cicilline is being appointed to the House Budget Committee.

Wow. The very same David Cicilline who left Providence in "excellent financial condition" which I assume means only a $110M deficit.

All I'm left with is that the Democrats either believe that if he can reduce the national deficit to $110M, we'll be in great shape. I'd completely agree with that. Or, they want to find out how to delay audits and keep the information from the public until it's politically feasible to do so. Shouldn't appointments to committees be based on the person's strengths and where they can best help the country? Putting Cicilline on the Budget Committee is like dropping a non-swimmer in the middle of the ocean.

Maybe the apocalypse did happen after all.


November 19, 2012


City Politics, Country Politics

Justin Katz

Over on Anchor Rising, Marc Comtois has pulled together a handful of stories in the subcategory of "two Americas":

Hendrickson puts some stock in the so-called "Curley Effect", named after the former Boston Mayor. Basically, it has two parts: first, that politicians provide enough incentives to their own voters to ensure continued support; second provide enough disincentives such that their political opponents decide to move out, thereby increasing said politicians vote share, etc. (Seems to be working in RI, too).

Yet, while that may explain continuing support for Democrats amongst those receiving government assistance and public unions, Hendrickson asks, "Why do affluent, white-collar, highly educated citizens in these cities tend to be liberal and vote Democratic?" In a word, insularity.


As often happens, over there, the comment-section discussion is worth reading, as well. That especially became true with the very agitated commentary of young urban-dweller Mangeek. As I've commented at the above link, I find a number of intellectual and philosophical problems embedded in his self-admitted rage.

Continue reading on the Ocean State Current...


November 18, 2012


A Nation Divided

Marc Comtois

Two Americas? The idea is nothing new. We learn that almost 23% of Americans are open to the idea of seceding given the recent election results. And we've heard reports that 37 Chicago precincts, 59 Philadelphia precincts and multiple others in urban areas gave President Obama 99% support--some with 0 votes for Romney.*

Mark Hendrickson of Forbes notes that the largest divide is between city-dwellers and the rest of America:

Basically, the urban metropolises are Democratic blue and the vast expanse of most of the rest of the country is overwhelmingly red. If presidents were elected by acreage rather than by head count, Republicans would win national elections by landslides.

Look at it another way: take Philly out of Pennsylvania, the Big Apple out of New York, the Motor City out of Michigan, the Windy City out of Illinois, Cleveland out of Ohio, Milwaukee out of Wisconsin, St. Louis out of Missouri, etc., and a lot of blue states would instantly be red. What explains this pronounced and hugely significant partisan divide between urban and nonurban areas?

Hendrickson puts some stock in the so-called "Curley Effect", named after the former Boston Mayor. Basically, it has two parts: first, that politicians provide enough incentives to their own voters to ensure continued support; second provide enough disincentives such that their political opponents decide to move out, thereby increasing said politicians vote share, etc. (Seems to be working in RI, too).

Yet, while that may explain continuing support for Democrats amongst those receiving government assistance and public unions, Hendrickson asks, "Why do affluent, white-collar, highly educated citizens in these cities tend to be liberal and vote Democratic?" In a word, insularity:

[P]eople who live in cities are relatively insulated from how difficult and challenging it can be to produce the food, energy, equipment, devices, etc., that comprise the affluence that urbanites enjoy. In their urban cocoons, city-dwellers take for granted the abundance and availability of the economic goods that they consume. For instance, many well-to-do, educated urbanites see no downside to supporting stricter regulations and higher taxes on energy producers, because to them, energy is something that is always there at the flip of a switch (except during the occasional hurricane, as some New Yorkers recently discovered). Life in the city for affluent Americans creates the illusion that all they have to do is demand something and—presto!—it will be there when they want it.

Affluent denizens of our metropolises see no inconsistency in supporting the Democratic jihad against “greedy corporations” and “the rich” while also expecting their every whim to be supplied, often by those same corporations and successful entrepreneurs. This is because they are removed from some of the harsher daily realities of life that confront those who are on the front lines of mankind’s ongoing economic struggle. They have forgotten that mankind’s natural state is poverty and that strenuous, heroic efforts are required to produce the astounding affluence and abundant paraphernalia of our modern, affluent lifestyles. To use Marxian terminology, urbanites have become alienated from economic reality.

Yes, we see it in urbanite political ideas and how they view such things as the estate tax:
Rancher Kevin Kester works dawn to dusk, drives a 12-year-old pick-up truck and earns less than a typical bureaucrat in Washington D.C., yet the federal government considers him rich enough to pay the estate tax -- also known as the "death tax."

And with that tax set to soar at the beginning of 2013 without some kind of intervention from Congress, farmers and ranchers like Kester are waiting anxiously.

"There is no way financially my kids can pay what the IRS is going to demand from them nine months after death and keep this ranch intact for their generation and future generations," said Kester, of the Bear Valley Ranch in Central California.

Two decades ago, Kester paid the IRS $2 million when he inherited a 22,000-acre cattle ranch from his grandfather. Come January, the tax burden on his children will be more than $13 million.

For supporters of a high estate tax, which is imposed on somebody's estate after death, Kester is the kind of person they rarely mention. He doesn't own a mansion. He's not the CEO of a multi-national. But because of his line of work, he owns a lot of property that would be subject to a lot of tax....

"The idea behind the estate tax is to prevent the very wealthy among us from accumulating vast fortunes that they can pass along to the next generation," said Patrick Lester, director of Federal Fiscal Policy with the progressive think tank -- OMB Watch. "The poster child for the estate tax is Paris Hilton -- the celebrity and hotel heiress. That's who this is targeted at, not ordinary Americans."

But according to the American Farm Bureau, up to 97 percent of American farms and ranches will be subject to an estate tax where the exemption is set at $1 million. At that rate, the federal government will pocket $40 billion in 2013 and up to $86 billion in 2021. That contrasts with just $12 billion this year.

They think they're going after Paris Hilton, but it is actually Old MacDonald and his kids--land rich and cash poor--who bear the brunt of the estate tax. But they know all about Paris Hilton (and so do the suburban and urban youth voters, incidentally) and don't know much about farmers--unless of course they're buying organic at the Whole Foods. It's all about personal experience and it won't change any time soon.

=============================
* Check out these results from Cuyhoga County in Ohio, for instance. There do seem to be some statistical anomalies amongst those results.


November 6, 2012


Today

Marc Comtois

So today is the day. Big election. The fate of thousands of politicians is in our hands. And our own too. No matter what the result, life will go on, albeit with sunnier or cloudier skies depending on your outlook. It’s unfortunate that who we elect for President (or for any office) is as important as it is on our daily lives. Smaller government is less intrusive, which means those who would hold the reins would be less important and less impactful on the lives of everyday citizens. But that’s not the case, especially here in the Ocean State. So we make choices.

For me that means supporting those who would work to shrink government, yes; but also those who would work to make it more efficient and effective where it is needed. More than ever, I’ve come to appreciate competence. Most importantly, though, we need people who will lead. That means leading before a crisis hits, not just during or after. Leadership means taking steps to head things off at the pass, not taking the reins of the runaway stagecoach as it’s going over the cliff (and then being applauded when only 3 of the 4 wheels came off). So, competence and leadership.

One way or another, we’ll learn several things after this election. Big questions will be answered--smaller or larger government?--as will small ones--were the polls accurate?--but not everything will be determined for all time based on what happens on November 6th, 2012.

It may just feel that way for a while.


October 13, 2012


Democrats Try to Put Fighter Pilot Back in the Kitchen

Marc Comtois

Rhode Island native Martha McSally is running as a Republican for the 2nd Congressional District in Arizona. Her opponent is Ron Barber, winner of a special election in April and former aid to Gabby Giffords. Nancy Pelosi's Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is running this ad against McSally:

McSally thinks the ad's portrayal of her is "laughable".

“The fact that they use this theme of Martha McSally in a kitchen cooking up recipes is…overtly sexist and insulting to any woman, but it certainly doesn’t fit specifically with me,” she said in a phone interview. “For crying out loud, I served 26 years in the military. I was too busy shooting 30 mm out of my A-10 at the Taliban and al Qaeda to spend any time in a kitchen.”

As Mary Katherine Hamm writes, "Nowhere in the country perhaps is the irony of the Democrats’ 'war on women' attack more glaring than in McSally’s race."

McSally has flown some 300 combat hours over Iraq and Afghanistan, earning the Bronze Star during her time commanding a combat squadron in Operation Enduring Freedom during 2005 and 2006.

McSally also sued her bosses at the Department of Defense in the early 2000s to change Pentagon policy forcing women service members to wear the abaya— Muslim body covering— when they went off base in Saudi Arabia. The policy changed. She uses that powerful example when constituents wonder if she’ll simply toe the party line once she gets to Washington, she said.

“I’m a conservative and I’m an independent thinker.”

Wish she'd move back to Rhode Island.


October 9, 2012


RI Governor Gives Nation a Preview of Obama’s Public Welfare Project

Justin Katz

People across the United States should consider Rhode Island as a canary in the ObamaCare coal mine, whistling the tune of the President's larger public welfare project.

When he spoke on the first night of the Democratic National Convention, RI's Lincoln Chafee introduced himself as "the nation's only independent governor." That's "independent" as in belonging to no political party. He went on to claim the mantel of "moderate" and to upend the dictionary with a new, inverted definition of "traditional conservative," applying that label to himself, as well.

Actual moderates and conservatives should be wary of Chafee's brand of independence.  The most stunning reason is his state's status, in July, as one of only three to have lost employment since the end of the U.S. jobs free fall in February 2010. A more subtle, but profound, reason is the vision of health benefit exchanges toward which he is hurrying his state.

Continue reading on the Ocean State Current...


October 5, 2012


Employment: October Surprise or October Miracle?

Justin Katz

A lot of people who watch policy and politics relatively closely were very surprised, this morning, to hear that the unemployment rate had fallen to its lowest level during the Obama presidency — a level last seen in January 2009.  As James Pethokoukis notes, of the seasonally adjusted 873,000 jump in employment from August to September, 582,000 were people who want to work full-time but had their hours cut or were unable to find full-time work, involuntary part time, as they're called.

Given the sheer size of the jump in employment, though, some cynical folks on the political right are finding it to be a bit suspicious. In their view, the move would be in keeping with the Obama administration's request to defense contractors not to notify employees before the election of possible layoffs and promise to cover the cost if they are sued for it.

Continue reading on the Ocean State Current...


September 29, 2012


Warren: Ethical Controversy for Another New England Democrat Candidate

Justin Katz

Retired Providence Journal political columnist M. Charles Bakst has offered, via Ted Nesi's Saturday column, a cute analysis of how both Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren could wind up in the U.S. Senate next session.

While RI's mainstream press ponders hypotheticals about the Senate race next door, Rhode Island blogger and Cornell law professor William Jacobson has been investigating whether Warren has been practicing law illegally in that state:

As detailed below, there are at least two provisions of Massachusetts law Warren may have violated. First, on a regular and continuing basis she used her Cambridge office for the practice of law without being licensed in Massachusetts. Second, in addition to operating an office for the practice of law without being licensed in Massachusetts, Warren actually practiced law in Massachusetts without being licensed.

Monique has mentioned that post already, here, receiving the biggest "if" in Jacobson's analysis, as articulated by Joe Bernstein in the comments: "If Warren only practiced in Federal court, a MA license wasn't required as long as she was licensed somewhere at the time."

In his post, Jacobson details what information is available about Warren's licensure, in Texas and New Jersey. Oddly, she resigned her New Jersey license on September 11 of this year, which, Jacobson says, "made it more difficult for the public to determine her pre-resignation status."

Since then, Jacobson has continued to argue that the objections are irrelevant to the law and, in any event, "Warren did represent a Massachusetts client in Massachusetts on a Massachusetts legal issue." With that, the peer-review process of the blogosphere has been operating, and Jacobson passes along a concession by a skeptic that the facts look "really, really bad for Professor Warren."

Indeed, they do. This election cycle, though, things that look really, really bad for Democrat candidates in national races have had a way of slipping through the media cracks.


September 18, 2012


Things We Read Today (13), Tuesday

Justin Katz

Days off from retirement in Cranston; the conspiracy of low interest rates; sympathy with the Satanic Verses; the gas mandate; and the weaponized media.

Continue reading on the Ocean State Current...


September 12, 2012


Things We Read Today, 9

Justin Katz

No deep theme, today, but bad British commentary, union priorities, stimulus as wishlist, the fame of Dinesh, and a response to Dan Yorke's Congressional District 1 analysis.


September 11, 2012


Things We Read Today, 8

Justin Katz

Today: September 11, global change, evolution, economics, 17th amendment, gold standard, and a boughten electorate... all to a purpose.


September 9, 2012


Things We Read Today This Weekend, 6

Justin Katz

First, scroll down and read Monique's postings on Rep. Spencer Dickinson. Then...

The topics of hope and hopelessness pervaded this weekend's readings, from absurd labor rules in schools, to the likely outcome of Make It Happen, to Spencer Dickinson's insider view, and then to Sandra Fluke.


September 6, 2012


Things We Read Today, 4

Justin Katz

Today, I touch briefly (for me) on long-term vs. short-term recovery, who's better off, RI's long spiral (and potential for quick resurgence), and the significance of different ballot types in Cicilline-Loughlin.


September 5, 2012


Things We Read Today, 3

Justin Katz

Today's short takes address misleading labeling at the DNC, misleading fact-checking, fading national competitiveness, and the September 10 mentality.


September 4, 2012


Things We Read Today, 2

Justin Katz

Today's quick(ish) hits touch on:

  • Partisanship as evidenced by Bill Maher, Rachel Maddow, and Nick Gillespie.
  • The libertarian-conservative divide and this year's election.
  • Ed Fitzpatrick's one-way love of fact checking.
  • The dependency nation as an existential threat.

Read all about it on the Ocean State Current...


August 24, 2012


When I Grow Up, I Wanna Be a Crony

Marc Comtois

I can't confirm if this was filmed in Rhode Island or not (h/t):

"I'm gonna fight for MY piece of the taxpayer pie."

"What's a crony?"

"It's like having a best friend who gives you other people's stuff."

"We take care of our friends."

"We get to spend taxpayer money any way we want."

"Why be a taxpayer when I can be a tax spender?"

Yup, it had to be filmed here, right?


August 21, 2012


Rasmussen Explains Gap Between Mainstream America and Official Washington

Marc Comtois

Pollster Scott Rasmussen explains how common poll questions offered by Beltway "professionals" make no sense to average Americans:

In Washington, it's a given that more government spending is needed to help the economy. Most Americans hold the opposite view. So when you ask whether cutting spending or helping the economy is more important, the question doesn't make sense. For most Mainstream voters, one leads to the other.

To gain a sense of how strong this belief is, consider the fact that voters are fairly evenly divided when asked whether they fear the government will do too much or too little to help the economy. At Rasmussen Reports, we asked those who wanted more government intervention what they would like the government to do. Most said cut spending. Overall, 66 percent of voters believe that the best thing the government can do for the economy is to cut spending.

The same dynamic exists when it comes to repeal of the national health care law. Rather than being seen as a diversion from talking about the economy, 43 percent believe repeal would help the economy. Just 27 percent think it would hurt. That's part of the reason most voters consistently support repeal. So, once again, it's not a choice between repealing the health care law and focusing on the economy. They're part of the same plan.

In other words, (gasp) voters have a more sophisticated understanding of the economy than Washington pollsters--and politicians--give them credit for.


August 10, 2012


10 News Conference - Justin and RIFuture's Bob Plain

Justin Katz

Jim Taricani invited me and RIFuture.org owner/editor Bob Plain to sit in for 10 News Conference, this morning. The topics leaned more toward politics than policy, but we bloggers did manage to pull the conversation toward political philosophy a bit. Specifically, we discussed economic development, the RI economy, the Congressional district 1 race, and the presidential race.

Watch video and continue reading on the Ocean State Current...


August 6, 2012


Recoveries: The Difference the Debt Makes (Not to Mention the Government's Focus)

Justin Katz

Earlier today, Glenn Reynolds linked to an American Enterprise Institute post by James Pethokoukis, drawing on charts from economist John Taylor showing that the United States economy hasn't been returning toward where it would have been without the crash, and that this is unusual for prior downturns.

 

The reasons, I think, can be inferred from this chart, which I created with a view toward answering the question of whether it's reasonable to continue expecting 7-8% returns on pension fund investments:

U.S. Stock Market Growth Compared with National Debt, Consumer Credit, and GDP, 1943 to 2010

Continue reading on the Ocean State Current...


August 4, 2012


Barone: Intellegentsia Got the Partisanship the Asked For

Marc Comtois

Michael Barone:

I ascribe much of the partisan tone of today's politics to two changes urged by the political scientists I studied in college nearly half a century ago.

One was the idea that we should have one clearly liberal and one clearly conservative party. This was a popular enough argument in the 1940s and 1950s that Gallup used to test it in polls.

Political scientists and sympathetic journalists were annoyed that there were lots of Southern (and some non-Southern) conservatives in the Democratic party and that there were a fair number of pretty liberal Republicans in big states like New York and California.

Wouldn't it make more sense, they asked, to have all the liberals in one party and all the conservatives in the other? That way, they said, voters would have a clear choice and the winning party (the liberals, most of them hoped) would be able to enact its programs into law.

There are indeed rational arguments for this. For years Southern whites clung to the Democratic label because of memories of the Civil War, while many liberal Northerners supported Republicans because they disliked big city Democratic political machines. Neither party was ideologically coherent.

Today it's clear that the prayers of the midcentury reformers have been answered. The Republican party is a clearly and nearly unanimously conservative party, while the Democratic party is the natural home for liberals.

As a result there are more party-line votes in Congress than there were half a century ago. There are fewer friendships and alliances across party lines. Parties with supermajorities can enact their programs (e.g., Obamacare) even in the face of hostile public opinion.

Hm. It hasn't happened in Rhode Island yet, though. He continues:
Another idea peddled by political scientists and some thoughtful liberal politicians half a century ago was that there should be more party discipline in Congress.

Rep. Richard Bolling, frustrated that Democratic House speakers didn't force Southern conservatives to vote the liberal line, wrote two books in the 1960s advocating this. Liberal political scientists and columnists liked the idea.

So when Democrats won big majorities in the Watergate year of 1974, San Francisco Rep. Phillip Burton, in a typical backroom maneuver, engineered the election of Democratic committee chairmen and important subcommittee chairmen by secret ballot.

House Republicans adopted a similar rule, providing for election by an elected steering committee, after their big win in 1994.

There's a certain logic to this, and I believe the results on balance have been positive. You don't see senile chairmen frozen in office by the seniority system (a progressive reform in 1911) any more, and both parties have generally chosen competent chairmen.

But -- and here's the answered prayers department -- you also get more partisan politics. Anyone wanting a chairmanship some day had better not dissent from party orthodoxy very often.

A reputation for bipartisanship doesn't help you get ahead when members of the other party don't get a vote.

Instead, you get called--often quite appropriately--a DINO or RINO.


August 3, 2012


National Poll Shenanigans

Marc Comtois

Take a look at the Real Clear Politics' 2012 Presidential poll averages and you'll see, for the most part, Obama and Romney are within 2-4 pts of each other with Obama leading most of them. Then Pew released a poll showing Obama with a 10 point lead. How'd that happen? Well, several experienced and astute poll watchers noticed the discrepancy between the Democrats and Republicans sampled, which Pew itself laid out:

The current survey finds that 45% of independents back Romney and 43% Obama, which is virtually unchanged from earlier in July. Over the course of the year, independent support has wavered, with neither candidate holding a consistent advantage.

Both candidates have nearly universal backing within their party: Nine-in-ten Democrats support Obama and an identical share of Republicans support Romney. Obama’s overall edge at this point is based on the healthy advantage in overall party identification that Democrats have enjoyed in recent years.

Pew's aggregate shows that they significantly over-sampled Democrats compared to Republicans. That's how, even though 9 in 10 of each party stayed true and Romney has a slight lead over the President with Independents, Obama manages to have a 10 point lead. How can this be a legitimate way to conduct a poll when no one--and I mean no one--really things the Democrats will have a 10 point turnout advantage in November? Hugh Hewitt asked the Quinnipiac pollster--who also tends to over-sample Democrats--the same question.
HH: I want to start with the models, which are creating quite a lot of controversy. In Florida, the model that Quinnipiac used gave Democrats a nine point edge in turnout. In Ohio, the sample had an eight point Democratic advantage. What’s the reasoning behind those models?

PB: Well, what is important to understand is that the way Quinnipiac and most other major polls do their sampling is we do not wait for party ID. We ask voters, or the people we interview, do they consider themselves a Democrat, a Republican, an independent or a member of a minor party. And that’s different than asking them what their party registration is. What you’re comparing it to is party registration. In other words, when someone starts as a voter, they have the opportunity of, in most states, of being a Republican, a Democrat, or a member of a minor party or unaffiliated.

HH: Okay.

PB: So what’s important to understand is what we are doing is we’re asking voters what they consider themselves when we interview them, which was in the last week.

HH: Now what I don’t understand this, so educate me on it, if Democrats only had a three point advantage in Florida in the final turnout measurement in 2008, but in your poll they have a nine point turnout advantage, why is that not a source of skepticism for people?

PB: Well, I mean, clearly there will be some people who are skeptics. This is how we’ve always done our polls. Our record is very good in terms of accuracy. Again, remember, we’re asking people what they consider themselves at the time we call them.

HH: But I don’t know how that goes to the issue, Peter, so help me. I’m not being argumentative, I really want to know. Why would guys run a poll with nine percent more Democrats than Republicans when that percentage advantage, I mean, if you’re trying to tell people how the state is going to go, I don’t think this is particularly helpful, because you’ve oversampled Democrats, right?

PB: But we didn’t set out to oversample Democrats. We did our normal, random digit dial way of calling people. And there were, these are likely voters. They had to pass a screen. Because it’s a presidential year, it’s not a particularly heavy screen.

HH: And so if, in fact, you had gotten a hundred Democrats out of a hundred respondents that answered, would you think that poll was reliable?

PB: Probably not at 100 out of 100.

HH: Okay, so if it was 75 out of 100…

PB: Well, I mean…

For whatever reason, more Democrats seem to be answering the pollsters calls. There could be any number of reasons for this. The obvious error here is believing that people who pick up the phone for pollsters is an accurate reflection of those who will actually vote in November. Even though pollsters seem to know that the model isn't really incorrect, it sure is good for a headline, isn't it?


July 19, 2012


Like it or Not, Red Team/Blue Team is the American Way

Marc Comtois
I’m tired of playing the same old Democrat versus Republican game. It’s like watching professional sports, only it will seriously impact your life. Our modern political culture has been shaped in such a way that we debate our politics like we root for our favorite football team. Doesn’t matter that the candidate may not share our ideology, it just matters that they’re wearing the right colors. ~ Matt Allen
Let that party [the Jeffersonian Republicans] set up a broomstick, and call it a true son of Liberty, a Democrat, or give it any other epithet that will suit their purpose, and it will command their votes in toto! ~ George Washington

You see, contrary to what Matt Allen wrote, it's not just our "modern political culture", it's simply a basic characteristic of our political culture to have two dominant parties and it's been that way since 1800. What is true is that it's very hard for another "team" to arise under our system. Occasionally a third party has arisen to try to harness the frustration of voters with looser ties to--usually--one of the parties. Such movements were successful early on. After the Federalists were essentially wiped out by the Democrat-Republicans (the Jeffersonian Republicans that Washington refers too who would eventually become the Democratic Party) in 1800, the Whigs eventually arose to contend against the Democrats, though not very successfully. Before the Civil War, a new coalition of Whigs, Abolitionists and Northern Democrats was formed into the Republican party. This new party nominated Abraham Lincoln and the rest, as they say, is history.

There hasn't truly been a successful third party since then.

Teddy Roosevelt formed the Bull Moose party when he knew he wasn't going to be nominated by the Republicans. His party, comprised of progressive Republicans, succeeded in siphoning off enough votes to see Democrat Woodrow Wilson elected President. Ross Perot's movement of independent-fiscal/small-government (mostly) conservatives siphoned off enough votes from George H.W. Bush to see Bill Clinton win the presidency with around 44% of the vote. Ralph Nader's Green Party in 2000 is commonly accused of skimming from Al Gore's vote total. You can see what all of them have in common: each of these third-parties undermined the party from which they sprang and succeeded in getting the party they most disagreed with elected. Most recently, Americans Elect tried and failed to find a third way. Meanwhile, the Libertarians still hold out hope.

Yet, Allen isn't necessarily talking about a third party so much as another option. He recently wondered if the high number of independent candidates contesting elections here in Rhode Island was indicative of people tired of the same old parties and way of doing business.

I do think he's onto something. The level of frustration is palpable and I have little doubt that many of these independent candidates are fed up with business as usual in the Ocean State. And who has been running business as usual in Rhode Island? The Democratic party. Since most incumbents are Democrats, I think the number of independents running this time around is less a statement of frustration against both parties--as Allen seems to believe--than it is about candidates taking on incumbent Democrats and strategically deciding to avoid appending the poison "R" to their name on the ballot. (I won't get into the number of conservative Democrats we have in this state). In short, if this were any other state, I have little doubt that most of these independents would have picked the Republican team.

Allen has been expressing his frustration with the Blue Team/Red Team more and more recently.

Political types like me should tune into debates and stump speeches and hear the lines being drawn between those who want more dependency versus more self-reliance. We should be looking at supporting a candidate that will draw a stark line between what has become the most egregious big government era in American history and one where people have to earn what they get. We don’t have that candidate....I’m tired of voting for one man because he’s not as bad as the other guy. “Well you can’t let Obama back in.” That’s what I hear from people. I agree. However shouldn’t we at least try to put up some kind of candidate that can actually have a philosophy that we can all draw a line through? A point of view that we can all somewhat support and believe in so that when we do support “our guy” we don’t have to hold back our dry heaves?
While his exasperation is understandable, his idealism--and that of many of his regular callers--is, unfortunately, unrealistic in the real-world of politics, particularly with a looming election. Parties exist as a way to organize voters who hold similar views. The goal isn't to have 100% agreement within a national party (though those accused of being DINO's or RINO's probably don't think that), but to recognize differences--often geographical--and allow variety amongst those within the party, which is why both try/claim to be "big tent".

As a result, the internal gravity of a party often results in positions or votes being cast by elected officials that are most amenable to the majority within a party (ie; those that will help them get re-elected). That also means many party voters are left less than pleased and get the impression that they aren't being listened to by their party. (The corollary is that they often believe their own Congressman or Senator is listening to them on any particular vote, hence the high incumbent reelection rate. See, it works). The truth is, it's not always the same "disgruntled" party members reacting to this or that vote. It's the same phenomena we see in Rhode Island. We all hate what the General Assembly does, but our guy is pretty good.

However, if the party base is ticked off enough, it will turn over it's own party. Witness the conservative, small-government, low-tax Tea Party movement, which chose to work within the Republican party (for the most part) and oust so-called big government conservatives. They successfully elected their candidates to several Congressional seats in 2010. Thus far, it seems those elected under that banner have acted as their constituents expected, even as they are often demonized by those within and outside their party for being "roadblocks to compromise" by not voting for compromise legislation that, say, "cuts" expected government growth from 7% to 3%. Those Tea Party Republicans who strayed may feel the pain in 2012. We'll have to wait and see.

In the end, most conservatives--Tea Party, Libertarian or otherwise--are Republicans and most liberals or progressives are Democrats. Allen may not think that team denotes ideology, but it usually does.

So, it's hard enough to find a local politician that we agree with. That is magnified 1,000 times on a national scale. There is no ideal candidate that will broadly appeal to the American electorate, particularly people with strong ideological beliefs. It's almost impossible in our fractured culture. A case in point would be the libertarian Republican Ron Paul (big tent, right?). He has a passionate following, but he simply hasn't got the broad appeal that his followers think he deserves. His mix of small-government conservatism with individual moral freedom doesn't appeal to a broad enough base (yet..., right Paulites?). Why this is so--stupid people, MSM conspiracy--doesn't matter, it's simply the truth. Instead, political parties have a process--the primaries--where they try to find the candidate that the most party members agree with the most. The party can only pick from those who run. This all translates to the broader American electorate, too. It's not exactly inspirational, but reality.

I think that it is often the case that the minority of us who are politically minded tend to over-emphasis the differences amongst those who generally agree on 80-90% of the same thing (especially in the primary season). Much of Allen's reticence about Romney is related to RomneyCare=Obamacare. That's understandable, but I'd bet that he agrees with Romney on much more than he disagrees. And the opposite is clearly true with Obama.

We also can put too much meaning into short-term topics that flare up in the political silly season. Allen is disappointed in the way Romney has responded to the Obama camp's Bain attacks. He's not alone. But then we see that the polls haven't moved (and Romney may have even re-taken a slight lead) while these attacks were all over the place. It would seem the American polity doesn't really care about Bain.

We politically-minded get wrapped up in differences that take up an out-sized place in our thinking. Unfortunately, sometimes this gets translated into a sort of "pox on all their houses" attitude, which may translate into staying at home--and encouraging others to do the same--on election day because "all politicians are the same and they don't care about the average American". It's an emotionally gratifying way to deal with our disappointment. It's also naive and doesn't take into consideration the very real differences that exist between the parties and those within them.

Look, I know the choice we have to make relies less on inspiration and more upon whether or not we think we need to go into damage control. Yes, it stinks. It might get better in the future, especially if, post-election, the idealists like Allen (and myself, incidentally) continue to point out the flaws in our system and--more importantly--if new, better leaders emerge. (Let's not forget the role of contingency here. It's a more important force in history than we often realize.)

But it's nut-cuttin' time right now and you have to pick a side. It's a dead horse, but I'll beat it again: don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good (or passable, in this case). Sitting it out may be emotionally satisfying, but, as history has shown, it will only serve to present you with your own worst-case scenario. Will you be better off with four more years of Obama because you don't "buy into the system"? I don't think so.



Credit for Building, Blame for Dividing

Justin Katz

President Obama's teleprompter style has been the subject of substantial (often mocking) critical commentary, and with some justification, as this nearly parodic 2010 video from a Virginia classroom proves:

Given recent political events, one can sympathize with the desire of public officials to avoid extemporaneous speech. In a world in which one's every public utterance can be recorded, scrutinized, and exploited, one can't rely on an audience's capacity to get your drift and give you the benefit of the doubt. And it's all to easy to blurt out a sentence such as the now infamous, "If you've got a business, you didn't build that."

Predictably, in the realm of commentary, the debate has moved to the meta matter of whether commentators are deliberately misconstruing the President's meaning. On Slate, Dave Weigel charitably infers "a missing sentence or clause" that Obama neglected to utter because he was "rambling." On Reason, Tim Cavanaugh rejoins that "at some point it helps to look at that thing above the subtext, which is generally known as 'the text.'"

Continue reading on the Ocean State Current...


July 4, 2012


Happy Independence Day?

Justin Katz

The Ocean State Current encourages readers to spend some time today reading the Declaration of Independence and considering its continuing significance in our times.

Some of the particulars resonate as if addressing present issues:

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them. ...

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance. ...

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation ...

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent ...

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers ...


But more profound, naturally, is the spirit of the document, and the pondering of it may lead one to question whether it does continue to have significance for many Americans — for enough Americans.

Continue reading on the Ocean State Current...


June 28, 2012


Supreme Court Rules Individual Mandate Survives as a Tax

Marc Comtois

Chief Justice Roberts wrote the opinion. Upholds Individual Mandate as a tax under Congress' taxing powers. Apparently a complicated opinion. Others are more equipped (and have the time) to analyze, but feel free to comment!

ADDENDUM (snarky version): Roberts joined with the courts liberals, so it was 5-4. Not quite the 5-4 decision anyone anticipated, to be sure. What are liberal supporters of the Health Care act going to say about Roberts now? Does this mean the Supreme Court is all-of-a-sudden legit again?

ADDENDUM (serious version): Some are arguing that by upholding the mandate by calling it a tax while expressly ruling that it's NOT legit under the Commerce Clause, CJ Roberts has managed to give liberals a political win while also pushing back against big government overreach, which is something conservatives like. Jay Cost:

First, the Roberts Court put real limits on what the government can and cannot do. For starters, it restricted the limits of the Commerce Clause, which does not give the government the power to create activity for the purpose of regulating it. This is a huge victory for those of us who believe that the Constitution is a document which offers a limited grant of power.

Second, the Roberts Court also threw out a portion of the Medicaid expansion. States have the option of withdrawing from the program without risk of losing their funds. This is another major victory for conservatives who cherish our system of dual sovereignty. This was also a big policy win for conservatives; the Medicaid expansion was a major way the Democrats hid the true cost of the bill, by shifting costs to the states, but they no longer can do this.

Politically, Obama will probably get a short-term boost from this, as the media will not be able to read between the lines and will declare him the winner. But the victory will be short-lived. The Democrats were at pains not to call this a tax because it is inherently regressive: the wealthy overwhelmingly have health insurance so have no fear of the mandate. But now that it is legally a tax, Republicans can and will declare that Obama has slapped the single biggest tax on the middle class in history, after promising not to do that.

UPDATE: Key components of Roberts writing on the SCOTUS ruling (PDF) upholding individual mandate (after the jump):

Continue reading "Supreme Court Rules Individual Mandate Survives as a Tax"


Levin: Politics and the Supreme Court aren't Incompatible

Marc Comtois

NB: Probably the quickest notice of the Supreme Court ruling will be posted at the SCOTUS Blog. Hope their servers can handle it!

Writing about the anticipatory condemnations of the soon-to-come Supreme Court ruling on Obamacare, Yuval Levin makes an observation about what liberal commentators and politicians--who are expecting at least the individual mandate to be overturned--are saying about the so-called politicization of the Court (as if it's something new):

These people are actually saying that any outcome except the one they want must be driven by an outcome-oriented political crusade. Only their view could result from an actual engagement with the question before the Court, and any other view could only be a function of corruption or of cynicism. It must be nice to be so enlightened.

More interesting, however, is what such an argument implies about one’s view of politics....observers on the Left seek to draw a stark distinction between political and judicial thought, and it reveals their very low opinion of political ideas. They imply that there ought to be no connection between the most basic political divisions that define our public life—crudely encompassed in the Left/Right division—and ways of understanding the Constitution. This is a profound mistake, and a very telling one. As the Left often does, they underplay the substantive seriousness and significance of the Left/Right divide, presumably because they do not think of themselves as possessed of a particular worldview and believe they are merely objectively analyzing the obvious realities of the world around us....

...If we understand the contours of that debate, we can have some sense of where serious people on either side are likely to fall much of the time. After all, the liberals on the Supreme Court are at least as predictable (indeed more so, as is evident in the Obamacare speculation) as the conservatives. [The Left is] too. And that makes sense: They hold certain views for reasons that we and they can understand, and they seek to apply them thoughtfully to particular instances.

This debate is indeed a political debate, in the best and highest sense. But that does not make it a cynical debate, or an illegitimate one. On the contrary. The apparent inability of many left-wing commentators to see that point tells us more than all their diatribes in recent days. Their anger about the very possibility that the Court might disagree with them about Obamacare suggests that they do not believe that there can be such a thing as a serious political debate—they take serious and political to be opposites.

Read the whole thing because Levin also quotes from a previous piece he wrote tracing how today's "Left" and "Right" are actually two sides of a "liberal" coin, which is an interesting discussion all its own.

ADDENDUM: The points made by Levin are even stronger now that the SCOTUS ruled the way the Left wanted.


June 19, 2012


Pew: RI Still has "Serious Concerns" About Unfunded Pensions & Health Care

Marc Comtois

The Pew Center on the States is out with an "update" (PDF) on public employee retiree pension and health care benefit debt owed by the states (h/t ProJo).

They provide three ratings for the two categories: Solid Performer, Needs Improvement and Serious Concerns. Despite giving Rhode Island (report here) positive marks for addressing it's pension problem with "an unprecedented package of reforms," the fact remains we are so far behind the 8-ball that they still rate our pension liability as a having "Serious Concerns." As for Health Care, they note Rhode Island has a $775 million liability and had not funded any of it by 2010. Again, they rated it as having "Serious Concerns." In 2010, Rhode Island did pay 100% of the "recommended" contribution to fund retiree pensions, but only 69% of "recommended" contribution to fund retiree health benefits.

Nationally, Rhode Island joined ten other states who had serious concerns in both categories (Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey & New Mexico). Several states were "Solid Performers" in one while they didn't do as well in the other category. Only one state was deemed a "Solid Performer" in both categories: Wisconsin. I wonder what they did?


June 17, 2012


Review: The Price of the Ticket by Frederick Harris

Marc Comtois

Fredrick C. Harris is a Professor of Political Science and the Director of Columbia University's Center on African-American Politics and Society. In the world of academia, his racial/political bona fides are beyond reproach. so when he proposes that our first African-American President hasn't adequately addressed racial inequality, it's worth a read. In his Price of the Ticket, Harris explains that the election of President Obama has allowed the country to feel good about itself for choosing a black man as President, even as this President has done little to forward the causes for which so many of his fellow African-Americans have long fought. Harris hopes to put "Obama's race-neutral campaign strategy and approach to governing within the context of history, politics and policy."

Much of the book does just that. Harris spends a few chapters providing historical context that explains the two strategies (and the tension between them) used by African Americans to achieve political power:

The coalition-politics perspective calls on black voters to build coalitions with whites and other racial and ethnic groups to develop support for issues and policies that help most everyone. The independent-black-politics perspective presses blacks to work independently of other groups to push for community interests with the aim toward building support with other groups around both universal policies and community-specific issues.
Harris' telling of the evolution of these strategies over the decades is an interesting story and he provides valuable insights as to how the political campaigns of Shirley Chisholm, Jesse Jackson and the late-Chicago Mayor Harold Washington laid the groundwork for Obama's successful 2008 run for the Presidency. Focusing on Obama, Harris contends that the race-neutral politics of the President--which go hand-in-hand with coalition politics--"has marginalized policy discussions about racial inequality."
Proponents of "race-neutral" universalism fail to acknowledge that policies that help everyone--what can be described as a trickle-down approach to eradicating poverty and social inequality--are not enough to correct the deep-rooted persistance of racial inequality. In many ways, the majority of black voters have struck a bargain with Obama. In exchange for the president's silence on community-focused interests, black voters are content with a governing philosophy that helps "all people" and a politics centered on preserving the symbol of a black president and family in the White House.
This is the "price of the ticket" and it's clear that Harris is no proponent of coalition-politics. To bolster his point, he contrasts the gains made by the LGBT community under the Obama Administration to the lack of progress made on racial equality. The former, Harris contends, has kept the pressure on Obama (as has, according to Harris, the Tea Party) and been rewarded while the black community has given the President a pass, a dynamic he delves deeper into in his chapter, "Wink, Nod, Vote."

Further, Harris argues that Obama has become a "hollow prize" for Black America because the President has been forced to contend with an economic downturn instead of turning his attention to implementing policies--however modest--that dealt with racial inequality. Worse yet, by Harris' contention, Obama hasn't adequately addressed inequality even within the context of the economic downturn. When asked in 2009 about the "mounting problem of black unemployment" and why he hadn't targeted it:

Obama provided the same pat answer. Obama acknowledged that black and Latino workers were disproportionately affected by the great recession, but he still insisted that policies that helped everyone would cure the catastrophic unemployment rate in minority communities.
This was in contrast to a proposal by the Congressional Black Caucus, for instance, that:
...incorporated the principle of "targeted universalism"; an approach that would geographically target government-sponsored job projects in communities most affected by the recession and with the greatest concentrations of poverty. By default, such legislation would not help everyone equally but benefit those most affected by the recession.
In other words, blacks and other minorities.

In a comparison between Herman Cain (running for the Republican Presidential nomination at the time Harris' was writing the book) and President Obama, Harris finds that both fall short of the promise that politically powerfull African-Americans are supposed to fulfill.

When you place Cain next to Obama, who appears to be too timidly strategic to raise questions about--and work overtly against--racial inequality, the actions (or in the case of Obama inactions) of both diminish black interests on the national political scene. One black candidate for president spouts bigoted views about blacks and the poor. The other is silent on issues of racial inequality and poverty. In the end, neither political party is a vehicle for blacks to directly confront inequality, because both parties push black-specific issues to the margins of national policymaking. This development tells us something about the durability of racism as an ideology in American politics. Instead of fading away in an era celebrated as "postracial," race as ideology demonstrates convincing staying power, endowed with the ability to readapt and readjust as new political situations arise. {emphasis added}
Thus, we see that Harris' critique of Obama is rooted in his apparent belief that America, as whole, is still a racist society. By Harris' interpretation, electing a black man president is not to be taken as a symbol of the end of widespread, institutional and cultural racism, but rather a signal that such racism has changed and "readjusted."

The problem is that his interpretation is based on his contention that Obama hasn't done enough to address what Harris refers to--multiple times--as racial inequality. Yet, he never truly defines that inequality and the reader not versed in contemporary African-American politics is left wondering, "so what could Obama do in the realm of addressing racial inequality that will make Harris happy?"

Harris does spend time giving examples of, and discounting, what he calls the "politics of respectibility" (Bill Cosby comes in for some criticism on this front). But without more specificity as to what policies Harris supports towards racial equality, as opposed to explaining what he doesn't support, we are left guessing. In the end, Harris has provided a fine history of the development of contemporary black political strategies. He is less convincing in supporting his contention that President Obama's decision to govern America as a coalition--and not focus on acute issues affecting African-Americans--marks Obama as a failure as an African-American president. As a result, we're just not sure, exactly, what President Obama could have done to have been a success in Harris' eyes.


June 6, 2012


The End of Democracy

Patrick Laverty

Yep, democracy is over. Scott Walker won by ordering the Wisconsin National Guard to stand in front of the voting booths and shoot any likely Tom Barrett voter who entered. Yes, democracy is dead.

Wait, what? Walker won because the opposition successfully pulled off getting a recall vote but then more voters sided with Walker over Barrett? Gee, that sounds exactly like democracy to me. Will these same people be crying (literally) when Obama spends more than a billion dollars on his election campaign?

(h/t Helen Glover Show)


May 24, 2012


The [Sheldon] Whitehouse Standard

Marc Comtois

David Scharfenberg points to an interview that Senator Sheldon Whitehouse did with ThinkProgress in which he claims the five Supreme Court justices who ruled against Whitehouse's preference on Citizens United shouldn't have even been allowed to rule because they didn't have the right experience to judge:

Unfortunately you had the five right-wing judges, none of whom have ever run for any office ever and have zero political experience between the five of them, offering opinions about what money can do in elections...The President asked me who I thought, you know, what were the characteristics of somebody that should be appointed to the Court, and I said I think it should be somebody who has some actual political experience out there so that they are not operating in this political arena with absolutely no knowledge. Even if they wanted to come to the result that Citizens United came to, I think those judges would have had a hard time getting there if they’d had actual practical political experience because they would have known what a preposterous finding they were making.
What a facile viewpoint (and I'm pretty sure that none of the 4 liberal judges meet the Whitehouse standard, either). Well, if that is the new standard by which we're supposed to adjudicate, or legislate, then I can think of any number of things that Senator Whitehouse should stay away from. So I guess we should expect him to refrain from speaking or offering legislation on anything but silver spoons and tort reform from here on out.


April 30, 2012


Political "Compromise" and Gridlock: Cause and Effect?

Marc Comtois

In a recent column, Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institution and Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute, authors of the new book It’s Even Worse Than it Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided with the New Politics of Extremism, state that the Republicans are to blame for congressional gridlock. As I tweeted earlier, my main problem with this theory is that they are actually taking a snapshot of the current gridlock in Congress (and relying upon their "40 years of watching Congress" to buttress their claims) while ignoring the evolution of how we got here.

During the last decade (at least) power plays have been made by Democrats as well as Republicans and to conveniently blame the party to whom both authors are ideologically opposed (don't let his ties to AEI fool you, Ornstein is a liberal) during an election year should raise some eyebrows before being accepted whole cloth.

The right-side of the blogosphere has already offered up plenty of rebuttals to Mann and Ornstein (here, here and here), including many examples of the Democrats contribution to the current culture of gridlock, thus showing how the situation has evolved. Politics ain't beanbag, but it IS retributive. As several of the aforementioned point out, there is also an argument to be made that the more recent GOP gridlock that is so troubling to Ornstein and Mann...is pretty much what the voters wanted when they voted the Republicans back into power in the House in 2010.

In a review of Jonah Goldberg's The Tyranny of Clichés: How Liberals Cheat in the War of Ideas, Roll Call's John Bicknell does a fine job defining what the so-called conventional wisdom (ie; the mainstream media's interpretation of what's pragmatic) would have us believe is political compromise:

They’re just for what “works.” What works, of course, is liberals getting their way. If liberals want to spend $10 billion on something, and conservatives don’t want to spend anything on it, liberals make a deal with moderates to spend $5 billion this year and call it a compromise, knowing they’ll get the other $5 billion next year.

That’s putting ideology into practice. But it’s not a compromise. It’s modestly deferred gratification for liberals.

In a compromise, everybody gets something. In this case, repeated ad infinitum over most of the past century, liberals get the money, moderates get to be seen as pragmatic (that’s like heroin for moderates), and conservatives get to watch as the government grows ever larger.

Perhaps, then, the current gridlock is actually the desired result of voters who were tired of the gridlock-breaking "compromises" that still resulted in government growing and more tax dollars being spent.


April 15, 2012


Iowahawk On the Fiscals of Romney Vs Obama

Monique Chartier

Presumably referencing the divisive and pointless class war which the campaign of President Barack Obama (and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse) feels it needs to wage in order to win re-election, David Burge, aka Iowahawk, tweeted this remark Friday night. (H/T Instapundit Glenn Reynolds.)

Apparently, I'm supposed to be more angry about what Mitt Romney does with his money than what Barack Obama does with mine.

March 24, 2012


More than a Political Narrative

Justin Katz

Back in college, it was a matter of some classroom literary discussion that relativist thinkers still went about their daily lives as if they believed something to be true. (True enough, it appeared often to be that they deserved tenured sinecures that allowed them freedom to ruminate.)

To broad readers of conservative political commentary, this sort of peculiarity feels like cognitive dissonance, especially in Rhode Island. The world is crumbling around us and the sense is that we must flee to cover, and still people behave as if partial turn of the key will open the door. From the town level to the national level, the sense of leaders' message is that some minor technocratic tweaks will be sufficient to set things right.

In my view, RI's pension reform was a spectacular example, erroneously capturing the imaginations of even those on the right.

Yet, we read (and agree with) the warnings of Mark Steyn:

"We are headed for the most predictable economic crisis in history," says Paul Ryan. And he's right. But precisely because it's so predictable the political class has already discounted it. Which is why a plan for pie now and spinach later, maybe even two decades later, is the only real menu on the table. There's a famous exchange in Hemingway's "A Place In The Sun." Someone asks Mike Campbell, "How did you go bankrupt?" "Two ways," he replies. "Gradually, then suddenly." We've been going through the gradual phase so long, we're kinda used to it. But it's coming to an end, and what happens next will be the second way: sudden, and very bad.

And so, one wishes to believe that Rick Santorum's new video is much too like the latest eerie prime time series to be other than a laughable dramatization of a political message:

Here's the thing: Our society encompasses a range of experiences. For some people, some families, some towns, Santorum's prognostications will prove understated. For others, especially among the upper classes who make up our upper crust of decision makers, the lives of the lowly are already akin to televised fiction.

A deeper problem, one supposes, is that the remedy ultimately does not require an active fix from Washington or the State House, but the determination of people to turn their own communities around and the realization that the first step is to get distant politicians out of the way.


March 7, 2012


Edging Toward the Inevitable

Marc Comtois

Whether your response is excited, angered or tepid (ahem), Mitt Romney won 6 out of 10 primaries/caucuses last night, including the supposed bellweather, rust-belt state of Ohio. Though the latter was close, he still won it. Yet, as avowed Romney-supporter (some would say shill) Jennifer Rubin writes, you would think that Romney lost by winning (addendum--others have noted this too).

When all the nails were bitten in Ohio and all the votes counted from Massachusetts to Alaska, Mitt Romney had won six of 10 Super Tuesday contests (including all three of those states) and jumped to a commanding lead in the delegate count. Romney now leads with 415 delegates to 176 for Rick Santorum. Romney narrowly won Ohio, which before Tuesday was dubbed the must-win state for both him and Santorum, and picked up wins in every region of the country except the Deep South.

It is only in a media environment in which so many pundits are rooting for the pummeling to continue in the GOP could this be characterized as “failing to close the deal” or evidence of weakness by Romney. Unlike every other GOP nominating contest, the standard for this year appears to be that Romney should and must win virtually every state other than his opponents’ birthplaces.

She also points out that the 4 states that didn't go Romney's way--Georgia (Gingrich's home state), Oklahoma, Tennessee and North Dakota--are all reliably Republican regardless of who wins the GOP nomination. So, yes, he squeaked it out in Ohio, but, like he did in Michigan, he won in a swing state that will be crucial in November.


March 2, 2012


Rasmussen: "Why Politicians Can't Connect With the Middle Class"

Marc Comtois

Pollster Scott Rasmussen reports that only 27% believe government can adequately "manage the economy" and 50% thinks it makes things worse when it tries to "help". Rasmussen focuses on why this attitude explains "why politicians can't connect with the middle class". (Incidentally, Steve Laffey's film, Fixing America provides further evidence of this point).

Upper-income Americans are evenly divided as to whether government management of the economy helps or hurts. Middle-income Americans, on the other hand, overwhelmingly view government management of the economy as hurtful.

The affluent, perhaps because they can easily gain access to the policymakers, are OK with government management of the economy. They want it done well, and many want it done in a way to benefit their own interests. That's why a plurality of Americans now believe the United States has a system of crony capitalism rather than free-market competition.

The middle class, without friends in Congress or on Wall Street, has an entirely different view. Broadly speaking, it see the federal government as a burden weighing down both the economy and the middle class. To help the economy, most simply want to reduce the burden. Seventy-seven percent of voters think that the government could help the economy by reducing the deficit. Seventy-one percent think it would help to reduce government spending, and 59 percent think tax cuts would help.

So when a politician talks of helping the middle class with a new government program, it just doesn't ring true.

It is exacerbated because, for the most part, modern political candidates can't relate to the middle-class.
Most candidates...tend to hang out with more affluent Americans. They tend to discuss how to make government work rather than how to make the nation work. To some, an issue like the price of gas is primarily a question of how it will impact potential investments in alternative fuels or whether higher gas prices are good because they encourage conservation.

To the middle class, the question of gas prices is much different. Data from the Discover Consumer Spending Monitor shows that half of all Americans don't have any money left over after paying their basic bills each month. For these Americans, rising gas prices force unpleasant lifestyle changes.

This disconnect wasn't always the case, even when the candidates were pretty well-off themselves:
To connect with the middle class requires understanding the middle class. Franklin Roosevelt did this in the 1930s. As he expanded the role of the federal government, he explained it in a manner that made sense. His greatest achievement, Social Security, was not sold as a government handout but as an insurance program with people setting aside money during their working years that could be drawn down in retirement. That attitude still resonates with 21st century Americans.

In the 1980s, Ronald Reagan understood the rising frustration with an ever-expanding government. In his first inaugural address, he said, "Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem." Six out of 10 voters still agree.

Yes, there is seemingly a contradiction here: the middle class supports a "big" government program but wants to cut government. But this circle can be squared if we--and the politicians looking for our votes--can better prioritize what we spend our tax dollars on.


February 16, 2012


Jobless and Taking the "Disability Option"

Marc Comtois

Glenn Reynolds points to a Republican Study Committee graphic that asks, "Where Are the Jobs?".


The above chart shows the “labor force participation rate.” This statistic represents the share of working-age Americans who are either employed or unemployed but looking for work. It is not a pretty picture. Only 63.7% of working-age Americans are currently in the workforce – the lowest in almost 29 years!

To put it another way, 36.3% of working-age Americans do not have a job and are not even looking.

What are they doing--how are they surviving--if they aren't working? Well, according to Art Cashin, evidently they are going on disability. According to a report from JPMorgan:
...increases in the number of disability benefits recipients account for about a quarter of the decline in employment participation. Furthermore during recessions the number of new disability claims actually increases, even though the number of jobs with higher injury incidence (such as construction) generally declines. Try explaining that one... Half of the benefit recipients suffer from "mental disorders" and "musculoskeletal disorders" (such as back pain). "Mood disorders" alone account for over 10% of this group. And once someone starts receiving these benefits, it's almost impossible to take the off the program. In 2011 only 1% of the recipients lost their benefits because they were no longer deemed disabled. So how much is this program costing the US taxpayer? Apparently quite a bit.
And a paper (PDF) by David Autor of MIT (summarized by Art Cashin):
Autor attributes disability's expansion mainly to liberalized, more subjective eligibility rules and to a deteriorating job market for less-educated workers. Through the 1970s, strokes, heart attacks and cancer were major causes. Now, mental problems (depression, personality disorder) and musculoskeletal ailments (back pain, joint stress) dominate (54 percent of awards in 2009, nearly double 1981's 28 percent). The paradox is plain. As physically grueling construction and factory jobs have shrunk, disability awards have gone up.

For many recipients, the disability program is a form of long-term unemployment insurance, argue Autor and his frequent collaborator Mark Duggan of the University of Pennsylvania. Benefit applications surge when joblessness rises. From 2001 to 2010, annual applications jumped 123 percent to 2.9 million. On average, recipients start receiving payments at age 49 and keep them until 66, when they switch to Social Security's retiree benefits.


January 25, 2012


(Re)State of the Union

Marc Comtois

I mean, really....it doesn't even seem like he's trying anymore.

Rehashing the same tired lines, delivered at an 8th grade reading level. It just reinforces the perception that President Obama likes the idea of being President much more than actually doing the job. Good thing the GOP has such a strong field of candidates....


January 9, 2012


Gridlock Isn't Bad When It's Wanted

Justin Katz

The Providence Journal editors did their best, Sunday, to blame Republicans and otherwise minimize the culpability of President Obama for his questionable recess appointments during the dubious recess that legislators don't believe they had. It's curious to note that no mention is made of the fact that two of the four nominees were put forward just two days before the Senate's scheduled adjournment, not leaving time for even basic background checks. Hardly gridlock.

But what's interesting is the notion that the American people care about this sort of battle:

On purely political grounds, the president would seem to be in a strong position. Many Americans can readily sympathize with his frustration since the 2010 elections saddled him with stronger opposition and a Republican-led House.

Who, exactly, do the editors believe did the saddling? (Or is "many" a term indicating "people with whom we associate"?) By the election results alone, we can see that many Americans thought it important to stop, or at least slow, President Obama's rampage through the national laws. Many of those who care about bureaucratic appointments, at least to the point of being aware that they exist, may very well want gridlock.

And even those who do not might pause to consider — as the editors do not — whether the president bears some responsibility for nominating candidates whom his duly elected opposition will find uncontroversial enough to expedite their confirmation.


December 27, 2011


GOP's Circular Firing Squad: National Edition - None of these guys are beyond reproach

Marc Comtois

I haven't committed strongly to any of the GOP presidential hopefuls, mainly because they're all different flavors of meh. But one of them is going to win and run against Obama. It's up to the GOP to figure out who has the "best chance" of beating the President. The one thing that has annoyed me the most, though, are the various supporters of each candidate getting all "holier than thou" when it comes to defending their pick vs. the others. None of these guys are "all that." Just take the three front-runners.

Mitt Romney has flip-flopped enough to warrant a website devoted to chronicling the pattern. His ideology seems to be "I'm running for President". He seems wooden and too-perfect & it doesn't "feel" like he can relate to the average person.

But before you Gingrich-ites or Paulians get all self-righteous, be careful. Gingrich was for Romney's health care reform before he was against it.

“The health bill that Governor Romney signed into law this month has tremendous potential to effect major change in the American health system,” said an April 2006 newsletter published by Mr. Gingrich’s former consulting company, the Center for Health Transformation.
Except now, apparently, Gingrich's people are claiming that Newt didn't really write that endorsement. Uh. Yeah. That's kinda what Newt called Ron Paul out on when Paul disavowed the racist stuff in Paul's own newsletters, saying he didn't write them (which is probably correct...or maybe not.). So, memo to self--newsletters written under your own name aren't your responsibility.

As for Paul....his either an isolationist or a non-interventionist, depending on how you interpret his foreign policy stances. But it seems he doesn't let such things as moral imperatives instruct his decision-making. He said he wouldn't have fought WWII if it "only" meant saving the Jews from the Holocaust. And he thought that Lincoln fighting the Civil War to free the slaves was a mistake. 'Cause the slaves would have been freed eventually, anyway. (Of course, the fact that the South kinda started it with that whole secession thing....). Those are two pretty big, albeit theoretical, "take a pass" items.

All of them have good ideas. Despite his flipping and apparent lack of an ideological touchstone, Romney would be competent. Gingrich is a big ideas guy. Paul makes sense in some fiscal areas and when it comes to cutting government. It's just a matter of how much of the negative baggage you think the voting public can take along with the good ideas. Maybe there's some acceptable ratio. Or maybe it will just come down to media spin and "optics." Just like last time. Great.


November 15, 2011


Congress Pays

Marc Comtois

If you haven't already, take some time to watch the 60 Minutes piece on congressional insider trading. Taking the lead from work done by Peter Schweizer for his new book Throw Them All Out, the story delves into how so many of our elected officials manage to end up as millionaires after a few terms in Washington, D.C. Maddeningly, the practice is legal and not exclusive to members of one party. (And, according to WPRI, Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse has apparently engaged in the practice, though he--according to a spokesman--"is not actively involved in the management of this investment account"). For example, to pick a couple high-profile individuals:

During the healthcare debate of 2009, members of Congress were trading health care stocks, including House Minority Leader John Boehner, who led the opposition against the so-called public option, government funded insurance that would compete with private companies. Just days before the provision was finally killed off, Boehner bought health insurance stocks, all of which went up....former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her husband have participated in at least eight IPOs. One of those came in 2008, from Visa, just as a troublesome piece of legislation that would have hurt credit card companies, began making its way through the House. Undisturbed by a potential conflict of interest the Pelosis purchased 5,000 shares of Visa at the initial price of $44 dollars. Two days later it was trading at $64. The credit card legislation never made it to the floor of the House.
Schweizer explains why he wrote the book:
This is not a book about corrupt political leaders. It is instead about a compromised political system. The purpose of the book is not to single out certain individual members, but to look at a broad pattern of financial transactions and expose possible insider trading and conflicts of interest. The book reveals a pattern of suspicious stock trading by members of congress from both parties based on their financial disclosure statements and legislative activities....the political leaders named here are the beneficiaries of these trades and were anyone else in America to engage in these sort of trading patterns, they would likely receive scrutiny from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Indeed, private citizens might very likely go to jail were they to do this as it relates to their own jobs.

The real scandal is that in our current system of government, these trades are perfectly legal. We wouldn’t tolerate professional athletes betting on their games. So why do we let our leaders do it on something far more important?


November 2, 2011


The Power of (Urban) Myth

Marc Comtois

This is the first time I've heard this version* of a rather infamous story involving a certain current Presidential candidate:

It was the spring of 1980.

I was 13 years old, and we were about to leave Fairfax, Va., and drive to Carrollton, Ga., for the summer. My parents told my sister and me that they were getting a divorce as our family of four sat around the kitchen table of our ranch home.

Soon afterward, my mom, sister and I got into our light-blue Chevrolet Impala and drove back to Carrollton.

Later that summer, Mom went to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta for surgery to remove a tumor. While she was there, Dad took my sister and me to see her.

It is this visit that has turned into the infamous hospital visit about which many untruths have been told. I won't repeat them. You can look them up online if you are interested in untruths. But here's what happened:

My mother and father were already in the process of getting a divorce, which she requested.

Dad took my sister and me to the hospital to see our mother.

She had undergone surgery the day before to remove a tumor.

The tumor was benign.

As with many divorces, it was hard and painful for all involved, but life continued.

As have many families, we have healed; we have moved on.

We are not a perfect family, but we are knit together through common bonds, commitment and love.

My mother and father are alive and well, and my sister and I are blessed to have a close relationship with them both.

The one I've heard--umpteen times--is the Newt Gingrich served his cancer-stricken wife divorce papers while she was on her deathbed. So now it turns out she's still alive. And now, as Paul Harvey once said, you know the rest of the story.


*Which, you know, just might be the definitive version given it's an eyewitness account and all. Right. I'm sure conspiracy buffs will totally take this one at face value.


October 21, 2011


Food for (Weekend) Thought

Marc Comtois

From Kevin Williamson writes:

Between the candidates’ debates and my conversations with the Occupy Wall Street protesters, it seems to me that there is a persistent, dangerous disconnect between our political conversation and reality.
He lists some points:

1. There is no austerity.

2. There was no deregulation.

3. You can’t trust Republicans on spending.

4. Wall Street loves Democrats.

5. People who voted for Barack Obama on civil-liberties grounds are fools.

6. If you aren’t for massive entitlement reform, you’re for massive tax hikes.

7. But taxing the rich won’t close the deficit.

8. The housing bubble was largely a political creation.

9. Well-meaning politicians are just as dangerous as self-serving ones.

10. There’s no way out of this jam without big cuts to popular programs.

And here's some additional support for a couple of the above points:
8. The housing bubble was largely a political creation.



4. Wall Street loves Democrats.





How Long Do They Get To Stay?

Patrick Laverty

How long do the Occupy Providence protesters get to stay in the park with tents up, food kitchens cooking, medical tents operating? How long until the city tells them that it's time to go, they had their time for protesting and now they're done? Of course, whenever that comes, they'll all claim that their constitutional right to assembly has been violated. Was this what the writers of the US Constitution had in mind when they put that into the First Amendment?

At least the city and state has some precedent. Remember Camp Runamuck*? The tent city group who pitched their tents under the I-195 overpass as a way of protesting the homelessness problem in Providence? After a few months, the state told them it was time to go and the city promptly erected fences in the area to keep people out.

I don't think there'll be any fences put up around Burnside Park any time soon, but the Occupiers made their statement, they got their press and now what? When does it just become another tent city? If the protesters want to keep protesting, then why not have a daily or weekly march? They don't all have to live in tents to do that. Simply set a specific time each day or week and then hold the protests.

The protesters in other cities have been going at it for longer than Providence, however that shouldn't keep the authorities here from taking a stand, thanking the protesters for keeping it civil but tell them they're welcomed back any time to protest but now it's time to go.


*link is to a newspaper in New Orleans as many links to old projo.com stories no longer return any content.


October 10, 2011


Even if it's Amazing, It's not fair, so I hate everything

Marc Comtois

Trying to figure out this Occupy thing? Right now, this seems to explain it the best (h/t):


Remember this bit by Louis CK (thanks for reminding me, Will)?


Protest song!


...a sultan and student both have iPhone 4s...it's not fair

Overall, much of the logic seems to go something like this (h/t):

ADDENDUM: I put this is all under our "On a lighter note...." category because there is humor in the unknowns surrounding the Occupy movement. Still, there are serious questions that haven't been answered.

Now, a movement that started with no concrete goals as a simple protest of power must decide what to do with some power of its own. Can a leaderless group that relies on consensus find a way for so many people to agree on what comes next? Can it offer not only objections but also solutions? Can a radical protest evolve into a mainstream movement for change?
Unfortunately, from what I have heard of the solutions, they roughly approximate the tongue-in-cheek poster above. In writing about the recent passing of Steve Jobs, Kevin Williamson illustrated that there is a dichotomy:
The beauty of capitalism — the beauty of the iPhone world as opposed to the world of politics — is that...[w]hatever drove Jobs, it drove him to create superior products, better stuff at better prices. Profits are not deductions from the sum of the public good, but the real measure of the social value a firm creates. Those who talk about the horror of putting profits over people make no sense at all. The phrase is without intellectual content. Perhaps you do not think that Apple, or Goldman Sachs, or a professional sports enterprise, or an Internet pornographer actually creates much social value; but markets are very democratic — everybody gets to decide for himself what he values. That is not the final answer to every question, because economic answers can satisfy only economic questions. But the range of questions requiring economic answers is very broad.

I was down at the Occupy Wall Street protest today, and never has the divide between the iPhone world and the politics world been so clear: I saw a bunch of people very well-served by their computers and telephones (very often Apple products) but undeniably shortchanged by our government-run cartel education system. And the tragedy for them — and for us — is that they will spend their energy trying to expand the sphere of the ineffective, hidebound, rent-seeking, unproductive political world, giving the Barney Franks and Tom DeLays an even stronger whip hand over the Steve Jobses and Henry Fords. And they — and we — will be poorer for it.

And to the kids camped out down on Wall Street: Look at the phone in your hand. Look at the rat-infested subway. Visit the Apple Store on Fifth Avenue, then visit a housing project in the South Bronx. Which world do you want to live in?



September 17, 2011


Well, When You Put It That Way

Justin Katz

Mark Steyn may be the perfect columnist for his times, because one really needs a flair for humor of the absurd to comment appropriately on the absurdity of modern Western governance:

The estimated cost of the non-bill is just shy of half a trillion dollars. Gosh, it seems like only yesterday that Washington was in the grip of a white-knuckle, clenched-teeth showdown over whether a debt ceiling deal could be reached before the allegedly looming deadline. When the deal was triumphantly unveiled at the eleventh hour, it was revealed that our sober, prudent, fiscally responsible masters had gotten control of the runaway spending and had carved (according to the most optimistic analysis) a whole $7 billion of savings out of the 2012 budget. The president then airily breezes into Congress and in 20 minutes adds another $447 billion to the tab. That’s what meaningful course correction in Washington boils down to: seven billion steps forward, 447 billion steps back.

This $447 billion does not exist, and even foreigners don't want to lend it to us. A majority of it will be "electronically created" by the Federal Reserve buying U.S. Treasury debt. Don't worry, it's not like "printing money": we leave that to primitive basket-cases like Zimbabwe. This is more like one of those Nigerian email schemes, in which a prominent public official promises you a large sum of money in return for your bank account details. In the case of Ben Bernanke and Timothy Geithner, one prominent public official is promising to wire a large sum of money into the account of another prominent public official, which is a wrinkle even the Nigerians might have difficulty selling.

As Steyn points out, there is no bill to pass, yet, still:

... back on the campaign trail the chanting goes on, last week's election results in Nevada and New York notwithstanding. America has the lowest employment since the early Eighties, the lowest property ownership since the mid-Sixties, the highest deficit-to-GDP ratio since the Second World War, the worst long-term unemployment since the Great Depression, the highest government dependency rate of all time, and the biggest debt mountain in the history of the planet.

It's time we start learning, lest we prove ourselves crazy through repetition.


September 14, 2011


Two Republican Victories in Congress

Patrick Laverty

The Republicans won two US House seats by special election yesterday, in Nevada and New York. In Nevada, Republican Mark Amodel won the seat replacing Dean Heller who was appointed to replace John Ensign. The Nevada win wasn't unexpected as that district has never elected a Democrat in its history, but a 22-point victory was bigger than expected.

The more surprising result was Republican Bob Turner winning in New York's 9th district, a seat previously held by Mark Weiner, of Twitter fame. Turner's 8-point win doesn't sound like much until you learn the demographics of the district.

the district is registered three to one in favor of Democrats and the Queens party machine is strong, they had over 1,000 volunteers in the district in a get out the vote effort knocking on doors over the weekend and the past two days. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has spent more than $500,000 in television ads in the district.

Outside groups also poured money in the race and Sheinkopf estimates that the Democrats could have outspent Republicans “six or eight to one” in the race.

So if this is a heavily Democratic district with a great volunteer effort and a huge war chest and still loses, that can't be a good sign for Democrats and President Obama heading into the 2012 election season.

Turner ran a campaign that could and probably should be replicated here in Rhode Island. The focus of his campaign was to run against Congress and President Obama rather than his opponents. This makes great sense as Congress always has horrible popularity polls. Currently, realclearpolitics.com has a job approval rating of just 13%. President Obama has an approval rating of 44% and disapproval of 51%. Turner came pretty close to blatantly admitting his focus was on the President and not his Democratic opponent. One of the campaign issues was the President's stance on borders in Israel, and Turner admitted:

“It’s not about my position or his [Weprin] which are pretty identical, it’s the president’s position and if you are with the party or against it, simple as that and will this district, which is surprisingly overwhelmingly Democratic, will they go along with the president and be able to be taken for granted as it were or will they send this message of protest and dissatisfaction,” Turner told ABC News.

Maybe a similar strategy could be adopted by candidates in RI running against David Cicilline, Jim Langevin and Sheldon Whitehouse. Run against the body instead of the individual and put a focus on the job approval ratings. Individual polling numbers are often quite higher than those for Congress as a whole. However, in spite of his 17% approval rating in March, I'd be willing to guess that Cicilline might be pleased to get up to a 13% job approval rating pretty soon.

Only fourteen months to find out whether this was a sign of things to come.


September 7, 2011


Who Pays for Past Mistakes

Marc Comtois

Generational warfare: It's bound to happen here in Rhode Island with the pension crisis. It's also happening nationally on the budget deficit debate with the new Super Congressional panel set to convene. Education Policy wonk Rick Hess offers his perspective:

You're either with the kids or with those rushing to the ramparts to defend retiree entitlements. So, which is it?

Consider the President's vague calls last week to spend billions more on school construction and preserving school staffing levels (which would've been more compelling if he had offered any inkling as to how we might pay for it). Obama finds himself unable to do more than offer marginal, dead-on-arrival programs because the feds have spent more than half the budget just mailing checks to retirees, covering health care bills, and paying interest on the accumulated debt. Everything else—schools, financial aid, the FBI, defense, transportation, the environment, NASA, foreign aid, you name it—has to make do with what's left.

As Julia Isaacs at the Brookings Institution has pointed out, the federal government now spends about $7 on seniors for every $1 it spends on children....Do we really think it's a good idea to spend half of all non-interest spending on making retirement ever more comfy?

Past or future? Which will it be? He provides an important breakdown of we pay for current Medicare spending:
[T]oday's retirees have contributed taxes that amount to less than half their Medicare outlays. Today's Medicare payroll tax doesn't fund Medicare--it funds only Part A (hospital expenses). Premiums cover just 25 percent of Part B (doctor treatments and visits). And premiums for Bush's Medicare drug program (Part D) cover just 10 percent of the cost. The rest of the hundreds of billions in outlays for these programs is vacuumed out of general revenue. (See here for a good breakdown on Medicare funding.)
And Social Security:
Social Security has the government reflexively spending hundreds of billions to mail out monthly checks to the wealthiest segment of the population, without an ounce of thought as to whether that's the best use of borrowed funds (the famed Social Security "trust fund" being, you know, nonexistent). The Social Security Administration reports that more than 20 percent of those 65+ have incomes over $65,000 a year. In a nation where median household income is in the $40,000s, is it really radical to rethink how much we mail to these households every month?
As for taxes:
Toss in all of the tax deductions that President Obama called for eliminating this summer, including the corporate jet deal, and you address another $400 billion over 10 years, or less than 2 percent of the shortfall. So, just keeping the deficit from exploding will involve all those taxes and trillions more in cuts. Those demanding substantial new spending then need to raise hundreds of billions beyond that, through additional cuts or tax increases....Even with hefty tax increases, protecting existing entitlements ensures that we won't have much available for schools, colleges, or anything else.
He urges education advocates to step up to the plate and take on the AARP and similar groups so that more money can go towards kids and education.
In short, it's possible to get our house in order, free up dollars for schooling, and shift dollars towards youth. But doing so requires facing down the massive, intimidating seniors' lobby.

Shared sacrifice involves asking Baby Boomers and retirees to step up and, you know, sacrifice. It doesn't mean holding harmless the generations who voted themselves free stuff through the good times and doesn't rely almost entirely on raising taxes and curtailing benefits for the under-40 set.

Hess' bailiwick is education and his goal is to increase funding for it. Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with Hess' priorities, his argument helps to lay out the choice that needs to be made: should the people who benefited or made the mistakes in the past be held most accountable for those mistakes? Or should their kids and grandkids?



Toning Down the Rhetoric?

Patrick Laverty

On Monday, Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa, Jr, urged labor to "win the war" on the Tea Party, told the President "we are your army" and "let's take these son of a ****** out" amid cheers from the crowd.

Just your usual Teamster rally? Not exactly, not when the President then follows those words with a speech on the same stage. No condemnation for the words, nothing asking Mr. Hoffa for civility in public discourse, as he did back in January

"...only a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to our challenges as a nation, in a way that would make them proud.”

Waging war on the Tea Party? We are your army, ready to march? Take them out? This is what the President considers to be civility in public discourse?

The President has been asked to condemn the words of Mr. Hoffa and all we have so far is White House Press Spokesman Jay Carney stating,

"These weren't comments by the President," he said.

"The President wasn't there -- I mean, he wasn't on stage. He didn't speak for another 20 minutes. He didn't hear it. I really don't have any comment beyond that."

And later

"Mr. Hoffa speaks for himself and the labor movement, and the President speaks for himself."

It's now been a few days and Mr. Hoffa has had time to think about his comments. Asked what he thinks in hindsight,

"I would [say it again] because I believe it," he said. "They've declared war on us. We didn't declare war on them, they declared war on us. We're fighting back. The question is, who started the war?"

Carrying this to a ludicrous extreme, if a racist gets up on stage and goes off on a ridiculous anti-Obama diatribe and then Rick Perry or Michelle Bachmann or Mitt Romney follow that speaker on the stage, will Obama and the Democrats be fine with an explanation of "Hey, those were the comments of that guy, not ours!" Of course not. That would be just as unacceptable as the President's current stance on Hoffa's rhetoric.


September 6, 2011


Whitehouse/Langevin Profiting From Wall Street Banks

Patrick Laverty

If you read things from the progressive caucus and others who follow it closely, big business, big banks and Wall Street firms are the devil. You can also read about some of their darlings like Sheldon Whitehouse and the now-near-untouchable Jim Langevin. However today, GoLocalProv.com has a front page article on the worth of Rhode Island's Washington delegation. I congratulate each of these people on their wealth and money management that they've achieved, but in the article, one part really jumped out at me:

Whitehouse also reports collecting between $15,001-$50,000 in interest each with dozens of publicly traded assets including Goldman Sachs, ... Bank of America, Bear Stearns

and

Langevin also owns stock in General Electric and Goldman Sachs (between $6,002-$17,500)

It would seem to me that these guys are trying to have it both ways. They get their base all stirred up about these big bad Wall Street banks and how they need to be investigated, but at the same time, they're financially involved in them. It sure isn't in the best interest of Whitehouse or Langevin to open any great investigations, as that could cause the stock values to plummet if there was a real negative finding. If you're making upwards of $50,000 just on *interest* in a company like Goldman-Sachs, you sure don't want to see that value drop.


September 4, 2011


A Bad Economy Is in the Democrats' Favor Structurally

Justin Katz

William Jacobson makes an interesting point regarding the intersection of the economy and electoral politics:

Workers giving up hope, thereby keeping the unemployment rate artificially low, is keeping Obama's reelection hopes alive. If the headlines screamed that unemployment was 11.4%, even I might begin to believe [that the U.S.A. would not give Obama a second term].

We've already begun to see commentary and political cartoons attempting to smear Republicans on the grounds that it's in their electoral interests for the economy to stay sour until the next election. There is some truth to that, but inasmuch as it's a bipartisan reality with every election, it's hardly a strong moral condemnation.

Rephrased, a bit, what Jacobson is saying is that it would help the Republicans if the statistics better reflected, to voters, how bad the condition of the economy really is. But there's a deeper way in which this particular data point helps the Democrats: Workers who give up move toward dependency on the government, and the Democrats are the party of dependency. If you're struggling to find work in the private sector, you're more apt to want the market to be free to thrive, to want employers to be given more space to invest and hire. Those who throw up their hands are thereafter more likely to put out their hands to collect whatever money the government directs toward them.


August 25, 2011


Fairness Doctrine Signs Off. But Does the Senior Senator from Massachusetts Approve?

Monique Chartier

The Fairness Doctrine has been deep sixed by President Obama's FCC. Bravo.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said that the decision to eliminate the Fairness Doctrine was part of a larger mandate proposed by the Obama administration to ease regulatory burdens by getting rid of duplicative or outdated measures.

Ever since reading about this rare bit of good news out of Washington, I've been trying to match it to the fatuous comments made a couple of weeks ago by Senator John Kerry (D-Sailing).

The media has got to begin to not give equal time or equal balance to an absolutely absurd notion just because somebody asserts it or simply because somebody says something which everybody knows is not factual.

It doesn't deserve the same credit as a legitimate idea about what you do.

... Okay, so if "the media has got to begin to not give equal time or equal balance", he must oppose the Fairness Doctrine, as he himself would define it. Except he's on record as supporting the Fairness Doctrine. But he wants the views of certain political groups not to get equal time from the media. So he opposes the Fairness Doct ...

Forget it. My fault for attempting to pierce the thought process of a man who once said,

I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it.

I'm going back to vacuuming my car and other hurricane preparations.


August 10, 2011


Wisconsin

Marc Comtois

In case you missed it in Wisconsin

After tens of millions of dollars spent by outside interest groups, dozens of attack ads and exhaustive get-out-the-vote efforts, Democrats on Tuesday fell short of their goal of taking control of the state Senate and stopping the agenda of Gov. Scott Walker.

Republicans won four of six recall races, meaning the party still holds a narrow 17-16 majority in the Senate — at least until next week, when Sens. Robert Wirch, D-Pleasant Prairie, and Jim Holperin, D-Conover face their own recall elections....Going into Tuesday, Republicans controlled the body 19-14, so Democrats needed to win at least three seats and hold onto two more next week to take over.

"The revolution has not occurred," said UW-Milwaukee political science professor Mordecai Lee, a former Democratic lawmaker. "The proletariat did not take over the streets."

Yeesh. No wonder they didn't "take over the streets"...who the hell wants to be considered (or considers themselves) part of the "proletariat" these days?


August 9, 2011


The Whole Government Edifice Preparing to Come Down

Justin Katz

This AP article, from the pre-budget-ceiling-deal days, does nothing so well as emphasize the instability on which big-government advocates would have our entire society rest. Its main point is that the states are not well prepared to absorb cuts in the aid that the federal government sends them each year.

"We have the potential for disaster should there be a major realignment in federal funding that results in a cost shift to states," said Nevada state Sen. Sheila Leslie, a Democrat from Reno who recently discussed the issue with Obama administration officials in Washington. "In short, we are teetering on the edge right now, and a cost shift could send us over the cliff."

Now that Congress and the President have reached a deal to skirt the federal government's spending problem for a while longer, do you think that states will take the reprieve as an opportunity to trim and reform their own behavior so as to be better situated as the probability of cuts in federal funding continues to increase?

I wouldn't bet on it — not the least because the better prepared the states are, the less pressure there will be on the feds to keep the payments rolling in. Brinkmanship isn't just a periodic political strategy between the parties; it's a strategy for operating municipalities, states, and the federal government in a system built on confiscating the wealth of people who actually generate it.

Here's the only voice of sanity in the entire article:

Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell said he believes substantial funding cuts would have less of an impact on his state than allowing the federal government to stay on its current course of mounting debt.


America Learns that Rhetoric Isn't Leadership

Marc Comtois

Andrew Malcolm:

Barack Obama's weakness is thinking he can talk his way in or out of virtually any opportunity or difficulty.

Being a Real Good Talker helped him get the job heading the law review. And entering politics. And succeeding early there, albeit within Chicago's rigged system. And being an RGT thrust him onto the national stage at the Democratic National Convention in 2004 when delegates had the foolish notion that John Kerry and John Edwards could win.

Obama is very proud of his talking....Trouble is, real leadership is more than talking and calling for things. It takes a while, but over time listeners begin to notice rote rhetoric, predictable patterns, empty words.

Dana Milbank
The economy crawls, the credit rating falls, the markets plunge, and a helicopter packed with U.S. special forces goes down in Afghanistan. Two thirds of Americans say the country is on the wrong track (and that was before the market swooned), Obama’s approval rating is 43 percent, and activists on his own side are calling him weak.

Yet Obama plods along, raising gobs of cash for his reelection bid — he was scheduled to speak at two DNC fundraisers Monday night — and varying little the words he reads from the teleprompter.

To the above, Glenn Reynolds adds:
It’s as if, in some sort of national spasm of carelessness and self-deceit, we elected a guy entirely unqualified by experience or personal characteristics to the single most important office in the land, to serve during a period of unusual troubles that he was not equipped to address.
Tough way to learn a lesson, America.



A PolitiFact Social Security Stretch

Justin Katz

One can only wonder whether the Providence Journal's PolitiFact team reads their own newspaper. The other day, they did what they love most to do (whacking Republican candidates) and graded Senatorial candidate Barry Hinckley "false" for saying that "there's no money in Social Security." Theirs is not a new argument — it's one that partisan Democrats have been making for years:

Those who say the fund has no money, or that it has nothing more than a bunch of IOUs from the federal government, are referring to the fact that Social Security doesn't have $2.5 trillion in cash sitting in a vault somewhere. The federal government has loaned the money to itself, using the cash to pay for other expenses.

But these aren't IOUs, which generate no interest. The loan is in the form of special-issue Treasury bonds that earned $117.5 billion in interest in 2010, according to the latest trust fund report.

The reader suspects from PolitiFact's stretched analogy that the Hinckley's point is being deliberately missed:

So maybe a better analogy would be: Saying that Social Security has no money is akin to saying that you're broke if you have 20 cents in your pocket but $20 million in the stock of a heavily leveraged company.

Only if you are the sole proprietor of that company and the company itself is broke. I could draw up papers from Anchor Rising promising me a million dollar bonus, but that doesn't make me a millionaire. Even more: Currently, the government can only pay itself the Social Security IOUs because it borrows almost half of every dollar it spends, making the system not unlike a Ponzi scheme.

Indeed, the folks at PolitiFact should have read this Q&A-style article, which the Providence Journal ran on the first page of its Nation section on July 29:

Q: What about the Social Security Trust Fund? Can't that be used to pay Social Security benefits?

A: No. The government will continue to collect Social Security taxes, but the taxes flow in across the month, while the checks go out at the beginning of the month. Normally, the Treasury advances money to Social Security at the start of each month to pay that month's checks, then gets repaid as the tax money comes in. But the Treasury can't make that advance if it doesn't have cash. And while the Social Security Trust Fund has more than $2.5 trillion in assets, that money is invested in U.S. government securities. Usually, that's a good thing because U.S. government securities are considered the world's safest investment. In this case, it's a problem because if the government doesn't have money, it can't cash in the securities.

It's too bad Hinckley didn't think to cite that article as a source. It would have been amusing to see PolitiFact take it on.


August 7, 2011


... By the Way, Why Is VP Joe Biden Charging Us Rent to Protect Him?

Monique Chartier

$2,200/month, to be more specific.

As Jon Stewart asks ,

How do you collect rent from the guy you depend on to save your life?

"Hey guys, it's August 1. Where's the rent??"

"Oh, oh, I'm sorry. I must have left my checkbook in my other bullet-proof vest."


August 5, 2011


Charting Political Blame for Deficit & Debt

Marc Comtois

Byron York has a piece about how Obama supporters, Democrats, etc. take it as an article of faith that all of our economic woes are due to "the past 8 years" (ie; under President Bush). He provides some numbers from the OMB to refute that charge. In an attempt to provide a picture of what he's talking about, I also went to the OMB for data and came up with the following:

PoliDeficit.JPG

York's analysis (bulleted by me):

* Revenues fell in Bush's first two years because of a combination of the tech bust and the start of the tax cuts. But then things took off...[for]...a 44 percent increase from 2003 to 2007. (Revenues slid downward a bit in 2008, and a lot in 2009, when the financial crisis sent the economy into a tailspin.)

* [T]he Bush administration ran up deficits of $158 billion in 2002; $378 billion in 2003; and $413 billion in 2004. Then, with revenues pouring in, the deficits began to fall...[to] $161 billion in 2007...[which], with the tax cuts in effect, was one-tenth of today's $1.6 trillion deficit....Deficits went up in 2008 with the beginning of the economic downturn -- and, not coincidentally, with the first full year of a Democratic House and Senate.

* When Bush took office in January 2001, the debt was about $5.7 trillion, according to Treasury Department figures....When Bush left office in January 2009, the debt was $10.6 trillion. He had increased the national debt almost....$5 trillion over both terms (...$2 trillion came under a Democratic Congress)....The debt stood at $10.6 trillion when Barack Obama took office in January 2009. Now, it's about $14.4 trillion. The president has increased the national debt nearly $4 trillion in his first two and a half years in office.

As York continues, obviously, Bush did not have a stellar spending record (No Child Left Behind, Prescription Drugs, TSA, etc.). But it's clear that, while both parties had their hands in the cookie jar, when Democrats gained control of everything they basically just turned the cookie jar over.



The Assumptions Underlying Harrop's Insanity

Justin Katz

One would think that members of an editorial staff would offer each other the service of gently warning their coworkers when they near the deep end. Or perhaps Froma Harrop is firmly convinced of the approaching death of newspapers and is effectively auditioning for a part in the far-left blind heat machine.

Granted, her tirade against the Tea Party movement, Republicans, and even President Obama has the incongruent quality of being both inane to the point of offense and unoriginal. It's one thing for a writer with a well-paying publicly visible job to rant like an overly righteous undergrad; it's quite another if she does so with an undergrad's lack of originality, and a column that Jeff Jacoby published in the Boston Globe the same day that Harrop's diatribe ran illustrates that we'd already heard it all. Here's Harrop's version:

Make no mistake: The Tea Party Republicans have engaged in economic terrorism against the U.S. — threatening to blow up the economy if they don't get what they want. And like the al-Qaida bombers, what they want is delusional: the dream of restoring some fantasy caliphate in which no one pays taxes, while the country is magically protected from foreign attack and the elderly get government-paid hip replacements.

Americans are not supposed to negotiate with terrorists, but that's what Obama has been doing. Obama should have grabbed the bully pulpit early on, bellowing that everything can be discussed but not America's honor, which requires making good on its debt obligations. Lines about "we're all at fault" and "Republicans should compromise" are beyond pathetic on a subject that should be beyond discussion.

Oh, please, Mr. Obama, follow Harrop's advice! Better yet, Democrats, please do not hesitate to find a candidate who promises her a taste of the red meat that she knows to be just beyond the rabid foam that coats her lips.

For the sake of finding some way of salvaging intellectual discussion from Harrop's ravings, though, pause for a moment to consider what she must believe to be true in order to come to her conclusions:

In the last half century, Congress has raised the debt ceiling 49 times under Republican presidents and 29 times under Democrats. The votes were cast without drama because the idea of this country defaulting on its debts was unthinkable. This last-minute deal notwithstanding, the dangerous precedent whereby America's promise to pay what it owes can be brought into political play has been set. ...

Republicans are ultimately going to take the rap over this debt-ceiling outrage. The full faith and credit of the United States is not a matter over which reasonable people may disagree, and the larger public knows that in its heart.

Two assumptions must be met for this to be logically consistent, and I don't think the "larger public" shares those assumptions. They're certainly arguable enough that a rational person would restrain her rhetoric when standing upon them to speak (or snarl, as the case is).

First, she assumes that the debt ceiling ought to be little more than a mile marker on the highway — passed with scarcely a notice and signifying nothing of substantial concern. To the contrary, I suspect the average attention-paying American would think it reasonable for the debt ceiling to be, at the very least, a mechanism for generating real political heat whenever elected representatives pass it. This is a "real success" of the Republicans' debt-ceiling maneuvers (albeit inadequate to current challenges), as Charles Krauthammer states:

... because of the Boehner rule — which he invented on his own out of whole cloth in that speech he gave at the New York Economic Club a few months ago in which he said a dollar of debt ceiling increase has to be matched by a dollar of spending cuts (which, Jay Carney is right, there's no logical connection, but now there is a political indelible connection) — every time the debt ceiling will come up, there's going to be a debate in the country. This is a real success.

Second, Harrop assumes that every expenditure of government is akin to an immutable debt resting on the "full faith and credit of the United States." Real cuts to government spending may be difficult, but they can be accomplished without a financial default. One wonders whether the reason that the Fromarian ilk has rattled off its hinges is that they fear a society inclined to reconsider — and force their elected representatives to reconsider — whether government can in fact do everything.

Put differently, they fear a civic process in which it is no longer adequate to force a policy into law — by legislation, by executive order, by bureaucratic regulation, or by judicial decree — but rather, in which paying for that policy and its enforcement must be justified every year.



Downness and the Debt Ceiling

Justin Katz

Yesterday, I gave some thought to shifts in government policy and in American culture that may ultimately be behind our economy's failure to recover satisfactorily. Much like the productive people who have been leaving Rhode Island because they've assessed that the opposition to needed reforms is simply too powerful, many Americans know what must be done but expect it to be near impossible to make it so. In that respect, the debt ceiling was like a small-scale prod at enemy lines to test the strength of its forces.

The standard line among Democrats, and even many Republicans, is that cutting government spending would just be too hard. All of the government's "promises" are sacrosanct — from Medicare to welfare programs to public school funding — and there simply isn't enough waste and fraud to be squeezed out of the system to cover the deficits (even if officials and bureaucrats were inclined to do the squeezing).

To be fair, they've got a point. A look at Kevin Williamson's prescription for government spending cuts shows just how many powerful groups would have to be bucked. That's certain to be a problem with democracy once elected officials realize that they can stitch together bought constituencies. Everybody's going to want their own ox to be the last one gored.

But cutting has to be done. Our government has been operating with a policy-first approach — assuming that the resources will be found to do whatever politicians and their backers think is right. Rhode Island is dying proof of the silent sunset clause in such an approach. If the federal government couldn't even be forced to abide by its already-astronomical borrowing limits — if it couldn't be forced to make honest-to-goodness, non-fudged and actual cuts to projected spending — then what hope is there?

Very little. If we collectively find it to be impossible to cut spending and begin mitigating our reliance on Big Government, it might be beyond impossible to change the cultural problems that underlie our approach to civics. Another bubble may come along and allow us another decade of ignoring the disease, as the Internet and housing bubbles did, but we'd only be worse off for it, in the long run.

As it happens, Mr. Williamson commented, yesterday, to one of my recent posts, saying that he's "given up writing about the deterioration of our culture," because there's "not much left to say." In a final analysis, the deterioration of our culture is the only thing to say. Repeating the common sense analysis of our errors is the only way to make people (gradually, culturally, almost subconsciously) shift their behavior and civic practices. Even if the necessary changes are beyond our society's abilities, right now, ensuring suffering on a massive scale and initiating the risk that our weakness might inspire global-scene-changing actions on the part of other peoples, the right path will be easier to find when we've come back around to it if it is well described.


July 31, 2011


Chicago in the White House

Justin Katz

Michael Walsh characterizes President Obama's leadership style as "the permanent insurgency":

Do nothing, lie in wait, and then counter-attack. Never present a plan if you can possibly help it, but deal exclusively in bromides and platitudes as you stake out the moral “high ground” and get ready to ambush the other guy. Think of it as the Permanent Insurgency campaign.

Walsh goes on with the description, concluding:

So the later Boehner walks into the trap, the quicker Harry Reid trumps him, and the sooner Obama can can declare for the umpteenth time that the time for talk is over, emerge as a hero — and get the debt-ceiling debate safely past the shoals of the next election, which is all he really cares about. Because, in case you hadn't noticed, running for office is the only thing the Punahou Kid knows how to do.

Insurgencies emanating from the top executive office in the country seem likely to be especially dirty.


July 27, 2011


Malkin on the Denouement of the Wu Drama

Monique Chartier

Michelle Malkin's opening paragraph about Congressman Wu's announcement yesterday made posting her column irresistible.

Wu-hoo! Welcome to another freaky ethics fiasco brought to you by the D.C. den of dysfunctional Democrats. This one comes clothed in a Tigger costume, wrapped in blinders and bathed in the fetid Beltway odor of eau de Pass le Buck.

She has a good point about the timing of his departure, by the way.

Liberal David Wu is a seven-term Democratic congressman from Oregon who announced Tuesday that he'll resign amid a festering sex scandal involving the teenage daughter of a longtime campaign donor. He won't, however, be vacating public office until "the resolution of the debt-ceiling crisis." Translation: Call off the U-Haul trucks. Wu's staying awhile.

July 22, 2011


The Senate Still Scamming

Justin Katz

It would appear that the U.S. Senate is in need of some major upsets, the next election cycle:

The plan, released this week by the bipartisan "Gang of Six" senators, punts on many of the most difficult issues, leaving it to congressional committees to fill in the details later. But supporters say it provides a framework to simplify the tax code, making it easier for businesses and individuals to comply while eliminating incentives to game the system. ...

The plan would simplify the tax code by reducing the number of tax brackets from six to three, lowering the top rate from 35 percent to somewhere between 23 percent and 29 percent. That could provide a windfall for wealthy taxpayers because the 35 percent tax bracket currently applies to taxable income above $379,150.

To help pay for lower rates, the plan would reduce popular tax breaks for mortgage interest, health insurance, charitable giving and retirement savings. Other tax breaks would be spared, including the $1,000-per-child tax credit and the earned income tax credit, which helps the working poor stay out of poverty.

All told, the plan would amount to a $1.2 trillion tax increase over the next decade, which means that it's all just a political trick. Worse, it's a trick that would increase taxes on productive, charitable middle class families while decreasing them for the wealthy. (Although, the article hints that capital gains taxes might be in for an increase down the road.)

The Senators are hoping, no doubt, that they'll be able to confuse voters with talk about cutting taxes and simplifying the tax code. If that's the case, however, I think they're underestimating the extent to which Americans are now paying attention to such Rhode Islandish schemes.


July 12, 2011


It's the cuts, stupid

Marc Comtois

It's tedious to follow the debt ceiling/budget deficit wrangling, I know. Around here, we have the ProJo trumpeting tax increases as the "obvious fix" and telling the Republicans "to do what grownups do" while explaining that "the health-care reform law passed last year would have begun to kick in its projected savings for the government" by 2015. Just trust Obama, right? After all, he's proposing $3 in cuts for every $1 in tax increases (or something like that). Really (and a second source)?

Sen. McConnell has been in talks with Obama and Democrats. We wanted to do something serious and big. Yesterday, he asked point blank how much the Biden-led deal would actually cut from next year's budget. Sen. McConnell has been in talks with Obama and Democrats. We wanted to do something serious and big. Yesterday, he asked point blank how much the Biden-led deal would actually cut from next year's budget. The answer he received was $2 Billion, and it's all smoke and mirrors. In exchange, [Democrats] want $1 Trillion in tax hikes. It's not the kind of deal we're at all interested in. We won't accept guaranteed tax hikes in exchange for fantasy future spending cuts. It's not going to happen. We're going to fight like hell to do what we've said we want: Real spending cuts and caps, a vote on a Balanced Budget Amendment, and real entitlement reform. ">The answer he received was $2 Billion, and it's all smoke and mirrors. In exchange, [Democrats] want $1 Trillion in tax hikes. It's not the kind of deal we're at all interested in. We won't accept guaranteed tax hikes in exchange for fantasy future spending cuts. It's not going to happen. We're going to fight like hell to do what we've said we want: Real spending cuts and caps, a vote on a Balanced Budget Amendment, and real entitlement reform.
Got that? $1 trillion in tax hikes now and $2 billion in budget cuts. Yeah, seems fair.


July 5, 2011


Providence used as example of how "Compensation Monster [is] Devouring Cities"

Marc Comtois

Steve Malanga looks at the national problem of cities in over their heads (particularly because of pension promises) and uses Providence (and New Haven, CT) as examples:

Cities are also running out of fiscal alternatives to deal with their deficits. Like states...many cities have used one-shot revenue deals, hidden borrowing, and other gimmicks to bolster their finances. The weak economy has lasted so long, though, that these techniques have been exhausted. To balance its 2010 budget, for example, Providence, Rhode Island, borrowed some $48 million (using its fire stations and headquarters as collateral); it also drained most of its reserve fund, which shrank from $17 million to $2 million in just one year. Moody’s Investors Service and Fitch Ratings subsequently downgraded the city’s bond ratings by two notches, essentially ending its ability to use fiscal gimmicks. But Providence still faces a budget squeeze because its retiree costs amount to 50 percent of tax collections.
Nationally, the rate of growth of such local expenditures outpaced state and federal:
Local governments also helped bring on their current budget nightmares by carelessly expanding hiring and wages in recent boom years. In the decade leading up to the 2008 financial crash, the number of workers for cities, towns, and schools increased 16 percent, even though the country’s overall population grew just 12.5 percent. Wages also increased, and, of course, the hiring frenzy made those pension obligations even worse. The result: over the same decade, the total in wages and benefits that public schools paid to teachers and noninstructional staff (to take one category of public-sector worker) jumped an amazing 72 percent, despite moderate increases in student enrollment.
As Ted Nesi highlighted, albeit over a longer period, local government payrolls increased while state payrolls went down. Some argue that the cuts in state jobs have led to the increases at the local level. But, looking at Nesi's chart, it's obvious the local growth doesn't equate to the state reduction.



Stimulus = $278,000 per job

Marc Comtois

You know they're trying to hide something when they release a report on the Friday afternoon of a long holiday weekend.

[T]he White House’s Council of Economic Advisors, a group of three economists who were all handpicked by Obama...reports that, using “mainstream estimates of economic multipliers for the effects of fiscal stimulus” (which it describes as a “natural way to estimate the effects of” the legislation), the “stimulus” has added or saved just under 2.4 million jobs — whether private or public — at a cost (to date) of $666 billion. That’s a cost to taxpayers of $278,000 per job.

In other words, the government could simply have cut a $100,000 check to everyone whose employment was allegedly made possible by the “stimulus,” and taxpayers would have come out $427 billion ahead.

Of course, that would have removed the ability of bureaucrats and friends of "O" to skim off the top.

ADDENDUM: There was a second part to this post that got "lost" in the interwebs. Honest, I included it first time around. Here it is:

Jake Tapper tweeted that the White House isn't happy with the way the report is being framed, quoting Liz Ozhorn, "a White House spokesman for the stimulus bill":

[T]he Weekly Standard report “is based on partial information and false analysis. The Recovery Act was more than a measure to create and save jobs; it was also an investment in American infrastructure, education and industries that are critical to America’s long-term success and an investment in the economic future of America’s working families. Thanks to the Recovery Act, 110 million working families received a tax cut through the Making Work Pay tax credit, over 110,000 small businesses received critical access to capital through $27 billion in small business loans and more than 75,000 projects were started nationwide to improve our infrastructure, jump-start emerging industries and spur local economic development. The nonpartisan CBO has confirmed that the Recovery Act delivered as promised, lowering the unemployment rate by as much as 2 percent, boosting GDP by as much as 4 percent and creating and saving as many as 3.6 million jobs."
Countering this, Reuters blogger James Pethokoukis tongue-in-cheek tweeted "But what about multiplier effect?" (reference) .

UPDATE: Jim Geraghty notes that, taking the White House "corrective" into account, and using higher employment estimates, then it comes out to $185,000 per job. So much better! Geraghty also notes that the White House is following a new rounding standard:

Also note that the White House does some convenient rounding of their own. In their defense, they state, “The nonpartisan CBO has confirmed that the Recovery Act delivered as promised, lowering the unemployment rate by as much as 2 percent, boosting GDP by as much as 4 percent and creating and saving as many as 3.6 million jobs.”

Actually, that stretches what the CBO actually said. Their report puts the maximum impact on the unemployment rate at 1.8 percent and as low as .6 percent, and that it boosted “(inflation-adjusted) gross domestic product (GDP) by between 1.1 percent and 3.1 percent.”

I'll stress it again: if it was all good, they wouldn't have released it on a Friday afternoon before the holiday weekend. It would have been a prime time speech on July 4th right before the fireworks!


June 29, 2011


About Bachmann's "Founding Father's fought Slavery" statement

Marc Comtois

Apparently we're at the point in Campaign 2012 where we play the game of dissecting political statements for "gotcha moments." The pols have to be ready for the questions, so they should work to make sure they mitigate damage by reading up beforehand. That being said, of all the things to talk to a Presidential candidate about, why focus on interpretations of who exactly was a Founding Father? But, since it was broached....

The question, from ABC's George Stephanopoulos, and Bachmann's answer:

Stephanopoulos: [E]arlier this year you said that the Founding Fathers who wrote the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence worked tirelessly to end slavery. Now with respect Congresswoman, that’s just not true. Many of them including Jefferson and Washington were actually slave holders and slavery didn’t end until the Civil War....

Bachmann: Well if you look at one of our Founding Fathers, John Quincy Adams, that’s absolutely true. He was a very young boy when he was with his father serving essentially as his father’s secretary. He tirelessly worked throughout his life to make sure that we did in fact one day eradicate slavery….

Stephanopoulos: He wasn’t one of the Founding Fathers – he was a president, he was a Secretary of State, he was a member of Congress, you’re right he did work to end slavery decades later. But so you are standing by this comment that the Founding Fathers worked tirelessly to end slavery?

Bachmann: Well, John Quincy Adams most certainly was a part of the Revolutionary War era. He was a young boy but he was actively involved.

First of all, because "some" Founders had slaves doesn't mean that "some" didn't fight against slavery. This isn't an "either or" kinda thing. Besides, someone else offered an opinion on this (H/t)
Who were our fathers that framed the Constitution? I suppose the "thirty-nine" who signed the original instrument may be fairly called our fathers who framed that part of the present Government. It is almost exactly true to say they framed it, and it is altogether true to say they fairly represented the opinion and sentiment of the whole nation at that time. Their names, being familiar to nearly all, and accessible to quite all, need not now be repeated....

In 1784, three years before the Constitution - the United States then owning the Northwestern Territory, and no other, the Congress of the Confederation had before them the question of prohibiting slavery in that Territory; and four of the "thirty-nine" who afterward framed the Constitution, were in that Congress, and voted on that question. Of these, Roger Sherman, Thomas Mifflin, and Hugh Williamson voted for the prohibition...[t]he other of the four - James M'Henry - voted against the prohibition, showing that, for some cause, he thought it improper to vote for it.

In 1787, still before the Constitution, but while the Convention was in session framing it, and while the Northwestern Territory still was the only territory owned by the United States, the same question of prohibiting slavery in the territory again came before the Congress of the Confederation; and two more of the "thirty-nine" who afterward signed the Constitution, were in that Congress, and voted on the question. They were William Blount and William Few; and they both voted for the prohibition...This time the prohibition became a law, being part of what is now well known as the Ordinance of '87....

In 1789, by the first Congress which sat under the Constitution, an act was passed to enforce the Ordinance of '87, including the prohibition of slavery in the Northwestern Territory. The bill for this act was reported by one of the "thirty-nine," Thomas Fitzsimmons, then a member of the House of Representatives from Pennsylvania. It went through all its stages without a word of opposition, and finally passed both branches without yeas and nays, which is equivalent to a unanimous passage. In this Congress there were sixteen of the thirty-nine fathers who framed the original Constitution. They were John Langdon, Nicholas Gilman, Wm. S. Johnson, Roger Sherman, Robert Morris, Thos. Fitzsimmons, William Few, Abraham Baldwin, Rufus King, William Paterson, George Clymer, Richard Bassett, George Read, Pierce Butler, Daniel Carroll, James Madison.

Thanks for clearing that up, Mr. Lincoln.

Is this a stretch? Perhaps, but no more, really, than the gymnastics that Stephanopoulos went through just to get to this point.


June 7, 2011


NPV Would Not Make RI Any More "Relevant"

Carroll Andrew Morse

At least one motivation offered by local supporters of the the National Popular Vote compact, that NPV would lead to more attention for Rhode Island in Presidential elections, makes no sense at all.

George Will explained in a column from about a decade ago how there is no improvement in the relative importance of small states under NPV...

Were it not for electoral votes allocated winner-take-all, would candidates campaign in, say, West Virginia? In 1996 Bill Clinton decisively defeated Bob Dole there 52 percent to 37 percent. But that involved a margin of just 93,866 votes (327,812 to 233,946), a trivial amount compared to what can be harvested in large cities. However, for a 5-0 electoral vote sweep, West Virginia is worth a trip or two.
I also remember Will opining, following the 2000 Presidential election, that if the Bush campaign had had a rough idea about how things were likely to turn out that year, their best strategy for improving their odds under a popular vote scenario would have been to ramp up their turnout machine in the Houston metro area.

You could imagine a similar logic applying if the 2012 election were held under NPV rules, with the Barack Obama campaign deciding in the case of a close race not to seek extra votes in a smattering of small cities across the country, but to devote additional resources to getting every vote possible out of the President's political base in Chicago.

The Houston metro area has about 6 million people in it, and the Chicago metro area has about 9.5 million, while Rhode Island has only 1 million people. There is no serious reason to believe that NPV will suddenly make Rhode Island any less "neglected" in Presidential elections, when NPV makes large urban areas into the places that provide the most efficient possibilities for increasing electoral margins.


May 24, 2011


National Popular Vote Bill Being Heard this Week

Carroll Andrew Morse

One late addition (posted Monday for a hearing Wednesday) to this week's House Judiciary Committee agenda is a bill to have the state legislature disregard the choice made by Rhode Island voters in a Presidential election, and allocate RI's electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote instead. In 2009, a similar bill got out of committee, but was defeated on the House floor by a 28-45 vote. It should be noted, however, the current Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee has expressed support for national popular vote in the past.

Previous Anchor Rising takes on why NPV is a bad idea are available here, here, and here. The legitimate, and constitutional, solution to a perceived problem with the Electoral College is to increase the size of the U.S. House of Representatives.


May 16, 2011


Heads Up, Federal Retirees, Obama and Geithner are Tapping Your Retirement Fund

Monique Chartier

Nothing to worry about, though, it's a loan and not a confiscation. You have no problem lending your retirement to someone who is over fourteen trillion dollars in debt, right ...?

The Obama administration will begin to tap federal retiree programs to help fund operations after the government loses its ability Monday to borrow more money from the public, adding urgency to efforts in Washington to fashion a compromise over the debt.

Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner has warned for months that the government would soon hit the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling — a legal limit on how much it can borrow. With the government poised to reach that limit Monday, Geithner is undertaking special measures in an effort to postpone the day when he will no longer have enough funds to pay all of the government’s bills.


May 1, 2011


A Message Full of Coincidence

Justin Katz

So, as Donald Trump's Celebrity Apprentice headed toward the climactic "you're fired" of tonight's episode, NBC periodically killed the sound to play a jingle and run ticker text about a pending important message from President Obama. The actual interruption came right as the show built up to a crest.

Apparently, Osama bin Laden has been confirmed as dead. I'm not sure if just happened or at some point today, yesterday, last week, but it sure is curious that this big announcement would have to be made on a Sunday night with only an intense twelve minutes remaining on a show produced by a political competitor of the president's.

I wouldn't take this so far as to imply political motives, but it's also very helpful to Mr. Obama, considering unrest about gas and grocery prices and growing dissatisfaction with his military activities.

10:59 p.m.

The President hasn't come on, yet, but the commentators on NBC are making bin Laden's death out to be much more than it really is. He was a symbol, but whether he's been alive or dead has been largely irrelevant for the past six years. The real success of the decade-long war effort is the lack of additional large-scale terror attacks on U.S. soil.

From the commentary, thus far, the administration has been gathering details all day and has the terror master's body.


April 28, 2011


Birtherism Dies an Easy Death

Justin Katz

At the end of a long post describing the ease with which President Obama could have ended the birther controversy long ago, Andrew McCarthy concludes as follows:

So, assuming as we should the legitimacy of the long-form birth certificate produced yesterday, the only thing that makes sense is that Obama knows the mainstream media is in his hip pocket. That is, he knew that he would not be held to the same standard as other politicians, and that if he acted in an unreasonable manner by withholding basic, easily available information that any other person seeking the presidency would be expected — be compelled — to produce, the media would portray as weirdos those demanding the information, not Obama and his stonewalling accomplices. And he also knows that, having now finally produced the document only because the game was starting to hurt him politically, the media will not focus on how easy it would have been to produce the birth certificate three years ago, or on how much time and money has been wasted by his gamesmanship; they'll instead portray him as beleaguered and the people who have been seeking the basic information (i.e., doing the media's job) as discredited whackos.

It's hard to say what's more depressing, Obama's cynicism or the zeal with which the media does his bidding.

One can imagine the media presentation had any given Republican drawn out the saga for so long, let alone a media-loathed figure like Sarah Palin. But when entire segments of society (news media, academia, Hollywood, and so on) are so slanted, politics is a different game depending whether one aligns with them or not.


April 23, 2011


Remember the Good Ol' Days (Before 2006)

Marc Comtois
Hey, remember when gas was $2.20 a gallon and the unemployment rate was 4.4%? What happened with that? …Oh, right, the Democrats won the 2006 Congressional elections.
That observation was made by Moe Lane and picked up by Glenn Reynolds. It's worth promulgating because it's a simple way to point out that what we were told was so bad back in 2006--the Bush Economy (negativity implied)--sure looks a helluva lot better to average Americans now, doesn't it? Then it all changed. Too simplistic? Perhaps. But since when is simplicity out-of-bounds in politics.

April 14, 2011


Budget "Deal" Skullduggery - Shouldn't Have Expected Any Different

Marc Comtois

So that $38.5 billion budget deficit reduction deal? Not really much of anything.

[T]he cuts ...includ[e] cuts to earmarks, unspent census money, leftover federal construction funding, and $2.5 billion from the most recent renewal of highway programs that can't be spent because of restrictions set by other legislation. Another $3.5 billion comes from unused spending authority from a program providing health care to children of lower-income families....the spending measure reaps $350 million by cutting a one-year program enacted in 2009 for dairy farmers then suffering from low milk prices. Another $650 million comes by not repeating a one-time infusion into highway programs passed that same year. And just last Friday, Congress approved Obama's $1 billion request for high-speed rail grants — crediting themselves with $1.5 billion in savings relative to last year.

About $10 billion of the cuts comes from targeting appropriations accounts previously used by lawmakers for so-called earmarks...Republicans also claimed $5 billion in savings by capping payments from a fund awarding compensation to crime victims. Under an arcane bookkeeping rule — used for years by appropriators — placing a cap on spending from the Justice Department crime victims fund allows lawmakers to claim the entire contents of the fund as budget savings. The savings are awarded year after year.

Conservative Republicans and Tea Party faves weren't too jazzed about all of this:
Even before details of the bill came out, some conservative Republicans were assailing it. Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., said he probably won't vote for the measure, and tea party favorite Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., is a "nay" as well.

The $38 billion in cuts, Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., wrote on his Facebook page, "barely make a dent" in the country's budget woes.

In all, only about $352 million in real spending was actually cut. Regardless of the reality of the actual cuts, Mark Steyn observes:
The joke re the original $38.5 billion deal was that, in the time it took to negotiate it, we added as much again in new debt (we’re borrowing about $4 billion a day). We didn’t know the half of it: Never mind negotiating, in the time it takes to type up the bill, we’ve borrowed as much as it “saves”. By the time this thing’s through, the cost of the Secret Service detail lugging the Obamaprompter to whichever grade school he announces the final definitive historic budget “cuts” at will be three times as much as any actual savings.
Just nibbling for show.


April 7, 2011


Wisconsin Watch III

Carroll Andrew Morse

According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Waukesha County's initial tally of its election returns didn't include over 15,000 votes that were cast in the Wisconsin election on Tuesday. With those votes added in, David Prosser now has a 7,000+ vote lead over Joanne Kloppenburg in the state supreme court election.

For the record, here's the observation I made at 12:51 on election night...

Well isn't that special. The number of precincts reporting from Waukesha just jumped to 100%, without the overall total jumping from the last time I checked. 96.5% of precincts in, about a 1,900 vote lead for Prosser.
I assumed at the time it had to do with the county totals and the total total being updated separately, and that someone had forgotten to punch in Waukesha's county level numbers earlier in the evening, but this may have been around the time that the error occurred.



It's Been a Good Decade: Why Public Employees Make So Much of Freezes or Minor Cuts

Marc Comtois

To those of us not in the public sector, it seems outsized when public employees and politicians make so much of temporary pay freezes or a few minor cuts (or reductions in the expected increases!). Red Jahncke adds some context that will help us understand their perspective by explaining how, nationwide, local and municipal government employee compensation has outpaced the private sector. He backs it up with two tables (6.2D and 6.5D) from the National Product and Income Accounts of the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Table 6.2D shows that, nationally, state and local government worker compensation grew 45 percent from 2000 to 2007 — plus another 8 percent in the next two recession years, while private-sector compensation grew only 33 percent from 2000 to 2007 and — surprise, surprise — fell 3 percent in the recession. [Incidentally, the chart also shows that Federal Gov't grew 52% 2000-07, 11.5% during the next two recession years~ed.].

Table 6.5D reveals that, during the 2007-2009 recession, private-sector employment fell by 8 million jobs to a level below its total in 2000, while state and local public-sector employment grew by 185,000 jobs, reaching 1.3 million, or 9 percent, above its total in 2000.

As Jahncke notes, public sector salaries were ahead of private before the Great Recession. He continues:
The 2007- 2009 data speak to the issue of fairness — massive job losses and pay cuts in the private sector, continued job gains and a smart compensation boost in the public sector. In 2010, relatively few jobs were regained in the private sector or lost in the public sector.

And the data for the full decade speak to the issue of sustainability: How can slower-growing private-sector income produce the taxes to fund a public-sector payroll growing at almost twice the pace?

The answer is that it can’t, and it isn’t.

So now we get even Democrats making cuts and both they and the unions think they're making significant sacrifices. Given their experience over the last decade, I can understand why they think that. But they have to understand that the sacrifices they are making now have already been wrung from private sector employees over the last decade. So forgive us if we don't hail them as martyrs for giving some of what they earned--even during the Great Recession--back.


April 6, 2011


Wisconsin Watch Cont'd

Carroll Andrew Morse

Continuation of this post.

[10:40] According to the AP results, 10 of the 12 remaining Milwaukee precincts have come in along with the 8 previously outstanding precincts from Ashland County. Prosser still leads, now by less than 400 votes. One outstanding precinct from Dane County (73-23 Kloppenburg), one from Jefferson County (58-42 Prosser), and six from Sauk County (55-45 Kloppenburg) are potential sources of big swings in a 400-vote margin.

[10:45] Kloppenburg now up, by 140 votes, mostly as the result of Sauk County's remaining precincts. Now the question is whether the remaining Jefferson precinct gives Prosser a margin over Kloppenburg that is 140 votes greater than the remaining Democratic leaning precincts, including 2 from Milwaukee and 1 from Dane (Madison).

[10:55] In one of those the county-level changes while the totals don't occurances that happen from time to time , Dane county now shows all in, with Kloppenburg's lead holding at 140.

[10:59] Kloppenburg now up by over 350. The Jefferson County precinct that is outstanding has to have a large population that breaks big for Prosser for him to retake the lead, plus 2 Milwaukee County precincts are still out. (Note: I don't know how absentee ballots factor into the results at this point)

[2:30] With one precinct left to report, Kloppenburg is up by 206 votes. The one precinct is in Jefferson County, so I'd expect that number to tighten, but something along the lines of a 70-30 Prosser majority from a large precinct would be needed to flip the result.


April 5, 2011


Wisconsin Watch

Carroll Andrew Morse

According to the Associated Press, Joanne Kloppenburg has opened up a slight 4,000 vote lead with 57% of the precincts reporting in the Wisconsin Supreme Court election that will likely decide if Governor Scott Walker's collective bargaining package of laws is allowed to stand.

Looking at the county-by-county results, I am willing to bet that Prosser wins.

[11:20] Prosser now up by almost 20,000 (62% of precincts in) with Waukesha County, a sizeable Republican stronghold, only about 1/4 in. Waukesha's outstanding votes will likely cancel out, at least, the outstanding votes from Milwaukee and Dane (Madison) Counties.

[11:30] Prosser's lead is now less than 1,000 (67% of precincts reporting) because a big chunk of Milwaukee precincts just came in. I stand by my prediction.

[11:35] Kloppenburg now up by 600 votes, 69% of precincts reporting.

[11:40] Kloppenburg is now up by more than 5,000 votes. Dane County (currently 73-23 for Kloppenburg) has 58 precincts yet to report. Milwaukee County (currently 55-45 for Kloppenburg) has 149 precincts yet to report. And Waukesha County (currently 73 - 27 for Prosser) has 146 precincts yet to report.

[11:45] Kloppenburg up by about 7,000. No change in the big 3 county remaining precincts.

[11:53] Kloppenburg still up by more than 7,000 with 77.5% of precincts reporting.

[11:55] On the AP Board, two medium size counties still are showing 0 precincts reporting, Fond du Lac and Grant. Fond du Lac went 54% for McCain in the 2008 Presidential election and Grant went 62% for Obama, if you believe Wikipedia.

[12:00] Kloppenburg now up by about 18,000 votes, presumably due to another influx from Milwaukee. 53 precints left from Milwaukee to report, 58 from Dane, and 79 from Waukesha. Plus 77 from Fond du Lac and 52 from Grant.

[12:05] Big lead now for Kloppenburg, about 35,000 votes. Dane has 41 precincts left to report, Milwaukee and Waukesha unchanged. All but one precinct from Grant is in, but the total number of votes from the county is very small.

[12:11] Hang on folks, this is going to be a nail-biter (as if anyone is actually reading this in real time). Kloppenburg's lead is now cut to about 4,000 with 88.8% of the vote in. Amongst other things, Fond du Lac came in with a 6,000 vote margin for Prosser and 14 Waukesha precincts came in.

[12:15] 89.6% of precincts in, Kloppenburg leads by less than 4,000. 41 precincts from Dane, 29 precincts from Milwaukee, and 73 precincts from Waukesha yet to report. If it's close, the 28 precincts yet to report from Washington County (Wisconsin, not Rhode Island) could have an impact.

[12:25] 90.5% of the vote in. Kloppenburg still with a 3,300 vote lead. But if the numbers from the counties still outstanding roughly parallel their results so far, it still looks good for Prosser.

[12:30] Kloppenburg's lead is now less than 2,000, almost 92% of the vote in. Still 41 precincts from Dane to report, just 13 from Milwaukee, and 73 from Waukesha (currently 73-27 for Prosser). Other counties that could still create noticable swings are Washington, Ozaukee, and Eau Claire.

[12:33] Prosser now on top by less than 1,000 votes. Not coincidentally, 5 precincts from Waukesha County have reported since the 12:30 update.

[12:36] 93.5% of the vote in, Prosser still on top by less than 1,000 votes. But Dane County is now almost tapped out for Kloppenburg, just 5 precincts left to report.

[12:40] As Washington County finishes reporting, Prosser opens up a 4,000+ vote lead with 94% of the vote in (and a big chunk of the remaining vote to come from Waukesha County).

[12:44] About 1/3 of Eau Claire's precincts reporting in have helped Kloppenburg narrow Prosser's lead to less than 2,000 votes.

[12:51] Well isn't that special. The number of precincts reporting from Waukesha just jumped to 100%, without the overall total jumping from the last time I checked. 96.5% of precincts in, about a 1,900 vote lead for Prosser.

[12:59] A few precincts reporting from Milwaukee have put Kloppenburg back on top, by about 1,700 votes, with 96.6% of the vote in. 2 precincts left to report from Dane, 12 from Milwaukee.

[1:02] Now it's Prosser by 5,000, with 97% of all precincts reporting. Not really sure where those votes came from.

[1:15] Prosser has about a 1,600 vote lead, with 2 Democratic leaning counties (Milwaukee and Eau Claire) and one Republican leaning county (Marathon) still with a number of precincts left to report.

[2:00] 98.5% of precincts reporting, according to the Associated Press. Prosser leads by under 1,900 votes. However, almost all of the remainging precincts are from counties that are currently leaning Democratic (Marathon is completely in; Milwaukee has 12 precincts still out; Eau Claire has 21 precincts still out; Ashland County, currently going 71-29 for Kloppenburg, has 6 precincts still out and Sauk County, currently going 55-45 for Kloppenburg, has 8 precincts still out.

[2:20] According to the AP, Eau Claire is now in and has closed Prosser's lead over Kloppenburg to less than 600 votes. The 12 remaining precincts from Milwaukee, plus 1 from Dane and a few others will close the remainder of the gap if they vote in the same proportion as the rest of their counties have so far. Based on this, I now have to give a slight edge to Kloppenburg.


April 2, 2011


Ya Know, the Obama Admin's Word for W*r is Just as Silly as Sarah Palin's

Monique Chartier

Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes to reporters on Air Force One.

“I think what we are doing is enforcing a resolution that has a very clear set of goals, which is protecting the Libyan people, averting a humanitarian crisis, and setting up a no-fly zone,” Rhodes said. “Obviously that involves kinetic military action, particularly on the front end.

Palin during On the Record with Greta van Susteren.

I haven't heard the president say that we are at war. And that's why I, too, am not knowing, do we use the term "intervention," do we use "war," do we use "squirmish," what is it?

Even Jon Stewart was skeptical of the admin's term.

The difference as to intent should also not be ignored. Rhodes was attempting to avoid a word that would underscore the fact that the Obama admin had initiated a bellicose action against another country.

Palin just goofed up.

Semi-related item: Let the record show that it was Jay Severin, just before his suspension this week for unrelated remarks, who first plugged the admin's term into Edwin Starr's song.

Kineticmilitaryaction!

Huh!

(Yeah!)

What is it good for??

Absolutely nothing!

Uh Huh!

Kineticmilitaryaction!

Huh!

(Yeah!)



February 20, 2011


Latest Developments in Wisconsin: Early Reports of Unquantified Concessions; Pre-Mature Floor Votes

Monique Chartier

It is now being reported that, in exchange for leaving inviolate collective bargaining rights, Wisconsin's public labor unions are purportedly ready to discuss monetary concessions. Some newspapers have reported this development as full capituation by the unions on all matters of monetary compensation in the bill. (Let's keep in mind that this would still place their compensation above that experienced by the private sector). That these newspapers may have been overly optimistic, however, becomes clear upon an examination of the actual words uttered.

The Milwakee Journal Sentinel, for example, reports that

[state Senator Jon] Erpenbach said the offer was "a legitimate and serious offer on the table from local, state and school public employees that balances Gov. Walker's budget."

Not, "the unions have agreed to Governor Walkers term's if he will abandon his proposed changes to collective bargaining". No, the union has made an offer that balances the governor's budget. Okay. On what basis does it balance the budget? How much of the offer involves the union's compensation and how much pertains to budget cuts unrelated to the union's contract?

And this, from the Wisconsin State Journal.

Mary Bell, president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council, and Marty Beil, executive director of AFSCME Council 24, said in a conference call with reporters that workers will do their fair share to narrow Wisconsin's budget gap.

Again, not agreeing to Gov Walker's terms; agreeing to take on their "fair share" of the budget gap. What does their vision of "fair share" look like?

Whatever the monetary concession involved, by the way, Governor Walker has declined to omit the language from his bill which would partially restore management rights. Or, to phrase it in public union-speak, the governor refuses to back away from his wholesale attack on collective bargaining and on unions and workers around the world.

An editorial in yesterday's Milkawkee Journal Sentinel correctly draws our attention back to the parties responsible for Wisconsin's budget mess - its prior elected officials.

Walker's predecessors are the real problem here. At least Walker is being honest about the gravity of the problem. Gov. Scott McCallum collateralized a humongous settlement with tobacco companies to plug a big budget hole. Gov. Jim Doyle raided the state transportation fund and the Wisconsin Injured Patients and Families Compensation Fund (which now, under court order, must be repaid). These one-time gimmicks allowed them to ignore the real problem and claim political success. All the while, the cost of Wisconsin's current services exceeded the revenue that was coming in.

I would only add, don't leave out prior Assemblies, who possessed the ultimate power to nix all of these bad budgets and, instead, chose to codify them.

Meanwhile, in the current Assembly, the government geek part of me was fascinated, not to say considerably amused, by an attempt of the House to bring Gov Walker's bill (yes, that bill; the subject of all of this uproar) up for a vote.

In the Wisconsin Assembly on Friday, Republican leaders had called lawmakers to the floor at 5 p.m. to take up Walker's bill to fix a budget shortfall by cutting public worker benefits and bargaining rights. But they began business just before that hour, when Democrats were not yet on the floor.

Democrats charged into the chamber and shouted to stop the action as Republican staff urged their leaders to "keep going, keep going." Republicans took the voice vote, putting the bill in a stage that prevented it from being amended in that house. Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, a Democrat, called the move an "illegal vote" and demanded that Republicans rescind it.

"Unbelievable!" Barca screamed. "Unprecedented! Un-American! Not in keeping with the values of the state! You should be ashamed of yourselves."

Minutes later, Republicans agreed to effectively cancel the vote by allowing the bill to return to a stage in which Democrats can offer amendments.

Fabulous! The drama resumes Tuesday when the Assembly reconvenes, presumably once again sans AWOL dem senators.


February 15, 2011


Polarized Politics

Justin Katz

One hears frequently about the Tea Party extremists who are binding the hands of Republican moderates (I know, I know), but a pull away from center is hardly a GOP phenomenon:

Bell's defection is one of dozens by state and local Democratic officials in the Deep South in recent months that underscore Republicans' continued consolidation of power in the region — a process that started with presidential politics but increasingly affects government down to the level of dogcatcher.

"I think the midterms showed you really can't be a conservative and be a member of the Democratic Party," Bell said.

The much-lamented polarization goes both ways, and one interpretation is that the American people are just not satisfied with the slow drift toward a bureaucratic superstate facilitated by parties of only mildly different flavor.

Another interpretation is that people are trying to pull a leftward-drifting political class back toward the center-right. Either way, the disruption of the old order is not necessarily an unhealthy development. Perhaps we'll wind up with real political competitions rather than elections that merely adjust the speed at which insiders tug the polity in their preferred direction.



At Least RI isn't Hawaii (well, in this instance)

Marc Comtois

What state has the most Democrat dominated legislative body? The Hawaii state senate. Byron York explains:

In Hawaii, there are 25 members of the state Senate. Twenty-four are Democrats. And then there is Sam Slom.

Slom, the lone Senate Republican in the state of President Obama's birth, has represented East Honolulu since 1996. He hasn't always been the only GOP senator; in the last session, there were two. But Republicans fared poorly at the polls in November, and Slom was left alone.

Which means that Democratic bills to increase state spending, to impose new regulations and mandates and to create new government departments are often passed on votes of 24-1. "I represent a point of view that would not be represented," the conservative Slom says, "even if it's just one voice."

There are 15 committees in the Senate. Most Democrats serve on three or four. But to make things bipartisan, Slom -- you may call him Mr. Minority Leader -- has to serve on all 15. That means he spends his days racing from one committee meeting to the next, making sure there's at least one question from a conservative point of view.

So cheer up RI Republicans, it could be worse!


February 11, 2011


Not Your Father's CPAC

Marc Comtois

CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference, is held every year and serves as a sort of bellwether for the conservative movement. According to Roger L. Simon, there was a different twist this year:

The party staged by Andrew Breitbart for GOProud — the gay Republican and conservative group — was as close to a game changer as things get and the most interesting event at CPAC by far, at least to this point — and that’s meant as no insult to CPAC. With sexy Sophie B. Hawkins singing to a boisterous, supportive crowd, the party almost obliterated in one night the conception that Republicans are anti-gay and gave the impression that young libertarians — and some not so young — are taking over the GOP. Pretty soon it may be cool to be a Republican and square to be a Democrat.
Simon does check himself for possibly being a bit hyperbolic, but that libertarians seem to be taking over CPAC--Ron Paul is an annual crowd-pleaser--is an interesting development. Meanwhile, more socially conservative groups opted not to attend CPAC this year.



Tea Party House Members Demand--and get--More Cuts

Marc Comtois

It shouldn't go unremarked upon that the Tea Party Republicans in the US House of Representatives took a stand and prevailed earlier this week.

The revolt of freshman and conservative Republicans over spending cuts for this fiscal year ended almost before it began, because it prevailed so rapidly. The rebellion started in rumblings back in the lawmakers’ districts; gathered in the defiance of Republican dissenters on the appropriations committee; and reached full force at yesterday’s conference meeting, knocking GOP leaders back on their heels and quickly convincing them to give in to the Tea Party’s demands.

“We may be freshmen, we may be rookies in this game,” says Rep. Steve Womack (R., Ark.). “But there is no question that the leadership respects our opinion.”

GOP freshmen were frustrated when, earlier this month, House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) released his proposal to cut $58 billion in non-security spending for the remainder of the fiscal year. Perhaps more than anything, they were confused. To begin with, it wasn’t exactly clear how much money they were planning to cut — in addition to Ryan’s $58 billion, the numbers $74 billion, $43 billion, and $32 billion were floating around. It seemed that few could agree, because it depended on what baseline and category of spending you were using.

Whatever the actual figure, it was short of the $100 billion Republicans had promised to cut in the “Pledge to America.”

So they blocked the measure and took on the leadership and prevailed. That's why they were sent there. Hopefully, the message has been received by the old guard. Things do indeed look to be different this time around.


February 8, 2011


Harrop's Crocodile Tears

Marc Comtois

On Sunday, ProJo columnist Froma Harrop (I know, I know....) cried crocodile tears over the loss of the Moderate Republican.

I used to vote for select Republicans running for national office. That’s become next to impossible because Tea Party groups have pushed GOP leaders to treat any cooperation with the Democratic foe as abject surrender. You might like your Republican, but your Republican is no longer free to act his or her conscience without being called all kinds of things.
Its because of the populist Tea Partiers, you see. You just can't practice the ol' noblesse oblige like ya used to!
[B]oy, it’s painful to see grown statesmen cower at the commands of puffed-up “revolutionaries” inflicting damage on their party, never mind the country...I want a two-party system that offers acceptable choices. And I want a political leadership that can do America’s business without having to sate the populist passions of folks unacquainted with economic realities or the art of compromise.
Now, the Democrats have the right idea, right? Moderates still thrive in the Democratic Party, what with the Democratic Leadership Council...oh, wait....
The Democratic Leadership Council, the iconic centrist organization of the Clinton years, is out of money and could close its doors as soon as next week, a person familiar with the plans said Monday.

The DLC, a network of Democratic elected officials and policy intellectuals had long been fading from its mid-'90s political relevance, tarred by the left as a symbol of "triangulation" at a moment when there's little appetite for intra-party warfare on the center-right.

There are also a lot of conservative Democrats fleeing to the GOP. Of course, most of those are from the South (that's why they're called "conservative" and not "moderate", incidentally) and that just doesn't count in Harropia. (Like the moderate Democrats who may be going after the individual mandate in Obamacare). The truth is that there are ideologues on both ends of the political spectrum who have always made life difficult for the middle-of-the-roaders. Plus, Harrop's problem is related to her basic misconception of what moderate really is: the country is more conservative than not, after all, so real moderates are more conservative than she allows.

ADDENDUM: Michael Barone has more thoughts.


January 29, 2011


The Message We Heard

Justin Katz

I suspect that those of you who watched the state of the union speech heard it recited similarly to this:

(via the Corner)


January 26, 2011


Impressions on the State of the Union

Marc Comtois

So what were my impressions of President Obama's State of the Union speech? Don't have any. Didn't watch it and had a pleasant night. These things have way jumped the shark and long-ago devolved into an inside-the-beltway circle jerk dominated by the post-game spinmeisters trying to tell you what it all "really" means. It took me a few years to come around--and over the last few years I've felt it was my duty as a blogger to watch 'em--but now I've decided I've just got more interesting things to do besides wasting an hour watching the annual laundry-list read. Although, I do have one question: Sputnik?


January 25, 2011


The State of the Rhetoric

Justin Katz

The first state of the union speech that I'm aware of having watched was one given by President Bill Clinton, and I remember being astonished at his series of promises to everybody. All hands out would be filled. Such speeches are little more than political drama, pumped by media organizations looking for some easy, pre-generated headlines.

It would be different if the speech were more of what one might expect of an annual presentation by the President before the legislature: A reckoning and one-night-only declaration of truth and principle. Instead, predictably, it's all about how everything that the President has done has been wonderful and successful... but the work's not done, so he's got to do a lot more. And so on.

Personally, I'm way too busy to sit down for that sort of civic obligation. If I'm going to devote my limited time to pure drama, I want it at least to be entertaining.


January 15, 2011


A Promise to Watch For

Justin Katz

Among the articles on my list to mention is this profile of House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R, CA) from the December 20 National Review. To be honest, I haven't had a chance to investigate the progress of the following promise (and it's not something that I'd expect the mainstream media to promote), but it's a worthy one, and it's worth watching:

"When I was in the minority, I saw what the majority did to destroy debate on the floor," McCarthy sighs. "Bills got written in the back of a room by a select few. In the last two years, we haven't even had an 'open rule,' which enables amendments to be offered. That model is over: My job is to ensure that good policy gets through — encouraging an honest debate, where all members, Republicans and Democrats, are equal."

McCarthy promises to immediately usher in a new operating culture on the House floor. "Any member will be able to offer an amendment on a spending bill," he says. "We will open up the floor, not only for both parties, but for the American people to get involved in the process. That'll lead to the best legislative product. From cameras in the Rules Committee to putting bills online at least 72 hours before a vote, we will enable people to know what's happening, read the bills, and understand the debate. Better ideas will emerge, and the process will keep leadership power in check. It'll be a healthy change."

McCarthy emphasizes that both Boehner and Cantor have been nothing but supportive of his sunshine-centric approach. "Looking at how many freshmen there are, and knowing so many of them, it's clear that they are the closest thing to a direct message from the American people. We get that," he says.


January 14, 2011


Romney Flashes

Monique Chartier

RealClearPolitics reports that he has chosen a political director (what the heck is that??) and a pollster.

The Boston Globe reports that, on Tuesday, he resigned from the Board of Directors of the Marriott.

Meanwhile, as we speak, Mitt Romney is on an educational tour in the Middle East.

And a poll taken last week in New Hampshire of 1,400+ likely Republican voters gives him a substantial lead in that state's fabled (overblown?) primary.


January 11, 2011


When Who You Are Is an Insult

Justin Katz

Speaking of propaganda, here's an interesting political whack from the gay-issues Washington Blade:

"No doubt [David Cicilline] will carry on the record of retiring Rep. Patrick Kennedy in ensuring Rhode Island's first district is represented by an effective congressman in promoting equality for all people," Cole said.

Cicilline defeated John Loughlin, a Rhode Island State Assembly member, who was accused by some of using gay-baiting tactics late in the campaign. Loughlin ran ads emphasizing that he's a husband and a father — possibly a reference to the fact that Cicilline is gay and single — and defended "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" during a debate.

Yes, you heterosexual breeders, simply by being proud of your family — by noting your adherence to the family structure on which Western Civilization advance was based — you are engaging in sly "gay-baiting tactics." What that assertion will translate into in a culture with same-sex marriage as the pervasive law of the land, one can only imagine. No doubt, traditionalists who refer to their spouses' opposite gender (by using the words "husband" and "wife") will be seen as insinuating bigotry.

Not recalling any instance of "gay baiting," or even of somebody accusing him of it, I asked Loughlin what the Blade might be referring to. All he could think of was this article in... the Washington Blade:

But in the final weeks of the campaign, Loughlin has made several statements that could be considered digs at Cicilline based on his sexual orientation.

In a "Voice of the Candidate" clip that aired on a local NBC affiliate in Rhode Island, Loughlin repeatedly mentions that he is a father and a husband — possibly a reference to the fact that Cicilline is gay and single.

"I've been married for 23 years to my wife, Susan, and we have two daughters," Loughlin says. "I know about the struggles of working families in Rhode Island because I'm part of one. I've had to worry about how to pay for dance lessons, summer camp and all the extras that come from raising children."


January 4, 2011


A Couple of Questions on the Debt Ceiling

Justin Katz

What's the point of a debt ceiling if Congress is going to spend in such a way as to make changing it obligatory? And shouldn't it require a vote to change the debt ceiling before enacting policies that will certainly exceed it?

The federal debt is limited to $14.3 trillion, but the debt now stands at nearly $13.9 trillion and is growing daily. Congress last raised the debt ceiling in February 2010 and is expected to consider raising it again as early as March. ...

Austan Goolsbee, the chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said that refusing to raise the debt ceiling would essentially push the country into defaulting on its financial obligations for the first time in its history.

"The impact on the economy would be catastrophic," Goolsbee told "This Week" on ABC. "That would be a worse financial economic crisis than anything we saw in 2008."

I don't believe Goolsbee's analysis; the U.S. government and the U.S. economy are not (yet) synonymous. Holding legislators and executives to a maximum budget — and the debt ceiling is a fail-safe beyond an actual in-the-black budget — will just require them to change their policies and reduce their waste. If they refuse to do these two things, then they are the ones causing the catastrophe.


December 27, 2010


Not Back to the Partisan Script

Justin Katz

The question could be posed, it would seem, whether Ross Douthat is more broadly representative in his apparent desire to return to the two-party script (emphasis added):

But in the past month of lame-duck activity, we've witnessed a return to political normalcy. The Republican midterm sweep delivered the coup de grace to the liberal fantasy by dramatically foreshortening what many pundits expected to be an enduring Democratic majority. But it also dropped a lid, at least temporarily, on the conservative freakout. (It's hard to fret that much about the supposed Kenyan-Marxist radical in the White House when anything he accomplishes has to be co-signed by John Boehner.)

Boehner should beware of listening to the pundits. He is not sufficient to "co-sign" objectionable legislation from the Democrats because his elevation as a balance to them is provisional. The Tea Party wave has no illusions that establishment Republicans are sincerely in step with them, and those who've pushed it forward can be quite recalcitrant when the subject comes up of trusting in the necessity of the GOP's brand of compromise.

Douthat gives the impression that, above all, partisan incumbents are now on safer territory. They are not.


December 17, 2010


The altered terms of the political debate in America

Donald B. Hawthorne

It is the day after the 237th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party. How appropriate.

Over most of our lifetimes, the terms of the political debate were centered around who would give more goodies to the American people. Human nature being what it is, most people gladly took whatever the government gave them. Few thought seriously about the coercive nature of those governmental actions and how they created new behavioral incentives that altered future outcomes, adversely impacting our political and economic liberties. The Democrats regularly won that debate against what I used to call the (former Republican minority leader in the House) Bob Michel Republicans who offered no alternative visions of liberty and the proper role of government in our lives. The Republicans lost in large part because all they stood for was Democrat-lite spending. When you can have the whole thing, why settle for a partial handout?

Then, at points during the last decade, Republicans in the White House and Congress decided to spend like drunks and do some bailouts. From a branding standpoint, the impact was significant because the differences between the two parties on domestic economic issues became largely indistinguishable. At least until Obama, Reid and Pelosi took over.

The Obama administration and Democratic Congress during the last two years made everyone else before look cheap by comparison via their massive governmental spending increases, trillion dollar deficits, unaccountable czars, aggressive regulatory actions, and governmental bailouts or takeovers of various parts of the economy - especially Obamacare.

The impact of the overreach was two-fold:

First, by trying to have the government take over control of many parts of our life via aggressively statist policies, the American people's instinctive love of liberty arose in rebellion.

Second, the trillion dollar deficits for as far as the eye can see - together with the looming bankruptcies of Social Security, Medicare, and certain states and local governments, including their pension programs - merged with the visible consequences of similar spending/debt crises in Europe to raise the specter that there could be ultimate financial consequences to our country's well being in the not-so-distant future that would destroy the America we know and eliminate the American Dream for our children and their children.

The net effect is that the terms of the political debate in America were fundamentally altered in recent times, culminating so far in the 2010 election results, the mandate in Obamacare being declared unconstitutional, and rejection of this week's omnibus bill in the Senate. The debate is no longer about who can hand out more goodies. The debate is now about liberty and financial solvency.

What we don't yet have answers to is exactly how the altered debate will translate into truly different outcomes. Will there be a modified public understanding of the proper role of government in our lives and what new government policies would be required to reflect that modified role? Or is there still enough status quo inertia that we will hurtle off a cliff and be forced to live with financial insolvency and statist public policies that continue to take away our liberty?

It is also not yet clear whether either major political party is capable of adapting to the new terms of the political debate. If they cannot, their role in national politics will be marginalized over time because the status quo is unsustainable. There will likely be much turmoil before it all settles out but I am hopeful that, as part of the oft-messy process of change, there can be a great reawakening of our body politic that helps us rediscover the true meaning of liberty and develop a deepened attachment to the limited and constitutional government principles given to us by our Founders. We all have to admit that there has never been a period during our lifetimes with more public discussion about the US Constitution and its meaning.

As lovers of liberty, our obligation is to contribute regularly to this ongoing civic debate by offering both reasoned philosophical ideas - as we seek to persuade people who are open to such exchanges - and new policies - where we are prepared to do battle in the political trenches, as necessary, to implement the ideas.

Continue reading "The altered terms of the political debate in America"

December 16, 2010


Tabulating Rhode Island's FY2011 Federal Earmarks

Marc Comtois

For those interested, HERE is a working list of all of the earmarks contained in the lame duck FY2011 budget. I assume it will be continually updated as required (hence, the "working"). I've also broken out the RI earmarks from messr's Reed, Whitehouse, Langevin and Kennedy and you can download it HERE.

All told, according to the latest info, RI's Congressional delegation has requested $53,625,000, broken down as follows:

* Approximately $41.4 million tabbed for Department of Defense projects
* $2.65 million is tabbed for EPA--particularly wastewater improvement projects--and Parks Service projects
* $2.5 million for economic development projects (broadly defined) with money going to the John H. Chafee Center for International Business, Rhode Island School of Design and URI
* Approximately $7.12 million is going to various projects under the Dep't of Labor, HHS, & Education.


December 12, 2010


Persuasion by Proxy President

Monique Chartier

Despite a day that was keeping me on the jump Friday, I got to listen to Fred Thompson at the moment when, in his low key way, he was suggesting a more conciliatory way (in contrast with the approach taken by President Obama) that the president could have presented the unemployment-bennies-for-tax-rate-extension compromise legislation.

Such an approach would include a recitation of advantageous points about the bill to be preceeded by the caveat that

This bill is not perfect but...

In retrospect, the only flaw with this advice is that Thompson failed to specify which president should make this case.

Former President Bill Clinton made a surprise appearance Friday afternoon to speak on behalf of President Obama’s tax deal he recently struck with Republicans. The deal extends the Bush tax cuts that affect all household, even the ones that make the most income. ...

Clinton told reporters that he thought the deal was a good one and that there was not anything else out there any better.

And

There's never a perfect bipartisan bill in the eyes of a partisan," Clinton said. "But I really believe this will be a significant net-plus for the country."

Er, yes. Perhaps next time, however, we can advance to a tableau of President Obama out there solo but with a discreet earpiece to catch Coach Clinton's quiet promptings (and then eventually, out there sans earpiece) so as to preserve the image of the current president being ... well, the current president.


November 30, 2010


Step Increases in Federal Pay or How to get a raise while your pay is frozen

Marc Comtois

President Obama, triangulating his way to 2012, has proposed to freeze federal employee pay for 2 years. Given that said employees have received raises throughout the current recession, it's probably about time. But let's not forget those step increases! As regular AR readers know, year to year, each unionized employee moves up a job "step" and receives a pay bump--what many would consider a "raise". In union-speak, just going up a step isn't a raise; a "real" raise is the percent increase in each step from year to year. Last year, for instance, federal workers saw a pay increase of 1.5% (PDF).

Each GS level has ten steps, with varying built in raises. For instance, according to the basic General Service (GS) table, a GS-10 receives a $1,526 increase for each step. So, if you were at step 9 in 2010, you received a base salary of $57,979. Next year, with no raise (per se), you will move to step 10 and your base salary will increase to $59,505. That's the kind of pay freeze I'd like to have! Yet, the Federal Employee union heads and liberals are caterwauling because President Obama proposed a 2% raise in March, which, for example, would have increased the GS-10 step increases to around $1,556 (around $30/step). So instead of making $59,505, our fictional GS-10 at step 10 could have been making about $59,535. Yup, 30 bucks less of a raise than one that was once mentioned is what has 'em up in arms.

“Of course, he’s playing politics,” said Derrick Thomas, a national vice present of the American Federation of Government Employees. Thomas oversees the federation’s 2nd District, which represents 100,000 federal workers in New England, New York and New Jersey. “He’s caving in to the Republicans, to the Cato Institute, to the Heritage Foundation, at the expense of his workers.

“It’s really disappointing.”

A pay freeze could affect thousands of federal employees for years to come as their retirement benefits are dependent on the “High 3,” the highest average basic pay they earn during any three consecutive years of federal service.

“I don’t think it’s quite right; we’re going to get slammed with that,” said Roland B. Sasseville, the current Pawtucket chapter president of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association. “If they freeze it now, [federal workers] are going to have a lull in their earnings.”

“Today’s announcement ... is bad for the middle class, bad for the economy and bad for business,” said Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO.

Don't let them fool you, their unionized workers are still getting raises. As for the non-union federal workers, this 2 year pay freeze is small potatoes after uninterrupted pay increases during the last decade or so, regardless of inflation or recession.


November 28, 2010


Money Out, Money In

Justin Katz

Ian Donnis makes an interesting observation:

Cicilline and other Democrats have been out front in decrying the US Supreme Court's decision in the Citizens United case, which unleased a new wave of 527 spending.

But US News recently found that five of the seven biggest super PACs this year supported Democrats.

The storyline one often hears from Democrats opposed to Citizens United is that evil corporate sources will unleash their financial heft to overwhelm the kind, sweet efforts of regular ol' voters, but clearly, the Left is not without its moneyed special interests. Indeed, it typically seems to be the case that Democrats are the larger beneficiaries when bigger money is allowed into campaign battles.

That makes sense, in a general way. As a group, those who would advocate for larger government stand to profit more from their investment in the party that favors it than the party that, if not opposing it, favors it less.

Why, then, do Democrats oppose change to campaign finance law that appear to benefit them disproportionately? Principle is probably part of it, in some cases, just as it is by principle that conservatives might oppose restrictions on campaign finance even though their side might be harmed more greatly by them. It appears more likely, by my lights, that Democrats and the Left are content with the imbalance that they have built up in areas immune to campaign finance (mainstream media, union activism, and so on). Perhaps, as well, they've been receiving the now-disclosed money all along through channels that are not so easily traced.


November 25, 2010


Bobby Jindal: Make Congress Part Time

Monique Chartier

Gov Jindal of Louisiana puts forth this excellent proposal in an interview with former Rhode Islander and current Human Events editor Jason Mattera. Amazingly, it doesn't even appear to be unconstitutional as the Constitution does not specify the duration of a Congressional session.

A determination of what comprises "part time" would have to be made. One month per year sounds good to me but I'm open to other suggestions. Under this proposal, members of Congress need not worry about a loss of base remuneration. They would keep their current salaries because, as Jindal points out,

We used to pay farmers not to grow crops

Similarly, we'd be a lot better off if we paid Congress not to legislate.

Concurrently, congressional staffing levels would have to be cut way back. There'd be no point in making our elected representatives part time if a full-time, non-elected bureaucracy remains in the Capitol to make mischief that can be swiftly gaveled into law when the witching month arrives.


November 20, 2010


I'm Sure Nothing Like This Goes on in Rhode Island

Justin Katz

It's all about protecting the establishment — Republican or Democrat:

[Alaskan Republican Joe Miller's] campaign has posted on their site three affidavits from voters concerned that irregular activity occurred at their polling places. One says that, although he was the tenth voter at his location, he saw a ballot box stuffed with "hundreds" of ballots. Another claims that the 15 write-in ballots she reviewed had Sen. Lisa Murkowski written in in what looked like similar enough handwriting that it could be from the same person.

There's more. And liberal radio host Shannyn Moore notes a different kind of irregularity:

Despite heavy national media coverage and historic Citizens United money spent on Alaska’s hotly contested and much-watched three-way US Senate race, the results, if we are to believe them, were a surprisingly low voter turnout. In fact, this election was one of the lowest turnouts since they started tracking ballots cast versus registered voters in the mid-1970s.

It's almost as if the circumstances were massaged to make it possible for a once-a-century write-in candidacy success. The Alaskan Republican Party is asking Miller to concede, naturally.


November 19, 2010


A Cautionary Note for Republicans

Justin Katz

A self-reinforcing ailment appears to be involved with Nancy Pelosi's retention of her leadership role in the U.S. House:

"She is the face that defeated us in this last election," declared Florida Rep. Allen Boyd, who was among those who lost re-election fights. However, Pelosi, who presided over big Democratic gains in the 2006 and 2008 elections, remains popular among the liberals who dominate her caucus more than ever. Dissident moderates could not find enough votes to force her aside.

In fact, the Democrats kept their entire leadership team intact despite election losses that President Barack Obama called "a shellacking." They elected Steny Hoyer of Maryland to keep the No. 2 post and Jim Clyburn of South Carolina to hold the third-ranking position, which will be renamed "assistant leader."

As Democrats in less-liberal districts lose their seats with the shift of independents back toward Republicans, the liberals' voice in the national party will become more overwhelming. That doesn't mean that certain scenarios wouldn't lead them back to dominance of the House, but it does mean that the competition will remain the Republicans' to lose. Americans, generally, don't like what they've seen in the Democrat Left.

Republicans should learn an additional lesson. Among the reasons they lost Congress and the Presidency over the last decade was their drift from principles of limited, transparent government. Sticking to that unifying theme doesn't mean — as libertarians, liberals, and "moderates" like to aver — that elected officers should suppress the issues of their conservative base. But it does mean that conservatives shouldn't allow short-term victories on their issues to overwhelm the message or the practice. They can and should work to control immigration, stop the advance of same-sex marriage, and end the practice of abortion, for example, but they shouldn't, like the Democrats, throw the rules of government out the window and ignore clear messages from voters in the process.



Frustrated Populism

Marc Comtois

Charles Krauthammer summarizes why touching our junk has become a tipping point:

Homeland Security's newest brainstorm - the upgraded, full-palm, up the groin, all-body pat-down. In a stroke, the young man ascended to myth, or at least the next edition of Bartlett's, warning the agent not to "touch my junk."

Not quite the 18th-century elegance of "Don't Tread on Me," but the age of Twitter has a different cadence from the age of the musket. What the modern battle cry lacks in archaic charm, it makes up for in full-body syllabic punch.

Don't touch my junk is the anthem of the modern man, the Tea Party patriot, the late-life libertarian, the midterm election voter. Don't touch my junk, Obamacare - get out of my doctor's examining room, I'm wearing a paper-thin gown slit down the back. Don't touch my junk, Google - Street View is cool, but get off my street. Don't touch my junk, you airport security goon - my package belongs to no one but me, and do you really think I'm a Nigerian nut job preparing for my 72-virgin orgy by blowing my johnson to kingdom come?

With regards to airport security in particular, it is Krauthammer's last point addresses the chief annoyance about our current system. Others have noted that the TSA "provides far more security theater than security" as it proceeds with a politically correct approach that treats everyone as a suspect--including 10 year old girls, grandmothers and nuns--while refusing to apply even the most basic of profiling. Many have mentioned the Israeli approach and, having been through that particular process myself, I can attest that it is both effective and reassuring, but it can be very time consuming (especially if you're a single male--of any race--traveling alone). So, I'm not sure if that can be extrapolated to a U.S. scale. The bottom line is that there has to be a better way than what we're doing now.

Krauthammer's larger point is that this airport security brouhaha is the latest in a pattern of "Big" everything (government, business, brother) pushing around average Americans, who've had just about enough, thank you. Americans are mad as hell and are starting to lash out at anything they perceive as ridiculously hypocritical or antithetical to common sense. Like entities that benefit from a different rule set--from Wall Street bankers to government employees to health care waivers--than they do. Or like looking up a nun's habit but not screening cargo from Yemen. The resulting mood, frustrated populism if you will, isn't going to go away any time soon.


November 16, 2010


A Moratorium on Controversy Requires Postponement of Change

Justin Katz

So a group of gay conservatives and some Tea Party figures are urging the Republican Party to keep away from social issues while they've got a role in untangling our big-government mess. One particular comment highlights, in a humorous way, the strange assumptions that social liberals make about the universality of their causes:

"When they were out in the Boston Harbor, they weren't arguing about who was gay or who was having an abortion," said Ralph King, a letter signatory who is a Tea Party Patriots national leadership council member, as well as an Ohio co-coordinator.

I'd suggest that anybody who'd been openly gay or advocating for abortion may very well have found himself in the water with the tea. The notions that governments should redefine marriage to eliminate its opposite-sex character and that people had an unassailable right to kill their own children in the womb would not have come up because the would have been found universally appalling.

This is not to say that our forebears, right on taxation and representation, were necessarily correct in their social views. But unity on civic matters is easier to separate from social matters when there's already cultural unity on the latter.

What this means for current conservatives is that the libertarian types cannot expect their socially conservative allies to tie their own hands while liberals advance their own causes. What it must mean not "to act on any social issue" is that libertarians and social conservatives must accept the status quo and work together to prevent attempts at radical change while the economic and political-theory issues are predominant.

That'll be a tough promise to keep. After all, judges must still be appointed, and social conservatives, with an eye on the long term, will not forgo the opportunity to change the judiciary's take on Roe v. Wade. On the other side of the coin, the persistence of liberals on such issues as same-sex marriage may require social conservatives to seek a Constitutional amendment just to maintain the current state of affairs.

What libertarians and "moderates" usually intend when they urge conservatives to hold off on "pushing" social issues is for liberals to keep up the fight for their shared causes while conservatives sit on their hands. That's not likely to prove feasible.


November 13, 2010


Hitchens Splendidly Rips Apart the President's "Enemies" Remark

Monique Chartier

... twelve days ago in Slate.

Keep in mind that this dissection is carried out by a supporter of President Barack Obama. Christopher Hitchens voted for the president and, elsewhere in this article, states his readiness to defend the president and his policies during the campaign. (Hitchens points out that he was pre-empted from doing so by ... well, the president's inexplicable unwillingness to do so himself).

Much worse, though, was the president's remark last week, made on a Univision radio show, in which he expressed disappointment with Spanish-speaking voters who proposed to "sit out the election instead of saying, 'We're gonna punish our enemies and we're gonna reward our friends who stand with us on issues that are important to us.' " Almost everything is wrong with this statement. The first is its awful tone: a crude appeal to ethnicity and to a spoils system of reward and punishment with which to accompany it. The second is the unspoken but highly dubious assumption that Americans (or future Americans) of Mexican and Cuban and Guatemalan and Salvadoran origin can all be collectivized under the lump headings of Hispanic or Latino. The third is the patronizing supposition that this putative bloc is somehow owned by the Democratic Party. And the fourth—to restate my objection above—is that it legitimizes any politician who couches his or her appeal in ethnic or tribal or confessional terms. Again, and whoever opens it, such an auction will always be won by the sectarians. Why, it could almost be called divisive.

November 12, 2010


Where the Jobs Are

Marc Comtois

First, according to USA Today:

The number of federal workers earning $150,000 or more a year has soared tenfold in the past five years and doubled since President Obama took office...Federal workers earning $150,000 or more make up 3.9% of the workforce, up from 0.4% in 2005....Since 2000, federal pay and benefits have increased 3% annually above inflation compared with 0.8% for private workers, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.
Second, Newsweek reveals that 7 of the 10 richest counties in America are suburbs of Washington, D.C.

I'm sure this is just a coincidence.


November 10, 2010


What a difference: Chafee versus Christie

Donald B. Hawthorne

RI governor-elect Chafee.

NJ governor Christie.

Night and day.

Prepare yourself for the next generation of Kremlin-style lies from the RI NEA and recall how Anchor Rising publicly destroyed their lies several years ago in East Greenwich - here and here.

ADDENDUM #1:

More Christie here, here, here, and here. You just have to watch the videos to get the full sense of Christie's leadership in difficult times.

This public sector union response to Christie should not surprise you.

RI has a choice over the direction of its destiny. Will it eventually choose a courageous path (more here) or simply continue with the status quo as the state hurtles toward the cliff?



Letting People Help Themselves, and Each Other

Justin Katz

The line that I've italicized from an article by John Miller that profiled then-Senate-candidate Marco Rubio in an October issue of National Review helps to explain why Rubio won, and why conservatives are so excited about it:

Rubio's favorite subject is American exceptionalism. It's at the heart of virtually everything he says, whether he's addressing a classroom of college students at Southeastern University in Lakeland or trying to summarize his candidacy in the one minute Univision allotted for closing remarks. "America is not just different, America is better," he says. "People didn't vote for a left-of-center, Western European social democracy — and that's not what Obama sold us, either." He warns that if the United States stays on its present course, debt and taxes will sap the entrepreneurial spirit that has defined it from the start. "Big government doesn't hurt the people who have it made," he says. "Big government wipes out the people who are trying to make it."

We've particular reason to take that assertion to heart, in Rhode Island, because the policies that are strangling the state aren't harming the very wealthy (as local progressives like to claim) so much as the young and ambitious who wish to build something for themselves, their families, and their communities. As a consequence, such people have been fleeing the state for years, and there's no hope of recovery unless that trend is reversed.


November 9, 2010


Winning Without Winning

Justin Katz

Jeffrey Anderson offers some context for the Senate election results:

In the midst of a resounding national rebuke at all levels of government, the Democrats have been taking some solace in having held the Senate. But to put the Republicans' Senate gains this week into perspective, Republicans won an even higher percentage of Senate races than House races (they won 65 percent of the 37 Senate races, versus approximately 56 percent of the 435 House races). And, counting Lisa Murkowski as still being a Republican (a spokesman for her campaign says the Alaskan would caucus with the GOP if she beats Joe Miller in their still-undecided race), there have been only two elections since 1950 in which Republicans have gained more Senate seats than the six they gained in 2010. One of those elections was in 1980, when voters swept Ronald Reagan into the White House. The second was in 1994, in response to the Democrats' ill-advised attempts to pass Hillarycare. So while the Republicans' gains in the House — surpassing those of 1994 and likely doubling those of 1980 — are more historic and important, the GOP's Senate pickups in 2010 aren't too shabby either.

Yes, the Tea Party wave did sweep Christine O'Donnell through the Republican primaries in Delaware and Republicans away from ultimate victory, there, but such outcomes are periodically inevitable when a movement raises principle at least to parity with political calculation. As Anderson notes: take away the enthusiasm that elevated O'Donnell, and you take away the enthusiasm that won the House and brought near-historic gains the Senate.

Now the task is for the Republican Party to follow suit and lead rather than calculate.


November 8, 2010


Clarity

Donald B. Hawthorne

Glenn Reynolds writes:

With the election over, Republicans are arguing about whether they should address Democrats via compromise, or confrontation. Both have their places, but I have a different suggestion.

Clarity.

With the deficit and the debt ballooning, with the economy remaining in the tank, and with tough choices on the horizon, what Americans need more than anything is clarity about what those choices involve, about who is making them, and about who is avoiding them.

Sometimes clarity will mean confrontation...

...Often when Washington insiders talk "compromise," they really mean engineering a situation where nobody really has to take a position, or responsibility. In those circumstances, clarity is better served by forcing positions into the open, even if doing so involves confrontation.

Sometimes, of course, compromises can bring clarity -- when it's clear what's being given up, and what's gained in exchange. Generally speaking, though, the Washington approach is to pretend that there's a free lunch, rather than to acknowledge the trade-offs.

This must change. Voters deserve to know the truth, and a compromise that won't work if voters know the truth isn't really a compromise at all, but a con.

A move for clarity will meet much resistance...

One way to [ensure transparency and make sure the facts come out] is to stay on message, of course. Another is to follow House Minority Leader (and, soon, Speaker) John Boehner's advice, and "listen." During the Obamacare debacle, Democratic representatives and senators ran away from constituent meetings and town halls. The last thing they wanted to do was listen to their constituents.

By way of contrast, Republicans should engage constituents early and often, and -- publicly -- encourage Democrats to do the same...

By listening to voters at town hall meetings, Republicans can not only show that they care, they can accomplish something else. They can actually learn something.

By not listening to voters, and not being straight with them, Democrats committed political suicide. Republicans should take a lesson, and promote clarity. In these times, voters will reward that.

More here and here.


November 7, 2010


Reflections on the nature of free markets, different ways of being pro-business, liberty and the attributes of a healthy democracy

Donald B. Hawthorne

2+ minutes of pithy comments by Milton Friedman on greed, enlightened self-interest, and how societies and free markets work.

A succinct summary on the two meanings of being pro-business from Don Boudreaux, who writes for the Café Hayek blog and is a professor of economics at George Mason University:

There are two ways for a government to be ‘pro-business.’ The first way is to avoid interfering in capitalist acts among consenting adults – that is, to keep taxes low, regulations few, and subsidies non-existent. This ‘pro-business’ stance promotes widespread prosperity because in reality it isn’t so much pro-business as it is pro-consumer. When this way is pursued, businesses are rewarded for pleasing consumers, and only for pleasing consumers.

The second, and very different, way for government to be pro-business is to bestow favors and privileges on politically connected firms. These favors and privileges, such as tariffs and export subsidies, invariably oblige consumers to pay more – either directly in the form of higher prices, or indirectly in the form of higher taxes – for goods and services. This way of being pro-business reduces the nation’s prosperity by relieving businesses of the need to satisfy consumers. When this second way is pursued, businesses are rewarded for pleasing politicians. Competition for consumers’ dollars is replaced by competition for political favors.

There is much talk today about the polarization in America and how different factions should compromise by acting in a bipartisan fashion. But such talk is absurd because it ignores several critical and unavoidable issues:

First, policy differences are often based on competing world views. Those differences cannot be wished away by superficial talk about bipartisanship. For example, if you believe in the first definition of being pro-business, i.e., that only the private sector can actually create jobs and the government’s proper role is to promote economic liberty by incenting the private sector to do so, then no size of any stimulus bill will be acceptable. Nor is there any middle ground if you believe that Obamacare represents the socialization of medicine and you don’t believe in socialism. These positions are not about being the "party of no." Instead, they are a clarion call for an alternative public debate about statism, about whether we aspire to become like a European welfare state. Then, instead of ramming down a statist solution to the healthcare issue onto America, we could agree that the status quo for the delivery of medical care isn’t good enough and use that as an alternative starting point from which to conduct a legitimate public debate about different solutions. Polarization will only genuinely dissipate after there is sufficiently open and reasoned public debate about such principles and the desired endpoints of policies that derive from them so that a consensus can begin to form across America.

Second, both political parties have inhibited such a debate. Public choice theory teaches us that we should not be surprised that the parties are focused primarily on promoting their own self-preservation, by sustaining power for the sake of power instead of promoting reasoned debates about how a belief in the ordered liberty of our American Founding should impact our public policies. Such is the added price we pay for having given up on limited government. But, if we believe in liberty, then the people in America have to stand up and insist on the debates. Which is why the Tea Party is perceived to be such a threat to both parties' establishment figures. That debate will take time and will appear messy along the way. But only an arrogant, self-absorbed narcissist will underestimate (more here and here) the American people's ability to instinctively figure things out. Just like the American people rejected the Republicans in 2006 and 2008, the 2010 election was a repudiation of the arrogance of a Democratic party that refused to listen to the American people in recent times. Political gridlock is nothing more than the American people telling the government to stop in its tracks until the the debates can be held.

If the debates are inhibited by the political class, then there will be more repudiations in the coming elections:

...This isn't a wave, it's a tidal shift—and we've seen it coming for a long time. Remarkably, there have been plenty of warning signs over the past two years, but Democratic leaders ignored them. At least the captain of the Titanic tried to miss the iceberg. Congressional Democrats aimed right for it...

But none of this means that Republicans are winning. The reality is that voters in 2010 are doing the same thing they did in 2006 and 2008: They are voting against the party in power.

This is the continuation of a trend that began nearly 20 years ago. In 1992, Bill Clinton was elected president and his party had control of Congress. Before he left office, his party lost control. Then, in 2000, George W. Bush came to power, and his party controlled Congress. But like Mr. Clinton before him, Mr. Bush saw his party lose control.

That's never happened before in back-to-back administrations. The Obama administration appears poised to make it three in a row. This reflects a fundamental rejection of both political parties.

More precisely, it is a rejection of a bipartisan political elite that's lost touch with the people they are supposed to serve. Based on our polling, 51% now see Democrats as the party of big government and nearly as many see Republicans as the party of big business. That leaves no party left to represent the American people.

Voters today want hope and change every bit as much as in 2008. But most have come to recognize that if we have to rely on politicians for the change, there is no hope. At the same time, Americans instinctively understand that if we can unleash the collective wisdom and entrepreneurial spirit of the American people, there are no limits to what we can accomplish...

Elected politicians also should leave their ideological baggage behind because voters don't want to be governed from the left, the right, or even the center. They want someone in Washington who understands that the American people want to govern themselves.

William Voegli offered this sage advice several years ago: “A healthy democracy does not require blurring political differences. But it must find a way to express those differences forcefully without anathematizing people who hold different views.”

The sections titled Issues #1, 2 and 4 in this lengthy May 2010 blog post highlight some of the underlying core beliefs that animate a world view which believes in free markets and liberty. These are the meaty topics worthy of public discussion.

A more intense level of public debate has begun across America in recent months. Here's to it continuing in a vigorous manner until a meaningful new consensus can form in the country.

Continue reading "Reflections on the nature of free markets, different ways of being pro-business, liberty and the attributes of a healthy democracy"

November 4, 2010


What Will the President Do?

Justin Katz

The biggest political question on the table is how President Obama will react to the Republican's gains, this election. Victor Davis Hanson notes that Obama's post-election speech didn't indicate that he understands the message that the American people are trying to send to him. But here's the interesting paragraph from Hanson's post:

Had not some zealots talked of possible 90-to-100-seat gains, the Democrats would be in greater shock today at the near-historic 60+ House pick-up, along with a stunning near sweep of state legislatures and governorships, as well as gains in the Senate — and all a mere 21 months after the beginning of hope and change. The idea that we are going to copy EU socialism is dead. So is Keynesian massive borrowing. So is the promised second wave of Obamism, such as cap-and-trade and blanket amnesty. Obama's supporters can brag that erstwhile absolutely safe senior Democratic senators like Boxer and Reid managed to get reelected, but they must understand that Obama's vision and his method of enacting it simply turned off the vast majority of the country.

I agree that the short-term prospects of American socialism are bleak, although it's possible that the virus has already been injected into our system of government to reemerge after a period of welfare-state gestation. But in trying to predict the actions of Democrats, I can't help but hear echoes, in Hanson's reassurances, of the declarations that ObamaCare was dead after Republican Scott Brown won in Massachusetts. What Obama and the Democrats proved, then, was that they were not operating according to political expectations. This election was largely a consequence of that fact, but it's not certain that they'll change their script, when the tea leaves were already plain to see last year.


November 2, 2010


11:30 p.m. U.S. Senate and House Tugs of War

Justin Katz

Taking Fox News's online balance a step farther, I've thrown together these simple graphics:

U.S. Senate

U.S. House



10:15 p.m. U.S. Senate and House Tugs of War

Justin Katz

Taking Fox News's online balance a step farther, I've thrown together these simple graphics:

U.S. Senate

U.S. House



9:09 p.m. House and Senate Tug of Wars

Justin Katz

Taking Fox News's online balance a step farther, I've thrown together these simple graphics:

U.S. Senate

U.S. House



Blumenthal Wins Connecticut, Manchin Wins West Virginia

Carroll Andrew Morse

The WPRO news dept. (630 AM) is reporting that Democrat Richard Blumenthal is projected to defeat Republican Linda MacMahon in the Connecticut Senate race, and Democrat Joe Manchin has won the West Virigina Senate race. This begins to take the "Republican Takeover of the Senate" scenario out of play.



8:15 p.m.: Senate and House Tug of War

Justin Katz

Taking Fox News's online balance a step farther, I've thrown together these simple graphics:

U.S. Senate

U.S. House



A Vague Election Night Mood

Justin Katz

For some reason, I've been glum, today. Stresses at work have much to do with it, to be sure, but some of my mood has to do with concern about what voters will do, tonight. What portion of voters have even a generally accurate sense of the people and policies for which they're voting tonight? That cuts both ways, of course, although it's a particularly dangerous question and answer in Rhode Island.

But then a couple of findings in my evening reading brought a paradoxical improvement in my mood. First was something that Ted Nesi gleaned for his election night liveblog:

Another fascinating data point from the national exit polls — "about 4 in 10 voters said that they supported the Tea Party movement," according to The New York Times.

That's not exactly where us Tea Party types would want that number to be. But then I came across this AP story, to which the Providence Journal gave the following headline and lead:

Vote outcome could add to uncertainty, Analysts doubt expected GOP gains will spark business growth

Here's a taste of reporter Paul Wiseman's piece:

A standoff between the Obama administration and emboldened Republicans will probably block any new help for an economy squeezed by slow growth and high unemployment. Congress might also create paralyzing uncertainty for investors and businesses by fighting over taxes, deficits, health care and financial regulation.

My first instinct, of course, was to argue: That just means that the Republicans must have enough of a majority to overpower the President; at least he'll do less harm for the last two years of his term; there will be no uncertainty if the Republicans just full-out undo what the Democrats have done to our country; and so on. But then it occurred to me that Wiseman and the AP are just trying to stoke any lingering doubts among independents and Democrats who might be considering some Republican candidates, today. The same is true of the New York Times (although, not, I'm pretty sure, Ted Nesi).

In short: The mainstream media is on the Democrats' side. Just look at the Providence Journal's endorsements. That being the case, it's foolish to take anything less concrete than actual election results as accurate... especially if it appears in a mainstream publication. Me, I'll be getting the important, RI-based news of the evening from the Board of Elections.



Projections are Live...

Carroll Andrew Morse

Networks are starting to make their projections. Here's CNN's first two of the night...

Early returns showed Republican running strongly, with Rand Paul projected by CNN to win his Senate race in Kentucky and another conservative, Dan Coats, projected to win the Senate race in Indiana...

Coats will take over the seat held by retiring Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh, giving Republicans their first pick-up of the night.



More from Drudge

Carroll Andrew Morse

Exit polls only, no real numbers yet...

IL 49-43 Kirk [R]...
KY 55-44 Paul [R]...
NV TIED...



Here We Go...

Carroll Andrew Morse

Drudge has his first set of exit polls up...

EXIT POLLS:
Arkansas: Boozman (R) defeats Lincoln (D)
Ohio: Portman (R) defeats Fisher (D)
North Dakota: Hoeven (R) defeats Potter (D)
Wisconsin: Johnson (R) defeats Feingold (D)
Guarantees are none.



The Ghost of Election Day Past

Carroll Andrew Morse

According to Elizabeth Crum at National Review Online's election blog, a couple of names familiar to Rhode Island political-watchers are showing up in the Nevada Senate race, those names being "Harrah's" and "Jan Jones"...

Executives at the casino giant Harrah’s pushed company employees to vote early in an all-out effort to help the Harry Reid campaign, according to internal emails obtained by Battle ‘10.

The stepped-up effort began Wednesday when a Reid staffer sent an email pleading for help to Harrah’s top lobbyist, Jan Jones. Soon after, Marybel Batjer, Harrah’s vice president of public policy and communications, distributed that plea via email to executives throughout the company...

On Friday, Western Regional President Tom Jenkin sent out a follow-up email showing a total vote count for Harrah’s properties along with the percentages of employees who had voted at each property. Attached to the email was a spreadsheet showing employee names and at which property they worked. Supervisors were asked to fill in codes explaining why their employees had not yet voted.

The Harrah’s employee who forwarded the emails asked not to be identified due to fear of reprisal. The employee said the pressure from upper management was “disturbing.”

“We were asked to talk to people individually to find out why they had not yet voted and to fill in these spreadsheets explaining why,” the employee said. “I did not feel comfortable doing that.”

Those who voted against casino referendum four years ago can pat themselves on the back for preventing a truly destructive beast from being unleashed on RI politics.


October 29, 2010


Dirtiest Campaign Ever? Thus has it always been claimed....

Marc Comtois

Thanks to the folks at Reason.com for reminding people that political campaigns have been dirty for quite some time (say, a couple hundred years, at least).


October 28, 2010


Welfare queens and their pimps: Why the November 2 election matters

Donald B. Hawthorne

They come in all shapes and sizes.

Don't like any of them. Yes, indeed, not then and not now (and now).

The labels or times may change but not the fundamental issue that any government big enough to give you all you want is big enough to take it all away. More on bizarre incentives created by campaign finance reform, where the focus is on the symptoms but not the root cause, and crony capitalism, where the big and powerful feed at the enlarged government trough at the expense of those who lack comparable resources to buy favors.

If we truly treasure liberty in America, then next Tuesday's vote is the first major step toward reclaiming it. Our freedom is never safe, especially when there is a bloated government filled with politicians and bureaucrats who don't recognize and honor the core principles of our Constitution.

ADDENDUM #1:

How about some "old-time" reflections that are actually substantive and suggest a different view of America and public policies?

A Call to Action: Responding to Government Being Neither Well-Meaning Nor Focused on the Public Interest; be sure to follow the links

American Exceptionalism

"Who You Gonna Call?" The Little Platoons

Lawrence Reed on Seven Principles of Sound Public Policy

Challenging the increasing momentum toward a nanny state

Summing it up -

Roger Pilon from a 2002 Cato Institute publication, as quoted in the American Exceptionalism link:

We are all created equal, as defined by our natural rights; thus, no one has rights superior to those of anyone else. Moreover, we are born with those rights, we do not get them from government - indeed, whatever rights or powers government has come from us, from "the Consent of the Governed." And our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness imply the right to live our lives as we wish...to pursue happiness as we think best, by our own lights...provided only that we respect the equal rights of others to do the same. Drawing by implication upon the common law tradition of liberty, property, and contract...its principles rooted in "right reason"...the Founders thus outlined the moral foundations of a free society…

In the end, however, no constitution can be self-enforcing. Government officials must respect their oaths to uphold the Constitution; and we the people must be vigilant in seeing that they do. The Founders drafted an extraordinarily thoughtful plan of government, but it is up to us, to each generation, to preserve and protect it for ourselves and for future generations. For the Constitution will live only if it is alive in the hearts and minds of the American people. That, perhaps, is the most enduring lesson of our experiment in ordered liberty.

Marco Rubio.

ADDENDUM #2:

The bottom line from 2006:

I hope the Republicans lose control of the House of Representatives in tomorrow's election.

...My disgust with the Republican Congress is intense...

...it is a time to focus on the big picture:

The current Republican party needs some time in the wilderness in order to rediscover its currently lost connections to beliefs in limited government, to the defense of freedom and ordered liberty. Hopefully, they can find some new leaders with principles in time for the crucial 2008 elections.

And what could be better for the American people than to see the House be led for two years by a bunch of left-wing lunatics, to experience a sampling for 2 years before 2008 of what little the Democrats can offer during a time when our country is engaged in a world war with Islamic fascists dedicated to destroying America.

The overriding problem here is we have two political parties who stand for nothing but either the retention or gaining of political power for the sake of power itself...

Well, the Democrats under Obama have indeed stood for something, an overbearing statism largely disconnected from principles of liberty and the rule of law. So we have belatedly tried the left-wing lunatic model for the last 2 years. Let's now send those statists packing on November 2 and hope the Republicans learned something during their time in the wilderness.

The bottom line in 2010 is that until enough people get serious about dismantling much of the engorged government and returning rights to the people, none of this will amount to more than rearranging chairs on the USS Titanic.

But that doesn't have to be our future, if we have the will and courage as a nation to chart a new course.

ADDENDUM #3:

Scott Rasmussen:

...This isn't a wave, it's a tidal shift—and we've seen it coming for a long time. Remarkably, there have been plenty of warning signs over the past two years, but Democratic leaders ignored them. At least the captain of the Titanic tried to miss the iceberg. Congressional Democrats aimed right for it...

But none of this means that Republicans are winning. The reality is that voters in 2010 are doing the same thing they did in 2006 and 2008: They are voting against the party in power.

This is the continuation of a trend that began nearly 20 years ago. In 1992, Bill Clinton was elected president and his party had control of Congress. Before he left office, his party lost control. Then, in 2000, George W. Bush came to power, and his party controlled Congress. But like Mr. Clinton before him, Mr. Bush saw his party lose control.

That's never happened before in back-to-back administrations. The Obama administration appears poised to make it three in a row. This reflects a fundamental rejection of both political parties.

More precisely, it is a rejection of a bipartisan political elite that's lost touch with the people they are supposed to serve. Based on our polling, 51% now see Democrats as the party of big government and nearly as many see Republicans as the party of big business. That leaves no party left to represent the American people.

Voters today want hope and change every bit as much as in 2008. But most have come to recognize that if we have to rely on politicians for the change, there is no hope. At the same time, Americans instinctively understand that if we can unleash the collective wisdom and entrepreneurial spirit of the American people, there are no limits to what we can accomplish...

Elected politicians also should leave their ideological baggage behind because voters don't want to be governed from the left, the right, or even the center. They want someone in Washington who understands that the American people want to govern themselves.

Angelo Codevilla on America's ruling class - and the perils of revolution.

From two liberal Democrats comes these critical words about Obama:

... In a Univision interview on Monday, the president, who campaigned in 2008 by referring not to a "Red America" or a "Blue America" but a United States of America, urged Hispanic listeners to vote in this spirit: "We're gonna punish our enemies and we're gonna reward our friends who stand with us on issues that are important to us."

Recently, Obama suggested that if Republicans gain control of the House and/or Senate as forecast, he expects not reconciliation and unity but "hand-to-hand combat" on Capitol Hill.

What a change two years can bring.

We can think of only one other recent president who would display such indifference to the majesty of his office: Richard Nixon.

We write in sadness as traditional liberal Democrats who believe in inclusion...

Indeed, Obama is conducting himself in a way alarmingly reminiscent of Nixon's role in the disastrous 1970 midterm campaign. No president has been so persistently personal in his attacks as Obama throughout the fall. He has regularly attacked his predecessor, the House minority leader and - directly from the stump - candidates running for offices below his own. He has criticized the American people suggesting that they are "reacting just to fear" and faulted his own base for "sitting on their hands complaining."...

We are also disturbed that the office of the president is mounting attacks on private individuals, such as the founders of the group Americans for Prosperity. Having been forged politically during Watergate - one of us was the youngest member of Nixon's enemies list - we are chilled by the prospect of any U.S. president willing to marshal the power of his office against a private citizen.

The president is the leader of our society. That office is supposed to be a unifying force. When a president opts for polarization, it is not only bad politics, but it also diminishes the prestige of his office and damages our social consensus...

Or, as Charles Krauthammer wrote:

...In a radio interview that aired Monday on Univision, President Obama chided Latinos who "sit out the election instead of saying, 'We're gonna punish our enemies and we're gonna reward our friends who stand with us on issues that are important to us.' " Quite a uniter, urging Hispanics to go to the polls to exact political revenge on their enemies - presumably, for example, the near-60 percent of Americans who support the new Arizona immigration law.

This from a president who won't even use "enemies" to describe an Iranian regime that is helping kill U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. This from a man who rose to prominence thunderously declaring that we were not blue states or red states, not black America or white America or Latino America - but the United States of America.

This is how the great post-partisan, post-racial, New Politics presidency ends - not with a bang, not with a whimper, but with a desperate election-eve plea for ethnic retribution...

David Harsanyi points out how Obama has a lack of faith to trust the American people and is implementing processes that only magnify the power of the nanny state.

Arthur Brooks and Paul Ryan offer an alternative view:

As we move into this election season, Americans are being asked to choose between candidates and political parties. But the true decision we will be making—now and in the years to come—is this: Do we still want our traditional American free enterprise system, or do we prefer a European-style social democracy? This is a choice between free markets and managed capitalism; between limited government and an ever-expanding state; between rewarding entrepreneurs and equalizing economic rewards.

We must decide. Or must we?

In response to what each of us has written in the preceding months, we have heard again and again that the choice we pose is too stark. New York Times columnist David Brooks (no relation) finds our approach too Manichaean, and the Schumpeter columnist in The Economist objected that, "You can have a big state with a well-functioning free market."

Data support the proposition that Americans like generous government programs and don't want to lose them. So while 70% of Americans told pollsters at the Pew Research Center in 2009 they agreed that "people are better off in a free market economy, even though there may be severe ups and downs from time to time," large majorities favor keeping our social insurance programs intact. This leads conventional thinkers to claim that a welfare state is what we truly want, regardless of whether or not we mouth platitudes about "freedom" and "entrepreneurship."

But these claims miss the point. What we must choose is our aspiration, not whether we want to zero out the state. Nobody wants to privatize the Army or take away Grandma's Social Security check. Even Friedrich Hayek in his famous book, "The Road to Serfdom," reminded us that the state has legitimate—and critical—functions, from rectifying market failures to securing some minimum standard of living.

However, finding the right level of government for Americans is simply impossible unless we decide which ideal we prefer: a free enterprise society with a solid but limited safety net, or a cradle-to-grave, redistributive welfare state...

More and more Americans are catching on to the scam. Every day, more see that the road to serfdom in America does not involve a knock in the night or a jack-booted thug. It starts with smooth-talking politicians offering seemingly innocuous compromises, and an opportunistic leadership that chooses not to stand up for America's enduring principles of freedom and entrepreneurship.

As this reality dawns, and the implications become clear to millions of Americans, we believe we can see the brightest future in decades. But we must choose it.



Just say no to Barney

Donald B. Hawthorne

One of the unanticipated benefits of leaving Rhode Island is that I moved into Barney Frank's congressional district.

Which means I get to vote for his opponent, Sean Bielat.

Just in case you needed some reminders about Mr. Frank's legacies:

Jeff Jacoby
Russ Roberts
Thomas Sowell
Thomas Sowell
Larry Kudlow
Larry Kudlow
Washington Times
Sheldon Richman
Duncan Currie
Wall Street Journal
National Review
Stephen Spruiell
Russ Roberts
Russ Roberts

More by Russ Roberts on the financial crisis.

We can only hope.

ADDENDUM #1:

Wow, indeed. And check out the RGA video.

ADDENDUM #2:

Go to the videos here and here.



Rift in the Democratic Party

Marc Comtois

This post--"An Open Letter to Rush Limbaugh"--from "Hillbuzz", a pro-Hillary Clinton blog, is starting to get some play. The writer, Kevin DuJan, explains that, while a lot of Hillary Clinton supporters hold a grudge over the 2008 Democratic Party nomination process, that isn't the only reason that they are intent on getting back at Obama and his version of the Democratic Party.

When Obama and the DNC attacked Hillary and her supporters, they permanently alienated tens of millions of us from the party. I know for a fact I am not the only guy...who is working every day to bring down the Obama White House and Democrat Party. Not for Hillary, though I love the woman, but for America...because I love this country even more.
He provides some details of the nasty tactics he witnessed--including voter fraud and intimidation tactics--and asks other Democrats to take a breath and re-think some things:
[E]ven if you called yourself a Democrat for 32 years, the way I did, because everyone you grew up with and everyone in your family was a Democrat, that in 2010 it’s time to ask yourselves what that really means.

Do you want to be in a party that calls people racists for stepping out of line and voicing opposition to the socialist lurch of the current administration?

Do you condone voter fraud and the shameless, undemocratic tactics employed by Democrats?

Do you wish to associate with the likes of ACORN, the SEIU, the Black Panthers, and all the other thugs, goons, and degenerates the Obama campaign and White House employ as the DNC’s muscle on the ground?

It is crystal clear that being a patriotic American who loves this country is intellectually incompatible with being a Democrat. If you love America and want it to prosper, the Democrat Party is at absolute odds with everything we need for a thriving, successful economy.

I wonder how many Rhode Island Democrats feel the same way.


October 20, 2010


Still Making Stuff

Justin Katz

Kevin Williamson thinks that President Obama's proposed infrastructure bank is essentially the White House's play to get in on the corrupt Congressional practice of earmarking (subscription required). The article's worth a read, but this tangential paragraph is what caught my eye:

Even though the extraordinarily productive service sectors of the U.S. economy create a lot of output that can be delivered by e-mail rather than by truck or train, manufacturing remains the second-largest single sector, trailing only wholesale trade. In fact, the idea that the United States has entered a "post-industrial" phase is largely a myth. Measured by output, the U.S. economy is much more industrial-looking than Washington's scary bedtime stories about McJobs and outsourcing would suggest: After wholesaling and manufacturing, the biggest sectors are indeed those service-oriented industries — retailing, finance, and health care — but these are followed by a massive construction industry that is nearly as large as the health-care sector. In terms of economic output, the warehousing and transportation of goods bigger than the software industry or the accommodations and food-services industry — to take the two poles of the services economy — and several times the size of the education sector. U.S. factories, as Cato Institute scholar Daniel Ikenson has reported, produce 21.4 percent of the world's manufacturing value added, 60 percent more than China's (without a billion semi-indentured workers earning Third World wages or a for-profit police state — take that, Tom Friedman!). We're making a lot of stuff and moving it around.

Take that as a reminder that the United States still has a foundation on which to build... and much still to lose.


October 17, 2010


President Killjoy: Obama Signals Against a Jump to Hillary for 2012

Monique Chartier

Of course, the entertainment value of the semi-controlled motor mouth of the current VP [top ten Biden gaffes available here] is not to be underestimated. This is undoubtedly why, on more than one occasion during the last couple of years, either voluntarily or at someone's quiet request, he appears to have gone missing.

But to speak frankly from the perspective of the opposition, it would have been preferable to have had the soap opera that is Hillary Clinton, with all of her machinations and baggage, standing next to President Obama in the upcoming presidential campaign spotlight.

Unfortunately, the odds of that development dropped considerably last week.

"The single best decision that I have made was selecting Joe Biden as my running mate," Obama said. "The single best decision I have made. I mean that. It's true."

Obama was in Delaware with Biden campaigning for Democratic Senate nominee Chris Coons, but in his speech seemed to address the rumors that circulated after Bob Woodward said making Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Obama's vice president in 2012 was "on the table."


September 28, 2010


Plenty of Anti-GOP News, Still No DOJ News

Justin Katz

As of Monday's edition, the Providence Journal had still not deigned to mention Congressional testimony about racial bias in Obama's Department of Justice. Indeed, yesterday's paper revisited the apparently more-important testimony of comedian Stephen Colbert that migrant farm workers do work that a Hollywood celebrity might find arduous.

Curiously, as well, Sunday's paper featured an entire above-the-fold page (B7) of arguable advocacy for national Democrats. Top left was an "analysis" declaring the GOP's "Pledge to America" to be a heavily poll-tested document, with all of the insinuations that come with such a quality:

Billed as a Pledge to America, the House Republican campaign manifesto is as much political straddle as conservative call to action, long on poll-tested goals, short on controversial specifics and designed to reassure independent voters who abandoned the party in the last two elections.

In case that tint wasn't adequate, the piece immediately below gave President Obama almost as much space to do his hyper-partisan schtick about the "disastrous decade" that he managed to make worse. Filling the rest of the page was an article about potential third-party election spoilers, with a heavy emphasis on moderate (read: "liberal") Republicans edged out in primaries by dissatisfied conservatives:

Nine-term Rep. Mike Castle of Delaware is the third prominent Republican to consider a third-party bid this year after a suffering a stinging setback at the hands of tea-party-backed conservatives.

If Castle decides to make an independent run for Senate, he will join Florida Gov. Charlie Crist and Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski in refusing to let GOP primary voters force them into retirement.

Some folks presume that media bias is a subconscious slip into what editors and journalists believe just to be objective truth, but it simply isn't possible that a quasicompetent editor wouldn't see how this collection of stories would come across.


September 20, 2010


Mix-N-Match a GOP Presidential Ticket

Monique Chartier

Are you pleased at the sight of Sarah Palin edging towards the ring, hat in hand? No? Then who would you prefer?

Choose from the fairly comprehensive list of candidates offered at the Values Voter Summit straw poll this weekend

Michele Bachmann | Jan Brewer | Chris Christie | Mitch Daniels | Jim DeMint | Newt Gingrich | Mike Huckabee | Bobby Jindal | Bob McDonnell | Sarah Palin | Ron Paul | Tim Pawlenty | Mike Pence | Marco Rubio | Mitt Romney | Paul Ryan | Rick Santorum

or toss in a wild card.

I'm still mulling over the best person for the top of the ticket. The exceedingly frank and unabashed style of Governor Chris Christie, however, strikes me as an excellent fit for VP.


September 14, 2010


A Primary Night Reminder

Justin Katz

Not to bring Charles Krauthammer back into the negative spotlight, but there's a key consideration that he's left out of his assessment of the GOP's primary races:

Now, we are in a cycle where we have seen that this is not a normal Democratic administration. It's highly ideological. It's instituted changes over the last 18 months that are structural — and some of them irreversible, like Obamacare — and it will try to do the same in the next two years or six.

If you're a Republican and you're a conservative, you want a majority in the Senate that will stop that agenda and you have to elect the most electable. Delaware is not Alaska. In Alaska you can endorse a Joe Miller, who's going to win anyway, even though he's more conservative. In Delaware, O'Donnell is going to lose, and that — that could be the difference between Republican and Democratic control, and make a difference about the Obama agenda in the future.

What's missing is the degree to which the Tea Party movement is not just a reaction to the Obamanation, but to trends that even Republicans have helped to advance. In other words, voters do not trust the GOP to "stop that agenda." Republicans will slow it down — rather, advance it more slowly — but that is no longer a satisfactory objective. The edge of the cliff is too near.


September 7, 2010


The Presidents on the President

Justin Katz

Here's an interesting video about a new work of art by Jon McNaughton (via Michelle Malkin):

McNaughton's Web site has an online version of the painting that shows closeups and offers clickable summaries for each president (and other components of the painting).



The Silent Majority Isn't Static

Justin Katz

David S left a comment to a recent post by Marc that indicates a lack of subtleties in his view of the political order:

- the silent majority-? Marc, where were the silent ones during the last election? The election that was this country's last real political referendum. Were the silent majority unable to rouse themselves for an election about the course forward concerning two full scale wars that had ground on for years? Were they equally uninterested in a tanking economy? Did they just decide they had better things to do on election day? Silent majority? I know its a Nixon term, but it probably can be applied to the present administration and not a noisy minority.

Considering the facts that we are in the midst of war and recession and fear and superstition- when the going gets tough, the cowardly go to tea parties.

The obvious rejoinder is that "the silent majority" did, in fact, rouse itself in the last election. The anger now evident on the political scene is attributable to its sense that it was duped. The American people thought that they were getting, with Obama and the Democrats, a centrist, reasonable party. The assumption, generally, is that the two major parties are mere shades of the same thing, and the United States wanted the other shade, after the Bush presidency. Instead, the Democrats' mantra, when they'd been handed power, became "elections have consequences," and they've set about proving that those consequences were not to Republican partisans so much as to the American people — the silent majority.

Consider:

"Now, a lot of those voters appear to be bolting to the GOP," Holland said. "Republicans now have a whopping 38-point advantage on the generic ballot among voters who dislike both parties."

Republicans also have a large and growing advantage among independents. Sixty-two percent of independents questioned say they would vote for the generic Republican in their district, with three in 10 saying they'd cast a ballot for the generic Democrat. That 32-point margin for the Republicans among independents is up from an 8-point advantage last month.

The hope, now, is that the Republicans will at least conclude that the real consequence of elections is to the elected — that they must actually govern as if they are representatives. As the emergence of the Tea Party shows, this may be the last chance for the "shades of the same thing" bipartisan structure to function to the satisfaction of voters. The Republicans are benefiting from the lack of other options, and if they do, indeed, win hugely in November, they've only got this one chance to prove that a third option is not needed.


September 3, 2010


Freedom's Just Another Word for Nothing Left to Lose

Marc Comtois

A lot has been said about the August 28th rally on the Mall last weekend. As a non-Beck guy (not anti- just agnostic) and having a lot to do last weekend, I frankly didn't pay too much attention to the event and the aftermath. Now that I've caught up a bit, I think Rich Lowry is pretty close in what it's all about:

This was the revolt of the bourgeois, of the responsible, of the orderly, of people profoundly at peace with the traditional mores of American society.
In other words, it's not a revolt so much as a retrenchment. While I think Lowry conflates the 8/28 and Tea Party movements a bit--it seems there may be some differences of emphasis (morals/tradition/religion or fiscal concerns, respectively)--they are pretty much the same bunch of people--average, middle-class Americans who our coastal/beltway elites like to call the bourgeois. Lowry continues:
For more than a hundred years, the bourgeois have been accused of being insipid, greedy, and unenlightened. To the long catalogue of their offenses can now be added another: unenthralled by Barack Obama, the Romantic hero seeking to transform the nation.

The tea party represents a revolt against his revolution, and thus a restoration. If a tea-party-infused Republican party were to take Congress and manage to cut federal expenditures by a sharp one-fifth, that figure would only be back to its typical level of recent decades of roughly 20 percent of GDP. If the party were to succeed in making the federal government more mindful of its constitutional limits, it would only be a step toward the dispensation that obtained during most of the country’s history.

Quite a revolt! Something about standing athwart History comes to mind....But Republicans shouldn't get too full of themselves, no matter what the current over/under on November looks like:
The last time Republicans benefited from a wave election, they had their own Beckian figure at the top in the person of House Speaker Newt Gingrich. They wallowed in their revolution and let Gingrich’s ideological grandeur define them — to their regret in the end. If the wave comes this time, Republicans should endeavor to be a sober and responsible party for sober and responsible people, resolutely cleaning up after the failed Obama revolution.
As the last two "wave" elections--one each won by the GOP and the Democrats--have shown, the quickest way for a political party to undercut such a win is to display vast quantities of hubris in the wake of a supposed mandate. In each case, the party that won went too far, reneged on promises or decided that ideals were worth sacrificing for the mirage of long term power. Americans want change, but not that kind or that much.

Now we see average folks clamoring for something else, anything else, to stop what they believe is a disaster in the making. They don't like the direction the country is taking politically so they've started Tea Parties. They don't like the long cultural decline so they find themselves inspired to hold a rally on the Mall. In short, average folks--the silent majority--are speaking up like never before. They've got nothing left to lose.


September 2, 2010


Gridlock is Good

Marc Comtois

Via this piece against the implementation of a Value-Added Tax (ie; "A VAT is a terrible idea if it triggers bigger government, and a VAT is a bad idea if it merely finances bigger government."), I came across the below from a decade-old interview with Milton Friedman. It was 2000 and we had a budget surplus. Why?

Milton Friedman: The...reason you have a surplus today, in my opinion, the credit for that has to be given overwhelmingly to gridlock.

Peter Robinson: To gridlock?

Milton Friedman: If you had had a Democratic House and Senate, as well as a Democratic president, you would not have a surplus today in my opinion. They would have spent it. Similarly if you had had a Republican president as well as a Republican House and Senate, I doubt that there would have been a surplus today. Because they would either have spent it or had tax reductions.

Peter Robinson: So when President Clinton steps forward to take his bows, you don't applaud at all?

Milton Friedman: Well, I applaud. He provided gridlock.

Peter Robinson: Okay, you applaud but for a different reason than the one he supposes.

Milton Friedman: The winning thing that really contributed to our successful economy over recent years is that the government has stayed out pretty much, with the White House and the Congress and the Senate haven't done much.

Seems like the last ten years have pretty much proven him right.


August 23, 2010


National Budget Deficit Trends

Marc Comtois

Randell Hoven (h/t) uses CBO figures and a simple chart to put the lie to the now familiar claims that the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and Bush tax cuts caused a $3 Trillion budget deficit.

The CBO breaks that cost down over the eight calendar years of 2003-2010. Below is a picture of federal deficits over those years with and without Iraq War spending.

As Hoven points out, the deficits actually were shrinking until 2007, then started back up in 2008. What happened in between? Democrats took over Congress. Hoven adds some context (we all love context!):
The sum of all the deficits from 2003 through 2010 is $4.73 trillion. Subtract the entire Iraq War cost and you still have a sum of $4.02 trillion.

No one will say that $709 billion is not a lot of money. But first, that was spread over eight years. Secondly, let's put that in some perspective. Below are some figures for those eight years, 2003 through 2010.

* Total federal outlays: $22,296 billion.
* Cumulative deficit: $4,731 billion.
* Medicare spending: $2,932 billion.
* Iraq War spending: $709 billion.
* The Obama stimulus: $572 billion.

There is an important note to go along with that Obama stimulus number: the stimulus did not even start until 2009. By 2019, the CBO estimates the stimulus will have cost $814 billion.

If we look only at the Iraq War years in which Bush was President (2003-2008), spending on the war was $554B. Federal spending on education over that same time period was $574B....

So spending $572B in two years stimulates an economy, but spending $554B over six years ruins one?

Depends on who did what, right?


August 19, 2010


Go Get 'Em, Nancy!

Monique Chartier

For some reason, it never occurred to the Speaker that the negative reaction of many millions of people to the construction of a mosque within the crash zone of Ground Zero was spontaneous and not in response to a pre-arranged, pre-paid campaign.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is raising questions about who is funding criticism of the so-called "Ground Zero mosque."

Pelosi told KCBS is San Francisco yesterday that she joins "those who have called for looking into how is this opposition to the mosque being funded." She added: "How is this being ginned up?"

Thanks, Speaker Pelosi, I'll pass on the gin. But you leave no stone unturned or astroturf farm uninvestigated as you track down the funding of this ... er, conspiracy. The longer you're in pursuit of untamed waterfowl, the less time you'll be able to devote to inflicting awful legislation on us.


August 15, 2010


Take Two on the Proposed NY Mosque: Feeling Compelled to Comment, President Obama Succeeds Only in Stating the Broadly Obvious

Monique Chartier

Breaking weeks of silence on the subject, President Obama remarked on Friday,

Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country.

That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances. This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable.

When this was hailed as an endorsement of the mosque, President Obama hastened to clarify yesterday.

I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making a decision to put a mosque there. I was commenting very specifically on the right that people have that dates back to our founding.

... my intention was simply to let people know what I thought. Which was that in this country we treat everybody equally and in accordance with the law, regardless of race, regardless of religion.

Now there's a perfectly bland, blanket statement; something appropriate to observe of our Constitution to an auditorium of school children or on Independence Day or perhaps the next time you're abroad. Can you say something a little more specific to the situation, please? A mosque two blocks from Ground Zero. No one is saying that proponents don't have the right to place it there; some are saying it isn't right to do so. What is your opinion, sir?


August 10, 2010


The ObamaCare Scam

Justin Katz

The healthcare legislation should never have become law, and as time goes on, we continue to discover what a shoddy bit of law-making it was:

Talk about a paperwork nightmare: Tucked into the massive new health care law is a demand that nearly 40 million U.S. businesses file tax forms for every vendor that sells them more than $600 in goods. ...

The goal of the provision was to prevent vendors from underreporting their income to the Internal Revenue Service. The government must think those vendors are omitting a lot because the filing requirement is estimated to bring in $19 billion over the next decade. ...

Republicans want to repeal the filing requirement and pay for it by changing other parts of the new health care law, a strategy that Democratic leaders won't support. Democrats want to repeal the filing requirement and pay for it by raising taxes on international corporations and limiting taxpayers' ability to use special trusts to avoid gifts taxes. Republicans won't support that.

Because of the method of the legislation's enactment, nobody caught this problem before it passed, and those who were aware of it were either too ignorant to foresee (or object to) the consequences or thought it would offer a nifty trick for repealing the problem and increasing taxes after the legislation had squeaked through to passage. Frankly, the whole bill is a scam and an atrocity and should be repealed in full.

Barring that, the Republicans are exactly right: repairs to the law should be made within the law.


August 8, 2010


Swap Out Hillary C. for Joe B. in 2012??

Monique Chartier

That's the idea that "Tingles" Matthews has been exploring. From NewsBusters' Noel Sheppard.

The panel of the syndicated "Chris Matthews Show" this weekend campaigned for Hillary Clinton to replace Joe Biden as Vice President in order to assist Barack Obama's re-election in 2012 and set her up for a successful presidential bid in 2016.

As NewsBusters reported Wednesday, Chris Matthews on that evening's "Hardball" had former Virginia governor Doug Wilder and New York magazine's John Heilemann on to discuss the merits of this strategy.

The "Hardball" host must have found this quite compelling, for he decided to do an entire segment on his weekend program with guests Erin Burnett of CNBC, Kelly O'Donnell of NBC, Howard Fineman of Newsweek, and Heilemann.

Substitute Hillary's baggage and personality for Biden's gaffes? "Obama/Clinton 2012"? Wouldn't that be a dream ticket ... for the Republicans?



The Trouble with Obama (and Don't Forget His Legislative Enabler)

Monique Chartier

Joe Bernstein articulates it under Justin's post.

My objection to him is simple-he's a left wing ideologue who's made bad appointments and seems to not be competent and experienced enough for the job.

I would not argue, only amplify: President Obama is leading the charge on some really bad policies. Government take-over of our healthcare system; a willful disregard for our sovereignty via amnesty for undocumenteds and a refusal to control our borders; a pointless war on fossil fuels (and, therefore, a war on basic items like heat, AC, lights and most vehicles, not to mention, in the process, our wallets); spending beyond the wildest dreams of an inebriated sailor [edit: who, as Warrington correctly points out, at least spends his or her own money]; higher taxes.

Heavily complicit in all of this is Congress with, we should make careful note, Rhode Island's delegation whole-heartedly backing all of these bad rotten government initiatives. In fact, none would ever see the light of day were it not for Congress, which solely possesses the power to reject or implement them.

The trend of the president's approval rating indicates that Joe and I are not the only ones who object to the actualization of Barack Obama's presidency. It is mete also that his accomplice faces a reckoning at the polls on November 2. Indeed, though he goes on to make the case that the failure stemmed from an unwillingness to tack sufficiently leftwards, Robert Reich interestingly points out that it is the president's legislative agenda which now threatens the continued viability of both his own reelection and a Democrat-controlled Congress.

The President may have a fight on his hands even to hold on to what he’s already achieved because his legislative successes have been large enough to fuel strong opposition but not big enough to strengthen his support. The result could be disastrous for him and congressional Democrats. ...

A stimulus too small to significantly reduce unemployment, a TARP that didn’t trickle down to Main Street, financial reform that doesn’t fundamentally restructure Wall Street, and health-care reforms that don’t promise to bring down health-care costs have all created an enthusiasm gap. They’ve fired up the right, demoralized the left, and generated unease among the general population.


August 5, 2010


Topics Local and International

Justin Katz

Last night Monique and Tony Cornetta talked, on the Matt Allen Show, about Iran, teachers' unions, and partisan ethics. Stream by clicking here, or download it.


August 3, 2010


On Ethics: Maxine Now, Maxine Then

Monique Chartier

When, last October, the House Ethics Committee placed Congressman Charles Rangel in exactly the same spot that Speaker Gingrich found himself fourteen years earlier, Congresswoman Maxine Waters observed

"What happens is, unfortunately with the requirements for disclosure that we all have, mistakes are made," she said. "And you do get a chance to correct them. And so it looks as if he is correcting those mistakes."

Regarding Gingrich's situation, however, the congresswoman had not adopted quite the same understanding tone. Courtesy Charlie Spiering at the Washington Examiner; h/t Fred Thompson.

"The house ethics committee found the Speaker guilty guilty guilty!" raged Rep. Maxine Waters on the House floor on December 7 1995. ". . it's about time, believe me the American people do not appreciated double standard, what's good for the goose is good for the gander, no one should be so big, so important, so powerful, that they can violate the rules of this house and the laws of this country and not suffer the consequences. . ."

July 30, 2010


Issues Big and Small

Justin Katz

I've been preoccupied, today, with the sorts of thoughts that are hugely important to the individual, but quotidian details on a larger scale... and there's been so much on that larger scale that might otherwise have merited consideration. The economy, obviously:

The recovery lost momentum in the spring as growth slowed to a 2.4 percent pace, its most sluggish showing in nearly a year and too weak to drive down unemployment. ...

... the recovery has been losing power for two straight quarters. That raises concerns about whether it will fizzle out. Or worse, tip back into a "double-dip" recession. ...

In the revisions issued Friday, the government estimated that the economy shrank 2.6 percent last year -- the steepest drop since 1946. That's worse than the 2.4 percent decline originally estimated. The economy's plunge underscores why the unemployment rate surged to 10.1 percent in October, a 26-year high.

Businesses appear to have the resources to expand, but it's all about the uncertainty, and uncertainty has been the theme of the current Congress and administration. Thousands of pages of invasive law creating new bureaucracies to impose unwritten regulations. Those with resources, in other words, have reason to hold their breath.

The Gulf spill is another big item, today:

The generally accepted view of the Deepwater Horizon disaster has focused on the blowout preventer and the non-standard procedures BP conducted just before the explosion and fire. However, most of the damage and the main source of the spill came from the collapse and sinking of the DH platform rather than the initial explosion. A new report by the Center for Public Integrity, based on testimony from people on scene and Coast Guard logs, contains evidence that the platform sunk because of a botched response from the Coast Guard, which failed to coordinate firefighting efforts and to get the proper resources to fight the fire.

And the controversy will continue. Of course, now that BP has promised its billions in aid and the investigations into the incident pick up steam, we hear this:

Yes, the spill killed birds — but so far, less than 1% of the number killed by the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska 21 years ago. Yes, we've heard horror stories about oiled dolphins — but so far, wildlife-response teams have collected only three visibly oiled carcasses of mammals. Yes, the spill prompted harsh restrictions on fishing and shrimping, but so far, the region's fish and shrimp have tested clean, and the restrictions are gradually being lifted. And yes, scientists have warned that the oil could accelerate the destruction of Louisiana's disintegrating coastal marshes — a real slow-motion ecological calamity — but so far, assessment teams have found only about 350 acres of oiled marshes, when Louisiana was already losing about 15,000 acres of wetlands every year.

Sometimes, it's difficult to know what to believe, when the issue isn't right there in front of you. Another argument, I'd suggest, for small, decentralized government.

Now back to my personal preoccupations...


July 20, 2010


Obama in Two Acts... or Not

Justin Katz

Anchor Rising readers who share my reading habits have surely come across Charles Krauthammer's warning to opponents of President Obama not to underestimate him:

The net effect of 18 months of Obamaism will be to undo much of Reaganism. Both presidencies were highly ideological, grandly ambitious, and often underappreciated by their own side. In his early years as president, Reagan was bitterly attacked from his right. (Typical Washington Post headline: "For Reagan and the New Right, the Honeymoon Is Over" — and that was six months into his presidency!) Obama is attacked from his left for insufficient zeal on gay rights, immigration reform, closing Guantanamo — the list is long. The critics don't understand the big picture. Obama's transformational agenda is a play in two acts. ...

The next burst of ideological energy — massive regulation of the energy economy, federalizing higher education, and "comprehensive" immigration reform (i.e., amnesty) — will require a second mandate, meaning reelection in 2012.

Readers may also have encountered Jonah Goldberg's simultaneous exposition of a seemingly contrary view:

In 2008, American liberalism seemed poised for its comeback. The pendulum of Arthur Schlesinger's "cycle of history" was swinging back toward a new progressive era. Obama would be the liberal Reagan.

Now that all looks preposterous. Of course, considerable blame can be laid at a White House that seems confused about how to relate to the American people when the American people don't share the White House's ideological agenda. Indeed, the White House seems particularly gifted at generating issues that put it crosswise with the majority of voters — from the Arizona immigration lawsuit to the cotton-mouthed explanations about whether or not it considers NASA's primary mission to be boosting the self-esteem of Muslim youth.

Goldberg's central objective, with that piece, is to convey his vague sense that something in the rules has changed. Difficult economic times are not making Big Government more popular, but less; an environmental tragedy has not caused the American people to throw caution to the wind in a burst of zeal for alternative energy.

The cultural dimension will be important to explore, but on the political point, Goldberg subsequently took up the juxtaposition of his piece with Krauthammer's:

Obama's ambition creates opportunities that wouldn't have existed if he opted for a more cautious approach. The risk reward is high for him — and for the opposition. In football, war, or poker, or plenty of other imperfectly analogous situations, when one side goes for broke it creates vulnerabilities the other side can exploit. If Obama had stuck with short passes and a running game, he might not have run up the score so high but he would be in better shape politically.

Goldberg is not convinced that there's a grand political plan — or at least one that Barack Obama is competent to execute. Even during his campaign, he was too apt to slip into rhetoric about rubes with their religion and guns and about economic redistribution, forcing him to rely even more heavily on his showmanship. On the other hand, he proved a master showman.

I'd suggest that, while underestimating the man is inadvisable, focusing on him is even more so. Obama was elected, ultimately, as a centrist healer, and he managed his "historic" achievements only because he had the bare majority of both houses of Congress, with compliantly leftist co-partisans, to ram them through. And the president owes those majorities to the concerted and cynical trashing of his predecessor by the Democrats and by the forces of media, both news and entertainment.

What all of those forces — the president and his allies — have accomplished in the past two years is to remind the American people that they have no good options in the voting booth. The principle of the lesser of two evils has returned with a vengeance, and it may just be that the partisans have revved up public emotions to the degree that a majority of voters will not accept mere incremental loss of their autonomy from government as the "lesser" evil.

So the question isn't whether the president will attempt to rework his presentation in response to a new political reality, after November. He'll surely try, although a period of lame-duck gift-giving by exiting Congressional Democrats will make his efforts more difficult, even if he plays off them as a moderate only reluctantly complicit in the scheme. The question is whether he can play the Republicans and the American people so well that they return to him his one-party government.

But even that goes too far in crediting Obama as the sole actor on the stage. The one question is actually two:

  1. Can Republicans control themselves sufficiently to move with the mandate of popular disaffection, rather than attempt to swim against it for immediate political and personal gain?
  2. Will the American people be fooled again by The One?

On neither count am I confident in the preferable outcome, but while we oughtn't underestimate Obama, neither should we forget that history doesn't really divide into a series of strong personalities. The story isn't the main characters, but the tides that they ride.


July 19, 2010


The Nation's Boom Town

Marc Comtois

In his post earlier today, Justin wondered if there was a link between the Washington, D.C. suburbs' educational success and talk of a ruling class that I brought up yesterday. Heh, well...

America is struggling with a sputtering economy and high unemployment — but times are booming for Washington’s governing class.

The massive expansion of government under President Barack Obama has basically guaranteed a robust job market for policy professionals, regulators and contractors for years to come. The housing market, boosted by the large number of high-income earners in the area, many working in politics and government, is easily outpacing the markets in most of the country. And there are few signs of economic distress in hotels, restaurants or stores in the D.C. metro area.

As a result, there is a yawning gap between the American people and D.C.’s powerful when it comes to their economic reality — and their economic perceptions.

This disconnect has been going on for quite some time, but it looks even worse now. You can be sure that politicians and bureaucrats manage to find a way to get money into their own communities--including the public schools where their kids attend.
Uncle Sam employs about 10 percent of the area’s 3 million-person work force — or by federal procurement dollars, more than $20 billion of which landed in nearby Fairfax County, Va., alone last year.

“This is our auto industry, or financial services, or entertainment,” said Stephen Fuller, director of George Mason University’s Center for Regional Analysis, alluding, respectively, to the economic foundations of the Detroit, New York and Los Angeles metropolitan areas. “The federal government is our business. And on top of that, we have an administration that’s clearly expanding the role of the federal government in the context of the national economy — as a manager and as a provider of funds. That hasn’t been the case in the past, except in the case of wars.”

Then again, according to the Obama Administration, we're in a war against pretty much everything, which requires government mobilization!
And more money is on the way, in the form of well-paid agency jobs associated with reforms of the nation’s health insurance sector and financial markets: Both bills call for substantial new federal oversight by agencies such as the Health and Human Services Department and the Internal Revenue Service. And the professionals who take those jobs will need homes, buy furniture and pay taxes, said David Robertson, executive director of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, “and that’s going to have a multiplier effect in our region.”

The Center for Regional Analysis projects the federal government will add 6,500 new jobs in the area each year through 2012.

It's a boom town, for sure.


July 18, 2010


Taking on the Ruling Class

Marc Comtois

Glenn Reynolds and his readers are commenting on Angelo Codevilla's piece about the "Ruling Class". Who are they?

Today's ruling class, from Boston to San Diego, was formed by an educational system that exposed them to the same ideas and gave them remarkably uniform guidance, as well as tastes and habits. These amount to a social canon of judgments about good and evil, complete with secular sacred history, sins (against minorities and the environment), and saints. Using the right words and avoiding the wrong ones when referring to such matters -- speaking the "in" language -- serves as a badge of identity. Regardless of what business or profession they are in, their road up included government channels and government money because, as government has grown, its boundary with the rest of American life has become indistinct. Many began their careers in government and leveraged their way into the private sector. Some, e.g., Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner, never held a non-government job. Hence whether formally in government, out of it, or halfway, America's ruling class speaks the language and has the tastes, habits, and tools of bureaucrats. It rules uneasily over the majority of Americans not oriented to government.
They are the leaders of both parties and government--especially the federal--bureaucracy; and though it's not a "party thing", the ruling class finds a more comfortable home amongst Democrats with a few wannabe Republicans tagging along. That's been particularly the case in Rhode Island. Their motive is power. They seek to wield power for its own sake, or because--following the Progressive tenets that supported the emergence of this new ruling class--they know better than the average person how to run things and what is best. They play rhetorical games to get this power and make deals--with unions, big business--to keep it. Yet, they are still the minority. Indeed, as Codevilla states, there are more people in America not in the "ruling class" who he calls the "country class"--those not oriented towards government for a solution to all problems (there are even some within government in this "class").
In general, the country class includes all those in stations high and low who are aghast at how relatively little honest work yields, by comparison with what just a little connection with the right bureaucracy can get you.
How old-fashioned: believing that it is what you know (and do) over who you know. Codevilla continues:
It includes those who take the side of outsiders against insiders, of small institutions against large ones, of local government against the state or federal. The country class is convinced that big business, big government, and big finance are linked as never before and that ordinary people are more unequal than ever.
That is why ordinary folks are organizing on the local level to try to take back some power. But it will be tough slogging: this new generation of reformers will be faced with a more legalistic and bureaucratized government than previous generations.

Continue reading "Taking on the Ruling Class"

July 17, 2010


Silence About the All-Important Felon Vote

Justin Katz

If you get your news from a mainstream media source, you might not have heard — as Dan Gifford notes — about the apparent likelihood that Senator Al Franken (D., MN) was elected based on the illegal votes of felons:

  • A conservative watchdog group Minnesota Majority has gone through voting records reportedly finding that at least 341 convicted felons voted illegally in just two of Minnesota's 87 counties during the 2008 general election. Undoubtedly other felons voted illegally in other counties.
  • After culling through 500 initial allegations of felons illegally voting, the Ramsey County Attorney's Office told The Minneapolis Star Tribune Monday that they are seriously investigating about 180 cases. Another 28 felons have already been charged. Hennepin county, which includes Minneapolis, winnowed 451 initial cases down to 216 that they are still looking at. Some other felons have already been charged. Both the Ramsey and Hennepin county attorneys are Democrats.

Franken won by 312 votes. Liberals will note that the news above comes via Fox News, which in their minds instantly invalidates it; that which is not reported by an alphabet channel does not actually happen. Of course, that's why non-liberals correctly understand Fox News to be the most balanced of the television news options.

Gifford suggests that even liberal Democrats like most journalists ought to find interest in the Franken voter fraud case, inasmuch as Franken cannot be ousted from office, at this point, and they could cast the story toward advocacy of allowing felons to vote legally. Unfortunately, shedding light on the matter might make voters elsewhere suspicious, conservative watchdog groups across the country might begin researching the results in their own states, and bloggers and alternative information sources might rack up more scoops.


July 16, 2010


A Juxtaposition of Eras

Justin Katz

You probably won't get through a bag of popcorn during this Friday night film — indeed, you could almost watch the whole thing while your popcorn pops — but Andrew Klavan's humorous and cutting comparison of the dark days of the Bush Era with Obama's Recovery Summer is worth a watch:



The Question Is Whether It's Curable

Justin Katz

You may have come across the commentary that the co-chairmen of a debt and deficit commission initiated by the president offered to the National Governor's Association:

The commission leaders said that, at present, federal revenue is fully consumed by three programs: Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. "The rest of the federal government, including fighting two wars, homeland security, education, art, culture, you name it, veterans -- the whole rest of the discretionary budget is being financed by China and other countries," [Republican Senator from Wyoming Alan] Simpson said.

"We can't grow our way out of this," [former Clinton Chief of Staff Erskine] Bowles said. "We could have decades of double-digit growth and not grow our way out of this enormous debt problem. We can't tax our way out. . . . The reality is we've got to do exactly what you all do every day as governors. We've got to cut spending or increase revenues or do some combination of that."

Bowles called the national debt "a cancer." Glenn Reynolds thinks "the whole point of the commission is to give political cover to tax increases," which may be the case. The question that follows immediately, however, is: Cover from whom? Cornell Law Professor and Barrington resident William Jacobson might suggest that the people of the United States have already tired of the game:

Barack Obama was not elected because of a progressive political shift in the nation. The nation remains a country which believes, according to polling by James Carville and Stan Greenberg, that:
"The best way to improve our economy and create jobs is to cut government spending and cut taxes so businesses can prosper and the private sector can start creating jobs."

Yet everything the Democrats do goes in the opposite direction. ...

Democrats took advantage of a crisis, and then doubled-down by massively increasing our national debt to advantage preferred political constituencies.

The elections will tell, ultimately, but my expectation is that the American electorate won't look at the bill of particulars and see taxation as the reasonable response. Of course, the two questions that follow that assessment are:

  • Have the national Democrats managed to lock themselves in, as their state members have in Rhode Island?
  • Have the Republicans learned their lesson sufficiently to avoid returning to the disappointing practices of their dominant years during the Bush administration?

If the answers are "yes" and "no," respectively, then our nation is in for grave times, indeed. On the second question, though, there's hope (I hope) that an infusion of tea-party Republicans will be enough to inoculate a Republican Congress against recidivism.


July 13, 2010


So the New-and-Now-Defunct Non-Space Goals for NASA Were Just a Trial Balloon?

Monique Chartier

Well, at least that would be sort of related to space, unlike the goals themselves, which have apparently been ... withdrawn.

[NASA Administrator Charles] Bolden caused a global stir last week when he said President Obama had asked him to reach out to Muslim leaders on science issues. He made the comments during an interview with Al Jazeera while visiting Egypt.

But White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Monday, "That was not his task, and that's not the task of NASA."

Gibbs said White House officials have spoken to Bolden and NASA about the comments.

At first, I thought perhaps KLo at the Corner had exaggerated when she described this as the White House throwing Bolden under the bus. Just last week, however, the White House had reaffirmed the goals, though embellished with a nice little I-meant-we-would-all-do-this-together, internationalism florish, nor had they corrected Bolden when he first outlined the goals publicly in February. Possibly it wasn't Bolden that White House officials needed to speak about this matter but his boss who, almost two years after winning a presidential election, is obviously still in community-organizing mode, albeit on a much larger scale.


July 10, 2010


Planning Their Moves for After the People Speak

Justin Katz

Don't miss John Fund's widely cited premonition that President Obama and the Congressional Democrats are planning implementation of a last-minute wish list after the election:

It's been almost 30 years since anything remotely contentious was handled in a lame-duck session, but that doesn't faze Democrats who have jammed through ObamaCare and are determined to bring the financial system under greater federal control. ...

Many Democrats insist there will be no dramatic lame-duck agenda. But a few months ago they also insisted the extraordinary maneuvers used to pass health care wouldn't be used. Desperate times may be seen as calling for desperate measures, and this November the election results may well make Democrats desperate.

The message to bring to this summer's "meet your representatives" events will be that consequences can follow a politician and a party even when out of office and out of power... after, of course, all of the horrible legislation is reversed and then some. As disheartening as it may be to acknowledge that ideals of representative government are waning (and may always have been naive), that's the world in which we live. It's unlikely to affect the likes of Sheldon Whitehouse to have constituents call and express their hopes that he won't participate in efforts to explicitly subvert the will of American voters. Perhaps it will have a marginally greater effect if he worries that his actions in the fall will define public perception of his character for the rest of his life.


July 2, 2010


Steele's Afghanistan Hackery

Marc Comtois

Look, I know that for the first time in eons, a GOP chair visited the state and threw the RI GOP some red meat and there was much rejoicing. But it looks like he's engaging in some purely disingenuous political hackery here:

Keep in mind again, federal candidates, this was a war of Obama's choosing. This was not something that the United States had actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in...if he is such a student of history, has he not understood that you know that's the one thing you don't do, is engage in a land war in Afghanistan?
Apparently he forgot the part that it was President Bush--with the broad support of the American people--who correctly got us into Afghanistan because the government in power--the Taliban--aided and comforted a terrorist organization that killed 3,000 Americans. In what has become a regular routine since Steele took over, some are calling for his resignation. We'll see, but one thing is for sure: this sort of hackery is what turns people off to politics (and specifically the GOP). Unbelievable.


July 1, 2010


UPDATED: The Bill Will Come Due

Justin Katz

Kevin Williamson has totaled America's public debt, and his essay makes for scary reading:

So that's $14 trillion in federal debt and $2.5 trillion in state-and-local debt: $16.5 trillion. But I've got some bad news for you, Sunshine: We haven't even hit all the big-ticket items. ...

... "Half the states' pension funds could run out of money by 2025," [Northwester University Prof. Joshua Rauh] says, "and that's assuming decent investment returns. The federal government should be worried about its exposure. Are these states too big to fail? If something isn't done, we're facing another trillion-dollar bailout." ...

So how much would the states have to book to fully fund those liabilities? Drop in another $3 trillion. Properly accounting for these obligations, that takes us up to a total of $19.5 trillion in governmental liabilities. ...

The debt numbers start to get really hairy when you add in liabilities under Social Security and Medicare — in other words, when you account for the present value of those future payments in the same way that businesses have to account for the obligations they incur. Start with the entitlements and those numbers get run-for-the-hills ugly in a hurry: a combined $106 trillion in liabilities for Social Security and Medicare, or more than five times the total federal, state, and local debt we've totaled up so far. In real terms, what that means is that we’d need $106 trillion in real, investable capital, earning 6 percent a year, on hand, today, to meet the obligations we have under those entitlement programs. For perspective, that's about twice the total private net worth of the United States. (A little more, in fact.)

Little wonder the Democrats in power think nothing of layering on the billions: Billions hardly register in the face of that mountain of debt. The cover of the penultimate National Review, in which Williamson's piece appears, shows a distressed boy looking at a chalkboard that reads "130 Trillion: What We Owe." The image got me pondering how one could illustrate the size of a trillion dollars, and I'm still pondering. One idea is to start in the upper left corner of the chalk board with a single dot, labeled "trillion." The next row would be labeled "billions" and would require 1,000 small dots. The next row, "millions," would easily exceed the capacity of the average classroom chalkboard.

My personal circumstances are such that the lessons of debt are hourly on my mind. To oversimplify, a slightly less luxurious lifestyle a decade ago (with dinners out and the like) would have meant that I wouldn't be quitting coffee because a large $8 can of grinds every two weeks or so is something I can live without.

It brings the mind back to that episode of Seinfeld that made famous the phrase, "serenity now." More fitting would be the modification,"austerity now."

ADDENDUM:

Kevin Williamson checked in to send along a graphic illustration of $1 trillion. The upshot:

In case you can't see it, that's a standard-sized man in the bottom left-hand corner. (Check the link for an explanation.)


June 19, 2010


It's the Authority, not the Science

Justin Katz

Jonah Goldberg spotted in the news an instance in which the Obama Interior Department appears to have misrepresented the opinion of some scientists whom it consulted regarding a possible ban of offshore drilling:

The draft these experts saw was substantively different from the document that bore their names. The draft called for a moratorium on issuing new permits, not stopping existing drilling (a move many experts believe would be unsafe).

One of the experts, Benton Baugh, president of Radoil, told the Wall Street Journal that if the draft had said to halt drilling, "we'd have said 'that's craziness.'"

As Goldberg writes, "there is something ugly and hypocritical about glorifying the absolute authority of scientists and sanctimoniously preening about your bravery in 'restoring' that authority" — only to ignore what they say when it's "politically expedient." Actually, I'm sure Goldberg would agree that progressives' periodic lauding of science is primarily, if not entirely, all about political expedience.

When candidate Obama said he would "restore science to its rightful place," he meant that he would treat it as an unassailable, procaimedly "objective," conversation-ending weapon in philosophical debates. The prerequisite, of course, is that science must agree with his own views on a particular issue.

The very necessity of politics arises because there is no objective measure when it comes to policy decisions that must balance competing interests and complement subjective considerations like religion and ethics with practical needs and objectives. Tyranny lurks behind the elevation of any particular input as if it alone settles the question, especially when determination is handed to a limited group with information beyond the comprehension of everybody else.


June 16, 2010


Is it any wonder why, "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em" is so appealing?

Marc Comtois

To paraphrase, "Government acres is the place to be, government jobs are the life you see...":

Under the Obama administration, the government is doing such a good job that it's decided to reward itself. Last year, Uncle Sam paid out $408 million in bonuses to 1.3 million federal workers...That $408 million figure only counts bonuses that were handed out to about 65 percent of the federal work force. The FOI request didn't cover awards handed out by the Defense and Treasury departments, security agencies, the White House, Congress and various other federal agencies and commissions. In 2008, the last year information was available, the Department of Defense alone handed out $92 million in bonuses to its 687,000 employees.

Federal bonuses are being doled out liberally, even as federal salaries are exploding. From December 2007 through June 2009, the number of federal workers earning six figures increased from 14 to 19 percent. In 2008, average federal compensation, including pay and benefits, was $119,982 -- considerably more than the $59,909 average in the private sector, according to the Commerce Department's Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the midst of a brutal economic downturn that saw millions of jobs lost and unemployment soar above 10 percent, the Office of Personnel Management data shows the federal workforce actually added nearly 100,000 jobs from December 2008 to December 2009.

Bonuses for good performance are nice in theory, and in they work in private sector, when they are paired with consequences (you know, getting fired) if you don't perform. As the article points out, though, in government, it's "all carrot and no stick."


May 28, 2010


Failure to Stop the Gulf Oil Gusher is Not Obama's Katrina

Monique Chartier

... of course, Katrina was not Bush's Katrina. The only "serious" criticism that could be leveled is that he failed for several days to read the minds of a Governor and a Mayor who couldn't stop sitting on their hands long enough to pick up the telephone and ask for help.

But I'm risking an unnecessary discussion of events long behind us. So let's set that aside for the moment and see if we can agree on the definition of a "Katrina". How about this?

It is a situation in which a POTUS 1.) is aware of a disaster 2.) is cognizant that governmental resources exist that could help to abate that disaster and 3.) fails to send those resources knowing full well that they are needed and have been called for.

Clearly, then, the Gulf oil disaster fails item #2 of this test. Contrary to the observations this week of some critics (a list that includes even lefties Carville and Matthews), no branch of the United States government possesses the skills or equipment to deal with an uncapped, gushing oil well one mile under water. This is very much a specialized area of expertise.

Now, could President Obama have attempted to identify another company, possibly another oil company, and elbowed aside BP so as to give this other company a shot at stopping the gusher? Yes, maybe. It would have been a maneuver not without risk, though. If the other company had failed, for instance, could BP have claimed that they would have succeeded? What about the matter of liability? Would the president have reduced BP's liability and placed some liability onto the US government in doing so? Certainly some high powered attorney would have so argued in court.

Another thing. Was it the height of brainless bureaucratic numb-scullery for the US Army Corps of Engineers to call for an environmental impact study before they would consider authorizing the installation of sand berms to protect marshes and other areas along the coast? No question. Several people in that agency need to be fired immediately after they complete the voluntary lobotomies that they had clearly started to undergo just prior to reviewing the application for these sand berms.

(Feel free to take a snack break here as I try to explain.)

These berms were requested, ladies and gentlemen of the Army Corps of Engineers, to try to stop some of the MILLIONS OF GALLONS OF CRUDE OIL WHICH HAS SPILLED INTO THE GULF OF MEXICO, a situation which YOU HAVE OBVIOUSLY NOT HEARD ABOUT even though for the last month, it has been COVERED 24/7 WITH BLARING HEADLINES AND FLASHY GRAPHICS BY EVERY MEDIA OUTLET KNOWN TO MAN.

(Where were we? Oh, yes.) Again, though, the berm denseness of the Army Corps cannot be pinned on the president, at least not until the Louisiana Congressional delegation started jumping up and down in unison, which is something that they did fairly late in the game.

Is the president being too cute by half about the exact circumstances of the termination of employment of Elizabeth Birnbaum, the newly former head of the US Minerals Management Service? Sure he is. And it's not making him look good. But it, too, is a secondary matter - even if he had handled it perfectly, it wouldn't have stopped the oil spill.

There is a very, very, very long list of fiscal, economic, sovereignty, national security and foreign policy proposals and decisions for which the president can be criticized in depth. The steadfast refusal of the mainstream media over the last year and a half to see or discuss 95% of that list makes it very tempting to jump on the president when such a glaringly visible disaster presents itself. We need to resist that, though, both in the interest of our own integrity and so as to retain credibility when we bring up the items on that extremely long list. Failure to cap an underwater oil well is not on that list.


May 27, 2010


Les Phillip, Alabama congressional candidate

Donald B. Hawthorne

The video quality may be poor but the words from Alabama congressional candidate Les Phillip are some of the best I have heard in a long time.

Rainy Day Patriots Speech Highlights.

Here, again, is his ad posted earlier.

His campaign website is here.



From December 5, 2008: Anyone want to bet on what direction Obama wants to take America?

Donald B. Hawthorne

Reposting a December 5, 2008 post entitled Even Lenin would be impressed:

Melanie Phillips:

Trevor Loudon has got hold of a fascinating analysis of Prez-elect Obama's administrative appointments by Mark Rudd and Jeff Jones, two former Weather Underground terrorists (chums of Obama's old ally [chance acquaintance], the unrepentant former WU terrorist William Ayers). The two of them are now on the board of Movement for a Democratic society, in turn the parent body of Progressives for Obama, the leading leftist lobby group behind Obama's presidential campaign. And waddya know - just like me they believe Obama is practising stealth politics with a degree of sophistication and success with which 'even Lenin would be impressed.' As they say, Obama knows that he must be subtle and reassure even the most conservative of his opponents if he is to achieve his radical goals...

Read Phillips for key excerpts from the articles by MDS members. Here is the link to Trevor Loudon's writeup with more complete information.

Phillips continues:

The key is the stupidity of so many of Obama's opponents, amplified by the credulousness and prejudices of the media and the ignorance of the public. The shallow Republicans and their supporters in the media and blogosphere have in large measure fallen for Obama's stealth politics hook, line and sinker. As a result of his 'centris' appointments which have got them absurdly cooing over people like Clinton and Holder, Gates and Jones, their guard is now totally lowered. They still don't know the true nature of what has hit them -- and at this rate will never know until they wake up one morning to a transformed America and a free world that has lost the war being fought against it.

And the more the left shrieks 'betrayal', the more American conservatives will wrap themselves in denial. But characters like Rudd and Jones are the horse's mouth. They know from the inside the manipulative and stealthy game that is being played here. Lenin would be impressed indeed.

As further background, here are a series of Obama posts from the general election:

Clarifying the deeper problems with Barack Obama
Summarizing the philosophical problems with Barack Obama's view of the world
More troubling thoughts about the One
Crisply defining the core problem with Obama's economic and tax policies
On Obama's economic and tax policies
Multiple choice options regarding Obama's "spread the wealth" comment
Any bids for $75,000?
Socialism
Yep, that'd be my reaction
Obama and ACORN's overt and criminal voter fraud acts
McCarthy: Stifling political debate with threats of prosecution is not the "rule of law" - it's tyranny
Obama on his desire for a civilian national security force
Does Obama believe in liberty?
Obama vs. McGovern on eliminating secret union elections
Obama's fundraising: Insufficient transparency and yet more unanswered questions
A rare Zen moment of simplicity
Senator Obama's naive, ahistorical, and unrealistic foreign policy viewpoints: His Achilles Heel for the November election
On Obama's disarmament priorities
On Obama's healthcare policies
On Obama's extreme abortion beliefs
Obama's views on coal industry
Oh my, it just never stops: In the tank for Obama
Creepy, indeed
Creepy, again
An argument for divided government

Anyone want to bet on what direction Obama wants to take America?


May 26, 2010


Go Bama

Donald B. Hawthorne

Some things speak for themselves:

Rick Barber, Congressional candidate.

Les Phillip, Congressional candidate.

Dale Peterson, Ag Commissioner candidate.


May 25, 2010


ObamaCare Less and Less Popular

Justin Katz

Imagine how unpopular it will be when its costs really start to kick in:

Support for repeal of the new national health care plan has jumped to its highest level ever. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 63% of U.S. voters now favor repeal of the plan passed by congressional Democrats and signed into law by President Obama in March.

Prior to today, weekly polling had shown support for repeal ranging from 54% to 58%.

And by "costs," I don't mean just the direct cost to the federal government, which (for those who've forgotten) is not the sum total of the United States. For one example, Americans are pretty good at intuiting this sort of outcome:

A study by the National Center for Policy Analysis shows that tax credits in the new healthcare law could negatively impact small-business hiring decisions.

The new law provides a 50 percent tax credit to companies offering health coverage that have fewer than 10 workers who, on average, earn $25,000 a year. The tax credit is reduced as more employees are added to the payroll.

The NCPA study finds the reduction in tax relief to be a cost concern for companies looking to hire additional workers, but operate on slim profit margin yet still provide employee health coverage.

Incumbents — making government less efficient and American life more difficult, year after year.


May 24, 2010


Blumenthal to the New London Day: Get my (Lack of) Middle Initial Right

Monique Chartier

When it was pointed out to Connecticut AG Richard (this space deliberately left blank) Blumenthal that newspaper articles had picked up and repeated his lies, thereby unwittingly contributing to his stolen valor, Mr. Blumenthal indignantly replied that he could not keep track of all news reports about himself.

Not so fast. An editorial in Wednesday's New London Day dryly reports

And why did Mr. Blumenthal not act quickly to correct inaccurate reports in state newspapers that described him as a Vietnam veteran? The candidate explains he can't track all news reports about him. Yet this newspaper knows from experience that Mr. Blumenthal is quick to correct unflattering statements published about him or to refute opinions with which he disagrees. One reporter got a call from the attorney general for inserting a middle initial in his name. He has none.

May 19, 2010


An ad and a spoof of another ad

Donald B. Hawthorne

Dale Peterson for Alabama Ag Commissioner. (More on the ad here.)

Another interpretation of GM CEO's recent ad. (Full story here.)



The Obligation of Participation

Justin Katz

Jay Nordlinger's profile of Florida congressional candidate Allen West is interesting reading, overall, but this passage should haunt the days of all productive Rhode Islanders (emphasis added):

After the Army, West taught high school for a while — history. He is especially pleased that some of his students went on to service academies. Then he went to Afghanistan as a civilian adviser, training Afghan officers. He says he felt "a yearning in my heart" to do this. And then, politics called. West quotes Plato: "One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors."

The story of our state — and its characteristic apathy — in a sentence.


May 15, 2010


Challenging the increasing momentum toward a nanny state

Donald B. Hawthorne

It seems increasingly relevant so here is a re-run of a February 7, 2009 post, with some updates:

As Obama, Pelosi and Reid accelerate the implementation of statist practices in America - building on what Bush started - it is helpful and necessary to reacquaint ourselves with fundamental economic principles and some specific significant issues animating today's public debate.

FUNDAMENTAL ECONOMIC PRINCIPLES

The 17-blog post series below was originally put together in 2006 and contains excerpts from the writings of Thomas Sowell, Reason magazine, Bruce Caldwell, Friederich Hayek, Milton Friedman, Arthur Seldon, Gordon Tullock, Jane Shaw, Lawrence Reed, The Freeman magazine, Leonard Read, Donald Boudreaux, John Gray, Bertrand de Jouvenel, and Michael Novak, with links to others like Walter Williams, David Boaz, and David Schmidtz:

No matter how emphatically these politicians rant and rave in their effort to re-write history, they cannot re-write the basic laws of economics. As a Reverend once said, those chickens will come home to roost at some point. The only question is when and how big a price we will pay when it happens.

PRIMERS ON ECONOMICS

As some of the above posts note and as further ammunition for the public debate, these books are excellent primers on important economic topics:

An excellent site for articles, blogging, and podcasts on a broad range of economic issues is Library of Economics and Liberty.

Furthermore, the budding public debate in America touches on these significant issues, highlighted below and drawing on the 17 blog posts:

Continue reading "Challenging the increasing momentum toward a nanny state"

May 14, 2010


A refreshing change

Donald B. Hawthorne

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie destroys reporter for calling him confrontational.

No painting with bland pastels. Courageous. A good thing in times of uncertainty.


May 7, 2010


Taking Stock

Marc Comtois

In his latest, Victor Davis Hanson admits that he's beating a dead horse when it comes to "media polarities" that "are getting to the point of absurdity." Perhaps so, but its worth taking stock every now and again and doing the ol' compare and contrast:

Bush, the lazy golfer while we were at war; Obama the engaged commander-in-chief playing golf for needed relaxation more in one year than in Bush’s eight. Katrina, the emblem of federal inaction and culpable incompetence; the BP slick, either a result of private greed overwhelming noble federal auditors or proof of the Obamian competent response. Bush’s illegal war clearly alienating Muslims and thus creating terrorists daily; laughable excuses from a terrorist that Obama’s stepped-up targeted Predator assassinations “created” would-be killers such as himself. Right wingers in bed with Wall Street oligarchs greedily crafting federal policy for the exploiting class; Obama for some odd reason, no doubt in the end a noble reason, taking more money from the likes of Goldman Sachs and British Petroleum than any politician in history. The Bush-Cheney nexus shredding the Constitution with the Patriot Act, Guantanamo, Predators, and renditions; Obama the civil libertarian reluctantly forced to maintain or expand such protocols, albeit at last under a watchful liberal eye. Bush’s “lost” war in Iraq miraculously soon to be Obama’s “greatest achievement.”

What is the theory behind all this other than partisanship or cynicism? I think it involves the power of faith and the irrational, in some cases not confined to the left. (e.g., I once got a prominent conservative angry at me when I suggested Reagan embraced large deficits, signed an amnesty bill, wanted nuclear disarmament, and raised payroll taxes). Politics is a religion, never more so than in the case of Obama. And true believers always prefer the saintly explanation rather than the most logical.

That we're all guilty of having the ideological blinders on at one time or another is true enough. But I also think that it's a basic human characteristic that we don't like to admit we were wrong or were mistaken in our judgment (like in who we support politically) and this is made worse by a tendency to go "all in" with someone and being unable to tolerate acute criticism when warranted.


May 2, 2010


Big government, crony capitalism and the latest from Government Motors

Donald B. Hawthorne

Big government, whom some foolishly think is the pathway to so-called social justice for the little guy, actually has the opposite effect. It incentivizes big corporations, big unions and other powerful organizations to feed at the enlarged government trough to buy favors at the expense of those unable to pay for a place at the trough. This leads to what used to be called "corporate (or union) welfare" and some now call "crony capitalism."

Whatever the label, the result is the same: Transparent competition in the marketplace that benefits consumers is trumped by the non-transparent buying of legal or regulatory favors that benefit the few at the expense of the many. In other words, big government enables the powerful to prey on others, as predicted by public choice economic theory. How ironic it is then that when the structural incentives created by big government cause the forecasted negative outcomes, the advocates for big government call for yet more of the same.

Why do these negative outcomes surprise any of us? Take ObamaCare, where the Congress passed and the President signed a 2,200-page bill that no one had read. Forget for a moment how passing such a large bill that no one read should startle all of us into loud protests. The bill now goes to unelected, unaccountable, nameless, faceless bureaucrats for the development of endless pages of regulations, the existence of which will only further ensure their job stability. Does anyone really think those uniform regulations drafted in the vacuum of government office buildings in the nation's capital will provide easier access to better healthcare services by being responsive to the differing needs of a cross-section of citizens in, say, Peoria, Illinois, Chandler, Arizona, Tucker, Georgia, and Yakima, Washington? But you can be assured that large insurers and medical service companies will have their lobbyists walking the hallways to influence the regulations in ways that are responsive to their own economic needs. Again, the irony: These companies do it not because they are evil but because they are responding rationally to their adjusted self-interest as determined by the new economic incentives created by the ObamaCare legislation.

So when government seeks to play God and takes over activities best done by the free market, there are adverse consequences. (Just like so-called "campaign finance reform" in an era of big government has created its own set of perverse incentives that result in more money flowing into politics in different and often less visible ways.)

Government Motors, aka General Motors, is merely one recent example. Taxpayers' money was used to bail them out, allowing them to avoid the hard choices of restructuring the company to profitability - either on their own or in a traditional bankruptcy process. Now GM touts in a very public ad how they have paid back their government loan ahead of schedule and with interest. And GM went even further with their CEO writing a WSJ editorial entitled The GM Bailout: Paid Back in Full - The investment of U.S. and Canadian tax dollars worked. Except (with H/T to Instapundit) they misled everyone by not disclosing that the loan was only a small part of the total bailout and they repaid it with other federal government-provided funds that were sitting in a separate escrow account available for their working capital needs. (More on the government dollars that flowed to GM.) It gets worse: Apparently this ad is part of a campaign to lay the groundwork for GM to get billions more of DOE government aid at a lower interest rate, again funded by the taxpayers at a time of record budget deficits.

Contemplate the perverse incentives created by these unfolding developments. How would a corporation ordinarily fund new projects? Usually out of positive operating cash flow generated from profits of the business, a scenario that would only happen after the project successfully competed against other internal capital project alternatives advocated by other executives through showing more compelling projected financial returns. (Of course, this funding approach would require GM to be profitable and generating positive cash flow, but I digress.) Alternatively, GM could get the money from new equity investors or lenders. Which means they would have to convince those investors or lenders to bet on their plan, in part based on the merits of the plan and in part based on management's past track record. In parallel, these investors and lenders are getting measured quarterly by their own funding sources based on the quality of their performance in comparison to other current investment alternatives available to the funding sources. If equity investors or lenders enter into bad deals, their funding sources will pull back, adversely impacting their business. So the equity investors and lenders have an incentive to deeply scrutinize a GM deal and evaluate its merits in competition with all the alternative deals they could do at the time. But that is not how crony capitalism works: GM only has to privately curry favor in Washington, D.C. among bureaucrats who become more influential when they respond favorably to such behavior, who become even more influential when they have larger projects like the new DOE loans, who have no effective mechanisms for oversight and accountability, and who suffer no adverse consequences if they enter into bad deals.

By the way, to add insult to injury for taxpayers, the political pressure to rush through bankruptcy without the requisite time for an adequate restructuring of their cost structure no doubt contributed to GM (and the other ward of the state, Chrysler) losing billions of dollars last quarter in their first quarter after exiting bankruptcy. For all we know, the rationale for the DOE loan could be to fund changes that ordinarily would have been accomplished in a proper bankruptcy restructuring. Meanwhile Ford, which faced market realities the free market way, turned a profit.

The loss of liberty and cost to taxpayers are profound when you look at the particulars of crony capitalism created by big government.

Why do we tolerate this erosion of our freedom?

ADDENDUM #1:

With another H/T to Instapundit, Megan McArdle on Department of . . . Huh?:

It was bad enough that we had to bail out the banks, but at least you could make a reasonable argument that we had to--we know what happens when you allow widespread bank runs, and its generally pretty disastrous for the citizenry. But you know what happens when a large auto manufacturer fails? Its employees and customers have to do business somewhere else...

It was sheer political theater, and incredibly corrosive to public trust in our government institutions, as well as a gross misallocation of economic resources. The role of the state is to prevent human suffering, not prop up failing enterprises that happen to have politically well-connected employees. I am genuinely struggling to come up with what principled argument Andrew might be making in his head for what has always struck me as a pretty blatant handout to a powerful Democratic interest group.

ADDDENDUM #2:

With an updated H/T to Instapundit, Hot Air writes NY Times: GM, Treasury lied about bailout repayment:

This article by Gretchen Morrison in the New York Times is significant for two reasons. First, the Times has decided to give this significant coverage, which means the story of GM's misleading claim of paying back the taxpayer-funded bailout will continue to have some legs. More importantly, it also points the finger at Treasury and the Obama administration for its complicity in allowing CEO Ed Whitacre to make those claims without challenge...
[quoting from the Times' article]: G.M. also crowed about its loan repayment in a national television ad and the United States Treasury also marked the moment with a press release: "We are encouraged that G.M. has repaid its debt well ahead of schedule and confident that the company is on a strong path to viability," said Timothy F. Geithner, the Treasury secretary.

Taxpayers are naturally eager for news about bailout repayments. But what neither G.M. nor the Treasury disclosed was that the company simply used other funds held by the Treasury to pay off its original loan.

Hot Air also references a Power Line post where Scott Johnson wrote:

Whitacre and GM omitted two facts that render their public relations blitz highly misleading. They are the kind of omissions that constitute securities fraud when made by a company in connection with the purchase or sale of a security or when a company reports its financial results...

GM's fraudulent public relations blitz took place with the support of the Obama administration, up to and including Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner. Geithner's participation makes his tax cheating and related testimony pale in comparison.

In retrospect, it is obvious that GM undertook the blitz at the behest of the Obama administration. It is symptomatic of the era of national socialism in which we find ourselves, and for which GM is a leading indicator.

Apparently crony capitalism makes reality optional and accountability non-existent. And liberty is reduced.

ADDENDUM #3:

Mark Tapscott's Did Obama administration tell GM to lie about its TARP repayment? provides links to written Congressional requests for more information about what happened, including these words from Senator Grassley to Treasury Secretary Geithner:

In reality, it looks like GM merely used one source of TARP funds to repay another. The taxpayers are still on the hook, and whether TARP funds are ultimately recovered depends entirely on the government's ability to sell GM stock in the future. Treasury has merely exchanged a legal right to repayment for an uncertain hope of sharing in the future growth of GM. A debt-for-equity swap is not a repayment.

I am also troubled by the timing of this latest maneuver. According to Mr. Barofsky, Treasury had supervisory authority over GM's use of these TARP escrow funds. Since GM's exit from bankruptcy court, Treasury had approved the use of the escrow funds for costs such as GM's obligations to its parts supplier Delphi.

Tapscott concludes with this observation:

...Accusations and worries of improper government interference with business are inevitable results of government picking winners and losers in the private economy, as was done with the trillions of tax dollars used by the Bush and Obama administrations to bail out Wall Street investment firms, GM and Chrysler, insurance giant AIG, and multiple banks.

There is a name for the kind of regime that allows private ownership of businesses but effectively tells them what to produce and sell. It's called Fascism. America is far from there, but becoming a bailout nation is a significant step in the wrong direction.

ADDENDUM #4:

Competitive Enterprise Institute: General Motors Deceptive Advertising Challenged by Watchdog Group in FTC Filing.


April 29, 2010


Who gets to play God?

Donald B. Hawthorne

Obama:

Now, what we're doing, I want to be clear, we're not trying to push financial reform because we begrudge success that's fairly earned. I mean, I do think at a certain point you've made enough money.

What does "success fairly earned" or "enough money" mean?

Who defines "success fairly earned" or "enough money"?

What if different people define "success fairly earned" or "enough money" differently?

Who defines the consequences of having more than "enough money"?

Who enforces such consequences?

If anyone thinks the definition or consequences of "enough money" is unjust, to whom do they turn for relief?

In other words, who gets to play God?

Any way you cut it, implementing policies consistent with Obama's words will require coercive actions that diminish liberty. There seems to be a certain amnesia about the coercive nature of government. Of course, it might be reasonable to say there is no amnesia for people who never recognize coercion because they have always sought power more than they have loved liberty.

On a more practical level, Nobel Laureate Hayek wrote about the impossibility of efforts to centrally plan such "solutions" in the first place in his seminal 1945 paper entitled The Use of Knowledge in Society. Glenn Reynolds referenced the paper in a recent editorial:

...The United States Code - containing federal statutory law - is more than 50,000 pages long and comprises 40 volumes. The Code of Federal Regulations, which indexes administrative rules, is 161,117 pages long and composes 226 volumes.

No one on Earth understands them all, and the potential interaction among all the different rules would choke a supercomputer. This means, of course, that when Congress changes the law, it not only can't be aware of all the real-world complications it's producing, it can't even understand the legal and regulatory implications of what it's doing.

There's good news and bad news in that. The bad news is obvious: We're governed not just by people who do screw up constantly, but by people who can't help but screw up constantly. So long as the government is this large and overweening, no amount of effort at securing smarter people or "better" rules will do any good: Incompetence is built into the system.

The good news is less obvious, but just as important: While we rightly fear a too-powerful government, this regulatory knowledge problem will ensure plenty of public stumbles and embarrassments, helping to remind people that those who seek to rule us really don't know what they're doing.

If that doesn't encourage skepticism toward big government, it's hard to imagine what will.

ADDENDUM #1:

Michelle Malkin: Barack Obama, America's Selective Salary Policeman - "At some point, you have made enough money" is not a maxim that Obama's team of rich CEO's and well-paid bureaucrats has ever observed.

J.P. Freire: Obama made $5m in 2009 and tells us we've made enough?

ADDENDUM #2:

Kyle Wingfield: Exactly who 'makes enough money' in Obama's eyes?

..."I want to be clear, we're not trying to push financial reform because we begrudge success that's fairly earned. I mean, I do think at a certain point you've made enough money. But part of the American way is you can just keep on making it if you're providing a good product or you're providing a good service. We don't want people to stop fulfilling the core responsibilities of the financial system to help grow the economy."

The second sentence is the one that defines "fairly earned" for Obama. The man who as a candidate spoke of "spreading the wealth around" has found a matter he considers within his pay grade: other people's pay.

ADDENDUM #3:

Neo-Neocon: Obama and Sowell on who can tell when people have made enough money?


April 16, 2010


Paranoia, it's the American Way

Marc Comtois

As Rich Lowry explains in his latest column, we Americans are perpetually paranoid about our government, whether it's the liberal paranoia throughout the Bush years (Patriot Act, world hegemony) or the right wing paranoia amongst conservatives in the Clinton years (Waco, domestic anti-terrorist laws post-Oklahoma City). Lowry explains that our paranoid view of government has been in our "DNA" since the Founding (and before).

As Bernard Bailyn demonstrates in his classic, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, our forebears prized the thought of the 18th-century “country” opposition in England, which considered the government a clear and present danger to liberty — corrupt, conspiratorial, and insatiable.

America’s leaders viewed Revolutionary events through this prism. “They saw about them,” Bailyn writes, “not merely mistaken, or even evil, policies violating the principles upon which freedom rested, but what appeared to be evidence of nothing less than a deliberate assault launched surreptitiously by plotters against liberty, both in England and in America.”

This is the taproot of American paranoia. It’s not in status anxiety, or economic dispossession, or racism: It’s in flat-out distrust of governmental authority. As the Patriot Act shows, in America even the statists can summon a robust fear of government. And would we have it any other way? Would we prefer the natural deference to authority of a Japan, or a political culture as favorable to central government as Russia’s?

Lowry's analysis of Bailyn's thesis is spot on and also helps explain why we Americans sometimes tend to buy into conspiracy theories, too.

Continue reading "Paranoia, it's the American Way"

April 9, 2010


Flipping Political Coins with Amendments

Justin Katz

On Wednesday's Matt Allen Show, Andrew brought up the interesting juxtaposition that, while some states' attorney generals are suing the federal government over healthcare with reference to the 10th Amendment, Massachusetts's Martha Coakley is making a 10th Amendment argument against national marriage law. Stream by clicking here, or download it.


April 5, 2010


BREAKING: Rhode Islander Ken McKay Resigns RNC

Justin Katz

RNC Chief of Staff and former staffer for Governor Carcieri, Ken McKay has resigned over controversy:

Republican National Committee chief of staff Ken McKay has resigned in the wake of a controversy over an expenditure at a risque California nightclub, RNC communications director Doug Heye said Monday.

McKay's resignation comes one week after the Daily Caller Web site reported that the RNC's January expenditure report included nearly $2,000 spent at Voyeur in West Hollywood, a topless nightclub.

RNC officials worked to distance Chairman Michael Steele from the controversy -- insisting that not only was he not in attendance but that he had no knowledge of the reimbursement -- and promised changes in the way that people were reimbursed by the committee.


April 3, 2010


A Newly Aware America Confronting Old Tricks

Justin Katz

Andrew Breitbart pulls together some of the threads related to the post-healthcare-vote anti-Tea Party redirection, concluding:

Who is calling the shots here? Is it the White House, by way of Chicago? Or is it Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid? The press refused to tell you the truth about this president. It refused to tell you of his proud adherence to the teachings of the original Chicago "community organizer" Saul Alinsky. We have now entered the first full-fledged Alinsky presidency. The only way to beat Alinsky is with Alinsky. The Democrats and President Obama will not give up this tack. Do you think the GOP will win the day in November and in 2012 if its strategy is to apologize for every manufactured "right wing fringe" outrage?

I disagree about "the only way to beat Alinsky." I think it's honesty. That's why it's significant that he's becoming an increasingly understood figure. Fighting Alinsky with Alinsky would mean deception and manipulation, which many whom I've observed on the political right are not well suited to do effectively. Bright lights and proper conduct are the appropriate and most effective responses. Two notes on this front, one national and one local.

First, consider this small story, slipped into the inner pages of the Saturday paper:

David Brian Stone [leader of the recently FBI-stung militia group] never got too far in his plans. His influence didn't appear to extend much beyond a close circle of family and friends, and associates say other militias refused to come to his defense during raids late last month. ...

Members of a group in Hutaree's own backyard — the Lenawee Volunteer Michigan Militia — not only refused to assist one of Stone's sons who fled the FBI after a raid on Saturday night, but they actually turned to authorities to help track down Joshua Stone.

I lack the time and interest to dig into the details and merits of the FBI investigation and raid, but the timing and the huge national splash certainly gives the impression that somebody is constructing a narrative stretching from the Tea Party movement, through the Republican Party, to the most fringe characters of the right.

Which brings us to a local item on which I've been meaning to comment:

Some people wore tri-cornered hats and waved yellow flags that proclaimed "Don't Tread On Me." Others brandished signs with more current messages aimed at Rhode Island's congressional delegation, such as "Abort the D.C. Thugs," with photos of Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and Representatives Patrick Kennedy and James Langevin, and "LANGEVIN'S VOTE CRIPPLE$ AMERICA."

The "Abort the D.C. Thugs" sign lies at about the edge of what one expects at these rallies, but the one about Langevin, specifically, crosses the line. Indeed, it's so beyond the appropriate that one wonders why reporter Mike Stanton, or his on-scene surrogate, didn't attempt to procure the sign-wielder's name and extract further comment. Perhaps the journalists' caught a whiff of the reek of setup around the sign.

Anybody have a picture of that sign — especially of the person holding it?


April 2, 2010


The Obama-Era Binge

Justin Katz

One gets the sense, watching state and national politicians in action, that paying for things is by far a secondary or tertiary consideration. As Ed Achorn puts it:

The government will borrow 40 cents of every dollar it spends this year. Under the most optimistic scenarios, borrowing will continue at historically high levels, putting a severe strain on the dollar and either dampening or devastating the economy. The federal debt will rise to a chilling 90 percent of the nation's economic output by 2020, the Congressional Budget Office reported Thursday.

Most politicians and most of the media do not pause to consider such things. They prefer happy talk about growing government through clever (often corrupt) maneuvers and passing out public dollars as if they were candy. If pols dwell at all on how to pay for it, they cite budget figures that are based on transparent gimmicks or they advocate taxing that man behind the tree. But nobody seems to be very seriously engaged in the unnerving development that we are aboard a runaway train and we’re rapidly running out of track.

Big-government spending is self-feeding, inasmuch as the recipients of the dough are sure to vote for the people handing it over to them. Our only hope, it seems, is for folks with less direct incentive to get involved and push governance back toward status as an adult activity.


March 30, 2010


Big Business v. Big Government on Healthcare

Marc Comtois

Big Business learns that Big Government giveth and taketh away:

On Capitol Hill and in the White House on Monday, Democrats were fuming over a series of announcements that started Friday from Fortune 500 firms saying their bottom lines will take huge negative hits because of changes in tax law mandated by Obamacare. That hit in turn means lower profit projections. Caterpillar estimates, for example, that Obamacare will cost it $100 million; John Deere faces expenses of $150 million; 3M, $90 million; AK Steel, $31 million; Valero, $20 million. And then there's AT&T, which is marking its balance sheet down by a whopping $1 billion. All in all, the Wall Street Journal estimated a $14 billion haircut for these corporations.

Under post-Enron accounting rules, the corporations were required to revise their projections to account for the effect of Obamacare on their bottom lines. The effect is negative because Democrats, in their zeal to raise revenues and improve Obamacare's claimed effect on the federal deficit outlook, took away a tax break these companies needed in order to supply prescription drugs to their retirees. The tax subsidy, itself a government accounting ruse crafted in 2003 by the Republican Bush administration to dissuade corporations from dumping their retiree drug benefit programs on the then-new Medicare Part D, becomes taxable under Obamacare. Corporations are now being reminded of the harsh truth: What Big Government giveth, Big Government taketh away, too.


March 27, 2010


Protest Envy

Marc Comtois

Poor Jim Spencer and Curtis Ellis: they've been waiting for a poll to confirm their preconceived notions and CNN provided it, so now they can write the column they've been yearning to write:

Now (finally!), a poll conducted by CNN gives us some hard data on the Tea Party Nation.

Neither “average Americans,” as they like to portray themselves, nor trailer-park “Deliverance” throwbacks, as their lefty detractors would have us believe, tea partyers are more highly educated and wealthier than the rest of America. Nearly 75 percent are college-educated, and two-thirds earn more than $50,000.

More likely to be white and male than the general population, Tea Partyers also skew toward middle age or older. That’s the tell.

The tell? Oh, that the Tea Party is composed of Baby Boomer white guys reliving their '60's protest heyday. Unfortunately for them, the more recent Quinnipiac poll undercuts their basic premise about a bunch of angry white guys leading the charge. Turns out, it's a bunch of angry white women, as, according to the poll, 55% of Tea Party members are females and women have taken a leading role in many of the local organizations.
“For years, it has been the liberal women who have organized and been staunch grass-roots and policy advocates,” Rebecca Wales, a spokeswoman for Smart Girl Politics, a new group formed to train and mobilize women in the tea party movement. “No longer is it only the liberals. Conservative women have found their voices and are using them, actively and loudly.”

Melanie Gustafson, an associate professor of history at the University of Vermont who has studied and written about the role of women in politics, said the tea party has provided a more direct way for conservative women to have influence than the Republican Party, where she says “women have always struggled for inclusion.”

Sorry guys.


March 26, 2010


Snapshot

Marc Comtois

The bond market continues to struggle as it tries to deal with the new health care paradigm:

Interest rates climbed in the bond market Thursday after a government debt auction drew tepid demand. Auctions Tuesday and Wednesday also saw lower demand....The auction of $32 billion in seven-year notes saw demand fall from the past two months. That means the government could have to start offering higher interest rates to attract buyers.
Michael Barone explains:
[Former CBO Director Douglas] Holtz-Eakin [explained] the bill will not lower deficits but will raise them by $562 billion over 10 years. Treasury will have to borrow that money -- and probably pay much higher interest than it's paying now.

Moreover, once the bill is fully in effect, the Cato Institute's Alan Reynolds points out, its expenses are likely to grow at least 7 percent a year -- significantly faster than revenues. At that rate, spending doubles every 10 years.

Barone also mentions the pension problem states are having. But back to the national budget. Health care is only part of the blooming deficit under President Obama:
President Obama's fiscal 2011 budget will generate nearly $10 trillion in cumulative budget deficits over the next 10 years, $1.2 trillion more than the administration projected, and raise the federal debt to 90 percent of the nation's economic output by 2020, the Congressional Budget Office reported Thursday.
That's including the budgetary tricks the administration used to hide the deficits in their health care program. And we've recently learned that the CBO is also predicting that Social Security will pay out more in benefits than it receives in tax revenue. Meanwhile, companies are adjusting to the new health care realities:
In the first two days after the law was signed, three major companies — Deere & Co., Caterpillar Inc. and Valero Energy — said they expect to take a total hit of $265 million to account for smaller tax deductions in the future....Nationwide, companies would take a $14 billion hit on their financial statements if all of the roughly 3,500 companies receiving the subsidies continued to do so, according to a study by Towers Watson, a human resources consulting firm.
These costs will surely affect employee compensation, which is already down in most of the country:
Personal income in 42 states fell in 2009, the Commerce Department said Thursday....Nationally, personal income from wages, dividends, rent, retirement plans and government benefits declined 1.7% last year, unadjusted for inflation.
Oh, but not everywhere:
Incomes...rose in six [states] and the District of Columbia. West Virginia had the best showing with a 2.1% increase. In Maine, Kentucky and Hawaii, increased government benefits, such as unemployment insurance and Social Security, offset drops in earnings and property values.
Then there are the rising gas prices:
Gas prices have risen $1 since just after President Obama took office in January 2009 and are now closing in on the $3 mark, prompting an evaluation of the administration's energy record and calls for the White House to open more U.S. land for oil exploration.
Anyway, back again to the federal budget. Charles Krauthammer thinks that the Obama Administration is prepping the ground for proposing a VAT (Value Added Tax) to help pay for things and "fix" these deficits.
That’s where the value-added tax comes in. For the politician, it has the virtue of expediency: People are used to sales taxes, and this one produces a river of revenue. Every 1 percent of VAT would yield up to $1 trillion a decade (depending on what you exclude — if you exempt food, for example, the yield would be more like $900 billion)....As a substitute for the income tax, the VAT would be a splendid idea. Taxing consumption makes infinitely more sense than taxing work. But to feed the liberal social-democratic project, the VAT must be added on top of the income tax.
Change, in all of its multiple meanings, indeed.



Majority Extremism Against Change You Can Believe In

Justin Katz

By accident of commercial breaks, I caught a few moments of the Rachel Maddow show, last night, and that's all that was necessary to observe that left-wingers very much wish to convince themselves that the Republican Party is locked in an extremist echo chamber, with its far-right base requiring uniformity of opinion out of step with the rest of the country. Every statement that any Republican has made that conflicts with the right on any issue, according to Maddow, is evidence that the facade is beginning to break.

On one level, we could choose, instead, to see intraparty dissent as evidence that there is no such disciplined higher command from the base. On another level, we could argue that this process whereby the essentials of the base's priorities acquire the assent of the middle — like spring spreading north after winter — is precisely how our political system is supposed to work.

And that's what I think is happening. Consider this short speech, on the floor of Congress, by Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R, MI), whose Q&A session in Newport, this summer, so impressed me:

After citing the displeasure of the American people with their government, with reference to poll numbers, McCotter delivers a stinging rebuke of the direction in which President Obama and the Democrats are leading the country. It would be quite a different matter were McCotter's rhetoric purely that, but every time one opens the newspaper or clicks through news Web sites, there's a new story about Obama's use of government authority in expanded ways. By contrast, there's been no indication of an ingenuous intention, on the part of the administration, to loosen the leash on the private sector a bit so that it may chase some much-needed growth.

We who are politically interest should never discount the possibility that we're wrong on both substance and popular sentiment. It seems to me, though, that those of us who saw through Obama's airy baloney about his own centrism, during the campaign, have been joined by an increasingly broad population who sees through the Democrats' faux stimulus and policies that always err on the side of transferring wealth and power to government operatives.

In other words, we're not selling talking points to capture the public whim of the moment. We're offering an argument about government, and the Democrats' behavior and policies continue to support that argument. They appear to hope that they can buy enough votes to counterbalance the dawn of understanding about their intentions, but I don't think the United States is quite so far gone, down that path, as Rhode Island.


March 24, 2010


The Fraudulent Assumptions of the Dems' CBO Report

Monique Chartier

One of the selling points of healthcare reform, repeated yesterday by President Obama when he signed the bill into law, is that it will reduce the federal deficit. To bolster this statement, which is absurd on its face, they point to the conclusion of a CBO report promulgated at the request of and with the, shall we say, heavy input of Dem Congressional leaders.

Under Justin's post, Tim describes the dubious methodology by which the CBO is compelled to generate a report.

All the CBO does is crunch numbers that are presented to them. If Congress wants an analysis from the CBO on how much it will cost to provide every American citizen (300 million) with one apple and they tell the CBO that the cost of each apple is $1 then the CBO will tell Congress their plan will cost $300,000.000.

What the CBO does not consider, because it's not their function, is how the REAL cost of a single apple is $2 and therefore the REAL cost of the program is actually $600,000,000.
CBO answers are only as legitimate as the numbers they're given to work with.

Garbage In = Garbage Out!

In a New York Times OpEd, Douglas Holtz-Eakin confirms Tim's description of the flawed methodoology that the CBO is compelled to employ.

The answer, unfortunately, is that the budget office is required to take written legislation at face value and not second-guess the plausibility of what it is handed. So fantasy in, fantasy out.

In reality, if you strip out all the gimmicks and budgetary games and rework the calculus, a wholly different picture emerges: The health care reform legislation would raise, not lower, federal deficits, by $562 billion.

Holtz-Eakin goes on to detail the "fantasy" assumptions supplied by Dem Congressional leaders so that they could obtain a report that concludes, incredibly, that the largest entitlement program contemplated by the US government will REDUCE the deficit.

Gimmick No. 1 is the way the bill front-loads revenues and backloads spending. That is, the taxes and fees it calls for are set to begin immediately, but its new subsidies would be deferred so that the first 10 years of revenue would be used to pay for only 6 years of spending.

Even worse, some costs are left out entirely. To operate the new programs over the first 10 years, future Congresses would need to vote for $114 billion in additional annual spending. But this so-called discretionary spending is excluded from the Congressional Budget Office’s tabulation. ...

Finally, in perhaps the most amazing bit of unrealistic accounting, the legislation proposes to trim $463 billion from Medicare spending and use it to finance insurance subsidies. But Medicare is already bleeding red ink, and the health care bill has no reforms that would enable the program to operate more cheaply in the future. Instead, Congress is likely to continue to regularly override scheduled cuts in payments to Medicare doctors and other providers.

Removing the unrealistic annual Medicare savings ($463 billion) and the stolen annual revenues from Social Security and long-term care insurance ($123 billion), and adding in the annual spending that so far is not accounted for ($114 billion) quickly generates additional deficits of $562 billion in the first 10 years. And the nation would be on the hook for two more entitlement programs rapidly expanding as far as the eye can see.

In short, if this CBO report were a stock offering, it would now be the subject of a criminal investigation.


March 21, 2010


Presidential Popularity, or Fun with Juxtaposition

Justin Katz

Charles Blow informed New York Times readers, Friday, that President Obama may be "unbreakable":

First, let's take his job approval rating. Yes, it slid during the summer, but it stabilized around 50 percent in November and has hovered there ever since.

The empty-headed chattering class began another round of speculation and inane analysis this week when his approval rating dropped to 46 percent, its lowest yet. Silly pundits.

Then again, Jim Lindgren offers a comparison:

When George Bush left office he was deeply unpopular: in Bush's last month, according to Rasmussen 43% strongly disapproved of the job Bush was doing, while only 13% strongly approved, for a staggering negative rating of -30%. Rasmussen's Thursday release shows that after 14 months in office President Barack Obama has achieved Bush's 43% of the people strongly disapproving of his performance, but Obama is still 10% ahead of Bush in those who strongly approve (23% v. 13% for Bush).

As Lindgren suggests, 10% "strong approval" seems more than adequately covered by adjustments for identity politics (i.e., "the black vote") and the daily and nightly beating that President Bush took in the media for most of his time in office. From what I've seen (admittedly, as one who doesn't pay much attention to such things), the common wisdom about Obama in the entertainment range of the media is that his biggest shortcoming is being too darn smart and cool for the American people.

The President may turn his popularity around, somehow, but it's also possible that us ignahrant folks are increasingly wondering why the One we're seeing doesn't match the One we're hearing about.


March 19, 2010


Congressman Langevin Will Support Healthcare Reform

Monique Chartier

Congressman James Langevin (D-RI), who had been on the fence, issued the following statement this afternoon. It appears that he has been persuaded in part by the revised CBO report.

In a few minutes I will be making an announcement about the upcoming vote on health care legislation. Because I value your continued support, I wanted you to hear it first from me directly.

This Sunday, after a year of deliberation, the House of Representatives will take a historic vote on health reform. After much deliberation of my own, I wanted to take this opportunity to let you know that I will support H.R. 4872, the Health Care and Education Affordability Reconciliation Act of 2010.

Since I was first elected to Congress in 2000, thanks in large part to your support, I have advocated for many of the health reforms that I will be proudly voting for this weekend. I truly believe this legislation will not only provide over 140,000 uninsured Rhode Islanders with access to quality, affordable care, but it will also improve the health care system for those who already have insurance and put us on a path to fiscal stability on both the state and federal levels.

Among many beneficial and historic provisions, this bill will reduce the federal deficit by $138 billion over the first 10 years, end the unfair exclusion of those with pre-existing conditions and ban lifetime coverage caps, which are a leading cause of personal bankruptcy. Click here (PDF) to learn more about the provisions in the legislation.

In the coming months, I look forward to talking with you about this landmark piece of legislation and the positive changes it will bring for Rhode Island's families and businesses.



Cold Feet on the Hot-Off-The-Press Deficit Reduction Story? Dems Already Backing Away from the CBO Report that They Commissioned

Monique Chartier

The fiction, manufactured by the CBO in a report revised and reissued at the instruction of the Dem leadership desperate to round up votes, that the pending healthcare reform bill will lower the deficit is quickly being exposed.

Over at The New Atlantis, James Capretta enumerates some items.

For starters, as I mentioned yesterday, the plan doesn’t count $371 billion in spending for physician fees under the Medicare program. The president and congressional Democrats want to spend this money, for sure. They just don’t want it counted against the health bill. That’s because they want to reserve all of the Medicare cuts in the bill as offsets for another entitlement instead of using them to pay for the problem that everyone knows needs fixing. ...

Then there’s the “Cadillac” tax on high-cost insurance plans. Because of union pressure, the president pushed the tax back to 2018, well past the point when he will have left office. But once in place, the threshold used to determine “high-cost” will rise only with the Consumer Price Index, beginning in 2020. That means a very large segment of the middle class would get hit with the tax as the years passed. The president has shown that he is unwilling to actually collect this tax on his own watch. But he wants us to believe that we can count on a huge revenue jump over the long run because his successors will have more stomach for it than he does. ...

The other gimmicks remain in the plan as well: The double-counting of premiums for long-term care insurance programs as an offset for the health entitlement spending. The assumption that Congress will allow Medicare reimbursement rates to fall so low that one in five hospitals and nursing homes might be forced to stop taking Medicare patients. ...

Scott Gottlieb highlights one of the scarier items (no lack of those).

The hardest hit won't be those earning more than $250,000 a year--the group that he says needs to "pay their fair share." Rather, it's families whose combined annual income is around $100,000 who could be crushed under this plan.

These folks will be too "rich" to qualify for ObamaCare's subsidies, but probably too poor to easily afford the pricey insurance that the president's plan forces them to buy.

Many of these $100K families will be obliged to buy a policy costing an average of $14,700 for the mid-level, "silver" health plan, according to the Congressional Budget Office's estimates. After income taxes, they'll be spending almost a quarter of their net income for health insurance.

And for those tempted to believe the conclusion of the CBO report ghost written by the Dem leadership, Jay Severin pointed out yesterday that

No government program has ever come in remotely close to budget.

Now, Politico has posted a leaked memo [PDF] apparently issued today by the Congressional Democrat leadership. [H/T The Corner's Daniel Foster.]

We have increasingly noticed how right-wing fringe trying to pick apart the CEO score. We cannot emphasize enough: do not allow yourself (or your boss) to get into a discussion of the details of the CBO scores and textual narrative. Instead, focus only on the deficit reduction and number of Americans covered. There are two CBO letters Republican operatives have already begun distorting in their pursuit of killing our reform efforts: 1) CBO's March 11, 2010 letter to Leader Reid analyzing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as passed by.the Senate, and 2} CBO's letter to Leader Reid (November 18, 2009) with the initial score of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. I list these letters only to warn you of coming attscks from right-wing operatives and Republican sympathizers in the media. Those anti-reform extremists are making a last-ditch effort to derail reform. Do not give them ground by debating details. (For example, the March 11 letter has estimates of discretionary costs not accounted in the total). Again, instead focus only on the deficit reduction and number of Americans covered. In the critical remaining hours of debate we must drive the narrative of "health reform is deficit reduction." ...

In other words, the assumptions and conclusions of the new CBO report are indefensible. So stick to generalized talking points until we can buy or muscle enough votes to ram this baby through on Sunday.


March 18, 2010


Talking About the Demon Pass

Justin Katz

Monique and Matt talked about the foolishness that is "deem and pass" on last night's Matt Allen Show. The biggest question seems to be: Whom do the legislators think the maneuver is going to fool, especially now that it's become a catch phrase? Stream by clicking here, or download it.


March 17, 2010


Deemed to be Passed Gutless

Monique Chartier

An explanation by Byron Tau of "deem-and-pass", currently being contemplated by House Democrats as a means of getting health care reform on the books.

Okay, so here’s how the “deem-and-pass” procedure would actually work. The House Rules committee is often called the “traffic cop” of the House – controlling what bills come to the floor and how much debate is allowed on each one. On each bill, they pass what is called a “rule” – a resolution determining what kind of debate is allowed on each bill. The whole House must first pass the rule, then the underlying legislation. In the case of “deem-and-pass,” the vote on the rule would also have the effect of passing the Senate bill.

Via the Washington Post's Ezra Klein who, more importantly, elaborates on the purpose of this mechanism.

... the problem with explaining deem and pass is that it's virtually impossible to explain why it's being used. Reconciliation is simple enough: Republicans insist on filibustering and Democrats want the health-care reform fixes to have an up-or-down vote. If Republicans wouldn't filibuster, Democrats wouldn't use reconciliation. It's as simple as that.

But deem and pass? House Democrats don't want to vote for the Senate bill because it includes the excise tax and the Nebraska deal.

That's right. Whether of the health care reform itself or of the fetid, district-specific vote clinchers, what House members want, and leadership is perfectly happy to provide, is deniability. "Oh, no, Constituent Smith/Reporter Jones, I didn't vote for that bill."

The pending health care reform is a really bad idea and nothing like it should become law. But minimally, members of Congress should demonstrate the courage of their convictions by actually voting "Yea" or "Nay" on the bill, not hiding behind a legislative dodge.



Making the United States Exceptional Again

Justin Katz

Rich Lowry and Ramesh Ponnuru had an excellent cover piece in the National Review before last on the domestic battle over American exceptionalism, which divides pretty conveniently along the current line of left and right. President Obama is obviously a key figure in the dispute.

Not surprisingly, what strikes me is the gargantuan task facing those of us who'd like to defend and reassert the principles on which our nation was founded:

Corporations, meanwhile, are also becoming more dependent on government handouts. Rivalry between business and political elites has helped to safeguard American liberty. What we are seeing now is the possible emergence of a new political economy in which Big Business, Big Labor, and Big Government all have cozy relations of mutual dependence. The effect would be to suppress both political choice and economic dynamism.

The retreat from American exceptionalism has a legal dimension as well. Obama's judicial nominees are likely to attempt to bring our Constitution into line with European norms. Here, again, he is building on the work of prior liberals who used the federal courts as a weapon against aspects of American exceptionalism such as self-government and decentralization. In­creasingly, judicial liberals look to putatively enlightened foreign, and particularly European, opinion as a source of law capable of displacing the law made under our Constitution.

Liberal regulators threaten both our dynamism and our self-government. They are increasingly empowered to make far-reaching policy decisions on their own — for instance, the EPA has the power to decide, even in the absence of cap-and-trade legislation passed by Congress, how to regulate carbon emissions. The agency thus has extraordinary sway over the economy, without any meaningful accountability to the electorate. The Troubled Asset Relief Program has turned into a honeypot for the executive branch, which can dip into it for any purpose that suits it. Government is increasingly escaping the control of the people from whom it is supposed to derive its powers.

I'd suggest that the Republicans of the Bush years proved that the temptations for corruption and intermedling are too great at the national level. Even the best intentioned of people will find it difficult to resist the urge to reach in and fix every problem in sight — which is to say that they'll convince themselves not to relinquish the power of their offices. The only possibility, that I can see, is a resurgence of attention to local and state government, forcing freedom and federalism back up the tiers of government and pulling authority back toward the people.


March 11, 2010


I Wonder Why these Virginia 'Burbs are the Richest Counties in U.S. ?

Marc Comtois

Yesterday I mentioned the report that federal employees make more than private employees in most occupations. Now we learn that 6 out of the 10 wealthiest counties ( and 11 of the top 25!) are suburbs of Washington, D.C.

Rank County Population Median household income
1 Loudoun County 277,433 $110,643
2 Fairfax County 1,005,980 $106,785
3 Howard County 272,412 $101,710
4 Hunterdon County, N.J. 129,000 $100,947
5 Somerset County, N.J. 321,589 $100,207
6 Fairfax City 23,281 $98,133
7 Morris County, N.J. 486,459 $97,565
8 Douglas County, Colo. 270,286 $97,480
9 Arlington County 204,889 $96,390
10 Montgomery County 942,747 $93,999

There hasn't been a recession in D.C. John Derbyshire has been saying for a few years now that the only way to guarantee not only all-around security but also a pretty nice, upper-middle class living for your family is to get a government job. Looks like he's right.


March 4, 2010


Where the Comparison Goes Wrong

Justin Katz

Chatter about the comparison of circumstances between President Obama and President Reagan has been everywhere, and it all falls apart on one basic question. Here's an example from Henry Olsen (subscription required):

Where does this leave us? Republicans should first remember that politics is like tennis, and the Democrats are serving. It's very hard to break service against a competent player, and there is still time for Obama and his party to regain their game. Obama's slide in the polls has been steep, but his year-end standing was eerily similar to Ronald Reagan's in December 1981. Back then, Reagan had 49 percent approval; Obama had 50 percent in the late-December 2009 polling average on RealClearPolitics. Reagan's numbers slid throughout 1982 as the economy worsened, reaching their nadir at 35 percent in January 1983.

But Reagan recovered nicely, relying on issues that unified his coalition, like hard-line positions against the Soviets. The fast-recovering economy also helped, and as his numbers recovered — and with Democrats unable to overcome their own intra-party divisions during their presidential primaries — Reagan swept to an epic reelection win that placed the GOP on the path toward the continued power it would wield for another 20 years.

Olsen's argument relates to the possibility that a third party will emerge and take the place of the GOP, but one significant consideration is missing from the analysis. Reagan's policies helped bring about the recovery that ultimately boosted his image. Amazingly, Obama has continued to chase down the very policies (in effect and proposed) that have been suppressing economic activity. If that continues, the Republicans have plenty of room to maneuver in order to obviate the need for an additional right-leaning candidate.


March 3, 2010


Who Are the Tea Partiers?

Justin Katz

National Review conducted a poll (subscription required) to find out what we all know about the tea party movement. First of all, Americans think well of the movement. McLaughlin and Associates asked respondents whether the tea parties represented an angry fringe or consisted of "citizens concerned about the country's economic future." 57% chose the latter, and only 19% chose the former — that 19% covering, one supposes, Democrat operatives and the mainstream media.

Another interesting factor that should surprise no-one is that tea partiers are not the anti-government extremists that some suggest, but run-of-the-mill right-of-center citizens frustrated enough to finally become active in politics:

Most tea-party sympathizers, [in contrast to Ross Perot independents], are pro-life. They are more pro-life than the electorate as a whole, although less so than Republicans. Their religious practices are roughly in line with those of the electorate. Tea-party participants, meanwhile, are both more pro-life and more frequent churchgoers than the electorate. Social issues may not be what binds the tea partiers together or what matters most to them, but social issues are not going to drive a wedge between them and Republicans.

Tea-party supporters are concerned about the deficit, but not to the exclusion of other issues. They don't want to cut the defense budget. A small, 52 percent majority of them believes we "should cut taxes to stimulate growth" while only 37 percent say that the deficit makes tax cuts unaffordable (and a tiny 7 percent want tax increases to reduce the deficit).

The tea partiers are often said to be populists hostile to Wall Street and big business. But while they clearly oppose bailouts of financial firms, their antipathy may not go much farther than that. McLaughlin asked likely voters whether they think that "we should impose a new tax on banks because they have benefited so much from bailouts and need to be reined in," or that "bank customers would end up paying the tax and the economy would suffer." The anti-taxers were a majority in the poll (52-38 percent), and both tea-party participants and tea-party sympathizers were even more strongly on the anti-tax side. In McLaughlin's poll, a majority of likely voters want to cut taxes on corporations. Tea partiers were especially likely to agree.

One caution that the poll highlights is that third-party, tea-party candidates will tend to split the electorate and help the Democrats. As NR's Ramesh Ponnuru and Kate O'Beirne suggest, this means that Republicans should consider tea partiers to be ideologically determined and move in their direction, rather than hoping that they'll choose the least worst option. Electoral evidence has already been mounting that they won't; the GOP must do the courting, which is to say, return to its own integrity.


March 1, 2010


When They're Playing a Different Game

Justin Katz

When people behave irrationally, there are fundamentally two possibilities: incompetence or calculation. I fear that Andy McCarthy may be right that we're looking at the latter, in Washington:

I hear Republicans getting giddy over the fact that "reconciliation," if it comes to that, is a huge political loser. That's the wrong way to look at it. The Democratic leadership has already internalized the inevitablility of taking its political lumps. That makes reconciliation truly scary. Since the Dems know they will have to ram this monstrosity through, they figure it might as well be as monstrous as they can get wavering Democrats to go along with. Clipping the leadership's statist ambitions in order to peel off a few Republicans is not going to work. I'm glad Republicans have held firm, but let's not be under any illusions about what that means. In the Democrat leadership, we are not dealing with conventional politicians for whom the goal of being reelected is paramount and will rein in their radicalism. They want socialized medicine and all it entails about government control even more than they want to win elections. After all, if the party of government transforms the relationship between the citizen and the state, its power over our lives will be vast even in those cycles when it is not in the majority. This is about power, and there is more to power than winning elections, especially if you've calculated that your opposition does not have the gumption to dismantle your ballooning welfare state.

Actually, we're looking at both calculation and incompetence. The Democrats are operating by ideological calculation, while the Republicans lack the competence to recognize the inevitable. They'll take their victories, in November, and then attempt to moderate in order to pick up Democrat constituencies for the welfare/healthcare state. In the long term, it won't work, and the statist Dems will have a huge head start as tea-party types find they have to build a political party from scratch in order to combat them.

Perhaps there's still time to have hope that Republicans will start campaigning on repeal as soon as healthcare is rammed into the law... and then actually follow through when they're elected.


February 28, 2010


Two-Faced Weasel Alert: Her Speakerness Finds She Shares Some of the Views of Tea Partiers

Monique Chartier

... after accusing them of carrying swastikas, implying that they incite violence and calling them astroturf.

[Thanks to NewsBusters' Noel Sheppard for sitting through the interview so as to bring this to light.]

[House Speaker Nancy] PELOSI ... But, you know, we share some of the views of the Tea Partiers in terms of the role of special interest in Washington, D.C., as -- it just has to stop. And that's why I've fought the special interest, whether it's on energy, whether it's on health insurance, whether it's on pharmaceuticals and the rest.

[ABC's Elizabeth] VARGAS: So, common ground with many people in the Tea Party movement.

PELOSI: Well, no, there are some. There are some because they, again, some of it is orchestrated from the Republican headquarters. Some of it is hijacking the good intentions of lots of people who share some of our concerns that we have about the role of special interests and many Tea Partiers, not that I speak for them, share the view, whether it's -- and Democrats, Republicans and Independents share the view that the recent Supreme Court decision, which greatly empowers the special interests, is something that they oppose.

That last item is sheer projection. How does she know what most Tea Party members think of that recent Supreme Court decision about campaign financing?

She fails to retract her comments about swastikas and violence, she continues to insult the Tea Party by claiming that it is orchestrated by the GOP (as as a Republican and on behalf of the RNC, I can say with confidence: we wish) yet simultaneously tries to glom on to this movement, presumably because of its popularity and the political advantages that she herself perceives would accrue to her reelection campaign.

I need a shower.


February 27, 2010


H.R. Clinton: The Massive Debt is Bush's Greenspan's Fault (But is She Also Sandbagging Obama?)

Monique Chartier

Reuters.

"It breaks my heart that 10 years ago we had a balanced budget, that we were on the way of paying down the debt of the United States of America," [Secretary of State Hillary Rodham] Clinton said.

"I served on the budget committee in the Senate, and I remember as vividly as if it were yesterday when we had a hearing in which Alan Greenspan came and justified increasing spending and cutting taxes, saying that we didn't really need to pay down the debt -- outrageous in my view," she said.

Setting aside the considerable irony of the context in which she made these remarks

Clinton, appearing before a congressional panel to defend the State Department's $52.8 billion budget request for the 2011 fiscal year

what's your first reaction to this blame-casting? In addition to questioning its accuracy (for example, did Greenspan really say we don't need to pay down the debt?), mine was, what about the trillions in new spending by the Obama administration and Congress?! As a friend said today, did Alan Greenspan roll into Congress with an army and MAKE them undertake all of that spending?

She couldn't really think that everyone has developed amnesia about all of the check writing that's gone on in DC for the last two years, could she? So isn't she kind of making President Obama, who not only signed into law but requested most of those large expenditures, look bad?

Alternately, with regard to the massive overdrawing of the national checking account, could she, on behalf of Congress and the administration in which she plays a key role, be adopting Geraldine's philosophy?

In any case, only two short years ago - and long after Alan Greenspan supposedly sang his siren song about the beauty of massive deficit spending - then Senator Clinton had quite a different opinion of Alan Greenspan, proposing that he guide Washington's response to the upcoming avalanche of foreclosures.

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan and other economic experts should determine whether the U.S. government needs to buy up homes to stem the country's housing crisis, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton will propose on Monday.

Clinton threw her weight behind legislation proposed by Democrats Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts and Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut that would "expand the government's capacity to stand behind mortgages that are reworked on affordable terms."

But she said a bipartisan group should determine whether that approach was sufficient or whether the U.S. government should step in as a temporary purchaser.

The working group could be led by bipartisan economic heavyweights such as Republican Greenspan, Democratic former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker and Robert Rubin, the treasury secretary under President Bill Clinton.

Ah, but what's needed now is not expertise but a blame pinata.


February 22, 2010


Treasury @ Haute Couture: Geithner to Have a Layout Be Profiled in Vogue

Monique Chartier

One question. Why?? [H/T the Fred Thompson Show.]

If last year's bailout of the financial industry caused you to start muttering words like investment banker and robber baron in the same sentence, it may cheer you to know that Timothy Geithner, the man responsible for crafting much of that bailout, agrees with you. "I am," he says, seated in his Washington, D.C., office, an intimidatingly ornate room worthy of a Hogwarts headmaster, "incredibly angry at what happened to our country."

* * *

What little free time he has, he prefers to spend with his children, building a ramp in the driveway for skateboarding, surfing off the coast of Cape Cod, building a guitar by hand with his teenage son, or reading—a recent title on his Kindle is The Places in Between, Rory Stewart's account of walking the length of Afghanistan. ...


January 28, 2010


Blah, Blah, Spin, Blah, Blah, Big Government

Justin Katz

I caught about 25 minutes or so of President Obama's State of the Union address on 630AM/99.7FM WPRO on my way home last night, which served to make me even more relieved to pull into the driveway. Put aside all the cortex-numbing spin, the take away message from what I heard, and what I've read since, is that Obama still doesn't get the message that the people of the United States are sending him.

Americans don't want to hear "our country" and think first of all of its government. We don't want to hear what government is going to do for us; we want to hear what the government is going to stop preventing us from doing. In other words, the subtext of the President's message is that he'll lead the government in coming up with a plan to assist we little folk who are wandering clueless in a complicated reality. And surely I'm not the only person in the global audience who noticed that every time he spoke of "hard-working Americans," he went through a list of union — especially public-sector union — roles before grudgingly mentioning such afterthoughts as "people who start businesses."

On top of it all, the brilliant orator's style long ago began to grate. Listening on the radio, I could picture him doing his teleprompter-left, teleprompter-right head oscillation. "Word word [pause] word word word word [pause] word."


January 25, 2010


Identifying the Stealth

Justin Katz

The Providence Journal ran this story on the front page, Saturday, with the headline "Stealth GOP effort helped Brown win." The first paragraphs surely give comfort to those who continue to prefer that the upset not be proof of real grassroots unrest and voter discontent with the Democrats' policies:

The stunning Republican come-from-behind victory in Massachusetts' special U.S. Senate election wasn't entirely a shock to Sen. John Cornyn, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

The Texas senator had led a stealth Republican operation in the Bay State since December that quietly funneled top staffers, $1 million in cash and campaign knowhow to backstop Republican candidate Scott Brown.

But what constitutes stealth ought to be a question. Here, the Republicans just didn't advertise their financial support of a candidate in a critical (if long-odds) race. Further along in the article, reporter Maria Recio looks to give the other side's interpretation:

State Democrats dispute that they were in the dark about the national Republicans being in the state.

And what Democrat does Recio present as comparable to a Republican in elected office who sits on a committee to elect more Republicans?

"We were very much aware that this was a national election," said Tim Sullivan, the legislative and communications director for the Massachusetts AFL-CIO. "Contrary to popular belief, our side was running a campaign. When it came down to the race being a race, everyone got mobilized."

Perhaps the acronym needs an addition: D-AFL-CIO. Indeed, on the very same interior page as the above quotation is Randal Edgar's application to Rhode Island of the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on campaign finance legislation. The lead reads:

Campaign finance ruling could lead to more spending on ads by corporations and unions.

But three-quarters of the way through the story, one comes upon this:

"It allows too much special interests and lobbying," said Edward Eberle, a professor at the Roger Williams University School of Law. "And I think it makes whoever is up for reelection beholden to the special-interest groups."

Also critical were William Lynch, chairman of the state’s Democratic Party, and George Nee, president of the AFL-CIO of Rhode Island.

I'm not sure how much more beholden Democrats could be to their major interest group when journalists treat party activists and interest group activists as interchangeable. One suspects that the unionists oppose loosened campaign finance rules because they're already so thoroughly interwoven with a political movement — and political party — that the slight leveling of the playing field that comes with allowing corporations to spend more money independently is far more of a threat than being able to spend their own money more overtly is a benefit.


January 24, 2010


Protestations to ProJo Pronouncements

Marc Comtois

1) The ProJo editors on global warming:

Still, that a few scientists are accused of manipulating a bit of data from some climate research does not do away with the preponderance of evidence. The latest controversy revolves around the validity of the collection and use of data behind a U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2007 report that Himalayan glaciers will shrink dramatically, or even disappear, in a few decades. However, the scientific consensus that Himalayan glaciers will dramatically recede is unlikely to be overturned anytime soon.
"[A] bit of data", huh? That interpretation explains why the ProJo has ignored Climategate. The attempt to hide data, manipulate data, leave out non-conforming readings from Siberia, etc.? Aw, no big deal. I suppose they're right about that "scientifice consensus" concerning Himalayan glaciers....
The scientist behind the bogus claim in a Nobel Prize-winning UN report that Himalayan glaciers will have melted by 2035 last night admitted it was included purely to put political pressure on world leaders.

Dr Murari Lal also said he was well aware the statement, in the 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), did not rest on peer-reviewed scientific research.

Oh.

2) Froma Harrop is ticked about Massachusetts electing a senator to stop national health care reform, especially since Masachusetts has already enacted state health care reform. (Echoes of the temper tantrum the ProJo editors published a few days ago--guess we know who penned that one!). Harrop thinks the national plan superior to the Mass. one, particularly in that it does a better job containing costs. But Massachusetts is going to fix it, which gets us to Harrop's favorite rejoinder to critics of national health care: "Politically, the Massachusetts program could serve as a national model. Pass universal coverage now, fix it later." Here's an idea: let's revert to the the "laboratory of the states" idea. The reason for the reputed success of national health care programs in other countries rests largely on their relatively smaller populations and cultural homogeneity. Neither of these are comparable in the U.S. So let states handle it, if they choose, like Massachusetts did.

3) Some minor quibbles with Ed Fitzpatrick's piece on what went wrong with Coakley, mostly with his parrotting of two memes that don't have much substance, but apparently make Democrats and liberals feel a little better. First:

Republicans might convince themselves that Brown’s victory heralds a new level of affection for the GOP. But voters aren’t expressing love. They’re expressing anger.
No kidding. I really haven't seen many Republicans convinced that they're suddenly the darlings of the polity. Hardly. File under, "I know you are, but what am I...." Second:
But after a year of economic turmoil and seemingly endless debate, many people remain unconvinced that a complex health-care overhaul should top government’s priority list. (If I had to guess, the top three priorities are simple: jobs, jobs, jobs). And now Brown, who as a Boston College law student posed nude for a Cosmopolitan magazine centerfold, has stripped Democrats of any easy way to move forward with the existing bill.
It's become an obvious tactic, let's call it Scott Brown Commentary Rule #1: reference his nude modeling "career" no matter what. The attempt is clearly to imply an unseriousness about Brown. Well, sorry, too late. Oh, and one more thing: like all proper thinking columnists, Fitzpatrick is worried that we're headed towards "partisan gridlock.' And that's a bad thing?


January 23, 2010


Rhode Island's Poor National Representation

Justin Katz

Could there be anything more indicative of poor representation than Rep. Patrick Kennedy's dogged insistence that he's going to shoot for the healthcare stars, no matter what the people say?

Kennedy flatly endorsed a strategy for passage of the pending health-care overhaul that many fellow Democrats are wary of pursuing: a swift vote in the House to accept the Senate version of the bill verbatim.

"We can come back and fix those problems," Kennedy argued, perhaps by using arcane budget-writing rules that might let Democrats win controversial votes by a simple majority in the 100-member Senate. As it stands, Brown represents the 41st Republican vote that could permit them to block the health-care initiative. Kennedy said the alternative to immediate action may be the loss of a "once-in-a-lifetime" opportunity to advance national health-care legislation.

Kennedy's post-mortem on the Massachusetts result appeared to jibe with Democratic sentiment expressed Tuesday by White House senior advisor David Axelrod for a preemptive populist campaign that would brand Republicans as handmaidens of a special-interest status quo represented by Wall Street and the insurance industry.

The clear message of the right-of-center populist trends, of the past year, from the Tea Parties to Scott Brown's proclamation of "the independent majority, is that Americans understand that both parties are indebted to special interests (although there's increasing appreciation of the fact that the interests don't line up perfectly with the parties as if they were opposing teams). In the current policy disputes, we just prefer the policies associated with interests, such as Wall Street, that Kennedy despises. That could change, of course, were Republicans to pursue real healthcare reform to that limited the importance of large insurance carriers; in such a case, the independent majority would likely part ways from the insurance lobby.

One can only hope that the upcoming elections prove that Rhode Islanders are tiring of the simplistic analysis that our current delegation insists on serving up. Many of us are also fed up with dead-end promises such as this, from Langevin:

Langevin also said that it's essential that Democrats indicate their solidarity with angry voters by heeding their message from Massachusetts. He said he wants to signal to his Rhode Island constituents "that I'm listening and I hear them."

All I can picture is Rep. Langevin's town hall meeting in Warwick, this summer. Among his peers, his performance was certainly the least scripted, and for that, he gets courage points, but little evidence emerged, subsequently, that Mr. Langevin's listening and hearing had any effect on his doing.



On Citizens United v. FEC Supreme Court Decision: Reflections from April 30, 2005 on Correcting the Bizarre Incentives Created by Campaign Finance Reform Laws

Donald B. Hawthorne

A nearly five year old blog post, reposted here in response to this week's Supreme Court decision about free speech:

Andrew has a terrific, focused posting entitled First They Came for the Radio Talk Show Hosts... that gets to the heart of the latest fallout from campaign finance reform here in Rhode Island. Once again, we have an example of how legislation has unintended consequences that, in this case, affect our freedom of speech.

Dating back to the post-Watergate reforms in the 1970's, I continue to be amazed at how people think it is possible to construct ways to limit the flow of money into politics. And so we have concepts such as hard money, soft money, donation limits by individuals, donation limits by corporate entities, political action committees, 527's, etc.

Like water flowing downhill, money simply finds new ways to flow into politics after each such "reform." Does any rational person really think all these limitations have reduced the influence of money on politics? Surely not. Have all these limitations changed behavioral incentives for people or organizations with money? Quite clearly, as the 527's showed in the 2004 elections. But all we have done is made the flow of money more convoluted and frequently more difficult to trace. Are we better off for all the changes? Hardly. And, the adverse and unintended consequences will only continue into the future.

What can we do differently? Here is an alternative, and arguably more straightforward, view of the world:

1. Government has become a huge business, which means there is a lot of money for various interest groups - of all political persuasions - to grab, some for legitimate reasons and much in the form of pork. Money flows into politics to buy influence because so much is at stake financially. While no one wants to talk about it openly, the flow of large sums of money into politics is yet another unfortunate price we pay for allowing government to become such a pervasive part of our lives. If we truly had limited government, the pressure to buy influence would be much reduced. It is nothing but foolish ignorance to seek limits on the flow of money without first reducing the structural incentives that currently give people an economic reason to buy influence.

2. Since money is going to flow into politics, one way or another, then we should stop setting up barriers to free speech like Morse notes have come out of the latest campaign finance reform law. Rather, why not take all limits off political contributions in America in exchange for requiring ALL details about such contributions be posted in a standardized report format on the Internet within 24 hours of receipt by either an individual politician or by a political party? Total transparency and accountability, unlike today. If a George Soros or a Richard Scaiffe contributes vast monies, anyone paying attention will see it and the public scrutiny will be immediate. No more PAC's, no more 527's, no more hard versus soft money distinctions, etc. Eliminate the incentives to play fundraising games like the alleged misdeeds by Hillary Clinton's Senate campaign.

Such reform even has the potential to weaken the power of incumbents in both parties and create real competition in our political races. Think about Eugene McCarthy in 1968 and Ronald Reagan's various campaigns where each challenged the status quo and all of which were the result of having committed financial sponsors. Today many candidates have to be wealthy so they can spend their own money. Limiting the pool of candidates does not result in a better pool of candidates.

Total transparency and accountability in politics, with the potential for greater competition. Should not those be the policy objectives underlying our campaign finance laws? And, if successfully implemented, wouldn't that be a novel concept?

Of course, it is sadly ironic that achieving such transparency, accountability and competition will only happen if our incumbent politicians vote for new laws. Yet, given their own self-interest, our politicians have no incentive to support such changes and that lessens our freedom as American citizens. Yet another price we pay for big government.

Numerous links to commentaries about the Supreme Court decision can be found in the Extended Entry. If you do nothing else, listen to the Cato Institute video.

Continue reading "On Citizens United v. FEC Supreme Court Decision: Reflections from April 30, 2005 on Correcting the Bizarre Incentives Created by Campaign Finance Reform Laws"


Winning in Race by Making Policies Primary

Justin Katz

Watching the tears of joy streaming down the faces of black attendees at the Rhode Island Democrats' election-night gathering in Providence, in 2008, knowing candidate Obama's centrist rhetoric to be completely contrary to his life history and political record, and believing that his likely policies would be an unmitigated disaster, I worried what effect it might have on race relations were the Obama administration to be as catastrophically inept as I'd have predicted. To be sure, my view is that racial strife has been effectively over for decades, kept alive mainly by those who profit from the grievance industry. That doesn't mean racism does not exist, though, and the hype surrounding candidate Obama made the crashing of expectations a frightening position.

Thomas Sowell suggests that Republicans should begin the long, slow process of pulling the black community away from the self-identity link that they have with the Democrat Party by creating bonds through actual policies:

There is no point today in Republicans' continuing to try to win over the average black voter by acting like imitation Democrats. Those who like what the Democrats are doing are going to vote for real Democrats.

But not all black voters are the same, any more than all white voters are the same. Those black voters that Republicans have any realistic chance of winning over are people who share similar values and concerns. ...

Blacks have been lied to so much that straight talk can gain their respect, even if they don't agree with everything you say. Republicans need all the credibility they can get. When they try to be imitation Democrats, all they do is forfeit credibility.

Sowell covers specific policies too broadly to allow brief quotes, so read the whole thing.


January 21, 2010


A Note on Availablegate

Justin Katz

By now you've caught wind of Senator-elect Scott Brown's joking around about his daughters' availability on the dating scene:

I appreciate that it's an interesting topic about which to talk, but the conversations really tell you more about the people having them than about Brown. Even taking the joke as a significant gaffe (which I don't), there are too many off-stage factors that would mitigate the import.

I'm picturing a conversation, as the campaign really began to demand the family's time and effort, in which Brown's daughters joked with their father about his having to do something to make up for the effect on their social lives. That's pure conjecture, but it's an example of the sort of inside jokes and running gags that families can develop.

The line would have been better made at a more-private post-game celebration, but sheesh, the guy just came from out of nowhere to win a seat in revolutionary fashion the U.S. Senate.



ProJo Editors Throw Tantrum, Call Names Over Brown Victory

Marc Comtois

With their preferred candidate going down to Scott Brown, the ProJo editors can't help but throw a little tantrum excoriating the easily fooled and selfish voters of Massachusetts (remember, it's all about healthcare for 'em):

Part of this was the well-financed campaign pumping up fears of higher taxes for the middle and upper classes to pay for national health-care reform, and anger at the Wall Street bailout. As always in such races, misinformation machines worked overtime.

Although about 95 percent of Bay Staters have health care in a program similar in many ways to congressional plans — and most seem to like it — the 52 percent who backed Scott Brown seem unwilling to extend such comfort to the rest of America. (Mr. Brown voted for the Massachusetts plan!) There’s a growing disinclination among many Americans to help their fellow citizens with health coverage, or with anything else, as the country’s political tone becomes ever harsher. “I’ve got mine! Fend for yourself!”

Again, no distinction is made between the mythical, ideal "universal healthcare" (though they cried again about their preferred "like Medicare" option, which doesn't account for the non-Medicare subsidization!) and the actual plan being bandied about in Washington. And no mention is made of Coakley's misinformation campaign against Scott Brown, largely composed of disingenuous negative ads, which the ProJo regularly opposes (except when it fits their agenda, I suppose????). Oh, and they blamed Bush (really).

They also engage in a little class-warfare:

...as often happens in special or mid-term elections, turnout among lower-income people, who tend to vote Democratic, was fairly low, while it was very high among affluent suburbanites who fear higher taxes and/or reduced benefits in any national health-care reform.
One of the commenters (FACTSONLY) to the ProJo's whine pointed out that the Coakley won both the urban areas and the affluent "elite" in the cities and suburbs. This reflects the Democratic Party's current core constituencies since Obama took office.

Finally, there's this:

And now the insurance industry has another vote in the form of Scott Brown.
Who was meeting with the insurance lobbyists to raise money about a week ago? Is there any clearer example of why the MSM--particularly newspapers--are in trouble? Maybe there once was a time when such slanted editorials could be produced without fear of being called on the supposed "facts" that support it. No more.



A Brown Radio Call

Justin Katz

A certain northern Senator elect was the topic of conversation when Monique called in to the Matt Allen Show. Stream by clicking here, or download it.


January 20, 2010


Senate President: Paperwork Required for This One, Not for Those 12 Million

Monique Chartier

While Senator Jim Webb (D-Virginia) has called for all further votes on health care reform to be suspended until Scott Brown is seated, Mark Steyn points to Senate President Reid's new-found enchantment with documentation.

Harry Reid's reluctance to seat Senator Brown (R., Mass.) — boy, I enjoyed typing that — until "the proper paperwork has been received" seems awfully finicky for a man who famously declared he wanted to bring "12 million undocumented Americans out of the shadows."

A duly elected freshman Republican? Check his paperwork!

Twelve million potential supporters of me and my party? Waive them right in!

A compromise, Mr. Senate President? Let's check everyone's documentation, including that of the new Senator from Massachusetts.



Brown Victory: A First Hand Report; a Widespread Sentiment

Monique Chartier

Michael Graham via The Corner.

My radio station in Boston has been non-stop on the Brown/Coakley race for weeks. Three of our hosts are pro-Brown, two pro-Coakley. We were broadcasting from our own victory rally tonight in Braintree, Mass., at the very moment Scott Brown got the concession call from Coakley. He joined us on the air almost immediately to share the good news.

The crowd of several hundred, packed into a room designed for half their number, exploded. Having not been in Boston when they broke the Curse, I can only speculate, but it must have been a similar moment. The crowd wouldn't let Senator Brown speak. The cheering, clapping and crying wouldn't stop. All Senator Brown could say was "I really can't hear anything, but I'll speak to all of you soon."

For at least five minutes, we stood looking at each other in disbelief. Some people kept looking at the TV looking for confirmation from AP. Could it be true?

Finally it sank in. The cheering began to subside, and then came the cry: "Who's next?"

Another roar, and then came the names: Kerry, Frank, and loudest of all Gov. Deval Patrick.

These people have had their first taste of political success in a long time. They feel hope again, for the first time in years. And they're spoilin' for another brawl in the Bay State.

Not just in the Bay State are people spoilin' for a brawl, Michael.


January 19, 2010


Local Results

Justin Katz

UPDATE:

Drudge is reporting that Coakley has conceded by telephone. Here's the story in the Globe, but high traffic appears to have crashed the site.


Local election returns in Massachusetts, tonight, make for an interesting map that will bear further analysis as time progresses. Note, for instance, the huge margins for Coakley in Fall River and New Bedford.

The live results map from the New York Times, however, shows that this isn't a regional result, inasmuch as the two precincts between the cities are red. Urban blight seems to suit the Democrats just fine, it would seem. Perhaps the blighted should think on that.



Democrats "Gingrich-Bush" Shield No Longer A Factor In Northeast

Marc Comtois

Ross Douthat comments on Steve Kornacki's contention that:

… the rise of southern/religious-based conservatism in 1994 — when Newt Gingrich and the GOP won control of Congress — triggered an immediate and enduring cultural backlash among swing voters in places like Massachusetts. Before ‘94, they still saw the GOP (generally) as a big tent party with room for moderate/social libertarian-types. But ‘94 disabused them of that notion and they stopped even listening to Republican candidates.
As Douthat explains, Kornacki dubs this the Gingrich-Bush shield, which, contra what you may initially think, protected Democrats in the northeast. Douthat observes:
Now, of course, both Bush and Gingrich are gone, taking the shield with them, and suddenly northeastern swing voters are willing to consider “voting for a Republican candidate as a way of expressing frustration with the ruling Democrats.” Thus Chris Christie in New Jersey; thus Scott Brown in Massachusetts; thus Pat Toomey’s small lead in the Pennsylvania polls.

Whether this Northeastern G.O.P. surge can be sustained will depend on a host of factors — but Kornacki’s right, I think, to imply that it will depend on whether the Republican Party can find leaders, for 2012 and beyond, who don’t make the party seem too Southern. On this front, though, I think that style and symbolism probably matter more than substance....What turns off Northeasterners, as Caldwell suggested a decade ago, is less a specific issue like abortion than “the broader cultural claims of those who put it forward” — the sense, that is, that a vote for the G.O.P. is a vote for the habits and mores of Alabama or Mississippi (or a caricature thereof), complete with guns in the cupboard and creationism in the schools....

But if you’re trying to be a national political party, you want your leadership to fall relatively close to the American mean culturally, even (or especially) if you’re going to govern from the right or left politically. That means that...if I were a Republican politician from New England, New Jersey or New York, I’d be hoping that the G.O.P. nominates a Mitch Daniels or a Tim Pawlenty in 2012 — so that Yankee voters can pull the “Republican” lever without worrying that they’re casting a vote for the Old Confederacy along the way.

Based on conversations I've had over the last decade with conservative-leaning independents who used to be Republicans, it always seems to boil down to this. It seems silly, but there it is. And, for most of 'em, the same attitude extends to Sarah Palin.



ProJo's Last Shot at Brown - Scare Tactics

Marc Comtois

On election day in Massachusetts, the desperate ProJo editors have resorted to listing a bunch of "what ifs?" should Scott Brown be elected and Obamacare not pass. Notwithstanding that a counter-argument can be made that passing this particular monstrosity called health care "reform" would make all of the items they identify even worse, the panicked essay reveals that the fatal flaw in their reasoning still exists. They clung so stubbornly to a mythical, ideal single-payer system--like Medicare for all!--that they've been blind to other (yes, free market) reforms that would accomplish many of their desired goals, if differently. So they're left to exclaim that we need to pass something, anything ("the warts can be removed later") before it's too late.


January 18, 2010


Go Ahead, Democrats

Justin Katz

Seal your doom:

The White House and Democratic Congressional leaders, scrambling for a backup plan to rescue their health care legislation if Republicans win the special election in Massachusetts on Tuesday, are preparing to ask House Democrats to approve the Senate version of the bill, which would send the measure directly to President Obama for his signature.

The moment the Democrat leaders' request becomes official is the moment we find out just how little other elected Democrats understand what's happening around them. I'm not prone to confident predictions of the future, but it strikes me as entirely possible that passing the healthcare legislation now, in this way, out of fear of an undeniable declaration of public opposition to doing just that will result in many Democrats' losing their seats and then the next Congress (and perhaps next president) undoing the legislation anyway.



Early Peaking in Massachusetts

Justin Katz

Much discussion about the Massachusetts special election over in the Corner, including a thread about whether Republican Scott Brown "peaked early." Naturally the thread began with an email from a self-confessed Massachusetts liberal; then followed a statement of jitters from a New Hampshire conservative:

Over the weekend, while reading the "Globe" online and watching political ads on TV, I had this odd sense that Brown had peaked at the wrong time. It feels like the Dems finally "get it;" they finally understand that Brown had a real shot at this thing. I feel like if the election had been Saturday Brown would have won, but now I fear that the fear of defeat has driven the Dems to frantic GOTV effort that will topple the Brown insurgency.

We certainly shouldn't lose sight of the fact that a Brown win would be dramatic and unexpected, and I guess we'll find out tomorrow whether two days of lag time between peak and election is enough to turn the tide back to Coakley. However, if we consider what voters are doing, in these slightly down days, it seems to me that anything but a major loss on Brown's part will only be more profound for the "early peak."

This ties into the Northeastern Republican discussion that we had a few days ago, in which I suggested that there was no doubt that the huge red surge in the region was motivated precisely by the conservative and tea party enthusiasm that David Frum fears. Now comes the second part of my proffered equation, during which time Massachusetts voters are actually looking at Scott Brown beyond the headlines. These are the days that they'll discover that he's hardly Sarah Palin with less estrogen. That he is, in a neutral sense, moderate. That they can palatably give him a shot in office.

And from my seat next door, here in Rhode Island, it looks to me as if the Democrats are continuing to misunderstand how unbought Americans think and operate. As Massachusetts voters investigate the man behind the unexpected hype, Senator John Kerry (D, MA), he of the slanderous anti-military testimony, added unconfirmed claims about intimidation of his preferred candidate to the list of negative attacks on the political unknown who might derail the Obamamotive.

As Shannen Coffin points out, Massachusetts voters are right now looking at a candidate, on the Republican side, and desperate political machine, on the Democrat. If they choose the candidate, then the machine — and all those who thought they'd purchased a slate of nation-toppling policies by building it — will begin to collapse on itself.


January 17, 2010


Patrick Stumps for Senate Candidate What's-Her-Name

Justin Katz

It's so Patrick Kennedy to enlist in a partisan battle and offer passionate support for a candidate whose name he doesn't know:

Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), speaking with a gaggle of reporters after the event, said that while state Sen. Scott Brown (R) offers voters a quick fix, in reality, the problems created by "George Bush and his cronies" are not so easily solved.

"If you think there's magic out there and things can be turned around overnight, then you would vote for someone who could promise you that, like Scott Brown," Kennedy said. "If you don't, if you know that it takes eight years for George Bush and his cronies to put our country into this hole ... then you know we have a lot of digging to do, but some work needs to be done and this president's in the process of doing it and we need to get Marcia Coakley to help him to do that."

And it's so Rhode Island U.S. legislator to have nothing constructive to say and concentrate, instead, on declaring superiority to a former president.

What makes it funny (apart from the natural humor of all things Patches) is that the Democrats' very behavior belies his claims. Clearly, everybody from President Obama to Congressman Barney Frank (D, MA) to candidate Martha Coakley, herself, believes in the magic of a Scott Brown victory to turn national politics around overnight.

Tuesday night, to be precise.



And Let's Not Move Too Quickly Past the (Previously) Absurd Proposition that the Race for Ted Kennedy's Seat Should Even be Competitive

Monique Chartier

Mark Steyn didn't make that mistake in his column yesterday.

... If you were at the Hopeychange inaugural ball on Jan. 20, 2009, when Barney Frank dived into the mosh pit, and you chanced to be underneath when he landed, and you’ve spent the last year in a coma until suddenly coming to in time for the poll showing some unexotically monikered nobody called Scott Brown — whose only glossy magazine appearance was a Cosmopolitan pictorial 30 years ago (true) — four points ahead in Kennedy country, you must surely wonder if you’ve woken up in an alternative universe. The last thing you remember before Barney came flying down is Harry Reid waltzing you round the floor while murmuring sweet nothings about America being ready for a light-skinned brown man with no trace of a Negro dialect. And now you’re in some dystopian nightmare where Massachusetts is ready for a nude-skinned Brown man with no trace of a Kennedy dialect. How can this be happening?


Another Learning Lesson from Brown - This One for Democrats -

Monique Chartier

may be developing out of the Mass senatorial race. [Marc's "lesson" pertained to Republicans.]

If Coakley defies certain polls and pulls out a win this Tuesday, the margin will almost certainly not be the thirty point gap she started with two months ago. At that point, a proportionality exercise will, inexorably, flash into the minds of every incumbent Democrat around the country and their campaign consultants:

This is a Massachusetts - worse, Ted Kennedy's - senatorial seat. Therefore, she should have won by thirty points. She only won by X. I won my last campaign by Y, a lot less than thirty points. What does that mean for my margin this November??

January 16, 2010


Political Spin on a Used Car Salesman Scale

Justin Katz

Anybody who watches politics must be prepared for spin to the border of falsehood, but in Brian Riedl's telling, it's difficult not to conclude that the Obama administration has stepped well into the range of what would more accurately be called scams and con jobs:

Last spring, President Obama proposed $11.3 billion worth of discretionary spending cuts. Today's Washington Times notes that Congress accepted $6.9 billion worth of these cuts, a 61 percent success rate.

In a $3.6 trillion federal budget, that comes to just 0.2 percent of the federal budget.

But there is a larger issue:100 percent of the savings from these "cuts" were automatically shifted into new spending. Total federal spending was not reduced by one dollar.

Moreover, the cuts were mainly in defense spending, so spending on things that most of us associate with "big government" actually increased as a result of these "cuts." Unbelievable.


January 15, 2010


Learning Lessons from Brown

Marc Comtois

Win or Lose, the Scott Brown candidacy in Massachusetts has shown that there is a motivated bunch of people looking to upset establishment apple carts, mostly those being pushed around by the in-power Democrats. Brown has struck a chord with these folks based on his common-sense, man-of-the-people approach. Yet, as both Erick Erickson and David Frum note, Brown is certainly a big tent Republican. Erickson thinks the media is blinded by their own preferred narrative:

Right now the media is missing a really big story. It does not fit their narrative.

The narrative, of course, is that conservatives want a totalitarian pure party with a purity test for the GOP. You want gay marriage? No way. Pro-choice? No support. For government assisted health care options? We don’t recognize you. At least that is what the media claims.

So the media has and is ignoring the alliance between left and right among the GOP in Massachusetts.

Scott Brown is not a conservative. He makes no pretension of being a conservative. He defends Romneycare, which most conservative have rejected. He is pro-choice. But he is for less government interference in the free market and less spending. Like Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania, he is the perfect sort of Republican candidate for New England.

Jim DeMint’s Senate Conservatives Fund is encouraging its members to support and donate to Scott Brown.. Marco Rubio is supporting Scott Brown. RedState is supporting Scott Brown. We, well . . . I, suspect he’ll give conservatives heart burn as New England Republicans do. But all of us know he is a good, pragmatic fit for Massachusetts. He’ll vote against Obamacare and he’d vote against a second stimulus. Conservatives do know, despite media and liberal Republican (called “moderate” by the media) claims to the contrary, that the GOP needs 51 seats in the Senate to have a majority.

Conservative and liberal Republicans are united behind Scott Brown. You’d think a mainstream media that has generated millions of words on television, radio, and print about conservatives demanding a pure party would take notice.

But that would shatter their whole narrative. And the last thing anyone wants to do at the next party at the Met or Sally Quinn’s house is mention the latest liberal friend in rehab or that maybe their group think on conservatives is shallow, self-serving, and vain.

Frum makes much the same observation, but, as usual, is attacking his fellow, more conservative Republicans, if preemptively this time.
A Brown victory will rejoice Republicans nationwide. We will revel in it, triumph in it, deploy it, argue from it. Question: will we learn from it?

The Scott Brown who may rescue the country from Obamacare is not a talk radio conservative.

Strong on defense and school choice, opposed to the Obama administration’s signature initiatives, Brown voted in favor of Mitt Romney’s health plan in Massachusetts. He describes himself as pro-choice (subject to reasonable limitations), accepts gay marriage in Massachusetts as a settled fact, and told the Boston Herald editorial board he would have voted to confirm Sonia Sotomayor. He calls himself “fiscally conservative and socially conscious.” He’s got an environmental record too: In the state senate he voted in favor of a regional initiative to curb greenhouse gas initiatives.

Most important: Unlike his arrogant, brittle opponent, Brown has shown himself an open and accessible candidate, optimistic and without rancor. In short – he’s running exactly the kind of campaign that we alleged RINOs have been urging on the GOP for months now.

It would be a travesty if Brown’s victory is seized upon as a victory for anger, paranoia, and ideological extremism.

They both make good points that, from a strictly political viewpoint, are worth considering here in Rhode Island. To me, Erickson's tone is preferrable. Frum has embarked on a new career based largely on hyperbolizing the right side of the GOP because, well, they don't agree with him, apparently. Nonetheless, there are a lot of left-leaning Republicans and Moderates in the Ocean State who probably are in line with Frum and think that the "right wing" seizing the RI GOP (via a closed primary) would be the antithesis of the Brown candidacy.

Perhaps, but I think that the moderate GOPers have, in the past, made the mistake of too-closely defining such a pragmatic Republican with the current independent candidate for governor Lincoln Chafee. Chafee is more liberal on social issues than many Rhode Island Democrats (not to mention Brown) and, as for economic issues, his recent gubernatorial kick-off displayed his unfortunate predisposition to have a plan for tax increases before having anything concrete on budget cuts (and is but the latest example of his zero-sum, baseline budgeting version of fiscal conservatism). In short, the term "moderate" came to mean "like Chafee," which is a disservice to other moderates who may not be quite so....quirky. I think conservatives would be able to support a moderate candidate who displayed the same traits and competency as Scott Brown if one were to arise out of the RI GOP and run for national office. At least I would.


January 14, 2010


But for a Government Gone Too Far

Justin Katz

Kevin Williamson notes an unfamiliar state of affairs:

It's a world gone mad: The Euro-welfarized 'Nucks are hard at work, their wages up 2.3 percent year over year, while the Aussies, who have a 45 percent top rate for personal income taxes plus a 5 percent payroll tax, are booming. But the rugged individualists toiling in the fields of freewheeling American capitalism are suffering Gallic levels of unemployment. How can that be?

Granted, some of the key causes of this recession were unique to the United States, but Williamson suggests that there's something more at play:

There will be no new firms without new investment, and that's the fundamental problem. Investors are terrified. The big guns are worried about the tax hikes that will be necessary should Obamacare pass, about new regulatory burdens like cap-and-trade, and, most of all, about the apparently boundless jurisdiction of Washington meddlers who have arrogated unto themselves the authority to micromanage every nut and bolt of the economy, from the design of cars to the size of Wall Street traders' paychecks. Individual investors are feeling the continued pinch of the recession and, rather than pouring money into their 401(k)s, are paying down consumer debts and thinking about rainy days. ...

One surprising finding: It's not the size and expense of government alone that has sent the United States downward in the economic-freedom rankings--it's corruption. "We're not talking here about outright bribery or petty corruption," Miller says. "It's the perception that the United States has a political system that is about rent-seeking and dispensing favors. Canada and Australia have different electoral processes, and very disciplined party structures, so they have less of that. It may not be illegal, but this kind of political bribery, with people buying access and Washington picking winners and losers, creates a perception about the U.S. that shows up in these corruption scores."

The supposed experts keep predicting that things will return to normal in X number of months, but a great number of us laypeople fear that President Obama really did accomplish change... just not a change that voters would have wished on themselves. In the context of the War on Terror, Mark Steyn recently called the election of Barack Obama "a fundamentally unserious act by the U.S. electorate." The description applies in the area of the economy, as well.

Big government is a burden on investment and economic growth, but if its rules are predictable and the burden calculable, it's just an accepted moderation of profits absent a better opportunity. For decades, centuries, the United States has offered that better opportunity, but we've been busy, recently, illustrating to the world that our form of democracy can be taken over by redistributionists and thieves. That's an image that will take more than a couple of elections to shed. If we shed it.


January 13, 2010


Massachusetts Senatorial Race: The Taliban May or May not Still Be in Afghanistan

Monique Chartier

... according to the Democrat candidate, but they clearly have a presence on her campaign.

On a slightly more serious note, is the mood in Coakley's campaign so pessimistic that they feel they must resort to stonewalling very reasonable questions and physical intimidation?



Electing Somebody Other than Ted Kennedy

Justin Katz

Jeff Jacoby takes the unique tack of emphasizing policy differences between the candidates in Massachusetts's special election:

Coakley supports ObamaCare, opposes the war in Afghanistan, and favors higher taxes on the wealthy. Brown is against the health care legislation, backs the president's surge in Afghanistan, and wants across-the-board tax cuts a la JFK. Coakley is an EMILY's List prochoice hard-liner; Brown condemns partial-birth abortion and is backed by Massachusetts Citizens for Life. Coakley has no problem with civilian trials for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Brown thinks it reckless to treat enemy combatants like ordinary defendants.

Most commentary has been related to Republican Scott Brown's affirmation that, you know, the senate seat is allocated to the people of the state, not to a political dynasty. Me, I find it interesting that Rhode Island Democrat Party Chairman Bill Lynch apparently can't think of a reason to support Martha Coakley more enthusiastically than one would support a brainless blob with a "D" after its name:

The eyes of the nation are on Massachusetts.

In one week, Bay Staters will go to the polls to elect a new United States Senator to replace Ted Kennedy.

I knew Sen. Kennedy well, and was proud to call him a friend. Over the years I watched him fight to improve the lives of countless Americans and do everything he could to make Massachusetts a better place to live, work and raise a family.

By now you've probably heard that the race between Attorney General Martha Coakley and and her Tea Party-backed GOP opponent has tightened, as special interest groups are flooding the air with gutless attack ads. They're trying to stop the change that you and I fought for last year, and they're getting pretty desperate.

Sen. Kennedy was a true friend to Rhode Island, which is why I'm asking you to help elect a candidate who will honor his legacy and pick up the fight where he left off. I'm asking you to get involved today and help Martha Coakley.

We're looking for energized volunteers from Rhode Island and southeastern New England to make phone calls, knock on doors and get every Democrat to the polls on Election Day.

There's too much at stake next Tuesday to sit this one out, so please, do whatever you can and help send Martha to the Senate!

Message to Democrat voters from Democrat operatives: Keep your betters in office; we'll select the heirs.


January 7, 2010


Intellectuals

Donald B. Hawthorne

Thomas Sowell:

...It may seem strange that so many people of great intellect have said and done so many things whose consequences ranged from counterproductive to catastrophic. Yet it is not so surprising when we consider whether anybody has ever had the range of knowledge required to make the sweeping kinds of decisions that so many intellectuals are prone to make, especially when they pay no price for being wrong.

Intellectuals and their followers have often been overly impressed by the fact that intellectuals tend, on average, to have more knowledge than other individuals in their society. What they have overlooked is that intellectuals have far less knowledge than the total knowledge possessed by the millions of other people whom they disdain and whose decisions they seek to override.

We have had to learn the consequences of elite preemption the hard way — and many of us have yet to learn that lesson.


January 6, 2010


Mr. Sweetheart Mortgage Will not Seek Reelection

Monique Chartier

From the Wall Street Journal today.

The departure of [Senator Chris] Dodd, first elected to the Senate in 1980, carried the most symbolic value because of his seniority and his close association with the financial system bailout and other economic policies. He has drawn criticism for backing a measure that allowed the embattled insurance giant AIG to dole out bonuses to its executives.

Mr. Dodd, once closely associated with the insurance and hedge-fund industry, is one of the highest profile Democratic casualties of the financial crisis and its political fallout. Under fire for receiving what some charged was a sweetheart mortgage from Countrywide Financial, and for land deals in Ireland, Mr. Dodd had tried to reinvent himself as a populist, going after big banks and credit-card companies from his perch as chairman of the Senate banking committee.

And suddenly, the Dems are scrambling to fill four open Senate seats.

The uplift of optimism that accompanies this news is tempered slightly by a sense of perplexity. Why announce this decision now, before committing the terrible deed of voting in favor of health care reform? Doesn't that cast doubt on the moral credibility of the Dem's health care reform plan, while at the same time make these senators look like weasels who want it both ways? "Yes, I will vote for this legislation. Note, however, that I will shortly be departing this chamber."

Meanwhile, the meeting, out of sight of C-Span and the American people, between Speaker Pelosi and Senate President Reid to reconcile the Senate and House bills iron out the first steps to the systematic disassembly of the US health care system and to mandate jail for anyone who fails to exercise an inalienable right will take place as scheduled, though presumably with a heightened sense of urgency. There has been no immediate confirmation to the rumor that someone sounding strangely like presidential advisor Rahm Emanuel has already called the offices of Speaker Pelosi and Senate President Reid shrieking, "Pass it! Pass anything! Gone! Our beautiful super-majority will soon be gone!"



Whitehouse Gets Things Backwards

Justin Katz

Of all the letters that have appeared decrying or endorsing Senator Sheldon Whitehouse's recent screed against those who oppose Obamacare, one by Pamela Burdon, of Warwick, was especially poignant:

The Nazis took my parents from their families when they were teenagers. My parents miraculously survived under impossible conditions. They then fled communism, coming here to become American citizens and work their hardest to provide for their children.

They were so proud to be Americans that they would rarely speak the many European languages they knew. ...

As a way of honoring their memory, I feel it is my responsibility to preserve the freedoms that they valued so highly. Can I sit idly by and let their America be destroyed? Could I live with the knowledge that they sacrificed everything to come here, for a better life for their future generations, only to let hastily passed legislation eventually turn this country into a replica of the ones they fled?



A Way to Affect National Politics Quickly

Justin Katz

Turning his Tennessean eyes to our neighbor to the north, Glenn Reynolds offers a useful suggestion:

MASSACHUSETTS SENATE RACE HEATS UP: Rasmussen Shows Brown Within 9 Percent. This is huge given that it's Massachusetts, and a [Scott Brown (R)] win would probably kill healthcare. I don't know how his online fundraising is going, but so far he hasn't gotten much (er, any?) help from the national Republican party. I imagine that will change, if only because people like William Jacobson are asking: "Will the national GOP, which has ignored Brown, get involved now? I'm not sure I care anymore." Whatever else they do, they can't afford to look irrelevant.

Part-time RI resident William Jacobson has updated the first-linked post to note that Brown is within 2% with "definite voters" and leads by a whopping 44% among independents. Republican or otherwise, those who oppose the Democrats' version of "healthcare reform" and the overall direction in which our government is headed should consider the shockwaves that a Brown victory would send through the national political landscape.


January 4, 2010


Really? Health Care is an Inalienable Right?

Monique Chartier

Glenn Beck this morning dissected remarks that Senator Tom Harkin made following upon the passage of a health care reform bill in the Senate. [Emphasis added in both quotes.]

What this bill does is we finally take that step. As our leader said earlier, we take that step from healthcare as a privilege to healthcare as an inalienable right of every single American citizen.

This is a real leap. True inalienable rights, along with true "human rights", another phrase that the Senator has used to characterize health care, are on a much higher plane than health care. To define health care as an inalienable or human right is to dilute true inalienable and human rights.

Further, there is the question of where those rights come from - or, more precisely, from where they do not flow. Beck:

Are created equal and endowed by their creator. With certain inalienable rights. Now, that's important to understand. Because [Senator Harkin] used this language. He used inalienable rights. We have taken it and made it an inalienable right. This is Senator Harkin making, declaring himself and the government God. Our creator. Rights no longer come from the creator. They come from congress. They come from Washington. This is the end of the American Constitution. This is the end or the beginning, I should say the last, the last piece of turn the engine on, of fundamental transformation of the American system. Once they tell you without fear that they can create inalienable rights, the whole system is upside down.

Beck's point that inalienable rights come from God does not altogether ring with me as I am mostly atheist. I do know that they do not flow from Congress. Senator Harkin's attempt to accrue to Congress the power to create and define inalienable rights comes across as an excessively paternalistic, disturbing and completely overreaching power trip.


December 30, 2009


The Man Behind the Tendrils

Justin Katz

Andrew McCarthy's takedown of Attorney General Eric Holder is relevant for a number of topical reasons — the war on terror, generally, the strategy of treating the war like a criminal action, the decision to give terrorist masterminds access to the American civil courts, even as an international police organizations are freed from accountability. On a political level, though, this part ties in with something that I've found to be increasingly applicable across layers of government:

We have been at war with Islamist terrorists for over eight years now--about half as long as they have been at war with us. In that time, they have committed all manner of atrocities. But of the thousands of jihadists who have been killed, captured, or detained since 2001, the 9/11 plotters stand out. To submit them to the civilian justice system makes a mockery of the war, betrays its victims, and turns the American courts into a weapon by which the enemy can gather intelligence and broadcast propaganda. It is inconceivable that civilian trials would have been permitted in any previous American war. In those conflicts, war was understood as the military and diplomatic resolution of a geopolitical dispute, not the judicial disposition of a legal controversy.

But the Obama administration views the war as a legal matter. And its maneuvering to insulate the president from this unpopular ideological decision has been comically transparent: The president was, conveniently, en route to the Far East when Holder announced the civilian-court transfer; the White House maintains that the decision was a call for Holder alone to make (in fact, the attorney general has no authority to order war prisoners out of military custody--that's a presidential call); and Holder purports not to have consulted the commander-in-chief on this momentous matter, instead seeking the counsel of his wife and his brother.

To further the myth of a fully detached Obama, the administration projects a fully engaged Holder, hitting the books, agonizing for long hours over the most difficult decision of his career. But at the hearing, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) exploded the myth by asking the most elementary legal question: What is the precedent? "Can you give me a case in United States history," he asked, "where an enemy combatant caught on a battlefield was tried in civilian court?" After several seconds of excruciating silence, Holder stammered, "I don't know, I'd have to look at that." What, pray tell, has he been looking at, if not that? Senator Graham, an experienced Air Force lawyer, informed the nation's top law-enforcement official that there has been no such case.

Whether it be national administrative "czars" or state-level boards and commissions, this transfer of authority — at least as far as the public is led to believe — is an insidious thing. I find the elevation of a man like Holder to his current position disconcerting, but not as worrisome as the fact that he's clearly not an administrative rogue.

ADDENDUM:

But while I'm quoting from the piece, here's part that's directly related to the decision about easing domestic restrictions on the International Criminal Police Organization:

Why invite all this when the 9/11 plotters were ready to plead guilty? On the campaign trail, Holder promised the Left a "reckoning." The new administration would hold the Bush administration to account for its purported crimes. Understanding the legal emptiness and political explosiveness of such a promise, however, Holder has been reluctant to do more than "investigate." Thus the restless international Left--which includes Obama's core of support--has exhorted the United Nations and foreign tribunals to invoke "universal jurisdiction" to bring war-crimes charges against Bush officials. In Europe this spring, Holder expressed his willingness to cooperate with such investigations, including one ongoing in Spain.

A civilian trial for KSM & Co. will be an unparalleled coup for these efforts--more so even than the mounds of classified memos Holder has already made public over the strenuous objections of current and former CIA directors. The Left's shock troops at the Center for Constitutional Rights, who worked on our enemies' behalf with many lawyers now staffing Holder's Justice Department, will exploit any new revelations to intensify calls for foreign prosecutions. The Obama administration will get credit for delivering on its promised reckoning but will avoid the political damage that would result if DOJ were to bring the case itself.

As I titled an earlier post: the noose tightens.


December 29, 2009


The Noose Tightens

Justin Katz

It seems so innocuous, like a little book-keeping, this executive order from President Obama:

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including section 1 of the International Organizations Immunities Act (22 U.S.C. 288), and in order to extend the appropriate privileges, exemptions, and immunities to the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), it is hereby ordered that Executive Order 12425 of June 16, 1983, as amended, is further amended by deleting from the first sentence the words "except those provided by Section 2(c), Section 3, Section 4, Section 5, and Section 6 of that Act" and the semicolon that immediately precedes them.

Until one applies the deletion to the actual text:

By virtue of the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and statutes of the United States, including Section 1 of the International Organizations Immunities Act (59 Stat. 669, 22 U.S.C. 288), it is hereby ordered that the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), in which the United States participates pursuant to 22 U.S.C. 263a, is hereby designated as a public international organization entitled to enjoy the privileges, exemptions and immunities conferred by the International Organizations Immunities Act; except those provided by Section 2(c), the portions of Section 2(d) and Section 3 relating to customs duties and federal internal-revenue importation taxes, Section 4, Section 5, and Section 6 of that Act. This designation is not intended to abridge in any respect the privileges, exemptions or immunities which such organization may have acquired or may acquire by international agreement or by Congressional action.

And digs up Section 2(c):

Property and assets of international organizations, wherever located and by whomsoever held, shall be immune from search, unless such immunity be expressly waived, and from confiscation. The archives of international organizations shall be inviolable.

Bob Owens cites some of the relevant concerns:

Schippert and Middleton note that Obama’s order removes protections placed upon INTERPOL by President Reagan in 1983. Obama’s order gives the group the authority to avoid Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests — which means this foreign law enforcement organization can operate free of an important safeguard against governmental abuse. “Property and assets,” including the organization’s records, cannot be searched or seized. Their physical locations and records are now immune from U.S. legal or investigative authorities.

If the president of the United States has an aboveboard reason for making a foreign law enforcement agency exempt from American laws on American soil, it wasn’t shared by the White House.

An international law enforcement agency now operates on American soil with more immunity and less accountability than agencies subject to the rule of the people of the United States. One wonders why candidate Obama didn't campaign on his trust of the international Left over and above the Constitution.

ADDENDUM:

For further indication of this administration's worldview, put this executive order in the light of the upcoming civil trial of men who've already acknowledged — proclaimed — their role in the murderous attack on our nation in 2001:

While the five men wanted to plead guilty in a military commission earlier this year to hasten their executions, sources now say that the detainees favor participating in a full-scale federal trial to air their grievances and expose their treatment while held by the CIA at secret prisons.

December 22, 2009


Are key portions of Obamacare going to be unrepealable?

Donald B. Hawthorne

It is worthwhile to listen to Senator Jim DeMint discuss one critical aspect of the Senate Obamacare bill:

Sen. Jim DeMint (R., S.C.) has thumbed through Harry Reid's manager's amendment and discovered some "particularly troubling" rule-change provisions, especially with regards to the proposed Independent Medicare Advisory Board, which he finds could be unrepealable

John McCormack:

According to page 1001 of the Reid bill, the purpose of the Independent Medical Advisory Board is to "reduce the per capita rate of growth in Medicare spending." For any fearmongers out there tempted to call an unelected body that recommends Medicare cuts a "Death Panel," let me be clear. According to page 1004, IMAB proposals "shall not include any recommendation to ration health care"—you know, just like the bill says there's no funding for abortion.

William Kristol:

Why did the authors of the legislation want to specially protect the Independent Medicare Advisory Board by making it difficult for future Congresses to legislate in that area? Because the heart of the bill is the attempt to get control of our health care permanently in the hands of federal bureaucrats, who would allegedly know better than doctors and patients what’s good for them, and who would cut access to care and the quality of care...

A GOP Senate staffer writes:

The bill changes some Senate rules to say we can't vote in a future Congress to repeal the IMAB (death panels)....

It also shows that this provision in particular is very important to Dems. They chose this section out of all others to give the highest possible protection against change or repeal showing how insatiable their desire is to allow Washington bureaucrats to control our lives.

And for these sorts of issues, it is critically important to force a vote on Christmas Eve before the word can get out about the true nature of the bill.

Meanwhile, the Republicans are not articulating a compelling strategic alternative to draw American citizens into their realm.

It's too bad we can't send everyone home from Washington, D.C. until the 2010 elections.



Re: Whitehouse

Justin Katz

Granted, Randal Edgar begins his report with equivalence between political parties, but it's still surprising to see Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse's offensive remarks achieve front-page, above-the-fold status in the Providence Journal. If anything, however, that attention only makes me more wary of our all-too-natural reaction.

I've absolutely no doubt that Whitehouse derives enjoyment out of writing and delivering soaring partisan rhetoric about his vision of the most evil people of our day (conveniently, his political opposition), but in an environment in which Sen. Al Franken (D, MN) disallows Sen. Joe Lieberman (I, CT) a few moments to wrap up remarks, it seems to me unlikely that Whitehouse would be granted permission for diatribes unless there were political utility. It could be merely that the Democrats know that forcing through the sort of healthcare bill currently on the table is going to come at a political cost across the ideological spectrum, from far left to far right, so they want to toss some crumbs left and deflect some blame right.

Even if that's the only motivation for Whitehouse's division and offense, it's important to consider that he occupies a very safe seat, from the perspective of Washington, D.C.: He's not up for reelection until 2012, and he's from a relatively liberal state, in which stridency might buy him stronger support in some quarters. I suggest that we look at his remarks as an act, not just of his, but of the Democrat Party's. The critical questions, in that light, are:

  • From what are they trying to distract the public?
  • How can we avoid being distracted?

My fear is that the too-obvious answer to the first question — that they're simply throwing up sand in preparation for passing unpopular legislation not only in the dead of night, but in the dead of a silent night — hides something more sinister. Whatever the case, the various videos of outlandish comments from Sheldon are not going anywhere; they'll be on the Internet well into the 2012 election cycle, and they'll no doubt have picked up additions along the way. In the meantime, we should avoid turning our gaze so fixedly on our senator that we fail to be offended at the broader destruction of our way of government (not to mention of our economy) being perpetrated by his party.

By all means, begin planning for 2012, but don't let political stagecraft and the design of our electoral system become a shield against your ire, right now.


December 19, 2009


This Is About Self-Dealing, Not National Economic Health

Justin Katz

The Democrats are clearly in grabbing mode, and this sort of thing is not going to stop until we citizens of the United States make it stop:

President Barack Obama's Democratic allies in the House Wednesday muscled through a year-end plan to create jobs, mixing about $50 billion for public works projects with another almost $50 billion for cash-strapped state and local governments.

The unemployed would get continued benefits. But conspicuously absent from the plan were Obama's recently announced initiatives to give Social Security recipients $250 payments, a tax credit for small businesses that create jobs, and a program awarding tax credits to people who make their homes more energy-efficient.

This is all about the government and public bureaucracies preserving themselves at the expense of national economic health, rewarding special interests, and expanding dependencies.

It's worth noting, too, that although no Republicans voted for this particular legislation, there's little reason to believe that all, or even many, of them will allow small government principles to stand in the way of their own benefit should they return to power. The political class requires wholesale revision.


December 17, 2009


A Consensus of One-Third

Justin Katz

A running interest of mine is the way in which individuals pile conclusions upon impressions upon experiences upon predispositions in such a way as to live as if in totally different worlds. Last week's WRNI Political Roundtable piqued that interest with URI Political Science Professor Maureen Moakley's heavily couched compliments of President Obama. The following was among the topics that she raised to support the suggestion that he's doing pretty well, considering:

There's now an emerging consensus that, to some extent, the stimulus package has worked.

Perhaps she means "emerging" in the way that the high tide is evidence of an "emerging" flood, but from my reading it's difficult to comprehend how such a statement can be made. Even here in the heart of the Obama blues, only a dramatic minority count themselves among Moakley's "consensus":

Three-quarters of Rhode Islanders have a friend or family member who recently lost a job, and only a third believe the $787-billion federal stimulus package is doing much to help the economy, according to a new Brown University poll.

I wonder if other assumptions of Rhode Island's commentariate are similarly questionable, including even the depth of the state's progressivism. WRNI Political Analyst Scott MacKay lays the decline of RIGOP at the feet of social conservatives and later insists that:

If Anchor Rising and these right-wing blogs and these folks want to beat up Frank Caprio, that's only going to help him in the Democrat primary.

He then goes on to highlight the fact that Caprio's competition for the Democrat nod for governor, Patrick Lynch, was the first out of the gate for Obama during the last campaign season. The thread that MacKay misses, in my opinion, is that a majority of voters — including all "independents" and "unaffiliateds" — don't view these races through a lens of us versus them partisanship. Similarly, it is not the objective of Anchor Rising to help or to harm a particular candidate, but to make an argument for a particular way of looking at the world and solving its problems.

According to that view, civic and economic conservatism will not function — meaning that human society will not endure — unless the culture does some of the work that liberals would put in the hands of government. This relates to MacKay's conclusion in one of his radio monologues:

Rhode Island Republicans desperately need leaders to take them out of the tea party echo chamber, discuss the state's deep economic problems, and give the Democrats some sorely needed competition for assembly seats, but if Republicans keep fighting among themselves, that day will never come.

If conservatives back down, Republicans may, indeed, gain a seat or two, although I'd predict the opposite, but the short-term political calculation is irrelevant. Longstanding pragmatic support for "moderates" will lead just as surely to societal decay as full-on liberalism. The pace and the route may vary by degree, but the result is identical, and the community — starting locally, moving through the state, and ending at the federal level — must be persuaded of that fact.


December 14, 2009


When Taxes Aren't an Issue

Justin Katz

Mark Perry observes (with charts) a progressive trend in American taxation:

The Tax Foundation reported last week that more than 143 million individual income tax returns were filed in 2007, and 46.6 million of those returns had a zero or negative tax liability, setting a new record for the number of "non-payers." This group represented almost one out of every three tax returns filed in 2007 (32.6 percent, see chart above), and reflects tax filers whose exemptions, deductions, and credits wiped out any federal income taxes that would have been due. According to the Tax Foundation, every dollar withheld from the paychecks of the "non-payers" during the year was refunded, and in about half of the cases, substantial additional money was refunded to the tax filer. There were an additional 15 million people in 2007 who did not earn enough income to file a tax return, bringing the total number of Americans who paid no federal income taxes to more than 61 million, or 39 percent of the tax-eligible population (158 million including filers plus non-filers).

As Perry notes in the words of American Enterprise Institute Economist Alan Viard, increases in government spending likely mean less to people who don't think they pay for it. This one item is not a complete explanation, but we appear to be witnessing the realization of a risk that has been foreseen with democracy all along: the majority can simply vote itself money from the minority, disregarding or ignorant of the self-destructive nature of that practice.


December 13, 2009


A Government Version of Tithing

Justin Katz

Today's been a bit of catchup, for me, as a means of remaining productive despite an utter lack of motivation. But I just had to break my rainy-day malaise to note this odd phenomenon, during a recession (emphasis added):

In a surprisingly suspenseful vote, the Senate cleared a key parliamentary hurdle yesterday on a huge spending bill for almost half the federal government, a measure that increases funding for the agencies it covers by an average of 10 percent.

If America doesn't manage to begin cutting its government in the near future, we should focus our efforts on changing the country's name. That way we can still speak of things like "the American spirit" and "the American dream" with some degree of intellectual clarity.


December 11, 2009


Bush Was Better

Justin Katz

Now this is interesting:

Perhaps the greatest measure of Obama's declining support is that just 50% of voters now say they prefer having him as President to George W. Bush, with 44% saying they'd rather have his predecessor. Given the horrendous approval ratings Bush showed during his final term that's somewhat of a surprise and an indication that voters are increasingly placing the blame on Obama for the country's difficulties instead of giving him space because of the tough situation he inherited.

There are a number of centrist-types who were rah-rah for Obama during the campaign from whom I haven't heard since the man began attempting to govern. In a sense, Obama's strategy was to hold up a picture of President Bush (not unlike the one that Glenn Reynolds posted in relation to the polling information) and told Americans that he would be the opposite of whatever they didn't like about his predecessor — left, right, whatever.

It was naked deception, but it worked. Too many right-of-center people didn't realize that Obama included "even more" among the qualifiers for "opposite."


November 29, 2009


The Conservative Eagle Has Two Wings

Justin Katz

Periodically, one picks up a hint from the libertarian quarters of the broader tea party movement that they see, in it, an opportunity to assert economic conservatism apart from social conservatism. As I noted while observing the size and diversity of the crowd at the marriage-vow-renewal ceremony hosted by the National Organization for Marriage - Rhode Island, I don't see that as a plausible political strategy. The point emerges, again, with this information from NOM's national head Maggie Gallagher:

Over in New York, the collapse of Dede Scozzafava is another big story. Scozzafava was handpicked to become the first openly pro-gay marriage Republican in a district where the vast majority of Republicans and independents (and even a big chunk of Democrats) oppose gay marriage.

A National Organization of Marriage poll of likely voters in New York's 23rd Congressional District revealed that fully 50 percent of her opponent's supporters said that Scozzafava's vote for gay marriage was a factor in their decision not to support her.

Granted, I watched that race only peripherally, and political horse-race commentary tends to focus on less, well, mushy subjects than social issues (which is to say it tends to be wonkish), but I hadn't seen the marriage issue mentioned as a factor in Doug Hoffman's out-of-nowhere wave. Obviously, Maggie has reason to emphasize her core issue, and the shorthand of "liberal v. conservative" still includes the social issues in most cases.

Still, it's worth reasserting that conservatism will fail if it doesn't apply its principles across the board. In conjunction with liberal morality, conservative economics only feed an aristocracy and modern conservative governance fails, but not before creating a seedy underclass.


November 22, 2009


Sorting out Exactly Who Appointed the (Now Borderline Criminal) Panel Who Made the (Apparently Execrable) Anti-Mammogram Recommendations

Monique Chartier

Gratifyingly, Democrats in Congress and the Obama Administration have reacted to this government panel's recommendation by setting land speed records distancing themselves from it.

But in view of the public outrage that ensued, a scapegoat had to be identified. Who appointed the members of this panel??

Brace yourself. Because, of course ...

It's George Bush's fault!

Yes, that threadbare excuse hilariously rears its hoary head yet again, this time, almost one year into the administration of a new president. [H/T NewsBuster's Mike Bates.]

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius Wednesday on CNN's Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer:

This panel was appointed by the prior administration, by former President George Bush, and given the charge to routinely look at a whole host of services ...

And clearly reading from the same script, Senator Majority Whip Dick Durbin piped in. From Politico:

“The recommendation by this medical panel has been rejected by virtually everyone, including the current administration,” Durbin said. “They were appointed by President Bush.”

Yeah, good times.

Slight glitch, people. The New York Times's Gina Kolata, after some good, old-fashioned research, reports that the panel is apolitical and deliberately so. Further, panel members

said they never thought of themselves as being political appointees, much less being Bush appointees.

In fact, NewsBuster's Mike Bates, with more good, old-fashioned research, has determined that the person who had ultimate say in the current composition of the panel, Dr. Carolyn M. Clancy, is a Democrat. [Oh, the horror ...]

But setting aside, as Durbin and Sebelius did, the apolitical nature of this panel, I would still disagree with their conclusion. My own view is that the Office of the Presidency of the United States is responsible to act on and keep track of an incredible number of matters, large (mostly) and small. Accordingly, it is natural, indeed, necessary, for the occupant of that office to delegate some of those responsibilities, including the appointment of government health panels.

If, however, partisans ducking for cover insist on taking the slant that the President of the United States is personally responsible for the composition of this panel and for its odious recommendations, wouldn't it be far more accurate to point out that it has been eleven months since President Obama took office and, therefore, how much can he truly claim to care about women's health issues if he has not taken the time to appoint the right people to such a panel?

Again, this is not how I see it and neither do a lot of people, I would venture to guess. But this "re-slanting" would be a perfect understandable reaction to the fatuous attempt to blame an official who has been out of office for almost a year. [Side note: Dick Durbin is an elected official so presumably cannot be bothered to do minimal fact checking when deflecting political fallout. But isn't it slightly alarming that the head of Health and Human Services doesn't understand the nature and composition mechanism of one of the panels under her purview?]

More to the point, if the Democrat Party cannot determine with any accuracy who is responsible for a particular misstep, especially when it is committed by one of their own, they need to at least come up with a fresher blame target. The credibility shelf life of "It's Bush's fault!" having expired long ago, it is now not so much an excuse as a punch line.

... or, in keeping with the underlying theme, don't.


November 19, 2009


Patrick Unleashed!

Justin Katz

Rep. Patrick Kennedy gives the impression of a politician sprinting to catch a departing train. Take as evidence of the impression the fact that Patrick Crowley loves this clip of Kennedy in action while filling his seat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee:

No constituents to the right of the aforementioned progressive union extremist should take it as given that Representative Kennedy actually represents them in any real sense. He's now in Congress to prove his Liberal Cub bona fides and play rock star to the far left.

He's also proving that he doesn't know what the word "alien" means. His staff should buy him a dictionary... or show him that Sting video.

Details of the above session may be found here.


November 17, 2009


Obama Stimulus Helps RI's Invisible Districts

Marc Comtois

Thanks to President Obama's stimulus package, RI's 86th Congressional District has netted $10.2 million in aid and has had 58 jobs created (or saved)! The district, which encompasses the Williams and Franklin households in Ashaway, was given funds based on a proposal to open a low footprint, "green" factory for the manufacture of 100% eco-friendly air lined containers. This product--invisible and lightweight--has gained the attention of the aspiration and exhalation industries.

86th District Congresswoman Envy Sibal Williams was thankful for the stimulus help to her district. In a written statement, she explained that, "...over the last two years, the snipe-flu has raged through our domestic snipe farming operation. While some farmers have successfully transitioned to snipe hunting, others were having a tough go....These green jobs will more than make up for those lost."

Additionally, the 5th Congressional District saw $1.3 million in stimulus money. The district, sandwiched between the Jones and Smith houses on Conimicut point, will use the money to develop an entertainment complex--including bleachers and a concession stand--for the purpose of viewing the submarine races that are a regular, nightly attraction.

Unfortunately, the 00th Congressional District, located on the 2nd floor of a tri-decker in Central Falls, reported that they have received no stimulus aid while district(s) 4 and 6 through 85 have not responded to our inquiries.

In other news, the population in Rhode Island is booming...



Counting Every Ballot

Justin Katz

The one straw at which Democrats and progressives could grasp after the election was the 23rd Congressional district in New York. And grasp it, they did. "Tea Party Over?" asked a Village Voice blogger. Matt Jerzyk declared it a "HUGE" victory for the Democrats that third-party, last-minute candidate Doug Hoffman had only come within a few percentage points of winning. Even in our own comment section, Rhody called the loss a "slap" against the tea party movement corresponding to one against the president.

Which all makes this development rather interesting:

Conservative Doug Hoffman conceded the race in the 23rd Congressional District last week after receiving two pieces of grim news for his campaign: He was down 5,335 votes with 93 percent of the vote counted on election night, and he had barely won his stronghold in Oswego County.

As it turns out, neither was true. ...

Now a recanvassing in the 11-county district shows that Owens' lead has narrowed to 3,026 votes over Hoffman, 66,698 to 63,672, according to the latest unofficial results from the state Board of Elections.

In Oswego County, where Hoffman was reported to lead by only 500 votes with 93 percent of the vote counted election night, inspectors found Hoffman actually won by 1,748 votes — 12,748 to 11,000.

Sure Owens was quickly sworn in and helped to move the healthcare atrocity through the House, but if he turns out to have lost, he'll be removed. At any rate, even if Hoffman doesn't receive the two-thirds of the remaining votes that he'll need to actually win the race, it's ludicrous to describe his near victory as a rebuke to his supporters.


November 14, 2009


So is He Claiming to be Not Disconnected?

Monique Chartier

Justin references a comment by Senator Whitehouse.

To finish up, Whitehouse spoke about the apparent disconnect from reality that is exhibited by the Republican Party, whether it be about health care reform, or the climate bill, or same-sex marriage.

On all of these issues, Senator Whitehouse has indicated that he will vote "yea" if/when the corresponding bill arrives at the Senate.

Yet, less than a majority of Americans support health care reform [Rasmussen], only 35% support the cap and trade bill that passed the US House [Rasmussen] and 39% favor same sex marriage [CNN].

Just because the question is somewhat obvious does not diminish the importance of asking it. Does Senator Whitehouse purport to be "connected" to the American people with his contrary stances on these issues? (Defenders of the senator who may wish to pirouette away from the nub of the question are reminded in advance that the standard in this case has been established by the senator and is, paraphrasing, connectedness to the American people, not principle or a perception of what is best for the country.)


November 4, 2009


Grow up

Donald B. Hawthorne

Real men don't whine and make excuses.

And they don't dither, either.

ADDENDUM #1:

My first comment in the Comments section:

Dithering on Afghanistan while American soldiers die.

Meeting multiple times with Andy Stern of SEIU while not having time to decide on Afghanistan.

Calling Afghanistan the important war in March before it wasn't the important war in October. The man simply can't say the word "victory," let alone "victory" and "America" in the same paragraph.

Talking, talking, talking to Iran without conditions while being silent as Iranian tyrants arrest, torture and kill freedom-loving dissidents. And then continuing to talk when Iran thumbs their nose at us about their nuclear program.

Chairing the UN for a day and failing to disclose the existence of another Iranian nuclear facility, a clear violation of those meaningless/toothless UN resolutions. Forcing French president to drop any reference to it from his UN speech.

Refuses to meet with the Dalai Lama because relationship with Communist Chinese cannot be sacrificed.

Abandoning our allies in Eastern Europe while coddling Russia as they do war games threatening Eastern Europe.

Treating our historic friends, the Brits, with disrespect.

Refusing to participate in celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Berlin Wall falling.

Completely silent on anything to do with human rights and freedom while coddling tyrants.

Bowing to Saudi kings.

Pressuring Israel but not the Palestineans.

Backslapping and smiling broadly with tyrant Hugo Chavez.

Listening passively to 50-minute anti-American rants by Daniel Ortega.

Bullying Honduras democracy to reinstate Chavez acolyte who was violating constitution.

Contrary to CW, GW Bush had more effective relationships with various countries than Obama has. Obama is unable to convince anybody of anything anywhere, including actions on Iran and Afghanistan.

Going on world-wide apology tour about America while failing to speak up for our national self-interest.

Passing roughly $800 billion stimulus package that blows up deficit without positively impacting economy. Did I mention nobody read the bill before it was passed?

Running budget deficits that make that spendthrift GW Bush look like a tightwad. See here.

Trying to socialize medicine in America, which would blow up deficit even further and take away freedom.

Trying to pass cap-and-trade energy tax that would adversely impact economic growth and family economics.

Taking over industries instead of letting the marketplace sort it out, losing billions of taxpayer dollars in the process. Dictating outcomes for Chrysler bondholders, unilaterally declaring existing legal contracts don't have any standing.

Demonizing news organizations who don't toe the Obama party line, including trying to exclude them from interviews with Administration officials. In other words, arguing against free speech based on ideological differences.

Having endless number of czars who are effectively an unaccountable shadow Cabinet, operating without Congressional oversight or transparency. Telling Congress there will be no testifying by czars in front of Congress.

Having czars dictate pay for private companies.

Filling his administration with self-proclaimed Marxists and admirers of Mao.

Aligning self with ACORN-types, who commit voter fraud, etc.

Hey, that's the Obama track record. Who needs any more time? He is a wimp like Jimmy Carter on international relations but without any moral compass on freedom and human rights. He is a budget-busting spendthrift who is trying to socialize the American economy. His banana republic deficit levels are driving the international community to abandon the dollar as the preferred reserve currency, something that threatens to reduce our standard of living over time. He is allergic to the concepts of freedom, liberty and American exceptionalism, surrounding himself with people akin to long-time friends like Rev. Wright and Bill Ayers. And he doesn't know history.

In summary, running as a (faux) moderate in 2008 and governing from the far left in 2009. He most certainly has a track record already and it is not positive on any dimension. All while golfing more in 9 months than GW Bush did in 2 years and 10 months.

Okay, the man has a great sounding voice and can read off of a Teleprompter.

And, I repeat, does he ever whine and blame others. Real men and women don't do that. Successful leaders surely don't.

My second comment in the Comments section:

How fascinating to read many of the responses.

Few seem to want to talk about the substantive issue: Obama manufacturers excuses for his non-performance. And he is, I believe, the first US President to go overseas and publicly trash his predecessor. Call it what you want. I call it wimpy, lacking in courage, lacking in leadership, lacking in a moral foundation. You can call it whatever you like but, regardless, it is not what strong, principled men or leaders do.

And talk about thin-skinned! Politics is a contact sport so why is everyone aghast when Obama is criticized. Or feeling a need to twist any criticism into a suggestion of racism.

So, here is the other call out - Is criticizing Obama off limits because he is a black man? Sure seems that way. Which is itself a racist concept and worthy of challenge.

In a nutshell, the other substantive point is that Obama is a socialist who doesn't believe in the core principles of America. And he is a foreign policy wimp who dithers without any moral direction. My earlier comment to this post offers the particulars of an indictment.

By way of contrast with the overly sensitive types, some of us dish it hard in all directions, writing before the 2008 election that McCain wasn't presidential timber; that is summarized here. Some of us said the Republicans should lose majority control of the House in 2006 and spend some time in the political wilderness so they could rediscover principles. Some of us sat out the 2006 RI US Senate race because of a belief that neither of the candidates deserved support. Some of us trashed GW Bush and the Republican Congress for their spendthrift domestic policies. Some of us supported and raised money for a black US Senate candidate back in 1992 and have written on this blog site about the moral contributions of Martin Luther King, Jr.

So some of us are pounding Obama because we don't like socialist domestic policies that take away our freedom, spineless/unprincipled foreign policies that do not promote American interests - all from someone whose actions regularly suggest a lack of commitment to liberty.



Looks Like a Turnaround

Justin Katz

We'll hear all sorts of contradictory analyses, in the days to come, among which will be assurances that there are no broad conclusions to be drawn, but key votes up and down the East Coast, yesterday, certainly don't disprove the notion of a turnaround toward our nation's Republican, conservative strain:

  • Republican Chris Christie took the New Jersey governor seat from Democrat Jon Corzine.
  • Republican Bob McDonnell took the Virginia governor seat from Democrat Creigh Deeds.
  • Democrat Bill Owens narrowly won a New York Congressional District race, with 49% of the vote, against Conservative Doug Hoffman's 46% and RINO Dierdre Scozzafava's 6%. Had the Republicans not gone with the "Republican who can win" and attacked the Conservative, it isn't unreasonable to suggest that they would have won that race, too.
  • Voters in Maine nullified the legislature's imposition of same-sex marriage, for the state, making it the 31st of 31 states in which the people have affirmed the traditional definition of marriage, regardless of the imperious maneuverings of judges and votes bought by ultrarich left-wing activists.

Actually, looking at that last bullet point, it mightn't be accurate to characterize the national results as "a turnaround." After all, President Obama supported traditional marriage, as a candidate, and ran overall as a centrist, even a fiscal conservative in some fevered minds. If there's a lesson in this for the president, it's probably that the people of the United States of America have figured out that he lied.


November 2, 2009


Scozzafava's Parting Shot Inadvertently Revealing

Monique Chartier

Whatever happens in New York's District 23 election tomorrow, Dede Scozzafava's endorsement of her Democrat (former) rival will only confirm the reservations

The Republican nominee, State Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava, on Sunday endorsed the Democrat in the race, Bill Owens, after coaxing from the White House.

of her critics about her Republican/conservative credentials, especially as she made the cross party endorsement at the urging of President Obama.

After this little turn of events, even those of us who would probably not be considered very conservative now wonder what the president could have talked her into had she stayed in the race and won the Congressional seat. Cap and Trade? A second stimulus package? Ever more bailouts and pork-laden budgets? One's wallet cringes at the thought.

Political vocabulary bonus courtesy Mark Steyn: DIABLO - "Democrat In All But Label Only"


October 30, 2009


Noonan Now and Then

Justin Katz

To a post on Peggy Noonan's latest column, Glenn Reynolds appends a reader's observation that Ms. Noonan should take some responsibility for helping her man, Mr. Obama, gain office. Indeed, a contrast of Noonan a year ago and now is instructive. October 30, 2008:

The case for Barack Obama, in broad strokes:

He has within him the possibility to change the direction and tone of American foreign policy, which need changing; his rise will serve as a practical rebuke to the past five years, which need rebuking; his victory would provide a fresh start in a nation in which a fresh start would come as a national relief. He climbed steep stairs, born off the continent with no father to guide, a dreamy, abandoning mother, mixed race, no connections. He rose with guts and gifts. He is steady, calm, and, in terms of the execution of his political ascent, still the primary and almost only area in which his executive abilities can be discerned, he shows good judgment in terms of whom to hire and consult, what steps to take and moves to make. We witnessed from him this year something unique in American politics: He took down a political machine without raising his voice.

October 30, 2009:

When I see those in government, both locally and in Washington, spend and tax and come up each day with new ways to spend and tax—health care, cap and trade, etc.—I think: Why aren't they worried about the impact of what they're doing? Why do they think America is so strong it can take endless abuse?

I think I know part of the answer. It is that they've never seen things go dark. They came of age during the great abundance, circa 1980-2008 (or 1950-2008, take your pick), and they don't have the habit of worry. They talk about their "concerns"—they're big on that word. But they're not really concerned. They think America is the goose that lays the golden egg. Why not? She laid it in their laps. She laid it in grandpa's lap.

They don't feel anxious, because they never had anything to be anxious about. They grew up in an America surrounded by phrases—"strongest nation in the world," "indispensable nation," "unipolar power," "highest standard of living"—and are not bright enough, or serious enough, to imagine that they can damage that, hurt it, even fatally.

Or maybe they don't think America should be so strong — so exceptional. They believe that they should be strong and exceptional, of course, in the mold of their icon — the steady he of guts and gifts — and that they should be above responsibility for their corruption and excesses. And maybe Ms. Noonan should pause before calling them "they."

Last year, Noonan reveled in the symbolism of Obama's primary victory in Alabama, as we all should, as an isolated instance of racial progress outside of broader context. But it's not divorced from the context of all of the rest of history — which, pace the liberal arts academics, doesn't revolve around the American black-white divide — and symbolism only goes so far for the bright and serious people for whom Noonan pines.



Who's Keener on Current Events?

Marc Comtois

The pro-Republican results of the Pew Research Poll, "What Does the Public Know?," (h/t) has led to some "rah rah" chatter on the right side of the blogosphere, partly inspired because the MSM isn't covering the results the same as they did previous polls showing opposite results. True enough, self-identified Republicans performed better than Democrats. Here's the snapshot:

What I'd like to point out, though, is that INDEPENDENTS also did better on most questions than DEMOCRATS. I wonder if this is a reflection of the Democrats recent political success. Have a portion of the Democratic voting electorate "checked out" from current events in the belief that "their guys/gals" will handle it? Does this reflect a hangover effect amongst the younger-skewing Democratic co-hort? More:

Overall, Americans ages 50 and older answered an average of 5.8 questions correctly, while those younger than age 30 answered an average of just four questions. College graduates got the highest scores among all of the groups analyzed (7.1 correct answers), while those with some college education averaged 5.3 correct answers and those with a high school education or less got 4.2 right.

Republicans and independents each averaged 5.7 correct answers, compared with five correct among Democrats. Men correctly answered an average of 5.9 of the 12 items; women answered an average of 4.7.

So, reading these results (warning: potential non-PC content!!!) it looks like that, on average, the most knowledgeable person is a 50+ year old Republican or independent man with a college education. The least knowledgeable is an under-30, Democratic woman with a high school education (or less). That is, generally speaking, of course!!!


October 28, 2009


Societies We Can Imagine

Justin Katz

Thomas Sowell pauses for a moment of disbelief at the conversation in America:

Just one year ago, would you have believed that an unelected government official, not even a Cabinet member confirmed by the Senate but simply one of the many "czars" appointed by the President, could arbitrarily cut the pay of executives in private businesses by 50 percent or 90 percent?

Did you think that another "czar" would be talking about restricting talk radio? That there would be plans afloat to subsidize newspapers-- that is, to create a situation where some newspapers' survival would depend on the government liking what they publish?

Did you imagine that anyone would even be talking about having a panel of so-called "experts" deciding who could and could not get life-saving medical treatments?

There's a parallel in Rhode Island. You know, it's not that difficult to imagine a reality in which we wouldn't be discussing whether or not prostitution will finally be made illegal and binding arbitration for teachers contracts might make a midnight appearance on the State House floor, but rather whether the tax code would be restructured to improve the business environment of the state and legislators would be explicitly barred from selling their votes.

One can dream on a rainy autumn day...


October 19, 2009


The Sweet Irony of Bumper Stickers

Justin Katz

Driving into Providence for a photo shoot in the rain, yesterday, I parked next to the statehouse. Through the streaks in my windshield, when I climbed back into the van, I spotted this antiquated bumper sticker:

PA180305.JPG

The anti-Bush and anti-Republican stickers that also scarred the vehicle confirmed which regime the driver intended, but for a moment, I had to chuckle.


October 16, 2009


Just like a banana republic

Donald B. Hawthorne

Power Line:

Today the Obama administration's "pay czar" demanded that Ken Lewis, Chairman of the Board of Bank of America, work for free. The "czar," Kenneth Feinberg, pressured Lewis not only to forgo all remaining compensation for 2009, but to repay the $1 million he has already received this year. Lewis acquiesced, saying that "he felt it was not in the best interest of Bank of America for him to get involved in a dispute with the paymaster." I'm sure he was right about that.

Response to this outrage has been surprisingly muted. In my view, it is hard to imagine anything more un-American than a "pay czar" empowered to order businessmen to work for free.

The main point here is not sympathy for Mr. Lewis, although I am, in fact, sympathetic to him. He is about to retire and will receive a substantial retirement package--only, perhaps, because the pay czar lacked jurisdiction to negate it. But the idea of empowering the federal government to dictate businessmen's compensation based on political favoritism is absolutely chilling.

This episode illustrates the problem perfectly. Lewis took on the federal government by testifying that Fed chief Ben Bernanke and Henry Paulson, a Democrat who was then Secretary of the Treasury, bullied him into committing what was, in effect, an egregious violation of the securities laws. Bank of America was due to close on its purchase of Merrill Lynch, and Lewis knew that Merrill's value was plummeting. Lewis testified under oath that Paulson and Bernanke threatened to fire the entire management and board of Bank of America, including Lewis, if Lewis backed out of the Merrill deal or communicated to the bank's shareholders what a bad deal the purchase had become.

So, according to Lewis, the federal government forced him to violate his duty to his shareholders in order to advance the government's objectives. The feds were unhappy with Lewis's blowing the whistle on their actions, which I believe would have been criminal if carried out by private citizens. Bernanke, at least, denied Lewis's version of events.

So Lewis took on the feds, and now he's paying the price. The Obama administration has taken away his entire salary for 2009. Political payback, or just a coincidence? In a banana republic, you never know.

Where is the outrage from those who love liberty? In a banana republic, your "freedom" only lasts as long as you are favored by those in power. Some definition of freedom; it is certainly not the historic definition in America.



Krauthammer on the problem with Obama's foreign policy

Donald B. Hawthorne

Nobody says it like Charles Krauthammer does in Debacle in Moscow: Obama’s foreign policy is amateurishness, wrapped in naïveté, inside credulity:

About the only thing more comical than Barack Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize was the reaction of those who deemed the award “premature,” as if the brilliance of Obama’s foreign policy is so self-evident and its success so assured that if only the Norway Five had waited a few years, his Nobel worthiness would have been universally acknowledged.

To believe this, you have to be a dreamy adolescent (preferably Scandinavian and a member of the Socialist International) or an indiscriminate imbiber of White House talking points. After all, this was precisely the spin on the president’s various apology tours through Europe and the Middle East: National self-denigration — excuse me, outreach and understanding — is not meant to yield immediate results; it simply plants the seeds of good feeling from which foreign-policy successes shall come.

Chauncey Gardiner could not have said it better...

Henry Kissinger once said that the main job of Anatoly Dobrynin, the perennial Soviet ambassador to Washington, was to tell the Kremlin leadership that whenever they received a proposal from the United States that appeared disadvantageous to the United States, not to assume it was a trick.

No need for a Dobrynin today. The Russian leadership, hardly believing its luck, needs no interpreter to understand that when the Obama team clownishly rushes in bearing gifts and “reset” buttons, there is nothing ulterior, diabolical, clever, or even serious behind it. It is amateurishness, wrapped in naïveté, inside credulity. In short, the very stuff of Nobels.

String of foreign policy posts can be found here.

ADDENDUM #1:

Meanwhile, Anita Dunn, White House Communications Director, is on video here saying that Mao, a tyrant who killed tens of millions of people, is one of her heroes.

In other words, we have an administration that not only doesn't believe in American exceptionalism and conducts a foreign policy based on denigrating America's interests but has key staffers who consider a murderous communist thug as their hero.

Said another way:

...Later in Beck’s show (before he started crying…again) he suggested that Dunn may as well have cited Hitler as one of her favorite political philosophers. Usually Beck’s histrionics turn me off, but he’s got a point with that. How can any high-level American political official seriously cite Mao as a favorite political philosopher and not be driven from office immediate with jeers and derision?

Mao was a mass murder. A tyrant and a dictator whose teachings amount to a cruel ideology that murdered tens of millions and oppressed hundreds of millions more.

Obama needs to explain to us why someone like Dunn is serving in his administration.

Does anyone find this troubling?

ADDENDUM #2:

Andy McCarthy has more, responding to Hans von Spakovsky. McCarthy notes the presence of other communists in the Obama administration.

Openly unapologetic communists. And many people yawn out of disinterest.


October 14, 2009


2009 Nobel Prize in Economics

Donald B. Hawthorne

Cafe Hayek on More on the 2009 Nobel Prize in Economics. More here.

Hey, these awardees actually did something to earn their Nobels! LOL.

Valuable reading to be found in the links.

ADDENDUM #1:

David Boaz of the Cato Institute on What is Regulation?


October 13, 2009


October 9, 2009


Obama's Agenda and the Nobel Peace Prize

Donald B. Hawthorne

Thoughts on the strategic issues and political agenda driven by Obama's world view:

Power Line: Paul Rahe on Obama's Agenda

Charles Krauthammer on Decline is a choice

Peter Wehner links the two concepts of Obama's agenda and his winning of the Nobel Peace Prize. More thoughts from Jonathan Tobin, Jennifer Rubin and the NR editors.

Bill Whittle reminds us of the American exceptionalism Barack Obama doesn't believe in.

More valuable thoughts from Andy McCarthy and Peter Kirsanow. Human rights groups are skeptical as are certain liberal opinion leaders.

Previous AR foreign policy posts here, here, here, here, and here.

reason.TV ridicules the award while Obama finally says something many people can agree with.

Meanwhile, let your thoughts and prayers be with the people who were nominated for the Peace Prize but lacked the celebrity status of Obama or Gore. It is truly these people who are making valiant efforts to bring peace to the world.

ADDENDUM #1:

As a reminder, more thoughts on the alternative view of American exceptionalism here: Happy Birthday, America! and William Allen: George Washington as America's First Progressive.

More on who awarded the Nobel to Obama.

Victor Davis Hanson adds his thoughts on Lessons from Oslo and Mark Steyn asks Who Really Won? In diminishing American power abroad, Obama and the U.S. choose decline.

ADDENDUM #2:

SNL on Nobel Peace Prize.

ADDENDUM #3:

Just One Minute on Peggy Noonan wants to write Obama's Nobel Speech.

Jennifer Rubin on America’s Not Big Enough for Him.

ADDENDUM #4:

It could have been so different and influenced the future for the better.

ADDENDUM #5:

Neville Chamberlain would, no doubt, approve of Obama's latest with Russia. How does this advance the cause of peace or America's interests?


October 8, 2009


Republican Northeast Conference, Day 2 Afternoon, Video: Jim McLaughlin and Curt Anderson

Justin Katz

Continuing with Saturday afternoon's presentations, pollster and campaign strategist Jim McLaughlin and campaign strategist and media advisor Curt Anderson took the stage. Of particular interest is the exchange about tea party goers between RI candidate for attorney general Erik Wallin (off camera) and Mr. Anderson, which got a little testy (starting around minute seven of clip 10).

Continue reading "Republican Northeast Conference, Day 2 Afternoon, Video: Jim McLaughlin and Curt Anderson"


Republican Northeast Conference, Day 2 Afternoon, Video: Tony Blankley

Justin Katz

Columnist, commentator, and long-time Republican figure Tony Blankley spoke during the lunch hour on Saturday. (Full speech in the extended entry.)

Continue reading "Republican Northeast Conference, Day 2 Afternoon, Video: Tony Blankley"

October 7, 2009


October 6, 2009


More of the Same from Kennedy

Justin Katz

Hiding behind his quaking fear of "violent rhetoric," Congressman Patrick Kennedy staged a comfy tele-town hall meeting:

Most of the participants — each of whom had their questions screened ahead of time by Kennedy staffers — appeared sympathetic toward changes to the nation's health-care system. ...

Tiverton resident Teresa Rudd said she remained on the line for much of the hour to ask Kennedy about how the proposals now in play treat the abortion issue. She didn't get the chance to ask.

"It didn't seem like there was any opposition," Rudd said afterward. "It seemed like one big commercial for health-care reform."

However much outrage Kennedy may express on behalf of the powerless rabble, it's clear by his actions that he doesn't hold his constituents in very high regard.


October 4, 2009


Republican Northeast Conference, Day 2, Video: Thaddeus McCotter

Justin Katz

He surely benefited from contrast with our Congressional delegation, here in Rhode Island, and perhaps his dry mid-country humor and his intellectual phrasing appeals uniquely to me, but the Q&A speech with Congressman Thaddeus McCotter (R, MI) was probably the highlight of the conference, from my perspective.

Continue reading "Republican Northeast Conference, Day 2, Video: Thaddeus McCotter"

September 26, 2009


Violence and Fear in Healthcare

Justin Katz

Steve Peoples' article about this morning's event focuses on Kennedy's lamentation that heated protests may produce violence — of which (he stated) his family has seen too much. There's an interesting juxtaposition if we play Peoples backwards, as it were (emphasis added):

"Unfortunately, these town hall meetings have been hijacked by these Tea Party folks and extremists who really take away from the honest dialogue on the facts of the debate and end up seeing this issue devolve into fear mongering and the peddling of misconceptions," [Kennedy] said, referring again to the sign that referenced his father's death.

But earlier:

Tsiongas said that those who depend on the current health-care system are right to be afraid.

"What they should be afraid of is that we do nothing," he said, "because if we do nothing we can no longer be able to afford this health-care delivery system as it stands."

I guess fear mongering is only a bad thing when conservatives and Republicans do it.


September 20, 2009


The Distressing Versus the Frightening

Justin Katz

The rapid transformation of this country into a European-style socialist democracy is certainly distressing. American life is on its way to becoming more difficult and less free, less innovative — in a word, less American. But it is the combination of that atrophy with the existence of nations seeking to duplicate the international accomplishment of the United States (a global sphere of influence, if you will) without adhering to its methods.

More specifically, it is the combination of a strong-handed government at home with a weak-kneed government on the international scene:

The U.S. Defense Secretary is already on record as opposing an Israeli strike. If it happens, every thug state around the globe will understand the subtext — that, aside from a tiny strip of land on the east bank of the Jordan, every other advanced society on earth is content to depend for its security on the kindness of strangers.

Some of them very strange. Kim Jong-Il wouldn't really let fly at South Korea or Japan, would he? Even if some quasi-Talibanny types wound up sitting on Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, they wouldn't really do anything with them, would they? Okay, Putin can be a bit heavy-handed when dealing with Eastern Europe, and his definition of "Eastern" seems to stretch ever farther west, but he's not going to be sending the tanks back into Prague and Budapest, is he? I mean, c'mon . . .


September 19, 2009


Jon Stewart's Take on the Expose of ACORN

Monique Chartier

Courtesy Comedy Central's Daily Show. [H/T NewsBusters.]

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
The Audacity of Hos
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealthcare Protests



Curbing Somebody's Enthusiasm: Some Facts to Reassure Speaker Pelosi

Monique Chartier

Once again, instead of a substantive discussion about policies, the focus is on feelings - this time, fear.

"I wish that we would all, again, curb our enthusiasm in some of the statements that are made," Pelosi said Thursday. Some of the people hearing the message "are not as balanced as the person making the statement might assume," she said.

Could you be more specific?

Pelosi's office did not immediately respond to a request from the Associated Press for examples of contemporary statements that reminded the speaker of the rhetoric of 1970s San Francisco.

No specifics on the rhetoric front, huh? Well, on the violence front, the Weekly Standard's Mary Katharine Ham has some data that might interest you, Madam Speaker.

That's the full list of documented violence from the August meetings. In more than 400 events: one slap, one shove, three punches, two signs grabbed, one self-inflicted vandalism incident by a liberal, one unsolved vandalism incident, and one serious assault. Despite the left's insistence on the essentially barbaric nature of Obamacare critics, the video, photographic, and police report evidence is fairly clear in showing that 7 of the 10 incidents were perpetrated by Obama supporters and union members on Obama critics.

Now, see how much better it is to deal in facts rather than wallow in emotion? All of that worrying for naught.



Ignoring the Lesson Plan

Justin Katz

One of the topics that came up on last night's Violent Roundtable was the failure of mainstream commentators to leaven their mockery of conservative concern about President Obama's in-school presentation with an acknowledgment of the objectionable suggested lesson plan that stoked the ire in the first place. Host Matt Allen suggested that bias leads such commentators to accept administration assurances that they've taken care of that aspect and then — poof — forget about it altogether. That's certainly plausible, given the likelihood that many MSMers didn't even know about the dispute until alternative-media heat and constituent reaction had brought the story to a head.

Particularly disappointing was the Providence Journal editorial on the matter (no longer online), published well after the event in question. Space is understandably short in such pieces, but by any journalistic standard with even mild pretensions to critical objectivity, the lesson plan should have been included in the summary of the controversy. Consequently, the reader can't help but feel that the editors' parting line is less a conclusion than a purpose:

The flap over the president's speech diminished his critics, while enhancing his own status as a role model.

An editorial, whether right or wrong in its expressed opinion, should represent the collected wisdom of the newspaper in which it appears — or at least of the guardians of its opinion pages. That it couldn't accurately summarize the sides in a national story like this suggests that it is content to enhance the status of a preferred politician at the expense of its own.


September 18, 2009


The Obama MO?

Justin Katz

With the economy at best slowing its wobble (and reason to be wary even about that), the Obama administration has added requirements for "better gas mileage for cars and trucks and the first-ever rules on vehicle greenhouse gas emissions" to its list of desired drags thereon. Note this now-familiar feature:

The proposal will cover vehicle model years 2012 through 2016, allowing auto companies to comply at once with all federal requirements as well as standards pushed by California and about a dozen other states.

Now, I'm sure there are a whole lot of arguments that one could put forward, with respect to time for such things as research and marketing plans, but a growing fist of expensive programs seem slated to swing by during the millennium's teens — after the next presidential election.

I'd also highlight this:

The administration estimated the requirements would cost up to $1,300 per new vehicle by 2016. It would take just three years to pay off that investment, the government estimates, and the standards would save owners more than $3,000 over the life of their vehicle through better gas mileage.

Except for the fact that gas will increase in price as it adjusts for the lower demand...


September 17, 2009


House joins Senate in De-Funding ACORN

Marc Comtois

The U.S. House of Representatives has joined the Senate in overwhelmingly voting to defund ACORN after recent voter fraud allegations and a grassroots undercover investigation revealed a willingness by ACORN operatives in various states to encourage breaking U.S. law. This follows a decision by the Census Bureau to bar ACORN from assisting in the 2010 Census. Yesterday, ACORN decided to shut down operations across the country to conduct an internal review.

Rhode Island Representatives Patrick Kennedy and Jim Langevin voted FOR the de-funding, joining their Senate colleague Jack Reed in voicing their displeasure with the progressive, grass-roots organization. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse was the only member of the Rhode Island delegation to vote against de-funding ACORN.


September 14, 2009


Wherefore ACORN?

Monique Chartier

A third ACORN office has been videotaped giving tax evasion and federal mortgage application tips to a couple who purported to be establishing a brothel for underage girls smuggled into the country.

This follows upon the exposure in 2008 of multi-state, multi-year voter registration fraud.

The Brooklyn District Attorney has opened an investigation into the organization.

The Census Bureau has had second thoughts about ACORN's involvement in the 2010 census.

All of this undue attention to the organization has served to highlight a fact that I, at least, was previously unaware of: ACORN has been the recipient of federal tax dollars and could receive a ton more from stimulus funds.

The question is, why?

Let's stipulate in its entirety the case for the defense: all of the above unethical and illegal activities were isolated incidents carried out by rogue affilates and do not in any way reflect the vast majority of ACORN staffers and activities.

As I was writing this post, TomW forwarded me the breaking news that the Senate had just voted 83-7 (with the junior senator from Rhode Island amoung the seven voting "nay") to withhold federal funds from ACORN. But this was done on the basis of bad behavior. ACORN may well "rehabilitate" itself as an organization and once again be deemed fit to receive federal funds.

Under what philosphy of good government should it do so? Is there any private organization to which federal tax dollars should be handed out? If yes, shouldn't the criteria for doing so be quite extensive and exacting, far more than the perfectly nice and perfectly vague goal of "social and economic justice"?


September 12, 2009


Succinctly summarizing today's conflict

Donald B. Hawthorne

Mike Pence says it well:

I am Mike Pence. I am from Indiana, and it is an honor to welcome the largest gathering of conservatives in American history to your nation's capitol.

There are some politicians who think of you people as astroturf. Un-American. I've got to be honest with you, after nine years of fighting runaway spending here on this hill, you people look like the cavalry to me.

We stand together at a historic moment in the life of the conservative movement and in the life of this great country. The coming weeks and months may well set the course for this nation for a generation. How we as conservatives respond to these challenges, could determine whether America retains her place in the world as a beacon of freedom or whether we slip into the abyss that has swallowed much of Europe in an avalanche of socialism.

While some are prepared to write the obituary on capitalism and the conservative movement, I believe we are on the verge of a great American awakening. And it will begin here and begin now and begin with you.

This Administration and this Congress are getting a badly needed history lesson, starting with just what our founders meant by 'consent of the governed.' If silence is consent, it is now revoked.

We the people, do not consent to runaway federal spending. We the people, do not consent to the notion that we can borrow and spend and bail our way back to a growing America. And we the people, do not consent to government-run insurance that will cause millions of Americans to lose the insurance they have, and that will lead us to a government takeover of health care in this nation.

This week, the president came to this hill and he gave one more speech about the same bad plan. Mr. President, America doesn't want another speech, we want another health care plan that is built on freedom.

And we the people, do not consent to Members of Congress passing thousand-page bills without anybody ever reading them. Members of Congress should be required to read ever major bill that Congress adopts. I've got to be honest with you, I think Members of Congress should read major bills, but I'd be just as happy if some of them read this just a little more often - the Constitution of the United States.

You know, there is a lot of good stuff in there and it reminds us that we are a nation led by the people, and not the elites and the bureaucrats and the politicians. It reminds us that the powers not delegated to the federal government by the Constitution are reserved to the states or to the people.

And nowhere in our Constitution can you find the word 'czar.' It is time Washington, D.C. became a No Czar Zone.

The American people are not happy. But it is not just about dollars and cents. It is about who we are as a nation.

As Ronald Reagan said in 1964, it's about whether 'we abandon the American Revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capital can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.' My money is on the American people. My money is on freedom. My money is on the future.

This great national Capitol is filled with memorials to freedom's heroes. Americans whose faces are carved in bronze, whose names adorn monuments, and just across that river, lie the remains of Americans who paid freedom's price so we could gather here today. In their time, they did freedom's work as citizens and patriots. Now it's our turn.

Let us do as those great Americans we remember in this city have done before: let us stand and fight for freedom. And if we hold the banner of freedom high, I believe with all my heart that the good and great people of this country will rally to our cause, we will take this Congress back in 2010 and we will take this Country back in 2012, so help us God.


September 9, 2009


One simple question and then some reflections

Donald B. Hawthorne

In advance of President Obama's speech tonight about healthcare, I have one simple question -

If a government-run option is such a good idea for all of the rest of us, why do Obama and the Congress refuse to sign up for it themselves?

On a related note, Ponnuru discusses the Left's disregard for truth.

Glenn Reynolds links to Martin Feldstein and adds his own comments:

"The higher taxes, debt payments and interest rates needed to pay for health reform mean lower living standards." But lower living standards for you are a small price to pay in exchange for more power for the political class — whose living standards won’t be going down at all...

All of which is what the American people have instinctively figured out. Just like we have throughout history.

Camille Paglia, an Obama supporter, writes about the divide:

...Why did it take so long for Democrats to realize that this year's tea party and town hall uprisings were a genuine barometer of widespread public discontent and not simply a staged scenario by kooks and conspirators? First of all, too many political analysts still think that network and cable TV chat shows are the central forums of national debate. But the truly transformative political energy is coming from talk radio and the Web — both of which Democrat-sponsored proposals have threatened to stifle, in defiance of freedom of speech guarantees in the Bill of Rights...

Why has the Democratic Party become so arrogantly detached from ordinary Americans? Though they claim to speak for the poor and dispossessed, Democrats have increasingly become the party of an upper-middle-class professional elite, top-heavy with journalists, academics and lawyers (one reason for the hypocritical absence of tort reform in the healthcare bills). Weirdly, given their worship of highly individualistic, secularized self-actualization, such professionals are as a whole amazingly credulous these days about big-government solutions to every social problem. They see no danger in expanding government authority and intrusive, wasteful bureaucracy. This is, I submit, a stunning turn away from the anti-authority and anti-establishment principles of authentic 1960s leftism.

How has "liberty" become the inspirational code word of conservatives rather than liberals?...I always thought that the Democratic Party is the freedom party — but I must be living in the nostalgic past...

Meanwhile, all of these developments have occurred while the Republican party has been comatose on policy ideas.


September 8, 2009


Quick Clarity on Health Care Debate

Marc Comtois

Congress is back after a 40 day recess. A lot has happened--namely, bi-partisan "comprehensive health care reform" looks dead--but there will be much discussion over the next few weeks. The Washington Post (h/t) oofers a summary and preview, including this helpful bit from Republican Congressman Mike Pence:

House Republicans, who held hundreds of their own town hall meetings that drew more than 100,000 voters, according to preliminary estimates, viewed the break as a galvanizing moment for opposition to the Democratic legislation. "I heard people saying, 'Look, we need health-care reform. We need to do something to lower the cost of health insurance for families and small businesses and lower the cost of health care,' " said Rep. Mike Pence (Ind.), the third-ranking GOP leader. "But I also heard people say that they don't want a government-run plan that is going to lead to a government takeover of health care."
It's an important point. For all the sturm und drang we've seen at the town hall meetings, what was missing was an explanation that those on all sides (not "both", there are more than two options out there) of the issue think something needs to be done.



President's Address to School Kids

Marc Comtois

As promised, the White House has released the prepared text of President Obama's speech to school children today. Here's the theme:

Now I’ve given a lot of speeches about education. And I’ve talked a lot about responsibility.
I’ve talked about your teachers’ responsibility for inspiring you, and pushing you to learn.

I’ve talked about your parents’ responsibility for making sure you stay on track, and get your homework done, and don’t spend every waking hour in front of the TV or with that Xbox.

I’ve talked a lot about your government’s responsibility for setting high standards, supporting teachers and principals, and turning around schools that aren’t working where students aren’t getting the opportunities they deserve.

But at the end of the day, we can have the most dedicated teachers, the most supportive parents, and the best schools in the world – and none of it will matter unless all of you fulfill your responsibilities. Unless you show up to those schools; pay attention to those teachers; listen to your parents, grandparents and other adults; and put in the hard work it takes to succeed.

And that’s what I want to focus on today: the responsibility each of you has for your education. I want to start with the responsibility you have to yourself.

More excerpts after the jump. Content wise, there are a few things here and there that I didn't like (a reference to AIDS--the President needs to remember his audience, here). All in all, it's OK, but it's way too long for kids. After five minutes, the tune-out factor will be setting in. "When's recess?"