... to all, and, very soon, to all a good night!
God bless all our NLT readers, and thank you for your attention, engagement and glorious comments.
Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and New Bedford Mayor Scott Lang are both worried about the sustainability of municipal employee and retiree costs. Lang argues for a "new public employment covenant." Conservatives and state and federal-level Republicans should recognize that there is room for creative alliances with elected municipal officials (many if not most Democrats) and urban property tax payers. These alliances could go a long way to making government both more efficient and sustainable at every level. The key to the success of such alliances will be in conservatives offering constructive policies in non-alienating language.
One place where there is potential room for cooperation between conservatives, municipal officials and urban tax payers is municipal employee health care costs. Rising municipal employee health care costs are damaging the ability of towns to pay for public services without ruinous tax increases. This is where a conservatives could come in. Indiana's state government managed to save 11 percent on its health care costs by introducing and HSA/catastrophic coverage option for state employees. Such savings would no doubt sound very attractive to both mayors and urban tax payers who are trying to maintain public services without tax increases. It also helps that most Indiana state employees seem to like HSA/catastrophic coverage option. The widespread adoption of HSA/catastrophic plans by municipalities would have the added benefit of increasing the number of people on consumer-driven health insurance plans and make it tougher to enact a full government takeover of the health care sector.
There would have to be a division of labor between state and federal-level Republicans (and sympathetic Democrats) and municipal officials. State and federal-level legislators and state governors will have to pass laws to make such plans legal and allow municipalities to offer such plans. Municipalities would then have to enact those plans. There will be coalitional tensions. Conservatives will have to resist the temptation to demonize public employees or cast their program as some kind of revenge or punishment on a large constituency. Reformist conservative policy is good policy because it saves the tax payers money, maintains public services and maintains the health care security of public employees - not because it is a chance to settle scores. The main opponents of an HSA/catastrophic health care coverage option for municipal employees are likely to be some union leaders and especially liberals who recognize that expanding the number of Americans on market-driven health insurance policies threatens he dream of government-run medicine. This is a fight conservative can win if we pick our allies and our arguments wisely.
One, from Iowahawk, on how retired Members of Congress might make their way in a wicked world.
The second, from the Pope, in a Christmas greeting message:
Alexis de Tocqueville, in his day, observed that democracy in America had become possible and had worked because there existed a fundamental moral consensus which, transcending individual denominations, united everyone. Only if there is such a consensus on the essentials can constitutions and law function. This fundamental consensus derived from the Christian heritage is at risk wherever its place, the place of moral reasoning, is taken by the purely instrumental rationality....
That's a good way to think of the political significance of Christmas and our other religious holidays, such as Thanksgiving. H/t WheatandWeeds.
The EEOC is suing the Washington Post's Kaplan business for using credit histories in vetting job candidates. Why? Because in the judgment of the lawyers at the EEOC, ""This practice has an unlawful discriminatory impact because of race and is neither job-related nor justified by business necessity."
Perhaps I'm wrong, but my guess is that the Washington Post has been a big supporter of disparate impact lawsuits in the past.
The economy is, obviously, the main issue. But, other than getting the budget closer to balance, I am not sure there's much the federal government can do. If oil jumps well above $100 per barrel again, perhaps there will be room to argue for more wells, and more natural gas. If corn prices spike, or there's a real scarcity of food, perhaps we can start to work for ending the ethanol mandate. In addition, the move to more freedom friendly regulations (as opposed to simple deregulation or the command and control version) would be good. A tax code with fewer looholes would probably also be good. (The slogan: "The campaign against K street.")
Beyond that, perhaps Congress should play some small ball. As I have noted before, it would be good for them to repeal the ban on the incandescent buld, and regulations that limit the size of our toilet tanks. Perhaps I'm wrong, but I suspect both those would be popular moves with the majority of Americans (even if they might not get a majority of votes among people who read the NY Times with their breakfast every day).
Might it also be possible to make some moves against political correctness and related things? Could Congress require all schools that take federal funds not to have speech codes? Could they require that the difference between candidates admitted via affirmative action (and perhas legacy and athletic friendly admissions as well) not exceed, on average 5% on standardized tests?
Perhaps I'm mistaken, but I suspec that most Americans think that diversity training is an expensive joke, and a waste of time. Would it be possible to change the underlying laws that lead businesses to have such training? Perhaps the law could stress the obligation of employers not to discriminate based on race, sex, etc., but also include a finding indicating that in a free society we have the right to offend each other, and that disciminiation requires much more than offensive speech or behavior. (It might be that the law technically allows that, but the common interpretation, and company policies that follow it, are often less open to free speech. Perhaps Congress could try to fix that).
Lawyers, particularly trial lawyers are not popular. Are there any actions that Congress could do to make it harder to create class action lawsuits?
Could Congress legislate against the finding in Kelo, at least as it applies to federal takings. Relatedly, could Congress expand the legal definition of a regulatory taking? If memory serves, Congress did something after Kelo, but it was relatively weak.
Could Congress legislate against disparate impact? (Has this issue been polled? If asked, would most Americans think that it is reasonable? I suspect most Americans would want proof of actual discriminiation in a particular case, and not a mere statistical correlation).
Those are just a few ideas dashed off quickly. Not sure if they're on target, but it's worth thinking about. The legislature is Article I, pace Joe Biden, because it was supposed to be the most important branch, and the House of Representatives is first in that section because it's closest to the people. It would be good to see Congress following public opinion on some of these issues. The House, of course, does not make law on its own. There are higher, and hopefully more thoughtful branches, that can refine the raw ideas put forth in Congress. But the House is where things are supposed to start, not the regularory bureaucracy, where some of these laws, regulations, and interpretations have come from.
When did the Good News become bad news? It's understandable from non-believers, but surprising numbers of Christians get in on the act. I don't know how the world is supposed to rejoice when Christians don't. Our Advent preparation consists largely of complaining about how much there is to prepare.Christians, especially, ought to eschew this temptation. It can be difficult to do because there is so much work involved in a good celebration but we have to remember that, "all festivity is ultimately an affirmation of the goodness of existence" and to resist this kind of joy is to affirm its opposite.
Powerline provides a good collection of the commentary concerning the FCC's (and Obama administration's) continued corruption of the democratic process and American freedoms:
Since Congress declined to adopt the Orwellian "net neutrality" legislation, the FCC stepped into the breach. It's another example of the usurpation of constitutional government by the administrative state.
John Fund calls out the FCC in "The net neutrality coup," and David Harsyani proposes that we "Abolish the FCC." Michelle Malkin holds that net neutrality is the Obamacare of the Web. Senator DeMint is not amused.
Richard Epstein applies the law-and-economics perspective to the underlying issue of policy.
I'm a big fan of both Reihan Salam and Ramesh Ponnuru so I was interested in their recent article on how the GOP can make inroads among working-class voters. I agree that the GOP should be offering working-class voters and especially working-class parents a tax cut. The lousy economy is obscuring that the tax argument, as currently constituted, structurally favors the Democrats. Obama won (or at worst tied) the tax issue in 2008 with his combination of tax cuts for most and a tax increase on high earners. Ponnuru and Salam rightly point out that a 2012 tax argument that boils down to Democrats and Republicans agreeing on middle and working-class tax rates but disagreeing on high earner tax rates will tend to favor the Democrats. Even worse would be a Republican plan that increases taxes on lower earners while cutting taxes on higher earners (or a fantasy land plan of "huge tax cuts for all and never mind the deficit wheeee!!!").
I think Salam and Ponnuru have something like Robert Stein's pro-family, pro-growth tax plan in mind. I like the plan. It cuts taxes on most Americans, and encourages investment. The thing is that this plan does raise taxes on a significant number of high earners in high tax jurisdictions. That is going to be a political problem. Considering the political tradeoffs of other kinds of tax reform that either raise taxes on the middle and working-classes or bust the budget, the Stein plan both moves policy in a better direction and is politically doable. The appeal of the plan to the middle and working-class is obvious but the appeal to high earners is going to have to be comparative. The Republicans are going to cut some of your deductions, but leave your rates low (and cut taxes on investments) while the Democrats are going to raise (and raise and raise) your rates until you end up spending most of your time working for the government. Still there be political as well as economic tradeoffs.
Salam and Ponnuru point out that Republicans should focus on having a replacement to Obamacare and I think that working-class voters would benefit enormously from a combination of a tax credit for catastrophic coverage, and state based reinsurance pools. This would save working-class voters money while maintaining (and in some ways improving) their security of access to health care. Now explain the ideas behind, and benefits of, these policies in two minutes using plain language. Not easy.
While I generally share Salam and Ponnuru's policy preferences and political analysis, I think that any move by the GOP toward their kind of agenda will have to be very, very careful. The voters are not familiar with these policies and the Democrats (as well as the various kinds of liberal-leaning media that most swing voters consume) will do their best to distort reformist conservative policies. That doesn't mean public spirited conservative politicians shouldn't support these kinds of policies. They should! But defending these kinds of policies will be mentally taxing work.
I remember reading about how when John Roberts was an appellate lawyer, he would spend weeks trying to imagine all the objections that Supreme Court Justices and opposing counsel might offer to his arguments. Roberts would then carefully, over weeks and sometimes months, craft concise and convincing answers and commit them to heart. Reformist conservative politicians will have to learn from Roberts' example if they are going to win the future.
Men and Women
As expected, the quickly growing Hispanic population has easily surpassed blacks as the largest minority. Whites presently represent less than 2/3 of the population, and are shrinking. Minority population has grown at five times the rate of whites since 2000 - so if you're an "America is a white nation" advocate ... you'd better get breeding! 2050 is forecast as the shift in balance when whites fall below 50% of the population.
On the issue of segregation, about 80% of whites live in predominately white areas, while just under half of black and Hispanics live in areas with a majority of their own ethnicity.
Most troubling by far, however - women are only 50.7% of the population. That's still way too many dudes, in my opinion. Ladies, more of your own, if you please!
I wasn't previously aware of Ohio's Rep. Steve Driehaus, but the Democrat is now on my short list for most pathetic politicians. During the election cycle, Driehaus filed a criminal complaint against a pro-life group which criticized his vote for Obamacare.
But that's not the worst! Driehaus dropped his criminal complaint the day after he was defeated in November - and immediately sued the pro-lifers for defamation and "loss of livelihood," since they pointed out his record on abortion.
Driehaus pettiness, spitefulness and sense of political entitlement is difficult to covey. He has wandered so far off the reservation that even the ACLU opposes his lawsuit. And when a liberal Democrat losses the ACLU....
Both a total lunar eclipse and the winter solstice occur today - a celestial concurrence with a frequency of perhaps once a millennium.
In case your
astrological [correction: astronomical - h/t Thomas Henry] vocabulary is in need of brushing up, a total lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth blocks the sun's rays and the moon is fully enshrouded by the shadow, and the winter solstice marks the sun's lowest arc in the northern sky.
So go look at the sky, wonder for a moment, and take part in a little piece of history.
AEI's Gary Schmitt (no relation, as he takes pains to note) disagrees with Mark Lilla's description of Chinese intellectual fascination with political philosopher Leo Strauss and Nazi apologist Carl Schmitt:
Now, I have no way of knowing if what Lilla reports is accurate about Chinese views regarding Schmitt and Strauss. However, my own experience has been somewhat the same but also somewhat different. Only a few years ago, I had dinner in China with some the leading "leftist" intellectuals.... [T]hey were reading Strauss and Schmitt as in line with each other: anti-democratic, anti-liberal and, in the case of Strauss' work on Plato and Machiavelli, as in favor of thought-infused dictatorship. What China needed was philosopher kings and a prince to guide it into better rule....
In other words, the Chinese intellectuals Gary Schmitt met were looking for western justification for their tyranny.
Refine & Enlarge
In September, Randy Barnett and William Howell penned a WSJ op-ed calling for a new, tea-party-esque amendment to the Constitution. The Repeal Amendment would allow two-thirds of the states to repeal any federal law. Draft text reads:
Any provision of law or regulation of the United States may be repealed by the several states, and such repeal shall be effective when the legislatures of two-thirds of the several states approve resolutions for this purpose that particularly describe the same provision or provisions of law or regulation to be repealed.
The NY Times has now taken note, linking the proposed amendment to attempts to undermine Obama-care. Naturally, any endeavor seeking to reign in the federal government will find opposition in big, blue states. But the concept is an interesting and serious defense of states' rights, and has a growing national appeal.
Always remember: Anything can happen.
Former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko has been charged with abuse of power for misusing more than 151 million euros in state funds. If convicted, she could face 10 years in prison, followed by a three-year ban from politics.
This is a tragedy. I have no idea if Tymoshenko is innocent, but her absence from politics has been sorely lamented by this foreign affairs enthusiast - and losing her for another 13 years would plunge eastern-bloc news coverage into the abyss (as regards "attractive" political stories).
Tymoshenko follows just behind Queen Rania for politicians capturing my attention. But I'm partial to elegance and aristocracy - while Tymoshenko wears leather and rocks a crotch rocket.
The U.S. has rejected as illegitimate the re-election of Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko. Claiming 80% of the vote, Lukashenko jailed all opposition leaders and hundreds of activists prior to the election - which he claims to have won by 80%. He promises to deal accordingly with anyone sufficiently foolish to protest his claimed victory, which would continue his rule since 1994.
George W. Bush called Lukashenko the last dictator in Europe and sought his isolation. Obama had previously joined Poland in calling for free elections in Belarus, and it's commendable that Obama has reacted by condemning this rogue tyrant.
Can President Obama triangulate after the fashion of President Clinton? Everyone knew that Bill Clinton was a political animal first and foremost. His tendency to say or do whatever politics demanded was well known when he was elected in 1992. He also campaigned as a centrist, DLC Democrat, He worked with the GOP to secure NAFTA early in his term. After 1994, when left health care and his stimulus ideas behind, and worked with the GOP Congress to cut taxes, balance the budget, change welfare, etc., it did not really change America's perception of who he was. If memory serves, approval of Clinton as President waxed as approval of him as a person waned.
President Obama, by contrast, presented himself as a fundamentally decent person, and a man of principle. Hence it might be harder for him to repudiate what he once said was a matter of principle, even if he also presented himself as a pragmatic guy. In contrast to Clinton, he remains personally popular, even as his job approval drops.
Agreeing to a compromise on taxes, and denouncing it publicly as bad policy is not surprising from that perspective. It reminds me of President Bush throwing down the pen after he signed the bill to build a wall to secure our border.
In short, will President Obama be able to sell himself as a centrist, pragmatic politician?
The Washington Times reports that the 2010 census, due to be released tomorrow, will include "a boatload of good political news for Republicans and grim data for Democrats."
UPDATE: WaPo has the census results, with a map showing changes. Indeed, bad for Democrats.
+2 Seats: Texas and Florida.
+1 seat: Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina, Utah and Washington.
-1 Seat: Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania
-2 Seats: New York and Ohio
Republicans will control the redistricting process in eight states, Democrats will control just two.
The total population of the country as of April 1 was 308,745,538, a 9.7% increase from 2000.
WaPo observes that Catholic universities are enrolling increased numbers of Muslims in recent years - an interesting, if expected, trend. The article relates minor tensions but overwhelming harmony in this inter-religious condition.
On the one hand, this reflects well on America and Catholicism, which treat foreigners and religious minorities in their midst with respectful hospitality. The same is not routinely true of the treatment offered to Christians in Muslim lands.
It's also noteworthy that Muslims prefer Christian (even, or especially, doctrinal and conservative Catholic) surroundings in America. Both faiths likely recognize radical secularism as a greater threat to world order than diverse religions. Hence, Islamic terrorists do not tend to target churches, but Wall Street, the military and Washington. Islam's problem is not, foremost, with American faith, but its perceived faithlessness. A relevant perspective on Islamic sensibilities.
NRO's Corner had a wonderful recap of how the Democrats' ignorance of the Constitution will likely cost them the formerly-presumed passage of the food safety bill. In short, the Senate version of the bill raised taxes, which Harry Reid forgot is a power reserved to the House.
Democrats forgetting that there are limits (Constitutional or otherwise) to raising taxes. Say it ain't so....
There's a certain just righteousness in the Constitution asserting herself so.
UPDATE: The WaPo reports that the food bill "came roaring back to life Sunday as Senate Democrats struck a deal with Republicans that helped overcome a technical mistake made three weeks ago and a filibuster threat that seemed likely to scuttle the legislation." Even GOP aids state they don't know why the GOP relented and allowed passage. One hopes the bargain was worth it - and the Dems are good to their word.