Large-scale demonstrations don't necessarily draw the most refined participants, but they provide a useful cross-section of the relevant interest group. Right now, dueling rallies are being held in Wisconsin between left-wing union Democrats and right-wing Tea Party Republicans.
Power Line has a good blog post on the Tea Party's pro-democracy anti-demonstration, with pictures of clever rally signs and videos of political speeches. Like all Tea Party rallies, the demonstrators will likely leave the area in a cleaner condition than they found it and the media will search in vain for any sentiment of racism or untoward vulgarity.
The Power Line post also provides unique coverage of the anti-democratic union rally, with videos of doctors illegally writing fraudulent sick notes for union protestors. Michelle Malkin reveals the sort of toxic and violent rhetoric common to protest signs at liberal rallies.
From calls for African American lynchings at Common Cause rallies to a shut-down of the Wisconsin legislature due to threats of violence, liberal protests always seem to contain the most degenerate sort of behavior. Pro-life advocates hold prayer vigils while pro-choice advocates countenance child-rape and sex trafficking. Republicans in the minority complain on Fox News Sunday morning talk shows, while Democrats in the minority abandon their posts and shut down the government in order to subvert the democratic process.
This isn't a scientific analysis of character composition among political ideologies - but it's a solid starting point.
Professor Bainbridge explains the problem with public sector unions. He gives a good analysis, which I recommend in its entirety, but here's what I take to be the key paragraph:
A core problem with public sector unionism is that it creates a uniquely powerful interest group. In theory, bureaucrats are supposed to work for and be accountable to the elected representatives of the people. But suppose those bureaucrats organize into large, well-funded, powerful unions that can tip election results. With very few and very unique exceptions, no workplace in which the employees elect the supervisors functions well for long. Yet, research by Terry Moe (22 J.L. Econ. & Org. 1) into the electoral power of teachers' unions finds just such an outcome.
WSJ reports that the House voted to cut at least $61 billion from this year's spending levels. However, the bill must now pass the Senate, where "Democratic leaders have made it clear they view the House cuts as extreme, saying they want to keep spending at the current levels."
I know Senate Democrats are government employees, but in the private sector there's a solution for employees who refuse to listen to their bosses.
According to Article IV, §8 of the Wisconsin Constitution:
Expulsion is probably a bridge too far, given the 2/3 hurdle, but, at least, Republicans should consider some form of censure for the contemptible behavior of the missing Democrats.
Eschewing expulsion, I simply wonder aloud as to the possibility of declaring the Democrats to have abdicated their offices. Article IV, §14 states:
Filling vacancies. Section 14. The governor shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies as may occur in either house of the legislature.
How long must a member be absent before his seat can be deemed vacant? The maximum required period for eviction in Wisconsin is 30 days - perhaps the governor should begin sending out notices.
UPDATE: The "Badger 14": Escape from Wisconsin is a new blog about "why and how the "Badger 14" -- the Wisconsin senators who vacated their seats and fled the state -- should be replaced with new senators."
I've only intermittently followed the debacle in Wisconsin, but I've not heard much of the most obvious conclusion regarding the state's elusive Democrats. There is simply something untoward about politicians in high office hidding outside their jurisdiction in order to disrupt the work they have sworn to conduct. These are not the acts of statesmen or noble characters. It's shameful that their fellows, at the national level and throughout the states, have not readily condemned such childish and hypocritical antics.
Just for perspective, Democrats should observe that George W. Bush never imagined such disruptive, anti-democratic measures. When Republicans lost, they accepted defeat without abdicating their responsibilities and seeking to wreck the democratic process. Democrats have been as haughty and overbearing in victory as they are now spiteful and ridiculous in defeat.
Again, where is the outrage on the left?
In honor of the Wisconsin Democratic party, a link to The Tale of Sir Robin seems to be in order. Brave, brave, brave, brave Wisconsin.
Planned Parenthood has been defunded by the House. Rep Mike Pence and FRC's Tony Perkins explain the legislation in a Daily Caller op-ed: "Getting Taxpayers Out of the Abortion Business." The article identifies Planned Parenthood as the largest abortion mill in America (888 per day) and the largest recipient of federal funds under the Title X family planning and health services grant program which prohibits grants from funding abortion.
Planned Parenthood's funding hypocrisy is only surpassed by its women's rights hypocrisy exposed in the series of Live Action videos showing Planned Parenthood "aiding and abetting underage sex trafficking."
Quote of the Day
The New York Times almost makes it around to reporting on union rhetoric in Wisconsin which is exponentially more vile and malicious than anything uttered by conservatives in recent history. The story is titled, "Republicans Accuse Liberals of Hateful Rhetoric in Wisconsin," and confines itself to describing images from a GOP video (see below).
It actually seems that liberals have used hateful rhetoric, and the Times might have reported on it sua sponte, without hiding behind Republican "accusations." The media did not timidly report "Democrats Accuse Conservatives of Hateful Rhetoric in Arizona," but was happy to report as fact Republican culpability for the shooting in that state.
The video below is worth a thousand Times articles dancing around the truth.
If the Wisconsin legislature can't vote until they have a Democrat present to create a quorum, can't one of the GOP switch parties and announce himself "present" as a Democrat?
And how long until the Democrats can be declared to have abdicated their offices and a special election can be held to fill their vacant seats?
UPDATE: Commenter William Schumacher correctly observes that the necessary quorum does not require a Democreat, per say, but 20 persons present - and the GOP have only 19. So, skip my first question and move to my second: what is the timeframe for abdication?
Isn't it, well, a bit ironic that the protesters in Madison, blocking the state senate chamber, are chanting "Freedom, Democracy, Union" while trying to prevent a vote? Isn't it ironic that the Democratic Senators have fled the democratic process? Isn't it interesting that some of those who--rightly--protest the assorted Republican efforts to stymie majority rule in the U.S. Senate are celebrating the Democratic efforts to stymie the same in the Wisconsin Senate?
An election was held in Wisconsin last November. The Republicans won. In a democracy, there are consequences to elections and no one, not even the public employees unions, are exempt from that. There are no guarantees that labor contracts, including contracts governing the most basic rights of unions, can't be renegotiated, or terminated for that matter. We hold elections to decide those basic parameters. And it seems to me that Governor Scott Walker's basic requests are modest ones--asking public employees to contribute more to their pension and health care plans, though still far less than most private sector employees do. He is also trying to limit the unions' abilities to negotiate work rules--and this is crucial when it comes to the more efficient operation of government in a difficult time.
The most thoughtful assessment of besieged Madison (both the author of the Constitution and the city named after him) comes, as usual, from Walter Russell Mead of The American Interest. Mead has argued for some time that the "blue social model," which gave America the post-New Deal order where Big Government, Big Business and Big Labor argued but ultimately collaborated on the administration of Big Prosperity, has become obsolete. The "chief division in American politics today," he wrote last year, "is between those who think the blue model is the only possible or at least the best feasible way to organize a modern society and want to shore it up and defend it, and those who think the blue model, whatever benefits it had in the past, is no longer sustainable."
Public employee unions are not only the principal beneficiaries of what's left of the blue model, but its most passionate advocates on ideological as well as self-interested grounds. The Democrats of our day are the party of government in two senses: they advocate more government intervention in the economy as the indispensable means to improve social conditions; and they represent the interests of all the government's wards and wardens, the recipients and deliverers of benefits.
There is a basic tension here. The commitment to successful government interventions will require the party of government to insist on rigor, clear standards, and vigilant economizing - all the things likely to antagonize the party's constituencies in government. As a result, Mead argues, the blue model routinely costs more than we can afford while failing to accomplish things we really need done. Or, as Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana put the point to an interviewer, "I argue to my most liberal friends: 'You ought to be the most offended
of anybody if a dollar that could help a poor person is being squandered
in some way.' And some of them actually agree." But a lot of them don't agree, and you can find them shouting in the Wisconsin capitol this week.
Jeb Bush hearts Daniels. I kind of thought Jeb Bush was a Romney guy. Not much reason for that feeling. I saw a 2009 event with Bush, Romney and Eric Cantor at some pizza shop taking questions. They were all talking about the need for substantive, policy-based approaches. Bush tended to overuse "dream" tropes in his remarks (pursuing dreams, working toward dreams, chasing dreams...) Despite that, Bush came across by far the best prepared of the three. I was thinking that he should be the one running for President. Nah.
Run Jeb Run (for the Senate.)
I think Maggie Gallagher is mostly right about Daniels - but not necessarily totally right. The social issues truce stuff is both silly and self-destructive. If Daniels is going to be nominated he will need not only social issues positions (which he has and which are well conservative), but a social issues agenda - however incremental and deemphasized. That being said, the social conservative critique of his CPAC speech is misplaced. Daniels did not give a stump speech touching every issue of controversy and making a special appeal to every constituency he hopes to win. Such a speech has its place, but it should not be confused with the speech Daniels gave. Daniels' CPAC speech was a meditation on the chief contemporary problems of political economy and it was a powerful and honest statement of reality. Daniels will have to answer on the other issues or (probably) doom himself, but that was not the time.
It is worth pointing out that Daniels' problems with social conservatives are of his own making. It was not an actual flaw of his CPAC speech that he did not mention abortion, gay marriage etc. The problem was that many social conservatives saw his economics-centered speech through the prism of his earlier truce talk. Daniels has earned suspicion and the suspicion has become self-sustaining.
Some guy saw how this truce talk was going to work out for Daniels when he wrote, "Ironically, Daniels' not talking about social issues will create a spiral of commentary on Daniels not talking about the social issues....the best way for Daniels to minimize having to talk about the social issues is for him to have something of substance to say."
Obama has rescinded a federal conscience clause "designed to protect health workers who refuse to provide care they find objectionable on personal or religious grounds." The Bush-era law was principally intended to protect Catholic health-care facilities (accounting for more than 20% of U.S. admissions) and religious workers by allowing them to opt out of providing abortifacients such as Plan B.
Obama and Democrats apparently have no interest in protecting Catholics. If only these hospitals were Muslim, or the workers were Democrat-voting union members, I'm sure Obama devotion to diversity or self-interest would have softened his heart. But a man who refused to oppose infanticide is unlikely to sympathize with pro-life Catholics.
Obama's foreign policy is often criticized for punishing friends and rewarding enemies. At least domestically, Obama's Chicago-style instincts are just as one would expect.
Literature, Poetry, and Books
Stephen Meister argues that government caused the housing bubble:
Federal policy was the chief cause of the crisis. Prior to the end of World War II, the percentage of US home ownership ran well below 50 percent; after the war -- with Veterans Administration assistance to returning GIs -- we saw it climb into the low 60s. But, as the chart above shows, it didn't skyrocket until mid-1990s, when the Clinton administration began pushing its "affordable homeownership" agenda.
In 1996, HUD set an explicit target, commanding that 42 percent of the loans bought by Fannie and Freddie be to people with incomes below the area's median. That target rose to 50 percent before Clinton left office -- and was pushed even higher in the Bush years.
Meanwhile, Washington used the Community Reinvestment Act to muscle banks into making loans to minority borrowers with poor credit ratings who put down miniscule down payments.
On the other hand, one could say that the bubble would not have happened absent government pushing banks to loan more to people with weaker credit is like saying that the machine gun would not exist if gun powder did not exist. That's probably too strong, but it seems more reasonable to say that pushing banks to loan more to less qualified borrowers was a necessary, but not sufficient explanation of the bubble. It's a necessary, but not sufficient condition for the financial crisis.
Quote of the Day
FactCheck and Politifact, both left-leaning watchdogs, have conceded that Obama's claim that "by the middle of this decade ... [w]e will not be adding more to the national debt" is false. In fact, Obama plans to increase the budget by the better part of a trillion dollars every year after 2012 (when the increase is above $1 trillion).
Having made the statement for public consumption (delivered by an acquiescing media which worthy of any third-world dictator), the president has now "clarified" his fallacy by saying he excluded interest payments on the debt. Of course, that's not what he originally said and it's a ridiculous way to analyze the issue. It's of no difference whether debt is increased by new spending or interest on old spending when the goal is to reduce debt.
Obama has elevated the "blame Bush" strategy to unimagined heights. Apparently, his budget is not responsible for any interest payments on the debt he received from Bush, so he's just ignoring that interest. Obama's reality is impregnable to logic, shame and the most basic laws of mathematics and finance. I hope Americans do not accept his offer to buy land there.
I was going to title this "Scott Walker Vs. The World", but it wouldn't have been appropriate.
Wisconsin governor Scott Walker is going after Wisconsin's public employee unions. The part that most interests me is not the cap on raises or the attempts to weaken the collective bargaining power of the unions, but the changes to public employee health insurance. Walkers plan will double the employee contribution toward health care premiums. That might help with budgeting in the short-term, but if premiums keep rising, Walker's plan only limits the state government's exposure.
Walker and Wisconsin might benefit from offering public employees at the state and municipal level an optional HSA/catastrophic coverage option like in Indiana. It will save Wisconsin money (it saves Indiana 11% in health insurance costs.) It will save the public employees money. Such a program might be even more attractive to public employees after the increase in their share of premium payments.
While good for Wisconsin, it would also be good for America. Institutions create interests. Public employees with HSA/catastrophic coverage will have a stake in preventing their plans from becoming illegal under Obamacare. US health care politics is a race between those who want to centrally ration all care and those who want empowered consumers choosing between competing providers. Don't just go after the benefits of public employees. Restructure their benefits so that on one issue at least, they end up on the side of market-oriented reformism. We need all the help we can get.
Governors in Ohio, Wisconsin and Florida have declined funds for Obama's high-speed rail (for which their democratic predecessors had lobbied). Florida's Rick Scott stated the project would cost more than the allotted federal funds and would operate in deficits - both requiring tax-payer subsidization.
The Obama administration didn't even attempt to deny that the project would almost certainly exceed federal estimates, but argued that they had "eliminated all financial risk for the state, instead requiring private businesses competing for the project to assume cost overruns and operating expenses." It apparently never occurred to Obama's staff that a governor might also wish to protect businesses from soaring costs and bankruptcy.
Not to be deterred in spending tax-payer money, Obama promised to redistribute the funds to other (bluer) states. Florida Democrats howled that it was fiscally responsible to take the money: Since everyone knows Obama is going to spend it anyway, we might as well let him spend it here!
Ohio, Wisconsin and Florida have taken a principled stand against economic waste. Every state should likewise oppose the federal project in a bottom-up approach to forcing fiscal restraint on the White House. The GOP should follow Obama's initiative and make a national issue of high-speed rail - calling out any governor who continues to feed from Obama's federal trough.
The National Council of Churches' 2011 Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches reports the longstanding trend of growth in conservative churches (Catholic, Mormon, Assembly of God, Jehovah's Witness) and decline in liberal churches (Presbyterian, Episcopal, Church of Christ). Every pro-life, pro-marriage church saw member increases, whereas, as Bill Donohue quips, "those religions whose teaching on abortion and marriage approximate the views of the New York Times and NPR are in free fall."
I'm sure prodigal liberal churchgoers are swelling the ranks of "spiritual but not religious" self-identifiers and non-attending non-denominationalists. The moral relativism, progressive policies and multicultural sentiments of liberals put them at odds with the theology and culture of religion. It makes more sense for them to discard religion than to search for a mildly inoffensive brand thereof. The lingering human appetite for spirituality in these would-be atheists explains the modern rise in counterfeit religious substitutes. Psychotherapy replaces confession, social networking replaces parochial community and spiritualism replaces faith.
Faith and reason are mutually complimentary and reinforcing. Liberalism within the context of faith is unreasonable, and hence unsustainable. Conservatism is naturally more compatible with faith, and the trends reported today are likely to continue ad infinitum.
Over at NRO's Corner last week, I offered a sermonette of sorts about what Pat Moynihan used to call "semantic infiltration," which he described as "the process whereby we come to adopt the language of our adversaries in describing political reality." (One smart-alecky reader wrote in to accuse me of being "anti-semantic." Yuck, yuck.) Another example of the phenomenon is occurring in what I've been calling the "liberal body snatching operation" on Ronald Reagan.
The media-academic complex line on Reagan relies overwhelmingly on one idea or one term, namely, that far from being an ideologue, Reagan was a "pragmatist." And guess who else the media mentats call a "pragmatist"? Why, Barack Obama himself. Obama's ostensible "move to the center" following the November "shellacking" is seen as "pragmatism," though cynics might call it more like "survival instinct."
Pragmatism as ordinary people use the word just means practicality, and in political terms it means reaching compromises. Every successful politician makes compromises; every good politician, then, can be called a "pragmatist." So are we really saying anything important or distinctive by calling someone a pragmatist? Yes, I think we are.
When the media-academic complex uses the term, it takes on a different hue, even though no one may be explicitly aware of it. Keep in mind that once upon a time "pragmatism" was a formal political philosophy, whose leading advocate was John Dewey, one of the pre-eminent thinkers of Progressivism. Dewey's pragmatism was really just an Americanized version of Hegelianism, and in political terms "pragmatism" came to replace prudence as the highest attribute for a statesman, because for a pragmatist, the ends we seek to achieve no longer arise from human nature of other fixed principles, but come down to us from History, and change constantly. The job of the "pragmatic" statesman is to adjust to the changing ends prescribed by History. And if those ends happen to be egalitarian socialism, so much the better.
In other words, pragmatism masquerades as a non-ideological assault on ideology, but in fact it seeks to substitute "Progressivism" for the classical view that the limits of human nature prescribe the limits of politics, but without having to argue for it from the ground up. To call someone a "pragmatist" today is to divorce him from his ideology or any fixed principles. In Reagan's case, calling him a pragmatist is a clever way of denigrating or downgrading his conservative principles; in the case of Obama, calling him a pragmatist is a way of concealing or denying Obama's radical ideology. In both cases, such as Time magazine's celebration of the Obama-Reagan "bromance," it represents an evasion of clashing principles about government. Either way, we should regard "pragmatism" as another form of highly suspicious semantic infiltration. I'll take the older Aristotelian idea of prudence instead. Prudence keeps the fixed ends always in sight and always on our mind.
Literature, Poetry, and Books
Someone named Kevin McCullough is outraged that the winners of the straw poll taken at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington, DC last weekend were Ron Paul, Mitt Romney, and Gary Johnson. This result, he believes, was due to libertarians' "stuffing the ballot box." After all, many social conservatives decided not to attend this year in protest of the decision to allow the gay and lesbian group GOProud to participate. McCullough's candidate of choice, Mike Huckabee, apparently did not do as well as he had hoped, despite the fact that he allegedly "has beaten the president head-to-head in nearly every poll taken." The fact that Huckabee didn't bother attending may have had something to do with that.
Aside from being puzzled as to why a bunch of libertarians would have voted for Mitt Romney, and wanting to see those poll results that show Huckabee consistently beating Obama, my general response to Mr. McCullough is this: if you and your friends are going to boycott CPAC for fear of catching a bad case of teh gay, don't complain when those who do show up cast their votes for candidates who are not social conservatives. That's not "stuffing the ballot box"; it's simple math.
The GOP have struck hard against Obama's leadership since the release of his entitlement-silent budget. Obama attempted to deflect criticism at a press conference today, promising that he indeed intends to confront entitlements:
You guys are pretty impatient. If something doesn't happen today, then the assumption is that it's not going to happen. This is not a matter of 'you go first' or 'I go first.' This is a matter of everybody having a serious conversation about where we want to go and then ultimately everybody getting into that boat at the same time so it doesn't tip over.
Translation: I'm waiting for the Republicans "to go first" and lead, so I can demagogue them (before adopting some of their ideas).
The GOP recognized the tactic, called out Obama on his continued hedging and, again, asserted their willingness to lead on entitlements in the president's stead:
The American people are ready to get serious about tackling our fiscal challenges, but President Obama's budget fails to lead. The President's budget punts on entitlement reform and actually makes matters worse by spending too much, taxing too much, and borrowing too much - stifling job growth today and threatening our economic future.
The President says that he wants to win the future, but we can't win the future by repeating the mistakes of the past or putting off our responsibilities in the present. Our budget will lead where the President has failed, and it will include real entitlement reforms so that we can have a conversation with the American people about the challenges we face and the need to chart a new path to prosperity. Our reforms will focus both on saving these programs for current and future generations of Americans and on getting our debt under control and our economy growing. By taking critical steps forward now, we can fulfill the mission of health and retirement security for all Americans without making changes for those in or near retirement. We hope the President and Democratic leaders in Congress will demonstrate leadership and join us in working toward responsible solutions to confront the fiscal and economic challenges before us.
Austria is the latest European nation to fall prostrate before Islamic claims of supremacy. After speaking at a political event on women's rights and jihad in the Middle East, Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff reasoned that Mohammed was a "pedophile" for having sex with his 9 year old wife. An Austrian court decided today that making the connection between sex with a child and pedophilia is a criminal act and convicted Sabaditsch-Wolff.
Europe has never honored or protected the freedom of speech as has America, but over the past years they've become shamefully delinquent. Were someone to similarly slander Christian leaders, no court in Europe would consider criminal prosecution. Europe's infection with the sort of multicultural pestilence recently criticized by David Cameron has corrupted their most basic principles of equality and justice under the rule of law.
Militant Islam's 1,000 year war to conquer Europe won another battle today.
Men and Women
From Paul Ryan:
Americans expect their presidents to lead, they expect their presidents to take on the country's biggest challenges, and arguably the biggest domestic challenge perhaps in the history of this country is this crushing burden of debt that is coming our way. The president punted on the budget and he punted on the deficit. That's not leadership
From Jeff Sessions:
We are faced with the difficulty of taking on something as complex as entitlements, as deeply emotional as entitlements, and the President of the United States is not even in the game, and doesn't even suggest it has to be done? I'm sure he didn't want to have a debt crisis as big as he's now finding, but leaders have to deal with the problems they've got, and we need his help
From Andrew Sulivan:
[Others] have to lead, because this president is too weak, too cautious, too beholden to politics over policy to lead. In this budget, in his refusal to do anything concrete to tackle the looming entitlement debt, in his failure to address the generational injustice, in his blithe indifference to the increasing danger of default, he has betrayed those of us who took him to be a serious president prepared to put the good of the country before his short term political interests. Like his State of the Union, this budget is good short term politics but such a massive pile of fiscal bullshit it makes it perfectly clear that Obama is kicking this vital issue down the road.
To all those under 30 who worked so hard to get this man elected, know this: he just screwed you over. He thinks you're fools. Either the US will go into default because of Obama's cowardice, or you will be paying far far more for far far less because this president has no courage when it counts. He let you down. On the critical issue of America's fiscal crisis, he represents no hope and no change. Just the same old Washington politics he once promised to end.
From Yuval Levin:
Until the last few weeks, there might have been room to wonder whether President Obama might respond to the 2010 elections by moving to the center and seeking some politically advantageous but meaningful middle ground. ... This budget puts an end to that possibility. The president appears to have decided to spend the next two years pretending there is no problem to solve, and therefore that Republican proposals to rein in spending are just mean-spirited cuts offered up for kicks.This is, above all, an appalling failure of leadership. When we look back on this period a decade or two from now, I think we'll identify this moment ... as the last real opportunity we had for a gradual bipartisan course correction. That option now seems closed off, and it is up to Republicans to decide if the alternative is to march off the fiscal cliff in order to avoid political risks or to propose a gradual course correction to voters and make the case for why it is sensible, responsible, and essential.
The only mystery is why anyone would be surprised by Obama's failure to lead. Can you name a single occasion in his life when Obama has ever shown leadership? I can't.
Obama's game is transparent, isn't it? He is playing a game of chicken. He puts forward a series of proposals that he knows are more or less insane; but he also believes that Republicans will come to his rescue. They, not being wholly irresponsible, will come up with plans to reform entitlements--like, for example, the Ryan Roadmap. Ultimately, some combination of those plans will be implemented because the alternative is the collapse, not just of the government of the United States, but of the country itself. But Obama thinks the GOP's reforms will be unpopular, and he will be able to demagogue them, thus having his cake and eating it too. Is that leadership? Of course not. But it is the very essence of Barack Obama.
From Eric Cantor:
Unlike the President, unlike Harry Reid who doesn't even admit there needs to be any reform of Social Security. We are going to lead.
Power Line's John Hinderaker strikes gold comparing Obama's 2010 fiscal projection for 2012 and his actual 2012 budget "cuts."
In its 2010 budget, the Obama administration projected that in FY 2012, total federal outlays would add up to $3,662,000,000,000. In its actual FY 2012 budget, the administration is asking for total outlays of $3,729,000,000,000. That's right: the Obama administration has responded to skyrocketing deficits and heightened concern about federal debt by increasing the amount it is requesting for next year, compared to its projections of just two years ago, by $67 billion. Only in Washington is this a "cut."
As regards the deficit:
Moreover, in its 2010 budget, the Obama administration projected that in FY 2012, it would run a deficit of $581 billion, or 3.5% of GDP. Now, the administration tells us that its FY 2012 budget will run a deficit of $1.1 trillion, or 7% of GDP, nearly double what it had projected.
The cheerleader media is simply reading their scripts, praising Obama's budget cuts. Is there no one who gets paid to cover politics who is capable of the slightest research and objectivity in this country?
Obama is an addict - he can't control his spending and will say anything to get his fix.
I've had a little more time to digest the Mitch Daniels speech at CPAC and here are some thoughts,
1. Unlike Romney and Pawlenty, Daniels did not deliver a stump speech. In a lot of ways it wasn't even a Mitch Daniels speech. Daniels outlined the challenges that a reformist conservatism will face in the coming decade, and discussed how to handle them. The speech works just as well as advice to a 2016 Bobby Jindal, Marco Rubio, or Bob McDonnell presidential campaign. The speech reminded me a lot of Reagan's 1976 address to the Republican National Convention. There was the same sense of radical contingency and the same paucity of applause lines. He didn't want you to cheer him, he wanted you to listen and trusted that you would understand.
2. Daniels' speech had moments of enormous prudence. He said, "It is up to us to show, specifically, the best way back to greatness, and to argue for it with all the passion of our patriotism. But, should the best way be blocked, while the enemy draws nearer, then someone will need to find the second best way. Or the third, because the nation's survival requires it." There is a great deal of maturity and realism there. Conservatives are going to have to compromise with each other in crafting a "realistic, actionable program of fundamental change, one that attracts and persuades a broad majority of our fellow citizens" and when we think we have that, there will have to be even more compromises. There will be setbacks, and circumstances will foreclose certain policy options. Sticking to principle while maintaining relevance is going to an enormous challenge.
3. There is even more (and painful) realism when he says " But we, too, are relatively few in number, in a nation of 300 million." Yes. We are far fewer than you would think from looking at the 2010 election results. Most Americans (and maybe most self-identified conservatives) have never heard, in any detail, why turning Medicare into a defined contribution program is a good idea.
4. This is a good approach to the expected liberal attacks on conservative reformism: " When they call the slightest spending reductions "painful", we will say "If government spending prevents pain, why are we suffering so much of it?" And "If you want to experience real pain, just stay on the track we are on." When they attack us for our social welfare reforms, we will say that the true enemies of Social Security and Medicare are those who defend an imploding status quo, and the arithmetic backs us up." Well it sounds good anyway.
5. Good for him for putting earmarks in perspective. Do you hear him John McCain?
6. This is important and not spoken of often enough: "We should address ourselves to young America at every opportunity. It is their futures that today's policies endanger, and in their direct interest that we propose a new direction." Very true and talking to the young is one of the most intractable problems of the center-right in the present media environment. Obama's policies are an unspeakably bad deal for the young, but they are also his strongest demographic. And don't just blame the kids (and their slightly older siblings.) Conservatives are doing a lousy job talking to them. Conservatives are best able to get their messages out in the right-leaning media, the traditional news media, and ads. The right-leaning media is the friendliest format but its audience skews older. The traditional news media is less friendly to conservative ideas, but smart and disciplined conservatives can use the conventions of the traditional news media to get their message out. The problem is that the audience for this media also skews older. Ads are fine, but most commercials are thirty seconds to one minute and are heavily dependent on familiarity with certain ideas, political buzzwords and personalities. Many political commercials are just nonsense to many younger voters. It isn't that young people are rejecting a reasonable, relevant, and intelligible conservative message. They have literally never heard such an argument made at any length in language they understand.
7. Daniels wrote and thought the heck out of that speech and the above excerpts don't do it justice, but his language could use some work. Most of the people he needs to win over don't know what "summoned to General Quarters" is supposed to mean.
As JFK noted in his Ich bin ein Berliner speech, "Two thousand years ago, the proudest boast was 'civis Romanus sum.'" [I am a Roman citizen.] A Roman enjoyed the rights and privileges of his citizenship wherever he traveled, cloaked in the mantle of Roman law and might even in distant lands.
Has citizenship fallen so far that a former American president can be hounded and exiled from the wider world by threats of imprisonment in foreign lands for actions taken while presiding in office? Is America so low in estimation to the respect once due to Rome?
It seems likely that George W. Bush was forced to cancel a visit to Switzerland for fear that he would be arrested and tried for war crimes in a foreign court. Such threats have been made against other Bush administration officials, CIA agents, Donald Rumsfeld and Henry Kissenger (who has actually fled threatened abduction and prosecution abroad).
That American citizens must fear to travel abroad, lest foreign powers exert control over their liberty and judge them for acts of political administration in the United States is so far from acceptable as to provoke open hostilities on the national stage. David Frum correctly chides Obama for not protesting such a threat upon his predecessor (which he would also have reason to fear for drone attacks in Pakistan, were he not the darling of the leftist rabble raising such threats). Switzerland ought also to answer for the threat, clearly extending it's welcome to American citizens and assuring them of safe passage.
"Universal jurisdiction" is an attack upon national sovereignty to which the United States has not succumbed. It is not rule of law, but rule of the defeated and discontent. The world must be made to know that the mantle of American law and might protects her citizens in every land known to man.
President Obama has released a $3.73 trillion budget for 2012, including $1 trillion in deficit reductions over 10 years (3/4 spending cuts, 1/4 tax hikes). Those reductions fall woefully short even of the $4 trillion recommended by Obama's own deficit commission. And the House GOP are calling for far greater short-term cuts ($62 billion in the remainder of 2011).
Obama's failure is in his unwillingness to confront Medicaid and Social Security (and, adversely, to correct corporate and individual tax codes). Some in the GOP would surely love to stand back and watch Obama touch the "third rail" of politics, but Republicans are honestly offering to take bipartisan credit/blame for a massive overhaul. The (Tea Party) moment will never be better for reform - this is the only time in recent history such a venture could prove popular among a majority of Americans. All that's missing is presidential leadership and will.
The GOP should stake their flag on these economic issues and live or die on principle. Compromise around the edges, but take the middle ground while the fates are with you.
Robert Samuelson lays bare Obama's plan to "pay states $53 billion to build rail networks that would then lose money - lots - thereby aggravating the budget squeezes of the states or federal government, depending on which covered the deficits."
Is anyone unaware that high-speed rail would simply create another inefficient government program which fails to achieve any promised benefits and requires massive tax-payer subsidization to stay afloat? Under what system of reasoning is this a good idea?
Against history and logic is the imagery of high-speed rail as "green" and a cutting-edge technology.
It's a triumph of fancy over fact. Even if ridership increased fifteenfold over Amtrak levels, the effects on congestion, national fuel consumption and emissions would still be trivial. ...
Governing ought to be about making wise choices. What's disheartening about the Obama administration's embrace of high-speed rail is that it ignores history, evidence and logic. The case against it is overwhelming. The case in favor rests on fashionable platitudes. High-speed rail is not an "investment in the future"; it's mostly a waste of money. Good government can't solve all our problems, but it can at least not make them worse.
The Flying Bulls, a aerobatics team from the Czech Republic, are astounding crowds around the world. Beyond their aerial talents, the civilian team is quite unique for the composition of its members: their leader is a 62 year old woman, and the other fliers are all over 50.
Their signature maneuver is "mirror flying," whereby two planes form mirror images (see below) and the remaining planes circle them in a barrel roll.
Reuel Marc Gerecht is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a former Middle Eastern specialist in the C.I.A.'s clandestine service and the author of "The Wave: Man, God and the Ballot Box in the Middle East." He has penned a New York Times editorial contemplating the force and effect of democracy upon the Islamic world.
Noting that the Middle-East has always been "resistant to the ideas and institutions that made representative government possible," Gerecht observes:
President George W. Bush's decision to build democracy in Iraq seemed so lame to many people because it appeared, at best, to be another example of American idealism run amok -- the forceful implantation of a complex Western idea into infertile authoritarian soil. But Mr. Bush, whose faith in self-government mirrors that of a frontiersman in Tocqueville's "Democracy in America," saw truths that more worldly men missed: the idea of democracy had become a potent force among Muslims, and authoritarianism had become the midwife to Islamic extremism.
One of the great under-reported stories of the end of the 20th century was the enormous penetration of the West's better political ideas -- democracy and individual liberty -- into the Muslim consciousness.
Gerecht continues to explore the "evolving" relationship between Islam (particularly groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood) and democracy (increasingly equated with justice and freedom). Gerecht's auguries are the most sanguine I've yet read - and, blessedly, the most realistically hopeful.
China is now the world's second largest economy, toppling Japan after 42-years in the contender's box. Purchasing-power-parity adjustments favor developing countries like China and somewhat skewer GDP data. And per capita GDP in China is a poverty-level $4,412, compared to $42,431 in Japan. But, China's emergence must be recognized.
Speculation has it that China will overtake the U.S. by 2020. I think it doubtful. China's continued rise depends upon a number of stability factors subject to doubt in an authoritarian regime. Further, China's per capita GDP (or quality of life standard) is not competitive.
It's not yet time to begin speaking of a new Evil Empire. But China would love the title.
In "A Man for All Seasons," Thomas Cromwell exclaims of St. Thomas Moore, "His silence is deafening all Europe" So too is Justice Clarence Thomas' silence apparently deafening the NY Times, which notes that Tuesday will mark five years since Thomas has spoken at oral arguments. The Grey Lady is somewhat critical of this silence, implying that Thomas might be failing to perform his duties (expect this line of reasoning to crop up at the next Common Cause rally as a justification for impeachment - before they offer to "lynch him" again)
I've had several opportunities to meet Thomas, and he was open and sincere about his reluctance to speak at these events. For the most part, they are merely oral reiterations of written briefs formerly submitted to the court. Further, the questions are often not aimed at the lawyers, but the other judges. I expect Thomas would reply that he respects his fellows well enough that his disagreements with them can be sufficiently expressed in his written opinions - to which they are free to join should they be so moved.
Yet it's interesting to note the stark contrast between Thomas and Scalia. The latter of the originalist stalwarts talks more than anyone else on the bench. But Scalia is Italian. God bless him, he'd fit right in at my family get-togethers - you gotta talk loud if you wanna get heard, and Scalia's always got something to say. (His jocularity also provokes more laughter than any other member of the court.) I assume he talks principally just so as not to get board. If only they served pasta, ciabatta and a little wine during orals, he'd probably quiet down a bit.
Refine & Enlarge
Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev - archbishop of Volokolamsk, permanent member of the Holy Synod and chairman of the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, and a classical composer - spoke at my law alma mater, The Catholic University of America, about the relation between music and faith.
Alfeyev divides classical music as pre- and post-Bach, then treats 20th century and modern artists before touching upon his own experiences as a composer. I wager it's almost impossible to read his speech without learning something of value. If you enjoyed Allan Bloom's Closing of the American Mind, Alfeyev is required reading. His introduction is below:
I would like to begin with a thought on the relationship between music and creativity. I am convinced that culture and creativity can enhance faith, but they can hinder it too. The artist, composer, writer and representative of any creative profession, can, through his artistry, glorify the Creator. If creativity is dedicated to God, if the creative person puts his efforts into serving people, if he preaches lofty spiritual ideals, then his activity may aid his own salvation and that of thousands around him. If, however, the aim of creativity is to assert one's own ego, if the creative process is governed by egotistical or mercenary intentions, if the artist, through his art, propagates anti-spiritual, anti-God or anti-human values, then his work may be destructive for both himself and for those about him.
We are familiar with Fr. Pavel Florensky's view that 'culture' comes from the notion of 'cult.' We may add that culture, when divorced from cult, is in fact opposed to cult (in the broad sense of the word) and forfeits the right to be called culture. Genuine art is that which serves God either directly or indirectly. The music of Bach - though not always intended for worship - is clearly dedicated to God. The works of Beethoven and Brahms may not directly praise God, yet they are capable of elevating the human person morally and educating him spiritually. And this means - admittedly indirectly - that they also serve God.
Culture can be the bearer of Christian piety. In Russia during the Soviet years when religious literature was inaccessible, people learnt about God from the works of the Russian classics. It was impossible to buy or find in a library the works of St. Isaac the Syrian, yet we did have access to the writings of the elder Zossima in The Brothers Karamazov, which were inspired by the works of St. Isaac. Russian literature, art and music of the nineteenth century, albeit secular in form, preserved a deep inner link with its original religious underpinnings. And nineteenth-century Russian culture throughout the Soviet period fulfilled the mission which, in normal circumstances, would have been the work of the Church.
Now that religious persecution has ceased, the Church has entered the arena of freedom: there are no obstacles to her mission. A wall, artificially constructed in Soviet times, isolated the Church from culture. But now that it is no more. Church ministers are free to co-operate closely with people from the world of the arts and culture in order to enlighten the world. Church, culture and art share a common missionary field and undertake the joint task of spreading enlightenment.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy is joining British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the former prime miniisters of Spain, Jose Maria Aznar, and Australia, John Howard, in describing multi-culturalism as having "failed."
We have been too concerned about the identity of the person who was arriving and not enough about the identity of the country that was receiving him.
Apparently, the rest of the West is deciding that multiculturalism is so 20th century - chic leaders are now proving their street-creds by promoting their nationalist pride. I say the rest, because Obama hasn't yet caught onto the new style. However, if his Egyptian trend of following the crowd and claiming their direction as his own serves as any indication, the president will be giving a speech in favor of Americana any moment now.