Quote of the Day
From Angelo Codevilla's The Ruling Class:
The U.S. labor movement now consists almost exclusively of government employees, employees of companies doing government contracts, or companies that are subsidized by government.
I know the majority of Americans in Unions nowadays are government employees, but how accurate is the rest of the statement? Whatever the exact number in that group is, we ought to add the last two categories to the majority of union workers who work directly for the government when discussing the future of unions in the U.S.
Iran officially became a member of the UN's women's rights committee yesterday. No additional comment should be necessary for the moderately aware reader - the absurdity and shame is entirely self-evident.
However, the ever-watchful Anne Bayefsky offers a critique of the UN by noting the member nations running its various commissions:
Human Rights: Saudi Arabia, China, Cuba, Angola
Status of Women: The Democratic Republic of Congo, Iran
Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice: Libya, Russia, Sudan, Iran, The Democratic Republic of Congo, Pakistan
Women: Libya, Saudi Arabia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, China
Social Development: Cuba, Egypt, Zimbabwe
NGOs: Sudan, Cuba, Pakistan, China
Information: China, Libya, Kazakhstan, Iran
Children's Fund (UNICEF): Sudan, China
World Food Programme: Executive Board: Sudan
P.S. It is worth noting that the U.S. did not oppose Iran's elevation to the women's rights board. Also, Pajama Media posts on the deplorable legal status of Iranian women and has a video of Iran's testimony before the UN hailing the outstanding equality enjoyed by Iranian women.
The Civil War & Lincoln
60% of black children in New York City are aborted. Indeed, 78% of Planned Parenthood abortion clinics are located in minority communities. A pro-life group advertised these facts with a Manhattan billboard:
The abortion industry immediately decried the message and, apparently in solidarity with Wisconsin's unions, threatened violence if it were not removed. Planned Parenthood managed to rouse up a degree of horror and indignation which was quite lacking during revelations that their clinics fostered child prostitution. Rather than remove the plank from their own eye, the abortion giant responded by lobbying for legislation to drive non-abortion-providing pregnancy center competitors out of business.
I previously lamented the world-wide gendercide effect of abortion on women, the 50% national abortion rate among blacks and the the Democratic party's support for "post-birth abortion. The tragedy of abortion not only kills its direct victims, but seems to mortally degrade the virtue and conscience of its practitioners and advocates.
This new poll says that people are opposed to cuts in Medicare and Social Security by vast margins, but also support raising the retirement age and reducing benefits to wealthier retired people. So apparently, some significant fraction of the population thinks something like this:
Pollster: Do you support cuts to Social Security.
Respondent: No way! What are you crazy!
Pollster: Well what about making most people work for a few years longer before they can collect Social Security and then paying some of them lower benefits.
Respondent: Well, that's okay.
The thing is that the poll is making people's opinions sound more incoherent than they really are. The respondent's answers make sense if you listen to how the pollster asked the questions (the link to the survey is in the story linked above.) The question on cutting Social Security is phrased:
Let me you [sic] read you a number of programs that could be cut significantly as a way to reduce the current federal budget deficit. For each one, please tell me if you think significantly cutting the funding for this program is totally acceptable, mostly acceptable, mostly unacceptable, or totally unacceptable as a way to reduce the federal deficit.
Social Security is then presented as a program that might be "cut significantly" to "reduce the current budget deficit." A listener could reasonably assume that they were being asked to cut Social Security benefits right now for current retirees. It is no surprise that only 22 percent of respondents answered unacceptable. No major political figure is suggesting any such thing. The question and answer options for means testing and raising the retirement age are phrased:
Let me you read you a number of other things that might be cut or eliminated as a way to reduce the current federal budget deficit. For each one, please tell me if you think significantly cutting the funding for this program is totally acceptable, mostly acceptable, mostly unacceptable, or totally unacceptable as a way to reduce the federal deficit.
Reducing Medicare and Social Security benefits for wealthier retirees.
Gradually raising the Social Security retirement age to sixty-nine by the year 2075.
Those two options win 62 and 56 percent support respectively. Unless you are trying to craft the Obama White House's reelection campaign, asking people about whether they want entitlement cuts is not useful Most people are too unfamiliar with the policy options in dispute to give a meaningful answer in the absence of clear policy options.
I remember watching C-SPAN a few days after the November 2010 election. One of the conservative think tanks was putting on a post election discussion panel. The panel included blogger Ed Morrissey, Byron York, and some leader of a Florida organization with "Tea Party" in its name. The panel was asked about entitlement cuts. The Florida person gave a confused answer about her elderly grandmother and how her elderly mother-in-law was willing to make some sacrifices, but only some sacrifices and how people who don't work should also have to make sacrifices too. She was a person who was active in politics but she seemed to have no clue about the various policy options for entitlement reform. There is no reason to expect that the median American voter is any more familiar with those options.
This poll indicates that there is a potential majority constituency for entitlement reform, but conservatives will have to prepare the ground and choose their words very, very carefully.
I think Reihan Salam is a little pessimistic about Gov. Walker's chances of prevailing in the end, but this post is a must read. Among the points I would add: Most people who don't already consume much right-leaning media could not care less what FDR thought about public sector unions or how much those unions contribute to Democratic candidates. They might be brought around to caring about how the government might spend less money for equal or better results. Salam's thoughts about how to reframe the debate (if not for Scott Walker, then for future candidates and public officials) are valuable from both an electoral and a policy standpoint. But there is more to it than tactics on one issue. To the extent that conservative activists, media figures and politicians are more interested in actual policy change than displays of contempt for the opposing political coalition and its leaders, they need to be listening to Salam:
The whole brouhaha is a reminder of the need for the right to think long-term. The health reform debate played out as it did because social policy scholars like Jacob Hacker thought deeply about the defeat of Clinton's Health Security proposal and they designed a new approach designed to survive the rough-and-tumble of the political process. To win these fights, policymakers need a half-a-loaf strategy, i.e., fallback options for when they run into resistance. The defeat of the public option was, for health policy advocates on the left, a relatively minor loss, as the likely trajectory of health costs in a tightly centralized system built around subsidizing coverage with a high actuarial value all but guarantees the need for aggressive cost containment measures in the future. Win now, or win later. Having taken on public sector unions without mobilizing an effective coalition of taxpayers and beneficiaries of public services, Gov. Walker and his allies risk losing in bruising, lasting way.
The Supreme Court opinion in the Westboro Baptist Church case (the military funeral disrupters) illustrates why the First Amendment has become increasingly irrelevant to self-government. Of course free speech is more important than ever, but the Court's majority opinion shows the divide between that fundamental constitutional principle and what has become mere First Amendment "freedom of expression." As Justice Alito argues in his solo dissent, "Neither classic 'fighting words' nor defamatory statements are immunized when they occur in a public space, and there is no good reason to treat a verbal assault based on the conduct or character of a private figure like Matthew Snyder [the fallen Marine] any differently." Of course, "funerals are unique events at which special protection against emotional assaults is in order." The Justice is on his way to becoming the Justice for common decency and the friend of dogs--see his dissent in the animal cruelty case.
The Court's appalling conclusion about free speech also reminds us of an important political issue for defenders of constitutional government. First, Justice Alito is on the Court because conservative Republicans protested President Bush's nomination of an unqualified crony. Second, note Justice Breyer's concurring opinion, which underlines the limits to the Court's free speech defense. Breyer voted correctly against University of Michigan quotas in the undergraduate case, and he was the swing vote in the Texas state house Ten Commandments display case (he voted the wrong way against the Ten Commandments' posting in a court house). For one, Clinton nominated Breyer because of the relative ease of confirmation. Even the perception of political opposition can shape the Court and the lower courts. Hence the need for robust, incisive argument against nominees who undermine constitutional self-government.
Every so often I feel the need to pick up my well-worn copy of A Mencken Chrestomathy and turn to a random page to see what delightfully quotable passage I find there. This morning's was a particularly good one, so I thought I'd share it:
All the great villainies of history have been perpetrated by sober men, and chiefly by teetotalers. But all the charming and beautiful things , from the Song of Songs to terrapin a la Maryland, and from the nine Beethoven symphonies to the Martini cocktail, have been given to humanity by men who, when the hour came, turned from well water to something with color to it, and more in it than mere oxygen and hydrogen.
And with that, I pour myself a tumbler of Gentleman Jack and sit down to grade student papers.
Rich Lowry fears that the Republican presidential field might be Romney, Tim Pawlenty and Newt Gingrich at the top of the pack with Rick Santorum, John Huntsman, Herman Cain and Gary Johnson running behind. Yikes. Here are some thoughts on some of the candidates Lowry mentions,
Romney - It's all been said. His authenticity problems (both as to style and substance) aren't going away. Ramesh Ponnuru explains why Romneycare will probably be a bigger hurdle for Romney in 2012 than it was in 2008.
Gingrich - He has never shown appeal to voters outside a subgroup of conservatives. I doubt he could get elected Senator from Georgia never mind President of the United States. Even if he couldn't win, there was a time when Gingrich would have been useful in the primaries because he would raise important ideas that other candidates might ignore. That time has gone. Look at this battle plan Gingrich came up with for congressional Republicans in 2006. Not even getting into the disintegration of his second marriage, or his ethanol demagoguery, Gingrich has turned being "the ideas guy" into a hustle.
Pawlenty - I've read some people knock him as being too bland. Actually, when he gets in front of a national audience, Pawlenty tends to become obnoxious. Remember his 2010 CPAC speech when he suggested that America take inspiration from an act of domestic violence? He meant spousal abuse and not terrorism but I don't know if that makes it worse or better. His 2011 CPAC speech was an improvement. He gave us a glimpse of an agenda when he said "whether it's education, health care, housing, or just about anything else, we need to put people in charge, give them the power to make their own decisions, not government." That is a good start, but it is worthless if it stays at that level of abstraction. We'll see if he can use those basic principles to craft policies and then explain the benefits of those policies to persuadable voters. But even in 2011, Pawlenty couldn't help himself. The transcript doesn't do justice to Pawlenty's pro wrestling-style phony outrage when he bellowed "And, Mr. President, stop apologizing for our country." Well I guess it beats having anything real to say about the unfolding events in Egypt or ongoing American counterinsurgency efforts in Afghanistan. Pawlenty actually has an okay record as governor. He kept spending down and didn't raise taxes (well he tried to raise cigarette taxes but it was a complicated failure.) He instituted some price transparency reforms in health care. They aren't game changers absent changes in coverage mandates and tax subsidies, but they are something. He has a record as a consistent social conservative. Pawlenty obviously wants to be President very badly. I doubt he is what this country needs, but I would guess he has the best chance of winning of any of the candidates Lowry mentions. That means he is probably doomed.
Herman Cain - He lost the only political campaign he ever ran and the FairTax will come back to haunt him if he becomes more than a gadfly candidate. But in a small field where the better known candidates are making clumsy and transparently cynical appeals to conservatives, there might be an opening for a principled populist outsider with a business background and a good understanding of the right-leaning media.
A Pawlenty vs. Romney is likely to resolve itself as a battle between the attempted tax raiser and the flip-flopping stepfather of Obamacare. That would be a waste of the public's attention. I think the field Lowry describes would probably lead us to:
JINDAL/RUBIO 2016: THIS IS OUR LAST LAST CHANCE
Obama's is back to pretending to be flexible on health care reform. He is saying that states can opt out of the provisions of his health care reform, but only if they mandate the kind of comprehensive health care prepayment model of Obamacare. So you can have your government-run medicine with ketchup or mustard - cause he is all about flexibility.
Obama wants to seem a lot more reasonable and open minded then he is. One of his strengths is his ability to project moderation in service of leftism. I think the best way for conservatives (and especially conservative governors) to shatter his facade of moderation is to take him at the moderate tone rather than the recalcitrant fine print of his remarks. You want us to be flexible? We are going to implement HSA/catastrophic coverage for public sector workers. We are going to convert our states' Medicaid programs into a voucher for high deductible insurance. We are going to use the flexibility you say you want us to have to transform our states' health care markets. We aren't even going to ask permission first.
This approach has the advantage of boxing Obama in. If Obama chooses not to fight these changes then the number of Americans on consumer-driven polices will increase and thereby make the full implementation of Obamacare that much harder. If Obama chooses to fight these policy changes then he can explain "Well, when I said flexibility, I meant flexibility to implement single-payer not free market-oriented health care." Republicans can then attack him for dishonesty while pushing a positive program that would save the government money and increase the take home pay of a significant subgroup of American. Not only does Obama's image as a moderate take a hit, but conservatives can also use the argument to increase public awareness of, and support for, market-oriented alternatives to Obamacare.
Some folks seem to think so, but I mostly don't. I think that the part about "unscripted moments" was primarily about Palin and it is not the first time he has made such a comment. I heard him say the same think weeks ago and I chose not to write anything about it because it seemed like such an obvious and innocuous observation.
I think Christie's more interesting comment was about how you can't be "blow-dried and poll tested." I don't take that as a shot at Palin. There are multiple legitimate complaints about the limitations of Palin's approach to public commentary, but being "poll tested" isn't one of them. Does anyone think "wtf" or her rambling statement about Obama and Egypt were poll tested? Give Palin credit. She doesn't need a poll or a focus group to tell her what her supporters want to her. I think Christie might have been thinking of another "blow-dried and poll tested" ex-governor who is thinking of running for President.