We meet at ... a moment when our nation is at war, our economy is in turmoil, and the American promise has been threatened once more...
These challenges are not all of government's making. But the failure to respond is a direct result of a broken politics in Washington and the failed policies of George W. Bush.
America, we are better than these last eight years. We are a better country than this.
We believe in the value of doing what's right for everyone in the American family.
And that is the choice in this election.
We believe that what matters most is not narrow appeals masquerading as values, but the shared values that show the true face of America. Not narrow appeals that divide us, but shared values that unite us. Family and faith. Hard work and responsibility. Opportunity for all - so that every child, every parent, every worker has an equal shot at living up to their God-given potential.
The thing that makes me angriest about what has gone wrong in the last 12 years is that our government has lost touch with our values, while our politicians continue to shout about them. I'm tired of it!
I was raised to believe the American Dream was built on rewarding hard work. But we have seen the folks of Washington turn the American ethic on its head....
Our people are pleading for change, but government is in the way. It has been hijacked by privileged private interests. It has forgotten who really pays the bills around here. It has taken more of your money and given you less in return.
Bill Clinton, 1992 acceptance speech
We have been a nation adrift too long. We have been without leadership too long. We have had divided and deadlocked government too long. We have been governed by veto too long. We have suffered enough at the hands of a tired and worn-out administration without new ideas, without youth or vitality, without vision and without the confidence of the American people. There is a fear that our best years are behind us. But I say to you that our nation's best is still ahead.
Our country has lived through a time of torment. It is now a time for healing. We want to have faith again. We want to be proud again. We just want the truth again.
Jimmy Carter, 1976 acceptance speech
The destiny of America is always safer in the hands of the people then in the conference rooms of any elite.
So let us give our ... country the chance to elect a Government that will seek and speak the truth, for this is the time for the truth in the life of this country.
George McGovern 1972 acceptance speech
I encourage readers to find other examples of routine, us-and-them campaign rhetoric that, turned to the proper angle, reveal a seething hatred of the nation's enemies.
John Lennon, the right-wing, reagonite war-hawk? So say's Lennon's last personal assistant:
John, basically, made it very clear that if he were an American he would vote for Reagan because he was really sour on (Democrat) Jimmy Carter.
I also saw John embark in some really brutal arguments with my uncle, who's an old-time communist... He enjoyed really provoking my uncle... Maybe he was being provocative... but it was pretty obvious to me he had moved away from his earlier radicalism.
He was a very different person back in 1979 and 80 than he'd been when he wrote Imagine. By 1979 he looked back on that guy and was embarrassed by that guy's naivete.
I don't know if Lennon's alleged conservative conversion is genuine, but it would make listening to Come Together all the sweeter.
Justice Clarence Thomas has authored one of the Court's most unusual and as usual most instructive court opinions, dissenting in the violent video case (look about 40% of the way down, after the majority opinion). In voting to uphold California's restrictions on sales of violent video games to minors, Justice Thomas surveys the Founders' views of child rearing, noting among other items Jefferson's education instructions to his wife, the contrasting views of Locke and Rousseau, and children's reading of the time. The upshot:
"The freedom of speech," as originally understood, does not include a right to speak to minors without going through the minors' parents or guardians. Therefore, I cannot agree that the statute at issue is facially unconstitutional under the First Amendment.
The Court's version of the first amendment appears to have little to do with the original purpose of that element of self-government--the protection of political speech.
George Will seems high on Rick Perry (h/t to Peter Schramm for the link.) I dunno. Perry is, in one sense perfectly positioned for the Republican primary race. He is much more of a small government guy than George W. Bush and he is a social conservative with long executive experience in a state with strong recent job creation. That is pretty much the sweet spot.
But I don't have strong feelings either pro or anti-Perry. It isn't just that Texas has a higher unemployment rate than the supposedly Obamneycare-afflicted state of Massachusetts or Tim Pawlenty's Minnesota. Assigning praise and blame according to state by state unemployment and job creation statistics is difficult. Perry is having budget issues. Depending on how he and the Texas state legislature solve them, he might have a strong case to run as a candidate of fiscal consolidation.
I hope he runs, but I'm keeping my expectations modest.
Among his other jobs, Herman Cain has been a radio talk show host. This is not, in itself, a qualification to be President (though being a talk radio host strikes me as a hard job), but it was an opportunity for preparation to be President. This is to use Ross Douthat's definition of preparation as "the hard work of scaling up one's understanding from state-level challenges [or in Cain's case the opinions of a politically interested businessman] to national issues that any aspiring candidate needs to do."
As a talk show host, Cain was, in a sense, paid to think about public issues and then talk about them for three hours a day five days a week. From my limited understanding, talk radio show prep tends to focus on the day-to-day, but Cain could have immersed himself in the best conservative policy thinking. He could have worked at making this thinking accessible to his audience. Cain seems not to have done that. Maybe he did and we just haven't seen it yet, and he is going to surprise us.
Chicago has long been a favorite city--not exotic in the way San Francisco and New York are, with less history than comparatively tiny Boston, but even so it has a character that still speaks to us. This came to sight as I sunned on Ohio Beach, next to the Navy Pier. From this vantage point the city's vista is spectacular. Vision, ambition, low politics, greed but above all pride created such a scene. The skyscrapers are the sensuous products of these noble and base passions. One cannot look at Chicago without being affirmed that this is a country full of ambition, a great country bent on even greater things.
I am staying in the "Dick Tracy" house, in the Chicago suburbs, the one in which the young Chester Gould got his family and cartooning career started. How appropriate that the always proper Dick Tracy was given birth in mob-fascinated Chicago. Contrast the steady Tracy with our psychically tortured Batman. Shouldn't virtuous acts be done with pleasure, in order to be virtuous?
All this puts into perspective the strange case of our Chicago-based President, who has brought to the national scene all that is low about Chicago and who seems intent on suppressing all the grand motives that made America a great nation. His vision of American destiny would rob America of all its distinctiveness.
The Civil War & Lincoln
Mitt Romney's support is being challenged on two separate fronts.
Politically, he is now tied with Michele Bachmann in Iowa. While Romney was always likely to lose a portion of the conservative vote to one of the many candidates to his right, the Minnesota congresswoman is also stealing his spotlight and leaching away his star-powered popularity. Romney is a household name - an advantage he holds over most of his intra-party rivals (now that Trump is out of the race and Gingrich seems to have stalled). But Bachmann is fresh and attractive (politically, I mean) - she has the power to siphon votes founded upon Romney's charm and charisma. She's the only candidate who can compete cosmetically with Romney's "hair factor."
Economically, Romney's critical base of donors among Utah's Mormons is being courted by Jon Huntsman. Romney must be reeling from the statistically improbable appearance of another Mormon in the presidential race. The dueling Mormons have now created a fissure in the Mormon constituency - which is conservative on most issues, but very liberal in campaign donations.
Romney is still a well-funded frontrunner - but that makes him a legitimate target for other Republicans and threatens that his political star may have risen too quickly in electoral time. He's the king of the hill, but Queen Bachmann and the rest of the GOP brood are eager to knock him from his perch. Romney will need to display true political skill if he is to stave off contenders and preserve his elevated stature.
Steve Hayward's new home has received an article from David Harris, the American Jewish Committee executive director, which was declined by Harris' blogging site, The Huffington Post (which recently devoured my former blogging home, to my continuing dismay).
Nearly two years ago, I was invited by The Huffington Post (HuffPo) to become a blogger on their site. I was honored. It is one of the most heavily trafficked news sites anywhere, and it reaches an influential audience. Since September 2009, I have published nearly 50 articles there, and look forward to publishing many more. This week, for the first time, I was told by HuffPo that an article submitted was "not for us." ...
The topic? "The Hamas - Oops, Gaza - Flotilla."
I mentioned in an earlier post that Democrats and liberals are hostile to religion. With regard to the Jews, that religious hostility translates into overt political hostility toward Israel - culminating in the absurd apologetics and sympathies witnessed among liberals for Arab-Muslim terrorists obsessed with murdering Israeli Jews. And yet, nearly 90% of Jews vote for Democrats. It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma....
I posted an article on Michele Bachmann "Queen or Kingmaker?" at my second on-line home last week, and the Weekly Standard's latest edition has followed up with an answer: "Queen of the Tea Party." Matthew Continetti's canvassing bio and assessment of Bachmann's avoids the breathless outrage and (not-so) subtle disdain which often accompanies mainstream accounts of the rising star.
"Energetic, charismatic, intelligent, and attractive, the 55-year-old Bachmann is . . . ." So leads Continetti's dive into her popular perception among voters. The article covers her youth, faith and political style, as well as specific moments which define her strengths, weaknesses and inspirations. Of course, Continetti addresses the obvious comparison to Sarah Palin ("What unites Bachmann and Palin, above all, is the contempt with which they are treated by liberals.") and Bachmann's connection to the Tea Party ("Michele Bachmann was Tea Party before Tea Party was cool.").
You'll either read about her now, or you'll play catch-up later when Bachmann's national role can no longer be ignored by scholarly observers. The Standard article is a very good introduction.
Catholic League president Bill Donohue has lost faith in Obama's sincerity to protect faith-based organizations and has joined liberal critics in calling for an end to government funding.
A few dozen left-wing organizations, some of which are no friend of religious liberty, sent a letter to President Obama this week asking that he rescind an amendment to an Executive Order that allows faith-based programs to limit hiring to people of their own faith. The Catholic League would like to go further: it's time to shut down the faith-based program altogether.
President George W. Bush sincerely wanted to end discrimination in awarding federal contracts to social service agencies by including faith-based programs. When Sen. Obama was running for president three years ago, he pledged support for faith-based programs provided they were emptied of any faith component: he opposed the right of faith-based programs to maintain their integrity by hiring only people of their faith. ...
When faith is gutted from faith-based programs--when Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox Jews can't hire their own--we are left with a carcass. ... The goal, obviously, is to convert these religious entities into full-blown secular organizations. It would be better not to let them hijack these programs in the name of assisting them, thus it makes sense to shut them down.
Democrats have been hostile to (non-Muslim) religions for decades. It's a sad commentary on their fidelity to liberty that they discriminate against religious organizations with such blatant audacity. Christianity and conservatism are the last acceptable prejudices among liberals.
In an article entitled, "President Obama hasn't always agreed with Senator Obama," The Washington Post writes rather uncritically of a statement by Speaker Boehner's spokesman: "Senator Barack Obama would be among the Obama Administration's fiercest critics."
It's not a flattering perspective of the President's consistency. The article cites Obama's most recent turnabouts on the executive power to wage war exemplified in Libya and his desire to raise the debt ceiling. (On the former charge, Charles Krauthammer has an exceptional article in today's WaPo.) The Post might have also included Obama's inconsistencies on closing Guantanamo, revoking portions of the Patriot Act, support for labor unions, ethical and policy transparency, ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, ending special interest lobbyists, ending earmarks, five days of public access to bills prior to presidential signature, the elimination of capital gains taxes, tax credits for small businesses, eliminating 401(k) penalties, etc., etc., etc.
In Obama's own words:
I think that it's important to understand the vantage point of a senator versus the vantage point of a...president. ... As president, you start realizing, "You know what? We can't play around with this stuff.
One might have hoped that a senator would have made that realization. Or, perhaps, a presidential candidate. At the very least, it would be noble and courteous of Obama to acknowledge the realities which faced George W. Bush - Obama has been egregiously critical of his predecessor on policies he himself has now adopted, but proven especially graceless in acknowledging his reversals and his predecessor's vindications.
Jennifer Rubin calls attention to a "historic event" in Morocco:
...a new "landmark" constitution guaranteeing equality for women, empowering an elected parliament and chief executive, and mandating an independent judiciary was rolled out.
A sensible observer of international affairs, Rubin quotes CNN and hopefully observes:
As CNN reported: "[The king's] actions followed a series of unprecedented protests in this North African modern Muslim country, where street protests are normally tolerated by the state, unlike in most other Arab countries."The speech delivered by King Mohammed VI provided a detailed description of a new constitution that will be put to a national vote on July 1. One Moroccan observer said the new government structure was similar to Spain -- a monarch remains, but power is devolved to a democratically elected parliament, protections for minorities and women are concretized, and powers are spread to the judiciary, the parliament and to local government.
The document, and the king's speech in support of it, have garnered due praise. However, as Rubin notes, "the devil is always in the details." Pajamas Media posits a more hesitant and reserved assessment:
Jennifer Rubin thinks we've just seen a number of myths about Islam "explode." It would be nice, for a change, to be able to associate that sort of explosion with Islam instead of the kind we've gotten used to. Perhaps she's right. Being a cautious chap, I think I'll hold off celebrating for while.
While the language of Morocco's constitution is promising, it's quite possible that the original, or textual, interpretation we are presently assuming will evolve as the living document is interpreted by the king and his minions. As with all things Arab Spring, it's a wait and see proposal.
The New York Times' opinion page is hosting a protracted and engaging conservation on the future and relevancy of NATO.
Has the Atlantic alliance outlived its usefulness? The British journalist and writer Geoffrey Wheatcroft raised that question in an opinion article ("Who needs NATO?," June 16) that drew a strong reaction from Ivo H. Daalder, the U.S. permanent representative to NATO, who argued that the alliance is more needed than ever (Counterpoint, June 18-19). Sarwar Kashmeri, a senior fellow in the Atlantic Council's International Security Program and the author of "NATO 2.0: Reboot or Delete?," joins the debate.
Kashmeri's article commences by flagging a misleading assertion I like to call "NINO" (NATO In Name Only). Simply having a NATO stamp on a military mission does not necessarily lend credit to the ever-more-discredited agency. Afghanistan, for example, is NATO-led on paper, but U.S. led in reality. Libya is truly NATO led, thanks to America's reluctance to take the reins - and the mission's malaise is attributable precisely to that fact.
Kashmeri notes an important point when he observes: "Europeans simply do not feel as threatened as Americans do, and are not interested in using their tax dollars to fight in distant lands." Touching upon a theme I attempted to articulate in a recent Ashbrook editorial, Kashmeri continues:
This European/American schism within NATO is further aggravated by a split between Central and Eastern European members on one side, and Western ones on the other.
Noting the need for fiscal and perceptual changes in NATO, Kashmeri concludes:
I am convinced this will to change will only come about when America decides to take away its defense credit card and asks Europe to take responsibility for its own security.
The E.U. is increasingly capable of defending itself under its Common Security and Defense Policy....
C.S.D.P. should be the pre-eminent vehicle to defend Europe; NATO should be bridged to C.S.D.P. and only come into action when Europe, America, and Canada wish to act together in conflicts where all three share vital national interests.
NATO has truly done a magnificent job, but it is time to move on.
This debate will broaden as Obama attempts to alter the de facto, half-century reality of a U.S.-led NATO. If the U.S. is to recede in light of the advent of a truly independent NATO, we must decide if we are willing to support our - and NATO's - new role in the world. NATO is already Euro-heavy, and Kashmeri's formulation of extracting the body (as well as the U.S.) from Euro-centric military concerns seems sensibly prudent.
Cain - He had (might still have) the chance to be a Ross Perot-style outsider/self-made businessman/populist technocrat while also being an authentic conservative. He had an excellent chance of winning over that fraction of the Republican primary electorate that is interested in conservative authenticity first while also being able to use his background as a businessman outsider to convince those voters that he was competent enough to be trusted with the presidency. Cain's approach was always going to wear thin eventually, but it has decayed faster than I expected. Part of it is that Cain is no Ross Perot, and not just in the size of his net worth. Perot was vague on the answers to the country's problems, but he was a blizzard of facts and charts on the problems themselves. I can't remember a thing he said, but he sure seemed to know what he was talking about on the national debt. This gave him (for a time) the air of an expert outsider who would clean up the mess made by the Washington political class. Cain mostly just reads from the same old script about how he is a problem solving businessman who will get advice from the right people and announce a solution sometime later. Maybe if Bachmann hadn't shown up to give him competition for that portion of the electorate looking for a (nonlibertarian) authentic conservative outsider, he would be doing better. Or maybe not. He won't get very far running as a problem solver if he can't solve the problem of sounding like he is using a line of bs to get through the debates.
Pawlenty - As an Evangelical, strongly pro-life, spending cutting two term governor of a Midwestern state, Pawlenty had an excellent chance to win support from both the part of the Republican electorate that is looking primarily for authentic conservatism and the part that is looking for (conservative-tinged) governing competence. It hasn't worked out that way. His public appearances are one disaster after another. His CPAC speeches treated his audiences like yokels. The moderators in both Republican debates have made him look bad. I caught a few minutes of Pawlenty of the O'Reilly Factor the other day. O'Reilly (who had previously derided Pawlenty as vanilla) asked Pawlenty out for a vanilla sundae with hot fudge. It was actually a shrewd question by O'Reilly, in that there isn't an obvious answer that doesn't make one look like either a weakling or a jerk. I still don't know what I would have said. Pawlenty responded with his common line about not running for comedian-in-chief and rebuffed O'Reilly. It was a weirdly nonresponsive answer. O'Reilly had invited him out for ice cream, not to do set at the Comedy Store. There was probably some way to make Pawlenty's response seem principled, but he not only seemed stiff, his answer was so obviously scripted (it was obviously his stock answer to any question about being boring etc.) that he seemed phony too. I want to like Pawlenty (he would probably get my vote if I had to cast a ballot today), but he isn't showing that he can play the game at this level.
Bachmann - She did well in the first debate. As Matt Taibbi pointed out in his otherwise venomous profile, the people who mock her are among her greatest political assets. Every time liberal blogs put together pictures of Bachmann with her mouth wide open so that she looks stupid and crazy, they set expectations that she can easily surpass and they encourage conservatives to choose a side while making it an easy choice. And it works out all the better for her when she shows up as a politician of well above average intelligence and work ethic because it is a big surprise to many. She has travelled around the country and knows her audience. Unlike Pawlenty, she knows that being the first to file a bill repeal Obamacare is a better way to signal conservative authenticity than inviting conservatives to take inspiration from an act of suspected spousal battery. She speaks social conservatism as a first language. She knows how to play to the crowd, but she doesn't come across like she is pandering in the sense of being willing to say things she doesn't believe. I don't know why this hasn't gotten more play, but one of the reasons she did well in the debate (and I think her performance was somewhat overrated) was because she worked at it. She very probably wouldn't be a good general election candidate. I doubt her appeal will prove broad enough to win the Republican presidential nomination. Her biography and affect are appealing to someone looking for an authentically conservative outsider, but less well for those looking primarily for a chief executive.
The Washington Times has published my article predicting the end of the Republican's moratorium on internal feuding.
The Republican presidential candidates have presented a united front. They've held hands and stuck to the message. President Obama is the problem. They - the mature, resolved and above-the-fray Republican opposition - are the solution. Newt Gingrich momentarily strayed from the path by criticizing Paul Ryan's budget plan and was swiftly reprimanded by the greater GOP establishment. Even the recent GOP debate in New Hampshire was more of a GOP powwow. There has been an obvious consensus to defer the intraparty feuding until the GOP has collectively, convincingly and resoundingly identified Mr. Obama as the nation's albatross.
However, Obama's decline and Romney's ascent in the polls "have emboldened the Republican field to abandon their familial camaraderie and adopt a new strategy."
So, after playing nice in New Hampshire - and being widely criticized by the media for refusing to take CNN's repeated invitation to begin in-fighting - the candidates have begun lining up to take shots at the current king of the hill.
A very disappointing and very difficult to respect speech last night from the President. Is there any reason not related to partisan politics why over twenty thousand American troops are being withdrawn timed to September of next year (still during the fighting season) rather than winter? Why not just synchronize a withdrawal with Obama's acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention? I can't think of the right words to describe the awful reality that yesterday's speech made no reference to the drawdown being conditions-based, but did include a (thinly veiled) plug of Obama's proposed green energy subsidies.
But let us also give bitter applause to President George W. Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. It was their mismanagement of the occupation phases of Iraq and Afghanistan and their mismanagement of the military's force structure that helped bring this to pass. Even when Bush (rather late) realized that the circumstances required a counterinsurgency strategy, the force was too small and too stressed to fully and simultaneously resource counterinsurgency campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is not for nothing that the full Afghan counterinsurgency strategy was implemented by Obama. It is too bad that Obama seems to be cutting it off too early and taking dangerous risks for a terrible reason.
Literature, Poetry, and Books
I ask for a moment's indulgence to sit by thy side. The works
that I have in hand I will finish afterwards.
Away from the sight of thy face my heart knows no rest nor respite,
and my work becomes an endless toil in a shoreless sea of toil.
Today the summer has come at my window with its sighs and murmurs; and
the bees are plying their minstrelsy at the court of the flowering grove.
Now it is time to sit quite, face to face with thee, and to sing
dedication of life in this silent and overflowing leisure.
Simon Jenkins of the UK's Guardian gets the political incentives of the Greek debt crisis very, very right. Just the same, I think that a major Greek fiscal consolidation is going to happen regardless. The question is who else (other than the Greek people) will get hurt as the Greek government tries to prune the state back to sustainability and how it deals with its existing debt.
I especially like this:
The lesson is clear. Sovereign states with distinct political cultures should never surrender control over internal affairs to foreign agencies unless their people are amenable to such a loss of autonomy.
The main reason that Greece's political problems are a more-than-local problem is that the eurozone (as it developed) was less a deeply flawed economic policy (though it was that too) than a geostrategic policy whose primary purpose was to advance a deeply flawed conception of the EU project.
Ohio performs poorly in nearly every conceptual area. Spending and taxation are higher than average, with administration, education, and social-service spending especially high as a percentage of personal income. On the plus side, government debt is below average. Ohio, like three other states, does not allow private workers' compensation insurers. However, unlike North Dakota and Wyoming, it does allow employer self-insurance for workers'-compensation. The state's occupational-licensing regime and level of health-insurance coverage mandates are decent. Ohio has improved its eminent-domain regime, but further reform is warranted. Its liability system is only average. On the other hand, Ohio's asset forfeiture laws are quite good, with the state more than a standard deviation better than average. It could improve even further, though, by shifting the burden of proof to the government. Gun-control laws are relatively poor, though not extreme as in the case of states like Illinois or California. In fact, Ohio allows open carry without permit. The state authorizes sobriety checkpoints but does not mandate motorcycle helmets. Marijuana laws are liberal overall, but cultivation and sale sentencing could be reformed. Most gambling is illegal. Homeschooling regulations are unreasonable, including teacher licensure and mandatory state approval of homeschool curricula. However, private-school regulations are lighter. Draconian smoking bans are in place and cigarette taxes are above average. Beer and wine taxes are reasonably good but the spirits tax is fairly high.
Three recommendations are listed:
It comes as little consolation that the few states which are less free than Ohio include:
The bluer the state, the less freedoms its citizens enjoy. Hardly surprising. But it bears mention that the George Mason analysis favors liberal fancies such as gay marriage and the de-criminalization of drugs - so the test rewards liberal social policies, and the most liberal states are still the least free.
On the other hand, the most free states include:
The links may be blue, but the states are overwhelmingly red (and Wisconsin only recently joined the top 25 - thanks to Gov. Walker and the GOP).
If you're surprised by any of this, you just haven't been paying attention. If rhetoric equaled results, progressive states would be heavens on Earth - but, in reality, those fly-over states so often ridiculed from the ivory towers of the eastern seaboard are the true lands of milk and honey.
[Greece's] Parliament passed a confidence vote on Prime Minister George Papandreou's new cabinet, formed last week to push through a fresh package of austerity measures required to receive international financing to stave off default.
The passage averts early elections and a stalled government at a critical moment. Now, Mr. Papandreou must face an even bigger challenge next week, when Parliament votes on the new slate of measures, including tax hikes, wage cuts and state privatization, that are required by the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund before it releases the next segment of aid that Greece needs to meet expenses through the summer.
The vote came days after protests over new government cutbacks shook Greece's political establishment and touched off a revolt within the ruling Socialist party. Mr. Papandreou shuffled his cabinet on Friday, sacking his finance minister, who was seen as the architect of the austerity measures....
It's important to understand that there is rioting and massive public protest in Greece because they feel the austerity measures required to have someone else continue to pay their bills are too great a burden on their quality of life. The alternative would be a national default - bankruptcy. But everyone - particularly state employees - insist that someone else, even if they be foreigners, must pay more. There is no accountability, responsibility or deference to economic reality. Greece is the picture of modern, liberal socialism - it doesn't work any better than the old varieties, but is even more culturally pathetic and politically ridiculous.
America has seen the blooming bud of this infestation in Wisconsin, and the vine has stretched across the entire nation. Greece is the natural conclusion of this progressive ideology. The sooner it is plucked from American soil and burnt at the root, the better for our national fortune and prosperity.
From the Federalist Society's International and National Security Law Practice Group:
A bipartisan group of members of the U.S. House of Representatives has filed suit against American involvement in Libya. As Congress continues to debate the extent of the President's authority in Libya under the War Powers Act and the U.S. Constitution, we thought you would be interested in this upcoming teleforum conference call on the same topic.
Join us on Wednesday, June 22 for a Teleforum conference call featuring David B. Rivkin, Jr. and George Mason University School of Law Professor Ilya Somin. To
David Marion of Hampden-Sydney College has a thoughtful piece with Ashbrook on "Deficits and Cultural Politics."
Deficit politics in 2011 is reminiscent of racial politics at the time of Brown v. Board of Education in the mid-1950s. It took several decades, and legislation such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, for the expectations embedded in the Brown ruling to be realized in communities across America. In much the same way, a sustainable solution to our long-term deficit problem is unlikely in the absence of a significant cultural transformation.
Marion traces the cultural shift which accompanied and propelled deficit spending, while honestly assessing the difficulties and rewards of a renewed "culture of realistic expectations." Sobering, thoughtful and timely words on an issue of paramount importance.
Sir Christopher Wren's St. Paul's Cathedral in London is celebrating its 300th birthday today. Of course, at 300 years old, St. Paul's is a youngster among England's great churches and cathedrals. Nevertheless, her caretakers decided she was in need of a little makeover, so today also marks the conclusion of a 15 year restoration effort. I'd say she doesn't look a day over 200.
Men and Women
...is, of course, my girlfriend.
Now that that's out of the way and I have enough cover to keep her from killing me for this post - Miss USA, Alyssa Campanella:
Beauty is a beautiful thing. Slidshow here.
Former Utah governor John Huntsman has joined the GOP presidential field with a mild-mannered anti-Washington and fiscally conservative message. Now that Huntsman is officially in the ring, Texas governor Rick Perry's expected announcement should just about round out the Republican field.
The only problem with all these delightfully conservative candidates is that they are generally indistinguishable to most Americans - which means that a moderate in their midst, such as Mitt Romney, will be the only candidate who is not dividing his share of the primary vote among a half-dozen other candidates. (The same is true for Ron Paul and the libertarian vote, but I don't expect that vote to pose a threat.)
A fractioning of the conservative vote among all the rest will allow Romney to seize the entire moderate vote in the GOP primary. Romney's name recognition and well-honed political skill could secure any remaining votes necessary to boost him above the fray. A conservative candidate either needs to rise above the crowd, or the herd needs to thin itself out. As it stands, the mere contrast between Romney and the rest bode poorly for conservative hopefuls.
I meant to post something about this interview when it appeared over the weekend, but internet problems got in the way. Anyway, famed popular historian David McCullough correctly identifies some of the reasons why Americans don't know their history--unprepared teachers, politically correct textbooks, uninspired classroom methods. There's a problem that he overlooks, however. He seems to assume that if more teachers graduated with degrees in history rather than pedagogy there would be an improvement in the population's historical knowledge. Given what goes on in many university history departments, that may not be the case.
For years the emphasis in undergraduate history teaching has been on method, rather than content. That is, students are expected to learn to become historians, rather than to know history. For example, I was an undergraduate at Ohio University, and had to take a research methods course that went through, in excruciating detail, all of the different reference works with which we needed to be familiar in order to track down sources that we might need to write a scholarly paper. This course was ultimately useless even for me, since within ten years the internet had made all of those reference works obsolete. How much more useless was the course for the vast majority of those who took it with me--who, unlike me, did not go on to graduate school?
I was lucky, though, in the sense that most of the faculty at Ohio University were of the old school that understood that, when it comes to historical knowledge, some historical facts are more important than others. The real danger of emphasizing method over content is that everything eventually becomes equally important. If, after all, history is only about imparting research methods, communication skills, and (my personal favorite) "critical thinking," then why should some professor whose research interests involve the construction of gender in Massachusetts during the late 1770s be troubled to teach a course on the American Revolution? Every course could be built around the current research of the individual faculty--and you'd have something like the history curriculum as it exists at most elite institutions of higher learning today.
With all due respect to Mr. McCullough, if that's the way that history is being taught, it's not clear to me that prospective teachers are any worse off taking education courses.
I previously wrote about the class-action sex-discrimination lawsuit against Wal-Mart. I sensed that it was another frivolous attack by leftist puppets, manipulated by union bosses, attempting to score political points thought judicial fiat. I was right.
The Supreme Court has ruled for Wal-Mart in its fight to block a massive sex discrimination lawsuit on behalf of women who work there.
The court ruled unanimously Monday that the lawsuit against Wal-Mart Stores Inc. cannot proceed as a class action, reversing a decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. The lawsuit could have involved up to 1.6 million women, with Wal-Mart facing potentially billions of dollars in damages.
The full text of the ruling is here.
The liberal wing did dissent, in part - de facto arguing for a gender quota in order to ensure equal representation in management. Of course, the disparate proportion of male-to-female managers was not shown to be the result of discrimination of any sort. The infamous 9th Circuit and liberal judges on the Supreme Court simply want to create a world of their choosing through judicial coercion. This is an abuse of their public trust and a degradation of democracy. Wal-Mart scored a victory for American liberty today.
Remember Sarah Palin? She's the former leading lady of the conservative core of the Republican Party. As of Monday evening, she's a reality TV star, Republican fundraiser and media obsession - but her presidential ambitions are now foreclosed. The reason is that Sarah Palin's quasi-vacant seat at the Republican table has been filled by conservative sensation Michele Bachmann.
The question, however, is the role which Bachmann will play.
. . . Bachmann is not an all or nothing candidate. Should she be surpassed by one or more Republican in the primaries, her influence among Tea Party Americans will likely not have waned. Bachmann's mere endorsement would be a tremendous boon for any candidate, but her name on the national ticket could prove dispositive. She is a conservative lifeline for Romney, for example, and a complimentary asset for Pawlenty (the Minnesota Twins would finally drag their home state back into the red column - the Twin Cities voted for Walter Mondale out of local loyalties, after all).
NBC covered the US Open today and edited the words "under God" from a children's recital of the Pledge of Allegiance at the commencement of the game. Following severe criticism, they've issued a bland and intentionally unconvincing apology.
It's not surprising from leftist media such as NBC, but another reminder of their true colors. Imagine the kind of people in journalism who decide to conduct this sort of ridiculous censorship. Imagine the breathless, hysterical reaction of these same people at NBC if Fox News edited and censored coverage of a national event so as to exclude mention of homosexuals, racial minorities or any other progressively-favored sub-group.
It would be a tiresome, full time job to document all of the hypocrisy committed by the left-wing media (or just NBC, for that matter), but from time to time it's good to remind ourselves of the kind of unprincipled, radical and loathsome people who deliver much of our news.
The Founding Fathers. George Washington, the father of our country. The Holy Father. When you love someone and hold them in esteem beyond words, you call them father. There's a reason for that.
Here's to our dads.
We love you.
Ross Douthat blasts Tim Pawlenty's tax plan. RTWT as they say but this is a taste:
You'll recall that Bush cut taxes on upper earners, capital gains, estates, dividends, etc. He also cut taxes on families and the middle class. He also cut taxes without offsetting the cuts with spending reductions, on the assumption that growth would take care of any deficits that ensued. He didn't reform the tax code by shrinking the number of brackets, as Pawlenty proposes to do. As Schulz notes, Bush's mix of policies earned disappointing results -- not necessarily in terms of overall growth rates (at least before the financial crisis), but in terms of wage growth for middle class and downscale Americans, and in terms of their impact on the national debt. So against that backdrop and amid those memories, the Pawlenty plan would send Republicans to the hustings with a tax plan that's likely to increase the deficit, and with the argument that the reason wage growth for the middle class was so disappointing in the Bush years was that Bush's tax policies were too weighted toward middle-class concerns (!), and didn't go far enough in flattening the tax burden and lowering rates on investors and the rich. In other words: Dear middle class American, we're going to address the economic anxieties you experienced in the '00s with a deficit-increasing tax reform that's much more favorable, in its initial impact, to the wealthiest quintile of the country than were the Bush tax cuts.
Yeah, me too, but my concerns are a little different. They are:
Pawlenty's tax plan cuts tax revenues far more sharply than Ryan's PTP while planning to spend far less. Ryan's PTP projects getting spending down to 20.25% of GDP over the next 18 years. There are reasons to think that this still won't leave enough revenue to pay for Medicare even under a reformed system. As Reihan Salam and others have pointed out, a more realistic Medicare reform plan would grow Medicare spending at GDP +1 rather than at Ryan's cocktail of consumer prices indexes. That is going to cost more money than Ryan budgets for (though it is about what Ryan budgeted for in his original Roadmap.)
Pawlenty is for capping federal spending at 18% of GDP. That would mean taking Ryan's already underfunded PTP budget and cutting it by over 10%. So Pawlenty's program would amount to enormous tax cuts to high earners + large entitlement cuts (they would have to be substantially larger than those in the PTP unless Pawlenty proposed huge defense cuts too.) And, as Josh Barro points out in one of the above links, we would still have an annual deficit of 3% of GDP even under a set of assumptions friendly to the Pawlenty program.
I'm trying to think of a circumstance where this program could win a general election. I guess if people were mad enough at Obama that a majority of the public buys that Pawlenty's tax cuts would only slightly reduce revenue (because of the resulting growth) and chooses to ignore the size and consequences of the cuts that would be required in order to make the Pawlenty plan's deficits just barely sustainable. It sound more like a plan to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
Ross Douthat writes that the public's memory of President George W. Bush will prevent Obama from being Hooverized by the lousy economy and that Pawlenty's tax plan will be a general election liability. Here's what I think:
Douthat is partly right, but I don't think that blaming Bush helps more than a little. Obama's situation would be worse if the Great Recession and the financial crisis had occurred entirely during Obama's term. People recognize that Obama didn't personally cause the downturn. But that has limited relevance in a general election context. Swing voters can probably keep the following two thoughts in their heads simultaneously: a) Bush was a lousy President and b) Obama might not be as bad, but he is still doing a lousy job and we still need a new President. And it isn't just swing voters. Obama's job approval on the economy is 41%. Short of some calamity, Obama will almost certainly get more than 41% in next year's election. Whatever they think of Bush, even some Democratic-leaning voters don't like the job Obama is doing on the economy. Memories of Bush won't be any clearer in November 2012 than they were when Republicans were making large gains in November 2010. If the labor market stays where it is (or God forbid gets worse), Romney's line that "He [Obama] didn't create the recession, but he made it worse and longer" will have resonance and "Bush started it" won't be enough of a response. To the extent the labor market improves, the force of Romney's charge will weaken.
I generally share Douthat's concerns about Pawlenty's tax plan (and especially its relationship to his spending plans) but I hope to get to that tomorrow.
Ron Brownstein argues that the Republican presidential candidates have:
coalesced around an economic agenda that will propose sharper reductions in federal taxes, spending, and regulation than the party has offered in decades. That convergence will diminish the role of ideology in the nomination contest--but then increase it in the general election.
There is some truth to that, but the way the CNN Republican debate was moderated tended to amplify this tendency. It doesn't make much sense to ask a question about repealing Obamacare. They're all for repealing Obamacare. Making it about Obamacare or how to repeal Obamacare creates a situation where the candidates compete to be the "real" conservative not through their policy preferences, but through self-marketing. One candidate says he will repeal Obamacare on his first day as President. Another candidate says she was the first member of the House of Representatives to introduce a repeal of Obamacare. Luckily no one has cut off a finger to demonstrate their sincere desire to repeal Obamacare. Yet.
The debates would be better (for viewers, and for the general election chances of the Republican Party probably - but not for the comfort of the candidates) if the debate questions focused on how particular policies would affect individuals and subgroups. It would be more useful and more interesting to see how much (if any) the Pawlenty tax plan saves middle-class families vs. the Romney tax plan vs. the Bachmann tax plan. It would be interesting to learn how much more they expect seniors to pay out of pocket due to their Medicare reforms and why (along with other health care reforms) this might be a good thing in the end. This could set off some interesting scrums among the candidates and these are also going to be the kinds of questions that the Republican presidential candidate will face in the general election - where the swing voters won't care about who is the realest real conservative.
From Ronald Seavoy's classic The Origins of the American Business Corporation. (A book on a subject that ought to occupy more time in our history classes). After the American Revolution, as the State of New York passed a law allowing religious congregations to incorporate (a step necessary to allow them to own land):
A mortmain clause, limiting the amount of land a congregation could own, was added to prevent the accumulation of real property in immobile corporate hands. Thereafter, some form of mortmain restriction as placed in almost all charters of benevolent societies. This was a legal carry-over from England where mortmain clauses were designed to prevent the accumulation of land in the hands of churches and other charitable organizations.
I wonder if we, in modern America, should consider restoring that a like restriction on all tax-free entities. Perpetuities are problematic in a democratic-republic. As the endowments of our major Universites and colleges grow, along with our major foundations, it reduces our tax base. Business corporations must compete to survive. Hence that concern does not apply. But charitable trusts can be forever. Since we don't have the feudal law here (at least in most cases), it would probably have to take a different form than the old restriction.
As I understand the law, (and I may very well be wrong here), charitable institutions have some key advantages in the market. If they don't pay capital gains taxes on trades, for example, they can be much more efficient traders of stocks and other assets. Similarly, if they don't pay real estate taxes, they can drive for profit landlords out of the market by charging less rent for like apartments. When relatively little wealth is off the tax books, that's not a real problem. As more and more is held by charities, it could become a problem. More generally, the lack of competition makes long-term ownership by charitable entities very different than ownership by business corporations.
Perhaps we could just require that charitable foundations spend more than the current 5% per year of their endowments (and change the way that 5% is counted). It would make sense to exempt land that was used directly by charities (such as church and school buildings), but not other lands, etc.
like you were expecting better,
1. The questions were wretched, and not just the dumb ones about Leno, pizza and Dancing With The Stars. The questions were generally too easy. We already knew they were going to say they wanted to cut taxes and repeal Obamacare. They should have been asked about the distributional impact of their tax policies. Sample question: "How will your plan change the tax liabilities of a family of four earning $60,000 a year with a mortgage of 200,0000?" Those who supported the Ryan PTP's Medicare reforms should have been asked how much more they expect that seniors will have to pay out of pocket in the coming decades. Those are the kinds of questions that they are going to have to answer in the general election. It would be nice to see if they can hit the fastballs the Obama campaign will surely be throwing at them. There might also be some Republican-leaning middle-income voters and future Medicare beneficiaries who would be interested to hear the answers to such questions.
2. Most of the candidates seem to be running on a version of John McCain's program of business and investment tax cuts with not much to say to middle-income voters except that a promise of tax cuts to other people will help everyone in the end. That is just an impression from the debate. There was a lot more talk about capital gains tax cuts than middle-class tax relief. Ramesh Ponnuru offers an alternative tax agenda.
3. The most recent employment report formed the context for the debate in an unhealthy way. They all seemed to be running for the presidential election of next week. They sounded like Sharron Angle. No, not the crazy stuff about "Second Amendment remedies" if she didn't get her own way. It was like whenever Angle couldn't say anything persuasive she would just circle back to Nevada's unemployment and foreclosure rates. By itself, that wasn't good enough to win in a state with a 13% unemployment rate. Even if the labor market remains exactly where it is, the Republicans could still lose if they are tagged as simply the party of capital gains tax cuts + Medicare cuts + hey willya look at the unemployment rate.
4. Then again, we could be heading for another financial crisis.
5. Lots of the talk is about Pawlenty whiffing on the Obamneycare question, Pawlenty had a pretty bad debate even without that answer. He appeared tentative and stammered multiple times. Pawlenty isn't necessarily doomed. Some candidates have a learning curve when it comes to debates. George W. Bush was visibly nervous in the first Republican debate of the 2000 cycle but he was cleaning McCain's clock in head-to-head debates by the end (Keyes was there for some of them but they ignored him.) Bush never became an all time great debater but he went to school and got the most out of his talent. There is a good section in Stuart Stevens' The Big Enchilada about how Bush prepared for his debates with Al Gore. Practice doesn't make perfect, but it can make some politicians significantly better.
What is more disturbing is that Pawlenty weaseled regarding "Obamneycare" in almost the same way that he weaseled on waterboarding in the first debate. Both times he tried to avoid being pinned down (either on standing up for his Obamneycare formulation or taking a firm position on use of waterboarding.) Both times he caved in to follow up questions and took a stand, but only after looking both evasive (since he had to be hounded into giving a direct answer) and weak (for knuckling under to the questioner.) What is the point of this approach? It has all of the downsides of taking a firm stand while forfeiting the respect due to someone who takes a forthright stand.
6. Romney looked and sounded good. Maybe he has gotten better since 2008. Maybe it is just that he didn't have to fend off the withering attacks of McCain and Huckabee. I hate to think that this a group with weaker debating skills than the Republican presidential field of 2008.
Refine & Enlarge
"Whereas, NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Dirk Nowitzki chose to re-sign with the Dallas Mavericks in the summer of 2010, forgoing free agency and keeping his talents in Dallas, thus remaining loyal to the team, city and fans for whom he played his entire career"
Literature, Poetry, and Books
I missed the twenty minutes or so on foreign policy but...
1. Romney looked so relieved that Huckabee and McCain weren't there to kick him up and down the stage.
2. I hope the five non-liberal Supreme Court Justices are training, saying their prayers, and eating their vitamins.
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) announced Monday night that she has filed the necessary paperwork to run for the presidency in 2012.
Bachmann is likely to be the most surprising candidate in the next election. I continue to augur that she'll end up as the GOP VP candidate - and play a kingmaker role between Pawlenty and Romney (ultimately opting for the former).
Many will call it Palin Redux - and the media will hope to smear her with the same shameful efficiency. I hope she hones her rhetorical skills. As far as I've seen, she's not yet equal to the task of crossing swords with a malicious media. But dismiss her popularity and potential at your own risk. I suspect she'll play a historic role in the election.
This one seems right out of the latest X-Men film.
Scientists have merged light-emitting proteins from jellyfish with a single human cell to create a unique first: a living, biological laser.
[Scientists] pictures a future where cells could even "self lase" from within the body's tissue.
It's a brave new world - with all the ominous connotations.
So I was scrolling through Alyssa Rosenberg's ThinkProgress blog when I read that Clarence Clemons has suffered a stroke. Only as the text was scrolling by, my mind interpreted it as "Clarence Thomas has suffered a stroke."
I panicked. Then I scrolled back up and read it right. I'm very sorry for Mr. Clemons' illness.
Just a reminder of the importance of the 2012 presidential election. Who wants to bet that Justices Alito, Scalia, Roberts, Thomas, and Kennedy will stay on the Court for another five and a half years? Me neither.
By Rich Fisher, via The Rational Optimist:
One German organic farm has killed twice as many people as the Fukushima nuclear disaster and the Gulf Oil spill combined.
Ashbrook is bursting with bright young minds exercising their creativity conservative credentials - and NLT readers are an extraordinarily diverse and learned group of scholars. Power Line has announced a contest to which our community is peculiarly suited.
The Power Line Prize of $100,000 will be awarded to whoever can most effectively and creatively dramatize the significance of the federal debt crisis. Prizes will also be awarded to the runner-up and two third-place finishers. Anyone can enter the contest--individuals, companies (e.g., advertising agencies) or any other entity, as long as the contest rules are followed. Any creative product is eligible: videos, songs, paintings, screenplays, Power Point presentations, essays, performance art, or anything else, as long as the product is unique to the contest and has not previously been published or otherwise entered the public domain. Entries may address the federal debt crisis in its entirety, or a specific aspect of the debt crisis, such as: the impact of the debt crisis on the young; the role played by the "stimulus" (Where did the money go? Why didn't it stimulate?); how entitlements drive the debt crisis; the current federal deficit; how the debt crisis impacts the economy; or any other aspect of the debt crisis. The contest is non-partisan. Its purpose is to inform the public about the federal debt crisis. Entries are due no later than 11:59 p.m. on July 15th. See the official contest rules for more information. In all instances, the contest rules govern.
Someone's going to win. If its one of our own, I'll be very proud of you ... if you remember that I reserve a 10% finder's fee!
[A] statesman in contact with the moving current of events and anxious to keep the ship of state on an even keel and steer a steady course may lean all his weight now on one side and now on the other. His arguments in each case when contrasted can be shown to be not only very different in character, but contradictory in spirit and opposite in direction: yet his object will throughout have remained the same. His resolves, his wishes, his outlook may have been unchanged; his methods may be verbally irreconcilable. We cannot call this inconsistency. In fact it may be claimed to be the truest consistency. The only way a man can remain consistent amid changing circumstances is to change with them while preserving the same dominating purpose.
I had missed Tim Pawlenty's speech on the economy at the University of Chicago this past Tuesday (see Missoula post below for details). However, the address isn't to be missed. Pawlenty is positioning himself as the conservative frontrunner, and his views on the most important issue of the election are bold and courageous. If he can also project sufficient character, optimism and leadership to persuade nervous but determined moderates to his plan, he'll have a solid shot at the presidency in 2012.
Here's his first salvo:
UPDATE: Pawlenty apparently thinks he did a good job with the Chicago speech, as well. His campaign video summary / advertisement is here:
Liberals have begun to howl in protest. Ruth Marcus in the WaPo calls his plan "delusional" (for assuming economic growth at 5% is possible) and "reckless" (for promising tax cuts). I don't think most Americans will prefer Marcus' sky-is-falling objections to tax cuts and optimism about the economy. It's interesting to see liberals pushing the pessimistic side of the argument and attacking a message of hope and change.
Literature, Poetry, and Books
I don't know if Walter Russell Mead's account of the housing bubble and financial collapse contains enough of the truth to form the basis for a populist Republican campaign in November of 2012. I do know that this is brilliantly inflammatory writing:
The Democratic Party today is a fragile coalition of elite liberals, traditionally Democratic ethnic blue collar whites, African Americans and Hispanics. The Fannie Mae story is essentially a story of how liberal Wall Streeters raped every one else -- and how the organized leadership of the other groups colluded in the attack.
Something about this narrative feels off, but I wonder if this perspective on the housing bubble and the financial crisis might be combined with some of the suggestions of regular NLT commenter Art Deco:
Revisions to financial regulation which might include the following: requiring exchange trading of swaps and derivative or banning credit default swaps or both; separation of deposits-and-loans banking from securities underwriting, proprietary trading, prime brokerage, and private equity; separation of securities underwriting from proprietary trading, vending of mutual funds and such, and any sort of business that involves investment counseling; separation of the vending of mutual funds and such from the provision of investment counseling; separation of proprietary trading from any other sort of business; abolition of insurance on financial products; excision of regulations which promote the disaggregation of mortgage lending; eventual liquidation of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Ginnie Mae; requirements that hedge funds and investment accounts be levered no more than 1:3; institutional provision for an authority which can (if possible) rapid roll up insolvent securities firms; provision for re-capitalizing banks and securities firms via debt-for-equity swaps; and provision for dismantling of the megabanks.
Maybe this would lead to good politics and (more importantly) good policy. Heck, I dunno.
Anyway, this book is going on my summer reading list.
I previously wrote at AOL's Political Machine - I was actually a founding member. When that site transformed into Politics Daily, my profile and blogs were transferred to the new site. As I mentioned previously, AOL purchased the Huffington Post in February for $315 million. I feared what the tea leaves portended:
[Political Machine's] producers, Coates Bateman and Michael Kraskin, as well as lead editors such as David Knowles, strove to keep the site above mere partisan ranting and struggled to retain ideological balance. All of the fine bloggers with whom I wrote (with the exception of the odious Cenk Uyger) delightfully played their parts in the agreed upon larger drama. But reports indicate that the blog may soon be folded into HuffPost - and with it, I fear, any semblance of ideological balance or journalistic integrity.
Politics Daily has now been subsumed into the Huffington Post. Hence, my former blog-home is now the Huffington Post.
I feel dirty.
Another "evolution" in journalism - a moderate site and a hard-left site merge into a hard-left site. And another predictable result - after only a few months, the merger is a disaster.
I've been a long-time fan of the conservative-libertarian site, Intellectual Conservative, and the good folks over there have invited me to come onboard as a columnist. So, when I wax too long for Peter's patience here on NLT, I'll occasionally redirect an article to IC.
My latest article with IC attempts to "decipher the incoherency of renewable energy." The intro:
Windmills are not the future of the global economy. They were dandy for grain-grinding in the 19th century (and much appreciated for their contribution to bread-baking and beer-brewing), but they've taken their place alongside wooden teeth and horse-drawn carriages. And yet windmills are the latest craze in Congress - the leading-lady in a full ensemble touring Washington under the title, "Renewable Energy." The troupe premiered on the D.C. circuit in the 1960's, with Al Gore soon emerging as the leading-man, and their quixotic environmentalist spectacle recently received an all-expense-paid encore from the Democrats lame-duck Congress.
I hope you'll RTWT.
Quote of the Day
So Tim Pawlenty gave a big speech on taxes and the economy today. He wants to institute a two-tier income tax with rates of 10% and 25%, cut the corporate income tax to 15% and eliminate the capital gains, interest income, dividend and inheritance taxes. It was a pretty partisan speech, but that doesn't mean it was ineffective. Pawlenty (when he isn't pretending to be furious and acting out his cartoonish idea of what a "populist" sounds like) has room to be more ideological and partisan partly because of his calm affect. There is a lot to chew over, but two questions predominated.
1. What will be there distributional impact of his tax policy if there are changes to income tax deductions in order to prevent tax revenues from collapsing?
2. What will be the impact of Pawlenty's policies on federal revenues? If his plan would cause revenues to decline, that means that we would have to make even deeper cuts than those outlined in Ryan's PTP (whose tax plan budgets for revenue neutrality) or an even larger deficit. The cuts in Ryan's PTP are already politically problematic to say the least (and he might not have budgeted enough money for Medicare) so advocating even sharper cuts will be even tougher. Or we could have a sovereign default.
IF Pawlenty's plan is shown as likely to cause a sharp drop in federal revenues it would probably have some political ramifications. Obama's budget promises of 2008 were nonsense of course (remember "net budget cut") but the deficit and the public debt were a much smaller issue in 2008 and the Republicans were burdened with a President with approval ratings in the 30s. Obama's approval ratings have been solid at about the 44% range. The asymmetry of media power between the left and right will make sure that all persuadable voters will have heard that Pawlenty a) said he believed that we were in a debt crisis that required wide sacrifice and b) Pawlenty came out for a tax plan that made the deficit worse in order to cut taxes on high earners. I think Pawlenty will have two answers to this:
1. You should trust me rather than the naysayers. I'm the guy who told Iowa we can't afford ethanol subsidies. I'm the guy who went to Wall Street and told them no more bailouts. I'm the guy who went to Florida and said that the younger generation will have to work a little longer before collecting Social Security benefits and lifetime high earners will get smaller Social Security COLAS. So when I say it adds up, that means it add up.
2. Cutting taxes will boost the economy so much that it will make up for the lost revenue.
There are circumstances under which this approach could work politically. Circumstances in 2012 could be such that a majority of voters might be willing to go along with such explanations if the Republican candidate doesn't come across as fanatical, insane, or grotesquely ignorant. There are several problems with this:
1. It assumes a situation where Republicans mostly win by default.
2. Our public debt problems are real and serious.
Refine & Enlarge
The descendants of the litigants in the great civil rights case of 1896 form a foundation. Sweet idea, and I'm wondering whether serious tea party-style activists might follow suit by forming similar foundations devoted to ending irrational discrimination. They might find inspiration in Jennifer Roback Morse's libertarian scholarship, which notes the City of New Orleans overriding the railway's preference for integrated seating. (Clint Bolick has also performed great service along these lines.) Here is another way to put natural rights-thinking to practical use. Reading Charles Lofgren's classic work on Plessy is essential background. The Claremont historian shows the direct ties between Plessy's arguments and the Declaration of Independence.
The Tea Party's most appealing argument is for the restoration of the principles of the Declaration of Independence in everyday life. The fight for color-blind justice is an essential part of that argument. Thanks to Mike in the comments.
Treppenwitz: Here is one version of Edward Erler's argument on Plessy's persistence in our jurisprudence.
Harold Meyerson recently set out to sneer, in the pages and pixels of the Washington Post, but succeeded more decisively in refuting himself. It's always a bad sign when a writer introduces statistical evidence that weakens the argument he's trying to make.
Meyerson wanted to show that the Republican approach to cutting the deficitspending cuts only, no tax increasesis absurd. His point on taxes is that in 1955, according to the Campaign for America's Future, the country's 400 wealthiest taxpayers had an average income of $13.3 million (in 2008 dollars) and paid 51.2% of that in federal income taxes. In 2008 the richest 400 had an average income of $270.5 million and paid 18% of that in federal income taxes. In 1955, he notes, "we could afford to pave roads."
But wait. 51.2% of $13.3 million is $6,809,600, the average federal income tax bill for the most fortunate 400 in 1955, using 2008 dollars. Thus, the federal government gathered in the inflation-adjusted equivalent of $2.724 billion from the whole lot of them. 18% of $270.5 million is $48.69 million, meaning that average tax bill for the top 400 was, adjusted for inflation, more than seven times as high in 2008 as in 1955. Those 400 households collectively accounted for $19.476 billion in federal revenues.
It speaks well of American governance during the Eisenhower administration that we managed to pave our roads while receiving $2.724 billion in federal taxes from our richest citizens. It speaks poorly of the quality of our governance today if, despite the additional $16.75 billion the families in the capstone of the income pyramid paid to the IRS in 2008, we can't pave the roads as often or as well, which Meyerson suggests is the case.
Assuming Mr. Meyerson owns and operates a calculator, it makes sense to ascribe his mistakespeaking as if the tax revenues generated by the richest 400 have gotten much smaller when they have clearly gotten much biggerto a philosophical disposition rather than a mathematical error. Most people, and certainly most NLT readers, assume the purpose of a tax system is to raise revenues to finance the government's activities. A seven-fold increase in tax revenue from one segment of the population would, accordingly, mean that the government could undertake more activities, or that other segments of the population could pay lower taxes, which is a rough description of what actually happened in America between 1955 and 2008.
If, however, the primary purpose of the tax system is to punish or reproach the rich, to express our envy and resentment of people who are rich and getting richer, then it makes sense to treat the much larger revenues from that cohort as a minor detail and concentrate, angrily, on the fact that their incomes have gone up while their tax rates have gone down. Six years ago the columnist Jonathan Chait insisted that such malign intentions toward the wealthy played no part in liberals' preference for progressive taxes: "Liberals want to make the rich pay higher tax rates not because they hate them. It's because somebody has to pay for the government, and the rich can more easily bear higher rates."
Well, yes, one advantage to being rich is that you can afford things easily that would be difficult or impossible for other people, including the 91% federal income tax bracket that was on the books in 1955. The problem with Chait's argument is there's no way to say where it stops. If the principle is that the rich should pay higher taxes because they can more easily bear the rates, then we should keep raising tax rates until the rich can no longer bear themuntil, that is, they're no longer rich. One need not be rich to find this prospect disquieting. A government that can take whatever it wants strikes a lot of people as unfair, and unfree.
Assurances that only the rich will suffer as a consequence haven't convinced most people that this policy is fair, or that it really will be confined to the wealthy. In November 2010 voters in Washington, a state blue enough to have given Barack Obama 57% of its vote in 2008, rejected a state income tax applicable only to individuals making more than $200,000 per year and families making over $400,000. That most prosperous 1.2% of the state's population evidently had a lot of less-affluent friends, since 65 percent of the voters opposed the tax. One factor was that the promise to limit the income tax to the $200,000 and $400,000 thresholds was good for all of two years, after which the legislature could have applied it more broadly.
Meyerson makes a second point. Not only are the rich getting off too lightly, but the main beneficiaries of the federal government's activities tend to be red states. He cites a Tax Foundation study showing that in 2005 the federal government spent between $1.76 and $2.03 in New Mexico, Mississippi, Alaska, Louisiana, and West Virginia for every dollar it received from those states in taxes. By contrast, the blue states subsidize the federal government's operations: New Jersey, Nevada, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Minnesota received between 61 and 72 cents for every dollar paid in federal taxes. The states that "drain the government also constitute the Republicans' electoral base," writes Meyerson, "while those that produce the wealth constitute the Democrats'."
But, again, there's more to the story. The Tax Foundation study includes money transferred between citizens and the federal government as well as between the federal government and state and local ones. As the organization explains in the introduction to its study, "The most important factor determining whether a state is a net beneficiary is per capita income. States with wealthier residents pay higher federal taxes per capita thanks to the progressive structure of the income tax." New Jersey and Connecticut are net exporters of dollars, vis-à-vis the federal government, precisely because progressive federal taxes, which Meyerson imagines to have been relegated to the dustbin of history, draw in so much money from those states' disproportionately affluent residents. Mississippi and West Virginia have disproportionately few residents in the top tax brackets, but more than their share of poor residents receiving assistance from Medicaid, food stamps, Supplemental Security Income, school lunches, and a long list of other government programs.
If the disparities between importer and exporter states are intolerable, then perfect fairness will be attained when no such disparities exist, and every one of the fifty states receives precisely as much from Washington as it sends to Washington. At that point, however, the involvement of the federal government becomes completely pointless. The big steps needed to reduce the disparities between states that are net importers of federal dollars and net exporters would be to abolish the progressive federal income tax in favor of a flat tax or Value Added Tax, and do away with federal programs that direct assistance to households with low incomes.
I'm not as mean-spirited as Harold Meyerson, so I'll suggest consideration of a less drastic remedy, proposed 38 years ago by William Buckley in his book Four Reforms. Buckley would confine eligibility for welfare state programs to Americans living in states whose median income was below the national average. Because Buckley thought it was economically and politically debilitating to "turn the skies black with criss-crossing dollars," his reform would ground a lot of those dollars. Federal welfare expenditures would shrink, as the number of people eligible for them was limited, and prosperous states would pay for their own welfare programs without the transit and administrative fees of sending them on to Washington and then back to the states. Mr. Meyerson, do you wish to second the motion?
It is a good idea not to make to much of one jobs report, but I'm still going to upgrade my estimate of Republican chances in the 2012 presidential election from moderately pesssimistic to slightly pessimistic. I still think Republicans are well into "going to have to earn a victory by being better than merely competent" territory. We could use a better Republican presidential candidate. Come to think of it, we could also use a good President.
Run Bobby Run
Reihan Salam has some interesting takes on the politics of Paul Ryan's Path To Prosperity. It seems to Salam that center-right intra-coalitional dynamics influenced the PTP for the worse by requiring that any tax reform be revenue neutral. This meant that Ryan's PTP included less spending for Medicare (and therefore sharper cuts in Medicare) than did his earlier Roadmap.
Salam is probably right that Ryan expected his plan to be the "rightmost pole" in the entitlement debate. Ryan has succeeded in one very important sense. The broad center-right's conversation on health care and entitlement issues is the best it has been in a long time. There isn't as much John McCain mumbling a little boilerplate about health care before moving on to really important issues like earmarks. One danger is that the PTP will become a test of conservative identity that determines whether one is a "real conservative." The kind of shallow opportunism shown by Newt Gingrich should be stigmatized, but there needs to be room for different kinds of realistic right-leaning health care and entitlement reforms.
Salam wonders whether Ryan's PTP was overreaching both in how much it reduced Medicare spending and in presenting such an aggressive Medicare plan before having won what should be easier arguments like block granting Medicaid. That is a plausible fear, but I wonder if the Democrats aren't in at least equal danger of overreach. Salam writes, "Democrats see an opportunity to double down on a deus ex IPAB approach that hands over political responsibility for Medicare cuts to an appointed board with an ill-defined mandate to be formed in the future. They sense that this is a political winner, and that now is decidedly not the time for compromise."
This Democratic rigidity is actually a weakness if Republicans have the wit and skill to exploit it. The Republican message in 2012 shouldn't be Ryancare vs. bankruptcy or Ryancare vs. entitlement mentality or Ryancare vs. Obama-hasn't-proposed-anything-realistic-wah-wah-wah. It should be a post-Ryan plan (here are my thoughts - again) vs. enormous centralized denials of service and cuts to health care providers that will make it harder for seniors to see doctors.
The journalist Joel Mathis asked, in connection with a book I wrote, since conservatives accuse liberals of wanting a government that's always bigger than the one we have, what's the conservative reply to the accusation that we on the Right always want taxes that are smaller than those we currently pay? My answer is one way to describe the difference between liberals and conservatives is that liberals want government spending to be the independent variable that determines tax levels, and conservatives want government spending to be the dependent variable determined by taxes. I'm a conservative in this regard, not just because I think the government we get by letting our tolerance for taxes determine the size of our welfare state will be smaller than the one we get by telling the government to do all sorts of compassionate things, and then mentioning as an aside some years later that we'll need to raise taxes to pay for all our commitments. I'm a conservative because I think it's democratically healthy to confront the hard question about taxes first and directly, and then let our answer to that question determine the budget perimeter for our welfare state. It is democratically unhealthy to proceed the way liberals have habitually dealt with the problem, by promising generous programs that will "pay for themselves" or even "pay for themselves many times over," and only later, after people have come to expect and depend on the stream of government benefits, fess up about the taxes required to sustain them.
Mathis suggests a fiscal and moral symmetry: For liberals the answer to how much government should spend, especially on social welfare programs is always, "Just a little bit more," while for conservatives the answer about the right level of taxes is always, "Just a little bit less." But there are important asymmetries. Believing that we should have all the government, but only as much government, as we're willing to pay for--as opposed to all the government we need, or think we need, or just plain want--conservatives are happy to discuss the limits of a democratically bounded welfare state. Doing so is sound economics, because we'll never have a structural deficit resulting from a built-in mismatch between the government's spending commitments and its taxing capacities. It's also good politics because it insists that the citizens make their decisions about the scope of the welfare state on the basis of clear, honest assessments of what its programs will provide and cost. Both the politicians and the voters, in other words, are required to be adults.
Medicare's initial cost projections, for example, were based on the assumption that people receiving large government subsidies for hospital stays and doctor visits would avail themselves of those benefits at exactly the same rate as they did when they were paying for those services on their own. This same spirit of candor is reflected in the argument for Obamacare, which insulted our intelligence by claiming that a massive expansion of our entitlement programs was, above all, a way to control costs - although how it would control costs couldn't exactly be specified since the government boards that would come up with all sorts of ingenious solutions to the problem of delivering the same level of health care to all the people now getting it, and additional health care to millions of others, while dramatically reducing per-patient health care outlays, wouldn't issue their initial recommendations until after Barack Obama's presidential memoirs were published.
Moreover, when liberals feel that when we're closing in on alleviating the ancient causes of human misery--people being ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished, etc.--they react by getting to work on coming up with new problems for the welfare state to solve. In 1957 Arthur Schlesinger called for government to address the "problem" of "spiritual unemployment," and, sure enough, by 1965 President Johnson is promising us that the Great Society will banish "boredom and restlessness." This is the madhouse aspect of the political situation I was trying to describe in "Never Enough"--conservatives' feeling that as we put check marks by the items on the top of the list, whether from growing prosperity or the success of welfare state programs, liberals are busy adding new items to the bottom of the list.
There's another way in which the preferred liberal framework for considering the welfare state argues against an open, productive discussion about what the government should and shouldn't do. You point out that federal taxes account for a lower proportion of GDP than they have for 60 years. But not all GDP percentages are created equal. In 1950 the per capita Gross Domestic Product was $12,343, using the OMB's "chained price index" to adjust for inflation by expressing 1950's nominal dollars in terms of the dollar's buying power in 2005. In 2010 per capita GDP, deflated the same way, was $42,190. America was nearly three-and-a-half times more prosperous in 2010 than in 1950.
If liberals would participate in a discussion about what the welfare state should do, and the limits to what the welfare state should do, we could grapple with the question of how long-term economic growth would enable us to finance the welfare state's operations with a constant or even diminishing slice of a growing pie. This is certainly the approach we have taken to defense spending. In 1953, at the height of the Korean War, America devoted 14.2% of GDP to national defense. In 2010 we spent 4.4%. By this measure, our defense spending has declined by nearly two thirds. But America today is a much richer country than it was in 1953, even after taking into account the current slow recovery from a severe recession. Using the OMB's "total composite defense deflator," our defense outlays in 2010 were $617 billion, measured in 2005 dollars, while those expenditures in 1953 were $515 billion. Measured in real dollars rather than GDP points, we spent 20% more for defense in 2010 than we did in 1953.
Welfare state spending has grown in relative terms and really grown in absolute terms. In 1950, the last time federal taxes yielded less than 15% of GDP, federal outlays for "human resources" amounted to $44 billion, using OMB's "total composite non-defense deflator" to express every year's outlays in terms of the dollar's value in 2005. ("Human resources" here includes all federal outlays for Social Security; all other income maintenance programs; Medicare; all other health programs; and all programs for education, job training, and social services.) In 2010 human resources outlays, deflated the same way, were $2.06 trillion, 47 times as large. Even if we adjust for population growth, the increase is enormous, from $288 per American in 1950 to $6,547 per capita in 2010, a 23-fold increase. This increase is the result of devoting a much larger slice of a much bigger pie to human resources in 2010, when human resources outlays equaled 15.7% of GDP, than we did in 1950, when they were only 2% of GDP.
So, Mathis asks, how high should do conservatives want our taxes to be? High enough to pay for the things the government needs to do. Which are those? In a democracy, all the things the people feel the government really ought to do. I'm happy to abide by the outcome of the democratic debate over that question, but I think it should be conducted honestly. Honesty requires stipulating that the amount of government we get is no larger than the amount we're willing to pay for, as opposed to the dream-world welfare state we would build if wealth were limitless.
It also means that as our nation becomes more prosperous we should expect the welfare state's budget to require a diminishing portion of our national income rather than, as it has since the New Deal, a growing portion. We should expect this for two reasons. First, a welfare state with a clearly defined mission, as opposed to one where the goal posts are constantly receding as we move down the field toward them, should be one we can finance the way we have financed defense spending over the past half-century--by spending a smaller portion of our growing national economic output. Secondly, a growing economy should mean that more and more Americans can pay for more and more of their own needs and wants through their own economic efforts, rather than through the political efforts it takes to secure more and more generous welfare state benefits for more and more recipients. In other words, one of the reasons to like a growing economy should be that it makes a smaller welfare state possible, rather than because it makes a bigger one possible.
Stop the presses! Hope and
change same at the New York Times: Jill Abramson has been announced as the replacement for executive editor Bill Keller. Even if she weren't a lefty, this comment tells you about all you need to know: "[I]n my house growing up, The Timessubstituted for religion."
Couldn't have stated the problem better myself.