Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns


Cards On The Table

There has been a lot of comment about the fact that, at the last debate, none of the Republican presidential candidates raised their hands when asked if they would take a deficit reduction deal that was 10 to 1 spending cuts to tax increases.  I think that the best, the very best, budget deal that conservatives can get through our political process is some favorable combination of the Simpson-Bowles Plan on taxes and discretionary spending and the Rivlin-Domenici Plan on health care policy.  This will mean, even in a transformed entitlement system, that we will be paying more for Medicare than is budgeted in the revenue neutral Ryan Path to Prosperity.  That means the government will need more money.  That can be gotten with a tax code that is more pro-growth than the one we have. 

There is a strong case to be made that conservatives should emphasize that entitlement reform and public sector consolidation should be looked at before tax increases, but holding out for not even one more penny of tax money is a good way to make sure that the budget ends up looking more like how Nancy Pelosi wants it than how Paul Ryan wants it.  That doesn't mean I want the Republican presidential candidates to come out for tax increases, but there is something unreal about our discussions of crafting a sustainable budget.  It is of course even worse with President Obama, who has not come close to proposing a plan that would produce a sustainable budget..  There might even be some upside to leveling with the public.

Categories > Politics


The More the Merrier

Rick Perry makes it official: He's running for president.

The best commentary I've yet heard on Perry - and his best endorsement yet - comes from Kevin Williams in NRO:

The guy that NPR executives and the New York Times and your average Subaru-driving Whole Foods shopper were afraid George W. Bush was? Rick Perry is that guy.

Perry's the new kid on the block and has the national microphone for the next few days - let's see what he can do with it.

Categories > Elections


Some Possibly Too Late Advice For Pawlenty

When you go after Bachmann, you shouldn't just go after her failure to influence policy during her time in Congress.  You should go after how she turned her failure into self-promotion even as policy got worse.  This works best if you first set up a vivid narrative of doing the things Bachmann only talks about.  For instance:

"When the Democrats and some Republicans in the state legislature sent me big spending bills, I vetoed then.  And those vetoes stuck.  And spending went down.  When the Democrats shut down the government to get me to agree to higher taxes, I said no.  The government got back to work and taxes stayed the same.  When the transit union struck for higher benefits, we didn't give in. We won one for the taxpayers of Minnesota.  That was real money.  Those were real wins for the taxpayers.  That was real limited government.

"So let's look at what Representative Bachmann did in Washington. She has a press conference.  TARP passes.  She gives some speeches.  The Obama stimulus passes.  She sends out some fundraising letters.  Obamacare passes.  She announces she is running for President and sends out some more fundraising letters.  The debt ceiling raises.  This is a disastrous record for the American people.  Representative Bachmann has gotten herself a lot of television time, but we've added trillions to the deficit.  This is a choice between real limited government where spending goes down, and employment goes up, and show biz limited government where we get big talk as we hurtle towards more and more spending and eventual bankruptcy."  

Yeah, I know it isn't really fair, but it is more connected to reality than Pawlenty's economic growth targets. 

h/t Ramesh Ponnuru, who made the Pawlenty case better than Pawlenty ever has. 

Categories > Politics

Refine & Enlarge

America's Favorable Head-Winds

Blogging on Peter Schramm from the pages of NLT is somewhat akin to voicing an opinion on Lee Iacoca from the floor of a Chrysler plant in the mid-80's. Nevertheless, the man with his fingerprint on our masthead opined this week in the Columbus Dispatch, and his words deserve contemplation.

Ever the contrarian, bating onlookers to defy his logic, Schramm celebrates the messy congressional convulsions most Americans have recently condemned. Bipartisanship is overrated:

The truth is that our Constitution builds in division.... Divisions are built into the Constitution so that the natural divisions that arise in a free regime might become, over time, less willful and more rational. 

If the Framers had wanted a democracy, they wouldn't have formed a constitutional republic of separated powers, limited government and onerous checks on the will of the majority. (Steven Hayward makes a similar point on the implausibility and undesirability of compromise between 1789-minded conservatives and 1960's-minded liberals here.) 

Schramm is a macro political scientist. eschewing the "details" and "logistics" of the debt-ceiling debate, he notes John Boehner's monumental achievement in shifting national attention to "fundamental constitutional questions."

Boehner and his Republican troops have disproved an assumption held by progressives and liberals since the New Deal: that government will always grow in size and scope, that all spending increases are permanent.

Schramm regards the shift in Washington rhetoric "away from the favors government might bestow and to its proper role" as the "most radical change in my lifetime." It's difficult to notice the turning of the Earth at any given moment - though in any 12 hour period, it's as obvious as night and day - but one hopes Schramm's prediction proves astute, and the Boehner compromise heralds a new dawn for self-government.


Categories > Refine & Enlarge

Pop Culture

Weekend Fun

Jack Benny v. Groucho.
Categories > Pop Culture


Oh Perry

Kevin Williamson makes Rick Perry sound like an attractive candidate, at least to conservatives.  Best line: "The guy that NPR executives and the New York Times and your average Subaru-driving Whole Foods shopper were afraid George W. Bush was? Rick Perry is that guy."

I'm sure there's more to the story.  And there's nothing on foreign policy here.

Bonus question: in politically correct America, can the GOP ticket be two white guys?

Categories > Elections

Health Care

Mandating Supreme Court Review

This economic mandate represents a wholly novel and potentially unbounded assertion of congressional authority: the ability to compel Americans to purchase an expensive health insurance product they have elected not to buy, and to make them re-purchase that insurance product every month for their entire lives

So reads the majority opinion of a U.S. appeals court decision in Atlanta today, siding with 26 states by ruling unconstitutional Obamacare's individual mandate clause. Interestingly, the court did not overturn Obamacare as a whole, but held the individual mandate severable. This seems contrary to the wording (or omissions) of the law. Nonetheless, the ruling sets up a split on the federal circuit and almost ensures Supreme Court review.

The next Supreme Court term runs from October 2011 - June 2012. Obamacare is thus poised as a key issue for the 2012 election.

Categories > Health Care


Cruel Thoughts

I'm having lunch at the Mad Boar in Wallace, North Carolina. Not bad. Large, Irish-pub-like atmosphere, attractive and competent waitresses serving me a cool glass of Pinor Gris, with a pork stew soup, followed by a whiskey river trout. Second glass of wine, and I'm reading, slower now, reactions to last night's GOP debate. The best is by Scott Johnson at Power Line. Crisp and to the point, even witty when the subject allows it. I agree with his thoughts too bad they have to be cruel.

Categories > Politics


Stray Debate Thoughts

1.  It was a mostly enjoyable debate (if you like that sort of thing - and I do.)  There were some heated exchanges on issues like foreign policy and especially constitutional and policy federalism.

2.  The debate featured almost nothing in the way of talk of entitlement reform or positive health care policy (rather than the grounds and intensity of opposition to Obama's health care policy.)  They also weren't asked questions about it.  There is no sustainable budget without enormous tax increases absent reforms to those partly overlapping sectors and we heard very little about it.

3.  If the Republican nomination race were simply a demagoguery contest, Bachmann would win every state, plus Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virgin Islands.  Her answers on the debt ceiling were perfectly crafted to hide the consequences of refusing to raise the debt ceiling and thereby having to balance the budget in one year without tax increases. Santorum mentioned the likely consequences one time.  The panelists let her off the hook. 

4. Pawlenty's attacks were feeble.  He still doesn't have a vivid, fact-based narrative of how he brought spending down in Minnesota.  People know that Bachmann fought against this, that and the other thing.  People have, at best, only the vaguest sense of what Pawlenty did in Minnesota and there is no emotional resonance there.  Thanks to Bachmann, people also know (or think they know) that he supported an individual health insurance purchase mandate and implemented cap and trade.  His main argument against Bachmann is that he is a winner and she is a loser.  From what people have been able to see in the debates, the reverse appears to be true.  

5.  As far as I can tell, Bachmann's political skills are limited to those that can appeal to a subgroup of previously committed conservatives, but those skill are impressive within those limits.  I strongly doubt that she can win the nomination, or, if she gets the nomination, the presidency.  I can just barely imagine a scenario where Bachmann gets elected President.  First she wins Iowa and Romney wins New Hampshire.  Perry fades and all the other candidates are marginalized.  Then it comes out that Romney uses puppies for batting practice and Bachmann wins by default.  Then we have a second banking crisis.  Credit is frozen even worse than in 2008, GDP collapses and the unemployment rate starts going up at the rate of 1% a month.  She might still lose to Obama even under those circumstances. 

6.  No one laid a glove on Romney.

7.  Gingrich got back some of his old mojo.  Part of it was he was able to effectively revert to victim politics by positioning himself against the hated gotcha liberal Fox News media that had the temerity to ask him about the management and fundraising problems of his campaign.  Part of was that he actually has a record of getting good policy out of divided government (and then being bounced from power by his own party.)  If he hadn't revealed himself to be a fraud with his cynical attack on the Ryan PTP (and it was the transparent cynicism rather than the attack itself that did him in) people would be talking about him as almost a real contender to get the nomination. 

Categories > Politics


Thoughts and A Bleg

1.Ramesh Ponnuru points out that Obama's job approval ratings have been remarkably resilient given the circumstances and that they have moved within a very narrow range (from the mid 40s to the low 50s) for almost two years now.  Up until now, Obama's Real Clear Politics job approval floor has been 44%.  This week his job approval average has dipped below 44% for several days.  Pretty much every voter who isn't powerfully tied to the Democratic Party (and some who are) are not approving of Obama's job performance.  I haven't seen crosstabs on the most recent polls (including the ones putting his job approval at 41%), but I suspect that his job approval numbers among whites are spectacularly low.  Ponnuru is still right that Republicans should assume that they will need more than just a warm, non-scary body to win in 2012.

2.  Dear People Who Schedule Republican Presidential Debates,

Could you please stop scheduling these debates up against new episodes of World's Dumbest?



Categories > Politics

Political Philosophy

Democracy in Action

The riots in Britain are a case study in democracy run amok.  Consider this post form the Standard:

The issues raised by these riots are generational and cannot be resolved, necessarily, by the government. Traditional structures of authority in the UK have been eroded. Parents have no ability to control their children and instill basic levels of morality and respect. The police--powerless to stop young rioters destroying businesses and private property--have been utterly emasculated. As one officer said, "We can't cope. We have passed breaking point." . . ., The British home secretary, Theresa May, recently announced, before having to backtrack, that the British way was not to enforce the laws. "The way we police in Britain is not through use of water cannon...the way we police in Britain is through consent of communities," May reportedly said.

Now consider Plato's account of democracy, as reported by John Adams in his Defence of the Constitutions (which I quote because I happen to be reading it lately, and I know exactly where to find it online):

Magistrates who resemble subjects, and subjects who resemble magistrates, are commended and honored, both in public and private; in such a city they of necessity soon go to the highest pitch of liberty, and this inbred anarchy descends into private families. The father resembles the child, and is afraid of his sons. The sons accustom themselves to resemble the father, and neither revere nor stand in awe of their parents. Strangers are equalled with citizens. The teacher fears and flatters the scholars, and the scholars despise their teachers and tutors. The youth resemble the more advanced in years, and rival them in words and deeds. The old men, sitting down with the young, are full of merriment and pleasantry, mimicking the youth, that they may not appear to be morose and despotic. The slaves are no less free than those who purchase them; and wives have a perfect equality and liberty with their husbands, and husbands with their wives. The sum of all these things, collected together, makes the souls of the citizens so delicate, that if any one bring near to them any thing of slavery, they are filled with indignation, and cannot endure it; and at length they regard not the laws, written or unwritten, that no one whatever, by any manner of means, may become their master.


UK Riots And The Sickness Of Certain Elites

The rioting in Britain reminded me of a certain passage in one of Hugo Young's biographies of Thatcher.  I'm not linking for reasons that I hope will become apparent.  This is Young's description and analysis of Thatcher's reaction to a cycle of rioting and looting that occurred during Thatcher's first term.

"'Oh those poor shopkeepers!' she cried, on seeing the first pictures of riot and looting in Toxteth

"A lot of Margaret Thatcher's character is expressed in that single phrase.  It was a perfectly intelligible reaction.  It just wasn't the first response that most people might have made when they saw rioters and police in pitched battle, and watched the disintegration of a run-down city.  Later, seeing looters walking away with armfuls of merchandise, they might [!] have felt for the shopkeepers too.  It was interesting that this should be the first and overriding reaction expressed by the Prime Minister, speaking eloquently for the priorities rooted in the Grantham grocer's shop and the party which, for the first time, had one of nature's shopkeepers at its head." 

Categories > Politics


Congress Must Enforce the Rule of Law

The Obama Administration has shown a contempt for the rule of law time after time since entering the White House. From engaging in an unconstitutional and unauthorized war in Libya to illegally funneling guns to criminal cartels in Central America, from authorizing the assassination of American citizens to issuing health care law waivers, from using drone strikes against individuals in nations we are not at war with to expanding the Bush-era CIA extraordinary rendition programs, President Obama and his Administration continue to only accept a type of law that changes its mode with the mood of his White House. This is a far cry from Candidate Obama's opining in 2007 that there can be "no more ignoring the law when it's convenient. That is not who we are...We will again set an example for the world that the law is not subject to the whims of stubborn rulers."

Political convenience, not respect for the rule of law, is what the whims of this White House embrace. This week, the White House announced that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will begin issuing waivers to the ill-conceived and poorly-implemented No Child Left Behind law that would exempt states from certain provisions of the boondoggle. No Child Left Behind is a horrible, horrible law that needs to be scrapped, I do not deny that; but it is the law. Citing the inability of Congress to efficiently edit NCLB and emphasizing "how loud the outcry is for us to do something now", the White House decided to act unilaterally to exempt states from a part of the law foolishly mandating that schools who do not have 100% of their students proficient in state assessments by 2014 be declared to be "failing" institutions.

Convenience and outcry trump legality and separation of powers. This president has time and time again exercised unilateral authority in exerting power and excusing himself from law. Outside of some futile whining, Congress continues to do nothing about it. Peevish schoolboys! They need to grow a backbone and begin reinforcing the rule of law. They need to stop throwing tantrums and then begrudgingly accepting the encroachments on power by the Executive Branch. Separations of power only work if the various branches of government are willing to stand up for themselves.

"No law can force a Congress to stand up to the president. No law can give Congress a backbone if it refuses to stand up as the co-equal branch the Constitution made it."

Then-Senator Barack Obama said that in 2007. Grow a backbone, Congress. Stay on him for the illegal and foolish war in Libya; subpoena his Attorney General for this disgustingly stupid disaster with Operation Fast and Furious; hold the President in contempt for unilaterally suspending parts of the law. Stop griping for a few weeks and then moving on to other issues. If the legislature does not stand up to the executive, we might as well declare that branch of government useless and accept Woodrow Wilson's dream of the unimpeded administrative leviathan. Rein in the President.
Categories > Politics

Quote of the Day

Quotations du Jour

In light of the barbarism in England, a couple of choice quotes from John Adams might be in order, reminding us of how Anglo-American law used to understand the rights of men:

"We talk of liberty and property, but, if we cut up the law of self-defence, we cut up the foundation of both."

Adams also noted that "If a robber meets me in the street, and commands me to surrender my purse, I have a right to kill him without asking questions." 

If only Jack Benny had been carrying . . .

Categories > Quote of the Day

Foreign Affairs

Broken and Sick

Still living in Asian hotels, world news is sporadic - but it seems U.S. economic news has been overtaken by news of British riots. My interest was particularly piqued by mention that the riots had spread to Ealing, my home for a time during grad school. Hardly a hoodlum hang-out, the Ealing Broadway gate serviced the highest concentration of affluent Arab youngsters outside of the Middle East. Discovering whether this demographic was perpetrator or victim of the mob violence would answer several pertinent questions of causality.

Britain's lack of response to domestic terror and urban riots has been as dismaying as it has been expected. Enthrallment to diversity and white-guilt apparently extends as far as thuggery and gangs - who apparently feel their social entitlements extend as far as robbery and looting.

But David Cameron's increasingly militant speeches over the past two days have been refreshing. He refers to the scenes of violence as "despicable," "sickening," "appalling," "criminality, pure and simple," which must be "confronted and defeated." Police forces have been nearly trebled and afforded long-overdue tactical liberties, such as the use of rubber bullets and, potentially, water cannons. Cameron's hesitancy to roll out non-lethal water cannons as Englishmen are being killed is still baffling, but this is, at least, motion in the right direction.

It was heartening to hear Cameron's outright dismissal of "phony concerns about human rights" which liberals are sure to raise when these murderous thugs are arrested and prosecuted. I've long noticed that CCTV only truly offends those who expect to be on the receiving end of a prosecution charge at some point in their life, whereas law-abiding folk recognize that it is an indispensible law-enforcement tool.  

Also encouraging is Cameron's rhetoric and frank assessment of the reasons for the riots. 

There has been a lack of focus on the complete lack of respect shown by these thugs. There are pockets of our society that are frankly not just broken but also sick. 

Cameron claimed the problem was "as much a moral problem as a political problem," repeatedly citing the looters' "irresponsibility," and leveled blame at the undisciplined British school system and a broken welfare system. 

The sight of those young people running down streets, looting, laughing as they go, is a complete lack of responsibility - a lack of proper parenting, proper upbringing, proper ethics, proper morals - that is what we need to change.

Strong words for an increasingly thin-skinned electorate which, as Cameron identifies, prefers to blame society for their own irresponsibility. Most reports identify the rioters as belonging to immigrant communities, poignantly illustrating Cameron's previous assertion that British multiculturalism has failed

It has widely been conceded that European nations have devolved into nanny states, producing dependants rather than citizens. Britain should now fully appreciate that a bit of Old Testament paternal virtue is sorely needed. These youngsters desperately need to be taken out to the woodshed for a lesson in civility.

Categories > Foreign Affairs


Uncovering Newsweek Covers

Newsweek's cover photo of Michele Bachmann--see others here--continues a practice going back at least to their1964 cover of Barry Goldwater.   For much of the left, religious fervor and fascist rallies are one and the same phenomenon.  Responsible journalism attempts to educate readers to this underlying truth.
Categories > Politics


Obama and the media

As this New York Times editorial and this Dana Milbank op-ed reveal, President Obama is losing the authority the liberal media once gave him.  I have watched much more TV news during the last week or two than I care to admit to, but it turned out to be useful, for I see something I hadn't seen before, or only saw glimpses of: He is losing his base of support in the liberal media. His supporters overestimated his capacities, his intellect, his judgment, his rhetorical abilities, and they are now wondering what to say, where to go with this unpleasant insight.  The straw that broke the camel's back was the amazingly inartful talk he gave as the markets continued plunging, ignoring him altogether.  Everyone is admitting that it was a very bad speech, and a revealing one.  Where we go from here is an open question (challengers in the primaries?), but that it is a new and unhappy world for this White House is a certainty.  You can see it in the media's eyes, you can feel the regret in their once braying voices.
Categories > Presidency

Foreign Affairs

"Rioting Mainly for Fun and Profit"

In light of the London violence, Kevin Kosar (a frequent Weekly Standard contributor) reminds us of the late political scientist Edward Banfield's sly--and revealing--comment on urban riots.  It's not a lack of government spending, discrimination, poverty, etc.  Often young men riot because it's fun to do:

Often, though, people riot "mainly for fun and profit," as Banfield put it in The Unheavenly City. Riots, as he reminded us, have been around as long as there have been cities. "In Pittsburgh in 1809 an editor proposed satirically that the city establish a 'conflagration fund' from which to buy twelve houses, one to be burned each month in civil celebration."

Kosar concludes, "[O]ne sure accelerant to riots present and future, Banfield explained, is the widespread belief that one can get away with it."  RTWT for clear thinking and illuminating links.  Kosar's website, covering higher education, reviews, Banfieldiana, and whiskey, can be found  here

Categories > Foreign Affairs


The Times They Are a Changin'

Walter Russell Mead, who seems to have become a blogging superstar lately, has a long, interesting reflection on the phenomenon of "flash mobs" and not of the amusing kind.  He connects the problem with other social trends, and concludes that it is yet another way that the Progressive consensus is failing.  He notes the:

Growing public perception that sixties liberalism doesn't work undermines the consensus for sixties racial as well as immigration and economic policy.

The trouble is that the Progressive branch of liberalism cannot function without the myth that there is a consensus about what comes next.  Without agreement that things must move in a particular direction, a living constitution cannot function. 

Not long ago, Secretary of State Clinton described piracy as a "17th century problem."  Mrs. Clinton noted that we still have piracy today, and was pointing to what she regarded as an anomaly.  Aristotle, of course, said that piracy is one of the five natural ways by which men put bread on their table. By that, I take him to be saying that there always will be pirates among us.  The idea that certain ideas, habits, customs, ways of life, moral beliefs, etc. belong to certain ages is not natural. It is a particular idea.  That idea might be under stress, too. As Mead notes in another recent post:

For two generations markets have mostly thought of risk in terms of tame risk: the risk that an asset might lose some of its value, the risk that a particular counterparty might not fulfill its side of a transaction.  But now we are back to the world of real risk or wild risk: the risk that a currency might disappear, the risk that a major government (as opposed to the occasional banana republic) might default on its debts, the risk that a financial crisis could erupt and that no government, no central bank could limit its scope or temper its impact.

After the Berlin Wall fell Jesus Jones sang that we were "watching the world wake up from history."  Perhaps we're seeing the end of History in Hegel's sense, and the return of history, in the classic sense.  Perhaps the change is not so dramatic.  Ever since Adams and Jefferson began their argument, the American mind (if there be such) has been torn on this question.  Ending the debate might have serious consequences.

Categories > History


Arresting Critics

The Italian government, increasingly seeming like it will break beneath the burden of its enormous debt contagion, raided the offices of the Moody's and Standard and Poor's credit rating agencies in Milan. Thinking that it cannot be entirely the fault of the government for the dire situation infecting the Eurozone, the authorities claimed they were just making sure that the credit rating agencies were abiding by regulations. Italy has joined the rest of Europe in criticizing S&P for daring to downgrade the rating of such beacons of fiscal sanity as Greece. After S&P warned the Italian government that it would lower its rating if it did not get its debt figured out, the government launched an investigation of the agency-- and expanded its investigation after S&P criticized the austerity measures passed by the government last month. Of course, we would not just round up and arrest rating agencies for their criticisms of government policy over here in America. They only arrest government critics in places like Burma. Unless, of course, Michael Moore has his way.

Michael Moore, the overhyped and hyperactive documentarian, called on President Obama to "show some guts" and arrest the head of S&P for lowering the country's credit rating, ruining the economy in 2008, and being friends with the Bush family (the most grievous offense one can commit in Mooreland). Praising the actions of the Italian government, he referred to S&P as a bunch of criminals who started the recession in 2008 and said we must toss them in jail before their cause another recession.

While individuals do put way too much faith and power in the opinions of the credit rating agencies, throwing them in jail for saying things like "if the government is too laden in debt it may have dire consequences" is not a logical conclusion. However, all logical conclusions point towards the progressive dream of the administrative leviathan being dangerous and unfeasible. With their ideology now so completely shaken and leading to disastrous consequences, it makes sense that they would instantly react the same way other sinking ideologues have in the past-- arrest the critics, blame them for everything, and pretend everything will be better now. The more desperate they get, the more it proves the weakness of their position.
Categories > Economy


Hollywood's Race to the Bottom

The diversity racket in action:

For those unfamiliar with TV staffing, the networks have initiatives that require most shows to set aside one staff position for a writer of diverse descent. The diversity hire is often the only writer on staff whose salary does not come out of the show's budget, but is paid by the network . . .

Here is what mostly happened: My agent pitched me on the phone as a diversity candidate, but once at the meetings my appearance confused people.

"Your father must be very light-skinned," one executive said.

When I told another that my paternal grandparents were interracially married in the 1940s, having met as founding members of CORE (Congress of Racial Equality), she said, "So really, you are only a quarter black. You have more white blood than black blood."

Good to see that Hollywood rejects the one drop rule.

Categories > Race



Michele Bachmann has called on the President to propose enough cuts to balance the budget for this year.  Okay.  Representative Bachmann voted for the Ryan budget, which cut 111 billion from the 2012 federal budget.  The 2012 Ryan budget resolution Bachmann voted for still had a 995 billion dollar deficit.  I would love to see the 995 billion dollars of cuts Bachmann wants in order to balance next year's Ryan budget without any tax increases.  Here are some of the Ryan budget's numbers to play with (in billions and please forgive the formatting):

Security                                                                            683

Global War on Terror                                                       118

Non-Security                                                                     485

Medicaid                                                                           259

Medicare                                                                           560

Social Security                                                                   760

Other Mandatory                                                               408

Net Interest                                                                       256

Bachmann is on record as wanting to "stay the course" in Afghanistan (and good for her), so there isn't much chance for savings in the 118 billion dollar GWOT category.  To be fair, Bachmann didn't call on herself to propose enough cuts to balance the budget in one year without any tax increases.  So it isn't like she is a hypocrite.

Categories > Politics

Foreign Affairs

Shi Lang

As Peter draws attention to below, the maritime rise of China is causing concern among its neighbors, particularly Japan. For the first time China has officially admitted that it is adding an aircraft carrier to its fleet, retrofitting an old Soviet carrier while "secretly" constructing two new carriers itself (they have not yet officially admitted to building new ones). This is understandably causing jitters among its neighbors, and many of them are increasing their own defense budgets in the wake of the Chinese military build-up. This is because of territorial disputes that China has with all of its neighbors. In fact, some maps in Chinese school textbooks include as Chinese portions of India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Burma, Bhutan, Russia, Korea, Vietnam, the Philippines, Japan, Brunei, Indonesia, and most of Mongolia. The claims they make that are most volatile at the moment are their maritime claims, which include waters claimed by Japan and much of southeast Asia.
Another big issue is Taiwan, which the Chinese are still very feisty about. Historically, whenever the United States placed its ships close to China to protect Taiwan, the most that China could do is issue a complaint. Now, the Chinese will be able to flex muscle and send out its own ships-- Taiwan will not enjoy the same protection that it has in the past, nor will China's maritime neighbors be as able to maintain their protests against the Chinese territorial claims. While the strength of China's fleet should not be overstated--the United States still has more aircraft carriers than the rest of the world combined, including all of the biggest ones with bigger ones being built--geopolitically this is going to really shift the balance of power in southeast Asia. It should not be seen as a threat to the United States, but our grand strategy must adjust to account for this.
The United States should join China's neighbors in not buying into the claims that their new aircraft carrier is purely for research and training purposes, and watch the developments with a cautious eye. The aircraft carrier is called the Shi Lang, named in honor of the Ming-Qing admiral who conquered Taiwan. The island should certainly be concerned, and so should we. The Cato Institute's Ted Galen Carpenter wrote a book in 2005 on how the Taiwan situation could still explode into a larger conflict, and recommended that, in light of growing Chinese superiority in the region, we adopt a more prudent position in regards to the Taiwan issue in particular-- and gives some worthwhile examples on how to handle the delicate situation. To ignore the problem while maintaining current positioning could be disastrous. With the geopolitical reshuffling in southeast Asia, we need to move beyond pure military deterrence and begin using other tools at our disposal to help our friends in the region and keep the Shi Langs of China at bay. 
Categories > Foreign Affairs


Aristocracy in America

New York's Democratic machine, where the powers that be decide who is "entitled" to serve in the state legislature.  "Democratic" party, indeed!
Categories > Elections


Take a Hike . . .

Tax hikes conservatives can support, according to Glenn Reynolds:

One of the things that's been floating around the Web over the past week is a video clip from 1953. . . . seeking the end of a 20 percent excise tax on movie theaters' gross revenues that had been imposed at the end of World War II as a deficit-cutting measure. (Yes, gross, not net).

In the film, figures ranging from industry big shots to humble ticket collectors talk about how the tax is hurting their industry and killing jobs, and ask Congress to repeal the tax. [Which Congress did] . . .

Were I a Republican senator or representative, I would be agitating to repeal the "Eisenhower tax cut" on the movie industry and restore the excise tax. . . .

I'd also look at the tax and accounting treatment of these industries to see if they were taking advantage of any special "loopholes" that could be closed as a means of reducing "tax expenditures." (Answer: Yes, they are.)

Professor Reynolds also notes that government employees often get a big salary bump when they go to work for the very industries they have been busy regulating, (or writing regulations for):

Because much of their value to their employers comes from their prior government service, I think that the taxpayers deserve a share of the return, say in the form of a 50 percent surtax on any earnings by political appointees in excess of their prior government salaries for the first five years after they leave office.

If memory serves, he has elsewhere suggested a windfall profits tax on lawyers in class action settlemnts.

I'm sure we can come up with some other taxes that conservaties might support.

Categories > Politics