Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns


Guelzo on Titanic

Over at NRO, Allen Guelzo writes of the legacy of the Titanic, which sank along with over 2/3rds of its passengers 100 years ago this weekend. "The Titanic, name and thing," he quotes, "will stand for a monument and warning to human presumption." In the piece, Guelzo takes issue with some of the crimes committed by James Cameron in his epic portrayal of the disaster, and gives proper praise to the heroic captain of the Carpathia, Arthur Rostron, who did not flinch in rushing his ship through iceberg-infested waters to rescue whoever he could from the doomed ocean liner. "Presumption was what killed the Titanic. Presumption that technology relieves us from prudence, presumption that intelligent regulation will eliminate fear and pain, presumption that we have achieved exemption from the dangers that plagued earlier generations, presumption that nature can be driven out with a will-intentioned pitchfork...The sea hath spoken." Read the whole thing.

Additionally, this excellent graphic puts some perspective on the sinking of the Titanic, how deep James Cameron recently went in his submarine, and other interesting things about the mostly-unexplored depths of our oceans.
Categories > History


10 Years of the Claremont Review

The Claremont Review of Books is an indispensable trove of conservative thought and the Claremont Institute is a natural and worthy sister institution to the Ashbrook Center. Claremont marks its 10th anniversary with a new compilation of conservative thought, Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness: Ten Years of the Claremont Review of Books. No Left Turns' Peter Schramm, William Voegeli and Steven Hayward join a long list of luminaries in this new conservative collection of essays. Required reading for the conservative scholar.
Categories > Conservatism


Buffett, taxes, and the mandate

National Review has an editorial up on President Obama's "Buffett tax" gambit. As they note it won't generate much income for the government, and most people with $1 million or more in income already pay a roughly 30% tax rate.

If the President really wants to tax Buffett, and if Buffett really thinks he's undertaxed, there's a much better way to go.  Mr. Buffett claims roughly $40 million in income. He has a net worth of roughly $50 billion. That means his return on investment is less than 1%, for officially purposes at least. Why so low?  Buffett pays no dividend in his holding company, and does not take the kind of salary that most people who run large companies take. 

If we really want to raise taxes on Mr. Buffett, we should pay attention to the reason why his income is so low.  Mr. Buffett's refusal to pay a dividend deprives we the people of a greater share of his true income.  And if the failure to buy an item can be taxable--the argument that he supporters of Obamacare make--surely it is also reasonable to force Buffett to pay an "idle capital" penalty. So long as he conspires against the people, and deprives us of tax revenue, by refusing to pay a dividend, he should pay a penalty.

Categories > Economy


The Ideological Hack As Universal Genius

President Obama's stubborn persistence when he is wrong can be perplexing.  So last week he said that the Supreme Court overturning Obamacare would be a "an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress."  Now that obviously wasn't right.  And there is nothing wrong with misspeaking sometimes.  Everybody does it.  If he had just said he was wrong, the only people who would hold it against Obama would be the ones who are already against him  But he couldn't just admit he was wrong.  He had to say that he was right but that everybody misheard him (stupid everybody.)  President Obama then clarified by telling us that he only meant that the Supreme Court had not struck down an economic law passed by Congress since Lochner.   Only several problems with this analysis.  Lochner wasn't about a federal law.  It was about a state law.  Also, the Supreme Court continued to invalidate federal economic regulations for more than a quarter century after the Lochner decision.  So why did President Obama double down on the wrong?

I think it is because he is used to not getting caught.  President pretends to be the above-it-all guy who isn't about ideology.  He is about reality and everybody else is about ideology.  He has a good affect to pull of this act.  He is naturally confident and very calm.  The calm is especially important.  Rick Santorum has plenty of confidence, but he often comes across like a hothead.  It often looks like Santorum's reason has been overcome with his passion.  If people don't know the specifics of what Obama is talking about, they are inclined to give his statements the benefit of the doubt.

So President Obama says that the Solyndra loan was happened because "The understanding is that some companies are not going to succeed, some companies will do very well -- but the portfolio as a whole ends up supporting the kind of innovation that helps make America successful in this innovative 21st century economy,"  So he is just a futurist technocrat right?  He is making the investments that are going to make America a big success.  So let's give the government capitalist in the White House a break.  He isn't going to get all of the calls right. 

Well then it turns out that the vetting for Solyndra was rushed and that the real experts at the Treasury Department weren't allowed to weigh in.  The real story is that Obama is less a visionary investor in the future and more a crony capitalist with an ideological fixation on green energy.

Or what about Obama's attack on the latest version of the Ryan budget?  President Obama argued that, under Ryan's plan, seniors would have to pay more to enroll in traditional Fee For Service Medicare.  It turns out that all the programs offered under the Ryan budget would include at least the same actuarial benefits as Medicare and lower cost options would only be viable if they offered the same benefits at a lower price.  Oh, and Ryan proposes to grow Medicare spending at the same rate as President Obama.

So why does Obama do all this?  The main reason is that he usually gets away with it.  A lot more people have heard Obama's promises about government-financed green energy than have heard about the Treasury Department's inspector general report on Solyndra.  The President has the megaphone so a lot more people heard his attack on the Ryan budget than read Ryan's rebuttal.  The problem with Obama's "unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress" comment wasn't that it was false, it was that so much of the political press called him out on it and lots of people have the vague, remember-it-from-high school knowledge that the Supreme Court has struck down federal laws lots of times.  Most people have no such context when it comes to Solyndra or the Ryan budget. 

The Obama above-it-all act works pretty well, but it is fragile.  If he gets skewered just right, it doesn't matter how calm or confident he seems.  The spell is broken.  The Romney team needs to point to the gap between the rhetorical Obama and the real Obama.  He is the constitutional law professor who tries to tell you that the Supreme Court never struck down a law passed by a "strong majority" of Congress.  He is the crony capitalist who says he is investing in the future but is really just carelessly shoveling money out the door to politically connected companies.  He can't tell the truth about either his own Medicare proposal or that of the Republicans and then he says it is all about the math.  I think humor would be the best weapon here.  There is something absurd about the way Obama presents himself.  Exposing the absurdity in a way that doesn't come across as mean spirited would be the best way to deflate the incumbent, but that is a hard trick to pull off.         
Categories > Politics

Quote of the Day

Quotation du Jour

In light of the Left's conniption fit about the possibility that Obamacare might be ruled unconstitutional by the court, I thought it might be worth reposting this pearl of wisdom form Professor Tribe:

Whenever I suggest in these essays, for want of space or of humility, that one or another decision seems to me "plainly right" or "plainly wrong," or that some proposal or position is "clearly" consistent (or inconsistent) with the constitution, I hope my words will be understood as shorthand not for a conclusion I offer as indisputably "correct" but solely for a conviction I put forward as powerfully held.

Categories > Quote of the Day