Friday, February 26, 2010

The New Stupid Party

For years and years everyone knew that the Republican Party was the stupid party. How did they know? Because the Democrats ran rings around them.

But maybe that was then. Maybe the Democrats are trying out for the worthy and honorable role of Stupid Party.

That's the takeaway from Thursday's Health Care Summit. The telling sign is that Rush Limbaugh had to admit he was wrong.

All along Rush had reckoned that the Health Care Summit was a trap set by the cunning Democrats for the stupid Republicans. Don't do it, he warned.

No doubt it was intended as a trap. But the trap didn't spring. In the event, Rush had to admit that he was wrong.

But the Republicans need to be commended here for having a pretty good strategery of going up there and ramming this down their throats and not rolling over and playing dead... They are taking it to him.

Tunku Varadaran had the specifics on a bad day for the Democrats:

Was he trying to make the Republicans look bad—retrograde ogres who would leave uninsured babies to die in their cribs?

Yeah. Now I think of it, that was probably the idea. Why wouldn't the Democrats try it? It worked before.

If so, he didn’t succeed at all. On the contrary, they came out of it looking rather alert and grown-up... What was so striking about the summit was the preparedness of the Republicans. All of them had done their homework: Lamar Alexander, Tom Coburn, John Kyl, John McCain, Dave Camp, John Barrosso, and Paul Ryan. The Democrats, by contrast, suffered from an acute case of “anecdotitis” (is it a preexisting condition?)”

OK. What is really going on here? (Kudos to the Republicans, by the way, for showing up to play.)

For explanation, we return to Irving Kristol, who wrote that when you are trying to do something for the poor you must include the middle class. That's why Social Security and Medicare work politically. They are intended to help the poor but they deal the middle class in on the loot.

Here's the problem with ObamaCare: Americans already have health insurance. So what was President Obama going to offer them in return for covering the 30 million without insurance? Well, he promised to lower costs. But the American people weren't willing to believe that. They clearly reckon that they are going to pay more. And they are right. So no deal.

Mind you, Social Security and Medicare were triumphs of political flim-flam. People were talked into paying taxes now on the promise of glorious benefits later. No doubt, for the average middle-class American, a better plan would have been a mandatory program of savings and a tax on the rich to pay for the poor. But Americans bought into the idea back then, and now, of course, Social Security and Medicare can't pay out on the promises.

ObamaCare can't offer a glorious future for all against a modest payroll tax for today. That's because Americans already have health insurance and the only glorious future that is likely to excite them is the idea of keeping what they have and not allowing the politicians tax it or take it away.

That, I submit, is what the Tea Party movement is all about.

And it looks like the Democrats are too stupid to realize it.

Welcome to the Stupid Party, fellahs!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Science's Big Problem

The Climategate row is developing into a delicious phase, as Dr. Judith Curry, professor of climate science at Georgia Institute of Technology, defends the climate scientists on and writes about rebuilding trust through better communication.

That was yesterday. Today Willis Eschenbach has responded and he has hit the ball out of the ballpark. It's not a question of better communication, he thunders:

The key to restoring trust has nothing to do with communication. Steve McIntyre doesn’t inspire trust because he is a good communicator. He inspires trust because he follows the age-old practices of science — transparency and openness and freewheeling scientific discussion and honest reporting of results.

Yeah. I'll say. Imagine climate science that believes in transparency and openness!

But the problem is bigger than that. The problem is that the scientists are in the pockets of the politicians. Why is that? It's because nearly all the research money comes from government.

That being so, the Climategate disaster is not a shocking and unexpected betrayal of scientific ethics. It's just what you would expect. Politicians want power. Politicians want science that gives them more power. The only way for scientists to do science is for them to do science that gives politicians more power.

The solution to the problem of scientists doubling as advocates and cutting corners like advocates is to stop taking government money.

Until then it is right and proper for the American people to regard scientists as just like the folks at the DMV. And really, given the tenure and the pensions available to DMV workers and college professors alike, the only difference is that the professors make more money.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

This is not Obama's Rubicon

In this curious moment of history, the political world seems to be holding its breath.

That's because we can't be sure if we are watching tragedy or farce as the Democrats try to push their signature health reform over the finish line.

Michael Gerson is talking about Caesar crossing the Rubicon. He sees President Obama is throwing the dice in one more effort to win the big one. But Gerson doesn't really mean it. Caesar's action was an act of war against the Roman Republic, and Caesar was a powerful player in Roman politics in the way that President Obama is not. He doesn't see Obama about to take over the Roman Empire, but on the cusp of a strategic mistake.

If Democrats try to ambush Republicans in the "health care summit" on February 25th, surely it will just inflame partisan Republicans. If Democrats pass the health reform on a strict party-line vote using "reconciliation" it will be an act of provocation. You can't pass a gigantic takeover of the health care industry on a party-line vote. You must, in the immortal words of Noam Chomsky, "manufacture consent."

No, the correct classical allusion is King Pyrrhus, of whose victory over the Romans, the king said that one more such victory and he would be undone. That's what Rich Galen thinks. You don't want to win close fought victories that leave your opponent enraged. You want to win overwhelming victories that leave your opponents defeated and discouraged.

You can't help wondering, as we head forth into the second year of Obama, whether the Obama chaps are really ready for prime time. The Obama administration doesn't seem to understand the idea of strategic concentration, of the German concept of the Schwerpunkt. You get the feeling that the Obamis believe the liberal notion that government is a facilitated meeting where we get all the stakeholders together and they all agree, after a little coaching, that the liberal way is best.

You can do that in the liberal school system and in the liberal university. That's because the students need the grades so they can get their credentials and get the hell out. But politics is civil war by other means. It is a dance of power, and power is a wasting asset.

Has any American president wasted his power like Obama?

Maybe the Obamis are about to come up with a secret weapon to win the battle over ObamaCare. But somehow I doubt it.

Some weeks ago Michael Barone compared ObamaCare to the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. Back then Senator Stephen Douglas (D-IL) thought he had a brilliant plan to solve the slavery issue. Instead, he inflamed the issue, led the Democratic Party into a catastrophic mid-term election, and brought on the civil war.

Democrats think that their ObamaCare will finish their decades-long work to provide health care for all. President Obama apparently thinks that once ObamaCare passes then we'll never have to come back to the health care question again.

This shows a startling misunderstanding of politics. Nothing that the government does is settled. That's because everything the government does is force. And the people on the receiving end of force don't like it.

Politics is civil war by other means. The whole purpose of politics is to get your way without provoking the other side into taking up arms against you. That is why it is best to try to govern by consent rather than by pitched battle, to keep the opposition divided and demoralized rather than energized and enraged.

But it looks like our Democratic friends are going to have to learn this the hard way.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Box-Canyon Presidency

You have to hand it to the president. He is nothing daunted by the unpopularity of his agenda. Nothing daunted by the decisive electoral losses in Virginia, in New Jersey, and Massachusetts.

Never mind that. Just power on with the Big Push to get ObamaCare over the line, somehow, anyhow. Because once it's enacted it will be impossible to repeal it. Or so the assumption goes.

The Wall Street Journal edit page seems to think it's Ben Hur and Jack Hawkins on the deck of the Roman trireme all over again. "ObamaCare at Ramming Speed" they call it.

The larger political message of this new proposal is that Mr. Obama and Democrats have no intention of compromising on an incremental reform, or of listening to Republican, or any other, ideas on health care.

They are going to ram it through with Chicago Rules.

Never mind that this country is built upon the notion of the "consent of the governed." Power is power, and you don't go to Washington to play patty-cake.

The problem for the American people is that the president is flying us up a box canyon. That's the kind of canyon that's too narrow to turn in, with a rock wall at the end. When you fly up the canyon there is no turning back, and no way to power up over the rock wall at the end.

Maybe we'll be able to kick out 70 or 80 House members in November. Maybe we'll be able to elect a conservative in 2012. But the bigger problem remains. The huge administrative welfare state is just sitting there getting bigger every day. And President Obama is giving a tremendous lurch to make it even bigger.

We know what happens in the end. You get a country like Argentina that just dumps its debt every generation. Last time around it seized the bank accounts of ordinary people. Or you get Greece, where the public employees are taking to the streets to defend their indefensible salaries and retirement benefits. Government is, in the end, an armed minority extracting requisitions from the peasantry.

It's a shame, because it's the ordinary people, the Democratic voters, that will suffer when President Obama (or his successor) flies the airplane into the rock wall. They will be the people without parachutes, that tied their livelihood to the government and its benefits. They will be the people "eating the paint off the walls."

It's all very exciting, of course. But its when things get exciting that people fall off.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Problem with Tax Cuts

OK, There isn't a problem with tax cuts, especially broad-based marginal rate cuts. But there is something to keep in mind.

Here's what I mean. As Glenn Beck told us at CPAC on Saturday, the US was in a big depression in 1920. Unemployment was nearly 12 percent. Deflation was on big time. Production was off by 20 percent and more.

Then the Harding-Coolidge Administration cut income tax rates from 77 percent top rate to 25 percent. And it cut federal spending in half.

The result was a barn-burner of a boom, the extension of prosperity to the broad middle class. But it ended in tears in 1929. Why? Because debt got out of control. The same thing happened in the 1960s when Kennedy cut tax rates. The go-go years ended in huge bear market and a decade of inflation and recession. And in the 1990s when Congress cut capital gains taxes, the resulting boom ended in the NASDAQ meltdown of 2000-2001.

The only exception was the Reagan boom of the 1980s. But the Reagan era balanced the 30 percent Reagan-Kemp-Roth tax cuts and some moderate spending cuts with a tight monetary policy. Those were the Volker years.

There's a lesson here. When you cut tax rates and government spending you set off a prairie fire of economic growth. If you aren't careful, you'll get a debt explosion as well, and debt explosions end in tears. So it is absolutely essential to keep monetary policy (and broad credit policy, e.g. Fannie and Freddie) in check. We know why, because we've just lived through it. When you leverage debt too high then people can't service their debt when the economy turns south.

To you chaps at the White House: this advice is free. You won't listen of course. But you'll wish you had when inflation starts nipping at your heels, and President Obama becomes the most unpopular president in modern memory.

Why, things could get so bad that Republicans may end up running against Obama for the next 50 years, just as Democrats ran for decades against Herbert Hoover.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Trouble with Specifics

The Tea Party movement is coming up with a Contract from America for this fall. It's a grab bag of conservative favorites, from ending runaway spending to tax reform and transparency. What it doesn't do is address the only two things that matter. They are Social Security and Medicare.

Actually, Social Security is not that big of a problem. But Medicare is. Say what you will about ObamaCare, but it had a plan to curb Medicare spending: Rationing with death panels. Never mind if it was a stupid plan. Never mind whether it would have worked. It was at least a plan.

Of course the big impact of Medicare is still a decade or so away. That's when baby-boomers like me will be seriously hitting the last-six-months-of-life syndrome and chewing up health care like you wouldn't believe. Meanwhile there are plenty of things that can be done to curb the cost of government. But every one will hit a powerful special interest. Here, just for giggles, is the current state of the game on government spending. It's from, of course.

United States Federal State and Local Government Spending Fiscal Year 2010 Amounts in $ billion Pensions: $987.4 Health Care: $1,081.6 Education: $1,041.8 Defense: $896.2 Welfare: $750.1 Protection: $350.0 Transportation: $269.3 General Government: $133.1 Other Spending: $581.7 Interest: $309.2 Balance: $104.4 Total Spending: $6,504.7

It can't be emphasized enough that the big dollars are all in the big four: Pensions (i.e., Social Security and government employee pensions), Health Care (i.e., Medicare and Medicaid), Education (the Blob), and Defense. Welfare is up by 50 percent, on account of the recession, but that will probably subside.

The big problem is that the government is paying for pensions that people ought to save on their own, and it is paying for health care for seniors that they ought to be paying on their own.

Not all people. But most of us. There's a role for government in helping people who have failed to provide for themselves, although families, churches, unions, and fraternal associations would probably do a better job. But the big problem is that government has promised gigantic benefits that it can never deliver. Politicians made those promises in order to win elections.

When the government runs out of money, it won't be the politicians that will suffer. It won't be the educated liberals that will suffer. It won't be the professional classes and the businessmen. It will only be the lower layers of the middle class. It will be the poor and the near poor. They will suffer. They will have to go without the health care that can make the last years a little more comfortable.

Yet it was the poor and the near poor that the modern welfare state was supposed to help.

It's a bit late to say this now, but government is just the wrong agent to provide any of these services. If you want insurance against risks, buy insurance. If you want to stop working, do some saving. If you want the comforts of health care, get a job.

But that's what we must work for. A government that only does the things that absolutely require force. Defense. Policing. Law. But humans have always been freeloaders, and they always will.

Meanwhile, let's watch the political system dance around the 800 pound gorillas in the room: Social Security and Medicare.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Which Party Will Split FIrst?

In National Review, Henry Olsen worries that the Republicans may split like the Whig Party in the 1850s. He doesn't see the present dissatisfaction with President Obama translating into Republican victory.

I see the current state of affairs as an intensification, perhaps even a culmination, of four interrelated 25-year political trends: a growing distrust of conservative and liberal ideologies, a growing movement away from the two parties and toward political independence, increases in the racial-minority (which usually means Democratic-voting) share of the population, and a growing inability of the Republican party to bridge the gap between its populist and elite wings.

Olsen sees the possibility, "the specter of a serious independent, populist presidential candidacy for the first time in a century." That's because he doesn't think the Republicans can heal the split between its populist and elite wings.

You can see the potential in Dorothy Rabinowitz's recent sneer at Sarah Palin's populism. Rabinowitz doesn't like

the unsavory echoes of her regular references to "the real America" as opposed to those shadowy "elites," now charged with threats to the life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness of all real Americans.

This from a woman who has done sterling service exposing the threats to life and liberty by the myrmidons that witch-hunted day-care providers like the Amiraults of Massachusetts. The functionaries were doing the bidding of elites enamoured with the fashionable notion of "repressed memory."

On the other hand, you could say that Palin is the likely vehicle for an independent populist candidacy, and she's a Republican. How lucky can you get?

Look. There's no telling what may happen in the next few years. It is clear that the political tides are shifting. But they may not lead to a split in the Republican Party. They may split the Democrats.

Here's Pat Caddell, once George McGovern's polling wunderkind many years ago, complaining about the Chicago politics in the Democratic Party. He's been chucked off a Democratic campaign after complaining about union thugs, according to Jon Ward in The Daily Caller.

“What I said about Andy Stern and the SEIU? Sure, they’re thugs,” said Caddell, a former adviser to President Jimmy Carter, who until Monday* had an informal advising role with the primary challenger to incumbent Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet.

Sounds to me as if Pat Caddell ain't gonna work in this town no more. But hey, he can probably make his bones as an on-air pundit, so what's the worry?

The point is that the Democrats have their troubles too. President Obama got to be president by appealing to moderates. The Democrats focused like lasers on recruiting moderate candidates to run in Republican-leaning states and districts. With President Obama governing way left, all these elected Democrats are peering ahead in the political fogs worried sick about icebergs. Evan Bayh has taken off in a lifeboat, and now it looks like Pat Caddell has taken a header off the fan-tail.

Some conservatives have already pointed the finger at Greece and its financial crisis and warned that this is how the welfare state ends. I doubt if that will happen soon, but strains in the welfare state will doubtless set off fights among passengers and crew.

You think Republicans have troubles? Democrats have them too.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Culture War and Civil War

The exit of Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) has sent shock waves through the political world. What did he mean by it?

But for a politician to complain about the partisan atmosphere in Washington, DC, as Bayh did in explaining his departure is a little rich. What did you expect, Senator?

Washington, DC is full of partisanship when the ends and means of government are in contest. Such as right now. It was pretty hot in the 1930s when the president was calling businessmen economic royalists and sending lefty activists into the federal government to shake things up. And the Supreme Court was ruling the NRA unconstitutional.

There's a culture war going on, on abortion and marriage. And there's a civil war on the role of government. You'd expect things to be testy.

Still, as marriage activist Maggie Gallagher writes, most people hate it. Even successful politicians like Evan Bayh hate it.

Evan Bayh is tired of being the middle patch of ground in a culture war that never seems to end, never seems to get anywhere.

Culture war is not a term we hear that often anymore because, well, the crucial center of American politics is sick and tired of the very idea of culture war.

No doubt the culture war is going on, and no doubt nobody is winning. And as to the civil war over the role of government, the failure of Obama '09 means that the Democratic breakout attempt has failed and it is back to stalemate on that front too.

But just because the center is sick and tired of the war means nothing. People in the middle are always war weary. Wars are fought by combatants, and the sufferings of the people in the center are called "civilian casualties" and "collateral damage."

But the reason that nobody is winning is that neither side presently has the strength and the creativity to win. Forty percent of Americans may call themselves "conservative" but the twenty percent that call themselvers "liberals" seem to hold their own pretty well, despite being outnumbered two-to-one.

But the Bayh decision is at least a clue to the future.

The decision of Evan Bayh to leave the United States Senate seems to tell us that the good old era of Democrats talking a good conservative game at home and voting with the liberals in Washington is coming to a close. Since that game benefited Democrats it is not surprising that the consternation about Bayh is greatest in Liberal-land.

The Obama '09 campaign was clearly a wakeup call to Americans. They don't want whatever it was that Obama was serving up. Now what? We'll see after the next elections.

The culture war front is even more fraught. Maggie Gallagher herself is involved in defending the legal attack on California's Proposition 8, the one that said you can't call gay marriage marriage. A gay federal judge in San Francisco is telling conservative America, in case they were wondering, that they needn't expect justice from a gay bench.

My feeling is that the culture war will turn when women wake up to the fact that the sexual revolution was a disaster for women, making them into pure sex objects to be consumed at will. You read Wendy Shalit's review of the state of the hookup culture on campus, and you wonder: how do college girls put up with this abuse? (We know why they put up with it: oppression, pure and simple.)

As for the civil war about the role of government? That will turn when the government runs out of our money.

I guess that's what Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point is all about.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

You Just Don't Get It, Mr. President

We conservatives are living in a kind of hog heaven, right now, what with Democrats in a retreat that is getting close to a rout. We predicted something like this. Only we didn't expect quite such a meltdown. My prediction was a year ago: "Obama's First Fumble."

Guess what I wrote? I wrote that the stimulus bill was a mistake. I said that people were expecting something different, something serious after years of Republican "corruption."

Voters were told that the new administration of President Obama was going to put the corruption and the partisan wrangling of the Clinton-Bush years behind us and clean up government. But right now it looks like same-old-same-old.

I said that, after the meltdown the previous fall, upscale voters expected an administration that "would get serious and urgently fix the economy."

How right I was. And that was just the beginning with the unserious, same-old-same-old stimulus bill. Since then we've seen the unserious, same-old-same-old cap-and-trade bill, and then the grand-daddy of them all, we had the administrative monster of ObamaCare.

Here we are, a year later, and the Obama administration still hasn't done anything serious on the economy.

But now, get this. Peggy Noonan reports President Obama telling US Senators:

"If the price of certainty [i.e., getting reelected] is essentially for us to adopt the exact same proposals that were in place leading up to the biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression . . . the result is going to be the same. I don't know why we would expect a different outcome pursuing the exact same policy that got us in this fix in the first place."

Good God, Mr. President. Don't you realize that, contrary to your assertion, YOU are continuing exactly the same proposals that led us to the biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression? How can you expect the result to be different when your policies are same-old-same-old?

I'm afraid that you may have been reading too much of The New York Times. You see, Mr President, it wasn't greedy bankers and silly quants that got us into the financial mess. The real problem was the tsunami of debt unleashed by Fannie and Freddie, the $5 trillion in too-big-to-fail government-subsidized mortgage debt that engulfed the housing market. The greedy bankers were just sluice operators on the Grand Canal of government subsidized credit. Of course, they should be executed, pour encourager les autres, but that doesn't alter the fact that government created the problem.

And Mr President, from where I sit, you have done nothing to solve this problem. In fact, if anything, you are sluicing credit at the housing market worse than before, in the desperate hope of seeing signs of life before you are up for reelection.

As for the rest of your agenda, the way I see it, you are just applying tired liberal nostrums, the knee-jerk reaction of legislating or administering another subsidy, setting up new political special interest or propping up an old one, whether it's in education, health care, or energy. Green energy jobs. What a joke.

Evidently you don't have a clue, Mr. President. I suspect that most Democrats don't have a clue either. They all read The New York Times and listen to NPR and so they live in the cocoon world of liberal self-congratulation, just like you.

But the Democratic officeholders you were lecturing are reading the polls and they know that something bad is coming. They don't know what, but they know, as practical politicians, that it is time to get in out of the rain.

I can't say I'm upset by all this. I can't say I'm surprised. I wanted you to be elected, Mr. President, because I felt that once the American people got a real taste of Democratic governance, legislative and executive, they would be ready to upchuck. After the American people had hurled their lunch all over the incumbent politicians, I reckoned, then a chastened "educated class" might be ready to stand aside, for a brief moment, to allow some genuine reform. And by that I mean reform that doesn't increase government spending and doesn't increase government regulation.

But first we have to go through the maelstrom of 2010.

Here's a another prediction. In 2011 the political landscape will be utterly transformed. I'll tell you, Mr. President. It can't come soon enough.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Confucius and the Community Organizer

That excellent force for law and order, Lt. Chan of the San Francisco Police Department often had resort, during the process of unraveling a crime, to a maxim of Confucius.

Here is one retailed by Karl Jaspers in Socrates, Buddha, Confucius, Jesus.

When asked, "What is the first thing to be done in order to promote a renewal in disastrous circumstances?" Confucius gave a remarkable answer: Words must be set aright... [For] language is constantly misused, words are employed for meanings that do not befit them...

If the language is in disorder, everything goes wrong.

Now this saying of Confucius gives me remarkable hope. For the defining characteristic of this time, when the Community Organizer-in-chief is president, and language is in disorder, is that the community is organizing itself.

President Obama is a man who thinks of himself as having a remarkable gift with words. It is patently obvious, after a year of his presidency, that he abuses this gift damnably. He uses words in order to mislead. And the worst of his abuse is his promise that, if you like your health insurance, you can keep it.

His language is in disorder.

It is clear, moreover, that the deeper the president gets into trouble, the more he grabs recklessly for le bon mot to get out again. And he's not too careful about the truth. The contrast with President Bush is palpable. Liberals made a huge fuss about the Iraq "lie," but the truth is that President Bush was always very careful about what he said. He understood that every word was engraved in the book of history.

So, the first thing to do, when the president uses words for "meanings that do not befit them" is that we, the people, must set words aright.

And wouldn't you know, the people are. The people began this work within a month of the president's inauguration.

And here is the beauty of this process. The president is a practitioner of a profession that believes that when the people hurt a community organizer must go down among them and organize them. Mr. Obama himself started out organizing the folks in South Chicago who had been laid off from the big steel plant closures.

But the problem was that the steel plants were never going to open again. The good paying union jobs were gone forever, and Barack Obama, organizer, was never going to get those jobs back again. Barack Obama was organizing people for a useless war.

The left-wing world view sees the people has helpless victims, camping out in the ruins left behind by a rapacious capitalism, waiting for left-wing radical suits to come and rouse them into a fighting force. That may be true of South Chicago. But it is not true of the United States as a whole.

America is a middle-class country. The middle class does not wait around helplessly like victims. The middle class organizes itself for action and, once organized, it gets going.

And this is exactly what the Tea Party movement is doing. To me, the representative figure is Republican congressional candidate Les Phillip. Glenn Reynolds reports:

He is running against Republican Parker Griffith in Alabama's fifth congressional district. Mr. Phillip, a black businessman and Navy veteran who immigrated with his parents from Trinidad in his youth, got his start in politics speaking at a tea-party protest in Decatur, Ala., last year. "Somebody had to speak," he told me, "so I stepped up."

That was the America that Alexis de Tocqueville experienced in the 1830s in which people just stepped up to join associations to get things done.

That America still lives in us today. And the tingling feeling that I am getting is that this America is heading into the most remarkable political season in our lifetimes. Why? Because the governing elite is out of touch.

It is commonplace to accuse both parties of being out of touch, but I believe that maligns the poor benighted Republicans. They would like to do what needs to be done, but they are afraid.

It is the "educated class" that is out of touch. It is out of touch because, for the last century, it has been in broadcast mode, telling the people what to think and shutting out voices that disagreed with it.

All along the water was rising behind the dam, but the educated class and its political arm, the Democratic Party, kept the sluices closed. Now the water is about to overtop the dam. If things go well, the water will cascade down the emergency spillway. If things do not go well, then the water will take out the dam and let loose a raging torrent.

Here, today, in 2010, the American people are determined that "words must be set aright," and they are determined to have nothing to do with the artful, and increasingly desperate words coming out of TOTUS, the teleprompter of the United States.

Either way, as the sports announcers say, it's going to be one for the record books.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Dems Make Ryan's "Roadmap" the Issue

Will it work? Since the US budget came out to universal raspberries last week the Obama administration is trying a Full Alinksy. They are diverting attention from their own budget by making Rep. Paul Ryan and his "Roadmap for America's Future" the issue, according to Kim Strassel in the Wall Street Journal.

Well, it's not surprising. Ryan's Roadmap turns Social Security into a genuine savings program and it replaces Medicare with a voucher program. Can't have that! So the Dems are pulling out the Medi-scare playbooks and blaming the Republicans--for what, exactly? I thought that the Democrats were in power.

Some Republicans are acting scared. They are worried that the Democrats will demagogue the issue and scare seniors. Some "anonymous" House members are griping "to the press that Mr. Ryan doesn't 'speak' for them."

I say: Bring it on. This is a political battle that Republicans are going to have to fight sooner or later. Sooner or later, the welfare state--and that means Social Security and Medicare--are going to hit the wall.

But the question is: What do Americans want now? Americans are frightened by deficits, but not so much that they would accept reducing their entitlements.

Most likely, of course, the Democrats will win the argument, as they did when President Bush tried to privatize Social Security in 2005.

They will win up until the day that the US defaults on its debt and the grim international bankers from China in 2035 summon the US crisis negotiating team to Beijing to discuss swingeing spending cuts.

And the American people are probably right to resist reform until the system actually breaks. Because if we reform now then it will just encourage our Democratic friends to find new ways to spend money and we'll end up broke anyway.

But the time is now to start thinking about what a genuine welfare society, rather than today's government dependency welfare state, would look like;.

Surely there is a better way to protect people against the tribulations of old age than a government program. Surely there is a better way to help grannie than taxing young working families trying to start a family and buy a house.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Broder Spills Beans on Palin

It had to happen. But why now? Sooner or later, some liberal commentator was going to see through the red mist of liberal rage and understand that Sarah Palin is not just a empty head but a skilled politician.

And why did it have to be the dean of liberal pundits, David Broder? Here is his judgment on last weekend:

Her lengthy Saturday night keynote address to the National Tea Party Convention in Nashville and her debut on the Sunday morning talk show circuit with Fox News' Chris Wallace showed off a public figure at the top of her game -- a politician who knows who she is and how to sell herself, even with notes on her palm.

Let's go on.

Blessed with an enthusiastic audience of conservative activists, Palin used the Tea Party gathering and coverage on the cable networks to display the full repertoire she possesses, touching on national security, economics, fiscal and social policy, and every other area where she could draw a contrast with Barack Obama and point up what Republicans see as vulnerabilities in Washington.

Her invocation of "conservative principles and common-sense solutions" was perfectly conventional. What stood out in the eyes of TV-watching pols of both parties was the skill with which she drew a self-portrait that fit not just the wishes of the immediate audience but the mood of a significant slice of the broader electorate.

This is just what we don't want liberals to know at this stage of the game. No, no. Let's all just make silly jokes about making notes on her hand, and all the rest. Let's give Palin another year under the radar.

(That Robert Gibbs: how dumb can you be to mention Palin's hand notes at the White House? It raises Palin to the presidential level. I thought it was Politics 101: you never raise up the small fry opposition.)

Personally, I think that Broder is overdoing it a bit. I don't think that Sarah Palin is at the top of her game. I think she is still learning the craft of a national politician, and has a ways to go yet. But you can see already that, populist or not, she is going for the center. No more compassionate conservatism. Palin's book is drenched in references to "common-sense conservatism." And her speech was the same. It was all about common-sense solutions and ridiculing the silliness and lack of common sense in the Obama administration.

When the nation self-identifies 40 percent conservative and 36 percent moderate, you can see that "common-sense" and "conservatism" covers a majority of the electorate.

Common sense isn't enough, of course. You need empathy. And this report of Sarah Palin's visit to Walter Reed Army Hospital starts to build a narrative of Palin the empathetic. Says Anthony Tata, a retired Brigadier General:

As the leader of thousands of troops in combat, I’ve been honored to visit hundreds of wounded and had the privilege of burying too many friends and fellow warriors. Accordingly, my “insincerity detector” is pretty good and I give Governor Palin high marks. She was in the moment with those Soldiers and families. All wrapped in one person, she was leader, mother, friend, grateful American, and grieving parent.

You can't pay for stuff like that. It fills you with hope for change.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Welfare State Hitting the Wall

How will it end? The welfare state, that is. Will it end with a bang or a whimper?

We are getting a glimpse at the welfare state in crisis because there are a bunch of countries in the world right now where the government is in serious economic trouble.

There's Greece. The interest rate on Greek sovereign debt has sky-rocketed and so the Greek government is in a cash crisis. The helpful Greek civil servants have gone on strike, presumably to protest any potential cuts in government spending. Since Greece is in the Euro system, its troubles affect all countries in the Euro area. Ministers are shuttling to and fro deciding what to do.

There's Argentina. President Cristina Kirchner has just sacked the president of Argentina's central bank.

In his place she named Mercedes Marcรณ del Pont, a Yale-trained economist who has expressed the view that central bank autonomy ought to be limited.

So that will enable Kirchner to pay foreign creditors with central bank reserves. Can you spell i-n-f-l-a-t-i-o-n?

But Venezuela takes the cake. Last month Venezuela devalued the Bolivar by about 50 percent, finally caving in to reality. But, of course, President Chavez is trying, even now, to deny reality by threatening retailers that raise prices.

The government, which threatened to shut down or seize retailers that were seen gouging prices, closed about 1,900 retailers and nationalized a supermarket chain controlled by France's Casino Guichard-Perrachon S.A. (CO.FR).

Like that will really get food to the poor.

This is not a pretty picture. It shows that the welfare state will not go quietly. It shows that left-wing politicians will loot the state of all its wealth in an effort to stay in power. It shows that there is no way around an economic maelstrom at the end of the welfare state era.

And then the whole thing starts again.

Listen folks. This is not that hard. Hard money. Limited government. Clear and transparent regulation of the private sector. No crony capitalism. Pretty soon the poor get to prosper and the country climbs into the developed world.

But no. People want to take the short cut. They think like peasants. They think that businessmen are no different than the landowners that oppressed them for centuries. They want to line their pockets with other peoples' money. They think that evil businessmen are stealing them blind.

As Goldfinger told James Bond: You are a fool Mr. Bond, and a fool must pay for his folly.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Palin's Lemonade Stand

It seems our lefty friends didn't like Gov. Palin's speech in Nashville, TN, last Saturday. But it wasn't the content, or even her hair, that caught most of the interest. It was her hand.

Maddened into a frenzy by the TOTUS meme, our lefty friends made a lot of unprintable comments related to the notes that Gov. Palin had scribbled on her hand.

As usual, Palin has turned lemon into lemonade by making a point of waving her notecard hand at her personal appearances. That's what a skilled politician does, by instinct. In fact that's how you can tell a skilled politician.

Meanwhile, Jonathan V. Last at the Weekly Standard looks at the Obama numbers and tells us what is happening to the president's support. The weaker parts of his winning coalition are leaving the sinking ship.

Back in 2008 Obama's core support was upscale professionals, blacks, and young voters. The "Jacksonian" voters (i.e., Scotch-Irish backwoodsmen that first turned out for Andrew Jackson 190 years ago!) and white ethnics were slow to rally to Obama's standard. It is the Jacksonians and the white ethnics who are falling away now. They are falling away from the president and maybe falling away from the Democratic Party.

Hmm. Now who do you think would really appeal to those folks? Who do you think could make them feel that he really understands them?

Exactly, Senator. That "he" is a "she."

The McGovern wing of the Democratic Party has always had a problem with the white ethnics that once were the core of the party. On defense, on race, on the regulatory state, on sex, the McGovern Democrats are poles apart from the white ethnics. Up until Obama the post Vietnam Democratic presidents have been moderate Southerners. So the antipathy between urban liberals and the white ethnics was blurred.

But President Obama is a full-on McGovern Democrat. And the old-line white ethnic voter is finding out that the McGovern wing of the Democratic Party just doesn't understand and doesn't appreciate them.

The truth is that the rise of the Republican Party since the nadir of 1964 has never been about the brilliance of Republican Party politicians and ideas. The story has always been that, about once each decade, the elite liberals toss out another member of the old New Deal coalition. And the only place for the homeless faction is the Republican Party.

But now something is different. Now the Republican Party has a headline politician who could be picked by Central Casting to appeal to the disaffected Jacksonian and white ethnic Democrats.

Her name is Sarah Palin.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Oh No! US "Ungovernable." Again

It's deja vu, all over again. Liberals are running around complaining that America is ungovernable. Again.

You young-uns may not remember the last time that happened. So I will help you out. It was in the latter stages of the Carter administration, when the hostages were in Iran, when inflation was 10 percent, people had to line up to get gasoline, and President Carter made his "malaise" speech,

Well, you can understand why liberals felt that way. They were the best and the brightest; they believed in rational government. So how come things were going so badly wrong? It couldn't be them and their stupid ideas. Oh no. Liberals couldn't be to blame. It must the the American people. They were ungovernable.

So now, after the "year the locusts ate," with President Obama having failed to pass his signature reforms to heal the sick and stop the oceans rising, liberals are blaming the system, the politicians, the public. Anyone but themselves. Jay Cost has the goods.

Ezra Klein argued that it was time to reform the filibuster because the government cannot function with it intact anymore. Tom Friedman suggested that America's "political instability" was making people abroad nervous. And Michael Cohen of Newsweek blamed "obstructionist Republicans," "spineless Democrats," and an "incoherent public" for the problem.

Nonsense, says Jay Cost. The problem is that the "President has simply not been up to the job." He has governed too far to the left, encouraging the left-wing House to produce bills too far to the left to get through the Senate and the result is that he hasn't been able to get enough support to push his program through.

That's not a bug, it's a feature. The founding fathers meant to set things up that way. They created three branches of government to police each other. They created a bi-cameral legislature that balanced popular representation with regional representation. They created a Bill of Rights to limit government power.

The end result was a government that is powerful, but not infinitely so. Additionally, it is schizophrenic. It can do great things when it is of a single mind - but quite often it is not of one mind. So, to govern, our leaders need to build a broad consensus. When there is no such consensus, the most likely outcome is that the government will do nothing.

So be quiet, liberals. The system is functioning exactly as designed. And if you don't figure that out real quick your chaps are going to be tossed out of Congress in November in an election that will make 1994 look like a Sunday school outing.

The last time that liberals declared the United States "ungovernable" the voters elected Ronald Reagan in two landslide elections. And, if you remember, during the Reagan Era nobody complained about the American people being "ungovernable."

Friday, February 5, 2010

Employment Improves

There's light at the end of the tunnel. The unemployment rate is down to 9.7 percent. But that really isn't the interesting number. The interesting number is that, in the Household Survey, there is an increase in the number of employed. It is up 542,000. That is big news.

Of course, the Establishment Survey shows a decline in employment of 20,000. But the Household Survey shows a definite uptick, and it usually shows improvement first.

Let's look at the charts. First the employment trend.

There's no doubt about it You can see a definite uptick. Now for the labor force trend.

It's still throttle bottom, with no return of discouraged workers to the labor force. But again, it is showing signs of bottoming out.

If we get another couple of months of this, then we can say that the economy is really on the mend.

But then it will be time to begin the hard work. It will be time to take a meat ax to government. Because that's where the waste, fraud, and abuse is.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Howard Zinn's Philosophy

Howard Zinn, a World War II bombardier and GI Bill graduate who returned his thanks to the government by damning the US in a long career of left-wing ranting, died of a heart attack at 87.

In The New York Times obituary Zinn is represented as a bit of a rogue. In National Review Online Roger Kimball finds him a monster.

Of course, in his Peoples' History of the United States Howard Zinn was basically right. Looking at the world from the perspective of a working stiff, which he was before he went to university, life is unfair. Of course the northern Europeans conquered North America, and of course it was rough for the folks in their way. When you have power, political power, you use it to reward your supporters and take it out of the people in your way. Ask a liberal about that.

The European conquerors of North America were no different than any other conqueror. They had an enormous advantage in their superior political and military technology and they used it. And it also helped that the native North Americans were susceptible to European diseases and not the other way around.

In India and Africa it was a different story, and Europeans went down like flies to malaria. And the Brits had Edmund Burke to complain about the horrid acts of their pro-consul in India, Warren Hastings.

Given how beastly governments are, it is shocking that Howard Zinn was always in favor of power for governments (fighting for the little people, of course). Surely, given the squalid tale of oppression he has to tell, the only thing to do is to limit government power. Somehow, this never occurred to him.

But now that the United States is governed by a president who is Howard-Zinn-lite, we will see the shoe on the other foot. Liberals are not longer the champions of the little guy. They are the power elite.

Our liberal friends have been using and abusing their political and cultural power for over fifty years. There is arising in the United States a rejectionist movement that hates liberal power and hates liberal oppression of ordinary Americans.

So, now that Howard Zinn has gone to his reward it may be time for a "Tea Party History of the United States." Instead of writing endlessly about the heroic radical suits that stood up for the poor and the oppressed, this new history might celebrate the folk who stood up against the liberal power machine--its corruption, its self dealing, and its sinecures--and championed truth, justice, and the American Way.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Man (ok, Woman) Bites Dog

I live by a rigid, inflexible rule. Whenever liberals attack a conservative politician as a dunce--amiable or stupid--I pay attention. I mark that conservative politician as a rising star, perhaps even called to greatness.

So I am naturally drawn, as many others have been, to Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK). Given how vigorously liberals have demonized and stigmatized her, I suspect that she is truly marked out for great deeds.

Here's the latest Palin moment. The former governor has urged the president to fire Rahm Emanuel for his recent comment about liberals being "eff-ing retarded." Writes Palin: "Are You Capable of Decency, Rahm Emanuel?"

Now, let's see, that sounds familiar. Rewind back to the Fifties and the Army-McCarthy hearings. Counsel Joseph Welch to Senator Joseph McCarthy:

Have you no sense of decency sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?

Golly. Who thought that Palin was a student of history? Does she even know how to read?

Notice the real brilliance here. Palin is not going after Emanuel for dissing a Republican. That's the usual political shtick. But Palin is doing something different. She is complaining because Emanuel is acting disrespectfully towards people in his own party.

How smart is that? Do you think that President Obama could think of such a brilliant move, intelligent as he is?

Sarah Palin is moving deftly into the electorate's sweet spot. She is not just talking about lowering the squabbling in Washington, she is doing something about it. She is establishing a record as a true "post-partisan," the darling of the moderates and independents who, we are told, just hate the bickering and back-biting of day-to-day politics.

Now. If you were an advisor to an up-and-coming politician, would you be smart enough to think of that? To criticize a Rahm Emanuel for trashing people in his own party?

There's no doubt that Sarah Palin was unprepared for the national stage back in the fall of 2008. But let us understand what being "unprepared" really means. It means not yet having a carousel in your head full of focus-group and poll-tested sound bites on national issues. Not yet having a quick retort to put Katie Couric in her place.

Sarah Palin may not be prepared as a national politician. Not yet. But she is a skilled politician who has worked her way up in electoral politics from city councilwoman to governor. That means something, even if her experience is in Alaska. Politics is still politics. An old hand like Pat Buchanan has written: "Of Sarah Palin it can be said. The lady knows how to frame an issue."

Think of this. Is there any skill more important for a poltician in electoral politics than framing an issue?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Liberal Ignorance (about Conservatives)

As trite as it is to bring this up. Liberals don't really know much about conservatives. And that starts with the president.

A journeyman blogger like John Hawkins posts an article like "Seven Huge Flaws in the Way Liberal Think" on a regular basis. Whether he's right or he's wrong, he's still thinking about the foundations of liberal thought.

President Obama seems to be as bad as anyone. JSF at Valley of the Shadow puts it succinctly.

President Obama has a Huffington Post understanding of the Right, or the Right as seen from the Left. Not once has he ever spoken to a Conservative to understand his or her views.

This of course is a consequence of the liberal hegemony in media and the academy. Liberals in the political class can live lives completely cut off from conservative ideas and culture. And, as you might say, they like it that way.

The problem is that politics is civil war by other means. You need to know as much as you can about the enemy. You need to know where his troops are; you need to know what he is thinking. You need to have an idea about how he is likely to react to your actions. You have to constantly work at this, because it is easy to avoid hard choices and unpleasant news.

The biggest problem with ideas is the things you know that aren't so. That is what "Seven Huge Flaws" is all about:

  1. Liberals believe they can change human nature
  2. Liberals believe we can talk everything out with our enemies
  3. Liberals don't have enough respect for our culture and traditions
  4. Liberalism is a fundamentally immoral political philosophy
  5. Liberals believe merely being liberal makes them good people
  6. Liberals have too much faith in government
  7. Liberals have minimal interest in whether the programs they support work or not

Read the whole thing to get into the details. Hawkins is detailing the beliefs not just of liberals but of President Obama, and he is explaining the reasons why liberals know so little about conservatives.

Still, liberals are interested in power and you would think that they would do what it takes to learn about the opposition so that they can beat them and keep their power. And yet powerful dynasties decline and fall all the time.

There is still time for liberals and for President Obama to switch onto another track and avoid the train wreck that is coming in November. But the time is very short.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Fox News Most Trusted

You can understand that Fox News star Bill O'Reilly couldn't resist the opportunity to gloat a little. Public Policy Polling, a liberal polling outfit, had just released a poll on TV news pitched as:

Fox News is the only major tv news operation that more Americans trust than distrust.

Here are the results in a convenient table:

News Org.TrustDon't TrustNot Sure
Fox News49%37%15%
ABC News31%46%22%
NBC News35%44%20%
CBS News32%46%22%

If you are a liberal, I dare say, these results tell you what you have known all along, that the American people are uneducated and ignorant. How could the American people believe that Fox is a serious news organization?

If you are a conservative listening to you liberal friend railing against the stupidity of the American people, you chuckle to yourself and mutter: Go ahead, punk. Make my day.

Because for our liberal friends not to take a poll like this seriously is an act of plain foolishness. It's the news equivalent of always branding Republican presidents as dunces.

But we conservatives wish our liberal friends well. They are, after all, Americans too, although grievously corrupted by the political and cultural power they have amassed over the last century. So here is a little primer to tell our liberal friends, in a fair and balanced way, why it makes complete sense that Fox News is Americans' most trusted news network.

  1. Americans tilt conservative. The poll reminds us of this: 14% liberal, 47% moderate, 39% conservative. Of course conservatives are going to prefer to get their news from a conservative source, just as liberals like to get their news from the liberal New York Times.
  2. The mainstream media really overdid things in 2008. Listen: everyone falls in love, but the MSM love affair with Candidate Obama really was over the top. People notice when other people are in love. It's written all over them.
  3. President Obama is governing left-liberal. His ObamaCare is classic union liberalism. It reduces life to a monthly payment and outsources risk to others. The great middle in America wants to live life, not receive a monthly benefit. His cap-and-trade is classic educated-class liberalism. It hands over the US economy to the tender mercies and the suffocating rules of the government experts.
  4. Many independents reacted immediately and negatively to Obama's fiscal policy a year ago. Naturally they will look to a news organization that reflects and confirms their views.
  5. Many Americans feel that President Obama is not working on the one issue that they care about. Fixing the economy.

And so on. There are all kinds of ways in which you can argue against this. Go ahead, it's a free country.

But liberals and Democrats should understand that there is a perfect storm brewing. This poll is a severe storm warning. It will take political ability, hard work, and sheer luck for Democrats to avoid a devastating wipeout this year. The time to start shuttering the windows and doubling up the tie-downs is now.

Don't say you weren't warned!