Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Crossing a Line

Ever since ObamaCare passed last week I have had the feeling that the Democrats have crossed a line.

You can do the normal comparison: suppose a Republican president had done that?

Suppose a Republican president had pushed an unpopular bill through the Congress on a strict partisan vote with a bare majority of his own party in favor and a bipartisan minority opposing? Suppose the president had used questionable arguments in his speeches: that despite enlarging the scope of government, things would stay the same for most Americans and overall cost less per person? Suppose that angry Democrats had got up at the town halls of Republican congressmen and been summarily removed by the cops? Suppose a Democrat had been elected senator from Utah in the middle of all this on a platform to be the vote to stop it? And suppose after it passed the Republican president piled on with partisan rhetoric, such as President Obama has used, accusing Republicans of aining to oppose his plan from the beginning?

Yeah. The rage on the left would be deafening. And if that weren't enough, it would be strongly amplified by the mainstream media. After all, think of the stink the left made over the Iraq War, for which President Bush received a bi-partisan majority.

There is a feeling of impotence here, a feeling of helplessness. It's a familiar feeling. It seems that it's ok for the left to break the rules, but woe-betide the conservative who even thinks about it.

Shelby Steele has a good line on all this in his article "Obama the Good."

Of the two great societal goals—freedom and "the good"—freedom requires a conservatism, a discipline of principles over the good, limited government, and so on. No way to grandiosity here. But today's liberalism is focused on "the good" more than on freedom. And ideas of "the good" are often a license to transgress democratic principles in order to reach social justice or to achieve more equality or to lessen suffering. The great political advantage of modern liberalism is its offer of license on the one hand and moral innocence—if not superiority—on the other. Liberalism lets you force people to buy health insurance and feel morally superior as you do it. Power and innocence at the same time.

When you present the political divide this way, the necessary conservative strategy falls out naturally.

Conservatives must delegitimize the use of force to achieve "the good." It really isn't too hard to figure out. If you use force to achieve the good what you get isn't good, it's just force. That's why all the big-government programs from mandatory health care to mandatory education to government welfare always fail. Force is force. It isn't good. It isn't just. It isn't equality. The only legitimate use of force is to defeat force.

The great enlightening experience of the last 500 years is that you don't need force to keep society functioning in the day-to-day business of making a living. You can trust "the market," properly reinforced to penalize cheating, to deliver material goods in abundance. Thus you can leave moral questions to the moral/cultural sector and the social instincts of love and hate, guilt and shame, the velvet glove of moral suasion rather than the mailed fist of government power. The political sector can thus concentrate on real threats of force from enemies foreign and domestic, rather than on the chimera of the evil corporation, which threatens non-one.

Government is force. Politics is power. All the rest is "narrative." Let that be the conservative cry.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The March of the Subsidy State

Politics is a business of command and control. You spread your net of political control as far as you can; your purpose is to control an unruly world and unjust world.

Unfortunately, the world won't be controlled. So the dance of control ends in a death spiral, a frantic attempt to control everything that succeeds in commanding nothing.

That's what we see in every area of government activity. Today, President Obama is signing the health bill amendments; it includes the federalization of student loans, a long-time goal of Congressional liberals. No longer will the banks source student loans. Now the Department of Education will do it. There will be billions in "savings," we are told.

Thus does the Subsidy State march onwards, as the Wall Street Journal explains.

The story begins in another progressive heyday, 1965, when the federal government launched a program to make college "affordable" by offering a taxpayer guarantee on student loans. College has if anything become even less affordable since, as the subsidies have merely driven up the prices that colleges charge.

Now the government has taken the student loan program over completely. It won't make college any cheaper. And it will ratchet up the costs for the ordinary taxpayer.

Subsidy is a cruel policy. It takes a free and voluntary activity and subjects it to the rules and power plays of politics and special interests.

There was a time when children went to school for a couple of years while they learned their letters and their numbers. Parents paid for schooling, even poor people. Then children went to work.

Now we force children to school for twelve years, and when they are done, in many cases, they need to learn to read and write.

Yet everyone agrees that education is so expensive that we need the government to provide it.

Not so. Without the subsidies, people would sent their children to inexpensive neighborhood schools run buy the neighborhood women. Then most ordinary children would begin internships or apprenticeships, or maybe just work. They would develop a network of work and life contacts that would serve them for the rest of their lives.

Rich bitches, of course, would still go to college prep schools and go on to selective schools where they would meet the selective people with which they would network for the rest of their lives.

Some day we are going to have to unwind this cruel system of subsidy and "free" services that we call the welfare or entitlement state. Yet with every addition and accretion that our Democratic friends make to this monstrosity, the price of reform, and the size of the eventual disaster ratchets up another notch.

The tragedy is that it will be the poor that suffer most. They already do, with the annihilation of the low-income family and the utter failure of inner-city schools.

But who cares about that when there are millions of votes to win and trillions of dollars to spend?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Shoot the Messenger

The day after ObamaCare passed, big corporations started reporting the impact on their balance sheets or, if you prefer, their profits.

And day after that Democratic committee chairmen announced that the CEOs of the big corporations would be hauled up before Congress to do some 'splaining. Naturally, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) was first out of the gate.

It really does make the point better than any conservative blow-hard or politician.

Government is force. Politics is power.

How dare, how dare the big corporations have the nerve to announce that Obamacare is going to cost them, big time.

Of course there's a Catch 22 involved. The CEOs are criminally liable if they don't immediately report material information like ObamaCare. But the big bullies in Congress will still harass them for messing with their narrative.

Naturally, Congress isn't content merely to bully the CEOs in prime time. Writes Byron York:

Waxman is also demanding that the executives give lawmakers internal company documents related to health care finances -- a move one committee Republican describes as "an attempt to intimidate and silence opponents of the Democrats' flawed health care reform legislation."

And the CEOs can't fight back because Congress regulates them. A big corporation just can't afford to anger the powerful folks in Congress.

Yet there are people who worry about corporate power. We can't have corporations swinging big bucks around to influence elections, they opine.

To which I always reply: who is giving money to whom? Who is bullying whom? Who is doing the cringing? Who is collecting money to be spent by others on buying votes.

The myth of the monster corporations, endlessly retailed by our lefty friends, is the biggest crock since Marx and his labor theory of value. Corporations do not bestride the world like colossi. They are cringing babies, currying favor with political bullies, and wheedling for subsidies and handouts.

And politicians love it. They can bully the corporations when they feel like it. They can hit them up for contributions. They can ride in their executive jets. They can milk them for tax money. And they can fool the voters into believing that, all along, they are fighting for the people against the powerful.

What's not to like, if you are a politician?

What's not to like is that, every now and again, the corporations blind-side you with the facts on what the politicians are doing to the economy.

But not to worry. Just haul the corporations up to a committee meeting and tell them they are rip-off artists. The mainstream media will report your abuse of power as a noble act of political courage.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Look on the Bright Side

It's time to remember the advice of Marine Lt. Gen. "Chesty" Puller. At the Battle of Chosun Reservoir during the Korean War, Puller famously rallied his men with the following words:

We've been looking for the enemy for some time now. We've finally found him. We're surrounded. That simplifies things.

That's where conservatives are today. Let us count the ways.

There are no pro-life Democrats. Not when it counts. Oh there are quite a few Democrats who like to run as pro-life. But when the chips are down and Speaker Pelosi and President Obama are twisting your arm, why then you go with the program.

There are no moderate Democats. Not when it counts. Oh there are quite a few Democrats who would vote the moderate line if it didn't cost them anything. But when the chips are down and Speaker Pelosi... Well, see above.

The Upchuck Factor. I've written about this already. When Democrats are in opposition they talk a good line about transparency and bipartisanship and apple pie. They even invoke Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness when they are cramming Big Government down our throats. But when the American people see the Democrats in full big government cram-down mode, they want to hurl.

End of the "Social Liberal" Divide. All those people that declare themselves to be economically conservative and social liberal have just experienced a nasty shock. It was nice to be socially liberal when tax rates were low and the livin' was easy. But now all that snobbery about the Religious Right doesn't matter any more. We are all conservatives now.

Reckless Overreach. The Dems thought they could do a forced march to the Promised Land of total government takeover, what with a 60 Dem Senate. But it looks like the old proverb still holds, and it's not a good idea to get what you most desire. The spectacle of corruption and insider dealing uber-partisanship has revolted a whole generation of independents.

The Ryan Express. Opposition is good for a political party. It cleans out the starting line-up and creates space for new stars to emerge. I am thinking of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), who has emerged as a voice of common-sense conservatism on the healthcare issue. Why, he's even got an op-ed in The New York Times today.

I could go on. But this is just a blog entry.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Give David Brooks a Break

Over the last few weeks conservatives have been taking it out on David Brooks, the quota conservative columnist at The New York Times.

People have particularly sneered at his piece, "The Wal-Mart Hippies," comparing the Tea Party movement to the New Left of the 1960s. Jonah Goldberg sneered at Brooks here and here.

But this is missing the point. David Brooks is a conservative writing for The new York Times. He's not going to talk to NYT readers the same way he would talk to conservatives.

When you have a gig like Brooks', as the sole conservative in a liberal paper, you have a choice. You can be like Al Hunt, who used to be the sole liberal writing op-eds at The Wall Street Journal. Al used to give Journal readers, week after week, the liberal line. It was useful, because it's helpful to get the liberal line laid out in a 800 word op-ed. But it didn't persuade.

Another approach is the line of Thomas Frank, the current sole liberal op-ed columnist at the Journal. Frank is the author of Whatever Happened to Kansas? in which he wonders why the working stiffs of Kansas are all voting for conservatives against their economic interest. Thomas has chosen to poke Journal readers in the eye. Almost all of his columns are insulting to conservatives, like this one.

But David Brooks has chosen a different approach to NYT readers, so much so that he infuriates conservatives who find that their liberal friends are sending them his columns in the spirit of: See? Here's what a reasonable conservative thinks! Why can't you all be like Brooks?

But I think Brooks is playing a deeper game. He wants to persuade the NYT readers that conservatives really aren't so bad after all. So he writes sympathetically. Do NYT readers sneer at the Tea Party movement? Brooks compares the movement to a movement that his readers know and love, the left-wing movements of the 1960s. Then there's his "educated class" article where he gently informed his educated class readers that they were sitting on top of a land-mine, that average Americans didn't like their rational, technocratic government, and didn't think it represented their interest.

Here's the point. Brooks may actually persuade some of his readers that they have a problem. Isn't that more effective that just parroting the party line or sticking people in the eye?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Dick Morris: In Defeat, Defiance

Old Clinton hand Dick Morris (with Eileen McGann) has exactly my approach to ObamaCare.

He proposes the Churchillian response: In Defeat, Defiance!

That's all very well, of course, but what does he actually propose?

A Four Point Plan, of course, Here it is:

  1. Restore the Medicare cuts
  2. Defeat the Democrats in 2010
  3. Defund the appropriations
  4. Repeal the plan

But we must learn the lesson of the process we have been through.

[T]here is no such thing as a conservative or moderate Democrat. Blue dogs don't exist in real life. Only yellow dogs...

The days when there were Democrats who refused to follow their radical left-wing party line are over...

There are only two kinds of congressmen or senators: Democrats and Republicans. We have had a national education, and it's time to learn from it...

The Democratic victory on Obamacare will prove the most expensive in the party's history. It will lead to the eradication of their majority, the defeat of more than 50 of their congressmen, the switch of Senate control and Republican domination for decades.

Well. That's the kind of stuff we need after a stunning defeat. Stirring words. A glorious vision. All it lacks is the logistics and the training and the marching and the decisive battles in November 2010 and 2012.

Not to mention Jesse Unruh's famous dictum: "Money is the mother's milk of politics."

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Evolution and the Administrative State

Have you noticed? In the United States we have a political party that champions science, evolution, relativistic social mores, especially where sex rears its head--and it also champions the rigid one-size-fits-all administrative state.

The other party champions religion, fixed social mores, especially in sexual relations--and it also favors the flexible, evolutionary system of free enterprise and voluntary association.

Interesting, innit?

Our Democratic friends are champions of Darwinian evolution. But they draw the line strongly at Social Darwinism and Herbert Spencer, who opposed state aid to the poor and public education and extended the idea of natural selection to "social selection." Susan Jacoby, in Freethinkers, knows that respectable evolution stops precisely at Spencer, called by Richard Hofstadter, "the metaphysician of the homemade intellectual and the prophet of the cracker-barrel agnostic." Which means, presumably: Don't read him!

Republicans like to dabble in the murky waters of Intelligent Design, yet they support the ruthless evolutionary process of capitalism and the "creative destruction" of once proud industries. Yet they also believe in charity and giving.

In the months and years ahead, as the culture war expands in the aftermath of ObamaCare, it will be well to understand and map out the curious contradictions of this ideological landscape.

The postmodernists would say it is all about power, and they are probably right. But we must be alive to other possibilities.

In the great political conflict that lies before us, the most important thing to start with is a good map, to know the lay of the land and the roads upon it. The second thing is good intelligence about the enemy.

Why are Democrats so big on evolution? Is it just because it is a way to stick the dagger into organized religion? Or is there something else we need to understand?

Why are Democrats so big on the administrative welfare state? Is it just because of the power that it gives to the educated class? Or is there something else we need to know?

These are the questions we must start with as we work to mobilize the American people into a great movement of rejection.

The corrupt, cruel, unjust, wasteful and deluded administrative state shall not stand. The United States was not founded to deliver the American people into the hands of an administrative state that combines the worst features of feudalism and absolute monarchy.

On Sunday, Nancy Pelosi had to chutzpah to tie her rigid administrative health care plan to the great American vision of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

We now pledge ourselves to the proposition that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is, in fact, something very different, that the American people long for something different and that, in the end, the American people will get what they want, whatever the liberal elite may think.

Think of the horrible social Darwinism of the 19th century. Despite what you have been told it experienced a dramatic turn in mortality. Before the Industrial Revolution, Gregory Clark writes in A Farewell to Alms, there was downward mobility in Britain, as fewer of the poor survived and the children of the rich slid downwards on the backs of the middle class and the children of the middle class slid downwards on the backs of the poor. But starting in about 1800, Britain experienced upward mobility, as more and more of the poor survived and moved up the social scale.

That's interesting. In the ruthless economy of the early industrial revolution the Malthusian/Darwinian system actually reversed. In the social evolutionary system of industrial creative destruction the poor thrived and prospered.

And that was way before the rosy-fingered dawn of the administrative welfare state.

As the liberal college professor said: More research is needed.

Because maybe the social Darwinism of the market economy actually favors the survival and the prosperity of the poor. Even if liberals know it isn't so.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Myth of the Moderate Democrat

Despite the sting of defeat, we move today into a new world, for the winds of "change" have cleared away the fog of war.

We know that when you send a Democrat to Congress you are sending that Democrat to expand government.

Never mind what the Democrat says, what sweet words he utters about family and the will of the people. Never mind if he really believes that stuff.

When push comes to shove, as we certainly understand from the shenanigans of ObamaCare, Democrats will fall behind the liberal leaders and vote the party line. The fact that some of them will vote against a party line vote like the vote in the House on Sunday just goes to prove the rule.

Just from the needs of practical politics you want to minimize the damage. You want to let as many Democrats in conservative districts vote with their constituents as possible. But one way or another, the arms have to be twisted to make the result come out right. The conservative Democrat you send to Washington is still a supporter of liberal measures, is still a vote for big government.

Now the fight goes on, and if you need something to give you heart, read Newt's screed this morning: "This Will Not Stand:"

The Obama-Pelosi-Reid machine combined the radicalism of Alinsky, the corruption of Springfield and the machine power politics of Chicago.

Sunday was a pressured, bought, intimidated vote worthy of Hugo Chavez but unworthy of the United States of America...

The ruthlessness and inhumanity of the Obama-Pelosi-Reid machine was most clearly on display in their public humiliation of Stupak.

The real principles of the machine were articulated by Democratic Congressman Alcee Hastings who was impeached and removed from the bench as a federal judge, before being elected to the House when he said ""There ain't no rules here, we're trying to accomplish something. . . .All this talk about rules. . . .When the deal goes down . . . we make 'em up as we go along."

Thank you for making this so clear Mr. Hastings. For you, it's all about the power.

But, as one of the French leftist radicals in the revolutionary movement of 1968 that removed President de Gaulle from office came to realize, the great value of bourgeois democracy is the rules, the list of things that people agree not to do, the limits on the power of the powerful.

Ever since Marx in the 19th century the left has clearly flagged that it doesn't believe in no stinkin' rules. iTS philosophy has been a philosophy of power, because, it argues, the rules of the middle-class state are a fraud, an apology for middle-class power that oppress the working class and the poor.

There is at least a grain of truth in this. The poor and the working class are peculiarly vulnerable to the power of the market because they have so little to offer in the great exchange.

But the middle-class state offers the protection of its rules to everyone. It limits power so that the powerful are constrained. When the power of the powerful is limited then the poor are protected just as much as the middle class. Perhaps more.

What we have seen over the last months is the power of the powerful in league against the people. The ruling Democrats cut deals with the powerful so that they could get their legislation through. They did deals with insurance companies and drug companies to buy their support.

That is always the way of politics. It always ends up being a conspiracy of the powerful against the people. The only way to avoid it is by keeping the government small so that the people can be large.

Now we shall see if the American people will really rally to Newt's banner and insist that the Democrats' power play "shall not stand."

But that is what politics is all about.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Non-liberal Socialization

Liberals want to socialize everyone the same: boys and girls, rich and poor, educated and uneducated.

They want this because they want to rule us using the administrative method, and they want all our social institutions to be modeled after the hierarchical bureaucracy.

With the bureaucratic model every person is an interchangeable cog in the machine. You need uniform people, uniformly socialized, to live in that society.

And let it be said: liberals think that this uniform socialization is the very best thing in the world, the very acme of equality, evolution and justice.

But, as Dennis Prager writes, when the government gets bigger, the people get smaller.

Among the things left and right, religious and secular, agree on is that one of the few real needs human beings have is to be needed.

When we are not needed, life feels pointless.

The way that men feel needed is through their work. The way that women feel needed is through their love.

Many women feel particularly alive when needed by their young children; many men feel worthy when needed by their family and/or their work.

This begins in childhood.

Give a boy a special task -- just about any task -- and he blossoms. Give a girl a person -- in fact, almost any living being -- who depends on her, and she blossoms.

Notice that in the world of bureaucratic administration there is no special. And there is no person to look after. There are only the rules, and the administrator or the clerk must always act according to the rules.

There is an exception to this: the power politician, who may do as he pleases.

Prager goes on to talk about how government shreds people of their sense of importance. "The more the state does, the less its citizens are needed to do."

Everything is set up in the liberal administrative state to strip people of their importance and to create uniformity. We conservatives must understand that every uniform administrative structure is an enemy of freedom and a life of meaning. Because to a cog in the bureaucratic machine, everything is pointless.

There was a time when progressive people indicted the commercial-industrial capitalist economy for this. Mines, textile mills, and factories were accused of making people into automatons, to be thrown away when exhausted. Today these same people complain more about the sameness and uniformity of consumer goods and less about the factories. That's probably because there is less backbreaking assembly-line labor today as the manufacturing sector has automated and freed up workers for less arduous work. So the critics must find new things to criticize.

In the new world of the internet, why do we need uniform, soul-destroying schools that make children think that life is pointless? Why do we need uniform, soul-destroying government health systems? Why do we need uniform, soul-destroying government welfare systems that make lower-income men think that life is pointless?

There's an agenda here for conservatives. It is our job to resocialize America away from the uniform, administrative, bureaucratic method. And show Americans that there can be a world in which everyone is needed.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

We Should Thank the Democrats

The editors at National Review put out a defiant challenge to Democrats today, telling them that passing ObamaCare is just the beginning.

Are they right? Or just blowing smoke at the Democrats?

For now, they are just blowing smoke. Just like the Democrats who are saying that it's a done deal and ObamaCare will pass and the people like it, they really like it.

I've written that ObamaCare is a shame and it will hurt the American people. So I think that the best thing is for ObamaCare to lose and never get into the statute books.

But the partisan in me thanks the Democratss every day for provoking what may the the Clausewitzian "decisive battle" on the welfare state.

Although we have seen major advances in the power of the welfare state in the 1930s and the 1960s when Democrats had big majorities in Congress, the fact is that it has also advanced year by year with micro-advances that have been difficult to oppose. One more government program for education, or for child health care or for green jobs doesn't seem like much, and it is hard to say: No.

It's like seducing a woman. If you gently, kindly work on her, a baby step at a time, you will eventually succeed. Because almost all women believe in love, and cannot resist the idea that someone loves them. The only happiness in life, wrote Georges Sand the French woman writer, is to love and be loved.

But the Obama Democrats have rejected the arts of seduction for the peremptory command to lie back and think of England. And that sort of treatment women resent.

So there's a good chance that the ObamaCare campaign could result in a great reverse for the welfare state, as the battles of Stalingrad and Kursk marked the turn of the tide for Nazi expansion.

It could prove a high-water mark for the administrative Bismarkian state.

We conservatives believe that social programs should be truly social. They should not be bureaucratic programs backed up by government force. They should be part of a great organic whole of give and take, sharing and caring, giving and receiving, of humans as social animals. The US was well on the way to implementing such a system in the late 19th century. But then came the Progressives (grandfathers of our liberals) and their faith in the administrative state. They smashed the growing array of sociable associations in which people obtained safety, security, and fellow feeling, and replaced them with uncaring government programs.

So a monumental failure by ObamaCare, either by withdrawal of the current package or by repeal in a year or two, would open the public square to alternatives.

And then we could all start over, and get to work on a system of social arrangements that was truly social, truly just, and truly worthy of the United States of America.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Beyond School Choice

As the nation's education system continues to rot, President Obama has come up with a revision of No Child Left Behind that rewards success, lets states define their own standards, and fires teachers at failing schools (maybe).

Conservatives continue to advance school choice, principally in promoting charter schools, public schools freed from some bureaucratic standards. Paul E. Peterson, in The Wall Street Journal, discusses the need to ramp up charter schools from 3 percent of students to 50 percent in order to get US education to compete with the rest of the world.

Harvard's Martin West and German economist Ludger Woessmann examined the impact of school choice on the performance of 15-year-old students in 29 industrialized countries. They discovered that the greater the competition between the public and private sector, the better all students do in math, science and reading. Their findings imply that expanding charters to include 50% of all students would eventually raise American students' math scores to be competitive with the highest-scoring countries in the world.

Peterson adds that education is about to be revolutionized by "powerful notebook computers, broadband and the open-source development of curricular materials (a la Wikipedia)." Competition in education is bound to improve results.

Not to mention the YouTube videos of Kahn Academy.

But I want to go further. I want to challenge the very notion that the best way to raise children is by compulsory incarceration in schools for K-12. For inspiration I have looked into the past, in the era before the centralized bureaucratic method had triumphed.

I found that the typical childhood education experience included two to four years in a school that taught basic literacy and numeracy, followed by apprenticeship at twelve or thirteen. Very often, of course, the child (usually a boy) would leave home at that point.

In other words, work started in the early teens, but education continued. The whole idea of the apprenticeship system was a contract between master and apprentice in which the apprentice would provide cheap labor and the master would teach a trade.

The big advantage of this system, it seems to me, is that most people can afford it. It is ludicrous to expect parents themselves to fund twelve years of indifferent incarcerated schooling. But most people, I'll bet, could afford a few years of elementary school, especially if they pitched in as volunteers.

And most people really don't want to go to college. That's because most people aren't interested in the best ideas that have been thought. They just want to get a job. In practice, of course, most colleges are just teaching job preparation skills. Most students want a vocational education and major in business, health care, or some technical subject. It's just that a century ago, children started on their job skills ten years earlier.

It would be quite simple to set up a system that allowed kids to transition into a practical education in their early teens. All that we would need is to adjust the child labor laws and the minimum wage. And there lies the rub.

If you look under the blanket you realize that the whole point of child labor laws and the minimum wage is to push kids and unskilled people out of the labor market, to eliminate their competition. It's not the kids that are yelling for restrictions on their labor market participation. If you check out anecdotal stories of child labor you'll find that kids prefer work to school.

The overriding principle of social policy should be to make it as easy as possible for people to live and work without having to lean on government. If you look at government's big programs, you notice that the maze of subsidies and assistance tends to make it at first difficult, and then impossible for people to function without government. The rules, the requirements, the certifications all combine to make schooling, health care, housing very expensive. They make it so expensive that the average person can't afford it without assistance.

I have a vision. It's a vision of a sociable society where Americans combine a sturdy independence with a generous safety net of cooperative and sociable associations. It's so independent and so generous and so sociable that it doesn't need any help from government. Government keeps to its core functions: defense against enemies foreign and domestic.

What a concept!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Howell Raines, Media Dinosaur

We conservatives have our little blind spots. One of them is that MSM journalists get it.

In other words, when they go on and on about objective journalism and the horrors of Fox News they understand that, as the postmodernists say, they are reciting a narrative, a narrative that justifies their power.

To run the kind of stories they run, to consistently bias towards the liberal point of view, as in the recent Toyota acceleration crisis, when the MSM was parroting the line of left-wing consumer groups and the plaintiffs' bar, you have to run under a world view that imagines that you are the noble objective journalists, and everyone else is biased.

If you had an ounce of self-consciousness, if you'd done a speck of reading, you would know that your pious affirmations of objectivity were, at the very least, self-serving.

But the reality probably is that many MSM journalists are liberal fundamentalists. They believe the dogma and they have never stopped to apply any higher criticism to their beliefs. They are happy to rail against Biblical fundamentalists, but are utterly blind to their own fundamentalisms.

So what are we to think about the screed by Howell Raines published in The Washington Post on Sunday?

You see, Raines has had something tugging at his professional conscience as the debate swirled over the last year on ObamaCare.

Why haven't America's old-school news organizations blown the whistle on Roger Ailes, chief of Fox News, for using the network to conduct a propaganda campaign against the Obama administration -- a campaign without precedent in our modern political history?

You mean, compared to the anti-Bush campaign supported by the mainstream media for the last eight years?

You see, Raines feels that Fox News has been dishonestly pushing the line that Americans don't want health care reform. On the contrary, writes Raines,

The American people and many of our great modern presidents have been demanding major reforms to the health-care system since the administration of Teddy Roosevelt.

Actually, I checked. Back in the platform of Teddy Roosevelt's Progressive Party they were calling for a uniform system of "public health," whatever that means. Let's amend those remarks. Liberals and liberal presidents have been demanding that government run the nation's health care since the turn of the 20th century.

Raines is forced to confront an ugly truth.

For the first time since the yellow journalism of a century ago, the United States has a major news organization devoted to the promotion of one political party.

It seems incredible that Raines, as editor of The New York Times has slept through the last ten years in which the partisan bias of the liberal media has been decisively exposed. Especially when you consider the 2008 campaign in which the mainstream media just about fell down in raptures before Candidate Barack Obama.

But let us give Raines the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he really does believe that stuff. Maybe he really thinks that New York media types like him are objective, lordly arbiters that sit astride the media world like gods, dispensing objective wisdom.

That's really the most likely explanation. Never underestimate the capacity of the human for self-delusion. Everyone that Howell lunches with is outraged at Fox News, so it must be so.

But one thing in Raines's article I must protest. He writes of "historical context, usually in short supply on Fox News." (How would he know? Does he watch Fox News?) In fact, Fox News personalities like Glenn Beck go out of their way to provide historical context on liberalism. That's why Glenn Beck began his recent CPAC speech with the declaration that he hated Woodrow Wilson. Beck has been spending a lot of time on his show recently developing a historical context for today's mad liberal plunge towards a social-democratic state. Partisan or not, it is historical context that you won't get on the mainstream media.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Rotation of Power

The essence of governing is to let the other guys have a turn.

My Greek friend George Maroutsos used to teach me the essence of democracy as it applied to Greece after the fall of the Greek colonels back in the 1970s. The point was to elect the left, then defeat them in duly constituted elections. The key is that, when defeated, the ruling party leaves office. And then the other party takes power, gets defeated, and leaves office.

The great fear of all partisans is that the other guys will cheat. They will cancel the elections. They will stage a coup. Al Haig will declare: "I am in control!" So the one essential thing is that you can defeat the rascals in office, send them packing, and they actually leave office. That is the one big guarantee of peace.

The corollary of this truth is that, for your side to prosper, you must put the other guys in to face reality. That's what I argued back in 2008. We had to put the Dems in charge of the War on Terror. Let them face the situation that Bush and Cheney faced in 2001/02. Let them really decide if they want to bring the troops home by a date certain.

As we have seen, the Obama administration, despite all its "reset" and "soft power" talk, has doubled down on Afghanistan and is now taking credit for the successful elections in Iraq. Reality rules.

It is also running up against reality on health care, climate, energy, and a host of other issues on which liberals have been talking to each other in an echo chamber for years.

You and I believe that the liberals are wrong, dead wrong, on all these issues. But the only way for us to win is for them to try and to fail at their ideas. They won't listen to us. They are smarter than we are. So they have to learn the hard way.

Columnist Charles Krauthammer says all this and more in his regular column today: "In Praise of the Rotation of Power." Suppose Bush or McCain were still in power and escalating our involvement in Afghanistan, he asks?

Do you think if John McCain, let alone George W. Bush, were president, we would not see growing demonstrations protesting our continued presence in Iraq and the escalation of Afghanistan? That we wouldn't see a serious push in Congress to cut off funds?

Exactly. And then, Krauthammer adds, there's Guantanamo and the KSM trial where the Obamis are learning all about reality. All good and healthy.

Next up is the Obami challenge to the Reagan recipe of governance.

The Reaganite dispensation of low taxes, less regulation and reliance on markets should be challenged lest it become merely rote and dogmatic. Obama has offered a bracingly thorough attack on that dispensation with his unapologetic embrace of a social democratic agenda whose essence -- more centralized government exercising its power through radical health care, energy and education reform -- is the overthrow of Reaganism.

All to the good. Either Obama will succeed, and the American people will accede to his social democratic agenda, or they will throw it and him out. At the end of it we will have a solid disposition of Reaganism and all it stands for.

We really need to come to closure on Reaganism. For thirty years the liberals have been saying that Reaganism was all a mirage and a mistake. The economy didn't really heal itself. People didn't really prosper. The Societ Union would have collapsed anyway.

Well, now they are getting the chance to prove Reagan wrong with their administrative state solutions to health care, energy, finance, size of government, everything.

I say good luck to them. Because they are going to need more than luck to avoid the biggest political meltdown of our lives.

The sad thing is that Democratic supporters that will suffer the most. Because those are the folks that have put their trust in government. I am not talking about gentry liberals. They will do fine. No, I am talking about ordinary Americans that believe the liberal line: teachers, government workers, seniors, etc. You may say that they deserve it, that they ought to have known better. But I think it's a shame.

Meanwhile let us sit back and watch as the Democrats twist themselves into pretzels over their unpopular health care proposals. They will learn an important lesson that may keep the Democratic Party sane and sensible for a generation.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Why ObamaCare is a Dem Donkey Trap

Conservatives and other opponents of ObamaCare have been flapping on about "consent of the governed" as the Democrats twist this way and that to get out of their box canyon.

Michael Barone has just summed up the Dems' problem pretty well. So let's go with it. He writes of three cases to consider when trying to pass legislation:

You can pass popular legislation on party-line votes, and you usually get some support from the other side, even if unsolicited.

The Dems passed Medicare on this basis, and on final passage they picked up Republican votes. But what about unpopular legislation? The way to do it is the method used to pass the TARP bailout of the banks.

TARP was passed, after one misfire in the House, by bipartisan coalitions of members of both parties with safe seats. Members of both parties with vulnerable seats, with only a few exceptions, were left to protect themselves by voting against it.

But, of course, that is not the strategy being used by the Dems to pass ObamaCare. They thought they could ram it through on a party-line vote. Probably, they thought, a year ago, that they would be able to swing public opinion their way and bully the Republicans into voting for it. But they failed to move public opinion. In fact, every time that ObamaCare gets into the news the president's approval numbers go down, as yesterday when the president hit -21 on the bellwhether Rasmussen Poll. The poll for the last few months has shown steady erosion in the president's strong supporters.

There's a reason it's hard to pass unpopular legislation on party-line votes. It's not the Senate rules. It's called democracy.

In other words, if you are trying to pass unpopular legislation and the opposition thinks that it is a bad idea and the American people also think that it's a bad idea you really have a problem.

Let's rehearse this into a simple set of rules.

  1. Governing elite split, American people in favor: Pass
  2. Governing elite united, American people opposed: Pass
  3. Governing elite split: American people split: Pass
  4. Governing elite split, Americn people opposed: Problem!
Everybody got it?

The Democrats are now trying to solve their problem by proposing to pass ObamaCare without even having a vote in the House. They are considering a rule in the House to "deem" it passed.

My advice to Dems. Don't do it. You cannot imagine the rage you will provoke if you try to get ObamaCare through by cheating. As the French 68ers said years ago, the whole point of bourgeois democracy is the process. It's the process that keeps people from forming a head of rebellion. Smash the process and you smash your legitimacy.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Conservatives as Reactionaries

Liberals just can't get enough of the idea that conservatives are reactionaries, trying to turn the clock back.

So you would expect that the Wall Street Journal's tame liberal, Thomas Frank, would be eager to take a whack at the subject whenever he gets a convenient hook.

Mostly though he is outraged that Glenn Beck hates college professor President Woodrow Wilson. OK, so Wilson vetoed prohibition; Beck had that wrong. But he did push the Fed, the income tax, and of course nasty attacks on potential subversives during World War I.

Note to Frank: Beck hates Wilson probably because he has read Jonah Goldberg's bestselling Liberal Fascism. Jonah does a dandy job of explaining why Wilson is the author of all our troubles, and the First Fascist.

But are conservatives really reactionaries? Hardly. Modern conservatives don't want to turn the clock back to the middle ages. That's what liberals want to do, with their hierarchical neo-feudal welfare state. Modern conservatives echo the philosophy of Edmund Burke. We want slow, sensible reform that is sensible of the responsibility the current generation has to honor the ancestors and think of the generations yet unborn.

To suggest, as Frank does, that conservatives are the "emotional descendants of the squalid royalists who reconquered Europe after the French Revolution was extinguished" is bunk. Conservatives don't oppose the French Revolution because we believe in the divine right of kings. We oppose it because all such revolutionary spasms end in the guillotine, with ordinary people getting totally screwed by monsters like Robespierre, Lenin, and Mao.

On the other hand, we conservatives do worry that liberals are developing a curious case of the divine right of liberals to rule in defiance of public opinion.

We conservatives look forward with hope, to a land of limited government, of voluntary exchange, of thriving moral communities, and generous provision for the poor. Our dream is that this can all be done without liberals like Thomas Frank bossing us around with trillion dollar government programs.

Now maybe that vision is utterly romantic and pie in the sky. But it is not backward looking.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

By-the-numbers Conservatism

There are all kinds of conservatives and all kinds of conservatism.

Some people say there are three kinds of conservatives: economic, social, and national-security.

Then there's Ken Blackwell's six-legged stool: social conservatives, Christian conservatives, Second Amendment conservatives, economic conservatives, philosophical conservatives, national security conservatives.

How many conservatives does it take to change a light-bulb?

But for my money, the guy to watch is John Hawkins. You could call him a by-the-numbers conservative. Today, he's got "Five Ways Liberals Misjudge the American People." That's a helpful thing to know when liberals are about to cram down a government takeover of health care down your throat. It gives you hope that, when they are actually asked what they want, the American people will want the monstrosity of ObamaCare repealed.

How do liberals misjudge the American people? Hawkins counts the ways:

  1. They believe the American people want liberal policies.
  2. They believe that many Americans don't know what's in their own best interests.
  3. They believe that the American people want to be treated like children.
  4. They believe that most conservatives are evil.
  5. They believe they can lie to the American people without consequence.

Hawkins does a nice job of tossing these notions up in the air and snapping at them. But let us step back a moment. When you look at the five things that liberals believe about the American people that ain't so, you realize something.

If you wanted to cram down your agenda on the American people then you'd have to believe these things. You'd need to believe them in order to convince yourself that your cruel, corrupt, unjust program is the soul of caring, compassion, and justice. Of course the American want liberal things, except for those (in Kansas) that don't get it. Of course the American people want to be taken care of, otherwise the eevil corporations will get them. Of course conservatives are evil: they oppose all the good things that liberals want to do.

And of course it's necessary to tell a porky or two. Didn't Plato condone the "noble lie" so that the Guardians could create and sustain their Republic?

What I find astonishing, given the wall-to-wall liberal environment in which we live, is that something like the Tea Party movement is possible. As Hawkins says:

Your kids are exposed to liberalism at school, Hollywood forces liberal ideas down your throat when you watch TV, the local paper leans left -- you just can't get away from it.

So how come you can get, all of a sudden, out of a clear blue sky, a Tea Party movement with people waving Don't Tread on Me flags? These are not profound intellectuals who have studied the classics off in a corner at Hillsdale College. These are bread-and-butter Americans who go to work, obey the law, and pay their taxes. Yet they have somehow picked up a world-view that collides head on with their liberal masters.

As the philosophers say: How is that possible?

Like liberals, I sometimes think that we conservatives don't understand the American people at all!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Lack of Trust in Dem Congress

I captured an interesting comment from former Majority Leader Tom DeLay over the weekend. He was critiquing the Pelosi operation in the house. Let's look at his comment in full.

DeLay accused Democrats of “arrogance” after CNN host Candi Crowley asked DeLay how House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have a Democrat-controlled House, Senate and White House, but haven’t been able to secure passage of President Obama’s health-care bill.

“It’s because they’re going back in rooms and then telling the members, take it or leave it. You can’t do that. It’s obvious,” he said.

DeLay contrasted Pelosi’s handling of the health-care bill process to when he was in the Republican leadership and “knew which members were having problems and we’d take care of those problems so that by the time it got to the floor, they wanted to vote for it because they had ownership of it.”

But now, he explained, “Nancy Pelosi writes the bill, hands it to the chairman, says ‘get it out of committee in an hour and we’re going to the floor, we’re going to debate it and I’ll break arms if you vote against me.’ That will come to haunt you and bring you down.”

This speaks volumes. It means that when the wind turns against Nancy Pelosi it will turn hard. Maybe it already did.

We often complain of the way that politics works, the log-rolling, the back-scratching. But it's done that way because it works that way. Members of Congress are not nobodies that can be bullied around. At least, not much. And the closer that wavering members come to November 2010 the less they are likely to vote with the leaders.

In fact, we are seeing the fundamental weakness of the Democratic strategy since 2005. The idea was to get moderates and conservatives elected in Republican leaning districts. That's fine, so long as you have a moderate agenda to enact when you get into office. That way you build confidence and trust and maybe a permanent majority.

But that's not what the Dems did. Once they won control of Congress and the presidency they threw all the moderate talk overboard and went for a partisan, left-wing agenda. But that's not what the swing Democrats were elected to do.

Conservatives have a similar situation: the RINO problem. Republicans from states in the North East have not been willing to vote the conservative agenda. No wonder. Their constituents didn't want it. But conservatives hated their timidity. Yet the moderate Republicans kept the GOP from doing what the Democrats are now doing. Going way off the center ground and leaving it wide open for the other party.

The way you avoid conflict and dangerous polarization in politics is by nudging the political center a little bit in your direction and then coming back next year for more. This strategy is the despair of partisans (like me) but it is the decent thing to do. People from the center and from the other party are Americans too. They deserve the right to have their voices heard and to feel that, even if they are out of power, they have an input into the governance of the nation.

I remain convinced that the Democrats are making a major strategic mistake that will echo through the politics of the nation for decades. But try telling Democrats that! Try getting them to listen to good old Tom DeLay, the former small businessman with a pest-control business.

Still, it's often best to learn the hard way. That way you really learn the lesson, good and hard.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Avoiding Conflict Avoidance

In the official liberal belief system, the key to it all is "conflict avoidance." Because if only we could avoid conflict then everyone could live in peace and justice.

Er, no. Not quite, chaps. In reality, life in the world is all about conflict. We humans, occasionally, create a moment in which conflict recedes to the margin. But not really. Conflict still continues, but in a sublimated form. Thus, in politics, we fight civil war by other means.

Against the liberal notion of conflict avoidance, I believe we should understand conflict, its rhythm and its typical human manifestations, and use that knowledge to make society work better--and families and churches and associations, for that matter.

That's why I think that we need President Obama and his Democratic friends to pass their awful ObamaCare legislation. They have done the American people a huge favor by overreaching on health care. They could have got to ObamaCare eventually, by slowly ratcheting up the level of government intervention, by turning every health care problem into an argument for more government.

But they didn't. They went for the whole Kahuna. And the American people woke up and decided they hated it.

So now we have a once-in-a-generation chance to make a huge national statement against Big Government. Not a government that slowly encroaches upon Americans and their freedom. In this case it is a government that is lunging towards a huge increase in government power.

In November, we have a chance to make the election about a single issue. The issue is simple: Repeal the Deal. Repeal the huge increase in government power. Repeal the huge increase in taxes. Repeal the huge increase in government boards and bureaucracies. Turn America around and make a statement for freedom and against government power.

Americans can always be tempted into signing on to some delicious subsidy that gives them something for nothing. We are all tempted by that kind of offer. But the Democrats in their hubris, going for the big historic achievement, have made a mistake. They have accidentally framed the issue in Republican, conservative terms.

Anyone can believe that a neat little subsidy might be rather nice. But nobody can believe that a huge bureaucratic government program is going to deliver better health care to the average American than the private sector.

So let's thank the Democrats. And let's not avoid the necessary conflict ahead. We are going to have to fight this battle over the size of government some day, and the time to fight a battle is when your side has the best chance of winning. I'd say that the current situation heavily favors the Republican side this fall.

Suppose that a new Republican Congress is elected on the platform of Repeal the Deal? What does the president do then? What does the MSM do then? Do they say that the American people were confused? That the American people are wrong?

Or do they admit that the new Congress was elected with a mandate, a mandate to repeal the cruel and unjust health legislation passed in a blur of corruption and Chicago bare-knuckle politics?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Obama's Four Porkies

Everything about ObamaCare is smoke and mirrors, starting with the idea that the system is broke. But the president did us the courtesy of actually listing the four things that ain't so in his health plan, writes Jon Ward of The Daily Caller. Ready?

  1. It's not a government takeover. OK, technically it isn't. But the government will increase government supervision by a very big leap. It's the closest thing to a takeover without putting the entire health industry on the federal budget.
  2. Republicans want to protect the insurance industry. If only. Who cares about the bloody insurance companies? It's the root and branch government regulation of health care that we care about and that we want to eliminate.
  3. Obama's plan will reduce premiums. In your dreams, pal.
  4. Obama's plan will reduce the federal deficit. Technically, the president has a point. But he will reduce the deficit by smoke and mirrors and by increasing taxes by more than the increase in spending. That's not what Americans mean when they talk about reducing the deficit.

I've been saying that we need Obama to pass his bill so that we can mount a vast national campaign to repeal it. Now Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) is chiming in. He said in an interview reported by Jon Ward:

[I]f Democrats use a little-known procedure to pass health care reform it will spark an “instant movement to repeal the law.”

Alexander, in an interview on Fox News, said that this “movement” would “dominate every single congressional race in November.”

Not that he's planning to start such a movement. He is just assuming that the movement will come out of the woodwork, and I think he's right.

David Warren has recently said that Barack Obama is the best thing for conservatism since Ronald Reagan. And that brings up the tricky question. How do we know that Obama isn't a Manchurian Candidate, brainwashed years ago by mysterious Republican operatives into becoming a ideological bomb to demolish the Democratic Party?

Keep on with those porkies, Mr. President. You're driving independents away from the Democrats in droves.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Consent of the Governed

Today, according to reports, the president will announce that he is going for "reconciliation," the tactic of passing his huge ObamaCare reform through the Congress by a method that is intended to reconcile budget disagreements between the two houses of Congress.

Some have said that in doing this, the president "crosses the Rubicon," after the famous act of Julius Caesar in marching his army across that river in his march on Rome.

The Wall Street Journal edit page calls his act simply "An Abuse of Power."

But I would say that it goes beyond that. In trying to force their unpopular bill through Congress the Democrats show that they misunderstand the whole point of constitutional government and democratic politics.

And that point is encapsulated in the first great document of the American founding, the Declaration of Independence. Here is what it says.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

When the Government so instituted passes legislation clearly without the consent of the governed, then you have a pre-revolutionary situation. You have a situation in which some people will say that the Government has abrogated its right to exercise its powers because they are no longer just.

The whole point of the "consent of the governed" and "limited government" is to curb the instincts of the Government to assume that the governing elite knows best, and to govern accordingly: to deny that the government can be no better than the people it governs.

It's a temptation that all elites have, and our modern "educated elite" is no different that any other aristocracy. (We are using the term in a non-pejorative mode meaning "the best.") They think they know best and they are determined to give it to us.

Well, the whole point of modern democracy is that the governing elite has to persuade the ordinary person of its policies. That is why we normally agree that great reforms should only be enacted when there is a general consensus that it should be enacted. That is why most presidents try to pass legislation with a bipartisan majority. It lets them argue that the legislation was not a partisan cram-down but the consensus of the governed.

In the United States today we talk about a 50-50 nation. We mean by that two great factions, liberal and conservative, that want to take the nation in different directions. In the middle is the great mass of people that aren't sure that they like either road.

In this 50-50 nation the chances are that any effort by either conservatives or liberals to try an end run around the opposition is going to create enormous opposition. We saw how liberals ginned up a vocal opposition to President Bush on the view that the consensus he had created for the Iraq War was false. They argued that the consensus to go into Iraq was built upon a lie--that the Bush administration assertion that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction was a lie.

Now, we do not know whether the Bush administration knew beforehand whether Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. But our liberal friends acted as though he did.

Imagine therefore the rage that will be built up by conservatives against the Obama administration if it proceeds with its health care reform without a consensus, without even a manufactured consensus, without even the fig-leaf of a consensus built upon a lie.

From a strictly partisan viewpoint I love this. The only way you make progress in politics is when your side is all riled up and the opposition is demoralized. A cram-down on ObamaCare creates the once-in-a-generation opportunity for a real change in national political orientation towards the conservative side.

But I fear that the heightened partisan conflict will lead to dark days for America. If we get a big change in the November elections, say with up to 100 seats changing hands in the House of Representatives, we will enter an era unlike anything since the years immediately before the Civil War.

A big change in Congress would set up the opportunity for real reform of the welfare state. Confronted with such reforms, I fear that our liberal friends will not go quietly. Their welfare state, their privileges, their subsidies, their sinecures are not just the spoils of political success. They are the liberal religion, their belief system. To take their religion and their sacred symbols away from them is not just relieving a thief of ill-gotten goods. It is to take away from liberals the very meaning of life.

That's when people do desperate things.

That's why I think it is a great tragedy that President Obama and the Democratic leaders of Congress are going for it and trying to pass a massive reorganization of one sixth of the economy in a straight partisan vote. They are setting in motion events that could utterly change the face of America, in ways that we cannot imagine.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Canada's Housing Non-Meltdown

How did those Canadians manage to dodge the mortgage meltdown? Do they know something we don't know? IN The American, Mark J. Perry takes a look at the reasons why Canada isn't in the middle of a housing/banking crisis.

And another thing. How come the Canadians have a bigger share of people owning their own homes? Even without Fannie and Freddie, mortgage interest deductions, and the ruthless regulations of the Community Reinvestment Act? Without even Sen. Chris Dodd and Rep. Barney Frank? How do they do it?

Here's what makes Canada different.

  1. No "non-recourse" mortgages. That means that if the bank forecloses, it can go after you for the balance of the mortgage.
  2. Short fixed-rate terms. No 30-year fixed mortgages. Rates are negotiated every five years. That avoids meltdowns like the S&L crisis in the late 1980s.
  3. Mortgage insurance more common. About half of mortgages carry insurance (see 1, above) and the mortgage insurer can challenge the appraisal. Nice bit of check-and-balance there.
  4. No income tax deductibility for mortgages. That means that people don't use their houses as ATMs.
  5. Higher pre-payment penalties, typically three months' interest.
  6. No Community Reinvestment Act forcing banks to loan to unqualified customers.
  7. Better diversification of banks. Canada has fewer banks and they are all national in scope.
  8. Banks keep most of their mortgages (about 68 percent) so they need to keep their mortgage portfolios in good shape.

So there you are, congresspersons. No subsidies, no bullying. Convenient checks and balances. And the bottom line is that more Canadians own their own homes than Americans. So all the hullaballoo since the 1930s about helping homeowners is a bunch of baloney. Canada hasn't "helped" homeowners, yet a bigger share of Canadians own their own homes.

Maybe the best thing to do with housing is to leave it alone.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Pelosi's Forced March Politics

Conservatives have always been irritated by Nancy Pelosi. But she is certainly one tough Speaker of the House of Representatives. Of course, she leads a majority of 257-178. That's a majority of 79. You can be plenty tough with a 79 seat majority.

In The Politico, John Bresnahan and Jonathan Allen marvel at her strong leadership and the brutal election year she faces. It's the usual Democratic-leaning approach. Strong leader Pelosi faces challenges from party splits as she heads into election year.

But I wonder if the take-no-prisoners strategy, that now seems to be include procedural shenanigans to get ObamaCare over the line, won't turn out to be a monumental error.

We complain about politicians because they are such wusses. They are like horses; they shy at the least little thing. There's a practical reason for that. Politicians want to please their supporters and give them goodies, but they don't want to rile up the opposition.

You don't let sleeping dogs lie because you are a nice guy. You do it because it is almost always the best way of keeping your seat.

President Obama and Speaker Pelosi seem to have gone out of their way to rile up the opposition. Whether that is deliberate, whether it is clumsiness, or just a feeling that the opposition is too weak to count, I don't know.

But my judgment is that the partisan agenda and tone of the 2009-2010 season will turn out to be a big minus for Democrats. It is teaching moderates and independents all across America that the Democrats are not the family-friendly moderates they liked to appear in 2006 and 2008.

Democrats are teaching non-political Americans that, if you elect a Democrat, you are going to get a very liberal government. That is something they strained mightily to avoid in the years from 1992 to 2008.

The default sentiment of the moderates and independents seems to be that first you take care of the economy. Then, if the economy is rattling along, well, you can pass a program or two to help people. It feels like the right thing to do.

Obama Democrats are doing things the other way round. They are concentrating on liberal agenda items with huge price tags, and they are letting the economy wither on the vine with discredited Keynesian pump priming (discredited except at The New York Times).

Instead of figuring out what they can pass with a few Republican moderates they are going for the big play, on a straight partisan game plan.

The reason we have the idea of governing with the "consent of the governed" enshrined in the Declaration of Independence is that it is a good practical basis for government. It minimizes the number of people that get all riled up and want to change things radically.

Democrats are forgetting this fundamental piece of political wisdom and they are going to pay for it, big time.

The poster girl of failure is going to be Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her forced-march partisan politics.