Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Medicare Amendment Conservatives

When do we fix Medicare?  If you ask today's seniors, people like me, it is after we are gone.

After all, we paid in all our lives, right?

If you listen to Americans, you can see that there is no way we will reform the entitlements until after we crash.

Here's a retiree in South Florida.  He doesn't like the idea that today's Medicare won't be available to his descendants.
"I've got four children and 12 grandchildren," said Mr. Yordon, who planned to vote for Mr. Obama. "I can't believe the one item of most consequence to me would become a voucher" for them.

Dealing with private insurance companies for cars and homes, he said, was tough enough. Navigating the private health-insurance market at his age would be impossible, he said: "I just can't believe that that would work."
Er, Mr. Yordon, here's an idea.  Why not get your kids to help you navigate the insurance market as you get older.  That's what most people do.

What about this 91-year-old senior?
"I would like them to leave Medicare alone," she said. She has been in the hospital four times in the past five years, twice for surgeries to remove cholesterol from arteries in her legs. "I was very satisfied" with Medicare, she said.
I've been reading a book about the four great price revolutions of the last millennium, The Great Wave: Price Revolutions and the Rhythm of History by David Hackett Fischer.  The great price waves have always featured governments spending beyond their means and seeming helpless to "do anything" about it until history decided for them in famine and revolution.  Fischer pontificates about the selfish aristocrats of the 18th century that wouldn't surrender their privileges.  Well what would you expect a left-wing academic to say.

Today's inflationary prices are different, of course.  But you still have the aristocrats, the supporters of the regime, and their privileges.  Only this time it's the union government workers, the entitlement beneficiaries, the tenured professors who are sitting on their hands refusing to give up any of their benefits.  Yes, for the feudatories of the regime, you can talk about the douceur de la vie.

Really, why would we expect any of these chaps, from Medicare beneficiaries in their 80s or retired policemen in their 50s, to agree to a reduction in their loot?  Nobody in history ever did before, not until the tumbrils started to roll.

Today's entitlement beneficiaries are like Charlton Heston and the Second Amendment conservatives.  You can take my Medicare out of my cold, dead hand, they say.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Is America Ready?

For years before the epochal year of 2008 pompous MSMers would wonder out loud: "Is America ready for a black president?"

Still, it took me aback when a faculty-wife friend expressed her satisfaction at electing the first black president.  Really?  Aren't we educated people supposed to be above all that?

Of course, I voted for Obama too.  I voted for him to shut the Democrats up on the Bush-the-warmonger front.  Anyone can flatter their base with nonsense about warmongering and Bush lied and "the wrong war" and Guantanamo.  The proof of the pudding is in the eating, and most of the Bush-era protocols have survived the anti-war Obama's first four years.

So now we have the ultimate question: Is America ready to fire its first black president for cause?  It's a big issue, bigger than you might think.

My old pal, the Greek philosopher George Maroutsos, used to opine about Greek politics after the Greek colonels like this.  It's important, he would say, for the conservative party in Greece to get voted out and surrender power to the liberal party.  But what comes next is just as important.  It is important for the liberal party to get voted out and surrender power to the conservative party.  Only then will both parties begin to trust that the other party will not surrender to temptation and stage a coup to stay in power.

So the same principle must apply to America's first black president.  It's a wonderful thing to elect America's first black president.  But it is even more wonderful to evaluate the performance of America's first black president and come to the decision, without any consideration of his race, that his performance is below par, and that it is regretfully necessary to terminate his service to the nation.

Actually, the question of President Obama has nothing to do with his race, except that a white guy with his experience could never have been elected president.  No, the question about President Obama is his ideas.  And also the deep questions about his leadership qualities.

Today, in 2012, the great question is different.  It is this: Is America ready for a Mormon president?  Somehow I can't find any breathless articles from MSMers wondering about that.

I wonder why?  After all, back in the day, Mormons were on the receiving end of some pretty nasty discrimination and political violence.  And even today, nice liberal women wonder if it is "ethical" for them to visit Utah.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Are the President's Men Crazy?

The polls tell us that the independents are breaking strongly for Romney:
In the last three releases of the tracking poll conducted by The Washington Post and ABC News, Obama has trailed former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney among independent voters by between 16 and 20 percentage points.
So what are the Obamis doing?  They are doubling down on motivating their base:
Obama isn't just going for a win. He’s shooting for a “realignment.” Obama is trying to shape a new kind of electorate, creating a long-term Democratic majority that would allow him and his successors to stop catering to the center and finally govern decisively from the left.
Let us give them the respect they deserve.  They don't want to win with the center ground.  That would not give them a mandate for their left-wing vision.  They want to win a left-wing mandate or nothing at all.

Maybe that's a grand and visionary idea.  Or maybe it is delusional.  In our lifetimes, whenever a presidential candidate has tried to go for a purely ideological win he has lost big time: think Goldwater and McGovern.  And you would think that for liberals this would be especially foolish.  If 40 percent of Americans call themselves conservatives and 20 percent liberals, how in the world can liberals hope to win on a straight ideological pitch?

Especially when you consider that Romney is pitching himself directly at the non-ideological middle ground.

My guess right now, given the partisan move reported by Gallup and Rasmussen from the +7 Democratic advantage of 2008 to an even-steven alignment or even a +1 Republican score in the last month, is that you have to think we are heading for a landslide, a 10 point victory for Romney.  If the current Romney 49-46 lead improves in the next few days as the Benghazi cover-up gets more play the 3 point Romney lead could increase to 5 points, and if the undecideds break for challenger Romney, as you would expect, then you are close to 10 points, 55-45 Romney over Obama.

Suppose the key to the election is not what the Obamis imagine is the "'demographically ascendent' left" but the 78-year-old lady from Iowa that voted for Obama in 2008.
"Obama gave us this 'no red, no blue state' America," said McAreavy, 78.

"I was fooled, I kick myself everyday," she said. "I said: 'In four years I'll get you buddy -- and I'm going to.'"
Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.  How many people in America are thinking just like that this month?  There were millions of Americans that thought that, in voting for Obama, they had put the race thing to bed.

Today they are kicking themselves, and they are saying:  Hey, pal.  Don't call me a racist; I voted for Obama in 2008.  And just to prove I'm not a racist, I am voting against him in 2012.

The problem about making a big bet on anything is that if you lose you are really out of pocket.  And Obama is not just playing with his money.  He is playing with the hopes of every Democratic partisan and elected official up and down the ballot.  If he loses then he is not just going into the wilderness himself.  He is sending his entire coalition into the political wilderness.

Oh well.  Maybe the Dems will come back like the Republicans came back after 1964.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Obama and the Liberal Bubble

We've had the real-estate bubble and now eager trend-spotters are tracking the higher-education bubble.  Nothing remarkable about either one, of course.  In the real-estate bubble we had government cheap credit chasing real-estate prices chasing more government-sponsored cheap credit.  In the higher-ed bubble we had something completely different.  We had government grants and student loans chasing higher tuition rates chasing higher grants and loans.

Walter Russell Mead has a piece today about the decline of liberalism, epitomized by the disaster of Illinois state finances.
Three states form the base of Democratic political power in the United States: California, New York and Illinois. All three states are locked in an accelerating economic, demographic and social decline; all three hope that they can stave off looming disaster at home by exporting the policies that have ruined them to the rest of the country.
He writes about the "misery and ruin that well-intentioned liberals combined with aggressive public sector labor unions inflict on the poor they ostensibly want to serve."

I think it is time to start talking about the end of the liberal bubble.  And, in a proof that God has a sense of humor, He sends us Barack Obama as the poster boy of everything that is inflated and bubbl-icious about liberalism.

The liberal bubble was borne aloft on three liberal conceits.  The first was the Enlightenment conceit that we can learn everything we need about the world from science and reason.  Thus you could create rational, scientific government programs to solve the problems of the world with a centralized administrative government bureaucracy supported by credentialed academic experts.

The second conceit was the idea that liberals were the heavy lifters in the civil rights revolution of the 1950s and 1960s.  There's no doubt that liberals did work hard to push civil rights, particularly given the fact that the opponents of civil rights were in their own party.  But I would argue that the self-congratulations have been rather overdone.  For instance, why was it necessary to brand Barry Goldwater as a racist?  Here was a man that desegregated the Arizona Air National Guard before it was popular.  Why did he vote against the Civil Rights Act 1964?  Because he was a libertarian and thought the act gave the government too much power.

The third conceit was the liberal crusade against the Vietnam War and against the Cold War in general. Liberals conflated their opposition to the war with a distaste for the nation state and patriotism.  They lived above all that, working for Peace.

Liberal faith in their conceits led them to think that they were more than a ruling class with the normal vices of a ruling class, but something special. If they believed in God they would be anchoring their faith in their own superiority in divine guidance.  As it was they just believed that they were the culmination of human progress and enlightenment.  And they still do.

The ancient Greeks had a word for this sort of thing.  They called it: hubris.

Liberal hubris after the civil rights revolution led them into the racism of quotas, affirmative action, and diversity, and so they led African Americans into a hell-hole of black racism.  The fact is that we all like our own kind best, and we need the constant encouragement of moral leaders to remind us to be fair and honorable to the "other."  Liberals bang on endlessly about this.  Pity they didn't apply it to themselves and their clients.

Liberal hubris after the Great Society programs for health care and the war on poverty prevented them from being honest with themselves about the failures of centralized administrative government, and so, again and again, they reinforced failure and called their critics racists and mean-spirited.

Liberal hubris about Vietnam and the Cold War has led to the disaster of the Arab Spring and Benghazi.  That's because liberals believe in the Marxist idea of neo-colonialism, that the West oppresses and exploits the developing nations of the world.  The grain of truth in their analysis is that, of course, modern western capitalism has swept across the world like a divine wind, destroying all the old traditional agricultural cultures.  But there was never a cunning plan to reduce the rest of the world to peonage.

The French philosopher-statesman Luc Ferry writes in A Brief History of Thought that we need to get beyond the Enlightenment and its rational faith, beyond Nietzsche and his deconstruction of the idols, beyond the materialism that many profess for others but not for themselves.  We have to admit that, after we have thrown away all the gods and the modern idols there is still an irreducible core of something: e.g., the disgust of seeing someone lynched.  I would call it our irreducible human sociability.  It is something beyond material, something beyond advantage: call it self-consciousness.

I would call that something "modern conservatism."  But first we have to deal with the decline and collapse of liberalism, epitomized by President Obama, who Peggy Noonan describes as "a president who is at once over his head, out of his depth and wholly unaware of the fact."

America's big problem is that the same can be said of liberals in general.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

President's Plan Still Doesn't Get It

Finally, with two weeks to go before the election, the president has come out with his "plan."  It is, of course, no plan but just more of the same.  Larry Kudlow:
But before getting into the details of this little plan, my basic conclusion is this: Mr. Obama wants to slash defense spending, raise all other spending, and hike taxes to finance the largest government size he can possibly get.
 National Review editors:
Obama’s second term is to be a more or less precise repeat of his first term. In fact, the sixth item on his seven-point list merely touts Obamacare, which, if memory serves, already has been passed. He also wants to add six-figure numbers to the headcounts of the public-sector unions that finance and staff his campaign. And build batteries.
But you can see why the president wants to do this.  For over a century politicians have won elections by promising "free stuff" to their supporters.  Nothing remarkable here.  That's what the Frankish kings promised their soldiers as they plundered Saxony 1,200 years ago, and that's what the politicians promised the working class 100 years ago.  That's what today's politicians promise their welfare state clients.  That's what Obamacare is all about.

The great achievement of religion, they say, is that it curbs the freeloaders, the people who want their "free stuff" but don't want to offer anything in return. It organizes the believers into a community where the freeloaders get named and shamed.  The beauty of capitalism is that it puts the freeloaders to work without the naming and shaming, because the only way you can earn your bread in the market economy is by serving others.

The great gift that President Obama has given to America is that he has made the "free stuff" argument so blatantly that the "economically conservative socially liberal" moderates have taken fright.  Let the rich pay a little more and the rest of us can all get our "free stuff."  Not on my dime, says the affluent suburbanite.

When the economy was roaring then you could win elections by scaring college-educated women in the affluent suburbs about social conservatives and abortion.  No longer.  Today college-educated women are scared about being able to afford college for their daughters.  No doubt that's why Mitt Romney has been playing a benevolent uncle in the presidential debates.

But don't worry, girls and boys.  Abortion will be back.  In A Brief History of Thought French secularist Luc Ferry tells us why, in his notion of immanent transcendence.  Mere material gain, in the market or from the government, is not enough.  We are not just materialist drones.

Imagine you are witnessing a lynching, Ferry writes.  You just "know" it is wrong, and you would want to save the victim.  Same thing with slavery.  Same thing, we conservatives would say, with babies.  It is not a question of "choice."  It is a question of "life."

But first we need to get the economy back on track.  According to Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Our Bull-session President

We all know the guy that thinks he's so clever when he interjects this kind of remark in an all-night student bull-session:
You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military's changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines.
Only it's a little disconcerting to realize that the guy grew up to become president.  Now, of course, liberals and conservatives are busily fact-checking each other on whether in fact the US Armed Forces do indeed have less in the way of horses and bayonets than in 1916.  We may indeed have more bayonets than in 1916.

Anyway, I seem to remember seeing photo circa 2002 of a bearded special-forces guy in Afghanistan riding on a horse.  I found the photo oddly reassuring.  What I want in our armed forces is adaptability and resourcefulness.  If a horse is what you need in Afghanistan, then go do it.

I also once knew a guy who'd started in the US Army before World War II as a horse groom and ended up as a flight instructor on B-52s.  Only in America!  He once told a story about the difficulty of mid-air refueling a jet-powered B-52 when the tanker was a piston-powered C-97.  The C-97 would fly flat out and the B-52 would be on the edge of a stall. One time his B-52 stalled and fell 2,000 before it recovered.  (Note that as the B-52 takes on fuel its stall speed will go up.)

Enough of the war stories.  The problem with the president's remark, apart from its rudeness and snarkiness, is its lack of content.  What Americans want to know, Mr. President, is what kind of navy you think we need, and how you propose to pay for it.

I'd say that a great global trading nation needs a good blue-water navy to keep the pirates in port and the tin-horn dictators in their palaces.  What do you think, Mr. President?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Bonfire of the Entitlements

Never mind about last night's foreign policy debate, the one that wanted to be an economic policy debates.  Never mind about Mitt's Five Point Plan on the economy.  What I want to know is how we can avoid the inevitable bonfire of the entitlements.

Want to know what the gay marriage debate is about?  It's about those spousal Social Security benefits. Want to know what Obamacare is about?  It's about burying fee-for-service Medicare in an administrative quagmire.

In a way, President Obama has a point.  The expansion of Medicare to include drugs was done as a straight increase in benefits without any attempt to finance it with new taxes or any fig leaf of "trust funds."  It's an outrage.  How could President Bush do such a thing.

You can see trajectory of the welfare state's descent into pure power politics by retelling its story.  In the 1930s FDR carefully packaged Social Security as an "earned" benefit: you put your money into the "trust fund" and you take it out when you need it.  In the 1960s LBJ passed Medicare with only a partial attempt to fund it with proper actuarial probity.  So Medicare will eat up its "trust fund" before Social Security.  But in the Medicare Part D expansion, the Republican president and Congress merely passed a new spending entitlement (and also some Republican friendly health spending accounts).  No trust funds, no taxes.

So the ship of state is on course for the rocks.  Inflation, default, haircuts, and riots in the streets.

The problem with the entitlement state is that politics is purely a predatory activity.  You sign up for loot in exchange for your vote.  The administrative state is not a community, it is a patronage state with hungry clients clamoring for their next handout.

Back in the 19th century, before the working class learned from the educated middle class that it could get loot from the state, the ordinary people of the industrial states were busily creating civil-society communities, from churches to fraternal societies, that socialized risk in true community.  You belonged to a mutual-aid society on the understanding that you gave and you received.

The Progressives of 1900 could have built on this model and strengthened it.  But instead they nationalized the mutual-aid movement and converted the communities of self-help into client groups of the political system.  The transaction is no longer that you give to receive, but that you vote to receive.

The choice in 2012 is between a ratification of the universal administrative state -- its Obamacare to universalize healthcare as an administrative structure and its Frank-Dodd to throw the banking industry into the care of the state -- or a half-hearted attempt to rein in the health-care entitlement with a repeal of Obamacare and a reform of Medicare.

Nowhere on the horizon is any suggestion of reforming the entitlement state and returning pensions, healthcare, welfare, and education to civil society where it belongs.  How could there be?  Nobody in America, not one person, is going to agree to cuts in their entitlements until the day after the government runs out of money and the rioters have left the nation in ruins.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Foreign Policy Reality

Ever since Vietnam, Democrats have had to be dragged kicking and screaming into standing up for US interests in the world.  In their heart of hearts they really believe the neo-Marxist, anti-colonialist, rich-get-richer while the poor get poorer view of the world.

There is of course a vein of truth in the anti-colonialist world view.  The west, armed with its science, its politics, and its religion, has swept all before it during the last 500 years.  You either signed up or you got buried.  The problem for non-western societies was ably summed up by a Chinese Christain in David Aikman's book Jesus in Beijing. Let's look at his words in full.
One of the things we were asked to look into was what accounted for the success, in fact the pre-eminence of the West all over the world... We studied everything we could from the historical, political, economic, and cultural perspective. At first we thought it was because you had more powerful guns than we had. Then we thought it was because you had the best political system. Next we focused on your economic system. But in the past twenty years we have realized that the heart of your culture is your religion: Christianity. That is why the West has been so powerful. The Christian moral foundation of social and cultural life was what made possible the emergence of capitalism and then the successful transition to democratic politics. We don't have any doubt about this.
Let us look at Barack Obama's "reset" foreign policy and Cairo speech and "apology tour" in the light of this testament.  Because right now the Christian western idea is facing a challenge from Muslims in the Middle East.

It misses the point to talk about Muslim terrorists as crazy "extremists."  The Islamists understand, and rightly, that they are facing a do-or-die moment.  Either they push back against the power of western Christian capitalist democracy or they will be swallowed up into the western orbit.  This has happened time and time again over the last 500 years.  Some countries, like India, have pushed back and made a practical accommodation with the western way.  Some countries, like Russia and China, have gone through hell.  Many nations have been obliterated: think native Americans.

Some nations have made a heroic stand against the west: Plains Indians and their Ghost Shirt movement, the Chinese and their Boxer Rebellion.  And of course there is the course of the Indian national movement that began with the Great Rebellion of 1857 and ended with independence 90 years later.

Sometimes the barbarians at the edge of empire swarm into the empire and take it over.  That happened in Europe during the first millennium with the Sack of Rome and with the Mongol invasions of the 13th century.  China has repeatedly been invaded from the north.

But willy-nilly, the job of a US president is to push back against threats to US power and the Pax Americana.  President Obama pretends that he has done that: Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive.  Unfortunately the Benghazi killings remind us that Al Qaeda is definitely alive.  What is needed is not just stunts like the bin Laden operation and the drone operations but a cultural offensive, to show and to prove, in bin Laden's apt catchphrase, that the US is the strong horse and Islam is the weak horse.

Terrorism is, of course, an admission of weakness; it is military and cultural force hiding in the weeds and jumping out occasionally to create a spectacular diversion.  But it needs to be opposed calmly and firmly.

Meanwhile, the Muslim exodus from the Middle East to western Europe and to the US is going to transform Islam, just as the industrial age has transformed the native peoples of Europe and the US.  Anyone can explode bombs, but governments and businesses are driven by the need to perform, and the ability to deliver for their subject peoples.

When I voted for President Obama in 2008 it was primarily to force the Democratic establishment to face the reality of the post 9/11 world.  The result has been most satisfactory.  The illusions of the liberal faithful have been well and truly demolished, as Guantanamo lives and Bush's Patriot Act continues.  And Obama's foreign policy has been utter confusion as its anti-colonialist dream hits realpolitik reality.

It's up to Mitt Romney tonight to signal a return to reality, and begin the long, slow repair to the US strategic stance in the world.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Romney's Plan vs. Obama's Plan

People have been complaining that the President Obama of the presidential debates doesn't seem to "have a plan."  We all know that Governor Romney has a five point plan: energy, job training, expanded trade (but penalize Chinese cheating), cut deficit, reduce taxes on middle class.  We know that because he keeps telling us.  But what about Obama's plan?

Come on guys, of course Obama has a plan.  It is to ask the rich to "pay a little more" and to expand training and teachers.  That's what he keeps telling us.  He's still gaga over green energy, but he seems to have experienced a "come to Jesus" moment on fossil fuel, at least for now.

Really, there is not much to choose between the two, excepting on taxes.  Obama wants the rich to pay a little more; Romney says he wants to keep the top 5 percent paying 60 percent of the total (is that income tax only or income tax plus payroll taxes?).

It's what they are not saying that matters.  What they are not saying up front at the debates is that it's doubtful that Obama would reduce spending from the current level at 22 to 24 percent of GDP.  Romney's plan is to cut federal spending back to 20 percent of GDP.  That means, according to some, that he'll cut everything to the bone except Social Security, Medicare, and Defense.  Makes sense to me.

As a Republican partisan I'd like to think that Romney will achieve his spending goal.  But as a betting man I'd guess that the federal government will get out of its jam through a combination of inflation, debt default, financial repression, and open confiscation.  Why?  Because that's what governments do.

The bottom line, if you are an individual American, is that in the next few years it's going to be really difficult to hang onto your money, either in real wages or investment income or in real capital appreciation.  Because while you are trying to live your life and keep a little aside for a rainy day the government is going to be trying to fill in a gigantic hole in its finances.  One way another, the government front-end loader is going to take a chunk out of your little pile and dump it into the hole.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Voters and Free Stuff

I thought that President Obama won on points in the townhall debate last night, especially given the help of the replacement ref.  Imagine my surprise to learn that the "undecided voter" focus groups at FoxNews and MSNBC both leaned to Romney!

I guess that undecided voters are looking at a completely different debate.

But what troubles me is the questions, because they show the difficulty of moving forward.

There was the "women only earn 72 percent" question, and neither the president or the governor told the questioner that, look, it's time to end the women-are-victims game.  Women do better in school, earn 60 percent of the college degrees, meanwhile men, particularly low-income men, are dropping out of the workforce.  But how do you change a cultural meme that has served its term?  How do you talk to two generations of women taught to believe that they have been oppressed by the patriarchy since the dawn of time?

Or the question about the prospects for college graduates.  Both candidates swung into their standard pitches about the wonders of Pell grants and student loans.  Yeah.  Well, the ruinous cost of college today is mostly due to the money sluicing into colleges through government subsidies like Pell grants and government guaranteed student loans.  What have the colleges done?  They have built luxurious workout facilities and raised the fees and the salaries.  But when will the day dawn that a politician dares to suggest that the free stuff has got to go?

Mitt Romney is proposing to lower tax rates and simplify the tax code by cutting deductions.  So of course there was a woman asking about the mortgage interest deduction.  Now, I'd say that after the mess created by Fannie and Freddie with their $5 trillion in mortgage-backed securities and debt, and the mandates of the Community Reinvestment Act to force banks to loan to people that couldn't afford the payments, you'd have to say that the subsidy for mortgage interest in the income tax code sits right up there as something that has got to go.  But try telling the voters that.

That's why I doubt if the current debt problems can be solved with "austerity" and "cuts."  Just like in Europe, the program beneficiaries won't allow it.  The only way out of the jam is by default, by inflation and by financial repression, so that the government cunningly reduces the value of entitlements etc. by stealth and deception.

They say that Russia increased its public spending in the last decade from 15 percent of GDP  to 25 percent of GDP.  Now that revenue from oil and gas is declining the Putin government is facing a looming crisis.  But what in the world did the Russian government increase spending like that?  Well, obviously to buy support.  Even an authoritarian government needs support.  Especially an authoritarian government.

So governments are all the same.   They all get in power and maintain themselves by taxing the people and rewarding their supporters with free stuff.  Until they can't.

Monday, October 15, 2012

My Responses to the Bain Question

The experts tell us that, besides the 47 percent issue, the president will be raising the Bain Question.  They mean, I presume, that President Obama will attempt to embarrass Mitt Romney with his record at Bain Capital, at which he... well, after Romney left, Bain bailed on an attempt to turn around a Kansas City steel company.  One of the guys laid off was a man whose wife later died of cancer.

You can see why they do this.  The average man in the street just sees Romney or Bain as a "boss" that can create or more significantly destroy jobs as the mood takes him, while keeping their own jobs and perquisites safe.  If you think of the average uncommitted voter as a woman with a job in a social service or health care or education bureaucracy, you can see how the attitude makes sense.  In a bureaucracy people normally take care of themselves before the organization.

But how should Mitt reply to the "Bain Question" on Tuesday night?  Here are a few responses that I've cooked up.  Probably they aren't as good as the ones the debate preppers are coming up with.
  • It's interesting that both the president and I have had experience with failing steel mills.  The president served a term as a community organizer in South Chicago where they had lost thousands of jobs when steel plants closed.  I wonder how many jobs the president saved.  The truth is, when a company is in trouble it is really hard to save it.  At Bain we tried, but we didn't always succeed.  But here is the point.  There is no getting around the fact that, for investors, such a failure means little more than a financial loss; for the workers it means a devastating end to their dreams, and I always tried to remember that when I worked at Bain.
  • It's always been interesting to me how success and failure are rated differently in business and politics.  In business, it is considered a plus to hire someone that has been through a couple of failed startups or turnarounds.  In politics, a failure is considered poison.  That is why politicians go to such enormous lengths to cover up their failures.  Like the killing of the US Ambassador Chris Stevens in Benghazi.
  • Look, in business you win some and you lose some, and you are deeply conscious that, win or lose, there are peoples' lives depending on you.  The president's campaign has spent $100 million or so on negative ads to make sure that there isn't a single person left in America that doesn't know that Bain, two years after I left, closed a steel mill it had tried to turn around.  Bully for you, Mr. President.  Now can we get back to how we get this economy out of the ditch so Americans can get jobs again?
  • Good point, Mr. President.  Bain Capital did screw up sometimes when it tried to turn around failing companies, and thousands of people suffered.  Now can we get back to the US economy, and how millions of people are suffering because of your mistakes: how in 2009 you decided that the way to heal the economy was by distributing about a trillion dollars among special interests that supported your campaign?  Or that you decided to burden the economy with the enormous costs of Obamacare before you knew that the economy was getting back on track?
  • Good point, Mr. President.  Now can we talk about your mistakes, which are rather more to the point, since you have been in charge of the economy for the last four years?  I remember thinking, back in early 2009: wow, these guys don't get it.  They don't realize that all their grand plans for big new liberal spending programs have got to be put on the shelf until they get the economy moving again.  I remember wondering back then what the damage would be from that huge strategic mistake.  Well, now we know.  An economy that is growing at 1.3 percent a year.  Less than last winter.  Less than last year.  Less than the year before.  It's time for a change, Mr. President.
You get the point.  Really, who cares any more about Bain Capital except a few crazed liberals?  The question for America is which candidate looks as though he has thought about the nation's problems and has actually come up with a plan to fix them.  Investing in more teachers and more job training doesn't cut it, Mr. President.  And as for green jobs, please, Mr. President.  That dog won't hunt.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Debates: A Word to You Liberals

I guess that it was good for liberals to have Joe Biden throw out some red meat last night, on the 47 percent and all.

So Joan Walsh gets to write that "Biden Wiped the Floor with Biden" in Salon.  In reply, Rush Limbaugh this morning said that Ryan's performance was rather like a son trying to deal with the embarrassing behavior of his blustery father.

But think of this.  In two straight debates the Democrats have allowed Romney and Ryan to speak directly to the moderates while they have been speaking to their base.  A week ago the president just emitted his usual base-pleasing platitudes.  Last night Joe Biden played the angry old white man.

Wait a minute.  I thought that the Republican Party was supposed to be the party of angry old white men.

Now, either we have here a strategic error of monumental proportions or we have something worse.  We have the fact that the Democrats don't have their base nailed down.

The experts tell us that the independents and women hate the partisan bluster and name-calling.  Or at least they tell us that when Republicans refuse to do the decent thing and cave to a Democratic initiative.

My guess is that the conventional wisdom isn't quite true.  Voters don't want politicians to be angry until they are angry.  Then and only then do they want anger in politics.  Liberals were angry about the results of the first debate, so they wanted Joe Biden to be angry about Romney's 47 percent remark.  I'd say, on the other hand, that liberals are angry about the 47 percent remark because it came a bit close to home.  Liberal politics does encourage dependency.

In any case, suppose you were an independent voter, the classic kind that doesn't pay much attention to politics, but you are concerned this fall about the direction of the country.  You've seen two debates thus far in which the Republican candidates seem to have developed thoughtful ideas about governing the nation in the next four years.  What are they to think about the Democratic candidates?  President Obama appeared to be in a supercilious sulk, and Vice-President Biden seemed to be channeling Willy Loman.  You almost expected him to blurt out "Attention must be paid."

Yes.  Willy Loman.

Could it be that we are approaching Death of a Salesman for liberals?  Somehow the old charm, the old success has gone.  Liberals are sitting at the bar staring at their beers wondering what went wrong.  And they are angry.

Now, of course, the received opinion on Arthur Miller's famous play is that it is monstrous for society to treat an old guy like that, deceive him with the salesman culture of charm and manipulation.  After all, we know that the success culture is all an illusion.

Maybe liberalism is like that.  For decades liberals have lived a fantasy, and now, as their movement has aged, the fantasy is collapsing into failure and anger and ruin.

So it goes, as Kurt Vonnegut would say.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Timid Camille on 2012 Choice

Art teacher Camille Paglia is conservatives' favorite liberal, for obvious reasons.  She whacks feminists and Naomi Wolf around, and she actually listens to talk radio.

(Does that really mean that this lesbian is really a crypto-conservative?)

Anyway she's got a book out, Glittering Images, and so she's doing interviews.  So what is she doing to assist in the 2012 meltdown of Obama?  She's voting for the Green Party candidate.

Oh please, Camille.  What a high-school cliquish, blonde-WASPy thing to do.  How in the world could a tough Italian girl from gritty upstate New York descend to that?

Why won't she just vote for the Republican and show that she's got a brain?  Because of a very high-school cliquish reason.  Because of Newt and Santorum -- eeeuugh!  But she thinks that Romney is a moderate, and that makes it safe to vote Green rather than vote for Obama to keep the nerds out.
There are three people on the political landscape whom I absolutely loathe — Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Dick Cheney — that delusional and mendacious war-monger.
I guess that Paglia just doesn't like competition in the personality stakes.  After all, Newt is a guy rather like Camille, fizzing with ideas, some of which are pretty interesting.  Rick Santorum is a Catholic with the courage of his convictions, just like Camille in the art world, and he was prepared to go down to defeat as a Catholic pro-life conservative in the moderate blue-collar state of Pennsylvania.  Surely Paglia could respect that?  And Dick Cheney the bogeyman that liberal mothers use to terrify their children?  Come on, Camille, you've been reading too much partisan swill.

Still, the wonderful thing about Camille Paglia is that she does get out of the liberal bubble and actually listen to what's going on in flyover country.  She rails against ObamaCare and the Big Brother surveillance state:
What in the world has happened to the Democratic Party? Its passivity towards this awful takeover of our lives by a know-it-all government, as shown by the way Obama has governed by constantly going around Congress — appointing czars and one new layer of bureaucracy after another.
And who is fighting against this? Not liberals.
Listen — a huge point I want to make is that the protest against the surveillance state has, with only a few exceptions, been mainly coming from the Right and not from the Left! Talk radio has been seething with this issue for years.
 Here's the thing, Camille.  The reason that liberals go meekly forward accepting the expansion of the administrative state is that they think they run it.  They get to tell people what to do from their positions in the bureaucracy, the university, and the media.

They don't get the obvious point that the monster will one day devour them.  And you too, Camille Paglia.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Two Stand-up White Guys

Right there in the center of the liberal narrative is the idea that you can't trust regular white guys--you know, the ones that obeyed the law, went to work, followed the rules, and all that stuff.  It is time for regular white guys to stand aside, finally, and give way to a diverse America that has made room for the traditionally marginalized, women and minorities, and all that.  That's the liberal narrative.

Behind the idea is the notion that regular white guys have benefited unfairly from America's white-bread, Protestant, patriarchal, western European culture, and it has a point.  But liberals never asked what kind of America is left when you toss the regular white guys and their ideas out onto the ash-heap of history.

Well, now we are finding out, because although liberals talk the talk of diversity, when it comes to walking the walk they always trot out liberal white guys instead of regular white guys.

And I include President Obama in that category.  There is nothing in President Obama except white-bread western liberalism.  There is no "authentic" African American in him.  He is just a hot-house flower from liberal finishing school.  His anti-colonial philosophy is not an idea that came out of West Africa but out of European intellectual salons.

But the thing about regular white guys is that they have this inchoate sense of doing the right thing.  Call it noblesse oblige or the code of the gentleman, if you like.  Liberals don't have that sense; they already know they are doing the right thing before even thinking about it.  The liberal white guys that go into politics are people that believe in political power, their political power.  Think Carter, Clinton, Obama.  And of course, Obama is the worst.  His administration has committed abuses of power that, in a Republican administration, would have prompted the mainstream media to cry out to the heavens for justice.  The ends justify the means, right bro'?

Now come Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.  Regular white guys.  They have always done the right thing, and always acted as if they must be seen to be doing the right thing as well as actually do it.

Of course, the irony about Romney and Ryan is that they are not quite regular white guys in the sense we all think of it: of coming from solid WASP Bushy northeastern stock.  They are oddballs; they are strivers, and they are "minority" candidates from traditionally marginalized groups.   Romney is a Mormon, and Mormons have had their travails in the wilderness, and even now your average liberal girl will wonder whether it is "ethical" for her to be in Utah.  Ryan is an Irish Catholic.  A century ago and more, in the days of "No Irish Need Apply," the Irish Catholics were definitely on the margins.

But the whole point of Romney and Ryan is that they are solid doers and achievers.  You expect them to tell you what they plan to do and then you expect them to execute on their commitments.  Who, really, ever expects President Obama to execute?  And what about Bill Clinton?  The point about Clinton was that you never knew what the guy would get up to.

The beauty of the 2012 First Debate was that it so clearly demonstrated the difference between a regular white guy and a liberal white guy.  Regular white guys really have to work to earn the trust of the American people.  Liberal white guys are different.  They have the mainstream media to do the heavy lifting for them.

It's great to have the liberal mainstream media do your heavy lifting for you.  Until the moment that you have to lift a heavy wooden beam on your own.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Dems Go the "Lying Liars" Route

So far in my Kant course at the University of Washington the philosophy prof has emitted two political zingers.  I regret to say that neither were high-toned reflections of his philosophical knowledge.

One zinger was a put-down on former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, representing him as a knuckledragging mouthpiece for a theocratic state.  The other was repeating the current Democratic talking point that Mitt Romney won the debate last week because he lied.

It is astonishing how educated people like you and me just parrot the partisan talking points of our political masters.  I mean, couldn't this chap come up with a zinger out of Horkheimer or Rorty?

Look.  All politicians lie.  They lie because we the voters insist on it.  We cannot stand the truth.  But if Mitt Romney lied in the debate then what about President Obama?  He insisted that Romney had proposed a $5 trillion tax cut.  Which is true if you leave out the other half of his tax plan.  On the one hand he proposes to reduce incomes taxes by reducing the tax rates.  On the other he proposes to balance that by eliminating tax loopholes.

Romney's proposal is standard Republican boilerplate that goes back at least to President Reagan's 1986 tax cut, which reduced tax rates across the board and also swept away a whole forest of deductions.  The philosophical, political and practical reason for this is that all deductions and subsidies create distortions in the economy, and that reduces economic growth.  Moreover, as Republicans (and occasionally Democrats) have reduced tax rates the overall share contributed by the rich has gone up.  See here.

But you can see the appeal of the "lying liars" attack.  It gets the partisan government university professors all riled up and you need your supporters to be all riled up in order to be certain that they will get to the polls and vote.

Here is a thought that just occurred to me.  The big hit on the Democrats this election will be in the African American vote.  President Obama just shamed the whole African American community with his Affirmative Action performance in debate.  They say that the purpose of negative ads is to demoralize the opponent's supporters.  And if you are an African American you have to be ashamed of the president's performance.

All of which goes back to the assumption in most of the polls that the turnout in 2012 will at least approximate to 2008.  I suspect that this is utter fantasy.  My guess is that African Americans are going to revert to normal voting turnout, Hispanics are going to turn off the president, and Republicans are going to be crawling over broken glass to get to the polls.  And then there are women.  What will women think about the negative body language from President Obama last week?  They will think about cheating husbands trying to hide something from them with reduced eye contact and scowls.

They say you should live in the moment, forgetting about the hopes of the future and the glories of the past.  That probably applies in spades this October.  There will probably not be a better month to be a Republican and a conservative again in my lifetime, and maybe in yours.

And if it all ends in tears?  Hey, live in the moment!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Liberals Racing Over the Cliff

Here's what really has me gasping.  If you look at the finest lefties, from Marx to Habermas, they are trying to imagine a way for humans to get out of the trap of exploitation.  For Marx, the problem was the exploitative monster of capitalism and the answer was the wonder of socialism through revolutionary communism that would return to an age of true community.

For Habermas the problem is now the entire rational system world, business and government, that run by rules.  They are engaged on systematizing and colonizing the "lifeworld," the face-to-face communicative interaction between human and human.  The point of the systems world is that everything ends in an up-down decision, rationally arrived at.  But the lifeworld is a world were people oppose truth claims and come to a communicative consensus.

So look at the administrative wonderland of Dodd-Frank, the financial regulation that subsumes the financial system in a dense web of administrative oversight.  Writes Peter J. Wallison:
Dodd-Frank is by far the most comprehensive and restrictive financial regulatory legislation since the Depression era; its effect on regulatory costs for financial firms at all levels has been and will continue to be substantial, with severe adverse consequences for credit availability.

But that isn’t all. The Financial Stability Oversight Council — an agency established under Dodd-Frank and consisting of all the federal financial regulators — has now begun work on identifying the nonbank financial institutions that will be declared systemically important financial institutions (SIFIs).
The point is that the government will have enormous administrative power over the SIFIs, so they will naturally become crony capitalists currying favor with their overlords.  But there is more.
Title II of Dodd-Frank gives the secretary of the Treasury the authority to seize any financial firm he believes is likely to fail in the future and hand it over to the FDIC for liquidation. If the firm objects, the secretary can apply to a court for a ruling, but the court has one day to decide whether the secretary has acted unreasonably.
So the government now will have instant life-or-death power over any financial institution.

Now the whole point of the financial system, the credit system, is getting money from where it is to where it is wanted.  Now the government will be in the middle, thinking about the electoral consequences of the financial system and forcing the financial system to back up its political agenda.

Think Fannie, Freddie, and the Community Reinvestment Act.  The politicians really showed how good they are in running the mortgage financing system.  So now their political approach will be extended to the financial system as a whole.

What liberals want is to have administrative control over the whole of society.  They want to crush the lifeworld and bring everyone into a client relation to the government.

But the whole point of the left-wing critique for the last 200 years is to deal with the terrifying power of modern capitalism and modern government.

Yet the only solution that the moderate left can imagine to any problem is to jack up the power of government.

This can only end in tears.  Liberals will continue to gather power into the government in their frightened response to the disasters that their politics has caused.  But then the government will run out of money.

We can already see what happens next by taking a look at Europe.

Friday, October 5, 2012

The Question of the 47 Percent

Our liberal friends, in their apoplexy over the presidential debate Wednesday night, excoriated their champion Barack Obama for not raising the question of the 47 percent.  The 47 percent are the people that Mitt Romney told a supporter would be voting for Obama whatever the Romney campaign did.

Romney was expressing the platitude that, in any presidential election, there are only a few percent of the voters that are "persuadable."  Of course, our liberal friends interpreted Romney's remarks, as they have a right to do, in the worst possible light, as proving that he didn't care about the 47% that would never vote for him.

Romney has responded variously to this "gaffe", first of all explaining his position and lately saying he was "completely wrong."

It all proves the power of the mainstream media, that they can make a scandal out of nothing.  After all, the profession of a politician is learning how to divide the country up so that he gets 51 percent of the vote.  What could be controversial about that?

It is after the election that the winner calls for everyone to forget their divisions as Republicans and Democrats and all come together as Americans.

The winner doesn't call for unity out of virtue, but out of the practical necessity of trying to minimize opposition to his program in the interregnum between elections.  It is for this reason that politicians typically try to fashion bipartisan compromises when they craft legislation.  "Bipartisan compromise" is here a polite word for buying off the opposition with concessions so that they will support the overall legislation.

Barack Obama is an interesting case with regards to the 47 percent.  When he won the 2008 election, he got 53 percent of the vote to John McCain's 46 percent.  Just a hair away from 47 percent.  Let us ask about the that 46 percent.  What has Obama done to persuade them that we are all Americans and that he would govern in the interests of the entire 100 percent of America?

Not much.

The guy that sent the bust of Churchill, the colonialist, back to the Brits apparently did not think about Churchill's advice to victors: Magnanimity.  He's the guy that told a meeting of House Republicans: "remember, I won."  He's the guy that was having to buy the votes of Democrats to pass his unpopular Obamacare.  He's the guy that called out ExxonMobil by name in the presidential debate as an example of a corporation feasting on subsidies.  He's the guy doing recess appointments when Congress is still in session.  He's the guy planning to rule by executive order in his second term.

By the way, lefty thinkers like Juergen Habermas have a word to describe the domination of the economic and political system by business and the administrative state.  They call it "internal colonization.  They mean that, just as the European imperialists blew away the native political and cultural system in their 19th century colonies, so the administrative state (think ObamaCare) blows away and colonizes the face-to-face "lifeworld" in the modern First World.  It's an irony that Barack Obama, the anti-colonialist in foreign policy, is hell-bent on colonizing Americans with his administrative welfare state.

Look, politics ain't beanbag.  But Obama, who ran for president as a man who would heal our partisan and racial divisions, has governed as a partisan and a race warrior.  He has reversed the normal practice of playing the partisan to get elected and then working across party lines to fashion bipartisan compromises.

It became clear quite soon after Obama's election that many people in the 46 percent that voted against Obama felt they had targets on their chests. That's why Seattle's 29-year-old Keli Carendar came out of nowhere to organize a Tea Party in the deep blue city of Seattle.  That's why the Republicans gained 63 seats in the House of Representatives in 2010.  That's why people I know that aren't really politically active are energized this year to vote out President Obama.

How widespread is this feeling?  Well, let's just say that the first debate on Wednesday night scored 67 million TV viewers, 15 million more than the first debate in 2008.  That might mean something.  It might mean that voters are more energized about the 2012 election than they were about the 2008 election.

Now why would that be?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The MSM Did It

After last night, there's a temptation to haul out the football and military metaphors.  As in: Is this a strategic breakout?  What did the Obamis lose last night?  A division?  An army corps?  The Sixth Army at Stalingrad?

Never mind.  The big takeaway is the MSM.  Do you understand what you have done, you nattering fools, chattering away to each other in your liberal bubble?  You have betrayed your own side.

If liberalism is to be worth anything, it should be the best it can be.  That means that it mustn't be protected and coddled by a mothering mainstream media.

(Now I find that there is a word for this coddling.  It's called the Taranto Principle.)

That means that when your side screws up you eat them for lunch.  You don't bury outrageous scandals like Fast and Furious on page A23.  You don't sit in silence while, e.g., Medicaid, flushes down the toilet.  You don't buy into the Democratic Party spin that it was greedy bankers that caused the Crash of 2008.

Of course, you do that not because of any partisan reason but because you want to be the best you can be.

Put it this way.  In the good old days, the hard-bitten, hard-drinking newspaperman may have been a ruin, but he believed with a passion in comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.  Sound familiar?

So get this.  In today's America there is no more comfortable person than a sinecure liberal.  You know who I am talking about.  I am talking about college professors with tenure.  I am talking about liberal trustafarians.  I am talking about tenured government employees.  I am talking about the not-for-profit sector.  I am talking about unionized media employees (yeah, don't forget that big-media journalists are all union members).

So any media worth its salt would be making life miserable for the sinecure liberals.  Only it doesn't.  The result is the Obama trainwreck last night when the president's bubble-tested bromides fell as flat as a ten-day-old Coke.  And did I tell you that the president is mean?

Well, too bad.  The result of media malfeasance is that Mitt Romney broke through the media blocking unit last night into open country and the American people got to see for the first time what a can-do All American problem solver he is.  Who knew?

Who knew was everyone that had taken the trouble to read half a page of biography about Mitt Romney.

Here's just a reminder.  When Mitt was turning around the Salt Lake Winter Olympics, which you could regard as a 24-7 job, he also had to deal at the same time with the nightmare of Ann Romney's developing MS disease.  The CEO of the Salt Lake Olympics was stopping by the grocery store on the way home so he could cook dinner.  What a guy.  What a preparation for the job of President of the United States.

That's the kind of guy who is going to be the next President of the United States.  And it's just as well, given the mess the country is in.

Some people say that Mitt Romney turned up at this moment in history because the United States is an exceptional nation, and that God takes care of children, drunks, and the United States of America.

Who knows?  They might be right.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

October Surprise Bowl, 1st Quarter

Political partisans all live in fear of the October Surprise, the game-changing gotcha in a presidential race that always turns up in October.  It all started in 1972 with Henry Kissinger promising "peace is at hand" in Vietnam a few days before the election.  George W. Bush nearly lost the 2000 election after a story about his DUI surfaced in the week before the election.

Now, of course, political campaigns plan for it, on offense and defense.  In fact, I dare say they plan it out as a four-quarter bowl game, since there are four weeks in October.

I'm not sure that the weak-kneed AFSCME garbageman ad counts as an October surprise: more likely a JV busted play, because it turns out that, far from being a guy that doesn't have a clue what it's like to be a gargbageman, Mitt actually spent a day as a garbageman when he was running for Governor of Massachusetts in 2002.  And he made a mess of it.  It's in his book, No Apology.

But you'd have to assume that the 2007 tape of Barack Obama doing the jive-talk thing to a meeting of black ministers and made available to the Daily Caller is the real thing.  A real October Surprise, doubtless fed to the media by the Romney campaign.  The point that the video makes is the one that Republicans want to make about Barack Obama.  He is not the racial healer that ran for the presidency to heal the festering sore of race politics.  He is a full-blown black racist, riling up the brothers just like a Jackson, a Sharpton, or a Wright, and telling his black listeners that the Republican federal government doesn't care about them.

(Yeah.  If only.  That's what Frederick Douglass prayed for over a century ago.  Do nothing about the Negro, he said.  Let him alone. "Your doing with us has already played the mischief.")

Well, that's just the first play in the first quarter.  No doubt there is more to come, from both sides.

However, you really can't say that the collapse of the Obama foreign policy is an October Surprise.  We were supposed to get through the election before the roof fell in on that.

But for conservatives, the timely October Surprise from the Romney campaign is a good sign that the Romney team is out to win.  And there is always the chance that it is putting the Obama people off their game plan.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Reverse Cloward-Piven Strategy

Back in the 1960s a couple of lefty sociologists came up with a grand plan.  Richard Cloward (1926–2001) and Frances Fox Piven (b. 1932) that called for overloading the U.S. public welfare system in order to precipitate a crisis that would lead to a replacement of the welfare system.Their idea was to replace the welfare system with a guaranteed annual income.

The idea behind the Cloward-Piven strategy is that when the system gets overloaded the poor will take to the streets to demand change and the establishment will, in order to prevent riots and mayhem, accede to the just demands of the poor and the underprivileged.  Some people think that Barack Obama is implementing a Cloward-Piven strategy as he expands government and chokes the private sector.

When people worry that another four years of Obama would be the end of the United States, they are buying into the assumptions of the Cloward-Piven strategy.  They are thinking that once Obama overloads the system it will end up as a European social democracy with a wall-to-wall administrative state.

Don't foreget that conservatives have a kind of reverse Cloward-Piven strategy.  It is what I call the Irving Kristol rule.  Conservatives should not be green eyeshade accountants and try to balance the budget, wrote Kristol back in the 1980s.  They should just adhere to a rule of tax cuts.  Cut taxes as deeply and as broadly as politically possible.

Yes, but what if the government runs out of money?  What if we have to cut programs?

Exactly.  That is not a bug, but a feature.

The question is: what happens when the government runs out of money?  Do the streets run with blood?  Or does something else happen?  Does the underclass, what used to be called the "mob," set the city afire?  Does the middle class demand that the rich "pay a little more" or does the middle class demand that the government cuts the waste?

One thing to remember.  Back in the days of the Paris Commune it was possible for rebels to build street barricades and hold up in the dense "rookeries" in which the poor lived.  But the French government found an answer to that.  It built broad boulevards, according to the plan of Baron Haussmann, to make it easy for the army to march to any troublespot, and it demolished the rookeries.  Think 20th century slum clearance in the USA.

Obviously, if you look at the Euro economy in Europe and the Obama economy in the US you can say that the jury is still out.  The European ruling class is trying to kick the can down the road with bailouts and money printing.  But the current benefits cannot be paid, so something will change.

Probably in Europe the Latin countries will leave the Euro and devalue.  The Nordic countries will leave the Euro and continue to work and save. (Because the Germans fixed their labor market problems back in the 2000s.)

Here in the US I suspect that we will see something different.  First of all, the Cloward-Piven strategy actually got implemented without a crisis.  We now have, informally, a guaranteed income of about $30,000 a year for a single parent with a couple of children.  And it happened without riots.

We have had riots, of course.  There were the Watts riots and Detroit riots in the 1960s.  And the LA riots over the Rodney King verdict.  But the riots didn't topple the regime.  They just resulted in the destruction and demoralization of the black neighborhoods where the riots occurred.  In LA during the Rodney King riots the liberal Hollywood types stood guard with shotguns at the entrances to their winding upscale drives.

On the other hand, the middle class has had something to say whenever the government has screwed up the economy or society in the last half century, and every time it has had its way.  It turned against the Democrats in 1968 after the Sixties and elected Richard Nixon for law-and-order.  It turned against President Carter in the stagflation of the late 1970s.  It turned against President Clinton in 1994 when he lurched left.  The middle class lurched left when President Bush presided over the Crash of 2008 and then turned on a dime and lurched right when President Obama refused to prioritize the economy over the left-wing Obamacare.  The middle class always votes for stability.

So what do you think the middle class is thinking in 2012?  What would you do in the stagnant economy of 2012 if the presidential race were a contest between a Cloward-Piven community activist and a corporate and administrative turn-around expert?

Golly.  I just can't figure that one out.  It's too hard!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Nothing New: Liberals in Denial

In his review of Charles R. Kesler's I Am The Change: Barack Obama and the Crisis of Liberalism Mark Lilla does us all a favor.

He shows us just how deep in denial our liberal friends remain.

He starts by sneering at Kesler's story-so-far, which tells a story of Hegel (and the big state) leading to Wilson (and the updated Constitution) through FDR's New Deal to LBJ's Great Society, "bringing with it existentialist self-absorption, moral relativism and passivity in the face of the new administrative state."  Lilla, you see, thinks that blaming German ideas for the mess in America is a case of "blame the Kraut."

On the way, he fails to mention Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism, which is probably where Kesler got most of his "blame the Kraut" stuff.  Does that mean that this self-described "centrist liberal" never read it?  It's an outrage, eh Jonah?  Because, whether they know it or not, and I suspect they prefer not, liberals get all their stuff from the Germans, from the big state to the government schools to the government-run social welfare.

So then Lilla makes his pro-forma rhetorical concession towards the conservative narrative.  Yes, the Great Society did overreach, he admits.  But Ronald Reagan really did change things.
Reagan did in fact restore (then overinflate) America’s self-confidence, and he did bequeath to Republicans a clear ideological alternative to Progressivism. But he also transformed American liberalism. As an author named Barack Obama once wrote, Reagan “put us on a fundamentally different path because the country was ready for it.” By delegitimizing Great Society liberalism and emphasizing growth, he forced the Democratic Party back toward the center, making the more moderate presidencies of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama possible. Reagan won the war of ideas, as everyone knows.
OK. Let's concede this.  Ronald Reagan did force Bill Clinton to pretend to be a centrist.  And then, after a two-year lurch to the left, Newt Gingrich did force Clinton to the center.  But Reagan didn't win the war of ideas.  Nor did he transform American liberalism.  The point about Barack Obama is not that he is moderate, but that he represents a flood of 30 years of liberal ideas dammed up by the prestige of Ronald Reagan.

Liberalism transformed?  Let's take a look.

  • Are liberals converted to the idea of low tax rates and sound money?  No and No.
  • Are liberals converted to the idea of minimal regulation that recognizes Hayekian reality that the man in Washington can't run the economy, because he can never have sufficient bandwidth? No.
  • Are liberals ready to back away from the administrative state and reinvigorate civil society and the little platoons?  A solid No.
  • Have liberals begun to realize that race politics is poison and that Affirmative Action and diversity imprison minorities in a liberal plantation?  Definitely No.

So how in the world can "centrist liberals" like Mark Lilla think that they represent a sort of common-sense consensus while conservatives are hyper-ventilating extremists?  You know the answer.

Because everyone that elite liberals know agrees with them.

You'd think that, with the imploding welfare states of Europe before their very eyes, with Grecian default just a matter of time and Catalonia threatening to split off from Spain, that liberals would be getting second thoughts about their project, but chaps like Mark Lilla remind us that the end-of-dynasty elites seldom see the end coming.  They are like the Bourbons, who have learned nothing and forgotten nothing.  Or as Fred Bauer from the Daily Caller writes:
In the life of almost all civilizations, a time comes where, as Yeats put it, “things fall apart.” The internal principles and assumptions that used to seem to work begin to break down.
That's where we are with liberalism.  Step by step liberals built their administrative welfare state, from Social Security to unemployment to government schools to centralized health care.  And it was good.

The idea that the whole thing was a ghastly mistake, a denial of the basic social and cooperative instincts of humankind, that it lasted as long as it did in spite of all the wonderful programs and policies and cosy liberal sinecures: that is unthinkable.

The trouble is that if we are to get through the next few years without a serious crack-up--as in serious inflation and/or debt default--then liberals have to come out of denial and buy into the idea that conservatives have a point.

But "centrist liberals" like Mark Lilla remind us just how deep in denial our liberal friends remain.  And that means that things have to get worse before they get better.  Probably a lot worse.

The whole problem can be epitomized in the flatulent idea that the rich should pay a little more in federal taxes.  Let's think through what that means.  It means that the wealth created by the rich should be put to work in government spending rather than in creating new businesses and new consumption items.

Really?  Is there anything more important right now than in creating a new boom in businesses and jobs?  Is there really anything the government is doing right now that is more important than getting the animal spirits of businessmen revived?

We know, because the last century amounted to a petri dish experiment to prove it, that the administrative state is a horrible mistake.  It is a monument to the conceit of the educated elite.  Maybe "centrist liberals" haven't woken up from their nap after consuming the Sunday New York Times yet, but there are leftist thinkers that have ripped up the idea and the practice of the administrative state.

There is Juergen Habermas, the residual legatee of the Frankfurt School, who talks about "internal colonization" in his Theory of Communicative Action.  There is James C. Scott who talks in Seeing Like a State about the aesthetic pretensions of high modernism, how modern elites have tried, again and again, to force society into the mold of their elegant administrative vision, simplifying complex social structures to make them "legible" and thus controllable by a ruling elite.

The significance of Habermas and Scott is that they confirm the Hayek thesis, that human society is too complex to reduce to an administrative state.  While Hayek merely asserts that the administrative state is impossible, Habermas and Scott show how the modern educated elite has attempted  to simplify society to make it amenable to administrative control.  In Habermas, the judgement is that the administrative state is flawed because it results in "internal colonization," a colonial state like the colonies of British India and Africa; in Scott the judgement is that the administrative project has notoriously failed, time and time again, resulting in famine and misery, from the enclosures of Europe to the collectivizations of Asia and Africa.  Obamacare, on this view, is yet another attempt to make real, messy health care conform to the elite's exquisite aesthetic vision of health care.

The reason that every dynasty seems to be followed by a "time of trouble" issues from the stupidity and blindness of late-dynasty elites.  They just cannot bring themselves to see that everything they so lovingly created is crumbling down around them.  They use every last ounce of their political power to keep their hegemony going until one day the whole thing collapses and the barbarians rush in.

And the people perish.