I get plenty of people asking me why, if I’m as non-partisan as I claim, do I spend so much time bashing Democrats.
That’s probably the easiest question to answer I can imagine. This is why:
So is this:
And of course, who can forget this:
Folks, Republicans are hypocrites. They’re liars. They have no moral compass, except the one that polls best in October of an election year. They would sell their own mother to the highest campaign donor, if that’s what it took.
But let’s face it: Democrats are flat-out CRAZY. I mean not, “Maybe Johnny needs a Diazapam” crazy. We’re talking full-blown, straight jacket ready, padded room required INSANE. Think Jack Nicholson in “The Shining,” or Anthony Hopkins in “Silence of the Lambs,” and you’ve got an idea how positively nuts Democrats have become.
So, yes, of course I’m going to drop as many bombs on them as I can. I have a faint hope Republicans can be reformed. Their sins are those of character, not utter foolishness. But Democrats? As long as their party is obsessed with trying to justify 37 genders and insisting everyone not named “Kamala Harris” is a racist rapist, they’re beyond hope.
“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that “all men are created equal.“ – Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address
The Party of Lincoln has abandoned Lincoln in its embrace of Donald Trump. I daresay, the The Party of Lincoln has abandoned the United States of America in it’s embrace of Donald Trump.
There is no other explanation. Honest Abe understood that what makes us “American” is the simple proposition that “all men are created equal.” Have we always lived up to that expectation? No. Our history is one of struggling with that ideal and overcoming the innate prejudices that animate us. From Harper’s Ferry through the Civil War, Reconstruction to Rosa Parks, The March on Washington to today, we have moved forward towards recognizing the inherent worth of all our citizens. Until now.
By selecting Trump as their standard-bearer, with his campaign rhetoric harkening back to the Know-Nothing Party of the 19th Century and a record of racist taunts and statements stretching back nearly 45 years, the Republican Party has taken a giant step back in time. If you aren’t sickened by Trump’s statements over the past ten days denigrating Hispanics, Muslims, Blacks and all Americans, then I don’t know what else to say to you. You are the same people who would have gladly posted signs in your shops announcing “Irish Need Not Apply” in the 1850’s or “No Wops Allowed” a century ago. You are the same people who would have loosed the dogs upon the marchers in Selma. You are the same people who threw bricks through the buses in Boston.
If you cannot denounce Trump and all he stands for, you must ask yourself what it is, that separates you from any other nationality in the world? You want a return to “American Exceptionalism”? Fine. But your embrace of Trump demonstrates that you haven’t the foggiest what that even is. You haven’t any idea what it is that allowed the United States to become the world’s preeminent power, what led to our economic successes and made us the envy of every other nation on the planet.
That exceptionalism lies in the fact that we’re willing to accept anyone who pledges loyalty to the Constitution of the United States of America as an American. We are the only nation on Earth that can say that. The core strength of our nation is that our nationality is not defined by where your parents or grandparents were born. We are united by loyalty to a common ideal rather than a bloodline. Our forefathers left those nations behind, as Mr. Lincoln said, to create a new type of nation – one where belief in liberty and justice for all is both our founding and guiding principle.
So if you want Trump’s overt racism as the standard for the United States of the future, understand what you’re buying into. Understand that by supporting Donald Trump, you are supporting the dissolution of the United States of America and the torching of our Constitution. Understand that you are setting in motion the end of the concept of free men.
So, Mr. McConnell, Mr. Ryan, Mr. Christie, Mr. Sessions and all of the other Republican “leaders” who have jumped aboard the Trump Train: the choice laid before you can’t be more stark. You may continue to support Mr. Trump as your party’s nominee, and accept the permanent branding as racists. Or you can realize that he isn’t actually the nominee yet and totally not worthy of the Party of Lincoln, and as unceremoniously as possible dump him. The choice is yours.
There’s this notion that Republican Party is America’s “conservative” political force. It was true 30 years ago, when Ronald Reagan remade the Republican coalition. It was still true 20 years ago, when rank-and-file Republicans essentially told the reliably milquetoast George Herbert Walker Bush to take his Maine pragmatism and shove it up his Kennebunkport.
There are still conservatives in the Republican Party, but the idea that the Republican Party is conservative is about as accurate as saying CNN is a relevant news organization. It might have been true a generation ago. But not today.
There’s this common theme in mass media and even among members of the party, the idea that Republican Party of today is undergoing a civil war of sorts. It’s the RINOs vs the Tea Party for the heart and soul of the Republican band. Of course, according to those same experts, we should all hope that the RINOs win and put those racist, extremist Tea Party nut jobs out to pasture. Oh, those insane whack-jobs in the Tea Party! How dare they suggest limits on governmental authority, reductions in general debt or enforcing our borders? Hey, it’s a great narrative for selling outdated copies of print magazines and filling dead air during “sweeps” months. And the articles practically write themselves!
Indeed, every “news” organization was so certain of the outcomes of Tuesday’s elections they already had the obituaries for the Tea Party written. The double whammy of blowout victories for this generation’s GHW Bush in New Jersey and Clinton surrogate Terry McAuliffe in Virginia would demonstrate to the entire world that those radical Tea Party gun loving inbreds were finally out of American civic life.
This is modern reality. The Republican Party is no longer a community of like-minded conservatives. We Tea Partiers, those who hold fealty to the conservative ideals of fiscal prudence and personal responsibility, who value life and shun totalitarianism, are no longer welcome members of the Grand Old Party. We’ve mistakenly taken to calling the John McCain’s and Reince Priebuses RINOs. The fact is, in the 21st century we’ve become the RINO: and the party could care less what we have to say. They want our money and our votes, but more importantly, they want us to sit in the corner and shut up. No, these people are not the RINOs we’ve fretted about. They are the Elephants, true to their party’s symbol – large, in charge and afraid to fight even a mouse.
You know what? I’m all for leaving the GOP to the Elephants. They’ve proven they are incapable of fighting for conservative principles. Like all good elephants, the only thing they care to fight for are a few peanuts from their masters in the Democrat Party. If they trample the American people and their own reputations while scurrying after a bit of hay, why should it concern them? After all, they have their junkets to Syria and if they play real nice, maybe an invite to a White House dinner.
They’ve already chosen their standard bearer for the next election, another elephant who talks a great conservative game but runs behind the phantasm of higher elected office when asked to stand and deliver. Yes, Governor Christie talks all the right things on conservative issues – right before capitulating on gay marriage or promoting an Islamic law cleric to the state Supreme Court. He’ll talk about how sacred the Constitution is, before signing into law some of the most draconian gun control measures in the country.
He talks about pragmatism as a governing function, but has defined pragmatism to man capitulation. First, he threw his party’s Presidential nominee under a bus, just to ensure he could get a seat at the federal feeding trough. Now, the incoming chair of the Republican Governor’s Association throws a conservative running for governor under a bus, just to ensure the media plays up how his “pragmatic” approach to campaigning delivers 30 point wins over political nobodies.
In the Elephant Man, the modern Republican Party has found its truest representative, indeed. So I say it is high time for the last conservatives who call themselves Republicans to form a new party, a truly conservative political force that will fight for those bedrock principles that made America great once and can again. We are not abandoning the Republican brand; the Republican brand no longer stands for anything meaningful or trustworthy. So, if you’re a conservative in more than name only, join us! and leave the peanuts for the Republicans!
Ok, color me confused, but I fail to see a problem with the premise that the Republican party is dedicated to ending President Obama’s tenure after four years. This must make me some sort of space alien, since according to the media and my “moderate” friends I should. As for liberals, they’ve already consigned me to a fate worse than a heretic’s during the Spanish Inquisition, so they really don’t get any say here. (Sorry, but you can go back to your corner and wait for your next handout).
For those of you uninitiated, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) made the title statement a year ago today. McConnell was immediately excoriated by the press as being an obstructionist – and almost on cue from Team Obama – disparaged as not caring about the real problems facing the nation. I didn’t understand the diatribes then, and I still don’t see the issue now. If the Republican party’s true aim is to fix what’s ailing the country, shouldn’t they start by fixing the biggest problem we have?
I’ve probably lost more than half my readership by this point, but for those who’ve stuck around, let’s look into that mission statement in a little more detail. Why should the singular aim of the Republicans be to make Barack Obama a one-termer?
First, there are unbridgeable policy differences between the liberal (er, progressive) wing of the Democratic party, led by Barack Obama and the conservative wing of the Republican party. In both parties, there are some self-described moderates, but the last two election cycles reduced their ranks and influence considerably. The few moderates left are an endangered species and most are retiring. As a result, the philosophical divide between the two major parties is greater than at any time since Reconstruction. The partisanship currently displayed in Washington and in state houses in everywhere is symptomatic. Now, don’t get me wrong: there are plenty of issues where I do not agree with either party. I’m a Libertarian, so the headlong rush to continue things like the Patriot Act, ratify SOPA and generally undercut our civil liberties I find particularly offensive. But hey, that seems to be the only thing both parties agree on, so whatever. The point is, the Republicans and Democrats agree on almost nothing else. Why should Republicans want to have the person in charge of the Executive Branch be a man who is personally opposed to their policy objectives?
Second, this is a two-way war. Congressional Republicans are not the only ones refusing to co-operate. In the past three years, the White House released executive orders and regulations that undermine the policies conservative Republicans support. From the unilateral decision not to enforce DOMA or immigration statutes to threatening social security payments, the President and his minions have declared war on conservative policies, past and present. Obama signaled his intention to work with Congressional Republicans early in his administration when he announced to Eric Cantor, “Elections have consequences.” Barack Obama claims to be a bible-reading Christian; perhaps he should open to Galatians 6:7 (“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for what a man soweth, that shall he also reap”). He asked for this fight on day 1; that he’s surprised it came is a startling admission of how little he understands.
Finally, McConnell was not stating that the Republican goal is simply to prevent the President from having any success. He could have phrased it better, probably. But the goal of conservatives everywhere (and of Libertarians) is to prevent the President or his party from growing the government even larger – and to do that, it means getting him out of office. Government currently has a larger share of the economy than at any time in history, accounting for 41% of GDP, a 6% growth rate over the past three years. Once Obamacare fully kicks in (unless repealed), that percentage projects to rise to 69%. And at that point, you can kiss whatever freedoms you had good-bye. Once you’ve lost economic freedom, the civil liberties you take for granted are quick to follow. Don’t think so?
Consider your job. Your boss comes in one day and says you have to stop reading that loony guy over at Political Baseballs because it upsets upper management. Are you going to quit your job or say so long to my little blog? And don’t pretend it doesn’t happen – it happens all the time. He who controls the purse strings eventually controls every aspect of your life – unless you’re willing to follow the example of the Founding Fathers and pledge your fortune and your life to throw off the yoke of slavery.
So, yes. There are some very real reasons that Republicans – and freedom loving Americans – should want to ensure the President is a one-termer. Anyone who finds that offensive is either a sycophant (you can put your hand back down; I don’t give hand outs) or living in a fairy-tale world where nothing bad can ever come of a government program.
I don’t live in a fairy-tale. I live in the world that will be much better off once Barry O is sent back to Chicago.
When I announce my political affiliation, the usual responses range from subdued chuckle to loud guffaw. “Oh no,” people say. “You’re not one of those crazies, are you? An anarchist, ready to abolish the government?”
Well, I am a Libertarian and have been for a quite a long time. And the reason is pretty simple: if I’m crazy, then so were men like Thomas Jefferson, Samuel and John Adams, Patrick Henry, George Washington, James Madison and Benjamin Franklin. All, excepting Madison, signed the Declaration of Independence. You might have noticed that these men, the original Libertarians, while unafraid to fight for liberty – to give their lives in the cause of liberty, if needed – were hardly anarchists. In fact, when their first attempt at organized government yielded something much closer to anarchy than we even want to dream of today, they organized the first Constitutional Convention.
So, if that’s crazy, feel free to count me in.
To put it simply, Libertarians believe that government exists solely to protect individual freedom. But our views on where those freedoms derive are much different than that of the typical Republican or Democrat; in fact, they are diametrically opposed. Ask yourself this question: is government the final arbiter of what constitutes essential liberty? If you answered yes, then you hold the same world view as the vast majority of Republicans and Democrats.
Before you answer that the idea of a government not being responsible for deciding what freedoms we should enjoy is the definition of anarchy, consider the very document that founded our great country, the Declaration of Independence. It is more than a 236 year old piece of parchment that hangs in the National Archives. It is the very embodiment of what makes America, and Americans, unique among other nations and nationalities.
“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…”
Now consider the Preamble to the document that created the federal government, the Constitution for the United States of America. It is 11 years the junior to the Declaration, yet in it the nation’s founding principles are given their equal due – prior to prescribing the methods used to preserve Liberty.
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, to establish justice, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
When you actually read the words, two things immediately become clear:
- The essence of Liberty, of Freedom, is not something that comes from any government. It comes from a Higher Authority.
- Government exists to protect those rights, not corrupt them.
Understanding the first point is essential to truly understanding the American concept of Liberty and freedom. The only way individual freedoms are absolute is if they come from an authority higher than that of either men or their institutions. Otherwise, individual freedoms are a caprice, something to be given or withheld as determined by the fancy of others. Governments, rather than working to protect those freedoms, become dishonest arbiters of disputes. Eventually, governments (and the people governing) no longer see themselves as members of the general society, bound by contract and convention to uphold liberty. They become oligarchs; a separate class that believes itself superior to the rest of society.
Does that last paragraph give you pause? It should, because we are witnesses to that very transformation. It is not a sudden transformation that occurred in the past two or three years, either – it’s been underway for most of my lifetime. Is it beginning to snowball, accelerating in pace and breadth? Certainly, and the quickening pace over the past few years makes anyone concerned about preserving liberty queasy.
Now, as to why I identify as a Libertarian and not a Democrat or Republican: the proponents of the two major parties are our modern oligarchs, who see themselves as more fit to determine which liberties are essential and which can be abridged by the government. There truly isn’t much of a difference between them, in that both see distinctions in liberties; the difference is only in which liberties they deem more essential. The things they spend their time arguing over are actually further limitations on those essential liberties and freedoms, disguised as concern for safety of the overall society. The reason they feel secure in their deliberations is that the Nation, once enamored of Liberty, is today concerned less with freedom than safety – or at least, the illusion of safety. The people fear deprivation of material desires than the loss of freedoms. They are convinced the loss of freedom for one party will not result in a curtailing of freedom for themselves – when the reality is that any loss of freedom for any American necessitates that all Americans lose some aspect of their Liberty.
Terrific examples come from exchanges I had this week with unabashedly partisan Democrats and Republicans. I fed the same quote to both, and their reactions were remarkably similar. The quote, from Ben Franklin, is “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither.” The Democrat’s response was that Franklin has been dead 200 years, and his ideals with him. The Republican’s response was that changing times require changing mores.
That’s the final point that our founding document makes, that most Americans either forgot or were never taught.
“—And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our Sacred Honor.”
The nation’s founding principle is that the Liberty and the ideals of freedom supersede anything else. Liberty takes precedence over personal comfort, over wealth, over safety and even life itself, if necessary. The very ideal is worth fighting and dying for, as in the case of the American Revolution and the Civil War. What is more, if this principle is derived from an act of Divine Providence, then it does not disappear with the death of individuals nor the passage of time. It is an everlasting, eternal truth.
Because I am a free man and believe my freedom is not negotiable: That is why I am a Libertarian. Because I believe that the government is my servant, not my master: That is why I am a Libertarian. Because I believe that no man has the right to subject another to his will: That is why I am a Libertarian.
And if you believe these things, so are you.
If you’re a political wonk (or wannabe wonk), odds are you are already intimately aware of the mythical Julia. For the rest of you, “Julia” is an Obama campaign creation; a mythical middle-class woman who cannot survive without the government largesse championed by the President and the modern Democratic Party. (You can catch her life story here).
It’s a good bit of salesmanship. In one tidy slideshow, the President and his minions manage to tie together the themes of his candidacy. It defends the classic socialist cradle-to-grave view of patriarchal government as the only answer to the nation’s ills not by explaining how such policies work, but by fear-mongering. And it frames the defense by portraying Republicans as determined to wage war on (liberal) women.
That fully half of the show is dedicated to defending Obamacare is purely inconsequential, I suppose. That the Supreme Court now seems certain to rule the PPACA unconstitutional in June will undoubtedly have major political ramifications, not the least of which is that attacking Republicans for wanting to repeal it will simply be a moot point. I mean, the President and his henchmen could try to mount some sort of defense of an unconstitutional law – but that would certainly seem to point up Republican claims that the President is willing to take extra-constitutional measures, if that’s what it takes to pass his agenda.
The real question is how the Republicans in general, and Mitt Romney in particular, will respond to Julia. The Democrats have opened with the classic, neo-progressive view of a patriarchal cradle-to-grave government. Not pure socialism, but close enough. They haven’t mentioned how, in an era of runaway deficits and national debt figures that exceed the total wealth of the nation, this vision of government-centric society is paid for. And they’ve laid any alternative view as the bogeyman. A smart strategist would explain how a government that’s large enough to decide when and where you go to school, when you can marry, when (and how many) children you can have, when you can go to the doctor, what food you eat, what professions you can pursue – even when you’re too sick to live, is essentially the Chinese model of democracy.
The problem for the Republicans is their view isn’t terribly different than the President’s. And the chosen standard-bearer is as much a statist as Obama. Remember, this is the guy who created RomneyCare. The only real difference between the two candidates is not whether they favor government power over liberty or even whether they favor Wall Street and K Street over Main Street. Their only point of contention, really, is which side of Wall Street they prefer to walk down, the left or the right.
And America, that’s just not a good enough choice.
Super Tuesday came and went, only it wasn’t quite so super. If anything, the results only served to muddle the outcome further in what was an already muddled Republican primary. If you listen to the MSM, Mitt Romney solidified his role as front-runner after expanding his lead in delegates.
Ah, if only it were so simple. But nothing about this primary season has been simple. The principle reason for quagmire is that the Republicans decided this year to change things up and award delegates proportionally, but left it to the individual states to decide how the apportionment would work. State party bosses, being state party bosses, largely decided that the popular votes wouldn’t matter and state political conventions would ultimately decide how many delegates each candidate would receive. Craziest of all these is Missouri, which held a non-binding primary last month and will hold non-binding caucuses next week. It’s a system only Boss Hogg would appreciate.
The net result of all this inside horse-trading (aside from having only a relative few delegates actually apportioned) is the current morass. If, as in the ancient past (read: 2008) delegates were awarded on a winner take all basis, Romney would have commitments from 513 delegates, Rick Santorum 197 and Newt Gingrich 101. Instead, we have estimated delegate counts. Depending on the source, Romney has between 379 (CBS News’ count) and 430 (Fox News) delegates. My own personal count gives Romney 386 delegates. Regardless of which count you take, there are only two I’ve seen that give the front-runner more than 50% of the delegates contested thus far.
And that brings us to the current problem for the GOP. It is becoming increasingly possible that they will arrive at their convention without a candidate who has amassed 50% of the delegates needed to secure the nomination. Not necessarily probable, but possible. After all, there are three winner-take-all states (New York, California and New Jersey) that profile favorably for Romney and they combine for 317 delegates. If combined with his current total, that would mean he would need to win about 40% of the remaining delegates in the other states not yet voted, in order to reach the 1,144 required. It should be a doable task for establishment’s preferred choice.
Only, therein lies the problem for Romney and the establishment. They want the primary season over so they can focus on the general election. New Jersey doesn’t vote until June 5th – and if Romney hasn’t secured the nomination by then, it will mean enough of the party isn’t supporting the eventual nominee to signal significant weakness to the nation. A comparison can be drawn to 1948, the year Harry Truman became the original “comeback kid” (sorry, Bill Clinton). By all normal election standards, Truman should have been walloped that year: unemployment was rising, the economy faltering, the Soviets detonated their first atomic weapon and Winston Churchill’s infamous “Iron Curtain” was now a reality Americans faced with fear and trepidation. But the Republican nominee, Thomas Dewey, was about as inspiring as dry toast and succeeded in snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Not unlike Romney, Dewey was perceived by many fellow Republicans as aloof and calculating – a politician’s politician. Also not unlike Romney, Dewey was disliked by the conservative wing of his party (who preferred Ohio Senator Robert Taft). The intra-party fight lasted into the convention, where it took three ballots to nominate Dewey.
Some 64 years later, the Republican Party seems to be repeating history. Certainly, the political calendar isn’t favorable to Romney. What he needs is a convincing win outside of New England to demonstrate he can bring the party together and he seems to be pouring money into Kansas, in the hope he can get it there. But after Kansas comes Alabama, Mississippi and Missouri, three states that do not favor Romney. Since it’s also highly likely that Santorum and Gingrich will split the lion’s share of delegates from these four states, one or both will probably close the gap with the Romney. The GOP nightmare scenario gets that much closer at that point. If the voting holds as it has thus far, with southern and evangelical voters opting for anyone but Romney, the current front-runner can’t cross the 1,144 threshold before New Jersey’s June 5th primary.
But there are two other pitfalls Romney will need to avoid if he wants to secure the nomination, even at that late date. First, he’ll need to ensure that those party conventions are stoked to vote for him (far from a sure thing at this point). Second, he needs to wrap up as many of the uncommitted delegates as possible. There are currently 93 of them; current projections indicate there may be as many 255 by the convention. That will be a powerful voting bloc, one as capable of tying up the 2012 Republican Convention as those of Earl Warren (yes, the man who later became Chief Justice of the Supreme Court) and Harold Stassen in 1948.
So, Romney still seems best positioned to become the Republican nominee. But party fratricide seems even more certain to deliver him as weak and badly wounded nominee. In 1948, the Republicans thought they could take on an unpopular incumbent presiding over a moribund economy and uncertainty on the world stage with an unpopular candidate and win. Will 2012 prove to be a repeat of that disastrous strategy?
One thing that never fails to amaze me is the reaction I receive from people when I describe my politics as Libertarian. I think it shows how remarkably uninformed the American people are regarding their history, their civics and their individual roles in government. I find myself wondering what Abraham Lincoln (16th President, saved the Union, etc) would think about modern politics and the modern citizen. Lincoln’s primary goal during his term was not to end slavery. While slavery was an underpinning issue of the Civil War, the real reason it was fought was eloquently expressed during the Gettysburg Address:
“…that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
Stop to consider those words for a moment. Let them roll around in your mind and ponder their significance. Lincoln considered the preservation of the Union to be paramount; of greater importance than ending the great immoral stain left behind the Founding Fathers. This is the essence of Libertarianism and is counter to the views of most of my fellow citizens, who see Libertarians as being one step from being anarchists. But Libertarianism is actually more aligned with what the media refers to as the “center,” some amorphous grouping of Americans that believe that while government has a role in our lives, that role should be minimalized to the greatest extent possible. We believe in Liberty – not just the ideal of liberty, but the pursuit and practice of Liberty. What’s more, we believe that a government that is supposed to be of the people, by the people and for the people cannot fulfill that role if it becomes bigger than the people. The people then become subsumed by the demands of government –the delicate balance envisioned in the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and the Federalist Papers is upset. Rather than the a representative republic, the governmental form is turned into something else – a government oppressing the people, by the government and for the government.
Libertarians look at the proper role of government as being like a three-legged stool.
First, government acts as the final arbiter of disputes among people by imposing guidelines based on common morality, while not restricting anyone’s individual liberty. Wait, you say – morality implies religion, so are you implying that government applies a religious principle? No, not hardly. Morality can come from religious faith and certain moral codes are common to most religions (such as provisions against murder or theft). But a common morality is determined by a given society in general. So, while my particular religion considers certain actions to be immoral, general society does not. It is government’s role to say this is the general consensus. And in a well-informed society, impertinent changes to a society’s moral code as represented by the government’s actions are remediated by selecting new representatives. In this way, government does not establish rules of conduct for society and does not impose the will of any group or individual on any other.
Second, government is charged with ensuring the defense of society from those that would harm the society. Most people understand this to mean the defense of the society in cases of armed conflict. But more than that, it also refers to defending a society from internal destruction. Because this is such an awesome power the people cede to their government – the ability to force or coerce a course of action – the Founders took great care to ensure that the application of such force had multiple checks and balances, as represented by our three-headed government. I suspect they would be greatly troubled by the amount of power the Legislative branch has yielded to the Executive over the past 70 years.
Finally, government is responsible for ensuring that it remains the servant of the people and that the people are not the servants of the government. This is a difficult proposition, since it essentially means governments are required to be answerable to society in all cases. As enshrined in our Declaration of Independence:
“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, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
And so, we accept that in cases where government no longer abides by the first two principles, the third allows the society to overthrow the existing government and replace it with a new one.
For Libertarians, the problem with modern government is simple and two-fold: first, society has ceded too much power to government and allowed it to infringe on individual liberty, on any one person’s ability to be who and what they desire to be. Second, the Legislature has ceded too much of its power to the Executive. The result of this is that government is no longer responsive to society, but rather to powerful elements in society. And on those rare occasions when society demands a change in course by exercising its power on the Legislature, they find themselves stymied by a too-powerful Executive.
Tomorrow, we’ll delve into the practical implications that rose from America’s abandonment of Libertarian government –and how we’re still living with those implications today.
Yesterday, I documented how the nation’s fixation with “soaking the rich” is not only bad economics but bad public policy. To recap briefly, those who are better off are already providing the federal treasury with far more than their share. The top 400 earners comprise less than 1% of the population, yet their taxes provide more than 2% of total take – while some 45% of Americans don’t pay any income tax. The best way to improve the revenue side of the fiscal equation is to get those 45% to start paying their taxes again.
Of course, we all know that we can’t tax our way out of the debt hole. It’s too deep and deepening every second; even if we close all the tax loopholes and get those 45% to ante up we still won’t close the projected budget deficits for any year over the next ten. Spending needs cutting, although liberals are typically offended by that notion. But it’s the 800 pound gorilla in the room and finally people are noticing.
While the Washingtonians had their fun earlier with whittling away at discretionary spending, the fact is that chopping away at 12% of the annual budget isn’t going to make enough of a difference. (And the reality is, they chopped very little – about $352 million according to CBO). To really tackle our deficit – which needs to be done before we get to paying down the debt – we have to tackle entitlements.
The President’s seriousness about tackling entitlement spending was summed up by this line from his April 13th speech:
“We don’t have to choose between a future of spiraling debt and one where we forfeit investments in our people and our country. To meet our fiscal challenge, we will need to make reforms. We will all need to make sacrifices. But we do not have to sacrifice the America we believe in. And as long as I’m President, we won’t.“
Gee, Mr. President. Sure glad you reiterated for us your commitment to maintaining the status quo.
The small part of the speech he did dedicate to his Medicare reformation plan was filled with smoke and mirrors. There weren’t any concrete details, only a pledge to reduce Medicare costs by $500 billion over the next 12 years. In case you’re wondering, that is less than $45 billion per year – or less than the budget cuts enacted this year. Talk about fiddling while Rome burns! To accomplish that meager goal, the administration proposes to focus on cutting waste and fraud – laudable goals and an admission that the government is doing a terrible job at administering the program. If there is $45 billion in abuse, somebody needs to be fired. The rest is the smoke and mirrors part – relying on the IPAB to force reductions in payments. Grandma will certainly be happy when her doctor tells he can’t see her anymore because the government won’t pay him enough to make it worth his while.
The Republican plan put forth by Paul Ryan kicks the can down the road for another 10 years, then applies an indexed government co-payment to a private plan. While that does provide some cost certainty in the future, it does nothing to address the spiraling debt created today by the program. It also does absolutely nothing to address the cost inflation in health care. In short, it’s more smoke and mirrors accounting.
So if both plans are nothing more than speaking points and fall well short of actually tackling the problem of entitlements, where do we go from here?
The answer is to address the very idea of government entitlements. The very word “entitlement” means that a right to a specific benefit is granted by…somebody. What’s more, expectation of entitlements are often tied to narcissistic attitudes. If you don’t think the two are related, consider what your visceral reaction is to the idea that entitlements need to be cut: odds are that like most people in the Western world, you recoiled at the thought. What, take away my benefits?
The President danced around this very issue in his speech. Namely, what kind of society do we want to be and where do we to place our priorities? The President, along with most liberals, envision a society in which regardless of circumstance you will always be taken care of. To enable this vision, they propose that the productive members of society take care of the unproductive – the misfortunate, as the termed it. Most Republicans also think entitlements are just dandy, although they would prefer the private sector pony up to those responsibilities. In other words, they’re perfectly happy to let businesses handle society’s ills. Anyone who has ever read Dickens can tell you what kind of world that is.
It seems like a horrible quandary, doesn’t it? On the one hand, we’re faced with the prospect of a federal takeover of society; on the other, a return to Merry Olde England of the 1850’s. But there is another way – one that Americans throughout our history relied upon.
Tune in on Saturday to find out what that might be. J
A positive development in our politics is that attention is finally turning to the debt and the annual deficit. In case you aren’t aware of the raw numbers, the deficit for the past two years has ballooned to more than an aggregated $3 trillion. That has raised the national debt to more than $14 trillion – or, about $123,000 for every household in the United States. I give President Obama credit for finally listening to the nation and recognizing the seriousness of the problem. It marks a dramatic turn for him, seeing as how he spent more in his first two years in office than his predecessor did in eight.
In his speech last week, the President didn’t mince words: he expects the “wealthy” to pay substantially more than they currently do while he continues to spend like a drunken sailor on things only a drunken politician would consider necessary. Lo, the blogosphere and networks have focused on the President’s new Medicare proposal (more on that tomorrow) and how yes, the “rich” should pay more. After all, the argument goes, the middle class is paying higher rates than the wealthy and that is just unfair. It certainly seems a winning political argument; after all, who isn’t for soaking the rich?
This makes for good sound bites and good politics, but bad policy. I realize that in some regions the Democrats definition of “wealthy” (a family earning $250,000/year) might make sense. But in others, $250,000 per year is simply middle class. Upper middle class, to be sure, but hardly wealthy. In the New York metro area, a family easily achieves a combined $250,000 in income with two public sector workers. It is even easier to reach if one person sells cars and the other works in the local bodega. The same holds true for San Francisco, Los Angeles and other major metro areas around the country. This is really a call to arms in class warfare, the destructive political game played by Andrew Jackson and Teddy Roosevelt, with disastrous effects for the nation – though those effects weren’t felt until decades later. Even liberal icon FDR understood the dangers of the game and generally shied away from playing it.
Fortunately, the IRS keeps records on the truly wealthy and the rest of us. The latest data they have is from 2007; but since the one tax policy liberals love to hate – the “Bush Tax Cuts” were already in effect – it makes a good statistical reference point. You can find it here. In it, the IRS keeps tabs on the 400 wealthiest taxpayers in the country and compares their rates to the rest of the taxpaying public. They began tracking the data in 1992, so we have a 15 year window in the way tax policy evolved through both the Bush and Clinton eras.
At first blush, it seems as though liberals may be on to something. The IRS calculated the effective tax rate on the top 400 earners as 26.38% in 1992, rising to a high of 29.93% by 1995, and then steadily dropping to 16.62% by 2007. But statistics are wonderful things; anyone can quote a number out of context to prove an argument and this is exactly what the liberal media is doing.
First, I give credit to the IRS for doing what nobody to the left of center has bothered doing in their arguments. Their numbers reflect 1990 dollars ,thereby accounting for inflation (in mathematical terms, they normalized values). So, if the truly wealthy were paying lower effective rates, then the government should have been taking in less money from them, right? Not so fast: in 1992, the IRS collected about $4.5 trillion; by 2007 that figure rose to $14.5 trillion. Why? Well, in 1992 not a single one of those 400 returns reflected an effective tax rate over 31%. By 2007, even with the hated “Bush Tax Cuts”, 55% of the top 400 had an effective tax rate of at least 35%. The lower overall tax rate for these taxpayers is reflected in the fact that 35 of them paid no tax – an effective rate of 0%.
Overall, the truly wealthy combined to pay 2.05% of the taxes in 2007, nearly double the 1.04% they contributed in 1992. In actual dollars, they contributed nearly $23 billion of the government’s total tax take of $1.1 trillion. Those who make up this class are certainly already paying their share and the administrations attempts to paint them as sore winners can only result in flat out class warfare.
We do have a revenue problem, since we’re spending more than 4 times what the government is taking in. A better focus would be on the 45% of Americans who currently do not pay any income tax. Certainly, if you’re gross income is below the poverty line for your region, you shouldn’t be expected to pay, but I doubt 45% of Americans are living in poverty. That certainly seems much fairer and also guarantees that those currently benefiting from living here also gain equity in the system.
However, I doubt we’re going to find $1.6 trillion in revenue by asking everyone to pay their taxes. We still need deep spending cuts just to get the 2012 budget balanced. Tune in as I tackle those issues throughout the week.
New Jersey’s 9th Congressional District, which covers most of Bergen County and in Hudson County, parts of Kearny and Jersey City as well as Secaucus, is currently represented by Steven Rothman. It’s time to change that and elect Michael Agosta to Congress this November.
Steve Rothman is a likeable person. Anyone who doubts that he is doing what he believes is best for the citizens of his district, the state and the nation in general are seriously deluded. Unfortunately for the rest of us, Rothman’s views of what’s best too closely follow the ideas of Karl Marx. That is, Rothman is an unabashed socialist. He honestly thinks every problem we face is best solved by a huge dose of government intervention and wealth redistribution. He doesn’t call himself a socialist, of course; but his voting record speaks for itself. He is ranked as a far-left liberal, having voted for nearly every proposed tax increase and government program that’s been introduced since he took his seat in 1997. Perhaps the best thing to be said about Rothman is that unlike his predecessor, Robert Torricelli, nobody suspects Rothman of undue corruption.
Michael Agosta, unlike Rothman, is a political neophyte who espouses the ideals of smaller government and personal responsibility. He is a man of good standing, although the Democratic Party has certainly tried to impugn his character over the past two weeks. A former Federal Air Marshall and soldier, Mr. Agosta’s national security credentials are born of the front-lines, not of a government-sponsored think tank. And on economic issues, Michael Agosta understands that the only way to revive the economy is to get people back to work – and to do that, we need to reduce taxes and hold the government accountable for their actions.
This November, vote for Michael Agosta. Vote to return America to Americans, not politicians.
Once every two years, Labor Day signals the opening of the “Silly Season.” What is this “Silly Season” you ask?
In a nutshell, the “Silly Season” is when the general populace joins political junkies in paying attention to the politicians running for office in November. And the politicians, on cue, begin campaigning in earnest. But what it makes the season silly is the way the politicians act. Suddenly, Democrats begin espousing conservative ideals. Ordinarily, they’re joined by Republicans discovering their love of liberal programs.
But this year promise to be sillier than most. With an unsettled economy, unemployment rising and public dissatisfaction in both political parties rising to all-time highs, Democrats are in serious trouble heading into the
campaign season. Many Congressional seats once considered safe for the Donkey Party are now in play; seats once considered as being in-play or toss-up’s are now leaning Republican. As reported in yesterday’s New York Times, the DNC is cutting loose many candidates, hoping to minimize losses in the November mid-terms.
In short, what many Democrats are discovering is that the positions they’ve spent the past four years carving out are not exactly what the country wanted. The reason they won most of their seats – including the Presidency – was national dissatisfaction with the Bush administration. The initiatives the current administration have pushed through have proven even more unpopular than the ones proposed by GWB. How bad is it? 56% of Americans want the abomination that passed as health care reform repealed. Republicans now lead Democrats in all ten of the major issues polls.
Not surprisingly, in light of these developments many Democrats are running as far from their own party as possible. It’s amazing how many Democrats are now against the very health care package they passed earlier this year. (Remember when Nancy Pelosi declared that once we knew what was in the bill, we would love it? Oops.) Even President Obama is finding his conservative voice, as reports suggest he will ask Congress to pass “targeted” tax breaks on Wednesday. To add to the sense of desperation from the Democrats, many are hoping to cast their opponents as extremists who would destroy the fabric of American life.
Of course, Republicans are tempted to equally join in the insanity, but so far have held the line on leaning left. They fully understand that the nation has peeked behind the Progressive curtain and been repulsed by the view. This is turning into one of the strangest elections ever seen, where the minority party is the one fending off negative attacks. Normally the reverse is true, but Republicans don’t need to go on the attack in this cycle. The news, even left-leaning organizations like MSNBC and the NY Times, can’t help but report the dismal employment numbers. So Republicans are remaining more or less silent, except to point out that the news hasn’t been good since the Obama administration took over. That’s attack ad enough. Besides, the left is self-immolating itself well enough that the Republicans don’t need to join in.
So kick back and enjoy the Road to November. It promises to be a fun – if bumpy – ride.
One thing is becoming painfully obvious: the way we, as Americans, view economic opportunity is out of step with the way the world operates today. It is time that we recognize this and address it in a positive manner, without the political fire-bombing that is hurled daily on both the left and the right.
The left is stuck with an early 20th century Keyensian view of economics. I’d argue that particular view didn’t really work then and won’t work today. Massive infusions of government capital during the 1930’s into public works projects did build some marvelous edifices, such as the Hoover Dam, but did not absolutely nothing to end the Great Depression. America didn’t return to full employment until the advent of World War 2 – the result of increased war production and more than 10 million men entering military service. Once the war ended, the economy again returned to near-Depression era levels of unemployment. What finally proved the cure for the economic ills of the 1st half of the 20th century was that in the post-war period, only the US remained capable of providing the goods and services needed by the world. It was an export economy, fueled by international demand, which put America back to work.
The right seems permanently wed to supply-side economics. Strict adherence to that model might have worked, but we’ll never know. While government receipts during the supply-side era (1981-2008) outpaced inflation by (See fig. 1), government spending at all levels increased at an even more dramatic pace, leaving us with unsustainable levels of debt and continuing government deficits – and a seemingly insatiable public demand for services that we cannot afford.
The current model being followed is a strange amalgam of the two diametrically opposed economic philosophies, with government interventions and expanded spending coupled with “targeted” tax breaks. In one sense, this new model has worked: businesses are sitting on a virtual mountain of cash. But in a much larger sense, these haven’t worked to stoke the economy – and for one simple reason, the demand needed by businesses to invest that capital doesn’t exist now. Employment data continues to remain bleak, representative of the fact that businesses are not investing in human capital. Part of the reason is undoubtedly tied to regulatory uncertainty, since anyone running a business needs to properly plan and account for the funds allocated for human resources. But that uncertainty alone cannot account for the downward pressure July’s economic data displayed on employment.
What is needed is recognition by both those on the right and the left that a new demand model is required for our current age. Modern technologies have made many labor-intensive occupations of the late 20th century redundant. Cloud computing and SaaS technology reduce the need for office and technical staffing, closing off two of the high-growth industries of the past 30 years. Manufacturing tasks that once required dozens of people can now be fully automated, with only one operator required. (Just last night I watched a documentary on Zippo lighters – the entire assembly line only needs 5 people to run it; a perfect example). Even many low-wage jobs have been replaced – the other day I went food shopping. No cashiers were available; the entire checkout line was self-service with two people running 20 checkout lanes.
In other words, there are two possibilities now facing the country:
- Current unemployment levels are now the “new normal” and a return to sub-5% unemployment is unlikely. In this event, the current social services are inadequate and need serious revamping. Unemployment insurance as currently exists needs to be discarded, replaced by a system that is more proactive in returning the unemployable to the workforce while ensuring that people are not discarded like yesterdays news. Such a program needs to be structured so that chronic unemployment and other abuses are not permitted. In short, in such a world, unemployment services should not be a state duty, they should very much be a federal-corporate symbiosis. It is impossible – and against a state’s interests – to train somebody for employment opportunities in another state, but it is in a company’s best interest to do so.
- Current unemployment levels are an aberration; a temporary result of career displacement due to a technology upheaval. Such upheavals have occurred before and the nation weathered those storms, most recently in the late-1970’s as the nation shifted from a manufacturing base to a services based economy. In this case, the government needn’t do much of anything, except make career retraining available and mandatory, in order to continue receiving unemployment insurance payments. Once, that is, the new employment needs are identified.
I’m not going to pretend I’m smart enough to know which of the two scenarios is correct. What I do know is that until we begin to honestly discuss them, no action can be planned or undertaken. But as I mentioned at the top of this post, neither side seems ready to abandon decades-old dogma. I doubt either will over the next 90 days, as we begin a new national election cycle and both sides seem to only care about scoring political points by feeding raw meat to their adherents.
It’s up to the American people to put aside our natural inclination to fear in uncertain times and force our political leaders to engage in an honest discussion of the situation. And if they won’t?
Then it’s up to us to replace them this November with people who will.
I’m certain many of you have been watching the unfolding – seemingly in slow-motion – debate on extending unemployment benefits. Then again, I’m also certain that quite a few of my fellow citizens haven’t given it more thought than which sunscreen to bring to the beach. After all, it is July. This is hardly the time of year when political juices get flowing for most of the electorate.
However, I have two strikes against me when thinking about this: for one, I am an admitted political junkie and two; I am one of those approximately 6,800,000 Americans who has been officially unemployed for longer than 6 months. (That’s a pretty dismal number, but it’s actually rosy when compared to the long-term underemployment number and the actual numbers of Americans who have been unemployed so long that the feds stopped counting them. But I digress.) So, I’ve been watching and listening with keen interest.
Being fiscally conservative (ok, ϋber-conservative) and also unable to secure new, permanent employment, I find myself torn between the two very real issues at play. Those two issues are, to put it simply, how do we reconcile a real need to prevent utter destitution for the millions like myself – and at the same time, do it in a way that doesn’t further bankrupt the country? It seems to most reasonable Americans that the proposal put forth by the Republican caucus – paying for the cost of extending unemployment benefits by using some of the remaining funds from last year’s gargantuan stimulus package – is a good compromise. Why the Democratic caucus is so opposed to the idea has been beyond me. After all, even that most liberal of economists, Paul Krugman has said repeatedly that unemployment benefits are “a highly effective form of stimulus.” Congress loves “earmarks,” or setting aside money for pet projects. In an election year when there are likely upwards of 20 million voters who face the prospect of losing everything on a daily basis, it seems logical that Congress would earmark $38 billion of pre-existing expenditures on a pretty popular program. It would be a win-win, something that almost never happens for a politician: they could claim both the labels of “caring liberal” and “fiscal conservative” with one vote. So why won’t they?
The answer (as with almost everything Congress does these days) lies in the details. The program is part of H.R. 4213, a 412 page megalith that deals with a whole of stuff not at all related to employment or economic stimulus. In fact, the section dealing with the benefit extensions is Title V, subtitle A of the bill. It incorporates all of 9 ½ pages of the bill.
I’m sure you’re asking yourself what could be in the other 402 pages of the bill. Well, here are a few highlights. Feel free to hit the link and read it for yourself:
*Provisions to build sewer systems
*Alternative fuels vehicle credits
*Energy efficient appliance tax credits
*New standards for windows and doors (You can’t make this up, folks)
*Railroad track maintenance credits
*Rum excise tax relief for Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. Hey, even if we’re all broke, at least we should be able to swig cheap rum, get drunk and forget this mess!
The list goes on and on. There are over 500 individual line items in this bill. Not only have our congressmen been busy putting earmarks into this thing, it seems they’ve taken special care to pack it with more pork than a Jimmy Dean breakfast sausage. No wonder they couldn’t find the $38 billion! (By the way, by the Obama administrations own estimates, there should be nearly $340 billion left from last year’s budget buster.)
Oh, and one final note regarding the supposed disincentive of providing unemployment benefits: In ordinary times, I agree that extending unemployment benefits can be a disincentive to finding gainful employment. But these are not ordinary times; not when estimates range from five to eight people for every available job opening. And speaking from personal experience, I can assure you that getting 30% of my prior earnings in an unemployment check doesn’t exactly meet my monthly commitments. Here’s hoping Sen. Jon Kyl and Senatorial candidate Sharron Angle, who have publicly espoused this thought, take a good look around their respective states and come to their senses. They are not properly representing their constituents, their party or the nation as long as they hold that view.