Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Dear Nervous & Frustrated Liberal Pundit…*


Dear Nervous & Frustrated Liberal Pundit,

It’s up to you.

Yesterday, after a year of angering the American people, the voters in perhaps the most Democrat-friendly state elected a conservative Republican to the Senate seat held by one Kennedy or another for more than a half-century.

You’re depressed: Massachusetts was supposed to be a shoe-in, a rubber stamp, a mere formality with Paul Kirk keeping the chair warm until a more permanent Democrat could be installed.

You’re angry. You’re wondering in disbelief how can the American people vote for a Republican after the 8 years of George W Bush? Have they forgotten already? In Massachusetts?

And let’s face it, you’re scared. Jonathan Cohn is right. If Obama, Bill Clinton, and Vicki Kennedy can’t get a Democrat elected to Ted Kennedy’s seat, in Massachusetts for God’s sake! then no Democrat Senator or Representative is safe from defeat.

Now you have a choice.

You can continue the denial, the self-deception. You can blame Brown’s victory on the process, the stomach-turning sausage-making that has resulted in what was once called health care reform, is now spun as health insurance reform, but what we all know as Obamacare. After all, what’s in a name? That which we call Obamacare by any other name would still smell most foul.

What about shelving the bill. The bickering and dickering, the horse-trading, backroom dealings, and outright bribery would stop… and these are among the things that have destroyed the Democrat brand in the eyes of the public. These are the things that Obama promised us he would end, and yet you, Liberal Pundit, are oblivious to the anger that has risen from Obama’s embracing of the corruption that he swore he would stop. Even CSPAN has had enough.

Giving up on this health care bill will not damage Democrats in the polls. Honestly, what could damage them any more than they are already? Liberal Pundit, are you really listening to what the American people are saying? It won’t fix the problem. It costs too much. How are we going to pay for it? When are Obama and the Democrats in Congress going to actually do something about the economy, and that doesn’t mean passing Stimulus II, Son of Stimulus, “Targeted Investment” or whatever the nom du jour of the warmed-over bucket of spit that Democrats are bandying around.

Liberal Pundit, the American people are willing to forgive incompetence in their leaders, to Move On if you will, as long as they think the leader won’t screw up like that again. After all, Bill Clinton won a second term after the ‘93 tax hikes, the ‘94 assault weapon ban, and the Brady Bill. Why not advise the Democrats to start over, to invite Republicans including Scott Brown to the table, to create a list of solutions that both Democrats and Republicans can agree on. Maybe it is only 80%, or 60%, or even 30%… but isn’t 30% of a loaf better than nothing? Especially when bipartisan support also means bipartisan ownership? I think it is, if you care for your country more than you care for your political party, if you’d rather do the right thing than be right, if you’re more interested in accomplishing something than stomping on your political opponents.

So, Liberal Pundit, do you have those qualities? Can you urge the Democrats to be good Americans instead of just good Democrats? To walk the walk and work in a true spirit of bipartisanship to solve the country’s problems? I guess we’ll find out soon enough.


*A response to Jonathan Cohn’s letter earlier today

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The End of The Beginning, or The Beginning of The End?

Andrew Sullivan posted recently on how health care seems to be slipping away from the Democrats despite their unassailable supermajority control of Congress and the White House… a supermajority that possibly ends next week if the come-from-behind candidacy of Republican Scott Brown prevails over Mass AG Martha Coakley in the Massachusetts Senate special election.

He had health insurance reform in his grasp and yet it may now be swiped away because they simply took too long to get it done.

The real story of the Massachusetts election, however, is what the outcome will mean in terms of the absolute ability of the Democrats to control Congress. If Coakley wins, it’s another year of one-party rule; the Republicans will continue to play the role of street urchins who can throw rocks at the passing train from behind the fence as it rumbles by but that’s it. If Brown triumphs, however, then the train comes to a screeching halt unless the boys are given some say as to where it’s going, and when. The Democrats will have to work with at least one Republican to get controversial legislation through.

Sullivan argues:

[A vote for Brown is a vote to] embolden every enemy Obama has, from Netanyahu to Ailes.

That’s the only reason to vote for Coakley on Tuesday.

She’s a dreadful candidate, but this race is now a critical battle in the war to rescue the possibility of effective governance.

Give me a break! If Martha Coakley is the one thing that will keep us from descending into chaos, then the battle is lost already and we’re doomed. Actually, the opposite is true. Removing the Democrat supermajority in the Senate is the only chance we have of stopping the bus from driving off of the cliff, of restoring effective governance in the form of ruling according to the wishes of the people.

A Brown victory means that Democrats will no longer be able to damn the torpedoes of public opinion and go full speed ahead on their unpopular radical agenda. They’re going to have to play ball. If healthcare reform is important (and I think that it is, just not in the way the Democrats are proposing), then perhaps adopting a Democrat idea (government as insurer of last resort) along with a Republican idea (allow insurance companies to compete across state lines so that insurance pools can be much larger, spreading the risk around, or tort reform, or both) might actually lead to a better bill, not for the Democrats or Republicans but for the American people. If getting the economy going again is important (and everyone knows that it is), then perhaps we can forego another $800 billion mistake by passing a ‘targeted spending’ bill that is Stimulus II in all but name only. Perhaps we can try making the Bush tax cuts permanent and reducing the corporate and capital gains taxes while also freezing federal spending to 2007 levels. Was government spending really deficient back in 2007?

Of course, if you’re fully invested in the Democrat agenda and believe the country’s finally headed in the right direction, but just not going fast enough, then Martha Coakley is probably your candidate and Andrew Sullivan probably reflects your thinking. Just recognize that most Americans disagree… and that the election of Scott Brown is the beginning of the end for Democrat control of the federal government as it likely presages a GOP landslide in the mid-term elections. The People are mad as hell and they’re not going to take it anymore.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Plan B

In the past few days, there’s been a couple of stories floating an idea by the Treasury Department to encourage people with 401(k) accounts to switch their investing out of securities (stocks, bonds, etc.) and into annuities:

The U.S. Treasury and Labor Departments will ask for public comment as soon as next week on ways to promote the conversion of 401(k) savings and Individual Retirement Accounts into annuities or other steady payment streams, according to Assistant Labor Secretary Phyllis C. Borzi and Deputy Assistant Treasury Secretary Mark Iwry, who are spearheading the effort.

The purported reason for this is to ensure that those who plan to depend on their 401(k)s for the bulk of their retirement income will have a sufficient income stream, with the excuse given that investors lost an average of 31% of the value of their 401(k) accounts between January 2008 and March 2009. What is hidden in the story is the fact that these accounts recovered half of that loss in the past nine months, and at the current rate of growth in the stock market the average 401(k) will be back at January 2008 levels in another nine months. So, where is the crisis? What is the real reason?

I think the real reason is clear; the Obama Administration has an eye on all of that money and wants to grab it. Obviously, outright confiscation would result in an armed uprising by outraged Americans. However, what if the Congress pulled an Argentina and changed the 401(k) laws to force conversions of all of the funds in 401(k)s to government-backed annuities… T-bills… or face a confiscatory tax rate? Yes, there’d be a court battle that would drag on for years, and that might or might not be won by taxpayers, but in the meantime the government has all of that money. And what would they do with it?

Today, our budget deficits are funded by taking the surplus funds out of Social Security, and selling T-bills. The Social Security surplus is drying up as the number of retired recipients is approaching the number of working contributors. Buyers of our T-bills are similarly drying up; it’s a lot easier to sell a couple hundred billion dollars worth of T-bills each year than to sell more than a trillion dollars worth of T-bills each year… and as the economy falters and we buy less imported oil and Asian-manufactured goods the Arabs, Japanese, and Chinese have less dollars to buy our T-bills. More important, the Chinese, who are the largest purchasers of T-bills, have us over a barrel. They can use the threat of not buying our debt as a strategic lever against us. Certainly our economy would collapse if we were forced to either stop all deficit spending or print more than a trillion dollars to buy next year’s debt. As China’s domestic consumption grows, they need our markets less and less… and we’ve already funded much of their economic development. What if they decide to annex Taiwan, and they use the threat of cutting off purchasing our debt if we interfere? Will the Obama Administration risk economic collapse over Taiwan? I don’t know if the Chinese are willing to push us that far, but certainly we’re fools if we expect them to continue to buy our debt when our ability to repay that debt is becoming increasingly doubtful. So the Obama Administration and the Congressional Democrats have come up with an alternative, a Plan B, to take all of the money in our 401(k) accounts.

A prudent nation would forego more government spending than it collects in taxes. Prudent and Congress are two words that are seldom if ever found in the same sentence, however. The current Congress seems hell-bent on spending every dime they can get their hands on, and borrowing even more money to spend once that is gone. The current Administration will not stop them. Changing the law to put another $3.6 trillion in the hands of the Congressional spendthrifts and postponing the hard decisions about government spending for another couple of elections is the easy way out, especially if enough people buy the spin about how this is somehow looking after their best interests.

This is how a once-great country sinks into economic purgatory. This is how America, the strongest nation the world has ever known, with the largest economy and the highest standard of living, turns into a banana republic. Be afraid. Be very afraid. (HT: Instapundit)

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Buddy, Can You Spare a Dime?

A letter from the RNC was in the mail tonight. Michael Steele is shaking the tree to help fund the RNC for the ‘10 campaign cycle. So what else is new?

Well, for one thing the RNC’s historical fundraising advantage is missing this year. The Washington Times reports that the RNCC has barely enough money to fund a single Congressional race, having raised $18 million less than the DNCC and with less than $2 million of available funds today versus over $15 million for the Democrats. Politico reports that Congressional GOP incumbents have been reluctant to turn over campaign funds to the RNCC; Democrat GOP incumbents have given $2 million more out of their campaign war chests to the DNCC. But this is really a smokescreen; the real reason that the RNCC is running on fumes has to do with GOP voter disaffection. (HT: Newsweek) Yet Republican Party leaders don’t seem to get it… or they don’t want to get it.

For too long, each party has treated much of its base like bastard step-children. But evidence abounds that the conservative voters are fed up with politics as usual, with party bosses who cavalierly dismiss supporters’ concerns and frustrations with a wave of the hand while snickering “Where are they going to go?” Well, guess what? They went and started their own political organization: the TEA Party. They’ve decided to take back their country and take on both Democrats and Republicans. TEA Party supporters played a major role in the Republican off-year election victories, but perhaps their biggest statement was made in the NY-23 Congressional election that was won by a Democrat after the GOP establishment insisted on supporting Dede Scozzafava, a liberal ‘RINO’, over a conservative candidate (Doug Hoffman) for pragmatic reasons (GOP elites didn’t think a conservative Republican could win in that district and wanted a liberal Republican, assuming that all of the Republicans and many Democrats would vote for her). The RNCC spent over $1 million to support Scozzafava, yet Hoffman’s endorsement by Sarah Palin brought the nation’s attention to his candidacy, a significant amount of donations from out-of-state TEA Party supporters, and overwhelming support in the district. Realizing she had no chance of winning, Scozzafava dropped out of the race… and then endorsed the Democrat candidate who went on to win. The real loser in this election wasn’t Doug Hoffman, who will run again in 2010 and who will most likely win, it was the GOP leadership.

So, “where are they going to go?” Well, as a volunteer who spent his own time and money to leave Washington state and go to Florida to help campaign for McCain last November, and as someone who believes the GOP leadership hasn’t learned its lesson from the past two national election cycles, I can tell you where I’m going to go… and it’s not to a GOP fund-raiser. I gave money to Doug Hoffman, and I’ve given to Joe Wilson, and I’ve given to Scott Brown… and I’ve given to them directly instead of donating to the RNC and letting them pick and choose. Millions of disaffected GOP voters are doing the same thing, bypassing the party and supporting only those candidates who agree with them.

The GOP leadership is in grave danger of losing their conservative base, and more ‘Scozzafavas’ (supporting establishment RINO Republicans) will only hasten the process. I personally have no intention of giving to the RNC for a while; if my campaign contributions are going to be thrown down a rathole then I’d just as soon pick the rathole.

In 1994, Newt Gingrich successfully ended 40 years of Democrat control in the House by understanding why the majority of Americans were angry at the Democrat-controlled Congress, and then getting GOP candidates (incumbents and challengers) to pledge to address those issue if voters supported them. The majority of voters agreed with the agenda and believed in the GOP candidates, and history was made. Sixteen years later, and four years after losing control of the Congress, today’s GOP leadership seemingly has no real clue as to why many of the folks who voted the GOP out are now gathering by the millions… and no clue as to how to obtain TEA Party support. Voter disaffection with the incumbent Democrats is nearly at an all-time high (and it is only going to get higher as the economy fails to recover), yet the Palins and Bachmanns who are inspiring the TEA Party supporters have little influence in the GOP.

Mr. Steele, with all due respect, you and the rest of the GOP leadership need to get a clue. And you need to get it quick. Otherwise, 2010 will be historical only in that future pundits and historians will wonder how the GOP could have blown such a great opportunity. Here’s a hint: listen to the TEA Party protests and come up with objective, measurable solutions for America’s problems and not just less of what the Democrats are promising. And tell us the truth! We can take it.