Friday, September 30, 2011

Weekend Music Chill

It's Collingwood vs Geelong tonight for the Grand Final championship of the AFL. The Magpies (Collingwood) are the defending champs and finished the ladder with the best record, recording only two losses. Unfortunately, they were both to the Cats (Geelong) who were the class of the league for a few years, winning the Premiership in 2007 and 2009. We are Collingwood fans, by dint of association with Mrs. Daddy's Aussie relations. This is Mick Malthouse' (what a great name) last game, so it is sure to be emotional.

Here is a little inspirational music for tonight's match (this afternoon, if you are reading down under.)

Here is the full version of the song, which gets cut off in the preceding video.

Game is on ESPN2 with a scheduled start time of 9:30 p.m. PDT.

Farewell Mick, win or lose, you done us proud.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Rufus the Hipster Dufus and the Donation Deadline

I received this fundraising email today from Rufus, purportedly fundraising director for Organizing for America.
Friend --

I'm the national finance director here at OFA.

I know we've been sending you a lot of email lately. That's because we're staring down a critical fundraising deadline tomorrow at midnight.

You know what that means for your inbox, but let me give you a sense of what that looks like around here.

The staff and I are working around the clock, powered by too much coffee. It's been way too long since we called our moms. And we've all had more pizza and bad takeout in the past few weeks than anyone should have in a year.

No one's complaining; that's what we signed up for. And we're not doing this just because it's our job to make sure the campaign has the resources it needs. We're doing this because it's part of what defines this movement.

From the beginning, we've refused to take money from D.C. lobbyists and corporate special interests. Our operation is fueled by people inspiring each other to take ownership of this campaign.

That's why we've been emailing this week, and that's why I'm obligated to remind you once more that the deadline is coming up in a matter of hours.

If you're able to, will you chip in just $3 today?

For all of us here at HQ, and all of the staff and volunteers across the country counting on these resources, I really appreciate your help.


So why the fake deadline and the continued spam bombarding my inbox, to which Rufus freely admits? He freely admits there is a deadline, but just doesn't tell us what is the nature of the deadline. Turns out, it is the end of quarter reporting required by the FEC and the campaign wants to make a big show of all the little donations to Obama. So they are basically bribing people with a lottery to donate so the campaign looks like a "grassroots" movement. Professor Jacobsen at Legal Insurrection nails it:
But it does seem desperate, bring as many people in for $5 then spin the results even if the dollars are below expectations. An alternative theory being advanced is that Obama has done so well with big donors, the campaign is afraid of the image.
Later Jacobsen warns people that the raffle price will drop to $3, so don't go for the $5 ticket.
The $5 doesn’t go to the government to help pay down debt, it goes to Obama’s campaign. It’s a way to gin up the “small donor” and total donor numbers, and as before, it comes just before the end of a quarterly reporting period.

But I have a warning to those considering paying $5 for the chance.

Hold out until the final days.

And you will get it for $3. Plus a Slurpee.

But back to Rufus, note as well the whole breathless, were just a bunch of college hipster dufuses partying for Obama. Didn't call his mommy? Too much pizza? Oh my. Is there a computer program that generates these things to appear to be from a certain, shall we say demographic. (No offense, Dean to your blog's title.) I was looking for a picture of Rufus, but this will have to do.

No wait, here is the actual picture, and a little information about our intrepid fundraiser.

Banker's son mines gold for Obama

CHICAGO - By his own account, Rufus Gifford’s early life was everything you would expect of the son of a patrician New England banker. Privileged North Shore upbringing. Elite schools. In the summer, tennis on Nantucket.

But things shifted for the third child of Chad Gifford, who ran some of Boston’s biggest financial institutions, after Father’s Day weekend in 1993, when his family discovered he was gay. Rufus Gifford says now that coming out to his parents allowed him to pursue a less traditional path, launching him toward California and ensuring that he would never wear the starched shirts and gray business suits of his father.

. . .

Now he spends much of his time in a Chicago office tower, home to Obama campaign headquarters. The president’s reelection hinges in substantial part on Gifford’s ability to persuade a big slice of American industry - from Wall Street’s players to Silicon Valley’s entrepreneurs - to pour as much as $1 billion into the coffers for what is expected to be the most expensive campaign in history. Obama set the record in 2008 when he raised $745 million.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Wimpy Way to Deficit Reduction

"I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a Hamburger today," Wimpy of Popeye fame is often quoted as saying. The implication of course, was that Wimpy was never going to come up with the cash on Tuesday. With the Gang of Twelve meeting the last two days, but apparently having no comment on their actual discussions, Rodger Hedgecock helpfully summarized things today. The Democrats will offer three dollars of future spending cuts for a dollar of tax increases today. The Republicans will be split between this "bipartisanship" approach and those who want to stand firm on any tax rises. It reminded me of Wimpy's proposition. Rodger reminded us that this is the standard Democratic trick, used against George H.W. Bush when he reneged on his "no new taxes" pledge. The spending cuts never come.

But why can't the Republicans reverse this game. We'll give you a dollar in tax rises tomorrow for three dollars of spending cuts today. Now Grover Norquist might start screaming that we shouldn't vote for any tax increases, ever. But he needs to understand my methods. First, as a matter of good politics, if we don't at least promise modest tax rises to pay for the coming spending cuts, then we will lose the political battle. The Economist makes this argument persuasively in this week's leader. Second, this presents an opportunity to reform the tax code. We should back load a phase out of all deductions and all of the other special goodies in the tax code. We should offset some of the increased revenue with lower marginal tax rates, which would be permanent. Third, if spending cuts and entitlement reforms produce the economic recovery that I expect, we can later vote for even lower marginal rates, in effect cancelling the tax hikes. Finally, we can argue that tax hikes now would harm the economy, so they have to be back loaded.

I have always believed that no tax hikes are needed to balance the budget. But sometimes the packaging is very important in selling the plan. Phasing out the deductions after giving people warning is a fair way to reform the tax code and reduce cronyism. Further, if we calculated decreases in the marginal rates that were exactly offset by the phase out of deductions in a static analysis, it would actually result in revenue growth for two reasons. First, the inefficiencies that are caused by hiding income would be wrung out of the system, resulting in greater growth than static analysis would predict. Second, because people would not have ingenious means of hiding income, but marginal rates were actually lower, reported income would rise.

The deficit commission can easily achieve the $1.2 trillion in cuts over ten years if such an approach were taken. The hard part would be to get the Democrats to go along, but I think the public would like it.

Palin Not Running? Enthusiasm Gap for the Field

HotAir is speculating that Sarah Palin will not be running for President. They cite this clip during an interview with Greta Van Susteren as evidence.

After listening to what Sarah Palin says, I am inclined to agree. I also agree with Palin's seeming self-assessment that she can be more effective as an activist, although she didn't speak in the first person.

I am struck by who is not running in the Republican field, Mitch Daniels, Chris Christie, and Sarah Palin. It seems that each of these potential candidates has a cache of highly enthusiastic supporters that none of the current crop, Ron Paul excepted seems to bring to the race. The good news is that Republican voters tend to be grown-ups about these choices and are less likely to fall in love with a candidate who is all show and no dough like the incumbent. The bad news is that this will leave the tea party movement split, whose energy will be needed to unseat Obama. Further, since the eventual nominee is unlikely to please the tea party to the extent that Palin might have, the movement may suffer a loss of enthusiasm for participation in the political process. The other bit of bad news is that Republicans have shown a certain trend over the last 20 years. Two Bushes, McCain, and Dole all have that "I'm a conservative, but maybe not one to limit government growth and interference in the markets when it suits my purposes" quality. Right now my low bar is the nominee who will:

  1. Beat Obama.

  2. Sign the Obamacare repeal.

  3. Deal with entitlements in a common sense manner.

  4. Keep a lid on other spending.
I'd like to add secure the border and a bunch of other tests, but frankly we need to keep focused on the core issues of our coalition that are a threat to the nation.

This is why I think it is wise of the SCTRC to not endorse candidates. By influencing the course of the debate, we can shape the process better than through a cult of personality. Further, we need to keep in mind that the assault on the constitution by the progressive movement has been going on for over 100 years. To think that two years of effort will result in a permanent roll back is naive, and something I would expect out of leftist rank and file. (They are apparently disenchanted with Obama, but you know how they will vote.) We probably need over a generation's worth of effort to make significant in roads. I am personally in this for my as yet to be born grandkids, (here that boys?), so please don't take the 2012 election as the end of the road, regardless of the outcome.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Christie Taking Questions at Reagan Library

I saw a tweet from W.C. Varones that Chris Christie was speaking at the Reagan Library and that it was being live cast. I tuned in at the end of his prepare remarks to hear him say that we need straight talking leadership to solve our problems. He then took some questions.

He was asked his position on dealing with the problem of educating illegal immigrants. He called for secure borders. He also spoke against in state tuition for children of illegals. In a swipe at Perry he said its not heartless to not subsidize tuition at the in-state level for children of illegal immigrants.

The second question was about him running for President. He joked that the audience wasn't up to standards, since it took two questions to get there. He pointed out the Politico web site on running for President. It seems pretty clear he won't run. Dawn will be happy, W.C. not so much.

The third question was on how to fix federal entitlements; how to wean people off. He responded that in New Jersey, the equivalent are public sector pensions and health care, which were $122 billion under funded when he took office. "I put out a specific plan, not 'I propose to reduce these expenses and if I can come together with the other side, I'll let you know what my proposal is.'" He said that he provided specific details of making employees pay into these pensions and took away COLAs until the shortfall was made up. New Jersey firefighters were unhappy, and he went to their convention, with 4000 of them. "I didn't get the reception you all gave me tonight." There were lots of boos. Christie told the "I understand feel scared, angry and betrayed." Every governor before had made promises to increase their pensions, but had not funded the increases. "Why are you booing the first guy who came in here and told you the truth." His basic argument was that these promises were empty, but he is making good on them by facing the facts of the situation.

The truth is that medicare, medicaid and social security to a lesser extent, are draining the treasury. Christie said the common sense solution is to reduce benefits, means test, and get people who don't need it to stop taking it so that we can give to those who need it. To which I add, amen. The problem is that every time a candidate says anything real about the subject they get vilified, so they re-think their position. It will take real leadership on this issue to fix it. "Real leaders don't read polls they change polls." This is what draws me to Christie. He is telling the truth about the really big issues that we in the Tea Party have said is the crisis facing America, namely the deluge of debt due to the orgy of spending, including unsustainable entitlements.

Two people implored him to run for President. The second woman was particularly impassioned. "We can't wait until 2016." She literally pleaded for him to run for President, saying to Christie that you're country needs you to run for President. This got lots of applause.

His response, not verbatim, was, "I'm just a kid from Jersey who feels like I'm the luckiest guy in the world to be governor of my state. Anyone who has an ego enormous enough to say please stop asking me to be leader of the free world is incredible. So I am flattered at your request and it is not a problem for me. But your heartfelt request isn't reason enough for me to run. That has to come from inside, and that feeling is not inside of me. Even though I did not meet President Ronald Reagan, he must have felt that he was uniquely called to his moment in history. I don't have that feeling."

My final thought; only a man who feels like this should be President. All the guys with egos that outstrip their talent shouldn't be in the field. Unfortunately this is all mooted by the fact that he isn't running.

Monday, September 26, 2011

San Diego Taxpayers vs Leftists and Unions - UPDATE

Lots of local political news in San Diego today, revolving around the struggle to reign in the cost of local government, much of it involving Carl DeMaio. First, DeMaio announced that the "fair and open competition" measure had qualified for the ballot in an article on (Full disclosure: I sometimes cross-post there, also, I signed that petition.) This measure would enjoin the city of San Diego from entering into Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) as a condition to allow bidding on a contract. PLAs generally require agreed upon rules about union participation, prevailing wage rates and other working conditions for each city construction project. See my earlier description.

Later in DeMaio's rostra article, he mentioned that of course, the unions are counterattacking at the state level. "An important note: Union-backed members of the State Legislature have introduced legislation which would overturn local bans on PLAs."

Second, I learned via a tweet from councilmember Lorie Zapf, that the city council had voted to move forward on managed competition. I learned from other sources that the Miramar landfill will go through the process. As Zapf points out, the city employees may win the competition, so I don't know why there is such hubbub from labor and environmentalist groups. OK, I do know, but the taxpayers should win. If this works like the federal government's process, the city department affected may be allowed to present a plan for reorganization that would result in lower costs to the city by shedding excess jobs. If the city employees win the competition with a "most efficient organization" concept, then we still win through reduced costs. From Craig Gustafson in the U-T:
The landfill operation is the latest — and most controversial — service to be placed under managed competition, a process that has generated passionate debate at City Hall since voters approved it in 2006. It allows private firms to compete against city workers to provide certain services, with the goal of reducing costs for taxpayers no matter who wins the competition.
Of course the labor unions and enviros are opposed. Their argument that the city will be liable for the inevitable unsafe practices of the private operator are of course crap. The contracting process can require that the winning bidder carry liability insurance that would survive a bankruptcy.

The debate was apparently not without acrimony, even among those voting in favor. A tweet from Craig Gustafson (which didn't make it into his U-T article) said that Tony Young gave Carl DeMaio a scolding over his handling of the debate. Waiting to see hard news on what that was about.

On the pension reform front, I am concerned that the required signatures won't get gathered prior to the mid-October deadline. No new news, is probably not good news. The last I checked, the initiative was 30,000 signatures short. This morning on the radio, I heard the local firefighters union advertising against the initiative. Their basic argument is that no young person will want to become a firefighter because the pension will be so bad, so we will have all these really old firefighters trying to put out fires, but they'll be too old to lift the hoses. Really? I think in this economy, which looks to continue its present pathetic course for some time, plenty of applications will be received for firefighting positions. Besides 401(k) can be better for employees anyway. (I know the city workers don't get social security, but that's going to become a straight up welfare program anyway.)

Finally, the student journalists (or should I say pseudo-journalists) at the Mesa College newspaper printed these lies about the pension reform measure, as if this were straight reportage:
Yet the changes DeMaio is proposing will completely wipe out pensions for people who are already receiving it and for the city workers who are due a pension once they retire, it will also make them ineligible to collect social security. Instead a forced 401K will replace the pension, which will likely leave them with less than they are currently getting.
Read the measure here, and show me where people who are already receiving a pension will be wiped out. If this is the standard for journalism in our colleges, then the MSM is clearly on a clear path to oblivion. I submitted the following comment to the Mesa Press, which is awaiting moderation:
The statement that the pension reform will wipe out pensions for people already receiving them is flat out incorrect. Nothing in the measure changes existing pensions, read it for yourself:

Further, Section 10 of the U.S. Constitution prohibits such changes to contractual pension obligations. "No State shall . . .pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts, or grant any Title of Nobility." This applies to cities as well, as creations of the states. Please perform basic research.
I'll let you know if I get published.


My comment is still awaiting "moderation." You have to wonder about the teaching for journalism these days.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Weekend Music Chill

Hooray for Republican debates. I am struck by how much the "conversation," as Google would call it, has moved towards the libertarian vision of strictly limited government. Even Jon Huntsman made some good points, the inclusion of Gary Johnson lifted my spirits, and Rick Santorum got no traction. I will say that Rick Perry sounded positively drunk when saying something about "which Mitt Romney" are we dealing with.

So in a celebratory mood, here is some party music.

And from the same era, proof that the French are capable of more than good cooking, here is Jacques Dutronc.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Rick Perry Drinking Too Heavily?

Rick Perry sounds drunk starting about 1:25. Maybe the worst moment of the debate. I could hardly believe my ears when I heard it the first time.

H/T Michelle Malkin

Barack Obama - Progressive

The President's class warfare rhetoric is showing Gotham his true colors. . . And guess who is applauding. My pals at sent me an email:

Dear MoveOn member,

He's back. Yesterday, we saw the Barack Obama who left millions of us fired up and ready to go.

Rather than trying to compromise with Republicans, the president laid out a clear, progressive vision for the economy. It's based on the simple rule that we have to stop letting billionaires pay lower taxes than middle class families.

But the only way we'll get this "Buffett Rule" passed is by going big and calling out those whose only goal is protecting tax breaks for billionaires.

So we've already got a rapid-response ad urging Congress to adopt the Buffett Rule—and it's getting a ton of notice. But we'll only be able to air it widely if we raise $150,000 today.

Can you contribute $5 to help make the rich pay their fair share?

[gratuitous fund raising link deleted]

For months, MoveOn members have been joining with other members of the American Dream movement to demand that Washington pay attention to the real crisis in this country: the millions of people who can't find a job. And it's working.

President Obama and progressives in Congress have both proposed significant job creation plans, to be paid for by taxing the rich. That idea isn't supported just by members of the American Dream movement—it's overwhelmingly supported by the American people.

And despite ridiculous claims of "class warfare," the fact is, Republicans want to end Medicare to protect billionaires. The president and progressives in Congress want to tax billionaires to create jobs. That's a clear choice, and we know where the American people will come down.

We just have to keep the choice front and center—and that's exactly what our new ad does. But we need to make sure we have the resources to air it broadly. Can you chip in $5 today?
So which lie should we attack first? Let's start with the idea that millionaires pay lower tax rates than their secretaries. This is demonstrably false. Here is the data from the IRS:

What about Warren Buffet? Professor Mark J. Perry at Carpe Diem debunks:
I think Warren Buffett distorted and misrepresented the tax issue by using himself as an example, implying that his case as a CEO paying a lower tax rate (17.4%) than his secretary was typical, when that is not the case. Buffett’s case is an extreme outlier and not at all typical of a CEO because: a) Buffett takes only a $100,000 salary, and b) gets about $40 million of income annually from dividends and capital gains taxed at 15%.
That’s how Buffett reports a 17.4% tax rate, but he never explained in his NY Times article (or elsewhere) that his case is NOT typical for salaried CEOs.
Ending Medicare? To protect billionaires? Let's face it, medicare is going broke and will soon be unaffordable. You could tax billionaires at 100% (assuming they would keep working) and not pay for medicare. Further, the only way medicare is going to survive for those seniors who need it most is through reform as proposed by Paul Ryan. Making medicare a block funded program and giving seniors control over how they spend their insurance dollars is going to save the program, not end it. Doing nothing will end it.

Note the big emphasis on what a progressive Obama is. I love the internet, because these "below the radar" campaigns to rally the faithful can be exposed. The last thing Obama wants advertised in the general election is what a "progressive" he is. I don't think that's going to win him votes, any more than comments about us hicks clinging to our guns and religion.

He can cling to his progressive image and see how far that gets him.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Grocery Workers Voting on Contract

I would urge any grocery workers who may read my blog to vote in favor of the deal reached between the union leaders and the grocery chains that operate Ralphs, Vons and Albertsons. The contract preserves their own health care fund, although I am not sure how affordable it will remain under Obamacare. Although there might never be a good time for a strike, the following U-T headline indicates that striking now would be especially unfortunate:

Poverty rate in county hits 30-year high

More county residents faced financial hardship last year than at any other time in the past three decades, a record reflected in the poverty rate’s sharp rise and stagnating median household incomes, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

I am also afraid that the housing market will also remain down until the government stops intervening, as predicted in today's Wall Street Journal.
Economists, builders and mortgage analysts are predicting the weakened U.S. economy will depress housing prices for years, restraining consumer spending, pushing more homeowners into foreclosure and clouding prospects for a sustained recovery.
Home prices are expected to drop 2.5% this year and rise just 1.1% annually through 2015, according to a recent survey of more than 100 economists to be released Wednesday. Prices have already fallen 31.6% from their 2005 peak, as measured by the Standard & Poor's Case-Shiller 20-city index.
Our current problems starting with the mess in the secondary mortgage markets, partly the result, partly the cause of an overheated housing market. Continued efforts by government to prop up the market will cause more economic weakness which will in turn continue to push people into poverty. Somehow, keeping home prices high is compassionate.

Exit question, does a double dip in housing prices forecast a double dip recession?

Programming Note

I have added a widget to this blog site that allows you to to view famous people mentioned in the post and vote on them and make comments about those individuals. This only works when you view the article by itself, not when viewing the whole blog. If you click on the title above, "Programming Note" you will see how this works. I frequently comment on people like Sarah Palin, Rick Perry, Barack Obama or locally, Carl DeMaio and Bob Filner. The widget that enables this is from a web site called They invited me to give this a try since they claimed to have too many liberal web sites subscribed and were looking for balance.

If you like this widget or find it annoying, let me know in the comments.

Regards, B-Daddy

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Why Liberals Should Hate Obamacare

Imagine, if you will, that you are a liberal, that your conscience tells you that no one should be denied medical treatment because they lack the ability to pay. Imagine that you examined the facts of the U.S. health care system in 2009, before the passage of the "Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act." Would you support its passage? Of course not.

I got thinking about this subject after discussing it with my niece's husband, who holds such beliefs. I decided that even liberals (as opposed to leftists) were sold a bill of goods regarding this execrable measure. The pressing social issue that Obamacare was supposed to solve was the problem of the uninsured. This problem set included subgroups of those who supposedly couldn't afford insurance and those who couldn't get coverage because of pre-existing conditions. But what were the facts? In 2009, it was widely quoted that 46 million Americans lacked health insurance. But this fact requires some explanation. First, almost 1o million of those were not actually American citizens. One might argue that we have a duty to also cover the non-citizens, but it doesn't change the fact that this part of the problem wasn't created in our country. Second, many of the uninsured have annual household incomes above $50,000 to the tune of close to 18 million (admittedly using 2007 data.) Many other of these people were actually eligible for government insurance programs such as Medicaid, almost 14 million. (See American Spectator for source material.) I'll let the reader do the math, but that means that the number of Americans who cannot afford health care is rather small compared to the total population. One could also remember that medicaid provides health care to the very poorest Americans and no emergency room may turn away a patient with an a life threatening condition.

So what could have been about the problem that remained. The U.S. population in 2009 was 305 million. That meant the vast majority of Americans had health care through their jobs, private funding or eligibility as a family member. If one were to attack the alleged problem of the uninsured then a program to subsidize those who were poor but not in poverty and a law to allow portability of health care when changing jobs to prevent pre-existing conditions from being a cause to deny care would have achieved those ends.

What did we get instead? So much more than we knew was in the bill. But consider this gem, despite Obama's promise that you would be able to keep your health care, we get this admission from Dr. Howard Dean.
Dean told Morning Joe, “The fact is it is very good for small business. There was a McKinsey study, which the Democrats don’t like, but I do, and I think its true. Most small businesses are not going to be in the health insurance business anymore after this thing goes into effect.”
This admission gives the lie to the promise that we could keep our current insurance. Further, it will blow a hole in the deficit reduction efforts. Why should liberals care? Because the increased burden on the federal budget will cause people to be denied care through queuing or other methods designed to limit access and therefore cost. The deficit math is compelling and no amount of increased taxation will totally close the federal deficit, so it is inevitable that increased participation in government funded health care will result in cost containment. If your goal was to increase health care insurance, your result was less of it.

Liberals have been sold a lie by the left. Obamacare is a Peronist take over of an industry disguised as compassion. The endless rules that only the Secretary of HHS can waive have led to a waive of cronyism regarding those waivers tied to campaign contributions and other forms of support for the administration (see Darden restaurants.) Further, why would liberals love a program in which the end result is an explicit transfer of the cost of doing business from corporations to the tax payer? How is that liberal? Or conservative, for that matter? I would ask my liberal friends to re-think their support of Obama and leftism. It does their cause no good and undermines their desire to provide a social safety net for all Americans.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The President Puts Party Before Country

President Obama's $1.5 trillion dollar tax increase plan makes no sense. He signed an extension of the Bush tax cuts and two social security tax holidays, but now as election approaches, he wants to "tax the rich." His threat to veto entitlement reform makes the job of the "gang of twelve" deficit reduction committee much harder. Does he want it all too fail? Does he think that another crisis will get him re-elected? He's not likely to be running against a member of Congress next year, but a governor or former governor, so he won't have the luxury of demonizing the Congress for his own failures. Speaking of creating the conditions for failure, here's what Alexis Simendinger said in RCP today:
The president, in effect, decided to make the deficit-cutting job more challenging for Congress. The 12-member joint panel now negotiating to reach a deal under the rules set up by the debt-ceiling pact can ignore Obama’s deficit ideas and his rhetoric, but probably not his veto threats. The president set the overall target higher than the panel’s mandate (at a net total of $4 trillion); added $1.5 trillion in “comprehensive” tax reform to the mix, but with tax hikes in addition to tax cuts; and in a direct bow to his Democratic base, removed significant entitlement changes from a 10-year plan to curb the deficit.
The public understands that we have to start on entitlement reform now, because it is a serious long term threat, DailyKosters excepted. This is a loser for the President.

My most likely explanation is that Obama is just talking tough to play to his base. But when he sees his poll numbers tanking because this approach will create a crisis, he will just cave. Then his base will be even more demoralized. All Republicans need to do is stand firm and tackle some real reform and some more progress can be made in the long effort to dismantle federal excess.

Palin on Crony Capitalism - Daniels on the Red Menace

Two prominent Republicans who are not declared candidates for President are making their mark on the national debate. Sarah Palin has been highlighting the issue of crony capitalism of late and Mitch Daniels new book is a serious look at the mountain of debt he sees as a threat to the Republic.

Even before the recent Solyndra blow up, here was Sarah Palin diagnosing our current ills on September 4th in Iowa.
Yeah, the permanent political class – they’re doing just fine. Ever notice how so many of them arrive in Washington, D.C. of modest means and then miraculously throughout the years they end up becoming very, very wealthy? Well, it’s because they derive power and their wealth from their access to our money – to taxpayer dollars. They use it to bail out their friends on Wall Street and their corporate cronies, and to reward campaign contributors, and to buy votes via earmarks. There is so much waste. And there is a name for this: It’s called corporate crony capitalism. This is not the capitalism of free men and free markets, of innovation and hard work and ethics, of sacrifice and of risk. No, this is the capitalism of connections and government bailouts and handouts, of waste and influence peddling and corporate welfare. This is the crony capitalism that destroyed Europe’s economies. It’s the collusion of big government and big business and big finance to the detriment of all the rest – to the little guys. It’s a slap in the face to our small business owners – the true entrepreneurs, the job creators accounting for 70% of the jobs in America, it’s you who own these small businesses, you’re the economic engine, but you don’t grease the wheels of government power.
Palin attacks the key issue that unites ordinary individuals left, right and center, the use of government to further enrich the already rich and powerful. It is the challenge of our time to convince those on the left that it is constant government meddling in the economy and the immense regulatory regime, not free markets, which lead to this outcome. Probably better to start with those in the center, who might be more open to this line of argument. The GOP needs to go on the offensive against crony capitalism, unfortunately they have been guilty just as have the Democrats in purchasing favors for special interests. However, the time is ripe for this message. We could start by stripping out all of the special favors in the tax code. Starting over with a lower corporate tax rate, but no special exemptions would go a long way to restoring public belief in the party who proposed that plan.

While Palin attacks the most politically compelling issue, Daniels attacks on the debt, on which he is unusually well qualified. His book, Keeping the Republic, Saving America by Trusting Americans is brilliantly titled. The tagline, Change that believes in you cleverly turns Obama's promise on its head. I am really thrilled that he has adopted my ideas on means testing social security and medicare. (OK, probably not, but I feel vindicated since few other prominent Republicans have supported my position.) He also makes the point that the whole of the federal budget should be under consideration, including defense. This issue of defense spending is going to split Republicans, but it needs to be considered, since it comes in at $700 billion plus per year.

More important than any policy prescription offered by Daniels, is his understanding of the need to limit the scope of the federal government and return to a philosophy of self governance.
The coming debate is not really about something so mundane as tax policy or health care or energy choices. It is about things more fundamental: who is in charge, the people or those who supposedly serve at their sufferance?

Answering that it is the former, requires the people to be capable of managing their own affairs. They are in fact so capable. But we should remember that it is ingrained in the language of the left that all mankind's ills: sickness, poverty, old age, sloth, and gluttony are not solved by individuals or capitalist institutions, only by government. But a government powerful enough to solve such issues would be a fearful master indeed, and we would be subjects, not citizens. It is good of Daniels to remind us.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Local Roundup

I thought the grocery unions might be on strike at the time of this writing, and they still might by the time you read this. However, a 7:10 p.m. deadline came and went today without a strike. This is great news, and perhaps a strike can be averted. Despite my antipathy for the union position and belief that they will do immense harm to themselves by striking, a strike will be bad for the region given all of our other economic stress. From today's U-T:
"Our workers will stay on the job until at least midnight, and possibly longer if negotiations are moving ahead," Mike Shimpock, spokesman for United Food and Commercial Workers Local 770, told The Associated Press.
This sounds like we might catch a break with some good news.

Carl DeMaio has come up with the single most brilliant fund raising idea I have ever seen for San Diego. He is hosting a fundraiser at Phil's BBQ, with the tagline (from his Facebook page):
Skip the line at Phil's BBQ -- and support our campaign for Mayor! Hope to see you Tuesday!
I have to give DeMaio kudos for making good use of Facebook and Twitter in his campaign. I follow him on both forms of social media. He has been effective. Also, skipping the line at Phil's is pretty close to going to heaven. I love Phil's but seldom like to brave the line, often opting for take out instead.

Carl DeMaio's other big effort, besides running for mayor, is getting the pension reform measure on the ballot. The unions have tried to undermine the effort with radio ads falsely implying that a petition signer might be the victim of identity theft. The U-T Watchdog (one of my favorite local sources) checked out the ad campaigns.
The Watchdog set out to determine who was behind the ad.

The domain for the group’s website is registered to the same address and phone number as the State Building & Construction Trades Council of California, a labor union coalition. The council’s president, Bob Balgenorth, said the identity theft group is separate but he financially supports the effort, helped to organize it, and believes the concern is real.

. . .

Beth Givens, director of San Diego-based consumer advocacy organization Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, said, “The ad is a clear case of dirty tricks. Signing your name and address to a ballot petition does not put you at risk for identity theft. They are using fear mongering to attempt to suppress people who do sign ballot petitions.”.

Meanwhile, the fact that DeMaio continually pitches the effort leads me to believe that the effort may be in trouble. Right on cue, I found the following U-T article headline:

Pension petition drive faces challenges

The article discusses the difficulties facing the drive.
It’s widely viewed as a slam dunk for passage should it appear on the June 2012 ballot, but that may not happen because of the high degree of difficulty in collecting the required 94,000-plus signatures from registered city voters in the six-month window provided under election law. Adding to that burden is the strong opposition from local labor unions that are admittedly putting up as many roadblocks as possible to thwart the effort.

I agree with the assessment that the proposition will pass if it gets on the ballot. If you want to contribute money, you can visit the pension reform web site.

Meanwhile, DeMaio and Dumanis, the two leading Republican candidates, skipped the mayoral debate Saturday at Liberty Station. As expected, Filner came out against pension reform, with Fletcher supporting. I hope DeMaio doesn't skip such events indefinitely, because the public needs to see the candidates airing out the issues. I found it interesting that medical marijuana has surfaced as somewhat of a hot topic, because it is not high on my list of priorities, although I support decriminalization in general. Good to hear that there was no appetite for taxpayer funding of a new stadium.

That's all for the weekend political news. One last recommendation, if you go to Phil's for take out, get their early and have a beer at their bar, they have a pretty decent lineup, including some good local selections.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Happy Constitution Day

It's a good day to reflect on the structure of our constitution. Specifically, the fact that the document was intended to constrain the federal government through a number of mechanisms. First, Congress was only granted enumerated powers. Note the amplification of the Tenth Amendment:
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
It was never intended that the sweep of federal power would be unlimited. Progressives have attacked this notion for well over a century. Today we see it in Elena Kagan's confirmation hearing in which she can think of no constraint that Congress might face in regulating commerce. If Congress can compel any action under the guise that it somehow affects interstate commerce, Congress could grant the President the power to make us "eat our peas" or any other stupidity.

Another constraint is the separation of powers. The President is granted authority as Commander in Chief, but the power to declare war is reserved to the Congress. This is to limit the ability of the President to wage war on his own recognizance. It seems that this has become a dead letter to the Democrat party, which argued so assiduously for the war powers act. The President in turn can veto new legislation from the Congress. Sometimes this results in gridlock, which I think would have pleased the founders, because they designed a document in which large changes could only come when there is a consensus. Finally, because we have a federal system in which states retain sovereignty, federal power is further constrained. I was arguing health care with a friend of mine who was born a British citizen. He seemed to think that of course health care was a national responsibility. But he lacked understanding that in our system of government, the states were in fact the ones who had the responsibility for this part of the social safety net; part of the reason I found Obamacare unconstitutional. I pointed out that the unabridged name of his native country is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. That it is a single kingdom means that there is only one sovereign government. Our full name is the United States of America. The plural form of the word state implies that each state retains sovereignty and responsibility. This is different from most other nations.

Further constraint comes from the power of the Supreme Court to review the constitutionality of laws passed by the Congress. Although this is not found explicitly in the document, the power of the courts to review the law and hear appeals constrains the executive branches ability to obtain convictions through dint of greater spending on their own legal resources.

One of the greatest successes of the tea party movement has been to restore a discussion of constitutionality to our national political discourse. The constitution is both a conservative and a libertarian document. It is conservative in that it preserves our political structure through separation of powers and a difficult amendment process. It is libertarian in that it constrains the power and authority of the federal government, guarantees individual rights and in turn constrains the states as well. A political alliance of conservatives and libertarians, fighting socialism and progressives would of course turn to the plain meaning of such a document as the first line of defense against the forced march down the "road to serfdom" that the statists desire for our citizens. (I don't mean to impugn all liberals here; but those that are true believers in leftism have shown their colors over the years.)

Friday, September 16, 2011

Weekend Music Chill

Lots of stress in my life lately, including air travel. I know the TSA people have to do a job, but do they have to be turds? Going through the line in Charleston the guy ahead of me got pulled over for a random frisk. Problem was, he had about four baskets of stuff that had run through the X-ray machine and had backed up the queue. I couldn't get to my basket without reaching my hand into the screening device; which I was not going to do, of course. So I was standing there, waiting, when the TSA supervisor said in a raised voice, seemingly to everyone, but looking at me, "Retrieve your items and move on." I looked down at the items and up at him, and he was just glaring at me. Then he repeated himself, loudly. I just stared back at him. He finally got the clue that the items weren't mine and asked "Are those your items?" I just shook my head and said "No." Didn't stop him from continuing to glare until the guy who had been frisked returned for his stuff and I could get out of there. Just another example of government blaming the victim.

By the way, I always treat the queue at the airport as a custodial situation, where I have the right to remain silent. I communicate as little as possible with the agents.

Anyway here is some music to help me chill out.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Obama's Motives and Their Appearance

In the comments section on my post on the issue Kelly the Little Black Dog comented:
Obama's motives often appear sinister to me. [quoting my post.]

Can you indulge me and explain where this comes from. This is a pretty common sentiment on the right. I honestly don't see him as being much different from any of the last 4 or 5 presidents.
So I thought I would respond with a few examples.
  • The Fast and Furious operation seems designed to allow U.S. guns to flow to Mexican drug lords to bolster the case for domestic gun control.
  • Obmacare seemed designed to deliberately put health insurers out of business, because the individual mandate is not strong enough to incentivize individuals to buy insurance who can afford to.
  • Obamacare has allowed waivers to be granted to favored groups, many of whom reside in Pelosi's district. The Darden restaurants receive an Obamacare waiver, then become the poster child for the Michelle Obama's campaign against child obesity.
  • The effort to sell Obamacare involved sending emails to an official government email address to report those who were "distorting" Obamacare facts. The email address seemed sinister enough for me. Encouraging fellow citizens to report the free speech of other citizens to an official government email address is prima facie creepy. The current effort seemed modeled after that earlier effort.
  • The stimulus packages seem designed to send money to favored political groups such as teachers and firefighters, who are unionized. Further the whole Solyndra unfolding scandal shows the extent to which the administration supports crony capitalism. From the NPR article: Emails released Thursday night show that Obama administration privately worried about the effect of a default by Solyndra Inc. on the president's re-election campaign.
  • Obama asserts the right to assassinate U.S. citizens abroad on executive order. (Bush did so as well, but I found that sinister as well.)
  • The Justice Department has taken the view that the Voting Rights Act exists only to protect the rights of blacks, never of whites.
  • Firing an inspector general who investigated a close ally of the administration.
  • His campaign pledge to fundamentally transform America.
  • His active encouragement of a cult of personality and hero worship.
  • Comments by his press secretary during transition period that he wanted to be ready to rule on day 1.
That's my short list. I am sure my readers could supply more.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Republican Presidential Field

I had the opportunity to talk to a Republican political consultant at dinner tonight at the Boathouse in Isle of Palms, SC. He is the cousin of a colleague, but I didn't plan to recount our conversation until later, so I don't have permission to use his name. Let's just call him Matt. Matt was pretty jazzed about the New York 09 election and its implications on the chance to beat Obama next year. He felt a little discouraged, however, because he felt that the leftist take over of the school system and colleges had brain-washed a generation of Americans. I disagreed; I think Americans are still capable of thinking for themselves and break free of liberal shibboleths as they get older. However, given this exchange between Obama and students in neighboring North Carolina, I can see his point.

He was also discouraged by the amount of damage he thought that Obama had done in his first two years in office. He felt that the country was going to have to kowtow to China because we owed them so much money. I responded with some of my previous discussion on China.

But the thing that really struck me was his lack of enthusiasm for the Republican field of Presidential candidates. He asked me who I liked, as if to see if I had any enthusiasm myself. My response was that none of the candidates really excited me, but Ron Paul was closest to my positions. I hastened to add that even though I voted for Paul in 1988, I didn't think he was electable and I thought he often comes across as a crank. Matt agreed, but also said he didn't like Paul's foreign policy positions. I also mentioned that Gary Johnson couldn't break through to get in the debates. Matt hadn't really heard of him. Matt offered that even though Rick Perry had the lead, he was making too many mistakes and was unlikely to win the nomination as a result. Matt asked me if I knew anything about McCotter; I did not. He comes across as too much about Texas. He mentioned how Perry in some ways reminded him of Bush, which Obama will use. He had come to see Perry announce his candidacy in Charleston. Matt felt like he was going to have to hold his nose and vote for Romney. It was pretty good dinner conversation, and I was glad to meet him.

Later, on the ride back, another dinner companion said he had listened to Perry when he visited San Diego. (Most of us at dinner were from SD.) His take was that Perry was all sound bite and swagger, and he wasn't impressed. It seemed the general consensus that Herman Cain was the most likeable candidate of the bunch, who had the best lines. But no one was supporting him on the basis of one-liners and a sense of humor. They just like the way he smacked down race-baiters.

Overall, it looks like this race is still wide open. With Republicans looking for a candidate to light the fire of enthusiasm. They may be disappointed. Maybe Gary Johnson can get some traction and start looking more serious.

Dinner was great, chipotle crab-stuffed tilapia and a decent Carolina beer, Highland Cattail Peak Wheat.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Dems Lose Weiner's Seat

Can't help but enjoy the Schadenfreude as Dems lose NY-09 Congressional seat to Republican Bob Turner. This was Anthony Weiner's seat, an overwhelmingly Democratic district. Antipathy towards Obama and his anti-Israel policy may have played a part. If so, this has implications for Florida in the 2012 race.

If this doesn't panic Democrats about Obama's re-election chances, I don't know what will.

You Can Be A Snitch for Obama

The President has called on his American subjects to snitch on those who distort his record and call him a girly man. Here is a snippet of an email I received today:

Friend --

If you're someone who cares about seeing a campaign focused on substance between now and November 2012, I need you to become a part of one of our most important teams.

It's called, and it launches today.

Here's the deal: We all remember the birth certificate smear, the GOP's barrage of lies about the Affordable Care Act, and the string of other phony attacks on President Obama that we've seen over the past few years.

There are a lot of folks on the other side who are chomping at the bit to distort the President's record. It's not a question of if the next big lie will come, just when -- and what we're prepared to do about it. is exactly what it sounds like: a resource that allows us to nip these attacks in the bud before they show up on the airwaves and in emails -- and then fight back with the truth.

By signing up, you'll be on the front lines -- you'll hear about false claims as soon as they come up, and we'll count on you to spread the truth to your friends and personal networks and let us know about new smears whenever you hear them.

Will you sign up now to be a part of
Well, I don't think so. But I did report The Liberator Today blog in an attempt to goose my visitor statistics. The @BarackObama twitter account promoted this abomination, so clearly the President approves. Way to go, I look forward to him commenting on my blog.

Michele Malkin has the goods on how this was similar to the efforts to stifle debate on Obamacare. By the way, the birther charge was not supported by the majority of Republican web sites and the everything we thought was bad about Obamacare turned out to be true. Plus after we passed the bill we found more even more to not like about it.

What is wrong with the President's judgement? It wouldn't be that hard to collect this kind of information about stealth email attacks and blog sites without encouraging a snitch campaign. I keep track of his distortions and stealth email attacks without anyone snitching to me. Instead he just arouses suspicion that he is a would-be dictator.

Anyway, have some fun with the #attackwatch hashtag on twitter and make some reports for giggles on the web site. Just clear your cookies after you do so, they are tracking you.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Tea Party Debate and Social Security

What little I saw of the Republican debate didn't make me very happy, specifically, the social security issue has been in-artfully handled. Romney calling it an essential program made me ill, it was pure pandering. Perry, while essentially correct that it is a Ponzi scheme, has been remarkably unserious about how to handle the fact that the program is going broke. This issue is going to haunt the candidates in the general if they don't get their act together.

The fact is that no one is going to win the general election with either position. Saying that Social Security is hunky dory will alienate the tea partyers who know that's a lie. Implying the program will be gutted wholesale will also lose the election.

I previously posted on the constitutional issues surrounding social security reform. The purists among us may favor elimination, but that's not happening for a while. The only viable strategy is a slow reform, that reduces social security to a social safety for the elderly poor, while the rest of Americans get used to planning for their own retirement. Incremental reform is the correct and politically possible path to improvement. I even have a slogan; "Saving social security for our seniors who need it most." From previous post, here is what could be done:
  • Reduce Social Security outlays as follows:
- Price index initial benefits (the current CPI overstates inflation, increasing pay outs unnecessarily)
- Raise the normal retirement age
- Cut Social Security disability program by 10%
  • Means test social security
- I would explicitly use the internal revenue code on means testing to return these taxes to the social security trust fund. From a big picture accounting view, this makes no difference, but it would send the message that we are saving social security for those Americans who need it most.

Ultimately, the percent of the average American's retirement income that comes from social security needs to be reduced. Americans have to save more for retirement, which will drive a rising GDP. (There is a strong correlation between a nation's savings rate and GDP growth.)

Some other asides from the debate:
  • Why is Huntsman in this debate, but not Gary Johnson? Huntsman veers from occasionally very sharp to just plain goofy with disrespect, trying to score cheap points.
  • The Republicans seemed like the anti-war party, especially compared to Obama. Who'd ahve thought. Only Santorum seems ready to start another war.
  • CNN's fact checking leaves something to be desired. They claim that the stimulus created or saved 1.5 million jobs. Bull. No matter what figure is used, it is all opinion, there is no fact, because the basic premise is unprovable.
  • Debbie W-Schulz as a commenter? Really? Could we be any more disrespectful of the tea party movement than to give her free reign under the guise of impartial observer?
Why couldn't I enjoy the full debate? Late flight, some southern BBQ and enjoying one of these:

A fairly decent IPA, especially on draft, but in the south, they don't want to scare away the clientele, so it is billed as a pale ale.

Programming Note

I am on business travel this week, so the blogging will be light. I managed to see the last part of the Republican Tea Party debate and will post on that briefly. Have to mention that CNN giving a microphone to Debbie What's-her-name Schultz, as if she were an impartial observer is about as neutral as having Jim Tressel comment on NFL enforcement of NCAAF violations.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

B-Daddy's 9/11 Perspective

I was in the U.S. Navy on September 11, 2001. For our armed forces, the day was truly a watershed event. We were continuing the changes that accrued to the end of the cold war. Base security had become very light, for example, in an effort to save money. At the time, we were still primarily focused on the continuing threat from Russia and the rising threat from China, as well as the possibility of regional conflict with Iran and North Korea. (LCR has a post that sheds light on the same issue.) 9/11 immediately changed that view. The initial efforts to establish greater base security were haphazard, and obviously inadequate. It took years of work and hundreds of millions of dollars to adequately put in place technology commensurate with the threat. Despite, those efforts our armed forces at Fort Hood in Texas suffered from the success an insider attack, for which we were unprepared.

But the military changed, and will ultimately rise to the full challenge of the changed environment, I have no doubt. I am far more concerned about the ways that we have allowed the war on terror to reduce our liberties. It is not a coincidence that the Obama administration carried on many of the same policies of the Bush years. Certainly the threat is real; but it is the predilection of government to establish greater control over we the people in the presence of a threat. This must be resisted; by legal means of course, but resisted none the less. Some of my concerns:
  • What is the legal basis for targeting U.S. citizens abroad for assassination? What check exists on Presidential power?
  • How can we ensure the the privacy rights of those making overseas phone calls? Surely we do not lose our rights just because the call went overseas.
  • Why has no action been taken to effectively oversee the FBI's prolific use of national security letters that are essentially a subpoena with little judicial oversight and have been abused?
  • Why does boarding an airplane amount to consent to being strip searched?
That's a short list, there are more.

In the meantime, we should also remember that al Qaeda is not an ideological threat to our nation, the way fascism and communism were. They sought to attack us in an effort to incite revolution in the Muslim world. That would be dangerous to us, but not in the same way that communism or fascism were; which found adherents in our own country. Defeating al Qaeda on its home turf appears to have been the correct strategy. But at some point the Arab and Persian masses who hate the West will have to abandon their fantasy that the world will conform to their vision. If their vision is achieved, it will impoverish their societies, because the West will no longer be shipping dollops of cash for the oil wealth of the region. Their autocratic, uneducated and illiterate societies would quickly collapse without Western wealth. One hopes that the "Arab Spring" is a movement towards a greater acknowledgement of the power of freedom, but that is yet to be proved.

Our interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya have certainly changed the landscape in the region. Perhaps it is time to reduce our involvement and allow events to play out, given the huge uncertainties. We could certainly benefit from the reduction in spending. The
is now being played out, but we should remember that it was always a gamble.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Weekend Music Chill

Apropos to yesterday's events, here is the Boss, with his classic, "Dancing in the Dark."

Check out Dean's post on the black out. I have been hankering to buy a generator for a while, this was the final push needed. In terms of preparedness, I would only add that having a traditional phone carrier proved to be a superior move. We switched to Time Warner Cable for our phone to save money on bundling, and they lost all signal. In a widespread outage their transmitters lack any back up. My neighbors with AT&T let us use their phone. However, I also discovered that the geniuses who installed the modem for my phone, failed to install the battery so I would have lost telephone, even if only my home was affected. Time Warner Cable is the worst, I may post a more extended rant on their pathetic lack of service later.

As soon as AT&T or other carrier can give me decent cable in our area, I'll be singing this tune to TWC.

*FTC Disclaimer: I may or may not have received valuable consideration in the form of swag, jack and/or coin to endorse these products. I am not saying and have the right not to do so.

The President's Job Speech

Missed the President's speech last night due to black out conditions in San Diego. But all reports indicate that I wouldn't have been surprised. I was just starting a post before the speech to declare it a failure ahead of time, but fate intervened. Anyway, listening to Mark Steyn substituting for Rush this morning and reading some of the reports, I am left with just a few points.
  • Where's the bill? The President, as usual, did no heavy lifting. He demanded that Congress take action, but where is the bill he proposes? Legislation usually requires, well, legislation, as in legal prose.
  • Where's the money? Are we really proposing to add almost a half trillion in new debt? The AP fisked the speech moments after it was given: It will only be paid for if a committee he can't control does his bidding, if Congress puts that into law and if leaders in the future -- the ones who will feel the fiscal pinch of his proposals -- don't roll it back. . . .Essentially, the jobs plan is an IOU from a president and lawmakers who may not even be in office down the road when the bills come due.
  • Everything is temporary. Temporary tax credits and temporary tax cuts do nothing to encourage new hiring.
  • Roads and bridges? Really? This worked so well in the first stimulus package. Good luck getting the projects past the increasingly zealous EPA.
  • Congress gets the blame for the lack of jobs? Whose party decided that healthcare was more important for the first two years of the administration. Nice tone. Way to encourage Republicans to work with you. Bottom line this was a campaign speech. Now we know Obama's campaign game plan, blame the Republicans.
My sympathies go out to the Republicans who sat through the speech. Like Job, they found that you needn't necessarily sin to be punished.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Corporate Welfare - Uniting Left and Right in Opposition

The tea party movement was born in part over the frustration with the largess expended on banks, insurance companies and auto makers at a time when government had no business deepening the debt of the country. TARP and Stimulus became dirty words, as we watched our tax dollars bail out the banks and Fannie Mae, whose shoddy lending practices had kicked off the financial crisis to begin with. These complaints are not unique to our movement; in fact, one of the chief complaints on the left is that Washington caters to corporate interests. This is an opportunity for the next Republican candidate for President; but will require extraordinary discipline. (Pictured above are big three auto execs asking for federal dollars in November 2008.)

Discipline is needed because one can always obtain a temporary local advantage by catering to a particular industry or special interest. The most notorious example is ethanol, against which I have railed in numerous posts. Coming out against ethanol subsidies and tax breaks can cost a candidate front runner status in the Iowa caucuses. Obama showed that success in Iowa can be leveraged all the way to the White House. Further, politicians of every stripe want to be seen as "having a plan" to fix the economy. Usually these plans always include government spending on their pet projects, benefiting specific corporations and industries. Obama will be pushing high speed rail, bridges and green jobs, no doubt, on Thursday night. Zero Hedge has the scoop on the emerging scandal of bankrupt Solyndra, "green" solar company that is now bankrupt. Rick Perry had an "Emerging Technology Fund" to create jobs in Texas, which also seemed to help campaign donors. No Republican has vocally come out against the various agricultural price support programs that make absolutely no sense in a modern economy.

But I notice that when I engage those on the left, the issue of corporate welfare gets traction. I have on DailyKos, arguing against the GM bailout. I discussed areas of agreement with the Coffee Party folks. A recent exchange with Kelly the Little Black Dog, a progressive, confirmed that corporate welfare is unpopular on the left.

Politics is about building coalitions to achieve victory. Big business and big labor often collude to get big government to grant them favors. Other times big businesses can get the favors on their own, especially financial institutions. (The Fed, or dirty Fed, plays a role here, but that is beyond the scope of this discussion.) It strikes me that corporate welfare is so broadly unpopular that a principled stand against it would be a key ingredient to winning a Presidential campaign. In fact, it would be a great platform for the Republican party, but they would have to follow through and eschew what corporate donations they might lose as a result. But running against the "corporatist" Obama could be a clear path to victory.

Ultimately, the country needs a "level playing" field for business competition. I don't mean that government ensures equality of outcome, but that it ceases to help favored companies or industries. It will help grow the economy by reducing the uncertainty that the federal government will intervene and wreck the business model of businesses. Even corporate fat cats might be in favor of that.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Why I Now Oppose Social Security Privatization

I have read of some Republican Presidential candidates (Romney and Gingrich) advocating social security privatization, which George W. Bush failed to sell in his second term, thank goodness for that, even though I supported it at the time. These candidates have not thought it through. Social Security has never really been a fiscally sound proposition, hence Rick Perry's ponzi scheme comment. It depends on an ever increasing number of workers to stay solvent. Further, its benefits are not guaranteed, which rubs people the wrong way. (H/T Daily Caller) Despite the impressive sounding name, "social security retirement account," try searching for that term on the official website and see the result above. That's because such a thing is non-existent. Don't believe me? Here is what the government itself says about the matter on the Social Security Agency website, discussing Fleming v. Nestor.
More so than general federal income taxes can be said to establish "rights" to certain government services. This is often expressed in the idea that Social Security benefits are "an earned right." This is true enough in a moral and political sense. But like all federal entitlement programs, Congress can change the rules regarding eligibility--and it has done so many times over the years. The rules can be made more generous, or they can be made more restrictive. Benefits which are granted at one time can be withdrawn, as for example with student benefits, which were substantially scaled-back in the 1983 Amendments.
And from the previously linked Supreme Court decision.
2. A person covered by the Social Security Act has not such a right in old-age benefit payments as would make every defeasance of "accrued" interests violative of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Pp. 363 U. S. 608-611.
(a) The noncontractual interest of an employee covered by the Act cannot be soundly analogized to that of the holder of an annuity, whose right to benefits are based on his contractual premium payments. Pp. 363 U. S. 608-610.

(b) To engraft upon the Social Security System a concept of "accrued property rights" would deprive it of the flexibility . . .
A key tea party principle is adherence to keeping the federal government within the limits set by the constitution, applying the plain meaning of the document. Expanding the scope of social security to include private accounts has constitutional and other problems.
  • Current participation is constitutional only under the general power to tax granted Congress. A private account would not fit that definition.
  • If private accounts were added, the only constitutional provision under which to compel participation is under the taxing authority. But that would give the government the authority to seize the proceeds for whatever purpose it saw fit.
  • Is it a stretch of the imagination for the government, as a "shareholder" to require firms who receive investment dollars to promote social welfare and environmentally friendly policies. The scope for abuse is so great that I am surprised the left hasn't embraced this idea as their own.
  • How can we argue that Obamacare is unconstitutional, while turning around and advocating participation in another social welfare scheme, just because an individual is employed?
  • What will compel the government to pay up, when the bill comes due. See Fleming v. Nestor above.
What's a proper tea party view of social security, which is clearly headed towards insolvency? We should start with the concept that the nature of the program codifies an inherent contradiction; namely that its purpose is to alleviate poverty in old age, but its structure is an entitlement to all income groups. The contradiction has now landed in the accounts payable column; against an account that lacks sufficient funds. The only reasonable approach is to gradually reduce the scope of social security to its original intended purpose. (If you doubt that it was the original purpose, read Helvering v. Davis.) Social Security should not be a part of the calculation used by the middle class to determine their ability to retire; national policy needs to wean them from that notion so that they realistically invest in their own future. To this end, I propose saving social security for its intended purpose by reducing its scope, to include changing the definition of "old age" to conform with modern realities. Here a few ideas, some of them from my article on John Stossel's federal budget.
  • Reduce Social Security outlays as follows:
- Price index initial benefits (the current CPI overstates inflation, increasing pay outs unnecessarily)
- Raise the normal retirement age
- Cut Social Security disability program by 10%
  • Means test social security
- I would explicitly use the internal revenue code on means testing to return these taxes to the social security trust fund. From a big picture accounting view, this makes no difference, but it would send the message that we are saving social security for those Americans who need it most.

I think we should ask Republican candidates for President how they square their constitutional opposition to Obamacare with a desire to privatize social security.