Free Markets, Free People

Daily Archives: September 29, 2011

Democrat voters dispirited? Enthusiasm gap grows

That’s what the latest Gallup poll has concluded.

In thinking about the 2012 presidential election, 45% of Democrats and independents who lean Democratic say they are more enthusiastic about voting than usual, while nearly as many, 44%, are less enthusiastic. This is in sharp contrast to 2008 and, to a lesser extent, 2004, when the great majority of Democrats expressed heightened enthusiasm about voting.

45% just won’t get you to the promised land.  And with Democrats you have to believe the numbers may be a bit softer than that.  It’s called whistling past the graveyard.  There may also be a little of the “I don’t want to be thought of as a racist” effect at work here, meaning a portion will claim enthusiasm for the president for fear of being thought to have deserted him because of his race.   And, of course, they’ll likely not show up at the polls.

Comparison?

Democrats’ muted response to voting in 2012 also contrasts with Republicans’ eagerness. Nearly 6 in 10 Republicans, 58%, describe themselves as more enthusiastic about voting. That is nearly identical to Republicans’ average level of enthusiasm in 2004 (59%) and higher than it was at most points in 2008.

Result?

Democrats’ net enthusiasm (+1) now trails Republicans’ net enthusiasm (+28) by 27 percentage points. By contrast, Democrats held the advantage on net enthusiasm throughout 2008 — on several occasions, by better than 40-point margins. Democrats occasionally trailed Republicans in net enthusiasm in 2004, but never by as much as is seen today. The current balance of enthusiasm among Republicans and Democrats is similar to what Gallup found in the first few months of 2000.

Uh oh.

Look I know it is early and I know the GOP can always find a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, but every poll out there on just about every aspect of the current  electoral picture is exceedingly negative for Democrats and Barack Obama.   And while plenty out there will attempt to wave all this bad news off, the bottom line is while each of these polls is a snapshot, when you put them all together they make an album of trends.  Terms such as “lowest in history” have a  meaning, and while all these polls won’t guarantee an outcome, they sure have been pretty good in pointing toward outcomes in the past.

And right now, they’re looking pretty darn bad for the prez and his party.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Public distrust of government has hit an all time high

Yes, I know … what a surprise:

The public’s trust in the federal government has dropped to an all-time low, according to a new national survey.

A CNN/ORC International Poll released Wednesday morning indicates that only 15 percent of Americans say they trust the government in Washington to do what’s right just about always or most of the time. Last September that figure was at 25 percent. Seventy-seven percent of people questioned say they trust the federal government only some of the time, and an additional eight percent volunteer that they never trust the government to do what’s right.
In the past five years the number who say they trust the government "always" or "most of the time" was usually in the low-to-mid 20’s. Before the recession hit that number was usually in the low-to-mid 30’s, and slightly more than a decade ago, it was in the high 30’s or occasionally just over 40 percent.

"The previous all-time low was 17 percent, set in the summer of 1994," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Before the Watergate scandal, a majority of Americans said they trusted the government always or most of the time, but since 1974 that has happened only during a brief period in 2001 immediately after the 9/11 terrorism attacks."

I’d say this is a well earned distrust.  Over the years, the Federal Government has become more and more intrusive, and we’ve seen our lives impacted more each year by that intrusiveness.   We’ve seen the militarization of the police.   We’ve seen bureaucratic creep into areas that most believe the government has no business.  Government is borrowing and spending at an unsupportable rate, thereby binding unborn generations to debt they had no hand in incurring.  And we’ve seen an unwillingness on the part of government and politicians to modify their behavior and address the problems listed.

Government has always been a “dangerous servant” especially when it has become an arrogant servant.  In fact, what happens, as history teaches us, is government usually tries (and succeeds) to become the master most of the time and uses coercion and violence to have its way. 

Part of the problem is so many people are invested in the idea that government is a panacea for all the perceived ills of human nature and that if done properly, utopia is just around the corner.

feat_grph_28

It is this sort of thinking that led to the disasters of the USSR, Nazi Germany and many other examples.   What Frederich Hayek called the “fatal conceit”.

What we’ve seen develop in our government over the decades is a tendency toward central planning.  In the name of social justice, more and more of our economy has been brought under government control by various means.  And, as usual, we’re headed in a very predictable direction because of it.  James Piereson explains with some recent examples:

Their efforts to create "green" jobs, stimulate the economy, redistribute income and manage costs in the health care system are all examples of the fatal conceit run amok. A large and modern economy, made up of hundreds of millions of participants who make spending and investment decisions by the minute, is far too complex to allow for centralized coordination. Such efforts, Hayek warned, invariably make a difficult situation worse.

And that’s precisely our experience which of course explains some of the distrust of government.  The “fatal conceit” was something the founders of this country tried to avoid.  Unfortunately it’s very difficult to weed out or prevent from growing (or perhaps metastasizing is a better word) within government regardless of its initial structure, no matter how well thought out.  But we’ve seen the results of the change so many times we ought to be able to recognize it and we obviously should try to avoid it:

[A]ny effort to organize society around a common economic plan will inevitably lead to a loss of freedom and a return of the common man to a condition of servitude and dependence. Hayek reminded his readers that Hitler was not just a nationalist but a socialist as well, and that his brutal tyranny developed out of a malignant synthesis of these ideas. Market liberalism, in contrast to both ideologies, follows no overall plan but allows progress to emerge out of the coordinating actions of free individuals.

Yet here we are pursuing the former to the detriment of the latter.   And by the way don’t mistake crony capitalism for free market capitalism.  Capitalism only demands the private ownership of the means of production.  Whether or not the markets are free isn’t a prerequisite.  Hence the descriptors that differentiate the type.  What we mostly suffer here is crony capitalism as demonstrated by the green agenda and Solyndra, et. al.

But to the main point that ties it all together, again from Piereson:

Hayek wrote the book partly in response to John Maynard Keynes, the British economist who had argued a few years earlier that government could lead the economy out of depression through deficit spending. Keynes believed that this would stimulate consumer demand and private investment.

Hayek was skeptical of Keynes’ theory on economic grounds, but even more so on political grounds. Efforts by the state to manage the economy will certainly fail, he argued, but they will not be abandoned. Every failure would instead lead to more ambitious and extravagant policies to reach the elusive goals, until more and more aspects of the economy are brought under government control. This, Hayek argued, was "the road to serfdom."

Keynes was convinced that war and depression ended all hopes that the liberal order of the 19th century could be revived. His theory represented an effort to place the market system on new intellectual foundations. But Hayek was equally convinced that the tradition of Adam Smith and "The Federalist" had to be renewed as the basis for a restoration of liberty and progress. The intellectual opposition between Keynes and Hayek still underpins many of our current debates.

Keynes may have exercised the greater influence in political and academic circles over the second half of the 20th century, but the tide is turning today.

The problem, of course, is that today’s politician, at least the one’s holding power, still cling to the Keynesian notion that government can positively effect the economy in the face of overwhelming evidence and history that it cannot. Add to that the “social justice” crowd who want to redistribute income and you have a fatal mix who will kill the goose that has been laying the golden eggs.  And because of those beliefs held by each group that even the public has seen through, we continue down a disastrous road that has kindled great discontent and distrust in government.

Most Americans intuitively understand that what is being done by government isn’t what needs to be done, but is instead driven by a mistaken and bankrupt ideology that has spent itself disastrously in numerous scenarios around the world.   There was never any vision among our founders of a behemoth like the government we have today.  Never will you find in any of their writings any inkling that government should be involved in things like health care, energy or even education.  They successfully managed to avoid the fatal conceit, only to see subsequent generations fall into bad habits led by mistaken beliefs that have lead to our present and critical situation.

The problem, of course, is how do we back out of this?  It has taken us decades to get to this point and unfortunately, at least to now, politicians have learned that what got us to this point worked to get them elected.  The incentive for them, at least, to back us out of this isn’t there yet.

And then there are the true believers among them that still actually believe that utopia is possible if only we have more government and a more powerful government.

If the liberal elite wonder what is at the base of the Tea Party movement – a movement this polls suggests is only the tip of the iceberg – they need only reflect on where we started and where we are.   And then review how we did in between those times.

An honest appraisal would find that our greatest progress took place in eras in which government played more of a roll of night watchman than Santa Claus.   When the attempts to use government as the great social equalizer began so did our decline.  It was small in the beginning – almost imperceptible – but in hindsight, certainly recognizable if you bothered to look.  And in the name of social equality, government grew exponentially and with that exponential growth came an equally exponential expansion of power.

And here we are. 

The simple fact of the matter is this isn’t working.  Government is out of control, broken and pulling us all under.  The question is how do we fix it … or is that even possible?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Economic Statistics for 29 Sep 11

Today’s economic statistical releases:

The Commerce Department’s final estimate for second quarter GDP was revised upwards to 1.3% annualized, compared to the previous estimate of 1.0%. It’s a mediocre revision to an unimpressive number.

A big 37,000 decline in initial jobless claims last week pushed the total down to 391,000. Claims seem to have been inflated by Hurricane Irene’s aftermath in prior weeks.

The National Association of Realtors reported that the pending home sales index fell 1.2 percent to 88.6. Credit and appraisal problems are on the rise, which indicates future weakness, as well.

Corporate profits in the second quarter were revised upwards to an annualized $1.470 trillion, up 0.3% on a year-over-year basis.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index dropped to -53 in the period ending Sep 25. That’s the second-lowest reading ever for the index. Confidence by homeowners and part-time workers fell to the lowest level since 1990.

The Kansas City Fed’s Manufacturing Index improved slightly to 6 in September from 3 in August. Readings above 0 generally indicate expansion in activity.

~
Dale Franks
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Still plotting after all these years

And we still try to deny the source of the terror.  What am I talking about, you ask? 

A Massachusetts man who was plotting to use explosives and radio controlled aircraft was arrested yesterday by the FBI for plotting to blow up the Capital and Pentagon.

It was a rather imaginative and fantastic plot by Rezwan Ferdaus who believed himself to be working with members of al Qaeda.  Of course that’s key to the point in the first sentence as you’ll see.  Anyway, the plot:

Ferdaus allegedly gave the undercover FBI agents a detailed set of attack plans “with step-by-step instructions as to how he planned to attack the Pentagon and Capitol,” according to the Department of Justice.

The plans focused on the use of three small remote-controlled drone-like aircraft loaded with C-4 plastic explosives, which he planned to fly into the Capitol and the Pentagon using GPS equipment, according to the DOJ.

[…]

Ferdaus’s plan allegedly evolved to include a “ground assault” as well, in which six people would coordinate an automatic weapons attack with the aerial assault and massacre whomever came into their path, according to the DOJ.

For the past five months, Ferdaus has allegedly been stockpiling the equipment he needed for his proposed attack, including a remote-controlled aircraft, 25 pounds of fake C-4 explosives, six automatic AK-47 assault rifles and three grenades, according to the DOJ. He allegedly kept all of it in a storage facility in Massachusetts, where he was arrested.

Further:

Ferdaus allegedly modified eight cellphones to act as detonation devices for improvised explosive devices, and gave them to the FBI agents to be used against American soldiers in Iraq.

“During a June 2011 meeting, he appeared gratified when he was told that his first phone detonation device had killed three U.S. soldiers and injured four or five others in Iraq,” according to the DOJ. “Ferdaus responded, ‘That was exactly what I wanted.’”

And:

According to the DOJ, a focal point of Ferdaus’s plots revolved around “jihad” and his desire to carry out the will of Allah.

But:

The U.S. attorney for the District of Massachusetts, Carmen M. Ortiz, stressed that any underlying religious motives to Ferdaus’s actions should not reflect on the Muslim culture at-large.

“I want the public to understand that Mr. Ferdaus’s conduct, as alleged in the complaint, is not reflective of a particular culture, community or religion,” Ortiz said.

Really?  So none of this was “reflective of a particular culture, community or religion?

Poppycock.  It is indeed reflective of a particular culture, community and religion no matter how perverted other adherents of that religion claim otherwise.  It certainly doesn’t mean that that all Muslims agree or that the community at large would act this way, but we need to quit pretending actions like this just magically happen without any influence from those three areas.

How else, then, do you get the “culture, community and religion” to face up to the fact that it has some responsibility in what is happening in this ongoing “jihad” (yeah, there’s a religion and culture free word)?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO