Free Markets, Free People

Since when do Americans reward incompetence?

Jonah Goldberg provides a little history lesson that helps one understand why it is that politicians are now credited with the country’s economic progress or lack thereof:

The idea that presidents “run” the economy is both ludicrous and fairly novel. Before the New Deal (which in my opinion prolonged the Great Depression), the notion that presidents should or could grow the economy was outlandish. But, as the historian H. W. Brands has argued, it was JFK who really cemented the idea that the president is the project manager for a team of technicians who create economic prosperity. “Most of the problems . . . that we now face, are technical problems, are administrative problems,” he explained, and should be kept as far away from partisan politics as possible.

It may have been JFK who “cemented” the idea, but it was FDR who first sold it and the myth that grew up around him that claimed he had saved us from the Great Depression. Subsequent study of the era has yielded pretty solid evidence that, in fact, his policies failed and it was a world war that dragged us out of the Depression.

That said, it really doesn’t matter – the perception and belief has been established that the President does indeed have an effect on the economy – right or wrong. That’s just the reality of the matter. Additionally, politicians haven’t been shy about cultivating that perception. It is another means of padding the resume (if the results during their term have been good) or attacking the incumbent (if the results haven’t been very good).

The truth is politicians do have an effect – usually when they chose to intervene, the economy does worse and when they get out of the way, it does better. For the most part, they have yet to realize that, however.

But that’s not really the point I’m interested in making. All of that said, what this race boils down too is a President, who has had poor results, claiming he should be given another 4 years to do better.

The problem with that? He’s already proven he doesn’t know what he’s talking about:

President Obama, a hybrid reincarnation of Kennedy and Roosevelt according to his fans, came into office with similar misconceptions. Controlling the White House, the House, and the Senate, his team of propeller-heads insisted that if we passed exactly the stimulus they wanted, the unemployment rate would top out at 8 percent and would be well below that by now.

They waved around charts and graphs “proving” they were right, like self-declared messiahs insisting they are to be followed because the prophecies they wrote themselves say so.They got their stimulus. They were wrong.

They were dead wrong.

So the question then, given their “know-it-all” claim and their assertions that their plan would work if we’d only give them the money, why should we trust them to do better the second time around, given the fact that we’re actually worse off now than when we were in the actual recession?

As Goldberg points out, their claim is the downturn was “so much worse than anyone realized” isn’t a good excuse given the assurance with which they made their previous claim.

Why didn’t they realize it? That’s a fair question.

A more important question though is why in the world would you give another chance to someone who didn’t drive the vehicle of the economy out of the ditch as promised, but instead put it into a telephone pole?

It makes absolutely no sense.

And Obama’s plan for his coming 4 years? As best as I can discern, pretty much maintain course and tax the rich. That’s it. We’re banging along the economic bottom, unemployment is trending worse, and Obama wants to raise taxes on a single group that would pay for a total of 11 hours of government spending.


You’re asked to buy into that nonsense as solid economic policy – i.e. giving him more time.


Are you actually going to do that?

If so, and if you give this incompetent president and his clueless advisers another 4 years, you deserve everything that comes with that choice – to include a hearty “I told you so” from me if I’m still around in 2016.


Twitter: McQandO

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45 Responses to Since when do Americans reward incompetence?

  • Presidents do not “save or create jobs”.  They do not create new jobs.
    They CAN, and this one certainly HAS, destroy the conditions under which employment continues and flourishes.
    He has done it so will, and so consistently, that I do not consider this the result of ‘incompetence’.  The law of averages would suggest a few right moves.
    I believe the Obamic Decline is very much by design.

  • The point about “worse than we knew” – Say what? How can it be worse than they knew.  They’re the self proclaimed experts.  I’m supposed to now drop another trillion dollars on faith in a group of experts who screwed up the first time?   Every time I’ve ever seen a project screwed up, and then the same group given more time, and more money, the result is usually somewhere between continued failure (until they drive the team from the premises by force of daily progress beatings) or a new system that really doesn’t do nearly what they claimed it was going to do day one, and what it does do day one, it does badly.
    Oh yeah, I’ve seen this – it’s not their money, so they’ll try and tell us we’re throwing it all away if we don’t spend more on them and let them continue.   There’s not a hope in hell they’re going to succeed.  But you know, he’s just so darn likeable! (and it must be my aging vision, I sure can’t see that).  I’m sure if we’ll just allow Mr. Likeable to continue delivering his rat chewed product every thing will be just dandy.

  • Since when?  Apparently, 2008 or so.

  • Billy Jeff still has the mojo eh, probably the most liked politician on the planet!  Then there is Mitt…

    • There’s a point here somewhere, maybe if we all get down on our hands and knees and pat the floor we can find it.

      • If by “mojo”, he means “sedative”…I guess.  Ball-less Bill is still ONE of the biggest liars on the planet, and one of the worst abusers of women and their rights in American history.

        • Not to mention being a draft dodger. Kind of amusing actually, the furor about Romney not mentionaing our current military involvement at the Rep. convention while no one seems to mind a draft dodger being an honored speaker at the Dem. convention.

    • Bill Clinton is well remembered because of (not quite) balanced budgets that were created by Newt’s House. It is interesting how Bill takes credit, given that in the big budget fights of the era, Clinton opposed balanced budgets. The whole thing speaks to the willingness of Democrats to lie.  

      • Oh, and the budgets wer not balanced because they borrowed from SS funding.

        Bill’s draft budget was: spend 100% tax rev., 100% of SS rev., and spend an additional $200B.

        Newt’s budget was: spend 100% tax rev., part of SS rev. The “surplus” was unspent SS rev., so we were always deficit spending, the minimum deficiet was just under $18M in 2000.

  • It’s a choice between voting for Obama, or someone who will drive the economy further into the ditch.
    Conservatives are bound to saying the FDR’s policies didn’t end the Depression—WWII did.  But his policies put a lot of people back to work.
    I agree that a President of this country has little effect unilaterally on economic conditions that have world-wide implications.  But he can make the ride through these problems more or less bearable.

    • The Great (Collectivist) Depression did NOT end with WWII, moron.
      It ONLY ended when the GOP gained control of the Congress and reversed Truman’s attempt to continue the New (Screw-over) Deal.
      Learn SOME history, moron.

    • FDR’s policies, particualarly wage controls, kept unemployment high. That was shown by a study done by UCLA.

      Currently Obama’s policies keep the economy in the ditch, Mitt can get it out.

    • “It’s a choice between voting for Obama; someone who will drive the economy further into the ditch, or…”
      So, what was your alternative?

    • Here ya go Tad, here’s the man in action –
      Skips the daily intel briefings over half the time…
      What IS he doing Tad?  Is the PDB interfering with his tee-time, or getting in the way of campaign fund raisers?
      Yeah, we NEED this guy in office, right smack in the thick of it when the Middle East is at one of it’s most incendiary points since the Yom Kippur war.  Oh, wait, he’s NOT in the thick of it, he’s just ‘present’ in the Oval Office.

    • Conservatives are bound to saying the FDR’s policies didn’t end the Depression—WWII did.  But his policies put a lot of people back to work.

      This reminds me of that story about Milton Friedman when assessing the dam project somewhere in Asia. It also reminds me that, despite all the blather, leftist “thinking” is just the opposite of THINKING.

      • Vassalage was a pretty much “full employment” system, as I recall.
        Ah, the good old days of the Dark Ages!!!

  • I won’t argue that Obama and team are not as skilled in “managing” the economy as they claimed as the true believers think they are.

    I think that from a purely political point of view, the promise that unemployment would never go above 8% and that if the economy is not fixed in three years the Obama administration would be a one term proposition is a huge weapon of political rhetoric. If I were advising the opposition, I’d be telling them to shout those facts from the rooftops.

    Outside of political tactics, to be fair (do we want to be fair?), It is my understanding that when the numbers were run to come up with the unemployment ceiling, the annualized quarterly contraction numbers for the last quarter of 2008 were estimated to be around 3%, the actual numbers turned out to be about 9% annualized. The recession was far deeper than was thought at the time, so really, any forecasts based on those milder estimates would be wrong.

    It’s really the same story with Obama’s statement about his being a one term proposition if the economy were not recovered. But that was not a promise, just a reflection of the reality that he would not be likely to be re-elected if the economy had not recovered. He didn’t say he would not TRY to be re-elected, and the biggest surprise is that with economy as weak as it is, that he is polling even, much less a few points ahead.

    I think if the GOP could have put forward a decent candidate, this would not even be close.

    • “no new taxes”.
      that one line stopped Bush the First from serving more than 1 term.  But we can make zee excuses for zee funny foreign sounding marxist guy, no?
      And where was Barack while zee economy hit zee fan?
      Why, he was worried about his signature accomplishment that he won’t talk about  – Obamacare.
      But yeah, I’d be happier if the candidate was not Romney, then, who do the Republicans have that would be acceptable to the GOP Gentry?
      Zilch, Zip, Nada.

      • Not to mention the fact the economy started to tank in mid-2007,  shortly after the Dems took over Congress and went whole hog in doing Socialism Part One (CFL rules were only one small step)…
        We’ve all seen those charts of the deficit from the 90’s through about 2015 (projected). Look at the curve from 2004 through 2008 when the trend would have been a BALANCED BUDGET.
        And Bubba benefited from the RTC going positive the year he took office, the Peace Dividend from 1991 forward (which he squandered), the tech boom, Y2K boom (which Bush got the post-Y2K bust), all things in place before he was elected much less did anything but finger diddle some broad…
        Clinton: most popular narcissist ever until Buttcrack OBambie and luckiest prez since Truman benefited from the 1946 economic turnaround forced on him by a Republican Congress (which he insisted return the US economy to the Great Depression(.

        • “Not to mention the fact the economy started to tank in mid-2007 shortly after the Dems took over Congress ”

          So the mortgage crisis, which vaporized trillions of dollars in capital was not the cause of the recession, but rather 5 months of Democrats in Congress with a Republican who owned a pen in White House sparked the GLOBAL economic crisis?

          Wow, that is awesome, I am going to save that gem.

          The great irony here is how 1. This is NOT a republican website, which apparently means that while actively supporting Republicans, there will be accountability for their failures, which are ALL due to a failure of Republicans to be conservative, but that ALL economic good has come from Republicans and ALL economic bad has come from Demcorats, except the economic bad that has come from Republicans acting like Demcorats. But this is not a Republican site.

          By the way, the economic boom of the 90’s was neither the result of Clinton nor the Republican Congress, it was the result of technology and timing. That was the moment in time when there were a lot of personal computers in public hands and the technology was developed to allow normal people to connect to user friendly data in a user friendly format and any company with a dotcom in it’s name was valued at crazy multiples because everyone knew that some of these companies were going to be the biggest things ever. Eighteen year old kids were getting millions in capital if they had an idea and a programmer. The bubble burst, but a new economy had developed, and matured to some extent, in a few short years.

          I’d liken it to the economic boom that would take place if millions of families had television sets in their houses, but could only watch videotapes, and AFTER the tv’s were already in homes, the technology to deliver broadcast content to them was developed. It would be huge, and it would be fast. That is what defines the 90’s economy, not politicians. But I would be remiss not to mention that the government BUILT THAT to the point it could be developed for commercial applications.

          • By the way, the economic boom of the 90′s was neither the result of Clinton nor the Republican Congress, it was the result of technology and timing.

            There were other factors. The end of the Cold War and the deregulation of oil factor in. So too the capital gains tax cuts.

          • “which apparently means that while actively supporting Republicans, there will be accountability for their failures,”
            “but this is not a Republican site”
            Uh, huh.  yeah, this is definitely a Republican love fest site, yessir.
            Noted for future reference when I would normally give you the benefit of the doubt.

          • “But I would be remiss not to mention that the government BUILT THAT to the point it could be developed for commercial applications.
            the government built the broadcast system?

          • “the government built the broadcast system?”

            You mean the fictional broadcast system I used to make an analogy, no, I built that, in my head.

            What is it that I was talking about when I said what defined the ’90’s?

            “That is what defines the 90′s economy, not politicians. But I would be remiss not to mention that the government BUILT THAT to the point it could be developed for commercial applications.”

            Now go read the history of the internet, starting with ARPANET, then DARPANET, NSFNET,  Supercomputer Network Study Act of 1986, High Performance Computing and Communication Act of 1991,

          • Yeah, about that – since someone peed in your cheerios earlier and set you off, let me add some urine
            I don’t recall when ordering comm lines back in the early 80’s that I did it from a government department.  I don’t recall them being involved in the 90’s when we did it either.
            Using your logic, if the government funded any of the colleges and universities, or Bell labs even, then “the government built them”.  I’m trying to imagine why guys I knew who were still working for the government high tech world back when we’d moved on to green screens were still playing with 029 Card Punches and collators and sorters (look that up if you need to smartass),
            Here skippy, myth #2 on the big mythometer
            enjoy the cheerios.

          • Government develops nothing without my dollars.

          • Oh, McQ, you big silly.  Those are the government’s dollars!  They generously let you keep some of them at tax time.

          • “Here skippy, myth #2 on the big mythometer”

            So the myth you think that is busted is my assertion that the government built that?

            And yet, in your source, this is what it says, “The Internet was actually put together by Pentagon-funded, university-based contractors who were already working on an information exchange network.”

            Let’s be clear, normally I would never us the phrase “the government built that” because, in fact, the government doesn’t actually build, or do, anything. The government can only pay for things to be built or done. And even then, as McQ stated, the government doesn’t actually pay for anything, taxpayers do, so really, the government only makes the decisions as to what we the taxpayers are going to build or pay for, and to take it a step further, since we have an ostensibly representative government, the government is really only acting on our wishes as to what WE want the government to build or pay for. Taken to the logical conclusion, WE as in WE the People, built that.

            The government did not win WW2 or send a man to the moon, or build the internet. People did, people funded by the government (taxpayers), either directly or indirectly in every case.

            So much of debates anymore are little more than semantics. Words like share, government, and WE are sparks for debate, but when you get to the heart of it, the differences are not in whether government SHOULD do things, it is a question of WHAT things they should do.

            Beyond the fact that our government is a creature of regulatory capture anymore, is the problem of choice. Political party’s are too strong these days, limiting even their own members from individual paths. Time was, both parties had members with wide differences of opinion such that the American people could support or oppose most positions across an issue and as a result of support or opposition from the citizenry they supposedly represented, on of many paths could be taken.

            With party unity on virtually every issue, we are faced with only two choices, and often, both are bad.

            Good governing requires that our representatives, on an individual basis, have both the capacity to be mirrors of their constituency on some issues, and representing the best interests of the nation on others, and the wisdom to know which is appropriate.

            “Uh, huh.  yeah, this is definitely a Republican love fest site, yessir”

            It is a defacto GOP love fest in that it is an Obama (nicer synonym for hate here) -fest. You may be playing South Park Republicans this go-round, but it’s all the same. You hate Romney, but you REALLY FUC*ING HATE OBAMA. Political sites rarely defend ANYTHING, they mostly just attack. Even in the act of defending, the standard response is attack. Example – Obama is doing a bad job on the economy, answer, Bush left an shredded economy to work with. Example – Romney has taken every side of every issue, answer, It’s better than Obama who has taken the wrong side on every issue.

            Look at the posts in this site lately. Obama screwed up this, Democrats screwed up that, the media is biased against Republicans, the polls are biased against Republicans, etc…

    • An economic rebound from a deep recession should be fast. When the economy turns around, the demand for new workers should be sharp.

      But we are not seeing any sharp pick up in the economy, it remains flat because of Obama.

      Oh, and POTUS doesn’t manage the economy. The current one meddles with the economy, keeping it stagnent.

    • Oh, and Romney is proving to be a good candidate. His biggest problem as GOP candidate is that he has a RINO rep but that is true for anyone from his state. He had his own version of Obamacare, etc.

      Romney’s strength as a candidate is shown by his fundraising and success so far. The big problem he has to overcome is the media, which is defending Obama as much as they can.

      • “which is defending Obama as much as they can.”
        Let me guess, it was the cobblestones torn from the streets, the overturned cars, bodies, horse drawn wagons and furniture stacked as Barackaides that tipped you off.

        • Well, I’ve watched the media support the left for decades, in particular in the gun control debate in the late 80s and through the 90s, but since 2000 it has amazed me.

          The failure to discuss Fast&Furious and the Obama cronyism of Solarendra, Lightsquared, etc., the failure to note three years without a budget, it is just amazing.

          • I used to tell myself it wasn’t so, but they’ve thrown off all pretense for the last 4 years.  It’s so glaringly obvious you really do have to be as stupid as the media think you are not to see it.

          • I’ve been having the media bias argument for decades, and one thing I have learned is that almsot everyone perceives bias. The left sees a right bias, the right sees a left bias, many see a corporate bias, some see a blood and guts and sensationalism bias.

            Take the Solyndra example. Don says that the failure to discuss Solyndra is an example of liberal media bias. The first question is whether there WAS a failure to discuss Solyndra?

            Six major print outlets published 89 stories on the subject. Another competing stories at the time were the MMS corruption scandal which had less than 20 articles and the report of waste and fraud in Iraq and Afghanistan which had less than 20 articles. Solyndra was discussed more than 190 times in cable and broadcast, and the other two stories had a tiny fraction of the air time.

            While the Solyndra is very important to some because of what they believe it says about Obama, it was a half billions dollars of wasted taxpayer dollars, compared to the other two stories which uncovered tens of BILLIONS of wasted taxpayer dollars.

            To say there is media bias, I could argue yes there is, bias AGAINST Obama and bias AGAINST publicizing huge corporate war profiteering.

            Oh, they didn’t talk about the story I WANTED the media to talk about, so it is bias against my side. whine, whine, whine.

          • Riiiigggght, which is why we’re really worried about Ryan’s marathon memory, or his mountain climbing memory, or Romney’s tax returns for the last 10 years.
            But we’re not really paying much attention to unemployment, or the fact that Congress has found the Attorney General of the United States in contempt and is taking him to court.  Minor issues to be sure.  I mean that Attorney General thing, sitting cabinet member….that’s happened, what….once in 200 years?  Even if we assume it’s a Republican witch hunt, don’t you think we ought to hear a little more about it?  Shouldn’t it be getting as much press, Valerie Plame, or Abu Grabh?
            “Whine, whine, whine”….was that the sound of your posts when you come here to tell everyone they’re rabid die hard Republicans and your true concern is ‘big government’?

    • Mitt Romney is actually the very best candidate right now. NOT an extremist, NOT known as a big social conservative. A problem solver, A person with real world business experience. I can’t think of any of the others who ran who would better fit the circumstances.

  • OT, but Hotair has a good take on the PPP Ohio poll, which has a skewed sample of independents and Dems. Indies are undersampled, Dems oversampled (higher then even in 2008).

  • ALL economic good has come from Republicans and ALL economic bad has come from Demcorats, except the economic bad that has come from Republicans acting like Demcorats. But this is not a Republican site.

    Well, when you actually go through the list of actions taken by each party, the Democrats are the ones who are always wrong while the Republicans are sometimes right. And when the Republicans are wrong, like with medicare Part D, they are not as bad as the Democrats.

    I have trouble thinking of good Democrat economic actions. Clinton signed the capital gains tax cuts, but the GOP deserves the credit for putting them in front of him, and he signed for political gain, not because he wanted the cuts. Carter began oil deregulation when he faced Reagan, but that’s because his ideas had failed, you get the feeling he was grasping for anything, even his opponents ideas.

    The Democrats have been the party of economic idiocy since FDR.

  • Christina Romer studied Keynesian economics and is a leading economist in the field. She came up with that graph we all see. If one of the best minds in economics cannot understand the depth of the crisis (we all knew it was horrible so I don’t believe this) and her best work turns out to be wrong, then why would you give them another shot?
    Or maybe her work was politicized…in which case why give the Politicizer another shot?
    Also, there is a huge myth that we have “crumbling infrastructure” – they actually score infrastructure, and the federal and state infrastructure has been getting BETTER not worse over time.  There are some city and county bridges that could be fixed, but nowhere near the claim by the Democrats desperate to have another go at the cookie jar.
    We also already have too many teachers and cops and firefighters in California at least. Young student teachers end up working at banks because old teachers cannot be fired. We have far too many fire stations according to my friend the firefighter – structures have been getting safer and safer. And crime of course is down. They can no longer guarantee police academy grads jobs in my city.
    The final wheeze from Obama is green jobs, buy HIS OWN ECONOMIC ADVISORS repeatedly told him those will not be big job creators. Most of the ones we actually did seem like schemes to get the tax money, siphon it out, and then close or ship production to China.
    What Obama should have done was a BIG BANG tax reform and regulatory reform.
    1) Drop the Corporate tax rate to ZERO or 5% or something very low.
    2) Reform the tax code to be very, very simple and here he could have raised taxes on the rich and done okay, due to 1. It could even be revenue neutral – so no rich people get away with anything, but we have an investment incentive to locate in the USA and not in Ireland.
    3) Pass a financial reform that was simpler yet farther reaching – I think a simple “no bank bigger than x% of GDP” would be okay, or work on something that makes bank officers personally on the hook for losses, like was often the case in the 19th century. Instead we ENSHRINED too big to fail.
    Instead, he wasted time doing healthcare and then cap and trade…CAP AND TRADE DURING A HUGE DOWN TURN. He must have thought it would help create those green energy jobs.

    • Harun, to quote Judge Chamberlain Haller, That is a lucid, intelligent, well thought-out objection.


      You know my opinion is that both sides are owned by special interests, and often the same special interests, not just competing interests like labor and business. Every good thing the government SHOULD do, like responsible financial regulation, is co-opted and turned into captured legislation. I think this applies to how SOME stimulus money was spent, and it was definitely applied in the financial services regulation policy, which had the reasonable goal of preventing a repeat of too-big-to-fail, but as you say, instead enshrined it.

      But to say that Republicans are the good guys and Democrats are the bad guys not only misses the point, it actually plays into the capture game. The special interests don’t have an ideology, they have a balance sheet, and they just want their say in policy for their specific benefit. As long as Americans are polarized in ideological debates, they win, because they DON’T CARE who wins, just that they own whoever wins. the Dodd-Frank Bill is awful because it doesn’t DO what Congress was charged with having it do, but instead, with enormous complexity, it gives the appearance of saying it COULD do what it was supposed to, along with dozens or special interest riders that have nothing to do with preventing future debacles.

      The bill could have been very simple, just re-establish Glass-Steagal, put a cap on total deposits as a fraction of the GDP, and specify who can trade on non-public markets and what disclaimers need to be made to investors. But something that simple would be easily enforceable, and this bill was built to avoid enforcement.

      The GOP was no help, they were not arguing for simplicity, they were arguing to stop ANY legislation and they are now doing everything they can to remove what few teeth Dodd-Frank had.

      Look, being a friend to business is a GOOD thing in a politician. Being a legislative toad that gives specific gifts to businesses and industries with no thought of the consequences to their actual constituency is a very bad thing. Sadly, that pretty much describes most members of congress and the Senate, of either party.

      Presidents may or may not be bought into any specific legislative capture, but they know the game, and they know better than to get in the way (think GWB and the Prescription Drug plan aka BigPharm gift, or ObamaCare and the mandate and lack of public option aka the BigInsurance gift).

      Liberal policies and conservative policies fail these days because they are not built to succeed, they are built to look they are doing something people want, but are really just crap and cover for what pols are really paid to do.

  • I guess my point is that government can always control business and harm it. Helping it is much harder, and usually the best way is to get out of the way – keep things simple and fair, and have a judiciary…DONE.
    Anytime you get to industrial policy…well that’s insane. I guess sitting down with Obama, and explaining it in words he could understand. I would say the government trying to pick winners and losers for the ENTIRE economy would be like him personally getting the brackets right for all sports teams, college and pro, a year in advance. Not going to happen.

    • The role of government would be like setting up league infrastructure and making the rules uniform for all teams and players, not personally managing all the teams to get better results somehow.

    • Obama won’t listen. Why should he, he’s already the smartest guy in the room. He knows all the answers. And the reason the answers don’t work is Bush’s fault.

  • “I would say the government trying to pick winners and losers for the ENTIRE economy would be like him personally getting the brackets right for all sports teams, ”

    And yet, conservatives uniformly agree that picking capital gains earners as winners is a great idea, while regular income from a person’s efforts are far less important. So much so that conservatives are very happy with the idea of having no tax on income one can designate as capital gains.

    There are a thousand subsidies sponsored, passed, and protected by Republicans. How is that not picking winners?

    Here are a just a few examples of bills that Republicans passed when they had control of over the House, Senate, and White House…

    Medicare Prescription Drug Act
    The Homeland Security Act
    Energy Policy Act of 2005
    There are lots of winners and losers in those bills, notably liberty – loser, taxpayers – loser, Big Pharm – winner, small business – loser, really big business – winner.

    You were saying what about the GOP not picking winners?

    Or was this the old GOP, GOP 3.2, instead of the new improved actually conservative libertarian GOP 3.3?