Free Markets, Free People

Daily Archives: November 8, 2012

Why the Right Should Embrace “Fairness” in Entitlement Reform

This is a departure from my previous two posts; it’s not about a particular group that has pulled away from the GOP.  Romney pulled a slightly larger share of older voters than McCain did, even if fewer total turned out than in previous years.  That the Romney-Ryan ticket did this while proposing entitlement reform is a substantial feat, but it did involve watering down the reforms a great deal.  For example, Republicans now make a habit of promising that nobody under age 55 will be affected by their reforms.

Why make this concession when the lion’s share of the fiscal problem is current retirees and the many, many Baby Boomers who will retire soon?  Boomers vote, of course, but what motivates them?  I don’t think most seniors could bring themselves to act on straightforward greed; I think they’re voting based on a particular concept of fairness.

Specifically, they paid into the system over a long career, and they believe they should be able to get back what they paid in.  And even though current Medicare beneficiaries get two to six times as much in benefits as they paid in (if this is right), only about a third of Americans think Medicare beneficiaries get any more than they paid in.  As long as they think that way, they’ll continue to oppose means testing and raising the retirement age by wide margins.

You might be tempted to say that our task is to educate them, but it’s much easier to persuade people based on their current beliefs than to convince them of inconvenient facts first.  Republicans basically conceded that cutting benefits to older voters at all would be unfair, and pushed complicated plans that few people aside from Paul Ryan can competently defend.

But we might be even bolder if we just hugged that core fairness principle tighter.

September’s Reason-Rupe poll (PDF – fixed link) asked Americans if they’d support cuts to their own Medicare benefits “if you were guaranteed to receive benefits at least equal to the amount of money that you and your employer contribute into the system.”  It was a blowout: 68% yes, 25% no.  Three quarters of Tea Partiers said yes.

At a stroke, you could slash Medicare in half with a reform based on that principle.  (Their August 2011 poll suggested similar support for applying the principle to Social Security, but the cuts would be much more modest.)

Centering a reform on that principle achieves steeper cuts and seems easier to defend than what Paul Ryan is trying.  Because if Democrats fought us on it, they’d have to make the wildly unpopular case for entitlements as redistribution programs rather than as “insurance” or “savings.”

The kind of coalition the Right needs for sustainable entitlement reform has to include people who highly value fairness (or, as Jonathan Haidt would call it, proportionality).  If we want the project of liberty to be successful, we have to pluck on other heartstrings.

Why Conservatives Should Embrace Gay Marriage

I already mentioned that marriage, kids, and a mortgage are very strong indicators of conservatism.  Here’s a straightforward causal explanation: when you’re invested in something, you don’t want it to be taken from you, and you’re skeptical of starry-eyed meddlers doing anything that might threaten it.  Probably the best thing done for the cause against gun control was teaching others how to use and maintain a firearm: once people own one, it sharpens the mind to cut through any argument for taking it away.

But a gun is a small investment compared to a committed and intimate relationship, custody of children, and homeownership.  A dollar taxed is one that you can’t spend on your family when they want something, a dollar borrowed is one that your kids will pay back, and that meddler on TV is rolling the dice with a major part of your life.

In the case of immigration, Hispanics are already primed to be conservative because they’re already invested.  With gay marriage, you have a group trying awfully hard to get more invested.

The conservative argument for embracing gay marriage is that marriage seems to be a fine institution that benefits even people who can’t have children together, and that it may strengthen the institution and the country to expand the institution so that a nontrivial minority of the population is on the inside trying to protect it rather than on the outside where their exclusion leads to thorny political issues of respect and tribalism.

Another conservative argument is that if gay marriage is politically inevitable, conservatives should proactively move through legislation to ensure that it goes smoothly without infringing on other freedoms (like those of association and contract), rather than allow this to play out entirely in the courts or in a referendum.  If conservatives keep trying to board the windows, more stuff is going to end up broken than if they just opened the door.

As with immigration and Hispanics, marriage may not be gays’ top priority, but it matters, and the way Republicans approach and discuss the issue can signal that “you’re not one of us,” which is poison for coalition-building.

The flip side of that coin doesn’t have to be pandering; given the consciousness of gay communities about targeted violence and bullying, it’d be awesome if conservatives taught more gays how to use and maintain firearms.

Economic Statistics for 8 Nov 12

The following US economic statistics were announced today:

Late yesterday, the Consumer Credit report showed another steep $11.4 billion increase in consumer credit for September, following August’s very large $18.4 billion increase. One of the main contributors to the increase was student loan debt.

Initial claims for unemployment fell 8,000 last week, to 355,000. The 4-week moving average rose 3,250 to 370,500. Continuing claims fell a sharp 135,000 to 3.127 million.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index rose 0.3 points to –34.3, the highest reading since spring.

The U.S. international trade gap in September fell to -$41.5 billion from -$44.2 billion in August. Exports rose 3.1%, and imports rose 1.5%.

~
Dale Franks
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Dear CO and WA – good luck with those marijuana legalization laws

The imperial “federal” government knows better than you what is good for “the people”:

“This is a symbolic victory for (legalization) advocates, but it will be short-lived,” Kevin Sabet, a former adviser to the Obama administration’s drug czar, told reporters.

“They are facing an uphill battle with implementing this, in the face of … presidential opposition and in the face of federal enforcement opposition,” Sabet said.

Because everyone knows we are a country in which state’s rights exist and the people get to decide.   And we certainly know prohibition worked extraordinarly well in the 1920s.

Let freedom ring.

Forward.

~McQ

Election summary – time to move on

OK, look, I’m done with the election.  It’s over.  Romney lost.  Time to move on.

Most of us who follow politics understand the reasons and have a pretty good idea of why he’s going home and the Obama’s are staying in the White House.  Short version: They let the left define the election issues.  It was a masterful job of distraction aided and abetted by  a complicit media (hey, “60 Minutes”, you have NO credibility anymore). Period.

Guess what those issues weren’t?  The winning issues: Jobs.  Economy.  Debt. Deficit.  ObamaCare.  Benghazi. Fast and Furious.

Result?  Lost.

Lesson:  Don’t let your opposition define the issues.  A lesson as old as politics.  Romney’s campaign blew it.  It allowed the left to make it about “lady parts”, abortion, contraception, Bain Capital, class warfare and racism. They made being successful something of which to be ashamed.  And, of course, a couple of idiot GOP candidates at state level who came off like jackasses talking about “legitimate rape”, etc.  who made it even worse (because the complicit media made their stupidity national stories — unlike jobs, the economy, debt, ObamaCare, Benghazi and Fast and Furious.).

And that scared the usual suspects enough to turn out and vote (ye olde and reliable low information voters in swing states who scare easily) and dampened GOP turnout (didn’t even get the number out that McCain got for heaven sake).

That’s the election in a nutshell.

So?

So, now we put that behind us and deal with the inevitable aftermath.

~McQ