Free Markets, Free People

Final Thoughts


Final thoughts on today’s vote

John Podhoretz mentions something we’ve been talking about for a while:

If Mitt Romney wins tonight, it’ll likely be because of something revealed by a little-noticed statistic released yesterday by the polling firm Rasmussen — following a similar statistic last week from Gallup.

Rasmussen revealed that for the month of October, its data showed that among likely voters, the electorate is 39 percent Republican and 33 percent Democratic.

This comes from a survey of 15,000 people taken over the course of a month. Yes, 15,000 people —15 times the number in a statistically significant poll.

This number might be discounted, since Rasmussen has a reputation as leaning Republican. Except that last week, Gallup — the oldest and most reputable national pollster — released its party ID survey of 9,424 likely voters. And it came out 36 percent Republican, 35 percent Democrat.

I’m not at all comfy with R+6 from Rasmussen. But what should be taken away from this is the fact that two major polling firms have surveyed likely voters extensively and come up with similar results about the mix of self-identified Republicans and Democrats.   And what they’ve found is a profound shift from 2008.

Why does this matter?  Check history:

Because never in the history of polling, dating back to 1936, have self-identified Republicans outnumbered Democrats on Election Day. Never. Ever.

Hmmm.  So indies are breaking for Romney by 7 points, 13% of those who voted for Obama last time say they’re not going to vote for him this time and for the first time since 1936 we’re pretty sure that it is R+something, but Obama is going to win?

Excuse us for being skeptical again, but sometimes the “numbers” just don’t add up.  And, then, as we’ve mentioned, there are the atmospherics, something polling companies really don’t plug into at all.  Sometimes, as in 2010, the gut comes through because the brain has assimilated a lot more than the numbers provided and ends up with a conclusion that is contrary to the conventional wisdom.

I still believe this is one of those times.

~McQ


Fiscal austerity? Certainly not in Europe

The narrative the left likes to push is that “austerity” is the wrong thing to do, that increased government spending will see us out of these tough times.  And they like to point to Europe’s continuing downward spiral because of “austerity” as proof.

Meh.  They should consult the numbers first before pumping out yet another false meme:

fiscal-austerity-newnew580_1-1

Hardly a picture of “drastic” spending cuts.  Hardly a picture of “austerity.”

As Joel Pollak at Breitbart points out:

Government spending has continued to rise across much of Europe, and even those countries that have made small cuts have not reduced government spending to pre-recession levels. Some Keynesians might believe that these policies are draconian relative to the massive spending that should have happened during a recession, but that shifting the austerity goalposts.

Veronique de Rugy at National Review Online points to the graph above, and also points out that "whenever cuts took place, they were always overwhelmed by large counterproductive tax increases." Higher taxes on the "rich" have led to uniform misery in Europe–and to political extremism among disenchanted voters.That is the real failure of European policy, and the lesson most relevant to Americans as we head to the polls to choose between an incumbent who wants to raise taxes and one who wants to reform them.

Or to distill this even further, the “blue social/political model” is dying and there isn’t much the left (or anyone) can do to save it.  Reality has again defined “unsustainable” for the left in terms they are finding difficult to deal with.

What’s the first stage of coping with grief?

Oh, yeah … denial.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Final Thoughts

Taxation clarified:

When you give your money to someone in need, simply because you want to help, that’s called CHARITY.

When someone in need holds a gun to your head and makes you give them your money, that’s called ROBBERY.

When someone holds a gun to your head, makes you give your money to him for the benefit of someone in need whom he claims to represent, that’s called SPREADING THE WEALTH.

As a corollary, when someone takes out massive loans in your name and the names of your children in order to give that money to someone else, that’s called STIMULUS.

Of course, I don’t mean that all taxation works this way. I want a strong military, competent police and a functioning judiciary to protect our society and individual interests. “All taxation is theft” is fun to ponder, but not reality. Having a civil society will always cost something. It’s when taxation goes beyond what’s necessary to perform those minimal functions that “theft” becomes an appropriate term.


Analyzing Last Night’s Vote

Michael is of the opinion that last night’s results tell us fiscal conservatism is back in vogue. I think there’s certainly a hint of that in the VA win. What is certainly true is voters in VA rejected the Democratic message. And more remarkable was the fact that they rejected it down ticket as well – a sweep for the Reps. Not only that, they picked up majorities in heavily Democratic suburbs.  The size of the victory was stunning, to say the least.

But was it a rejection of the Democrat’s principles, an embrace of fiscal conservatism, a repudiation of the Obama administration or simply a reflection of the unease people feel with the economy and a belief Republicans handle that better? Or was it a little of all of those things?

What I’m driving at is both sides have a tendency to read too much into electoral wins, take off on a tear and find themselves on the losing side the next time around. The VA win, of all of the votes last night, was the biggest win for the GOP. But they need to temper their assessment so they, like the Democrats have, don’t overreach.

NJ, on the other hand, was a horse of a different color – or should I say donkey. Corzine had abysmal poll numbers well in front of the election. One of the biggest concerns among voters there was the corruption in government – it was rampant. And interestingly, the Republican candidate for governor, Chris Christie, had lead the fight against corruption, quite successfully I might add. So I’m not so sure that NJ, while still a huge win for the R’s, was so much a repudiation of Democrats and their principles as it was a repudiation of a specific incumbent. Again, the GOP should tread carefully to avoid reading too much into the NJ win.

That, of course, brings us to NY-23. The lesson in NY-23 can be summed up in one sentence, uttered last night by Brit Hume: “That’s why you have primaries”. The story here isn’t necessarily that the Democrat won. Given the disarray on the Republican side, I’m surprised it was as close as it was. Instead, it is about how badly the establishment GOP screwed up their selection process. Someone needs to tell them that the days of backroom selections which don’t reflect the desire or mood of the constituency were over a century ago. Had they had their primary and Hoffman won then it is hard to believe that the same level of support from the NRCC with no Scozzafava on the ballot siphoning off 5% of the vote (or campaigning for the Democrat) wouldn’t have yielded a much different outcome. In other words, establishment Republicans blew the election, not the activists. The good news for Republicans is they get to do this again in NY-23 in 2010. Let’s see if they can do a better job this next time.

All in all, a pretty decent night for the party that was in the wilderness not 6 months ago. But caution in interpreting the results should indeed be their watchword. In my opinion, establishment GOP types have not yet quite figured out the conservative insurgency which is now going on among them (and reflected in the Tea Parties, etc). Look for other challenges to Scozzafava-type candidates to continue in the future. They need to understand that much of their base has already rejected the usual approach to identifying candidates for office and that part of the base is willing to buck the establishment picks as they did in NY-23. In fact, NY-23, although a loss, will only encourage them.

The last observation I’ll make has to do with so-called independents. Indies went heavily for the GOP in the two governor’s races last night. That, if anything, should worry Democrats. Independents were the swing vote that decided the last presidential election. In a single year, they’ve found at least some Republicans worth their vote.

Additionally, this time it was the Republican base which was motivated. Democratic turnout was much lower in almost all areas of NJ and VA. And, unlike 2008, the young reverted to form and stayed home. Those are trends for the GOP to build on. However, as noted, they need to avoid over reaching as they do so.

~McQ


Final Thoughts

Final as in the last thing I’m thinking about when I go to bed. I’ve been toying with the idea of doing a bit of a brain dump at the end of the day, instead of writing about the hottest topic du jour, so consider this a flagship post (N.B. even though my not-so-well-thought-out-or-composed trial balloon was pretty much a flop).

I have very mixed feelings about the announcement from the Pay Czar today that 7 of the firms receiving TARP money would have their salaries dictated to them, resulting in as much as a 90% pay cut (although I’ve also heard 90% was the average).

On the one hand, I figure if you dance with the devil, then you can’t complain when he calls the tune. And since in my estimation these firms should have been allowed to fail in the first place, I’m not exactly shedding any tears over their lost compensation. If they wanted to have control over their businesses, then they shouldn’t haven’t gotten involved with the government in the first place. Whatever Paulson said in that room that fateful day, the decision-makers still had a choice. That they chose poorly is really not my problem, and I don’t feel one bit sorry for them.

Yet, I have no way of knowing if any of those salaries being cut would be going to mismanagers or saviors of the bailed-out firm. Clearly if these firms are going to survive (and the taxpayers are going to have any chance of getting their money back), then we would want the smartest, most industrious, and capable workers in there plugging away, whether it’s in the mail room or the board room. But how is that supposed to happen if these people aren’t getting paid their market rate? Why wouldn’t they go somewhere else, or start their own private companies?

More importantly, what sort of precedent does this set? I understand that the Pay Czar’s actions are legitimized by Congress in the statute setting up the TARP program, but what constitutional authority ever gave any of them the right to dictate pay? The Commerce Clause? The General Welfare Clause to which Congress is now hitching its hopes on forcing people to buy health insurance? The answer to that question only raises much deeper and frankly hair-raising questions.

If Congress can constitutionally give the Executive Branch the power to dictate the pay of those who receive federal funds, what else can it do to those being subsidized? If the federal government is picking up the tab for any portion of your health insurance or health care, for example, what limits can it place on the way you live your life? Can it force you not to smoke? Not to drink? Maybe you won’t be allowed to go skiing or rollerblading without a special permit. Would motorcycle riding still be allowed? How about eating fatty foods of any sort? What happens to student loan recipients? Will their classes be decided for them? Their future employment?

Scoff if you must, but if the government can dictate what your intellectual and physical efforts are worth, then why can’t it also dictate what your actual life is worth? And don’t be confused into thinking that decisions concerning how much the government will pay for your health care, or what you will do to earn a living, are anything but a determination of how much your life is worth.

Like I said above, I’m ambivalent about the Pay Czar actions. While I’m not crying over some Wall Street fat cats having the their lucre cut off, I am worried about the seeming ease with which Americans are taking this news and their apparent lack of interest in what it could mean for them (and me!). Governments are dangerous, no matter what goodies you think you might personally get from them. A government that exercises control over any of our lives with fanfare from the constituents, or worse, with their apathy, is by far the most dangerous. Which government and which polity do we have now?