Free Markets, Free People

Daily Archives: October 25, 2010

The Unindicted Co-Conspirator

Well. It looks like the Nevada senate race between Harry Reid and Sharon Angle might have just gotten a little more interesting:

An aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid repeatedly lied to federal immigration and FBI agents and submitted false federal documents to the Department of Homeland Security to cover up her illegal seven-year marriage to a Lebanese national who was the subject of an Oklahoma City Joint Terror Task Force investigation, has learned.

Diana Tejada, Reid’s Hispanic Press Secretary, admitted to receiving payment for “some of her expenses” in exchange for fraudulently marrying Bassam Mahmoud Tarhini in 2003, strictly so he could obtain permanent U.S. residency, according to court documents.

I note the following with keen interest:

Tejada, now 28, was never charged for her role in the crime.

“We did not charge the woman, and of course we don’t discuss the reasons we don’t charge people,” said Bob Troester, spokesman for the Western District of Oklahoma U.S. Attorney’s Office, which prosecuted the case, which began as an FBI investigation out of the Oklahoma City Joint Terrorism Task Force.

But of course she wasn’t charged. She is, after all, an aide to the Senate Majority Leader.  We can’t expect the law to apply to her.

Perhaps we should amend the Constitution to allow patents of nobility, then simply immunize their lordships from prosecution. That would at least have the virtue of being honest, unlike the “Equal Justice Under Law” tomfoolery that we spout.

Following the House of Bourbon

I really do try not to be pessimistic about the future, but this is the kind of thing that keeps me up at night:

[W]ithout serious course correction, America is doomed. It starts with the money. For dominant powers, it always does – from the Roman Empire to the British Empire. “Declinism” is in the air these days, but for us full-time apocalyptics we’re already well past that stage. In the space of one generation, a nation of savers became the world’s largest debtors, and a nation of makers and doers became a cheap service economy. Everything that can be outsourced has been – manufacturing to by no means friendly nations overseas; and much of what’s left in agriculture and construction to the armies of the “undocumented”. At the lower end, Americans are educated at a higher cost per capita than any nation except Luxembourg in order to do minimal-skill checkout-line jobs about to be rendered obsolete by technology. At the upper end, America’s elite goes to school till early middle age in order to be credentialed for pseudo-employment as $350 grand-a-year diversity consultants (Michelle Obama) or in one of the many other phony-baloney makework schemes deriving from government micro-regulation of virtually every aspect of endeavor.

So we’re not facing “decline”. We’re already in it. What comes next is the “fall” – sudden, devastating, off the cliff. That’s why this election is consequential – because the Obama-Pelosi-Reid spending spree made what was vague and distant explicit and immediate. A lot of the debate about America’s date with destiny has an airy-fairy beyond-the-blue-horizon mid-century quality, all to do with long-term trends and other remote indicators. In reality, we’ll be lucky to make it through the short-term in sufficient shape to get finished off by the long-term. According to CBO projections, by 2055 interest payments on the debt will exceed federal revenues. But I don’t think we’ll need to worry about a “Government of the United States” at that stage. By 1788, Louis XVI’s government in France was spending a mere 60 per cent of revenues on debt service, and we all know how that worked out for the House of Bourbon the following year.

Oh, but wait, it gets worse, because we’re not just talking about the effect on the US. Our current path affects the whole world.

In 2009, the US spent about $665 billion on its military, the Chinese about $99 billion. If Beijing continues to buy American debt at the rate it has in recent times, then within a few years US interest payments on that debt will be covering the entire cost of the Chinese military. This summer, the Pentagon issued an alarming report to Congress on Beijing’s massive military build-up, including new missiles, upgraded bombers, and an aircraft-carrier R&D program intended to challenge US dominance in the Pacific. What the report didn’t mention is who’s paying for it.

Answer: Mr and Mrs America.

By 2015, the People’s Liberation Army, which is the largest employer on the planet, bigger even than the US Department of Community-Organizer Grant Applications, will be entirely funded by US taxpayers. When the Commies take Taiwan, suburban families in Connecticut and small businesses in Idaho will have paid for it.

When these kinds of crises hit, they often happen suddenly, without warning, often as the result of an event that is minor, in and of itself, but becomes the straw that breaks the camel’s back. When Gavrilo Princip popped a couple of slugs into Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie, it seemed trivial. It was the kind of story that appeared on Page C-4 of Le Monde or the Times of London, and yet, weeks later, sparked a war that literally unmoored Western Civilization from everything that had gone before.

Let’s also be clear that this won’t be a European experience. The post-war European decline , if not painless, was at least very powerfully cushioned by the financial and political support of the United States. We won’t have that cushion.

In a two-party system, you have to work with what’s available. In America, one party is openly committed to driving the nation off the cliff, and the other party is full of guys content to go along for the ride as long as we shift down to third gear. That’s no longer enough of a choice.

Hard choices–very hard choices–are at hand. We will make those choices willingly, and try to maintain some control over our destiny, or reality will simply make those choices for us.

Paul “one-note” Krugman still pushing for more stimulus

Krugman’s latest approach to demanding more deficit spending – er, excuse me, “stimulus” spending – centers on the impending election.  The Democrats wouldn’t be about to see an electoral tsunami if they’d just listened to him and spent more.  The economy would be recovering and we’d only be talking about nominal losses in the mid-term as is historically the case with just about every President.

Says Krugman:

The real story of this election, then, is that of an economic policy that failed to deliver. Why? Because it was greatly inadequate to the task.

And he further states:

If you look back now at the economic forecast originally used to justify the Obama economic plan, what’s striking is that forecast’s optimism about the economy’s ability to heal itself. Even without their plan, Obama economists predicted, the unemployment rate would peak at 9 percent, then fall rapidly. Fiscal stimulus was needed only to mitigate the worst — as an “insurance package against catastrophic failure,” as Lawrence Summers, later the administration’s top economist, reportedly said in a memo to the president-elect.

In fact, when you look back at the spending forecast that accompanied the Obama plan, you’ll find something very strange (as we’ve pointed out before).  You’ll find that it spent more than Mr. Krugman said was necessary at the time:

All indications are that the new administration will offer a major stimulus package. My own back-of-the-envelope calculations say that the package should be huge, on the order of $600 billion.

It should be huge, huge I tell you!  $600 billion at least.  We ended up with  $900+ instead new figures show.  It was 50% bigger than Krugman called for but, now, it was “totally inadequate”.

If you, like me, have essentially turned off the one-note bleat from this guy it is because other than calling for more spending he never, ever reviews his work or analyzes the results of someone actually following his advice.  It was huge, it was more than he asked for, and it FAILED.

Has that sunk in yet, Mr. Krugman – your suggestion was less than what was spent and the result was an increase in unemployment and a decrease in economic activity.  That, to most, means the idea of a “huge” amount of deficit spending did not have the effect you and the administration claimed it would.  It. Failed.

Unlike Mr. Krugman, most of us have come to terms with the Einstein definition of insanity and resist doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.

Obviously that’s not the case with Mr. Paul “one-note” Krugman.  Tuning him out is a perfectly acceptable reaction to his ceaseless call for more deficit spending.


Are Dems closing the enthusiasm gap?

There has been a lot of assertion flying around the net about how Democrats are “closing the enthusiasm” gap.  The question, of course, is whether or not that’s actually true.  Certainly any number or races are tightening as should be expected with 8 days to go before an election.  And both sides are ginning up their Get Out The Vote drives – critical to a win.  You also have the President and VP hitting the road for  any number of at-risk candidates thereby punching up the visibility of those candidates and stirring up the base (although the level of enthusiasm among some base groups lags 2008’s).

But are the Democrats really closing the enthusiasm gap?

POLITICO seems to think the latest information from early voting says “no”.

POLITICO surveyed early voting through Saturday in 20 states, and in 14 of the 15 that have voter registration by party, the GOP’s early turnout percentage is running ahead of the party’s share of statewide voter registration — whether measured against 2006 or 2008, when President Barack Obama’s campaign led to a surge in Democratic voter registration. As a result, Republicans say they’re turning the tables on the Democratic dominance of early voting that paved the way for Obama’s victory in 2008 — and that independents’ lean toward the GOP this year will do the rest.

Two important points there.  A) GOP turnout is running ahead of the party’s share of state wide voter registration.  That’s a very important indicator of where the enthusiasm lies.  When that sort of an advantage gained, history shows the results are usually favorable for the party that does so.  B) Independents are more pro-GOP than pro-Democrat this time around.  Each of the parties command about 30 to 35% brand loyalty in any election.  It may go higher in some as the early voting indicates it is for the GOP this time.  However, everyone understands that the party faithful alone can’t swing an election.  It takes persuading independents to sign on and vote for the party to close the deal.   Independents have shown consistently in polls that they’re favoring the GOP this time around.

Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight has taken a look at the early voting as well, and comes to pretty much the same conclusion as does POLITICO:

So, the various estimates of early voting data each show an edge for Republicans: their voters have been slightly more inclined that Democrats in most states thus far. Under the most favorable set of assumptions for them, their advantage is around 9 points; by the least favorable set of assumptions, it is more like a 4-point edge.

These figures ought to seem familiar to regular readers of this blog. How come? Because they are very close to the enthusiasm gap as inferred by the consensus of pollsters — who, on average, show Republican candidates performing about 6 points better among likely voters than among registered voters — although their advantage varies from state to state and from polling firm to polling firm.

Take a look at Silver’s full analysis – probably one of the most exhaustive you’ll find.  It holds up pretty well and it underlines the fact that the reports of a Democratic comeback – a closing of the “enthusiasm gap” – is founded more in “hope” than reality.  He concludes:

Overall, however, the early voting data does not provide compelling reason to reject the consensus among pollsters, which is that the enthusiasm gap is most likely to manifest itself in a mid-to-high single digit turnout advantage for Republicans. When coupled with the edge that Republican candidates have among independent voters in most races, this suggests that they are liable to have a pretty good year [emphasis mine].

That seems to me to be a reasonable conclusion despite a rising tide of media stories implying that Democrats are coming back.  There’s little reason to believe independents will begin to reverse their trend away from Democrats at this late date.  There has been absolutely nothing happen that would trigger such a reverse. 

Keep all this in mind as you read more stories that I’d put in the “whistling past the graveyard” category about Democrats keeping the House, etc.  While I don’t believe the dire predictions of 70 or 80 seats there switching sides, I do believe more than enough will turn over to give the GOP a majority.