Free Markets, Free People

Elections

Another reason we’re in the mess we’re in: the rise of the professional politician

Another reason we’re in the mess we’re in is because of the rise of professional politics and politicians.  According to a recent study 46%  of the present Congress is comprised of lawyers.  That’s 68 times  the density of lawyers throughout the population. But law school for many has been or has become the jumping off point for life as a professional politician.

And so, as with our current president, we get a class of people who have never “done anything or run anything.”  The results predictable, just look around. For the most part, those who are our supposedly “leaders” haven’t a clue on how to proceed or how to “fix” what is wrong with this country.  They have little experience in doing much of anything else but getting elected. Execution, governing, management – all seem foreign to most of our political class.  So they rely on “experts”, mostly in academia or among their political connections, to advise them on how to proceed.

Ed Driscoll provides us with a great example of one politician who, after he left political life, realized how little he knew about extraordinarily important information, and how little experience he actually had where it counted. Former presidential candidate and longtime politician, George McGovern, decided to go into business after leaving politics. It was only then, after his business failed, he realized how little he knew about something as critical as what it takes in the business atmosphere he helped build to run a business.

George McGovern laments that after his experience in the bed-and-breakfast business he realizes that laws and regulations pertaining to small business are actually hurting the lower-wage workers whom he had tried to help during his entire political career. With his Stratford Inn in bankruptcy, McGovern now says:

In retrospect, I wish I had known more about the hazards and difficulties of such a business…. I wish that during the years I was in public office I had this firsthand experience about the difficulties business people face every day. That knowledge would have made me a better Senator and a more understanding presidential contender… To create job opportunities, we need entrepreneurs who will risk their capital against an expected payoff. Too often, however, public policy does not consider whether we are choking off those opportunities.

He is just one of many of this of this professional political class who have helped put us in this mess.

We should demand, as voters and citizens, that our politicians have real world experience before we allow them the privilege of representing us. We should end this era of politicians whose only real world experience concerning the effects of policy come from dormitory debates and untried academic theories.  And we should reject, out of hand, anyone who has “never done anything or run anything”, unless we find ourselves comfortable with the shape this country is in.

~McQ

Why are we in the mess we’re in? [update]

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist, brain surgeon, or even particularly smart to figure out that this trend means entitlements, as structured, will fail:

Last week, the Commerce Department announced that the gross domestic product shrank by 0.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012. And the Census Bureau reported that the U.S. birthrate in 2011 was 63.2 per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44, the lowest ever recorded.

Slow economic growth and low population growth threaten to undermine entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare. Despite contrary rhetoric, they are programs in which working-age people pay for pensions and medical care for the elderly.

When Medicare was established in 1965 and when Social Security was vastly expanded in 1972, America was accustomed to the high birthrates of the post-World War II baby boom. It was widely assumed that the baby boom generation would soon produce a baby boom of its own.

Oops. The birthrate fell from the peak of 122.7 in 1957 to 68.8 in 1973 and hovered around that level until 2007. The baby boom, it turns out, was an exception to a general rule that people tend to have fewer babies as their societies become more affluent and urbanized.

So, when will our so-called “leaders” finally  figure this out? My guess, in fact it really isn’t a guess, is they know but haven’t intestinal fortitude, politically speaking, to do what is necessary.  That is cut them, privatize them or any of a host of other options they won’t even consider.

What they will consider, of course, is raising taxes and borrowing.

The fact of the matter is that both Social Security and Medicare are based in flawed models. The original models saw the base of the those paying into the system remaining constant, despite the “general rule that people tend to have fewer babies as their societies become more affluent and urbanized.”

The numbers don’t lie. Fewer and fewer workers are available to pay into these systems and continue to pay out at the rate at which they’re paying out now. This is no mystery. This is plain old everyday economics.  It’s as plain as the nose on your face. Yet our so-called “leaders” seem unwilling and unable to face the facts.  The facts are not going to change. We’re not going to suddenly have a baby boom again.

These are the sorts of problems elected leaders are supposed to face head-on. That’s why they’re elected, supposedly. Yet we continue to let our elected officials get away with malfeasance. So while it is easy to point at them and say they’ve failed, in fact we’ve failed. We have failed to gin up the courage to do what is necessary to fix these problems. To force our “leaders” to do the right thing. We continue to claim in poll after poll that entitlements must be fixed. Yet we continue to put in office, time after time, the same people who haven’t yet mustered the courage to do that (nor fund themselves held accountable for not doing it).

Whose fault is that?

UPDATE: Here’s a perfect and timely example of part of the point:

John Kasich, the fiercely conservative governor of Ohio, announced Monday that he’s going to expand Medicaid dramatically using federal money — a 180-degree turn from what conservative groups swore their allies in governors’ mansions would do when the Supreme Court gave them an out last year.

This makes John Kasich a big, fat liar.

Republicans should be the ones circulating recall petitions. He should be drummed out of office, out of politics and never again hold any office higher than dog catcher. But they won’t, because despite this, he’s “one of ours”.

~McQ

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.

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

Why Conservatives Should Embrace Free Immigration

After the election, Righty circles are naturally engaging in some soul-searching, finger-pointing, and bickering.  Some of this is unproductive venting, but it’s also the start of the process of working out how to move on and improve, and there’s no time to waste.

My conversations with fellow Righty operatives and bloggers have spurred me to suggest several ways Republicans could simultaneously make the party more attractive (or less repulsive) to voters and achieve more conservative results.  This post is about immigration and reversing the trend of Hispanics rapidly abandoning the GOP; the next is about gay marriage; and the final post is about entitlement reform.

First, let’s dispense with the notion agreed upon by many on the Right: seal the border first, so that whatever follows is more controlled and orderly.  This is an expensive fantasy.  Conservatives need to apply their skepticism of huge, complex, market-distorting government plans to every issue surrounding immigration, starting with any plan to spend tens of billions of dollars on thousands of miles of fence, surveillance, unionized government employees, and a verification system forced on every employer in the country.

It’s a joke that the Republican Party, which is practically defined by marriage, babies, and mortgages, holds at arm’s length a whole demographic (Hispanics, especially foreign-born) that tends to be more religious, marry younger and longer, and have larger families than the average American voter.

Mass immigration could work for the GOP if the GOP went with the tide instead of trying to stop it.

  • If Republicans want school choice, they should have natural allies among those who are religious, have large families, and see their children suffer under the worst public schools.  When you hear complaints that Hispanic immigrants don’t speak English, suggest vouchers and education savings accounts for private-school English language instruction.
  • If Republicans want to revive farms and stop the population drain from rural areas, make legitimate cheap labor more available: open up a bunch of farm worker visas.
  • If Republicans want to cut the cost of new housing so that young people can form households and families, make legitimate cheap labor available for that too.  Heck, why not try to break various trade unions by inviting enough skilled immigrants to swamp or bypass their system?
  • So the entitlement system is a problem?  Yeah, Milton Friedman famously said you can’t simultaneously have free immigration and a welfare state.  Shouldn’t the Republican response be “Bring on free immigration“?  If math dooms Medicaid and the subsidized industrial-age hospital model, why not make the math even harder?
  • Conservatives have longed to shift taxes away from production and toward consumption.  Nobody wants to remove labor tax wedges (AHEM: the payroll tax) as much as someone in a labor-intensive business, the kind that tends to thrive when there’s a lot of cheap labor available.  That goes for both employers and the employees whose compensation is tilted toward wages rather than benefits; we know it suppresses the Hispanic savings rate.  And the payroll tax, of course, helps to maintain the accounting fiction that SocSec and Medicare are like savings.

Now, about the security problem: is it easier to pick out a genuine security threat in the crowd if everyone just has to pass a security check, or if hundreds of thousands of people are trying to cross the border undetected because the only legal route is a seven-year byzantine process?

Heather Mac Donald at NRO offers a potential counter-argument: Hispanics are more suspicious of Republicans for supporting class warfare than for opposing immigration according to a poll (from March 2011), and a majority favor gay marriage, so they’re not such a conservative bunch.  But:

  • Immigration may not be most Hispanics’ top concern, but it isn’t trivial either.  And because politics is so tribal, there are many ways to alienate a group without actually disagreeing on policy – many of which Republicans blunder into when discussing immigration.
  • Finally: social issues.  Mac Donald points out that a majority of Hispanics favor gay marriage.  I’ll argue in my next post that conservatives should proactively embrace gay marriage, which should resolve this issue nicely.

Obama Re-elected

And I was dead wrong.

When you get it wrong, what you normally should do is check your premise.  Mine was that the polls couldn’t have it right running a D+ anything.  That, based on 2010 and the resounding GOP victories then,  the 2008 model wasn’t valid anymore.  But it was, or at least D+ was.  Not as much as 2008 but still a plus.

Part of my premise rested on the assumption that the conventional wisdom of “this is a center-right country” was correct.   That particular bit of CW has been shaken to its foundations by this election.  I’ll never again make that assumption.

So, a tip of the hat to the pollsters who I claimed had it wrong.  They had it very right and tight.  The only consolation I have with my prediction is that I didn’t say “landslide”.  I knew it would be tight, but the other thing that let me down apparently, was my feeling I had read the “atmospherics” right.

Unlike 2008, I didn’t see the same level of enthusiasm on the left that I had seen then.  And actually, the results bear that out, but not at all to the degree I thought it would.  There was obviously just enough to see Obama through.  Romney did better than McCain but not “better” enough.

I knew my prediction was in jeopardy fairly early when NC and FL lingered and lingered and lingered without a winner being declared.  As I write this, FL is still lingering very near mandatory recount territory – not that it matters.

By any measure this was a close contest.  But when the dust has settled, Obama has won.

It will be interesting, in the coming days, to dissect the exit polls and try to determine why.  There are likely a myriad of reasons, some of which will be surprising and others which will likely surprise no one.

I’d like to say I’m not disappointed, but I am.  I still think Obama is a disaster and I haven’t seen anything in his recent campaign to change my mind. In fact, it did nothing but reinforce that feeling and add “meanspirited”, “small”, “petty” and “vindictive” to discriptors of the man.  Again, not that that matters in the big scheme of things because more Americans than not disagree with my assessment.

That brings me to the question of “why”?  Why did he get a 2nd chance?  And the answer lies somewhere in this shift to the left throughout the  electorate I believe.  Many Americans, apparently – and at least according to some of the exit polls I heard last night – are looking for someone to “take care of them”.  That’s quite a change and sort of sounds a death knell to the now “myth” of American self-reliance.  It also signals a profound change in how we view government.  I find that unsettling.

Another thing that bothers me is accountability.  I’ll make this a general statement.  For the most part, we don’t hold our politicians responsible for what they do or don’t do.  That very basic mistake is one of the reasons we’re in the shape we are now, in my opinion.  It is my assertion that Obama should have been held accountable for his failure to do what he said he’d do in his 4 years.  He hasn’t been. He failed miserably and he’s being given another chance.  No accountability, just excuses for his failure. Ironically, about half the country still holds George Bush responsible while apparently not holding Obama accountable for much of anything.

I’ve been through this before with Bill Clinton and other Democrat presidents.  However, even while I was not happy with them or their presidencies, we survived.  The difference, however, was I at least felt that they had some level of competence.  I have no confidence in Obama’s competence and, with nothing to lose now, expect to see the next 4 years devolve into something of a nightmare scenario.

But, in the end, we’ll survive it.  I’m not sure what the country will look like in 4 years, but it’ll still be here.

I now concede the floor to the predictable commenters who will show up to crow.  Go for it.  And even to the drive-by trolls who will show up this once to do the same.  It’s your day.  Just remember, I’m going to hold your comments up to this man’s performance over the next 4 years and compare “results” with promise.  I think, as we did in this 4 years, we’ll find the results to be sadly lacking.

The good news?  We’ll have plenty to write about here at QandO.  But we’d have had that had a Republican won as well.

~McQ

Obama Wins

So, I was as wrong as it’s possible to be. Hideously, egregiously, spectacularly wrong. Apparently, we aren’t a center-right nation any more. We will re-elect a president with the worst economic record since the Great Depression.

I made the mistake of being optimistic. I see that now. But not anymore. Pessimism, cynicism and sarcasm are really the only rational responses to the country that we’ve turned into. There will be no sudden resurgence of liberty. No diminution of government. No "Atlas Shrugged" moment, where the clear light of reason dawns on the electorate. We’ve become a country where a critical mass has latched onto a single demand for government: "Pay for all the things!"

So be it. In any democratic system, the people get the government they deserve, because it’s the government they’ve chosen. Fine. I say let the Democrats have everything they want. Higher taxes? Great. No problem. Hike ‘em up however you want. Universal health care? Fine by me. Massive defense cuts? Let’s start tomorrow. Continued debt expansion? Go for it.

At this point, I guess the only way to let the people see how bankrupt the Leftist ideal is, is to give them their fill of it. We’re headed in that direction anyway, why slow it up by occasional, gentle taps on the brakes? It’s gonna happen inevitably. The country I was born in is long gone. The country that’s taken its place is headed down the path to failure, and I find I no longer care much for it anyway.

If I’m going to be relegated to simply playing Cassandra, then let’s go the whole Trojan route. Let them burn it down.

Burn it all down.

~
Dale Franks
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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

Prediction time (Update)

If you haven’t read Karl Rove’s analysis of the election, you ought too. Yeah, I know, Rove is partisan and all of that, but, like Michael Barone (who, by the way, has predicted a Romney win), he knows election demographics.

Rove makes a point that seems to be missed by a lot of people or, perhaps, ignored instead:

He maintains a small but persistent polling edge. As of yesterday afternoon, there had been 31 national surveys in the previous seven days. Mr. Romney led in 19, President Obama in seven, and five were tied. Mr. Romney averaged 48.4%; Mr. Obama, 47.2%. The GOP challenger was at or above 50% in 10 polls, Mr. Obama in none.

The number that may matter the most is Mr. Obama’s 47.2% share. As the incumbent, he’s likely to find that number going into Election Day is a percentage point or so below what he gets.

Why is that significant?

For example, in 2004 President George W. Bush had 49% in the final Gallup likely-voter track; he received 50.7% on Election Day. In 1996, President Clinton was at 48% in the last Gallup; he got 49.2% at the polls. And in 1992, President George H.W. Bush was at 37% in the closing Gallup; he collected 37.5% in the balloting.

If you can’t get above 47%, and your challenger is running above that number, chances are you aren’t going to win.

Then there are the polling demographics. Remember when I said that if a poll has D+ anything, it is likely wrong? I stand by that:

One potentially dispositive question is what mix of Republicans and Democrats will show up this election. On Friday last week, Gallup hinted at the partisan makeup of the 2012 electorate with a small chart buried at the end of its daily tracking report. Based on all its October polling, Gallup suggested that this year’s turnout might be 36% Republican to 35% Democratic, compared with 39% Democratic and 29% Republican in 2008, and 39% Republican and 37% Democratic in 2004. If accurate, this would be real trouble for Mr. Obama, since Mr. Romney has consistently led among independents in most October surveys.

So, assuming Gallup is right, and it is R+1 as we’ve been saying is likely here, what does that mean for the polling that’s going on?

Take a look at this handy little chart from RCP:

The chart makes the point about how important it is for the polling company to get the mix correct and the probability that many of them haven’t. If they’re not properly skewed, you aren’t going to get valid results. We know there are still polls being run out there with D+5 and up to D+8. Those were legitimate in 2008.

This ain’t 2008 (and you have to ignore 2010 to believe it is) by a long shot.

Then there’s this:

Gallup delivered some additional bad news to Mr. Obama on early voting. Through Sunday, 15% of those surveyed said they had already cast a ballot either in person or absentee. They broke for Mr. Romney, 52% to 46%. The 63% who said they planned to vote on Election Day similarly supported Mr. Romney, 51% to 45%.

So, what is happening is the Democrats are getting their most motivated voters to the polls early and they’re still running behind the GOP.  If, in fact, that’s the case, then who will the Dems be trying to turn out on Tuesday and how successful will they be?  It all comes down to enthusiasm, doesn’t it?  And as measured, that too resides on the side of the GOP (well, except for the NYT poll, unsurprisingly):

Finally, while looking that that chart, remember that independents have been breaking large toward Romney. More than for any GOP candidate in recent history.  Add all the other demographics that have shifted significant support from Obama in the last election to Romney in this one, not to mention the atmospherics that simply aren’t there for the incumbent and it is difficult to believe that Obama will win.

So, all that said, I’ll predict a Romney win with slightly over 50% and around 279 electoral votes.  I’ll also predict that Nate Silver will be donating $1,000 to charity and David Axlerod’s mustache will be absent Wednesday of next week.

UPDATE: A reminder for all the doubters out there who want to dismiss Rove – In 2008 Karl Rove predicted an Obama win with 338 EVs (actual: 365)

~McQ