Free Markets, Free People

Michael Wade

Fiscal Conservatism Big Winner Tonight

Landslide victories up and down the ticket in Virginia, a somewhat surprising upset in the Democratic stronghold of New Jersey, and a fine showing (and potential victory?) in upstate New York tonight, all make one thing clear: fiscal conservatism is back. The Republican Party will try to seize the moment as their call to ascendance, but that’s wishful thinking. The real victor tonight is fiscal conservatism. If the GOP doesn’t get on board, then they should expect to be wandering in the wilderness for a little while longer.

With that in mind, let’s think about the NY-23 race for a moment. As I’m writing this, it looks like the results won’t be known for some time. The conservative upstart and darling the grassroots Tea Party movement, Doug Hoffman, is trailing with a majority of the precincts reporting. However, as I understand it the exit polls give him the edge, there are several conservative-leaning precincts that haven’t been counted, and the number of absentee ballots (which won’t be tallied for some time) far outpaces the difference between Hoffman and the Democrat Bill Owens. In short, we probably won’t know the result of this race anytime soon. So be it.

Let’s assume that Hoffman loses. What does that mean? Liberals will point to the fact that, in races where someone was actually sent to Washington and thus could have a direct effect on Obama’s agenda, the Democrats made a clean sweep. GOP old-timers like Newt Gingrich will be quick to chide the base for supporting a third-party candidate thus handing a formerly Republican seat to Pelosi and her crew. Both will be completely wrong.

The idea that Democrats got a clean sweep of DC seats is an interesting spin, but it doesn’t make much sense in the long run. The way that House elections are districted virtually ensures party control of those seats, pretty much by design. That a Democrat wins an election as a Representative of a Democratic district is hardly indicative of anyone’s agenda, much less as a referendum on the latest national policy being rammed down our throats debated in Washington. Moreover, any knowledgeable Governor-elect knows that the health care bills proposed by Congress will be making their lives much more difficlut if passed, simply by virtue of the fact that they all try to pass a good deal of the costs onto the states in order to meet that magical, Obama-approved number of $900 billion. And let’s not forget that the liberal media and the White House itself [Yeah, big dif — ed.] has been distancing itself from the results all this past week. You can’t have it both ways, but don’t think that will stop the libs from trying anyway.

On the GOP side, you can expect the establishment types to aggressively tut-tut the conservative cranks who put the wind in Hoffman’s sails. “Better to have a RINO who supports Boehner for Speaker than a Dem who’s a sure Pelosi vote,” will be the admonishment. “Poppycock!” should be the response. If smaller government and lower taxes are truly the desired goal, then electing someone whom nominally carries the Republican standard but walks and talks like a Democratic duck does not further that aim. Instead, it makes it harder to obtain because, by Newt Gingrich’s logic, the base would have to continue to vote for her regardless of how she actually votes while in office, just to maintain the Republican caucus. In reality, it’s much easier for a conservative base to be energized into voting to unseat a Democrat tax-and-spender than a Republican one. Having Scozzafava in that seat would impede that opportunity.

If, on the other hand, Hoffman pulls out the win against all odds (e.g. running as a third-party candidate, only getting one slot on the ballot to two each for the other candidates), that would be a remarkable and unmistakable victory for fiscal conservatives. To be sure, in my mind, the fact that Hoffman is the candidate whom the Democrat has to beat is already a victory for fiscal conservatism. But an actual electoral victory would be huge. It sends the clear message that Congress’ profligate ways are no longer acceptable, and it almost ensures that ObamaCare, PelosiCare or WhateverCare will never become a reality. That’s because, regardless of what liberal pundits and Democrat mouthpieces say, the politicians who depend on reading the Tea leaves correctly will quickly surmise that voting for the health care monstrosities coming out of Congress is a suicide mission. Self preservation dictates that these savvy solons legislate these monstrosities to a slow, painful death. The same could be said of Cap-and-Trade or any other erstwhile tax bill considered for passage. In the very least, therefor, a Hoffman win means that fiscal insanity is held in low regard for the next election cycle.

So hold your heads up high, pioneers, for the returns tonight strike a harmonious tune. Fiscal conservatism sets the beat, and that symphony sounds sublimely sweet.

[ad#Banner]

Corporatists v. Capitalists

This guy is sooooo close to getting it exactly right, and at HuffPo of all places.

When I heard the word “corporatist” a couple of years ago, I laughed. I thought what a funny, made up, liberal word. I fancy myself a die-hard capitalist, so it seemed vaguely anti-business, so I was put off by it.

Well, as it turns out, it’s a great word. It perfectly describes a great majority of our politicians and the infrastructure set up to support the current corporations in the country. It is not just inaccurate to call these people and these corporations capitalists; it is in fact the exact opposite of what they are.

Capitalists believe in choice, free markets and competition. Corporatists believe in the opposite. They don’t want any competition at all. They want to eliminate the competition using their power, their entrenched position and usually the politicians they’ve purchased. They want to capture the system and use it only for their benefit.

The sensible approach would be to recognize the problem and figure out a way to avoid it the best we can. Money always finds a way in, but we can at least be cognizant of the issue and try to combat it as much as possible. We must do this as citizens who care about our democracy, but we must also do it as capitalists.

If he just realized that the answer isn’t “that we watch politicians with a very wary eye”, but instead to make sure that the politicians have as little and diffused power as possible. Without concentrated power, politicians have nothing to sell, including the power to protect big corporations. If there’s nothing to sell, the corporations have nothing to buy for their protectionist schemes and are left to sink or swim in the market just like the rest of us. The end result? More freedom and more free markets.

[ad#Banner]

Podcast for 01 Nov 09

In this podcast, Bruce, Michael and Dale discuss the state of the economy, and the health care bill that came to the house floor this week.

The direct link to the podcast can be found at BlogtalkRadio.

Observations

The intro and outro music is Vena Cava by 50 Foot Wave, and is available for free download here.

[ad#Banner]

Travesty In Honduras

There were so many ways to get this right, and one clear to way to completely blow it. The Obama administration chose to blow it, and to blow it big, by embracing an imbalanced dictator-wannabe whose efforts are supported by the worst offenders of representative democracy and individual freedom in the region:

Zelaya prodly shows off his tinfoil curtains to US Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Shannon

Zelaya prodly shows off his tinfoil curtains to US Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Shannon

The interim leader of Honduras says he is ready to sign a pact to end its crisis which could include the return of ousted President Manuel Zelaya.

Roberto Micheletti said the agreement would create a power-sharing government and require both sides to recognise the result of November’s presidential poll.

Mr Zelaya said the deal, which requires the approval of the Supreme Court and Congress, would be signed on Friday.

The opponents had earlier been told by US Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Shannon that they had to reach an accord in order to ensure international support for the election on 29 November.

Afterwards, Mr Micheletti announced that a power-sharing deal had been reached that included a “significant concession”.

“I have authorised my negotiating team to sign a deal that marks the beginning of the end of the country’s political situation,” the interim leader told a news conference.

“With regard to the most contentious subject in the deal, the possible restitution of Zelaya to the presidency” would be included, he said.

Mr Zelaya described the accord as a “triumph for Honduran democracy”, and said he was “optimistic” of returning to power.

Fausta calls the above analysis “tactful” and translates the local press reaction as “Micheletti caves under US pressure and agrees to Zelaya’s return” and lists the following terms of the deal:

Noticias 24 lists the main points of the agreement (my translation: if you use this translation please credit me and link to this post):

1. The creation of a reconciliation government.
2. Rejection of political amnesty.
3. Recognition of the November 29 elections.
4. Transferring control of the Armed Forces from the Executive to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal.
5. Creating a verification commission to enforce compliance with the agreement.
6. Creating a truth commission to investigate the events before, during and after June 28, the date of Zelaya’s removal.
7. Requesting that the international community end all sanctions against Honduras and that they send in observers to the presidential election.
8. Supporting the proposal for a vote of the National Congress with the approval of the Supreme Court of Justice to reinstate all the Executive Power prior to June 28, that is, restoring Zelaya to power.

Although Zelaya’s restoration is largely symbolic (e.g. while he is returned to his office, the election in a few weeks will still occur, and the Supreme Court Electoral Tribunal [Thanks, La Gringa – ed.] now has power over the military instead of the President), the very fact that he is allowed to re-enter Honduras without being immediately arrested, much less that he will be able to call himself President once again, is perhaps the greatest shame of Barack Obama’s young presidency. Without Washington’s bullying of the duly constituted authorities in Honduras, the country would have been held up as an example of independent democracy done right, making a definable break with the banana republics of the past. Instead, the US entered the fray on the side of a criminal Chavista and used our considerable power to retard Honduras’ institutional growth.

There have been times in America’s past where the decision to throw our lot in with certain regimes was questionable at best. In the world of realpolitik, however, it is sometimes necessary to chose the least bad to defend against the infinitely worse. Much of our assistance and meddling in South and Central America, aimed at rebuffing the spread of communism, can be chalked up to that realpolitik. Yet never have we sided against the rule of law in order to defend the wishes of dictators. That is, until now.

Honduras will emerge from this escapade with its dignity and political institutions intact. Unfortunately, that will be despite our best efforts, not because of them.

[ad#1]

White House Stuck On Stupid

Well, über defensive and stupid, to be more accurate. At least with its war on Fox News there was some calculated ability to garner sympathy and support from the fevered progressive masses. Taking on one of the most reputable reviewers of the car industry, when it’s giving you good news, is just plain idiotic:

It is an odd, and we’d say regrettable, pattern of this White House that it lets itself get dragged down into fights with specific media outlets.

[…]

But in addition to Fox News, now The White House is going after highly-respected and influential car site Edmunds.com.

They’re actually using The White House blog to dispute the site’s analysis of Cash-For-Clunkers (via Detroit News).

The post is snarkily titled: “Busy Covering Car Sales on Mars, Edmunds.com Gets It Wrong (Again) on Cash for Clunkers”

For its part, Edmunds.com responded with a sober yet forceful smackdown. After pointing to the obvious flaws in the White House’s (defensive) thinking, they put the once-venerable office to shame:

With all respect to the White House, Edmunds.com thinks that instead of shooting the messenger, government officials should take heart from the core message of the analysis: the fundamentals of the auto marketplace are improving faster than the current sales numbers suggest.

Isn’t this a piece of good news we can all cheer?

I’m not sure which is more pathetic: the fact that the White House clearly lost a blog war, or that it is stupid enough to get involved in one in the first place.

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?

[ad#Banner]

Is A “Public Option” Really Popular With The Public?

Although Obamacare is still pretty unfavorable to most Americans (and getting worse?), for some reason a nebulous “public option” continues to poll rather well. Jay Cost takes a look at the polling data and offers a reasonable suggestion for the disparity:

How can we reconcile these gloomy numbers with the sunny results on the public option?

It might be due to the public’s lack of information. I’m sure that the average polling respondent is paying some attention to the health care debate, but she is paying much less attention than political junkies. This will limit the amount of information she actually has in her mental filing cabinet. So, the crucial question is: even if she has absorbed some pro- and anti-reform arguments, does she have enough information to relate them to specific reform proposals? Color me skeptical on that one. I think your average respondent – even with some general opinions on reform – will have a hard time using those broad considerations to evaluate items like the individual mandate, guaranteed issue, community rating, and…wait for it!…the public option.

So, asking about specific proposals might be taking the conversation too far into the woods for the average respondent – and she is going to have a hard time recalling a relevant piece of information upon which to base a response. Instead, she might use the question itself as a basis for her answer. It follows that the information or perspective given in the question could make her more or less partial to the proposal under consideration.

I made a similar argument back in August when dissecting a report alleging that there is 80% support for the public option. Among other problems with supposed poll, it was not at all clear that respondents even new what was meant by “public option”:

If in fact the question was worded as described by Singer, then the inclusion of the phrase “if they can’t afford private plans offered to them” alters the results dramatically. Although some have suggested that this is the reason we need health care insurance reform so desperately, it completely ignores the fact that those who can’t afford health insurance are generally covered by Medicaid, SCHIP and other federal and state programs. So when respondents are asked whether such people should be covered, how do we know they aren’t thinking about those federal and state programs already in existence and not the public option as proposed by Obama and Congress? In short, we don’t. To be fair, the question allegedly refers to “starting a new” program, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that people understood the question to be asking about ObamaCare’s public option.

Indeed, according to PSB, “only 37 percent define ‘public option’ correctly” and “about one-fourth of those polled believe the ‘public option’ is a national health care system, similar to the one in Great Britain.” Of course, how to “correctly” define the public option is not revealed, but suffice it to say that the survey’s respondents did not reveal they had a concise grasp upon what a public option actually means.

The fact is that most people have better things to do with their lives than become expert in the sausage-making going on in D.C. That they are rationally ignorant (and, thanks to the MSM, often completely misinformed) of the details regarding the public option should come as no surprise.

But Cost digs much deeper and finds that the wording of the survey questions makes a dramatic difference. He points out that most of the recent polling uses “feel-good-phraseology” that tends to diminish the concept of government control and assume the idea that the public option would “compete” with private insurers:

If the theory that question wording is playing a role is correct, then altering the wording should induce a change in the results. So, what happens when information less partial to the Democratic side is introduced? To start answering this question, let’s consider the Gallup results, which are decidedly less bullish on the public option:
USA Today Gallup Poll

Like ABC News/WaPo, Gallup uses the Democratic buzzword “compete.” However, Gallup also uses a Republican buzzword: “government-run.” This is opposed to the weaker formulation – “government administered” – offered by CBS News/New York Times and CNN. With this more balanced choice of words, Gallup finds a roughly even split. I would not call this definitive evidence, but it suggests that we might be on the right track.

More damning is the result of a Rasmussen poll where the wording is less “feel-good” and the public option question is followed up with this one:

Suppose that the creation of a government-sponsored non-profit health insurance option encouraged companies to drop private health insurance coverage for their workers. Workers would then be covered by the government option. Would you favor or oppose the creation of a government-sponsored non-profit health insurance option if it encouraged companies to drop private health insurance coverage for their workers?

What happens when this Republican argument is substituted for the Democratic argument? Support for the public option plummets dramatically. Nearly 3/5ths of all respondents voiced opposition to the public option when it was phrased in this way.

Additionally, Rasmussen asked whether respondents thought the public option would save taxpayers money (they didn’t), whether they thought it would offer better health insurance than private insurance (again, no), and whether people preferred to have a public option or a guarantee that nobody will lose their current coverage (the guarantee won in a landslide).

As Cost admits, none of this means that people are necessarily against the public option, just that their opinions are highly influenced by the way questions are asked, stemming from the fact that they are relatively uninformed about the topic. However, Cost’s theory would explain why there is such incongruity between the public’s distaste for the ObamaCare plans floating around Congress and their seeming desire for a public option. Interestingly enough, it also explains why “Medicare for all” is the new rallying cry coming from Washington.

[ad#Banner]

Podcast for 18 Oct 09

In this podcast, Bruce, Michael and Dale discuss the Libaugh NFL story, Obama;s war on FOXNews, and the state of the press in general.

The direct link to the podcast can be found at BlogtalkRadio, since my old computer is becoming an increasingly unreliable recording resource.

Observations

The intro and outro music is Vena Cava by 50 Foot Wave, and is available for free download here.

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2007, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.

Will Balloon Boy Be The New Schiavo?

Call it a hunch .., because, well, it is … but I have this sneaky suspicion that the balloon boy and his family will turn into the new Schiavo case for the GOP. None of us know what actually happened, and anybody with an ounce of human dignity can only be happy that the child was not actually an errant passenger in that derelict dirigible. All the skepticism seems to hinge upon an offhand comment from a six-year-old, whom I know from experience are less than reliable sources of information (“What did you do in school today, son?” “Nothing.” “Did you play with any of your friends?” “I don’t remember.”). Yet, the way this story is being pressed, I fully expect that some Republican upstart is going to seize the opportunity to turn the attention on him or herself, turning what should be a passing tale of tragedy averted into a crusade for (yet more) state control over the task of parenting.

I truly hope that I’m wrong. That cooler heads will prevail. That, if indeed the parents set this whole thing up as a publicity stunt, the local authorities will handle it sternly, yet quietly. “We” don’t need to be involved, and even more importantly, there is no reason at all that Congress should be sticking it’s nose into the situation.

But I can’t help but think, given how the GOP so successfully delegitimized itself in the now-infamous Terry Schiavo case, somehow or another they will find a way to do so here. The perceived moral high ground will be too tempting, once again, and the party that used to believe in limited government (at least, during the Reagan years) will find a way to insert itself into a place that no limited-government advocate would ever want to be. When all we should be thinking is, “thank God that kid is safe.”

With the current challenges to the entrenched Republican power, I can understand why taking up the banner for poor Falcon’s safety will seem so irresistible. After all, establishment candidates are having a difficult time with the conservative base, and anyone whose been paying attention knows that the boiling Tea Partiers are not particularly keen to just toss out Democrats in the next election. Republicans who continue to support the profligate ways of Washington are just as vulnerable.

All the more reason then to show how the Grand Old Party cares more about life and death than those dirty Democrats, just a they did with Schiavo, by meddling in the affairs of a local issue that doesn’t amount to a hill of beans for the rest of the country. Hey, those votes aren’t going to buy themselves!

This is one of those times that I really hope I’m wrong, and that reasonable minds prevail. But politics being what it is, I think there is a very real chance that some idiot Republican is going to start a movement in Congress to save the Falcons of the world. Because Lord knows that when there’s a problem to be solved, only the federal government can provide the necessary answers.

[ad#Banner]