Free Markets, Free People

Republicans

Damned Libertarians! (Updated)

That’s the basic message of a post by Melissa Clouthier blasting those who voted for Bob Barr.

Here, let me quote her:

Don’t blame me!” Bellowed one of my redneck relatives,” I voted for Ross Perot!” Did ya now? And that vote wasn’t a “screw you” vote, that felt inwardly satisfying while it also served Bill Clinton the presidency on a nice, silver platter (the one taking a prominent position on a shelf in his sprawling residence out on Long Island)? Oh no! It was a vote of conscience. It was a morally superior vote. Sniff.

Have conservatives, libertarians, and other factions on the Right learned nothing from history?

So now, people are coming out of the woodwork saying, “Don’t blame me! I voted for Bob Barr!” I ask you, Is that something to be proud of?

You know, when you start something like this, it is usually best to have the facts at hand so you don’t say something silly like:

President Obama is a disaster for America and I hold those who voted for Bob Barr every bit as accountable as if the so-called principled person voted for Barack Obama himself. It was a vote that aided and abetted an enemy of freedom. How can a freedom-loving person be proud of this?

Bob Barr pulled all of 511,324 votes. Statistically that’s 0% of the electorate. Had every Bob Barr voter voted for John McCain, he’d have ended up with 58,854,995 votes instead of 58,343,671 to Obama’s 66,882,230.

Apparently Clouthier believes that libertarians are a wholly owned subsidiary of the GOP and due a righteous lecture for their lack of support.

It may be time for a little reality check for the good doctor.

A) Obviously if every vote Barr got had gone to McCain, it wouldn’t have increased McCain’s final count by even a percentage point. So the attempt to blame your abysmally poor GOP candidate’s abysmally poor showing on Barr voters is technically a non-starter.

B) The reason the GOP sucked so badly in the last election has absolutely nothing to do with Bob Barr and/or libertarians.  It had to do with how poorly your party governed.  Like most libertarians I haven’t voted for a Republican since Reagan. And frankly what happened to the size of government under Reagan is one reason why. Bush compounded the problem (Medicare Part D? “No Child Left Behind”?) and the eternally squishy McCain promised more of the same.

C) The only reason libertarians even somewhat identify with your party is because it sometimes pretends to be concerned about less spending and smaller government. Unfortunately, as I imply above, the GOP mostly just talks the talk and rarely walks the walk.

D) The GOP picked John McCain, not libertarians. John McCain was the worst of all worlds and your party gave him the nod. He was a candidate who had once been considered as a VP pick for John Kerry for heaven sake! He proved he was an enemy of the 1st Amendment with his campaign finance bill. His definition of “compromise” was to give the Democrats what they want.

E) Libertarians don’t owe the GOP a damned thing. You want libertarian support?  Then quit whining and lecturing and earn it! Put up candidates that actually do what you claim to want to do in terms of spending and the size of government. Yeah, that’s right – cut spending drastically and reduce the size of government radically and then you can start asking why libertarians aren’t supporting the GOP. Then you’ll have grounds to do so. But until then – we owe you nothing.

Barack Obama sits in the White House not because of Bob Barr or the libertarian vote. He sits there because the GOP has completely and totally failed to live up to its claimed philosophy and its word for decades. John McCain’s nomination told libertarians all they needed to know about the lack of seriousness within the GOP to remedy that situation.

If the GOP wants libertarian votes, then it had better mend its ways. We don’t do “tents” and we don’t do “plantations” and we don’t belong to the GOP. You want us, you’d better do what it takes to get us – and you’re not even close right now.

UPDATE:  Melissa Clouthier graciously acknowledges my criticism and for the most part understands the reason for it. She does, however, ask a couple of questions that deserve an answer and make a couple off remarks that deserve comment.

A Barr vote did nothing except register discontent.

Really? So those who voted for Barr couldn’t conceivably have been voting “for” something, only “registering discontent”?

With that bit of disrespect as a preface, here are the questions:

What about the next election? You know, when there are more impure Republicans? Do the libertarians plan to vote for an independent or vote for a Democrat?

Well now that it is hopefully clear that libertarians will actually vote for something and not just “register discontent”, the answer should be obvious. So here’s a question for the GOP – who do you plan to run that will cause us to vote for you? The ball is in your court, not ours.

All I’m saying is that McCain WOULD be better than Obama and I don’t want to see the Right fracture into delusion that nets us socialists in charge. That is worse. Much worse. It is worse right now.

In the case of McCain, “would be better” is really a non-starter of an argument for him among libertarians. In defeat, of course, he’s suddenly sounding Republican again, but McCain is a Snowe/Collins “Republican” from way back. Frankly I think you’ll find most libertarians believe that Obama and McCain are equally awful, just in different areas.

But the Libertarians don’t help anything by flopping around at the edges and indulging in third party fantasies. Libertarians needs to put their formidable energy into the Republican party at the bottom and take the party back to constitutional greatness.

Fixing the GOP is your job, not ours – you need to quit trying to outsource it. Libertarians have no desire to be a part of the GOP per se because there is enough not to like to keep us away. But libertarians will support a GOP that commits itself to the principles of less spending, smaller government and less government intrusion. But only when the GOP actually does something about them – find and run a candidate who actually believes in those principles and elect Republicans to Congress who will help he or she act on those principles.

Until then libertarians aren’t going to support the GOP. You can call it “flopping around the edges” or whatever you wish, but that won’t change the fact that until the GOP actually does the hard work of recreating itself in alignment with its stated principles it can’t expect support from libertarians just because the GOP thinks the Democrat’s candidate is worse than theirs.

~McQ

Paranoia, The Destroyer

Obviously, as one with a severe bent towards freedom, I think it is always advisable to keep a close eye on what our government is doing. Especially when it comes to said government granting itself extraordinary powers over the conduct of our lives, and/or over our liberty, in light of particular opinions we might hold, or because of the people we hang around with. The danger in allowing the government latitude to impinge upon our liberty in such cases should be apparent. However, sometimes people start seeing a red under their bed, or a little yellow man in their head, and act just a wee bit paranoid about actions that the government has proposed.

And it goes like this:

… legislation quietly making its way through Congress would give the White House power to categorize political opponents as hate groups and even send Americans to detention centers on abandoned military bases.

Rep. Alcee Hastings – the impeached Florida judge Nancy Pelosi tried to install as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee until her own party members rebelled – introduced an amendment to the defense authorization bill that gives Attorney General Eric Holder sole discretion to label groups that oppose government policy on guns, abortion, immigration, states’ rights, or a host of other issues. In a June 25 speech on the House floor, Rep. Trent Franks, R-AZ, blasted the idea: “This sounds an alarm for many of us because of the recent shocking and offensive report released by the Department of Homeland Security which labeled, arguably, a majority of Americans as ‘extremists.'”

Another Hastings bill (HR 645) authorizes $360 million in 2009 and 2010 to set up “not fewer than six national emergency centers on military installations” capable of housing “a large number of individuals affected by an emergency or major disaster.” But Section 2 (b) 4 allows the Secretary of Homeland Security to use the camps “to meet other appropriate needs” – none of which are specified. This is the kind of blank check that Congress should never, ever sign.

It’s not paranoid to be extremely wary of legislation that would give two unelected government officials power to legally declare someone a “domestic terrorist” and send them to a government-run camp.

(my emphasis)

In support of author Mark Tapscott’s ipse dixit argument that this isn’t paranoia, he points to the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII. That’s a fair enough point (i.e. it has happened before here), but the analogy between Hastings’ amendment and the WWII internment camps is still pretty weak. For one thing, the internments were not done on the sly, as Tapscott suggests is being done now, and secondly, rounding up a relatively small number of people during WWII, is a lot more plausible than attempting to imprison half the country.

Ed Morrissey also pours some cold water on Tapscott’s theory:

To be fair on the second point, most legislation includes phrases similar to the “meet other appropriate needs” as a means of allowing flexibility in using facilities commissioned by Congress. Under unforeseen circumstances even apart from creating concentration camps for abortion opponents, the six national emergency centers might need to get some use other than housing military personnel or civilians evacuated from a disaster area. That language allows the Pentagon and Homeland Security leeway to adapt for other issues without having to worry that lawyers will descend upon them like locusts for not strictly limiting use to the statutes.

Nevertheless, I decided to delve into the Hastings amendment that Tapscott referred to, and which can be read in its entirety here (pdf). This is the pertinent language that woke some people up feelin’ kinda queer:

‘(2) DEFINITION OF HATE GROUP.—In this subsection, the terms ‘group associated with hate-related violence’ or ‘hate group’ mean the following: …

(G) Other groups or organizations that are determined by the Attorney General to be of a violent, extremist nature.

First of all, note the qualifier “violent” in that definition. Just being pro-life or anti-tax would not bring one under the aegis of this provision unless you also advocated violence in support of the cause.

The other part that seems to have been missed by some, is that this entire amendment is aimed at rooting out hate-group supporters from the military:

(1) PROHIBITION.—A person associated or affiliated with a group associated with hate-related violence against groups or persons or the United States Government, as determined by the Attorney General, may not be recruited, enlisted, or retained in the armed forces.

In other words, the worst thing that can happen as a result of this bill is that someone could be unfairly kept out of the military. I don’t want that any more than I expect anyone else does, but it’s sure a far cry from rounding up Republicans and throwing them in gulags.

That’s not to say that there aren’t problems with the amendment. As many of you probably already know, the military already has several provisions on the books prohibiting associations with extremist hate groups. Moreover, as Rep. Franks noted in arguing against the amendment, when viewed in light of the recent DHS report, allowing unelected and unaccountable officials to determine on their own who is an extremist or not seems like a pretty bad idea:

I take extreme offense that the federal government – through a report issued under the authority of a Cabinet-level official – would dare to categorize people who are “dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition or abortion or immigration” as “right-wing extremists” and it begs the question of whether the Attorney General, under Mr. Hastings’ Amendment, can look to the Napolitano report to decide who is an extremist, or can make the same categorization of the majority of Americans as extremists who may then be kept from joining the military, or who may be discharged.

The desire to risk one’s life on foreign soil for one’s country may well be considered “extreme.” To spill blood on a foreign battlefield in the name of freedom requires extreme devotion.

This amendment could have been written in a way that is more consistent with current DOD policy, which prohibits military personnel from participating in “organizations that espouse supremacist causes; or attempt to create illegal discrimination based on race, creed, color, sex, religion, or national origin…”

So, not only is Hastings’ amendment redundant, it’s also an undesirable (and perhaps unconstitutional) grant of power to the Attorney General. Clearly the amendment as drafted could use some work, and it should be watched and commented upon. However, none of it suggests that Hastings is planning on helping the Obama Administration to unilaterally declare “groups that oppose government policy on guns, abortion, immigration, states’ rights, or a host of other issues” hate groups and then have them carted off to Guantanamo-on-the-Mainland.

heck, even Franks didn’t go so far as to suggest that Democrats want to literally wall off their political rivals. Instead, he claimed that the real intentions of the House were not being reflected in the amendment:

The military has many laws and regulations in place to counter racism and the enlistment of racist militants. Recruits must be thoroughly vetted, and must even explain the symbolism behind their tattoos, body markings and writings. I understand that there is concern that the rules and regulations governing vetting of recruits are not being followed as vigilantly as they could be, and this is a legitimate cause for concern. At the same time, this is a call for better enforcement of the laws in place, rather than a sweeping categorization of persons as “extremists,” as we saw in Janet Napolitano’s agency’s report.

I want to state unequivocally that I believe that it is not the intent of this Congress to label pro-lifers, federalism proponents, and pro-immigration enforcement groups and their affiliates as extremists under the bill. My colleagues on the other side of the aisle should make a strong effort to assuage these concerns and make our intentions clear.

(my emphasis)

Is this an example of poor legislative drafting? Sure. Is the Hastings amendment really necessary in light of existing military rules and regulations? Probably not. Is it a good idea to give unaccountable officials the power to label groups of Americans as extremists simply because of some opinions that they might hold? No, no it isn’t. Does this amendment represent an empowerment of the federal government to intern a large swath of conservative America? Don’t be so paranoid.

Calling the government to account for straying outside it’s bounds of power is always a good idea, but being paranoid about it doesn’t help your cause, and may in fact hurt it. You’re blowing it all with paranoia. You may be feelin’ guilty, feelin’ scared, seeing hidden cameras everywhere, but you’ve got to Stop! Hold on. Stay in control.

‘Cuz paranoia is the destroyer.

Was Colin Powell Wrong?

Colin Powell said that it appeared to him that Americans not only wanted more government services, but were willing to pay for them. Michale Barone, who is probably one of the better poll interpreters out there, looks at a gaggle of them and isn’t so sure Powell is right (Powell has since become concerned with Obama’s expansion of government and spending):

Last month’s Washington Post/ABC poll reported that Americans favor smaller government with fewer services to larger government with more services by a 54 to 41 percent margin — a slight uptick since 2004. The percentage of Independents favoring small government rose to 61 percent from 52 percent in 2008. The June NBC/Wall Street Journal poll reported that, even amid recession, 58 percent worry more about keeping the budget deficit down versus 35 percent worried more about boosting the economy. A similar question in the June CBS/New York Times poll showed a 52 to 41 percent split.

Other polls show a resistance to specific Democratic proposals. Pollster Whit Ayres reports that 58 percent of voters agree that reforming health care, while important, should be done without raising taxes or increasing the deficit. Pollster Scott Rasmussen reports that 56 percent of Americans are unwilling to pay more in taxes or utility rates to generate cleaner energy and fight global warming.

Of course the fun of all this is to try and determine what all of that means. Analysis is then turned into political action – or so it is supposed to go. But the problem is determining what “Americans favor smaller government with fewer services” really means. Like “hope and change” everyone has their own idea of what “smaller government” is, and my guess is it isn’t much smaller than it is now if at all. Instead, poll respondents may be saying they don’t want it to get much bigger.

Probably the most interesting trend in these cited polls is the movement of Independents away from what can only be favoring a big government Democrat. Anyone who actually paid attention to the campaign of Barack Obama and didn’t realize he was a guy who was fully invested in big government and sweeping federal programs shouldn’t have voted.

Reality is here now. All the “hope and change” hoopla has finally boiled down to intrusive and very expensive government programs such as cap-and-trade and health care reform. The election bill is coming due. Yet, if these polls are to be believed, the majority of Americans – while still favoring Obama personally with high approval ratings – are not at all happy with the direction the Democrats are taking the country.

This apparent recoil against big government policies has not gone unnoticed by Americans. Gallup reported earlier this week that 39 percent of Americans say their views on political issues have grown more conservative, while only 18 say they have grown more liberal. Moderates agreed by a 33 to 18 percent margin.

What has driven much of this shift in opinion is the economic downturn and the problem the average American has understanding the huge deficit spending policies of this administration. He certainly understands that the same policies applied to his household would be an unmitigated disaster. So common sense opposes deficit spending, especially at the unheard of levels this administration has committed itself too. Thus far, too, the economy hasn’t responded, and job losses continue unabated. As with all politics, the proof of any policy is in its execution, and the execution of the stimulus has been awful, to be charitable.

That leads to a loss of confidence. But it also leads to a little soul searching on the part of those who’ve agreed, with their vote, to give the Democrats a chance. They’re now beginning to wonder if they made a mistake. The economy is tanking, unemployment is 2.5 points above where they said it would be unless they passed the stimulus, and they’re talking about tacking two monstrous tax and spend programs (cap-and-trade and health care) on top of it all.

No wonder the nation is growing more “conservative”. Of course, again, it is up to the political analysts to try to determine what “more conservative” really means and convert that to votes for their side. I have every confidence that the GOP won’t have a clue how to do either the analysis or the conversion, but these polls seem to indicate that there is a lot for the right to exploit politically. However, distracted by the Palin/Sanford/Ensign nonsense, and without a strong voice to make their case, I’m sure they’ll miss this opportunity completely.

That’s not to say the Democrats won’t self-destruct as they’ve always done in the past, however, Republicans need to rally and stop both cap-and-trade and health care “reform” in their tracks. It seems, if these polls are to be believed, that they have the support of the public. The question is, do they have the ability to form the necessary political coalitions to stop this huge expansion of government in Congress or not? If not, taking it apart later isn’t as easy as one thinks. Very few programs, once passed into law, are ever discontinued at a later date.

However, the unfortunate part is if the GOP does successfully stop this legislation, they’ll be roundly demonized by the left, something the left does very well and the GOP defends against very poorly. Their inclination, then, is compromise. And that means accepting the premise the Dems are floating but trying to make its impact smaller and less intrusive. That, most likely, will be what we’ll end up with – and if so, the GOP will deservedly be tagged as a “bi-partisan” part of the disaster that follows and will have killed their only possible electoral advantage.

If the GOP wants back in this thing, they’ve got to assume Colin Powell was wrong (and the polls seem to suggest that), reject the premises contained in both cap-and-trade and health care reform completely and unify as the “party of smaller and less intrusive government”. That’s how they regain power. To retain it, however, they’ll have to walk the smaller government walk instead of, as they did last time, becoming Democrat-lite. And that’s where they always fail.

~McQ

Waxman-Markey (Cap And Trade) Passes The House

The vote was 219 to 212.

4 votes on the other side and it goes down to defeat.

So, who are these people:

Mary Bono Mack (Calif.), Mike Castle, Mark Steven Kirk (Ill.), Leonard Lance (NJ), Frank LoBiondo (NJ), John McHugh (NY), Dave Reichert (Washington), Chris Smith (NJ)

They’re the Republicans who voted for the bill and assured its passage.

You may want to find some way to thank them for passing one of the largest and most regressive tax increases in US history.

~McQ

Who Speaks For The GOP?

That was a question put to Americans in a poll:

The question flummoxes most Americans, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds, which is among the reasons for the party’s sagging state and uncertain direction.

A 52% majority of those surveyed couldn’t come up with a name when asked to specify “the main person” who speaks for Republicans today.

Frankly, given the current crop of GOP “leaders” that’s probably a good thing.

~McQ

“Dealergate”: Things To Keep In Mind

Whether or not the decisions to close certain Chrysler dealerships was political motivated is still an open question, and based mostly on anecdotal evidence as well as an incomplete analysis data. Regardless, the evidence available thusfar, when viewed in light of the Obama administration’s previously demonstrated willingness to meddle for partisan gain (UAW anyone?), suggests that in the very least more investigation is warranted.

As the investigation unfolds (the yeoman’s work of which is being done by Doug Ross and Joey Smith), there are couple of things to keep in mind. Although many people have referred to the closing list of dealerships as a “hit list” it makes much more sense to concentrate on the dealerships remaining open and regarding it as a potential “friends Obama supports” list. By way of example, the evidence unearthed by Joey Smith regarding the RLJ-McLarty-Landers enterprise reveals that big time Democrat donors and partisans are reaping enormous benefits from the Chrysler plan in the form of all its competition being wiped out. So who owns this luckiest of dealerships?:

In my analysis of the Chrysler dealers that will remain open, I came across one dealer group that stood out to me.
The company is called RLJ-McLarty-Landers, and it operates six Chrysler dealerships throughout the South. All six dealerships are safe from closing.

[…]

The interesting part is who the three main owners of the company are. The owners are Steve Landers (long-time car dealer, 4th-generation dealer), Thomas “Mack” McLarty (former Chief of Staff for President Clinton), and Robert Johnson (founder of Black Entertainment Television and co-owner of the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats). Landers has given money to Republicans in the past, but McLarty campaigned for Obama in 2008, and Johnson has given countless amounts of money to Democrats over the years.

Smith has found a similar fortune for Lithia Motors, whose CEO Sidney Deboer is a Democratic donor (although he’s also given to Republicans) and has come out publicly in favor of the Obama administration.

Of course, all of this is still anecdotal, but the planned closings look awfully fishy when the list of canceled dealerships is so totally dominated by Republican donors, and the list of survivors features prominent Democrat supporters.

Regardless of the above, Nate Silver has provided the excuse for Obama supporters to safely ignore this story by declaring the percentage of Republican car dealers to be so high in comparison to Democrats, that there should be little to no surprise when the closing list is so chock full of GOP partisans:

There is just one problem with this theory. Nobody has bothered to look up data for the control group: the list of dealerships which aren’t being closed. It turns out that all car dealers are, in fact, overwhelmingly more likely to donate to Republicans than to Democrats — not just those who are having their doors closed.

[…]

Overall, 88 percent of the contributions from car dealers went to Republican candidates and just 12 percent to Democratic candidates. By comparison, the list of dealers on Doug Ross’s list (which I haven’t vetted, but I assume is fine) gave 92 percent of their money to Republicans — not really a significant difference.

There’s no conspiracy here, folks — just some bad math.

Despite what Silver asserts (i.e. that the control group of non-closing dealerships should be examined), he does no such thing. Instead, he researches the Huffington Post’s Fundrace database for donations from car dealers to arrive at his decision that such occupation gives to the GOP at the tune of 8-1. However, Open Secrets arrives at a much different conclusion, especially over the long term, in which dealers only gave to the GOP at approximately a 3.5-1 clip. At those numbers, one would expect to find somewhere around a quarter of the closings to affect Democrat donors, instead of the 2.36% found thus far:

In fact, I have thus far found only a single Obama donor ($200 from Jeffrey Hunter of Waco, Texas) on the closing list.

Another review of all 789 closing dealerships, by WND, found $450,000 donated to GOP presidential candidates; $7,970 to Sen. Hillary Clinton; $2,200 to John Edwards and $450 to Barack Obama.

Of course, it’s important to remember that statistics do not prove the existence of anything, just its likelihood of existing. Nevertheless, the details uncovered so far suggest that partisanship may have indeed played a role in deciding which franchises remained open.

RNC “Fumbles” Sotomayor Talking Points?

According to The Hill’s Blog, the Republican National Committee has already screwed up their opposition to Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination:

Whoops. The Republican National Committee (RNC) has apparently inadvertently released its list of talking points on the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court.

Included on the released list were a few hundred influential Republicans who were the intended recipients of the talking points. Unfortunately for the RNC, so were members of the media.

Yikes! Sounds bad doesn’t it? There must be some mention of Sotomayor being an “especially dangerous” candidate because of her Hispanic ethnicity or something. Well, let’s have a look-see:

o President Obama’s nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court is an important decision that will have an impact on the United States long after his administration.

o Republicans are committed to a fair confirmation process and will reserve judgment until more is known about Judge Sotomayor’s legal views, judicial record and qualifications.

o Until we have a full view of the facts and comprehensive understanding of Judge Sotomayor’s record, Republicans will avoid partisanship and knee-jerk judgments – which is in stark contrast to how the Democrats responded to the Judge Roberts and Alito nominations.

o To be clear, Republicans do not view this nomination without concern. Judge Sotomayor has received praise and high ratings from liberal special interest groups. Judge Sotomayor has also said that policy is made on the U.S. Court of Appeals.

o Republicans believe that the confirmation process is the most responsible way to learn more about her views on a number of important issues.

o The confirmation process will help Republicans, and all Americans, understand more about judge Sotomayor’s thoughts on the importance of the Supreme Court’s fidelity to the Constitution and the rule of law.

o Republicans are the minority party, but our belief that judges should interpret rather than make law is shared by a majority of Americans.

o Republicans look forward to learning more about Judge Sotomayor’s legal views and to determining whether her views reflect the values of mainstream America.

Wow. That’s devastating. Republicans want a “fair confirmation process” devoid of “knee-jerk judgments” so that they can take the time to study Sotomayor’s record. Actually that sounds about right. Maybe this is one of those communiques that require a special liberal decoder ring to reveal the “code words” and their obviously racists message.

Pressing on with points about Obama’s motivations in picking a nominee:

o Liberal ideology, not legal qualification, is likely to guide the president’s choice of judicial nominees.

o Obama has said his criterion for nominating judges would be their “heart” and “empathy.”

o Obama said he believes Supreme Court justices should understand the Court’s role “to protect people who may be vulnerable in the political process.”

o Obama has declared: “We need somebody who’s got the heart, the empathy, to recognize what it’s like to be a young teenage mom, the empathy to understand what it’s like to be poor or African-American or gay or disabled or old-and that’s the criterion by which I’ll be selecting my judges.”

For sure, quoting the President in your talking points is a sneaky way to get around the racist message that must be lurking in there … I sure could use that decoder ring.

Further points:

o Justice Souter’s retirement could move the Court to the left and provide a critical fifth vote for:

o Further eroding the rights of the unborn and property owners;

o Imposing a federal constitutional right to same-sex marriage;

o Stripping “under God” out of the Pledge of Allegiance and completely secularizing the public square;

o Abolishing the death penalty;

o Judicial micromanagement of the government’s war powers.

Ummm … so that’s it? Talking points that reiterate what the GOP has been saying for years? I’m missing where the RNC “fumbled” anything. Instead, it looks like The Hill got pwned.

Closing Dealerships Via Barack-Foolery?

I watched this story percolate throughout the day, wondering if there was anything of substance to it. Even now I’m not entirely sure how much is pure speculation and how much can be decisively proven. If any of it turns out to be true, however, then the repercussions could prove politically fatal. Doug Ross has the scoop:

A tipster alerted me to an interesting assertion. A cursory review by that person showed that many of the Chrysler dealers on the closing list were heavy Republican donors.

To quickly review the situation, I took all dealer owners whose names appeared more than once in the list. And, of those who contributed to political campaigns, every single one had donated almost exclusively to GOP candidates. While this isn’t an exhaustive review, it does have some ominous implications if it can be verified.

However, I also found additional research online at Scribd (author unknown), which also appears to point to a highly partisan decision-making process.

[…]

I have thus far found only a single Obama donor (and a minor one at that: $200 from Jeffrey Hunter of Waco, Texas) on the closing list.

Chrysler claimed that its formula for determining whether a dealership should close or not included “sales volume, customer service scores, local market share and average household income in the immediate area.”

In fact, there may have been other criteria involved: politics may have played a part. If this data can be validated, it would appear to be further proof that the Obama administration is willing to step over any line to advance its agenda.

Doug notes some anecdotal evidence to back up his theory, and reading through the various personal accounts from dealerships who claim to be successful, and yet who are being shut down, lends some credibility to the idea. As does the fact that the closing list is reportedly populated almost exclusively with Republican donors and/or those who gave money to Obama’s Democratic rivals. But the real test is in a comparison of the lists of dealerships staying open and those that are closing against a campaign donor database (which I haven’t done, but feel free to scrutinize them for yourself).

Nevertheless, the following bit of research from Red State strikes an ominous chord:

Eric Dondero recognizes some of the dealers’ names on the hit list:

“Vern Buchanan is a Republican Congressman from the Tampa Bay area. Robert Archer is the son of former Republican Congressman Bill Archer. John Culberson, a libertarian-leaning Conservative, is now the Congressman for that West Houston District. He was heavily supported in his election efforts by the Archers Family.”

“Additionally, James Crowley, owner of a Chrysler Dealership in Escondido, California is on the list to be closed. Crowley is a big backer of libertarian-leaning Republican Cong. John Campbell of Orange County.”

The list is heavy with influential Republicans and libertarians. Another name on the list is Ray Huffines, who owns a large dealerhsip in the Metro-Dallas/Ft. Worth area. The Huffines family have been major contributors to Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) over the years.

It’s hard to know what to make of all this, but at first blush it certainly looks like the decisions to close dealerships may have been influenced by the political affiliations of the dealers. Under regular circumstances that would elicit a big shrug, but when Chrysler’s decisions are basically being made for them, well, that’s a whole ‘nother kettle of fish (via Reliapundit):

A lawyer for Chrysler dealers facing closure as part of the automaker’s bankruptcy reorganization said on Tuesday he believes Chrysler executives do not support a plan to eliminate a quarter of its retail outlets.

Lawyer Leonard Bellavia, of Bellavia Gentile & Associates, who represents some of the terminated dealers, said he deposed Chrysler President Jim Press on Tuesday and came away with the impression that Press did not support the plan.

“It became clear to us that Chrysler does not see the wisdom of terminating 25 percent of its dealers,” Bellavia said. “It really wasn’t Chrysler’s decision. They are under enormous pressure from the President’s automotive task force.”

Given the other sorts of thuggery that have been alleged in these Chrysler proceedings, this should come as no shock. But the fact that these closings will have to be approved by the creditors in the bankruptcy case lends a certain bit of intrigue to this case and raises a lot questions in my mind.

Assuming that the closings are motivated by political payback from Obama, how will that plan affect the stakeholders in the new company? If there really are profitable dealerships being shutdown just because they gave money to the wrong candidates, then it stands to reason that the remaining dealers will be something less than the cream of the crop, and therefore the new Chrysler will have a less than optimal distribution chain for its products. It’s not entirely clear why shutting down dealerships helps Chrysler anyway, since they are essentially the real customers of the carmaker, but it seems to me that those who plan to profit from the new venture would have something to say about the plan in the bankruptcy case. Presumably, they will want to protect their investment by challenging any plan for closings that does not maximize their return. If and when they do, it could get very interesting for Obama (again, assuming that any of this is true).

It should be noted that until some further confirmation surfaces, this story should be treated with a healthy dose of skepticism. Indeed, if it weren’t for the rather dictatorial way the Obama administration has dealt with the entire automaker bailout fiasco, these allegations of political payback would ring pretty hollow. Yet, considering the past bullying, the story definitely merits further consideration, so keep your eyes and ears open for more.

Right Policies: Opting Out

Yesterday Jon Henke challenged the Right to come up with policies that are popular, viable, workable, transformational and sustainable. (Follow the link to see what he means by each of those.) I’ve previously suggested a broad-based agenda that I thought could be sold as an alternative to the Democrats’ agenda, but I think a few of the specific policies are particularly strong, and they stick to a consistent theme.

Libertarian paternalism — which means that certain initial decisions are made for you, but you are left a way to opt out — can be a good or a bad thing, depending on the status quo. If the status quo is freedom, I’d just as soon not add in an element of paternalism in virtually any case. But if the status quo is paternalism, then libertarian paternalism is a step in the right direction.  Fortunately, giving people more options is much more popular than changing their status quo decision.

I propose that the Right should target existing paternalism and offer as many opportunities to opt out as we can devise. My main two examples are education and entitlements.

Education

I consider education to be any political coalition’s #1 long-term priority. If your opponents control education, chances are you will eventually lose on everything else. So, what policies should the Right pursue on education?

Vouchers aren’t a new idea, but we on the Right could be pursuing them in much more creative ways than we are now, to build a broad working alternative to state schools.  With variable-cost vouchers and pilot programs that target the “victim classes”, the Right can play full court press on vouchers in every school district.

Variable-Cost Vouchers

In every school district across the country, we should have vouchers at least equal to the variable cost of sending one extra child to public school. Democrats have argued for a long time that we need more spending per student to give kids smaller class sizes and better materials such as textbooks, and have used that to justify countless bond measures and tax increases to increase public school funding.

If a voucher just covers the variable cost of an extra student, then a voucher helps create smaller class sizes and increases the amount of money the public school can spend on each student.

You can see how a voucher for variable costs puts the Left in a Catch-22: Every extra dollar they want to spend per student is an argument for a bigger voucher, and an opportunity for the private sector to spend the dollar more efficiently than the public sector.

Make Friends in Low Places

We can do even better: pilot voucher programs should very openly target kids who are performing worst in the current system, in part because proposing vouchers for them undercuts the argument that vouchers just skim the cream of the crop.

Voucher proponents have already focused on several low-income and minority populations, using needs-based criteria and simple geography; the Right should be pushing this smart strategy much more aggressively – it undercuts Democrats’ arguments against vouchers beautifully, and makes a direct play for the Left’s base. The apparent success of the DC voucher system has made attempts to cut the program very embarrassing for Democrats; we need more of that.

Moreover, the Right should propose vouchers that help children who score on the bottom half of the test-score distribution. The research I’ve read indicates that these children show the greatest gains from voucher programs.  For the same reason, target kids with histories of disciplinary problems and special-needs children (paging Sarah Palin).

It would be a bridge too far for the Democrats to argue that these kids enhance the performance of public schools after using the opposite argument to fight vouchers for so long.

And finally, the Right should propose voucher programs to target the many minors who have already dropped out of school.  Kids who have outright given up on the public school system, or who rarely show up, aren’t doing anything to improve the performance of those schools.  If Democrats want to keep up the pretense that they care about these kids, they shouldn’t have any problem with helping these kids become part of a new private education market.

Those are just a small number of ways we can turn the Left’s most popular arguments against them and start to build a real market in education. In the meantime, the Right would be demonstrating that markets can work better than state-administered programs, and help the “little guy” who’s been screwed by the public system.

Where necessary to make the policy viable, the Right could be flexible on the matter of vouchers for church-founded schools (like Catholic schools); the first priority is building a broad education market outside of the state.

Entitlements

Here’s another place where reform would be truly transformational. The Right should push for an opt-out for the major entitlements – Medicare and Social Security. A reform doesn’t have to be a full privatization to accomplish a great deal of good.

Many people are currently collecting benefits from Medicare and SocSec, and we can assume that they will turn out to vote against anything that takes away those benefits. The Right can start making progress on reducing our crushing long-term obligations by (once more for effect) giving everyone as many opportunities to opt out as possible.

Social Security

Why not allow people to adjust their expected benefits, with higher or lower individual taxes to compensate for the change from the “standard” level?  The SSA could set a minimum level of contributions to guarantee its promised benefits, so that the legislation becomes non-threatening to beneficiaries, and thus politically viable.  To get the greatest tax cut, you opt out of all retirement benefits; you can change your mind later, but your benefit and/or tax level must be adjusted appropriately.  And the more people who opt out, the lower the minimum tax rate can go; that rate could be adjusted at periodic intervals, perhaps once a year.

Similarly, why not allow people to adjust their expected retirement age, again paying higher or lower taxes to compensate?

Both of these adjustments would introduce flexibility along with a price mechanism.

Yes, this means that some people might choose to pay the minimum tax and find themselves at age 67 regretting their earlier decisions, but everyone would know that they made a conscious choice to change from the status quo.  And in the meantime, those who opt out don’t feel like such direct stakeholders.

Medicare and other state medical benefits

To get more people off the rolls, allow them to opt out of Medicare eligibility and other state medical benefits in exchange for some mix of:

    • lower payroll taxes
    • tax-free health savings accounts
    • a tax cut on their individual health insurance
    • vouchers for private insurance and private disability coverage

… as long as the total cost of the mix is lower than the expected cost of Medicare benefits.  This way, the Right can not only cut into the massive expected costs on the near horizon, but also get fewer people to feel like stakeholders in the future of the state-administered system.

Conclusion

The most effective arguments against reform are allegations that people will lose the benefits they have now. Psychologically, we regret losing a dollar more than we regret not acquiring that dollar in the first place. That’s a big part of how the Right beat universal health care under Clinton: by telling the American people that they would lose their current insurance, with which most of them were satisfied.

Whether we like it or not, it is stupid to do a frontal assault on a hardened position. Instead, we should apply libertarian paternalism to divide and conquer by giving our opponents as many chances to defect as possible.

Specter – Sometimes You Get What You Pay For

Personally I find this mighty funny. Arlen Specter on Meet the Press with David Gregory:

Gregory: It was reported this week that when you met with the President, you said, “I will be a loyal Democrat; I support your agenda.” Let me test that on probably one of the most important areas of his agenda and that’s healthcare. Would you support healthcare reform that puts up a government-run public plan to compete with a private plan issued by a private insurance company.

Specter: No. And you misquote me, David. I did not say I would be a loyal Democrat. I did not say that. And last week, after I said I was changing parties, I voted against the budget because the budget has a way to pass healthcare with 51 votes,which undermines a basic Senate institution to require 60 votes to impose cloture on key issues.

You know, I’ve seen some pathetic politicians in my time, but there are few that rival Arlen Specter. My guess is he ends up in a Democratic primary and looses that. From RINO to DINO, it’s clear that the only thing Arlen Specter stands for is Arlen Specter. Personally I think the Republicans should send the Democrats a thank you card for taking him off their hands.

~McQ