Free Markets, Free People

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“In a wave election, … you feel powerless. Everything I feel I know how to do, that I’m trained to do, I can’t do.”

The title comes from a quote by a pollster for the Democrats in this article. Most of the article is about the resignation that the GOP will take the House, with some Democratic strategists predicting as many as 70 Republican pickups.

I highlighted that quote because I think it indicates what is different about this election and what is wrong with most elections.

Democratic consultants, pollsters, and strategists have a tried-and-true playbook. It includes some of the following:

  • Raise a whole lot of money from people who have a vested interest in more government, and promise them to exert the power of government on their behalf.
  • Don’t make concrete promises on the campaign trail. Talk about generic “hope” and “change” and similar ideas, so that you can carry out your special interest policies in office without anyone overtly accusing you of lying.
  • Rely on various groups to get out the vote from reliably Democratic special interests. Depend on those proxies to push the rules to the edge, and maybe break them, but expect that any fallout will take place after the election and so far ahead of the next election that it will have faded from the news.
  • Demonize the GOP opposition. If they utter a single word about cutting government spending, accuse them of wanting old people to eat cat food, or whatever. Talk in a generic sense about how you are in favor of responsible government and you want to cut “fat” and “waste”. This reassures clueless moderates, and your leftist base has long since grown to understand that these are code words for cutting stuff leftists don’t like, such as the military, or doing nothing at all.
  • Depend on most of the media to help you demonize the opposition, carry water for your campaign, and studiously ignore anything that makes you look bad.
  • Have your special interest groups, especially unions, round up a bunch of relatively uninterested people to come to your rallies, frame them as making it look like you’re enormously popular, and depend on the media to use that to make you look so popular that you can’t be beaten.
  • This anonymous Democratic pollster is right. None of that is working. Thank goodness, because it’s time and past time for such tactics to fail.

    To be sure, Republicans sometimes dabble in the same tactics. They can’t depend on the media to carry water unless they are pretty lickspittle to the press and talk trash about other Republicans, but some of them do that. And generic promises and backroom special interest deals are a staple among professional politicians of all stripes. The interesting thing about this election to me is that some of those Republicans faced the same difficulties as the Democrats (an “adverse political climate“) and some are already gone from the field.

    This election is different because there is a contingent of voters that simply does not give the benefit of the doubt to either professional politicians or the media any longer. In fact, it’s worse than that. They assume what they’re hearing from those entities is distorted or dishonest. They assume the media has chosen sides. They assume that the professional politician cares more about his power and perqs than about governing responsibly.

    They have every reason to assume all of this, because it’s all true.

    I see two things that have made the difference this time around. First, the media trashed any remaining credibility they had in relentlessly pimping for Obama. They covered up every potentially damaging fact that came up about him, never challenged him on specific policies, and basically acted as though they would be happy to bear his child (even the men) if that could be made to happen. This level of obsequiousness was detectable even in people who don’t pay much attention to politics.

    Second, the failure of leftism, and the arrogance of leftism even in the face of its own failure, is more obvious than ever. Obama and his cronies have made no attempt to hide their contempt for the foundational principles of the country. They believe they know better than the common citizens what is best for the common citizens.

    That arrogance has been around for a while. There are Democrats who have been trying to nationalize healthcare since Medicare passed in the sixties.

    The difference is that now it’s on open display. Barney Frank can now be caught saying outright that he wants single payer, but it can’t pass right now, so Obamacare is the best progress they can make this time around. Multiply this by thousands as the words Democrats are used to telling the faithful (and expecting to be hidden from wider view by a complicit media) now get played on YouTube to millions of pi$$ed off voters.

    We have a generation of political consultants and strategists who have basically looked at voters as a large group of marks and suckers. With good reason, since tactics based on that attitude have worked to put odious, nasty leftists like Frank, Henry Waxman, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Pat Leahy, and many others in office for decades.

    My biggest hope based on this election is that our incompetent and corrupt ruling class has at last awoken a critical mass of voters who refuse to be marks and suckers. Who work relentlessly to expose the true arrogance and ineptitude of pro politicians, and the feckless bias of the media.

    We’ll have to wait until 2012 to see if that’s the case. But then, I’ve waited all my life to see that critical mass awaken, and I’d almost given up even trying to talk to people about the dangers we face from unbridled government. I can wait a while longer to see if I’ll be disappointed again.

    Dale’s Observations for 9-30-2010

    Whitman’s maid claims Whitman knew she was an illegal immigrant. Whitman posts the maid’s falsified employment docs. http://bit.ly/bormPh



    California Gov. signs bill against loud aftermarket motorcycle exhausts. Now we’ll see if loud pipes really save lives. http://bit.ly/bUiFG9


    Wow, that Gloria Allred is a c … uh … committed advocate for her client, huh?


    Meg’s maid felt “exploited, disrespected, humiliated, and emotionally and financially abused.” But stayed for 9 years. http://lat.ms/auFy6P


    Soooo, that went well. Meg Whitman Housekeeper Flakes On Allred Press Conference. http://bit.ly/9T7DmF


    Two Things Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) Can’t Stand: Racial Intolerance and Vietnamese. http://bit.ly/cEShrW

    Establishment Republicans are still lost, and they’re still too clueless to know it

    This quote from Susan Collins says more about what’s wrong with our current governing class than any single quote I’ve seen in the last few years.

    Senate Republicans do not deny that Mr. DeMint has opened a rift. “It is a new and shocking development to have a member of our conference opposing incumbent Republicans,” Ms. Collins said….

    Shocking, indeed! To think that someone in public office might actually stand by his principles and do what he thinks is good for the country instead of being loyal to the fellow members of the ruling class. Can’t have that, now, can we?

    I have long maintained that our political class is far more loyal to each other than to the country or even their own voting base. Here is vivid proof. She genuinely believes that other members of her party ought to support her and her kind no matter what collectivist policies they support, and no matter how often they “reach across the aisle” to help the collectivist opposition.

    Ms. Collins, since you have no governing principles of your own, I commend to you an examination of the man your are criticizing so strongly. With just a hint of perception and self-awareness, you might see what such principles look like.

    Pool: guess the first use of “GOP peaked too early” in major media

    We already know that the legacy left-leaning media is queasy about the Democrats getting hammered this fall. They would like to help prevent it as best they can, though there isn’t a lot they can do at this stage other than outright distortion.

    But they can certainly engage in wishful thinking, hoping for a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    Via Drudge, I just saw that the GOP is up to ten points on the generic congressional ballot. That’s ” the GOP’s largest so far this year and is its largest in Gallup’s history of tracking the midterm generic ballot for Congress.”

    Now of course, these numbers are going to wander around a bit in the next few weeks. The article includes this:

    One cautionary note: Democrats moved ahead in Gallup’s generic ballot for several weeks earlier this summer, showing that change is possible between now and Election Day.

    That led to a question in my mind. Pundits are fond of a conclusion that I find totally bogus – the idea of “peaking too early”. Certainly any candidate would like for their peak to be on election day, but I don’t believe that the peak is under any candidate or party’s control. I think there are just random fluctuations around bigger trends.

    However, the idea of peaking too early is tailor-made for a lazy pundit to use in an attempt to restore hope that the Democrats won’t get thrashed. So, for entertainment purposes only, when do you think a pundit for major media will use that theme, and who do you think will be the first to do it?

    (For the record, I’m not denying that the Republicans could still blow it and end up with only modest gains. The establishment Republicans are so out of touch that their wins will mostly be due to their opponents’ blunders instead of their own decision. But at this point they would have to screw up big time, or Obama would have to do something really impressive, to keep the Republicans from either gaining control of Congress back or coming close to it.)

    SEIU = thugs

    Last Sunday, while you were enjoying the day off and the mild weather with your family, SEIU thugs were in the process of trying to intimidate the family of a Bank of America executive.  They did it without the press (well, they had a friendly HuffPo blogger there to whom I’m not going to link) and they showed up without notice.  They, the 500+, did it strictly to intimidate the executive (a “we know where you live” type of demonstration).  This, apparently, is the new tactic of the thugocracy.  Unfortunately for the SEIU, Nina Easton of Fortune happened to be the bank exec’s next door neighbor and she writes about it.  She also snapped this pic:

    As it turns out, the only occupant of the home at the time was a terrified 14 year old boy, the bank executive’s son, who locked himself in the bathroom. The rest of the family apparently was at the Little League game of a younger son.

    While the executive, Greg Baer, is the deputy general council for corporate law at BoA and based in DC, it’s unclear what the SEIU and the Chicago based group called “National Political Action” targeted his house other than it was convenient. Why not BoA headquarters or some other BoA institution? Because, as Nina Easton says, this was an attempt at nothing more – nothing more – than pure intimidation. 14 school bus loads – 500 people – on your porch banging on your door and terrifying your family.

    There’s some irony here. The Baer family is not exactly the scripted “evil Republican corporate capitalist” family that thug organization like the SEIU like to portray as the enemy of “the people”.

    A lifelong Democrat, Baer worked for the Clinton Treasury Department, and his wife, Shirley Sagawa, author of the book The American Way to Change and a former adviser to Hillary Clinton, is a prominent national service advocate.

    This is and always will be unacceptable behavior from any group. But it seems to be something the SEIU and other unions have decided is fair play. Easton sums it up nicely:

    In the 1990s, the Baers’ former bosses, Bill and Hillary Clinton, denounced the “politics of personal destruction.” Today politicians and their voters of all stripes grieve the ugly bitterness that permeates our policy debates. Now, with populist rage providing a useful cover, it appears we’ve crossed into a new era: The politics of personal intimidation.

    It is an “era” which needs to be nipped in the bud now. If ever there was a group displaying fascistic tendencies, it is the SEIU and the groups like National Political Action with which it is associated. This is unacceptable behavior and we need to let the SEIU know it and know it now. Politics is a rough and tumble game – we all know that. But keep families out of it.

    Action like the SEIU and NPA took last Sunday were the tactics of thugs. And and unless and until those tactics are abandoned and an apology issued to the family the union attempted to terrorize, they’ll continue to be referred to as thugs.

    ~McQ

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    The theory of the “Howling Mob”

    Like many of us, Michael Barone is puzzled by the administration’s obvious attempts to avoid linking Islam with the terrorists who have attempted to attack us.  He wonders:

    Why the reluctance to state the obvious truth, that we are under attack from terrorists motivated by a radical form of Islam?

    Welfare State’s Death Spiral

    Robert Samuelson sees what is going on with Greece and the PIIGS as the beginning of the end for the welfare state:

    What we’re seeing in Greece is the death spiral of the welfare state. This isn’t Greece’s problem alone, and that’s why its crisis has rattled global stock markets and threatens economic recovery. Virtually every advanced nation, including the United States, faces the same prospect. Aging populations have been promised huge health and retirement benefits, which countries haven’t fully covered with taxes. The reckoning has arrived in Greece, but it awaits most wealthy societies.

    In fact, it is more basic than that.

    The welfare state’s death spiral is this: Almost anything governments might do with their budgets threatens to make matters worse by slowing the economy or triggering a recession. By allowing deficits to balloon, they risk a financial crisis as investors one day — no one knows when — doubt governments’ ability to service their debts and, as with Greece, refuse to lend except at exorbitant rates. Cutting welfare benefits or raising taxes all would, at least temporarily, weaken the economy. Perversely, that would make paying the remaining benefits harder.

    Catch 22 – Countries that will, regardless of what they do, adversely effect their economy.  They must pick their poison if they want to remain afloat.  All Greece demonstrates is a country further down the road toward this death spiral than others.   Samuelson points to this in some debt figures as a percent of GDP:

    Countries everywhere already have high budget deficits, aggravated by the recession. Greece is exceptional only by degree. In 2009, its budget deficit was 13.6 percent of its gross domestic product (a measure of its economy); its debt, the accumulation of past deficits, was 115 percent of GDP. Spain’s deficit was 11.2 percent of GDP, its debt 56.2 percent; Portugal’s figures were 9.4 percent and 76.8 percent. Comparable figures for the United States — calculated slightly differently — were 9.9 percent and 53 percent.

    I think you can see the trend.

    Dean Baker disagrees with Samuelson, claiming Samuelson seems to have forgotten there’s a recession going on and parroting the old and increasingly discredited line that this is a time governments must spend more:

    During recessions budget deficits always expand as tax collections fall and spending on items like unemployment insurance and other benefits rise.

    Contrary to what Samuelson claims in this column. Most European countries have been willing to pay the taxes needed to support their welfare states. And this has not prevented them from maintaining rates of productivity growth (the long-term determininat of living standards) comparable to the United States.

    But a quick check of some OECD numbers don’t seem to bear Dean’s claim that they’ve maintained productivity growth has rivaled those of the US (who, btw, is also in trouble and headed down this road):

    Take a look at the PIIGS. Other than Ireland, those are not productivity numbers to brag about. In fact, look at the Euro 15. Those are not numbers to sustain the type of welfare system Europe has laid on and they certainly don’t signal healthy economies. They instead point to economies which are quite fragile and susceptible to downturns at any moment.

    Samuelson is right – this is the biggest and best warning welfare states are going to receive. We can’t afford what governments have been doing for decades. Greece is the canary in the coal mine. We ignore it at our peril.

    ~McQ

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    The one-sided war against Wall Street

    Does Wall Street have come culpability in the financial meltdown we suffered?  Of course they do.  But so far, Democrats have chosen to focus only on that and ignore the culpability shared to an even larger degree by government.

    Slipping through the news cycle yesterday at about 5pm eastern was this little jewel:

    Freddie Mac is asking for $10.6 billion in additional federal aid after posting a big loss in the first three months of the year. It’s another sign that the taxpayer bill for stabilizing the housing market  will keep mounting.

    The McLean, Va.-based mortgage finance company has been effectively owned by the government after nearly collapsing in September 2008. The new request will bring the total tab for rescuing Freddie Mac to $61.3 billion.

    The fact that Freddie Mac and his ailing sister Fanny Mae have been hemorrhaging money since September 2008 with no end it sight didn’t stop them from paying retention bonuses to their officers even while private payments such as that were vilified and demonized.

    Another bit of fiction that Democrats in Congress like to use is that both are “quasi-governmental” entities, or, in fact, really private institutions.  In fact they’re not at all:

    As the CBO notes in a recent background paper, the standards for when to include government-sponsored entities in the budget go back to the 1960s, when a Presidential commission laid out a set of questions.

    To wit: “Who owns the agency?” (In the case of Fan and Fred, taxpayers.) “Who supplies its capital?” (Taxpayers.) “Who selects its managers?” (The federal government.) And finally, “Do the Congress and the President have control over the agency’s program and budget, or are the agency’s policies the responsibility of the Congress or the President only in some broad ultimate sense?” (The feds have control in every sense.)

    All that happened in September of 2008 is Hank Paulson put them in conservatorship. In fact, Freddie and Fannie alone will account for up to $391 billion in bailouts over 10 years according to the CBO. So why are the Democrats pointedly ignoring these two institutions? Reread the CBO background paper, especially the part about who selects the managers and who has control over the agency’s program and budget, not to mention control over it’s policies.

    Ezra Klein tries to wave it all away as he delicately attempts to explain how Freddie and Fanny are really beneficial to society as a whole and not financial black holes. But now matter who hard he tries, he can’t quite avoid the truth:

    The mortgage giants, slightly confusingly, do not sell mortgages. They buy them from the banks that sell them. About 90 percent of them, to be precise. They do that to make mortgages — and thus home ownership — cheaper. That’s fine. If the country wants to encourage home ownership as a policy, subsidizing banks so they can offer better mortgage terms is a sensible way to do it.

    I assume he typed that with a straight face. Uh, no Ezra, that’s not the way to do it. That “policy” (Community Reinvestment Act) which was hardly endorsed by the “country” is precisely what incentivized sub-prime mortgages (you sell ’em, we’ll buy ’em no matter how bad they are) and the eventual collapse. So that makes it anything but “sensible”.

    Klein then attempts to further the myth of “quasi-governmental” status for the two institutions and, in a rather amusing and round about way, admits they were the cause of the whole thing:

    Rather than using taxpayer dollars to subsidize mortgages, they were borrowing money very cheaply because their quasi-governmental status assured the market that there’d be a taxpayer bailout in the case of any sort of collapse. That is to say, their business model relied on markets ignoring the risk of their activities. And then, because they were private companies with shareholders to please, they also got into slicing and dicing mortgage packages to make money like an investment bank rather than a housing policy. In theory this should’ve worried the markets where they borrowed their money, but again, the government backstop saved them. Forget too-big-to-fail. This was not-allowed-to-fail.

    Their “business model” relied on markets ignoring the risk of their activities? No. Instead their policy (CRA) directed that Fannie and Freddie ignore the risk an buy these mortgages that were a bad deal. In effect, by direction of a policy that encouraged and incentivized it, mortgage companies complied with the CRA and Freddie and Fannie bought the bad paper.

    Klein denies this had anything much at all to do with the collapse of the mortgage market – even with $391 billion in bailouts staring him in the face. The most he’ll admit too is they were “part of the problem.” And that is at least better than the Democrats will do.

    But he ends up doubling back on himself without seemingly knowing it:

    Of course, you don’t necessarily need to eliminate Fannie and Freddie. You could solve the problem by fully incorporating them into the government and making them a straightforward housing subsidy rather than a stealth housing subsidy hidden within a profit-maximizing company. But it’s not clear that bringing more major institutions under the control of the government is going to be popular, either. So what do you do?

    Well, it’s hard to say. Procedurally, Democrats think that the Fannie and Freddie question is a housing market question and should be dealt with in the context of a major housing-policy bill. What that bill will do, however, is anyone’s guess. And that’s pretty much where we are on Fannie and Freddie.

    As pointed out, they both are “fully incorporated” into government whether that’s technically true or not. They’re certainly not private, and they’ve never really been “quasi-governmental”. They’ve been organs that execute government policy, no matter how absurd or costly. And recommending the two institutions be handled in the context of a “major housing-policy bill”, further cements the point that they’re part of the government that executes policy as it pertains to the housing industry.

    And by the way – the payments to these two institutions are being kept “off the books” – meaning they don’t have to be accounted for in budgeting.

    Until and unless these two institutions are addressed within any “comprehensive” financial reform bill, the bill isn’t worth the powder to blow it to hell. And when Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) announces, “we’ve ended the ‘too big to fail’ debate. So no longer do I expect any argument to be made that this bill exposes the American taxpayer” feel fully entitled to shout that which fans normally shout at officials at sporting events who get the call wrong.

    ~McQ

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    Quote of the day – dumb politican edition, part II

    Thank you for your service.  Now hush up and go home Sen. McCain:

    “Obviously that would be a serious mistake…at least until we find out as much information we have,” McCain said during an appearance on “Imus in the Morning” when asked whether the suspect, 30-year-old Faisal Shahzad, a naturalized American citizen from Pakistan.

    “Don’t give this guy this Miranda rights until we find out what it’s all about,” McCain added.

    Really?  Is that the way it works now?

    You may not like the law, Mr. McCain but that doesn’t mean you can selectively apply it – the SCOTUS has been very clear about doing such things. 

    Of course, you have to remember, this is the same guy that was so concerned about campaign financing that he sponsored a law that trashed the 1st Amendment and then claimed he’d rather have clean elections than free speech.

    ~McQ

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    Editor and Publisher: “Sky isn’t falling as fast as you might think; ignore chunks coming through ceiling around you”

    The newspaper industry loves dramatic headlines. At least, until they’re looking at their own problems. Then it’s time to look for a silver lining, even if it’s a pretty tarnished one. So here’s the headline for the Editor and Publisher article that tells us that circulation for newspapers, which fell 10.6% last year, fell again this year by 8.6%:

    Like Newspaper Revenue, Decline in Circ Shows Signs of Slowing

    I guess the good news is that instead of plunging to oblivion immediately, they’re merely on a rapid glide path towards it, with no noticable prospect of reversing course. For any other industry or trend (e.g. global warming), I’m guessing we would see somewhat more dramatic headlines.

    Newspapers are high-volume businesses. As a whole lot of newspapers in medium-to-large cities discovered in the last twenty years, it isn’t necessary to lose all, or even most, of your subscribers to become non-viable as a business. A certain reasonably sized subscriber base is required to sustain a large staff, a huge printing press facility, and a distribution network.

    So how much more loss on top of the 20% in the last two years will it take for the major to start imploding? I don’t know, but it’s hard to see how they can tolerate more than four or five more years of that type of decline with anything like their current business model.

    But they’re determined to find good news:

    And newspapers — including some that reported big declines in print paid circ — showed significant growth when print and online audiences are combined.

    OK, but for any major newspaper that doesn’t have “Wall Street” in its name, there’s no direct revenue from online “circulation”, and any advertising money from an on-line presence is a small fraction of the advertising revenue in print publication. Nobody except Google has figured out a way to turn online content into significant revenue, and it seems pretty unlikely that stodgy newspapers will be the ones to do it.

    For those just tuning in, the basics for these guys are absolutely horrible. Traditionally, the biggest chunks of their print advertising revenue include:

    – Classifieds

    – Movie listings

    – Automotive dealership ads

    – Retail chain ads

    Now lets take these one at a time. Classifieds have almost been destroyed by Craigslist. Teenagers would no more think of buying a newspaper to check movie listings than they would consider buying a leisure suit. Car sales are down, we don’t know when they’re coming back, and that entire industry is going through a re-structuring. Retail is in turmoil, as shown by the vaporization of Circuit City, Linens and Things, Media Play, S&K Menswear, and others.

    It looks unlikely that any one of these four will get significantly better as revenue sources for newspapers. The top two are gone for good. I suppose the last two might stabilize if the economy improves, though I certainly would bet on merely slower declines instead of increases.

    Newspapers also have the same problem as broadcast news programs: an aging customer base. Young people are shifting their reading habits away from print publications in general and newspapers in particular. This has been going on a while, and in the absence of all other factors presages a decline to irrelevance for print pubs.

    That doesn’t even touch on the ongoing drop in quality and increase in bias many of us see in newspapers. I used to occasionally actually put money in a rack for USA Today. No more. I see it in hotels a few times a year, and it’s just awful. I’m considering stopping reading it even when it’s free because it’s just a waste of time.

    It’s interesting, in fact, to note that the only major newspaper with a small increase in circulation was the Wall Street Journal. I don’t consider the WSJ to have gold-plated quality, but they at least try to do some in-depth work and not be totally blinded by their biases.

    As a counterpoint, the very liberal San Francisco Chronicle has the largest percentage drop among the majors, down 22.68% in one year! Another year or two like this, and San Francisco will be left with no significant daily newspaper. That is, unless the Chronicle just does the same thing as the other majors in the Bay area and combines with the San Jose Mercury News:

    There was a new kid in the top 10 as the San Jose Mercury News posted a weekday circulation of 516,701 by incorporating the Oakland Tribune and Contra Costa Times as editions of the Mercury News.

    Our liberal friends often tell us we’ll miss these institutions when they’re gone, but as with climate alarmists and their huge houses, they don’t back up what they say with their own actions.

    For those of us who love to beat up the majors for incompetence and biased reporting, take note: indulge while you can. With numbers like these, who knows how long it will last.