Friday, June 29, 2012

The Roberts Cave: reported here; now reported there.

Earlier I said, without documentation,
Chief Justice John Roberts voting with the Court’s liberal minority owes a great deal, I believe, to the legacy media's softening-up of Roberts with story after story saying a 5-4 conservative vote to overturn Obamacare would solidify the “public’s” (read “liberal elite’s”) image of the Roberts Court as highly partisan, hard-right. Reading the stories, Roberts buckled.
Now Rich Lowry, editor of the conservative National Review, has written Roberts
came up with the only 5–4 decision that wouldn’t subject his court to the calumny of the Obama administration and law-school deans everywhere. All the op-eds that had been drafted trashing the legitimacy of the court have been filed away for now.
In other words, Roberts caved in the face of liberal pressure.

The conservative Wall Street Journal more bluntly editorialized:
The political class and legal left conducted an extraordinary campaign to define [any] decision [overturning Obamacare] as partisan and illegitimate. If the Chief Justice capitulated to this pressure, it shows the Court can be intimidated and swayed from its constitutional duties.
Roberts did capitulate; he can be intimidated.

Highlighting excellent detective work, the editorial noted the conservative dissent to Roberts’ ruling referred repeatedly to "Justice Ginsburg's dissent" and "the dissent" on the mandate. But Ruth Bader Ginsburg concurred with Roberts’ opinion, she did not dissent. The editorial believes Roberts was originally part of a 5-4 majority striking down Obamacare, then switched sides at the last minute.

Oh my.

BFD: Obama(care) Survives

“a huge win for Obama, for whom the health-care legislation is a signature achievement.”

 --Amy Gardner, Washington Post


We had an earlier post suggesting that a June combination of 1) a horrible jobs report, 2) the public sector unions’ failure to recall Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, and 3) a Supreme Court declaration that constitutional lawyer Obama’s signature achievement—Obamacare—was unconstitutional; that 1-2-3 would seriously damage Obama's re-election chances. The “why” is simple: Obama would look weak, ineffective, Jimmy Carter-like.

Obama surely does not look weak now, with his signature achievement surviving against what looked to be great odds that at least the Obamacare mandate would fall. If Obama would have looked weak in defeat, he looks powerful in victory. And the Supreme Court’s declaring Obamacare constitutional follows by two weeks Obama's likely unconstitutional but politically cleaver decision to decree the Dream Act into law by executive order, a move extremely popular with America’s large Hispanic minority.

The Obama team and their national elite allies are dedicated, bright, and formidable. As we have repeatedly suggested, a cornered animal fights most fiercely. Obama’s illegal Dream Act executive order will survive through election day—and that’s all that counts.

The Supreme Court’s surprise holding of Obamacare as constitutional, entirely the result of Chief Justice John Roberts voting with the Court’s liberal minority, owes a great deal, I believe, to the legacy media's softening-up of Roberts with story after story saying a 5-4 conservative vote to overturn Obamacare would solidify the “public’s” (read “liberal elite’s”) image of the Roberts Court as highly partisan, hard-right. Reading the stories, Roberts buckled.

Conservatives are finding silver linings in the ruling, including George Will (liberals denied future use of constitution's Commerce Clause; forced to defend tax increase on middle class) and Sean Trende of “RealClearPolitics” (Court's Medicaid ruling limits federal power over states; Roberts undercuts liberal critique of Court, thereby enhancing its long-term independence).  Will and Trende make good points. I guess they have to.

In the end, Obama really turned around a negative June.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Romney types: no to Rubio as V.P.

First George Will disses Marco Rubio by omission. Now comes Ramesh Ponnuru, senior editor of the conservative National Review, which during the GOP primaries was in the tank for Romney, so seems likely to speak for the Romney camp today. Ponnuru writes:
Mitt Romney’s running mate is going to rank very low on the list of what’s on voters’ minds in November. Political journalists are obsessing . . . because it is one of the biggest remaining unknowns [and] creates opportunities for speculation. The speculators place high value on excitement[, i.e. Rubio]. They’re talking up potential vice-presidential candidates who would represent a demographic first[, i.e. Rubio].
Romney will. . . want someone he considers able to step into the role of president if needed; someone loyal; and someone with whom he feels personally comfortable.
Whoa. That means the Romney folks are, as we said, posing the vice president choice as either a Cheney type or a Palin type, which screams “No!” to the more Palin-like Rubio.

In fact, Ponnuru goes on to reject Rubio by name:
[Romney’s] criteria work against conservative heartthrob Marco Rubio. . . Romney and Rubio don’t seem to have much of a personal relationship. Rubio has no executive experience. And Romney probably considers Rubio unseasoned, which he is.

Of the seven Ponnuru calls able “to meet [Romney’s] criteria,” the three in "Intrade’s" current top six (chart) are Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, and Ohio Senator Rob Portman. Ponnuru dismisses Portman—too tied to the Bush 43 past—leaving Pawlenty and Jindal. Ponnuru ends up favoring Jindal:
Jindal is the only potential vice-presidential candidate who hits the sweet spot: He is simultaneously a conservative favorite, demographically interesting (he’s a Catholic of Indian ancestry), and a reform-minded, competent governor.
Ponnuru by implication adds that Jindal would “excite the Republican convention” as would New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, whom Ponnuru rules out for other reasons.

So Ponnuru, who discounts Rubio’s excitement factor, likes Jindal for his excitement factor. And Ponnuru, who dismisses using demographics as a reason for picking Rubio, even though Republicans are already deeply concerned about losing the Hispanic vote by a wide margin, backs his fellow South Asian Jindal as “demographically interesting.”

In sum, we have George Will and Ramesh Ponnuru both advancing Bobby Jindal as the preferred alternative to Rubio. The audience of one is, of course, Romney, who seems to be, as Ponnuru suggests, leaning away from Rubio. In that context, Will and Ponnuru—probably both seriously worried Romney will over-react to pressure for Rubio by picking a (yawn) Portman type—are offering up Jindal as the safer “exciting choice.”

Especially after following Ponnuru’s twisted journey, I have little faith Romney will do the right thing and pick Rubio, who is the real thing, not some second-choice alternative.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Marco Rubio, now more than ever.

“If the president can rewrite federal laws that he doesn't like, there is no limit to his power. Then, he will not be a president. He will be a king.”

--Andrew Napolitano, Reason

The “king” is out to block the rise of Marco Rubio, Florida’s dynamic Hispanic senator, to a place on Mitt Romney’s ticket.

“Intrade” (the legal online betting service) today has Marco Rubio third at 14% odds in the race to be Romney’s vice president, behind Rob Portman (24%) and Tim Pawlenty (17%), but ahead of Paul Ryan (8%) and Bobby Jindal (6%). Conservative George Will on ABC said he preferred more excitement than Portman or Pawlenty (hardly a challenge), then completely skipped over Rubio without mentioning him to say his man was Louisiana Governor Jindal because Ryan should stay in congress.


I don’t know that Romney’s veep will be Rubio. But I know it SHOULD be Rubio. And certainly in part because of what happened June 15, not in spite of it. Rubio’s odds dropped and Will skipped over him after Obama issued an unconstitutional executive order blocking deportations of illegals under 30 who have committed no crime. In his “dictator-for-life”-type action, Obama decreed a version of the Dream Act earlier rejected by Congress. Last year, Obama himself called such an executive order illegal. This year, King Obama.

Has Romney now given up on the Hispanic vote?

Obama’s Dream Act decree was aimed at Marco Rubio, in an effort to leap past Rubio’s rising appeal to the Latino vote, and his possible selection as Romney’s vice president. Listen to John Aloysius Farrell, in the liberal National Journal:
President Obama coolly pre-empted Rubio's heralded efforts to draft a version of the Dream Act that would appeal to both Hispanic voters and the GOP's conservative base. . . Obama got there first, leaving Rubio's long labors irrelevant.
Saying a rush to Dream Act passage is no longer an option for him, Farrell quotes Rubio:
"If I introduce a piece of legislation and it immediately triggers a partisan war and name calling, I set back the cause. This White House didn't reach out. If you're really serious about finding a solution to this problem, don't you work with the people interested in this? If you're really interested in a bipartisan solution and you read in the newspaper that there is a Republican senator working on an idea, don't you reach out to them? That never happened... They're not really serious."
"I was hoping this issue could be elevated above politics," Rubio said. "Obviously...I was pretty naive."
Obama’s Dream Act decree is the best thing that’s happened to his campaign in weeks. USA TODAY is out with a poll confirming Obama now leads Romney 66%-25% among Hispanics, matching his 2008 election showing. Romney now is the weakest among Latinos of any presidential contender since 1996, yet that’s 16 years during which the Hispanic voting percentage doubled.

Of course, Obama’s Dream Act decree improved his results: Hispanics support Obama’s executive order by 82% to 16%. Gloated Obama campaign manager Jim Messina, Romney
has the most conservative position on immigration reform of any nominee of our lifetime. It's not the only issue Latino voters care about, but it is an important issue that shows people whose side they are on, and it's clear that Mitt Romney's against them.
So doesn’t this all guarantee Romney will raise his campaign excitement level while grabbing a larger chunk of the Hispanic vote by making Latin American Rubio his vice president? Why are Rubio’s numbers instead down, and why does George Will pass over Rubio when talking Romney veep? What’s up?

A clue comes from MSNBC, a network, one can safely say, 100% dedicated to Obama’s re-election. MSNBC just finished a panel on why Romney won’t pick Rubio for veep. Liberal John Heilemann of New York magazine, also co-author of the inside access book Game Change about Obama’s 2008 victory, says the Romney folks want “someone on the ticket who immediately clears the bar of ready to be commander in chief on day one,” a non-distraction who will keep the focus on Obama and the economy, not someone who will “generate a lot of stories” about past “controversial aspects.”

Fellow panelist Manuel Roig-Franzia, staff writer at the liberal Washington Post and author of The Rise of Marco Rubio, a book whose publication was timed to coincide exactly with the June 19 release of Rubio’s own memoir, helpfully added that Rubio owns a house with Florida congressman David Rivera that “was about to be put into foreclosure” until they were able to “scramble and pay the bill.” Wow. What dirt. Rubio had trouble keeping a home afloat in Florida, one of the country’s worst housing markets? That ought to end his vice president dreams, right? No, of course not.

Here’s what Rubio’s chances come down to. Will the Romney people, folks heavily under the influence of their dinner-companion “frienemies” in Washington DC and New York, buy into the idea that Rubio is Sarah Palin II, the veep candidate from Hell who must be rejected in favor of a Portman or Pawlenty, folks somewhat similar to ideal vice president Dick Cheney, able to take over “on day one”? The Romney folks—to me losers in the mold of Tom Dewey (1944, 1948), Nixon-Lodge (1960), Nelson Rockefeller (1964), Jerry Ford (1976), George H.W. Bush (loser in 1980 and 1992, a winner in 1988 because “no new taxes” George ran as the Reagan-Bush junior partner), Bob Dole (1996), and John McCain (2008)—would indeed pick a Cheney over a Palin (in their view, McCain’s fatal mistake).

Sarah Palin. Barack Obama. Hillary Clinton. John Kennedy. They are all people who generated excitement and brought in new voters. Rubio would be the first Hispanic vice president, and as such, in line for the presidency. His presence on the ticket would help Romney carry Florida, Virginia, Nevada, and Colorado. For that excellent reason, Democrats don’t want Romney choosing Rubio. That’s why they are “Palinizing” Rubio—what Democrats and the legacy media do when they fear a potential Republican winner.

Rubio is young yet polished beyond his years, far more tested nationally than was Palin in 2008, and unlike Obama, Rubio would be only running for vice president, not president. Cheney was a good if highly controversial V.P., but he brought few new votes to the ticket during the super-close 2000 election. Rubio could do much more.

Do I expect the Romney folks to do the right thing?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Family Breakdown, Economic Hardship

“The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself.”

-- Daniel Patrick Moynihan

That quote comes from one of our earlier discussions of culture and politics. Here’s how I would rephrase Moynihan today: “Another central conservative truth is that liberal politics can ruin a culture.”

We are focusing on the problem of a culture that endorses raising children in single-parent families. You might think this concern is strictly a conservative preoccupation. You would be wrong.

Patrick H. Caddell and Douglas E. Schoen are Democrats. Caddell worked closely with Jimmy Carter and Schoen with Bill Clinton. As with this blog, they too link our current economic problems to family breakdown. In “Politico,” Caddell and Schoen write:
The decline of the American family is the hidden issue in our election. . . we are now facing a crisis of serious proportions that affects all Americans, regardless of race and class. [emphasis added]
Marriage rates are down. . .The proportion of married U.S. adults dropped from 57% in 2000 to 52% in 2009, the lowest percentage . . . ever recorded. Marriage rates have declined most steeply among young adults ages 25 to 34 whose education does not exceed a high school diploma. Approximately 45% of children raised by divorced mothers, and 69% of children raised by never-married mothers lived at or near the poverty line, with few prospects of economic success.
More than 50% of all youths put in jail for criminal behavior grew up in one-parent families. Three-quarters of teenage pregnancies are to adolescents from single-parent homes. Non-high school graduates are almost four times as likely to become unemployed as college graduates. For those who do find jobs, they will most likely make less than half of what college graduates do.
We are seeing an important breakthrough when well-known Democrats are willing to discuss single parents and family breakdown in Charles Murray terms.

Perhaps not surprisingly though, while Schoen and Caddell call for “affirmative policies that strengthen the nuclear family, enhance traditional values” and “encourage young people to become responsible adults and successful employees”—in effect, a cultural solution—they also endorse government "improving the overall quality of education and job training.” If that means throwing money at existing education and job training bureaucracies, well that’s the old “Blue Model” way. And it doesn’t work.

What’s required now: a political and cultural revolution.

“It takes a marriage to raise a child.”

Kay S. Hymowitz is a contributing editor of the conservative City Journal and author of Marriage and Caste in America. Her latest article contains a wealth of valuable information:
When Charles Murray’s best-selling Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960–2010 appeared a few months ago. . . Critics objected that the real source of misery in the [white working class] wasn’t a lack of marriages; it was the extinction of manufacturing jobs. The disagreement was familiar to culture-war veterans: conservatives versus liberals, family breakdown versus dearth of good jobs, culture versus economics.
[Yes,] globalization, technology, and the knowledge economy have wrenchingly changed the working-class world. Still, Coming Apart is correct: you can’t grasp what’s happening at the lower end of the income scale without talking about family breakdown. . . the single-mother revolution.
[It] started in the 1960s, when the nation began to sever the historical connection between marriage and childbearing and to turn single motherhood and the fatherless family into a viable, even welcome, arrangement for children and for society. The reasons [included] the sexual revolution, a powerful strain of anti-marriage feminism, and a superbug of American individualism that hit the country in the 1960s and ’70s.

The embrace of “lone motherhood”—women bringing up kids with no dad around—has been an American specialty. “By age thirty, one-third of American women had spent time as lone mothers,” observed family scholar Andrew Cherlin in his 2009 book The Marriage-Go-Round. “In European countries such as France, Sweden, and the western part of Germany, the comparable percentages were half as large or even less.” . . cohabiting relationships here, unlike those in Europe, have short shelf lives. According to [a study that] examined couples in large American cities in the 1990s, about half of cohabiting couples split before their child was five—compared with just 18% of married couples.
the single-mother revolution . . . has been an economic catastrophe. [A]mong married couples with children[,] only 8.8% [are poor], up from 6.7% since the start of the Great Recession. But over 40% of single-mother families are poor, up from 37% before the downturn . . . of the two-fifths of bottom-quintile households that are families, 83% are headed by single mothers. The Brookings Institute’s [sic] Isabel Sawhill calculates that virtually all the increase in child poverty in the United States since the 1970s would vanish if parents still married at 1970 rates.
Hymowitz takes on the liberal argument that unskilled, low-earning women are hard up not because they lack husbands, but because the unskilled are more likely to become single mothers:
The Urban Institute’s Robert Lerman tried to address that objection by studying low-income women who had entered “shotgun” unions—that is, getting married after getting pregnant—on the theory that they represented a population roughly similar to those who got pregnant but didn’t marry. The married women, he found, had a significantly higher standard of living than the unmarried ones. “Even among the mothers with the least qualifications and highest risks of poverty,” Lerman concluded, “marriage effects are consistently large and statistically significant.”
How did we so fail to understand the simple truth that two incomes are better than one? And two adults at the dinner table?! “It takes two committed adults—a marriage—to raise a child.” Hymowitz continues:
many single mothers are barely getting by. . . A father’s contribution to the family income, even if it was just $15,000, would dramatically improve the mother’s lot, not to mention that of [the] children. [And if you are married], it’s still possible to move up to the middle class, despite the factory closings . . . Ron Haskins of the Economic Mobility Project [found that] “If young people do three things—graduate from high school, get a job, and get married and wait until they’re 21 before having a baby—they have an almost 75% chance of making it into the middle class.”
the single-mother revolution encouraged lower-income men and women to think that mothers could manage on their own—at the very historical moment that their children needed more education, more training, and more planning. The rise in single motherhood was ill adapted for the economic shifts of the late twentieth century.
Meanwhile, Hymowitz, like Murray, has found how profoundly different it is at upper economic levels, where parents have accommodated both their child-rearing and marital habits to the new economic reality. College-educated mothers see children and marriage as a package deal; they marry before having children, with divorce rates falling since the 1980s. Partners practice “assortative mating,” marrying those of similar educational status, in contrast to past “marrying up” of, say, nurses to doctors and secretaries to bosses.

The household income implications are obvious. Hymowitz notes “a lawyer was always likely to earn more than a plumber—but today, plenty of upper-income households are headed by two lawyers.” One study found that assortative mating brought about a 25% to 30% increase in inequality among married-couple families between 1967 and 200, with far wider gap between power couples and single-mother families.

Additionally, assortative mating pays for music and art classes, books, sports, and tutoring. Two parents actively invested in children’s well-being, living in the house, means spending more time with their kids even though mothers are more likely to be at the office during the day, with the increases especially high among college-educated parents. High-income parents of children up to six years old spent an average of 1,300 more hours than lower-income parents taking their children beyond home, day-care, or school.

Hymowitz writes that college-educated parents, unsurprisingly, are responding to college admissions competition by “building their kids’ cognitive, social, and emotional skills even in the earliest years.” This approach turns children into competitive workers in a knowledge-based economy, while below, not only do poorer children have fewer “enrichment expenditures,” they also get less mother time and involvement, reflected in educational outcomes and so future earnings.

To me, it’s so overwhelmingly cultural. Our upper class—Asian, Hebrew, Protestant ethic—“tiger parents” raising self-reliant children. Our lower class—dependent, “entitled” (it begins with welfare)—products of the gigantic and failed “Great Society” anti-poverty social experiment, a welfare state keeping them in dependency.

Hymowitz concludes, “At the bottom is a negative feedback loop, with kids raised by single mothers in unstable, low-investment homes finding themselves unable to adapt to today’s economy and going on to create more unstable, single-mother homes. . . the makings of a caste society, with an inherited elite and an entrenched proletariat.”

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Religious Wars

"There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin."

--Linus, It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966)

We live. We die. We cope with death, each in our own way. I am not a serene person, so I like serenity. I like Norman Davies, Britain's pre-eminent historian of Europe, and his definition of serenity:
Serenity is the balance between good and bad, life and death, horrors and pleasures. Life is, as it were, defined by death. If there wasn't death of things, then there wouldn't be any life to celebrate.
Religion helps us cope with death, and celebrate life. We aren’t alone. We are part of something bigger; something is there to support us.

Because humans need religion, it’s been present from the beginning, helping, celebrating, providing a path to a meaningful life.  It’s there today, in science-believing secularists’ worship of the environment.

And from the dawn of civilization, the power structure, politics, has exploited religion for its own purposes. The priesthood above. The masses below.

It’s important to me that Jared Diamond, in his Guns, Germs, and Steel-searing insight into politics as kleptocracy, considered one of the four key tools leaders use to retain power to be creating a religion that justifies kleptocracy.

A force as important as religion inevitably generates its own counterforce, in the thesis-antithesis-synthesis dialectic. New religions tend to arise from among the people in reaction to the perverted, top-down religion imposed by kleptocratic leaders.

So we’ve had Roman emperor-gods to Christianity to imperial Christianity and the 1000-year “Age of Faith” in Europe countered by Islam elsewhere then by the Protestant Reformation’s 1517-1688 two centuries of warfare to the rise of science to the status of a religion to the un- or anti-science 19th and 20th century religious awakenings to U.S. urban secularism’s response to Protestant/Republican era Babbittry to the 1960s final overthrow of organized religion—TIME’s “Is God Dead?” (1966).

James Taranto, in the conservative Wall Street Journal, writes about “a fascinating essay” by Jeffrey Lord for the American Spectator's website. Lord attributes Democrats' problems with the white masses to a cultural shift that took place after JFK's assassination. Lord quotes Robert Caro, the biographer of Kennedy’s successor:
The New Frontiersmen--casual, elegant, understated, in love with their own sophistication . . .--were a witty bunch, and wit does better when it has a target to aim at, and the huge, lumbering figure of Lyndon Johnson, with his carefully buttoned-up suits and slicked-down hair, his bellowing speeches and extravagant, awkward gestures, made an inevitable target. . . . When he mispronounced 'hors d'oeuvres' as 'whore doves,' the mistake was all over Georgetown in what seemed an instant.
Lord said Kennedy himself had a healthy respect for the American people and for Johnson. But after his assassination, "the attitude toward Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson that was evidenced by Kennedy's liberal leaning staff, by the Washington Georgetown set, by Washington journalists-- seeped into the sinews of liberalism itself":
Slowly this contempt for the American people spread to institutions that were not government, manifesting itself in a thousand different ways. It infected the media, academe and Hollywood, where stars identified with middle-America like John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Bob Hope and Lucille Ball were eclipsed in the spotlight by leftists like Warren Beatty and Jane Fonda.
In our new, hip culture, it became respectable to diss the white American majority, or more precisely, its white males along with their spouses, who in American small towns, as President Obama said, bitterly “cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren't like them.”

So here we are in 2012, where as conservative columnist Mona Charen writes,
we reached a grim milestone: The majority of births to women under the age of 30 are now outside of marriage. Among blacks, 72% of births are to unmarried women. And while some unmarried mothers go on to marry the fathers of their babies, it's rare in the African-American community, where only 31% of couples are married (In 1960, it was 61%). . . A full 85% of youths in prison come from fatherless homes, as do 80% of rapists, 71% of high school dropouts. . .90% of the change in the violent crime rate between 1973 and 1995 was traceable to the rise of illegitimate births. A large sample looking at students in 315 classrooms in 11 cities concluded that "The single most important variable (in 'gang centrality') is the family's structure ...: the greater the number of parents in the household, the lower the reported gang centrality."
In the Atlantic Monthly, Barbara Dafoe Whitehead wrote that the "relationship (between single-parent families and crime) is so strong that controlling for family configuration erases the relationship between race and crime and between low income and crime. This conclusion shows up time and again in the literature."
We need religion. We need the structured, two-adult families that religion supports. So says Charles Murray, in his Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960–2010. Many others endorse the need for values that come from within—discipline, hard work, postponement of gratification, optimism, belief in self—values supported by religion.

These values aren’t conservative alone, but while liberals tend to practice them for themselves, they encourage dependency rather than self-reliance among those they privately believe to be unfortunate inferiors—Democrats’ entitlement constituents of minorities, unmarried women, dependent youth, and the elderly.

Isn’t that the point to where our religious wars have evolved in 2012—self-reliance supported by religion or dependency on big government?

Friday, June 08, 2012

“The Fame Monster”

Quotation without Comment

From conservative Matthew Continetti, writing in the “Washington Free Beacon:”
there is an American ruling class—comprising the perversely overcompensated men and women in finance, law, media, and entertainment who through a bizarre, osmotic alchemy determine the boundaries of social and political correctness. . . the president’s schedule. . . counts no less than 28 celebrity fundraisers for Obama held over the last year. . . the incumbent’s reliance on celebrity money, endorsements, solicitations, and other forms of that self-congratulatory alternative energy known as “star power” not only reveals the financial and ideological core of the Democratic party, but also the attitudes and agenda of the milieu in which Obama is most comfortable. Those attitudes are obnoxious and that agenda is totally unrelated to the daily struggles of millions of Americans.
That many of the participants at these events understood how easily they could be caricatured as limousine liberals only heightened the dramatic tension. . . San Francisco super-lawyer and Obama donor Martin Checov said that “the other candidate’s travel schedule is no more oriented to the masses,” using language better suited to an aristocrat than a Democrat. . . [A]s CBS president Leslie Moonves and his reality-show host second wifewaited patiently for their wristbands” to hear Obama[, he] acknowledged that “partisanship is very much a part of journalism now,” but don’t get the wrong idea: “I run a news division. I’ve given no money to any candidate.” [We don’t know] whether he was chuckling at his own blatant hypocrisy or simply so completely self-possessed that he told this joke un-ironically.
Michelle Obama [r]ecently . . . racked up IMDB credits with appearances on The View and The Late Show to complement turns on The Tonight Show, The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, Rachael Ray, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, The BET Honors, The Biggest Loser, and the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards. Her husband, too, is no stranger to screens large and small, most recently “slow jamming” the news with Jimmy Fallon. Together, the[ Obamas] are on track to be the most televised first couple of all time[--their 195 appearances in 8 years surpassing the first-Hollywood-couple Reagans’ 175 appearances over an 85-year span that included 99 movie and television roles from 1937 to 1996, but behind the Clintons’ 338 media appearances over 20 years and three presidential runs].
Yet the Obamas have been slow to learn that the currency of celebrity depreciates easily. . . there comes a point at which fame and admiration are no longer freely given but must be earned, lest one risk becoming nothing more than a tawdry reality television star . . . donation-grabbing shows how much Obama has been weakened. There was a time when he could fill stadiums on his own, raise great sums on his own, [but t]hat time is long past: Nearly 90% of Obama’s individual donors in 2008 have not contributed in the current cycle. . . Obama has become a prop in his own play, an empty suit that trails Robert De Niro or Jack Black or Tobey Maguire or Salma Hayek or [whoever the campaign] think[s] might bring in some dough or inspire a Millennial to vote.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

1-2- . . 3?

The revolution is here. Red is the color of revolution, and through a quirky series of steps, the media chose to color Republicans red and Democrats blue. Odd, because red and revolution are historically associated with the left.

But no longer so odd. Democrats are the party of status quo and Republicans the party of change. Revolution. Red. Republican. Blue. Status quo. Democrats.

In February of last year, we pointed to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s direct attack on public sector union power as the revolution's opening salvo.  Madison began the struggle to re-balance our economy away from government power toward private sector control. Now, after 16 months, Walker has prevailed against the union counterattacks. It’s the second of what could be three consecutive June blows to President Obama’s re-election chances. The first was last week’s terrible jobs report, coupled to other bad economic news.

Yesterday, Walker became America’s first ever governor to survive a recall election. Wisconsin’s public sector unions, and their allies throughout the nation, mounted three waves of election efforts to reverse Walker’s assault on their power. They first tried and failed to replace a Republican justice on Wisconsin’s supreme court, one who later voted with the 4-3 majority to uphold Walker’s restrictions on the public sector unions. Next, they failed to recall enough Republican senators last year to change the Wisconsin senate balance of power. Now, they have failed to recall Walker, his lieutenant governor, and three other Republican senators, though they did successfully recall a fourth.  Walker has prevailed;  the revolution to check entitlement government is underway.

The third June blow to Obama’s reelection chances will come if the U.S. Supreme Court declares unconstitutional all or part of Obamacare. After all, Obamacare is constitutional lawyer Obama’s signature accomplishment.

Back to revolution. According to James Piereson of the conservative Manhattan Institute, America is headed for its “fourth revolution.” The new revolution follows Thomas Jefferson’s “revolution of 1800,” the Civil War, and Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. Each revolution began with a crisis—the Alien and Sedition Act’s attempt to stifle political opposition led to the “revolution of 1800,” while slavery and economic collapse triggered the next two—and each revolution reshaped U.S. politics for decades.

Piereson calls today’s status quo forces “rent-seeking groups,” or those “concerned with the distribution of resources rather than with the creation of wealth.” But The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics says the term “rent seeking,” which comes from 19th century economist David Ricardo, is confusing, and should be called “privilege seeking" instead, “getting a subsidy. . . for being in a particular class of people.”

To me, that’s “entitlement seeking,” for the groups gaming the political system believe they are “entitled” to redistributed wealth. At base, though, we are talking about groups that would “re-cut the pie” rather than “grow the pie”—Democrats, liberals, seekers of fairness and justice as opposed to Republicans/conservatives focused on economic growth.

Here’s Piereson on today’s “rent-seekers,” relabeled below as “pie cutters:”
The regime of public spending has at last drawn so many groups into the public arena in search of public dollars that it has paralyzed the political process and driven governments to the edge of bankruptcy. These groups are widely varied: trade associations, educational lobbies, public employee unions, government contractors, ideological and advocacy organizations, health-care providers, hospital associations that earn revenues from Medicare and Medicaid programs, and the like.    .    . They consume rather than create wealth. These groups are highly influential in the political process because they are willing to invest large sums in lobbying and election campaigns in order to protect their sources of income. [Pie cutters] have congregated within the Democratic Party. . . one might describe the Democratic Party as a coalition of [pie cutters].
[Pie-cutting] coalitions have little interest in moderating their demands in the interests of the broader economy because, as their leaders reason, the economy will be little affected by the small share of it to which they are laying claim. In addition, they calculate that if they do not take the money, then someone else will—and so they are not inclined to be “fools” for the public interest.
As Ronald Reagan said at his first inaugural (1981), “government is the problem.” It will be until Republicans rebalance economic power toward the private sector.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Jobs: talk about bad news!

“We will come back stronger. We do have better days ahead.”

--Barack Obama  

“Good times are around the corner."

--Attributed to Herbert Hoover 

The country added just 69,000 jobs last month. The Washington Post’s Ylan Q. Mui reports the total was less than half the number economists had expected. The government also revised down its estimate of April job growth from 115,000 to only 77,000. At the same time, the unemployment rate ticked up one point to 8.2%. All bad news. Mui writes:
Friday morning’s data suggested something more like deja vu: Job growth is the weakest since [May last year], when the economy fell into a slump that lasted through the summer. Analysts say the country needs to add roughly 130,000 jobs per month for the recovery to maintain its momentum. But to truly make a dent in the unemployment rate, hiring must reach a sustained rate of 250,000 jobs per month. The country has hit that mark only three times over the past year and a half. [emphasis added]
Yesterday’s poor jobs report hit the stock market hard. The Dow fell 275 points, dropping into negative territory for 2012. Declines in both the S&P 500 and the NASDAQ were even sharper. Both indexes have fallen enough from their 2012 highs—10%—to have their drops qualify as a “technical correction,” the last stage before “bear market.”

We’ve had three bad job reports in a row. There are only four more reports before the election. I believe that if just one of the final four comes in low—in other words, is under 130,000 new jobs for the month—then because a majority of the last seven reports will have been poor, the total series will seal voter perceptions of a sick economy. Only with four strong job reports in succession will Obama be able to overcome yesterday’s bad taste.

The chart below shows how Obama is doing on his minimum job creation goals. By October’s pre-election jobs report, he is likely to be able to show some job growth for his term, though that growth will barely surpass the total jobs number the day he took office. The unemployment rate, however, may not yet match January 2009's level of 7.8%.