Tuesday, December 10, 2013

“The Defining Lie” = “The Big Lie”?

Quotation without comment.

From Roger L. Simon of the right-wing website “PJ Media”:

In the last few days Barack Obama has attempted to change the subject of public discourse from healthcare to income inequality,  which he has dubbed “the defining challenge of our time.” . . this should come as some surprise. But it doesn’t. The fight for “income inequality” is and has been for a long time the defining lie of modern liberalism. [emphasis added][See blog post here.]

This is not to say that income inequality does not exist.  Of course, it does.  But what liberalism does is pretend to do something about it, to whine and complain about it, in order to ensure the support of the poor, the semi-poor and minority groups, while doing nothing that changes the substance of their inequality in any permanent way.  Indeed, it often exacerbates it.

Consciously or unconsciously, these liberals may actually want the lower classes to remain the lower classes.  After all, if they bettered themselves, they might leave the Democratic fold.  That wouldn’t do.  So the system goes on.

Rising Youth Disenchantment: Political Impact

Seldom does a university-run opinion poll garner the media attention accorded the Harvard Institute of Politics’ (IOP) recent look at youth political attitudes (IOP’s poll is of all youth, not just Harvard types). IOP found that a mere 22% of under-30 Americans would definitely or probably enroll in Obamacare when they become eligible, while 45% will probably or definitely not enroll. Asked how they viewed Obamacare, only 38% of these young Americans approved, 57% disapproved.

These results are stunning, but perhaps not unexpected. Why shouldn’t young people balk at a program that seems to offer few or no benefits at an unacceptable cost?

The IOP poll further surprised with numbers on how far Barack Obama’s popularity has fallen among youth. Only 41% approve of the job he’s doing, as against 54% who disapprove. Among those under 25, the figures are even worse: just 39% approve, with 56% disapproving. It's well-known that young people are a key part of Obama’s political base. Or so they were.

The IOP poll results contained other disturbing details for Obamacare supporters:
  • asked if the quality of health care would be better, worse, or the same with Obamacare, only 18% said better, 40% said worse, and 37% the same. 
  • asked if health care costs would increase, decrease, or stay the same with Obamacare, 51% said increase, 11% said decrease, and 34% said stay the same. 
  • young people are more worried about student debt, with 57% calling it a major problem, 22% minor, and a mere 4% saying it was not a problem. 
In the poll’s single finding that should most unsettle the White House, 52% of youth under 25 would recall Barack Obama from office, if given the chance.

In spite of the poll's startling findings, the IOP provided it a cliche-like, safely nonpartisan conclusion:
young Americans . . . are sending a message to those in power that for them to re-engage in government and politics, the political process must be open, collaborative and have the opportunity for impact -- and not one that simply perpetuates well-worn single issue agendas.
Hmmm. We had earlier evidence of youth discontent with the political choices progressives were offering them. Michael Barone, in the conservative Washington Examiner, wrote about slippage of young people support for Democrats--specifically Clinton pal Terry McAuliffe in the Virginia gubernatorial election, where Obamacare didn’t become an issue until campaign’s end:
The Virginia exit poll showed voters ages 18 to 29 favoring McAuliffe over Cuccinelli by a 45% to 40% margin. The “Rock the Vote” [progressives] sent out an email crowing about this, but put in context, it’s a dismal result. The 30-to-44-year-olds were much more strongly for McAuliffe (56% to 37%), providing some evidence . . .that young people just entering the electorate are less liberal than those who did so in 2008. In comparison, the 2012 presidential exit poll showed Obama leading Romney 61% to 36% among that age group in Virginia--statistically indistinguishable from Obama's 60% to 37% margin among 18-to-29-year-olds nationally, which was down from 66% to 32% in 2008.
The youth vote is volatile. But the IOP poll suggests Obamacare may fail to enroll enough youth to finance improved healthcare for seniors.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Rising Youth Disenchantment: The Facts

"ObamaCare[‘s] whole Rube Goldberg scheme depends on using insurance policies to distribute wealth from healthy young Americans to older, sicker ones."

--Michael Goodwin, New York Post

That’s the problem Obamacare hands youth, in a nutshell.

Conservative commentator Michael Barone offers details:
egregious is Obamacare's requirement that policies for one age group cost no more than three times the cost for another. In practice, this means that young consumers, who incur few heath care costs, are asked to subsidize people in old age groups, who incur many more.
This is the opposite of the progressive economic redistribution, which American liberals usually favor. People in their 20s tend to have negative net worths. They owe more -- in consumer debt, on college loans -- than they have in bank accounts, home equity and financial assets. In contrast, people in the 55-64 age group, the oldest covered by Obamacare, tend to have relatively high net worths.
The “jerk” applied to less wealthy, less secure young people is so obvious that it’s even drawn the attention of liberal Charles Lane in the Washington Post, who calls pandering to seniors “old wine. . . in a new bottle":
The poverty rate for seniors in 2012 averaged 9.1%, much lower than the rate for children, which was 21.8%, and lower than the overall U.S. rate of 15%. Some 15% of youths ages 16 to 24 are neither employed nor attending school . . . For middle-class youths, college tuition costs are a constant source of insecurity.
Lane is right to focus on the high college tuition and related student loan problem, the surface anxiety produced by the lack of jobs awaiting new graduates. From libertarian economist Veronique de Rugy in Reason:
fewer than half of Americans today between the ages of 18 and 25 are employed. For those in that cohort actively on the job market, the unemployment rate is 16%, versus 6% for job-seekers aged 25 and above. These young folks are also more likely to be long-term unemployed: While accounting for just 14% of the labor force, they make up 19% of the long-term unemployed.
In July 2013, just 36% of Americans age 16-24 not enrolled in school worked full-time, 10% less than in July 2007. [Of] 17 million young Americans, 5.6 million were working part-time, 3.2 million were unemployed, and 8.4 million were out of the labor force altogether.
Dan Schwabel, author of Promote Yourself: The New Rules for Career Success, believes that millennials (born between 1976 and 2000) are the Great Recession’s real victims, saying, "almost 60% of millennials have a bachelor's degree, but the most common jobs are in retail."

Fewer jobs means fewer families, as Fortune’s Nin-Hai Tseng writes:
The share of 18 to 34-year-olds living with their parents rose from about 27.6% before the Great Recession in 2007 to above 31%, where it remains today. . . Millennials have contributed to the sharp decline in household formation, which likely will take a while to return to normal.
Up until 2008, about 1.1 million new U.S. households were formed each year, mostly due to population growth. That has declined dramatically; between the first quarter of 2008 to the first quarter of 2011, only 450,000 new households a year were created. Even as the economy improves, household formation hasn't -- only 521,000 households were created between the first quarter of 2012 and the first quarter of 2013. In all, there are 2.4 million missing households in America.
So should young people be financing expanded health care for the elderly? Right now?

Friday, December 06, 2013

Die Große Lüge (The Big Lie)

"the relentless decades long trend . . . is a dangerous and growing inequality and lack of upward mobility that has jeopardized middle-class America’s basic bargain that if you work hard, you have a chance to get ahead. I believe this is the defining challenge of our time: making sure our economy works for every working American. That’s why I ran for president. It was the center of last year’s campaign. It drives everything I do in this office."

--Barack Obama, 12.4.13

What an odd “defining challenge,” given that American inequality, as we have documented, has risen to new heights under Obama. Does he really believe the public will swallow such words?

Hitler (r.) with Ludendorff
“The Big Lie” is an epithet carelessly hurled at anyone who tells “big lies.” But the term has real history. Adolf HItler first used Die Große Lüge in Mein Kampf (“My Struggle”), published in 1925:
the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature . . . in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods.
Hitler wrote that the “Big Lie” was Jews attributing Germany’s World War I defeat to Gen. Erich Ludendorff, who was de facto dictator of Germany at the end of the war, then part of the failed 1923 Munich Putsch that landed Hitler in the prison where he wrote Mein Kampf.   For us, the irony is that Mein Kampf perpetuates Hitler’s own “Big Lie” that a “stab in the back” by Jews and leftists at home (a concept linked to Ludendorff) had defeated an intact German army. (The army did surrender on foreign soil and march home in orderly fashion.)

“The Big Lie” is real. Robert Conquest, the famed British historian of Stalinism in Soviet Russia, wrote in The Harvest of Sorrow (1986) about Stalin’s coverup of his destruction of richer peasants in 1930-37, when 14.5 million died:
Stalin had a profound understanding of the possibilities of what Hitler approvingly calls the Big Lie. He knew that even though the truth may be readily available, the deceiver need not give up. He saw that flat denial on the one hand, and the injection into the pool of information of a corpus of positive falsehood on the other, were sufficient to confuse the issue for the passively instructed foreign audience, and to induce acceptance of the Stalinist version by those actively seeking to be deceived.
One need not be a mass murderer to tell a “Big Lie.” It’s more about having a low enough opinion of the masses to believe that bigger lies are more likely to succeed, at least over time. Rising inequality is overcome by preaching equality. Dropping sanctions against Iran prevents Tehran from going nuclear. Forcing middle class households out of health care plans to fund medical care for others is compatible with saying “you will keep your plan, period.”

The “Big Lie” in America today is that our ruling class puts the people's interests ahead of its own. The “big truth” is that propaganda serves those in power. As Thomas Sowell of Stanford’s Hoover Institution writes:
Those who want to "spread the wealth" almost invariably seek to concentrate the power. It happens too often, and in too many different countries around the world, to be a coincidence. Which is more dangerous, inequalities of wealth or concentrations of power?
Conservative Jonah Goldberg, in USA Today, provides a specific look at how our leaders manipulate a specific interest group--women:
By what right are liberals seeking to impose their values on everyone else? Isn't that something they denounce conservatives for? They could have allowed for [Obamacare] plans that exclude controversial forms of birth control — or even uncontroversial ones — which would have lowered premium costs and expanded health care coverage to more poor people. But Democrats wanted a wedge issue to drum up a new battle in the culture war.
We are seeing some evidence, however, that in fact you can’t fool all of the people all of the time. As former George W. Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen put it in the Washington Post, “Americans are not just angry about a broken Web site; they are angry about a broken promise.”

Jonathan Tobin in the conservative journal Commentary reminds us:
Anyone who underestimates the president’s still potent powers of persuasion is making a mistake. It’s also probably foolish to think that the mainstream media that has gone off the reservation in recent months won’t respond to Obama’s planned three-week-long dog-and-pony show as they always did before he was mired in a spate of second-term scandals and disasters.
 But Tobin, like Thiessen, does believe that no “Big Lie” is going to work this time:
actually once a president’s mendacity has been exposed . . . his credibility can’t be recaptured. At this point, presidential salesmanship should be regarded as a depreciating asset rather than a magic political bullet. [Also,] blaming the GOP for sabotaging ObamaCare is a thesis so patently absurd that even most of the liberal media has trouble swallowing it.
Actually though, you can fool some of the people all the time. The unknown is how many equals “some”? Enough for a majority?

Monday, December 02, 2013

Will Christie be the GOP Populist Answer to Clinton?

[one can’t] say Christie is the man for the job, at least not yet. His problem is that—so far—he looks to be a divisive figure within his own party. Many conservatives are suspicious of him. Whether their reasons are legitimate or not is beside the point. One of the (many) causes of Cuccinelli’s failure in Virginia was that his own coalition was divided between the “grassroots” (who loved him) and the “establishment” (who did not). This sort of division, if taken into 2016, will prove crippling. Alienate the grassroots, and watch the base stay home. Alienate the establishment, and watch the big-money donors withdraw. The party must find a candidate who not only is immune to Clintonism, but also does not exacerbate existing divisions within the GOP coalition. All hands will have to be on deck in 2016.

--Jay Cost, Weekly Standard

Hillary Clinton pal Terry McAuliffe’s victory over Republican Ken Cuccinelli in Virgina seemed, we wrote, the lead story of last month’s off-year election. Right behind, though, came Chris Christie’s 20%-plus re-election victory as New Jersey governor, winning with 60% a state where previously, no Republican had gained over 50% of the statewide vote since 1988, and where just 39% of voters have a favorable impression of the GOP.

Before Christie can begin prying moderate votes away from Hillary, however, he must first win the Republican nomination--not an easy task, as Jay Cost suggests (above). One who thinks Cristie can win is former governor Christine Todd Whitman (R-NJ), who predicted Christie’s early Garden State experience running against Republican candidates to his right will help him nationally in 2016. Whitman opined:
I’m sure he’ll be attacked by the mindless ones that would rather go down in defeat with an ideologically pure candidate than win an election. I think we’re getting to the point where Republicans are finally saying we want to win.
Maybe so. It’s over two years until the GOP primaries begin. Way-too-early national polls have Christie leading a potential pack of 2016 GOP candidates, CNN giving him 24% and a 9% lead over runner-up Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) farther back at 10%.

“RealClearPolitics” reporter Scott Conroy, looking at a ridiculously early poll of 390 Iowa GOP caucus goers, suggests how Christie could actually win Iowa’s socially conservative GOP caucuses, then by storming to victory in more friendly New Hampshire a week later, quickly wrap up the nomination. Conroy’s poll shows Christie first at 17%, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) second at 16%, with other conservatives trailing. Such projections parallel how Mitt Romney virtually tied for first in the 2012 Iowa Republican caucuses. Romney with 25% of the vote grabbed just enough of smaller groups of “somewhat conservative” and “moderate” caucus goers, leaving other candidates to split the dominant conservative cohort.

Conroy thinks Christie will, as Romney did, downplay Iowa until the last minute as protection against a possible embarrassing defeat there. There’s another reason to follow Romney’s playbook: pushing hard early in Iowa could encourage conservatives to rally around a single conservative choice to block any Christie “1-2, Iowa-New Hampshire” victory strategy.  

New York Times’ columnist Ross Douthat supports moving Republicans away from social conservatism, and instead making a populist reach for working class voters motivated by economic distress. Discussing Cuccinelli’s failed Virginia gubernatorial campaign, Douthat thought the GOP candidate was too wrapped up in social issues to embody populism effectively, but said Cuccinelli had made a “game attempt” to channel it. Douthat added
you can’t ignore [populsim’s] potential downside for Republican fundraising, or the hard reality that the party’s donor class has the ability to kill a candidate they don’t link in a general election as thoroughly as the party’s populist wing can kill a candidate in a primary. Which is why, for a conservative populism to really work, it needs to have a clear appeal to the political center that the party’s current populist standard-bearers haven’t managed (yet!) to quite formulate. You need a lot of non-Republicans, as voters and small donors alike, to make up for the reality on display in Virginia [with Cuccinell’s defeat] — which is that if G.O.P. donors don’t get the party they want, some of them will find a perfectly comfortable home as Clinton-McAuliffe Democrats instead.
Douthat may believe Christie could bring populism and money together, judging from another column he wrote after November’s off-year elections, one titled “Dear Governor Christie.” In it, Douthat warns Christie
you [can’t] just run on your own awesomeness without specifying where you would take the country if you won. That act wears thin in a long campaign, and it’s likely to wear especially thin in a party that needs a new agenda as badly as Republicans do today. . . you’ll need substance as well as regular-guy style: a tax plan that doesn’t play just as a giveaway to the 1%, a health care plan that isn’t just a defense of the pre-Obamacare status quo, an approach to spending that targets corporate welfare as well as food stamps.
There it is, Douthat’s pitch for Christie to carry the populism flag.

Douthat concedes that while critics--and that would include those who have Christie’s ear--underestimate libertarian populism in two ways, they get some of a third point right:
1. [critics] miss the potential breadth of the libertarian populist idea, which many of them are assessing purely through the lens of economic policy even though it has obvious implications for social issues and foreign policy [pro gay marriage, marijuana, criminal justice reform, isolationism abroad]
2. many economic issues and policy controversies potentially map onto the libertarian populist “insider vs. outsider” framework[, given that “insiders” also include] well-salaried bureaucrats, even-better-salaried contractors, employers who want low wages and energy companies with the right lobbyists
3. critics [get that t]here really is a big fiscal-policy hole in libertarian populism. . . ideas like the flat tax. [Candidates should] focus. . . on payroll taxes instead, which would be a solid step toward a more plausible right-of-center domestic policy.
Douthat may gravitate toward Christie as a fellow Northeastener, but Douthat’s libertarian populist philosophy better fits Ted Cruz, the potential candidate nipping Christie’s heels in the Iowa poll mentioned above. Cruz is close to Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), the man who best embodies Douthat’s libertarian populism, right down to the idea of a payroll tax reduction.