Thursday, July 31, 2014

National Journal’s Ron Brownstein: What Democratic Split?

Ron Brownstein
Our previous entry talked of a Democratic Party division between younger, social issue liberals and older liberals focused on economic issues. Ron Brownstein, National Journal political columnist, discusses surveys that more conventionally treat the main split as Democrats v. Republicans, while siding with the party’s future, the youth who believe it’s all about culture:
the parties are escalating their conflicts over a broad suite of issues that divide the electorate along cultural lines, including [contraception,immigration,] gun control, gay rights, abortion, and climate change (which politically pivots on trust in science). Combined, these confrontations are stamping the GOP as what I've called a "Coalition of Restoration" primarily representing older, white, religiously devout, and nonurban voters who fear that hurtling change is undermining traditional American values. Democrats in turn are championing a younger, more urbanized, diverse, and secular "Coalition of Transformation" that welcomes the evolution in America's racial composition and cultural mores.
Brownstein credits Barack Obama for “cementing the Democrats' connection with [the younger] coalition's cultural priorities.” Brownstein believes that even if Hillary Clinton embraces more centrist fiscal or foreign policies than the President, “on cultural issues Obama has led his party across a Rubicon.”

Brownstein points to Obama's
defiant recent pledges to act unilaterally if necessary to ensure equal workplace treatment of gays, protect undocumented immigrants, confront climate change, and overcome the Hobby Lobby decision allowing religious-based private companies to exclude contraception from their health insurance plans.
In contrast, Brownstein tells us, Republicans are solidifying against Obama policies that have solid Democratic support, praising Hobby Lobby as reaffirming religious freedom, blocking with little dissent immigration reform, workplace protections for gays, and universal background checks, while “uniformly” decrying Obama's climate initiatives.

Brownstein believes not only that on each of these conflicts, polls show Obama's position represents majority opinion today, but also that the majority will likely grow because the groups that generally support his views most are increasing as a share of voters.

He’s right about gay-related issues: more than three-fifths of Americans supported a ban on employers discriminating against gay workers, and support among millennials and college-educated white women is over 70%. And while just over half of all Americans support gay marriage, that number also reaches 70% among millennials and college-educated white women.

And it’s true that failing to support immigration reform will badly damage the GOP, because the country is increasingly non-white. But Brownstein glides over rising opposition to Democrats’ stand on what’s now called “climate change,” on abortion, and on gun control, while even he admits that Hispanics and African-Americans are more conservative than upscale whites on both gay rights and abortion.

Brownstein concludes that “cultural affinity has become the Democrats' most powerful electoral weapon,” one that “may make it tougher” to hold red-state House and Senate seats, but will improve the party’s position with “cosmopolitan” states, unmarried women, youth, and minorities, “a trade most Democrats would probably take in a heartbeat.”  

Comment: Readers of this blog already know that Obama’s strategy for dealing with a sick economy and a controversially isolationist foreign policy is to emphasize what Brownstein calls “cultural issues”--specific appeals to the party’s victimhood-based interest groups. So far, it works.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Lookie Here! Democrats Divided, Polls Say

Millennial Mark Zuckerberg
Thomas Edsall in the New York Times wrote about an important June Pew survey of more than 10,000 people. Pew has found a cohort of younger voters who are Democrats, but much less focused on economic redistribution than on personal and sexual autonomy.

Pew earlier noted that
huge generation gaps have opened up in our political and social values, our economic well-being, our family structure, our racial and ethnic identity, our gender norms, our religious affiliation, and our technology use, point[ing] toward a future marked by the most striking social, racial, and economic shifts the country has seen in a century.
Andrew Kohut, Pew founder, believes
There is a libertarian streak that is apparent among these left-of-center young people. Socially liberal but very wary of government. Why? They came of age in an anti-government era when government doesn’t work. They are very liberal on interpersonal racial dimension, but reject classic liberal notions about ways of achieving social progress for minorities.
The younger folks’ problems with government is surprising, given an earlier Pew survey that found youth less hostile to socialism than their elders.  Still another, non-Pew, study found that “the Millennial generation was less likely to recommend progressive taxation” than older generations.

Also, a Reason Foundation study on the views of younger voters showed that
Social and cultural issues are currently more central to millennials’ political judgments than economic policy. When asked to explain the reasons for their ideological identifications, social and cultural concerns largely defined their labels.
Edsall likes yet another study reporting that while younger Democrats are less committed to traditional economic liberalism, the partisan commitment these voters made to the Democratic Party will endure; that “political events of a voter’s [life] around the age of 18” are “enormously important” in fixing long-term partisan preferences.”  

The Surveys

Pew found major differences among two predominantly white core Democratic constituencies: “solid liberals” of the traditional left, 69% white, average age 46, deeply progressive on both economic and social issues; and younger voters, 68% white, average age 38, the “next generation left.”
  • Can “most people can get ahead if they’re willing to work hard,” or are “hard work and determination no guarantee of success for most people?” 
    • “solid liberals”: 67%, said hard work is no guarantee of success. 
    • “next generation left”: 77%, said you can get ahead if you work hard. 
  • “Should government do more to solve problems,” or “Is government is trying to do too much?”
    • “solid liberals”: 73-20%, said government should do more. 
    • “next generation left”: 50-44%, said government doing too much. 
  • Are “circumstances” to blame for poverty, or is it more “a lack of effort?” 
    • “solid liberals”: 83-9%, said circumstances. 
    • “next generation left”: only 47-42%, said circumstances. 
  • “Should government do more to help needy Americans, even if it means more debt,” or is it that “government cannot afford to do much more?” 
    • “solid liberals”: 83-12%, said to go into debt.
    • “next generation left”: 56-39%, said cannot afford much more. 
  • “Does Wall Street help the American economy more than it hurts?” 
    • “solid liberals”: 56-36%, said Wall Street hurts. 
    • “next generation left”: 56-36%, said Wall Street helps. 
  • “Is racial discrimination the main reason blacks can’t get ahead” or “are blacks who can’t get ahead mostly responsible for their own condition?” 
    • “solid liberals”: 80-10%, blamed discrimination. 
    • “next generation left”: 68-19%, said blacks shape their own condition. 
  • Does the “U.S. need to continue making changes to give blacks equal rights,” or has “U.S. has made the changes needed to give blacks equal rights?” 
    • “solid liberals”: 91-6%, said continue making changes. 
    • “next generation left”: 67-28%, said the country has done enough. 
Edsall, understating the obvious, concludes that while younger voters may lean Democratic, they “do not fit into traditional left-right categories.”

The Reason survey found that
while millennials see themselves as closer to Republican [] Chris Christie on economic issues, and closer to [Democrat] Hillary Clinton on social issues, they . . . are voting for Clinton.
Reason also found that every prospective Republican presidential candidate — Christie, Rand Paul, Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, Mike Huckabee, Jeb Bush and Bobby Jindal — received more noes than yeses from millennials, by margins ranging from two noes for every yes to four noes for every yes. And while young voters are more pro-business than anti-business, just 54% believe corporate profits are about right or too low, while 44% say corporate profits are too high.

In some respects, Reason’s millennial voters held orthodox liberal views: they support more spending to help the poor, even if it means higher taxes; government action to guarantee a living wage, enough for everyone to eat and have a place to sleep; and a government guarantee of health insurance.

Otherwise, millennials in the Reason survey sounded like Republicans. By a margin of 70-25%, they chose “competition is primarily good; it stimulates people to work hard and develop new ideas” over “competition is primarily harmful; it brings out the worst in people.” By 64-25%, they picked “profit is generally good because it encourages businesses to provide valued products to attract customers” over “profit is generally bad because it encourages businesses to take advantage of their customers and employees.” And majorities believe that wealth should be distributed according to achievement, not need; that “people should be allowed to keep what they produce, even if there are others with greater needs.”  

The Reaction

One commenter on the surveys’ results concluded, “The Democrats hold onto us only because of the Republic[an] obsession with religion, sexual repression and environmental denial.”

Similarly, Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg believes generational differences within the Democratic Party won’t damage the party’s prospects in the short-to-medium term:
differences within the Democratic Party. . . become irrelevant when confronted by a Republican Party determined to turn elections into cultural conflicts. These differences don’t matter in the context of a Republican party that brings out the commonality of the Democratic Party.”
David Leege, an emeritus professor at Notre Dame, thinks younger Democrats “are products of a totally different environment and culture than their grandparents;” leaving behind “the communitarianism of the elders” for “individualism.”  Leege argues that “the combination of unanchored and individualistic electorates and the post-Citizens United political arena,” i.e., big money, may make elections “perpetually close.”

Leege worries that if Democrats seek to gain strength by shifting from orthodox economic liberalism to an emphasis on protecting personal liberties from conservative moral constraint, they will erode remaining opposition to lower tax rates, help reduce social spending, and facilitate a paring back of commercial and financial regulation.

Edsall concludes that a divided Democratic Party, vulnerable to business elite lobbying pressures, may give Wall Street and the Chamber of Commerce increased leverage “despite – or even because of – Democratic political success.”


History now teaches that moral rectitude in traditional, male-run, WASP America was designed to cement the old power structure in place. Rectitude, along with the supportive, GOP-based power elite, is gone. The new, elite university-bred power structure, is non-religious, sexually free, and fixed on an “environmental protection” replacement religion. Increasingly wealthy, it no longer rejects an alliance with its fellow elite institution achievers in the new age business (Google, Amazon, Apple, Verizon, Costco) and financial (Berkshire-Hathaway) world.

Today's America is right-side up, or upside-down, depending upon your politics. Republicans tend to be with the people outside this new power structure, less affluent, more religious, and more concerned about how moral decline has undermined the family that used to underpin the American working class.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Behind the Headlines: Hamas’ Rockets and Tunnels

Hamas Tunnel
Tuesday’s rocket attack on an area near Israel’s only international airport — the success of which marks the first serious failure of Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile shield — has thrown Israel off-kilter for the first time since the war began. Carriers panicked by the shootdown of the Malaysia Airlines jet over Ukraine began canceling flights to Israel left and right even before the Federal Aviation Administration grounded all US-Israeli plane travel for 24 hours. Any effort to restrict travel has an especially powerful resonance in Israel.

--John Podhoretz, New York Post  

The FAA's ban on U.S. flights to and from Israel's main airport for a second day marks another blow to that country's economy and a success for Hamas militants, experts said Wednesday.Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman, described the missile landing near the airport as one victory in the ongoing war between Hamas and Israel in Gaza. "The resistance success in stopping the air traffic and isolating Israel from the world is a great victory for the resistance," Barhoum told Al-Aqsa TV.

--Josh Levs, Ben Brumfield and Dana Ford, CNN  

Hamas . . . is elated by its success in temporarily but significantly hampering operations at Ben Gurion Airport (arguably the most significant single Palestininan tactical accomplishment since the 1948 War). . . People don’t travel much across Israel’s land frontiers; the airport is Israel’s vital link with the rest of the world. Hamas and . . . Israel’s enemies now think they can imagine a new strategy to drive the Jewish state to its knees by cutting it off from the outside world. . . (The biggest political mistake of the war so far? The American officials who banned U.S. flights from using the airport made a cease fire much harder to obtain.)

--Walter Russell Mead, American Interest

Hamas had it right. When rockets landed close enough to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport, they threatened to remove Israel’s lifeline to civilization. The extension of the FAA ban struck some as evidence the Obama administration was tipping the scales against Israel in its fight with Hamas, but the FAA has since lifted the ban, and it now looks more like uncoordinated U.S. stupidity.

Nevertheless, indirectly taking on the anti-“dead white men” Obama foreign policy we discussed earlier, American-born Israeli commentator Caroline Glick asserts the Obama administration is siding with Hamas against Israel by pressing for a cease fire:
As a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas is not a stand-alone terror group. It is part of a much larger web of Islamic jihadist terror groups including al-Qaida and its affiliates as well as the Shi’ite Hezbollah. Like Hamas, all of these threaten several major Sunni Arab states. Hamas’s most outspoken state sponsors are Qatar and Turkey.
Glick adds that
Qatar is Hamas’s biggest and most important financier, a role it plays as well for ISIS, al Nusra, the Muslim Brotherhood and various jihadist groups in Libya. Turkey for its part is aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood.
On the other side, Glick writes, the threat Hamas and its allies pose to the survivability of the Egyptian, Saudi Arabian, and the United Arab Emirates regimes accounts for their current, “unprecedented” support of Israel’s efforts to defeat Hamas. These states aren’t pushing for a cease-fire. Given this line-up, it would seem surprising that
the Obama administration is insisting on concluding a cease-fire immediately. As Israel has uncovered the scope of Hamas’s infrastructure of murder and terror, the US has acted with the UN, Turkey and Qatar to pressure Israel (and Egypt) to agree to a cease-fire and so end [Israeli military] operations against Hamas before the mission is completed. . . US Secretary of State John Kerry [flew to the Middle East] with an aggressive plan to force on Israel a cease-fire Hamas and its state sponsors will accept. [The] Israel [and] Egypt . . . avoidance of Kerry signals clearly that the US’s two most important allies in the Middle East do not trust US President Barack Obama’s intentions.
Comment: It’s not the airport, it’s the tunnels. Does the diffusion of power we see with the Internet have its warfare equivalent not only in hand-held rockets and home-made IEDs, but also in tunnels? Can Hamas open up new tunnels as fast as an Israel pulled back behind its borders finds and destroys old ones? Tunnels prolonged the Civil War at Petersburg and, of course, World War I lasted far longer because of tunnels.

 Israel’s friends are asking a related question, “Why doesn’t (tunnel-riddled) Gaza have bomb shelters?” Why indeed.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Behind the Headlines: Courts and Obamacare

Tuesday, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia struck down the subsidy provisions of the Affordable Care Act for states that have not implemented their own exchanges. The court found that the plain wording of the statute made clear that Congress authorized subsidies only in exchanges established by a state, and that the federal government is not a state. Thus, subsidies are not authorized in exchanges established by the federal government.

--Sean Trende, “RealClearPolitics”  

Comment: Here’s what really happened. Before the 2012 Supreme Court ruling upholding Obamacare, the Federal government manipulated the states by withholding funds unless the states did exactly as Federal law required. Then, while upholding Obamacare two summers ago, the Court ruled that states could continue to receive Medicaid funding even if they ignored Obamacare’s demand to expand the Medicaid program.

The Court’s ruling meant states who declined to partner with Obamacare wouldn’t be punished for failing to join up. Obamacare had offered the states a carrot--money for states to give those who joined state exchanges--along with a stick--no Medicaid funds for states that rejected Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion (for those outside the current health insurance system, Obamacare = exchanges + Medicaid expansion).  With the stick gone, states saw less reason to set up their own exchanges, and most opted for letting the Feds run the program (to disastrous early results).

When the Feds realized what might happen, they by rule sent the carrot to Federal as well as state exchanges. But that’s not what the law says, and it isn’t why the Feds originally only gave states the carrot. The Feds began bribing the states--giving them a carrot--because they wanted state-run exchanges, a more likely event when states would also be expanding Medicaid exactly as the Feds had directed.

Monday, July 21, 2014

End of “Dead White Men” Foreign Policy?

Barack Obama                           Sayyid Khamenei (Iran)
As a State Department intern 50 years ago, I was advised to choose a career either in EUR--the European Bureau--or FE--for “Far East” (could one be any more Eurocentric than “Far East”?). EUR and FE were where the action was. EUR meant dealing directly with our Cold War enemy, the Soviet Union. And FE (shortly after, “EA” for East Asia), was the battlefield where real combat between “East” and “West” played out--Korea, China (Red China v. Taiwan), Malaya, Indonesia, and most especially, Indochina.

It was then a white man’s world--the U.S. against the U.S.S.R., white men confronting white men and seeking to expand or maintain their domination over Asia. And eventually failing to do so, just as Anglo-Indian poet Rudyard Kipling had predicted over 120 years ago that they would:
Now it is not good for the Christian's health to hustle the Aryan brown,
For the Christian riles, and the Aryan smiles and he weareth the Christian down;
And the end of the fight is a tombstone white with the name of the late deceased,
And the epitaph drear: "A Fool lies here who tried to hustle the East."
FE became EA, the West stopped warring for East Asia, the Soviet Union collapsed, and EUR faded as the fixed center of U.S. foreign policy.

History never stands still. Barack Obama, raised on a diet of liberation philosophy that worked to put “dead white men” in their proper contemporary perspective, is a black president leading a political coalition built on color and sex--minorities plus unmarried women. The coalition was powerful enough to return him to the White House in 2012, even though he had failed for four years to recharge our economy--the first president re-elected since FDR to win with unemployment topping 7.9%. Obama knows the power of his coalition.

And Obama has used that power to reshape American foreign policy. His coalition is uninterested in “dead white men” foreign policy, so we don’t waste resources any more on fighting people of color or defending white people--not in Iraq, not missiles in Poland or the Czech Republic, not in Afghanistan, not in Libya, not in Syria, not in the Ukraine.

When it comes to “even-handedness” toward Israel and pursuing peace with Iran, two important pieces of Obama’s post-“dead white men” foreign policy, the president is hitting resistance from within his own, historically pro-Israel party. In over-simplified terms, supporting Israel represents the last beachhead of the “dead white man” foreign policy I knew as an intern 50 summers ago. Only when it comes to Israel (and Israel's deep concern about Iran with nukes) does a bipartisan coalition stand up to Obama and say, “Enough!”

Still, we know that on foreign policy, the Constitution puts the White (irony there) House in charge. Obama won’t yet confront Israel directly. But the reason Obama is so soft on Putin is this: he needs Russia to pull off his major unmet foreign policy goal: an opening to Iran that will be his “Nixon to China.” The loser in the end will be not only “dead white men” Israel, but also the last remaining piece of “dead white man” foreign policy.

Don’t believe my version of how this will go down? Doesn’t Israel have nuclear weapons it has no intention of using? And so does Muslim Pakistan. So what’s the big deal, really, if Iran has atomic bombs as well? As for Putin shooting down a commercial jet with 300 innocent people aboard, we already know it wasn’t intentional; Putin was only trying to kill Ukrainians and made an honest mistake, just like we did off Iran in 1988.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Leslie Gelb’s Strange Iran Syndrome

Leslie Gelb
“Whoever is not with [my enemy] is [with] me.”

--paraphrasing Jesus Christ (Matthew 12:30)

Leslie Gelb, 77, was Council on Foreign Relations president following a long, distinguished career practicing or writing about foreign affairs. For such a wise man, Gelb seems unusually fascinated by the possibility that the U.S. might develop a working relationship with Iran.

In 2009, he was wildly off-base in predicting that Iran’s presidential election would yield up a regime friendly to then-new U.S. president Obama.

Now, having learned nothing from his past experience, Gelb is calling for making Iran--which he branded “the most stable presence among major Muslim countries”--our Middle East “potential partner.” After all, Gelb says, “large numbers of Iranians are pro-American,” and “can make Tehran a reliable partner against the clear and present jihadi danger.”

What??!! Iran’s revolutionary regime, driving for nuclear-tipped long-range missiles, is easily the major “jihadi danger” the U.S. and our Israeli ally face today. Iran, a nation the size of Germany, France, the U.K., Italy, Benelux, Switzerland, and Austria combined, is the chief supporter of Bashar al-Assad’s bloody Syrian regime, of Hezbollah terrorism in Lebanon which threatens Israel from the north, and Hamas terrorism in Gaza, which threatens Israel from the south (Hamas, unlike the other terrorist organizations allied with Iran, is Sunni not Shiite, but wholly dependent on Iran now that the new Egyptian leadership is no longer a Hamas supporter). Iran also has a presence in western Afghanistan, and is the major backer of Muqtadā al-Ṣadr’s militant Iraqi militias.

To Iran and its jihadi allies, we are “the great Satan.” Given the lesser threat the Sunni, al Qaeda-linked terrorists pose today, along with the better relations we enjoy with Sunni Egypt, Sunni Saudi Arabia, Sunni Jordan, the Sunni Gulf states, and largely Sunni Turkey--all of whom share a concern about Shia Iran’s rising power--why would we turn to Iran?

Gelb won’t say, but I guess for two very bad reasons: 1) Obama confidante Valerie Jarrett was born in Iran, and has an Obama-like belief in her ability to turn around Iran’s misogynist leaders, and; 2) Democrat Gelb was on the outside looking in when Henry Kissinger pulled off the original “enemy of my enemy is my friend” triumph--the opening to China in 1971--so Gelb would love to be part of a similar, seismic foreign policy shift.

And for Jarrett and Gelb, time is running out.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Hillary Watch: Will Obama counter Hillary’s growing separation from him?

The 2016 campaign for president won’t really begin until after the 2014 mid-terms are finished. Or around that time. It wasn’t until October 22, 2006--just before the mid-terms that year--that Barack Obama, speaking on “Meet the Press,” indicated he might run for president against Hillary Clinton.

So we’re starting our “Hillary Watch” a little early in the 2016 cycle.

We have already noted several times Hillary’s efforts to separate herself from Barack Obama’s failing presidency.

Peter Nicholas of the Wall Street Journal caught yet another Hillary effort at separation from the Obama style:
Clinton recently [referred to Lyndon] Johnson, known as a supreme legislative tactician. She cited the Broadway play, "All the Way," which tells the story of his efforts to pass the [civil rights] law. "If you're going to get something done, you have to persuade," she said at [a] Colorado event.
"My husband had some really serious problems with the Congress when he was in office," she said. "They shut down the government twice. They impeached him once. So it was not the most pleasant of atmospheres. But I will say this: Bill never stopped reaching out to them." Building those relationships on Capitol Hill "is something there is no rest from," she added.
Well-known Hillary foe Dick Morris is making similar observations, but from the perspective that Hillary’s attempt at separation from Obama will damage her:
Clinton is repeating the mistake she made in 2008: targeting general election voters and ignoring the primary electorate. Back then, she supported the Iraq War until well into 2007 and voted for the Patriot Act, alienating her base.
Now, fearful of Obama's drag on a 2016 ticket, she is distancing herself from the president, obliquely criticizing him as a man who paints "a beautiful vision" but cannot follow through. This won't play well with the base. The only real argument Clinton would have against [potential presidential rival Elizabeth] Warren is inevitability: that she will win. That kind of argument [only] holds supporters for a while.
Edward Klein, author of the #1 (ahead of Hillary's book) bestseller Blood Feud: The Clintons vs. the Obamas, has said he heard from an Obama administration source who claims,
Barack, Michelle, and [closest friend, White House operative] Valerie [Jarrett,] have been talking about [running] Elizabeth Warren [against Hillary] for quite some time. Valerie has told Warren that Obama is prepared to throw a great deal of money and organizational support behind her. The Obamas believe that Warren sees things from the same ideological point of view as they do. She is a committed progressive who, like Obama, wants to transform America into a European-style democratic-socialist state.
Klein has his critics, including Business Insider’s Hunter Walker, who quotes an anonymous source saying of Klein,
This might sound hyperbolic, but there is no bigger liar in the entire world. Lying isn't even the word for it. It's some kind of sickness where every single thing you write is fabricated. Every. Single. Thing. I mean, even the photos in his book were found to be altered.
Walker adds,
there is a long history of alleged factual issues in Klein's work. As the source close to the Clintons noted, a photographer released evidence showing Klein misrepresented a salaciously cropped photo of President Clinton in his 2005 book, The Truth About Hillary.
One tends to question the authenticity of any author in Klein's position--at the receiving end of such a strong, presumably fact-backed, denunciation. But since the photo of President Clinton figures so prominently in the denunciation of Klein, check out the actual photo of Bill Clinton’s rope line kiss (here). Judge for yourself.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Conservative Wars: Tamny Target Strikes Back

Peter Wehner
Peter Wehner was on George W. Bush’s White House staff, so a part of the administration John Tamny (and other conservatives) despise for its big spending ways. Wehner was also lead author of Room to Grow: Conservative Reforms For a Limited Government and a Thriving Middle Class, the book Tamny despises (see previous post).

Wehner recently wrote not about Tamny, but rather about Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), whom Wehner respects.  Wehner says that at a recent event Wehner helped organize, Rubio
offered ideas on how to reform our entitlement programs, tax code, higher education, health care, and our social safety net. In doing so, he spoke about single mothers and working class families, wage stagnation, student debt and retirement security, and the effects of globalization and automation. And like Representative Paul Ryan, Rubio understands the need for structural changes in programs, which is quite different, and rather more important than, simply reducing spending.
Wehner is responding to critics on the right when he lauds Rubio as an “advocate for modernization,” as opposed to moderation that moves the GOP toward liberalism, praises Rubio “for a policy agenda designed for the 21st century” that’s adjusted “to the realities of this new era,” and describes Rubio as wanting a “GOP to be both conservative and constructive, opposing the president” but “willing to offer alternatives.”

More pointedly, Weher adds,
unlike some others, whose main ability is to bring hard-core supporters to their feet, [Rubio] seems eager and capable of persuading those who are not on his side yet who may be amenable to his point of view[, reaching] people who aren’t members of the NRA or the Federalist Society, the Tea Party or the American Conservative Union.
Comment:  Republicans know they've lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections.  To Tamny and movement conservatives, the losses stem from the GOP's failure to embrace "less government, more freedom," a failure symbolized by the Bush administration's wrong-headed 2008 bank bailout bill.  To Wehner's more pragmatic conservatives, Republicans are doomed if they can't expand beyond the party's "less government" base to attract--through activist government programs--pieces of the Obama coalition that re-elected him in spite of 2012's bad economy.

Friday, July 11, 2014

A conservative attempts to eat his own.

John Tamny
John Tamny is editor of “RealClearMarkets,” part of the conservative “RealClearPolitics” website. Tamny, employing his editorial prerogative, has published a 5,034-word essay at a website mostly noted for 600-word op-eds.  All Tamny's 5,000 words attempt to demolish an e-book by fellow conservatives titled, Room to Grow: Conservative Reforms For a Limited Government and a Thriving Middle Class.

Tamny highlights the weakness of his arguments not only with length, but also with loaded language: “gauzy condescension,” “plainly dishonest,” “completely glossing over the impressive economic ineptitude of . . . George W. Bush,” “comically asserts,” “laughably absurd,” “plainly false,” “tired policy proposals,” “err impressively,” “horrid imposition, “sheepishly admitted,” “obvious omission,” “oddly tried,” “surely once knew,” “weak minds,” “wholly worthless.” Such words cover the absence of facts.

As for the arguments themselves, Tamny tells us:
Foreigners didn't and don't risk their lives to reach the United States for security, or the "promise" of anything. They took and take those risks because they want freedom.
What about the vast majority who fled oppression? “Freedom” just to live actually meant security more than it meant dog-eat-dog unbridled capitalism. Scraping together a living is the price immigrants were and are willing to pay to escape oppression. But while many did come for the right to keep what they earned, the “masses yearning to be free” want(ed) personal security.

Besides employing sarcasm, Tamny misuses China to argue “who needs education?”--a most surprising approach since Chinese culture worships education.

Tamny writes:
Top-level classroom instruction will supposedly make us taller, better looking, wealthier, and just about everything else. . . we can't ignore highly undereducated China's modern economic rise. . . As Fox Butterfield wrote about Chinese education in his 1982 book China: Alive In the Bitter Sea, "12% of those who finish primary school are unable to go on to junior high, and there is no room in high school for 50% of the students who complete junior high." Regarding access to college education, Butterfield reported that "only 3% of the college-age population in China, about a million students, can get into university." . .Butterfield wrote about how the Guanming Daily "groused that China ranked 113 out of a list of 141 countries in the world in percentage of its young people who get a post-secondary education."
Tamny’s reliance on Butterfield’s book--32 years out of date--undermines his assertion that Chinese succeed without education. In Butterfield’s time, the Chinese were extremely upset about how much Mao’s Cultural Revolution (1966-76) had disrupted education, leading to the Guanming Daily’s concern--please note the newspaper is a government-run organ--about China’s low world ranking in education.

The China picture is vastly different today--Shanghai high school students top the world in reading, math, and science. China worships education and has responded accordingly. Tamny by inference associates himself with the anti-education Mao.

Tamny is apparently a “gold bug,” writing:
For centuries gold has been the definer of money not because it's pretty, but because it's so historically stable in value. When money floats in value, disharmony is brought into trade, and investment is distorted.
That’s not quite right. Gold, in fact, has a well-established negative relationship both to the dollar’s value and the value of most other currencies in the trade weighted U.S. dollar index. A weak dollar helps our balance of trade--it’s why we accused both Japan in the 1980s and China in the decades since of keeping their currencies weak to boost exports.

To Tamny:
not only can income not be planned, neither can money supply. Because it can't, any policy meant to plan it by definition ensures unstable money values that render investment rather cautious. To state the obvious, . . . investors are loath to commit capital that, if they're lucky enough to achieve returns, will come back in soggy dollars
It’s true that extremely low inflation rates--the result of the Fed’s current easy money policies designed to boost job creation--discourage investment dollars looking for a high real rate of return. But Tamny seems unrealistically determined to do away with government:
[Book co-author Peter] Wehner argues that conservatives need to stop talking "about what the government should not be doing." In truth, economic growth is weak today precisely because the government is doing too much. Economic growth is once again easy, and it's as simple as politicians getting out of the way.
And “simple” today may also mean politicians who don’t give voters the security they want will soon be out of office.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

America: Divided We Stand?

America is a divided nation. To those blaming division on unnecessary Washington D.C. partisanship, a recent, extensive Pew survey has the response: polarization comes from the people; Washington reflects that reality.

According to Alan Murray, Pew Research president, “growing minorities have taken clear sides in the political battle, see high stakes in the outcome and are filled with passionate intensity.”

The Pew survey found:
  • the percentage of American voters who adhere consistently to liberal or conservative views has doubled since 1994, from 10% to 21%. More than twice as many Republicans and Democrats express a “very unfavorable” opinion of the other party as did so two decades ago.  Further, a majority of these “strong partisans” believe the other side poses a “threat to the nation’s well being.” 
  • liberal thinking has coalesced at least as much as conservative thinking. Democrats holding consistently liberal views have more than quadrupled in twenty years, from 5% to 23%. Republicans with similarly consistent conservative views have fluctuated [from] 13% in 1994, [down to] 6% in 2004, and [up to] 20% this year. 
  •  “the ideological. . . are driving American politics,” [Pew’s Murray added,] noting they are more likely to vote, make campaign contributions, contact members of Congress or work in campaigns. And 38% of politically engaged Democrats now hold consistently liberal views, up from just 8% in 1994, while 33% of politically engaged Republicans are consistent conservatives, up from 23% in 1994 and just 10% in 2004. 
Pew adds new details, but America’s nearly equal split--an unfortunate byproduct of efficient politics--has been around at least since this blog began in 2006.

So, two troublesome truths, recently re-learned:

1. America’s divided because its people are divided.

2. America abroad faces problems beyond our control.