Monthly Archives: February 2010

The Man from another Dimension

Senator Scott Brown describes himself as a fiscal conservative and a social moderate.  This formulation challenges voters to think of fiscal policy and social policy as two different things, instead of the old left-right divide.  This means that policy choices can be sorted into four buckets instead of two.  Of course, real politics is more complicated than that, but – for voting purposes – two dimensions are better than one.  Here, then, is a two-dimensional taxonomy:

Fiscal and Social Conservative

This is the new, socially-oriented Republican Party.  There are no Democrats in this box, and not even all Republicans.  For these people, the social dimension dominates, which means protecting their ideal of social organization and family values in particular.  They are often blind to fiscal policy, and they consider social moderates like Sen. Brown to be false Republicans.

Fiscal Progressive and Social Conservative

It is hard to find any voters in this category.  Most people who are social conservatives are also fiscal conservatives, or at least indifferent to fiscal policy.  To find leftist fiscal ideas together with social conservatism, you have to consider old-school union labor – intolerant of social minorities and big business alike.

Fiscal and Social Liberal

Modern Democrats have the advantage of moral consistency.  Since the 1960s, Democrats have been socially liberal, anti-war and hostile to business.  They favor big government and they don’t mind high taxes, especially taxes on corporations and “the rich.”  Since they have been in the majority, Democrats have drifted ever farther to the left.

Fiscal Conservative and Social Moderate

This is the grand old Republican Party, as Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan knew it – small government, low taxes and states’ rights.  Goldwater fought a losing battle against the religious right, as did his successor John McCain.  Today, only “northeast Republicans” are in this category, along with “blue dog” Democrats.

Ask yourself which part of “taxpayer-funded abortion” offends you, or “bank bailout.”  The answer may be more complicated than you think.

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Socialism Implodes in Greece

Nations face the same budget constraints as households.  They cannot spend more than they earn, without going into debt, and they will not be long in debt before the collector comes calling.  A surprising number of people can’t grasp this simple fact, including people who are in charge of national budgets.

Greece’s budget deficit is 12.7% of GDP, and now they can’t get financing.  Prime Minister George Papandreou has resisted making any budget cuts.  He is a socialist, and committed to his welfare state.

“We want to be able to borrow on the same terms as other countries in the euro zone,” he said.  This is like having a 500 FICO score and wondering why you can’t buy a car.

We want to be able to borrow on the same terms as other countries

Sadly, the Greek public has become dependent on handouts from the state.  This is a moral weakness Jeremiah sees developing in America, too.  Greeks are now rioting over losing their entitlements.  A responsible government would face the fact that outsiders, like Germany, are not obliged to bail them out.

But this is not a responsible government, and Mr. Papandreou is not facing facts.  Instead, he is blaming “speculators” for manipulating the debt market.  The socialists are blaming “the bourgeois,” of all things, and government officials are even blaming the Nazis.

To read the popular press, you would think that the IMF and the ECB had mounted an armed invasion of Greece.  The bottom line is that the Greek government needs a loan, and there is no one foolish enough to give them one.  Whatever agency steps in – probably the IMF – will demand austerity measures.  Mr. Papandreou must either implement the measures or face default.  For a household, this is like choosing between bankruptcy and the credit counselor.

And so it goes.  First comes socialism, then comes the debt crisis, and finally the IMF to pick up the pieces.  The budget deficit in America is 10.6%.

See also: Greece’s Budget Crisis

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Save the RINOs

This week’s National Review has an article applauding Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) for his efforts to rid the Party of moderates like Arlen Specter.  He has even started a conservative PAC for the purpose.  This is the same hidebound ideology that cost the Republicans a seat in New York.  At the time, Jeremiah warned that Olympia Snowe (R-ME) would be targeted next.  Indeed, Senator Snowe recently wrote that “being a Republican moderate sometimes feels like … you’re no longer welcome in the tribe.”  It’s worth reading her editorial, entire.

“The only litmus test of what constitutes a Republican [is] our belief in restraining government spending, pro-growth policies, tax reduction, sound national defense, and maximum individual liberty.” – Ronald Reagan

Right-wingers like Sen. DeMint present voters with a Hobson’s Choice.  With the Democrats, we have runaway government spending, and with the Republicans we have reactionary “social conservatism.”  Unbelievably, the National Review cites the recent victory of Scott Brown in Massachusetts – conveniently forgetting that Sen. Brown, a moderate, is exactly the kind of Republican Sen. DeMint opposes.

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A Modest Proposal

Jeremiah’s vision for health insurance is a broad national market like the one for auto insurance.  Everyone will buy it, and insurers will compete on cost and service.  Health insurers will then drive innovation and cost control, as the IIHS does today.

Some feel that “individual mandate” infringes a constitutional right not to have insurance.  This is an impractical theory that only holds up if hospitals have an offsetting right to deny care.  Since people are going to turn up in the Emergency Room, they must have health insurance – just as everyone who might need a car repair is required to have auto insurance.

Congress should outlaw enrollment restrictions such as “pre-existing condition,” but allow insurers to charge a competitive price based on the enrollee’s health – and then make subsidies available for those who demonstrate financial need.  Help with premiums would be the only application of public funds, and the only avenue for redistribution.

The subsidies would be offset by ending the tax deduction for employer-paid health insurance – with no special pleading for union jobs.  Workers who think their company plan is free are sadly mistaken.  The only benefit in this “benefit” comes from the tax deduction.

Jeremiah was shocked to learn that there are barriers to interstate competition.  These have to come down, and this is an appropriate use of federal power under the commerce clause.  Speaking of states’ rights, there should be tort reform but it should be at the state level.  If Missouri wants to run the doctors out and the premiums up, that’s their prerogative.

Lastly, Congress must allow pharmaceuticals – with appropriate safety regulation – to be imported.  Drug companies have a right to recoup their R&D expense, but they don’t need to recoup all of it in America.  Once there is a vibrant market for health insurance, we will see the insurers do battle with the drug companies.  Voters will love that.

See also: New York Times

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Our First Black President

America’s first black president was Bill Clinton.  Of course, he was born poor and white in Arkansas but, in terms of fellowship with the civil rights movement, Mr. Clinton was all black.  Growing up intelligent and liberal in the segregated South, the young Bill Clinton developed a cultural sensitivity that persisted into his adult political career.  Today, his offices are in Harlem.  He grew up playing bebop on the saxophone and, supposedly, he knows Dr. King’s famous speech by heart.

Where civil-rights leaders like Jesse Jackson doubted that Barack Obama was “black enough” to merit an endorsement, they never wondered about Bill Clinton.  At the end of the day, what makes a black president is not his skin colour but his policies.

Many people endorsed Barack Obama for president simply because he is black.  “He is one of us, and he knows what it’s like,” went the argument.  Now that the president has had a bad year, these racists are making all kinds of excuses.  The fact is that being “one of us,” is no guarantee that a politician is going to enact the policies “we” want.  He may not actually know “what it’s like,” or if he does, he may lack the capacity to do anything about it.

The 2008 presidential campaign was a shameful display of identity politics.  One camp supported Mr. Obama largely because of his race, and another supported Hillary Clinton because of her gender.  In a last-ditch apology for nominating a middle-aged white man, the Republican Party produced Sarah Palin.  Feminist voters who had supported Mrs. Clinton might now switch parties, they hoped, only because of a woman on the ticket.  Never mind that Palin is a social conservative, and anti-choice.

When pundits and celebrities say they endorse a candidate because of race, gender, age, religion or hairstyle, what they really mean is “politics is too complicated for me.”

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Moment of Truth for the Tea Party

The grassroots anti-tax movement known as the Tea Party is meeting this week in Nashville.  Jeremiah has written before on the need for a third party, and about the schism in the Republican Party.  The question is which side of the divide the Tea Party will represent.

The movement takes its name from the anti-tax rebellion which led, ultimately, to the American Revolution.  It aims to rein in government spending, and to curb what it sees as socialist leanings in the Obama administration.  This lucid purpose, unfortunately, is clouded by some other motives which are distractions at best – and easy targets for the movement’s detractors.

The appeal of the movement was poignantly depicted by a middle-aged woman at a rally last summer, tearfully wondering where “her country” had gone.  Many people agree that America is on the wrong track, but nostalgia is a poor guide to policy.  We cannot, at a stroke, bring back America’s dominance of the world economy.  Nor would we want to bring back other souvenirs from the Fifties, like racism, sexism and social conformity.

The Tea Party could become a powerful voting bloc, or even a third party, if it sticks to its message of fiscal responsibility.  To judge by its aspiring leaders, people like Tom Tancredo and Sarah Palin, it looks more likely to become a lunatic fringe.

The Republican Party has recently been moving toward sensible “big tent” positions that could bring huge gains in November.  If the Palinistas manage to subvert the Tea Party movement, or otherwise to associate the GOP with their far-right agenda, they will only succeed in handing victory to the Democrats.

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Scott Brown is Pro-Choice

Readers will recall New York’s special election, which Republicans chose to lose rather than soften their position on abortion.  This year, the GOP seems to have evolved.  The new senator from Massachusetts, Scott Brown, supports Roe v. Wade.  He also has a moderate view of gay marriage.

The party seems to have learned a lesson from NY-23.  This time, they are embracing their man.  Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell invoked the “big tent” notion, which hasn’t been heard since Newt Gingrich.

Republicans from the northeast are not exactly like Republicans from the south or the west, we understand that. We have a big tent party.

Brown describes himself as a fiscal conservative and a social moderate.  This is exactly what the party needs in November.  If your platform is out of touch with the voters, then it’s time to change your platform.  That’s right, Republicans, the time for change is now.

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