Friday, February 24, 2012

Family Feud: Democratic Activists v. Democratic Voters - The Ideological Gulf that Thwarts a Sustained Majority

Members of the press should read this report:

Family Feud: Democratic Activists v. Democratic Voters - The Ideological Gulf that Thwarts a Sustained Majority

The GOP voters and activists aren't very far apart, ideologically. However, there is a statistically significant gap separating Democratic Party Activists from mainstream voters.

I believe the press and chattering class are closer to the activists than the voters — which is why they can't believe Rick Santorum might run a close national campaign against Pres. Obama. Santorum is like an "alien" to Democratic activists.
Ruth Marcus writes at the Washington Post:
In the 10 presidential elections since 1972, Democratic activists — those who attended a campaign event and donated money — rated themselves an average of 3.06 on a 7-point liberal-to-conservative ideological scale, with 4 being “moderate.” By contrast, those who merely identify as Democrats or lean that way were significantly closer to the center, an average of 3.77.

This “ideological gulf,” Eberly argues, coincides with — and helps explain — decreased party loyalty. Since 1970, Democratic-leaning independents have increased from fewer than one in five members of the Democratic coalition to one in three. This shifting composition makes a difference.

In short, Democrats are a distinctly purple party with blue leadership. Republicans are a uniformly red party becoming redder by the year. Those clashing palettes frame the parties’ very different challenges.
So, the Democrats have a split party, while the GOP is more uniform. However, I'd argue that GOP leadership is more "purple" than its base, which is why party elders support moderate candidates, overall, while the average GOP voter and activists alike want more conservative alternatives.

Voting Rights and Photo IDs

Party activists do not trust our election system. This is true on the left and the right. The left worries about voting machines, the right worries about voter fraud. Both have valid concerns — so why can't the extremes agree on solutions? Because in today's political climate "the other party" is pure evil, driven by party over country if you believe the loudest voices.

And in this era of deep distrust and division among the party activists (the general public is nowhere near as divided), facts don't seem to matter.

The Democratic party base claims photo identification requirements for voting are an attempt to limit minority access to the polls. This is nonsense, because these same voters use photo ID to buy alcohol, drive cars, attend school, rent movies, and much more. The voter ID laws won't change much of anything, and would probably only limit a handful of instances of fraudulent voting.

Still, I do support voter ID laws as a way to increase faith in the system. I also support simplified paper ballots, over purely electronic voting. ScanTron voting (fill-in the bubble) still makes sense to me because you can recount without a machine. As a compromise, why not reform voting laws across the board?

Let me present some facts indicating why we need voter ID laws:
Pew study: 1 in 8 voter records flawed
By Gregory Korte, USA TODAY 
WASHINGTON – More than 24 million voter-registration records in the United States— about one in eight — are inaccurate, out-of-date or duplicates. Nearly 2.8 million people are registered in two or more states, and perhaps 1.8 million registered voters are dead. 
- In Wood County, Ohio, home of Bowling Green State University, there are 106% as many registered voters as there were people in the 2010 Census. 
- Nearly 2.8 million people are registered to vote in more than one state. 
The 1993 National Voter Registration Act, known as the "motor voter" law, made it easier for people to register to vote by, for example, allowing them to register when they get a state driver's license. 
That same law also made it more difficult to remove someone from the voting rolls. Unless officials have a death certificate or written confirmation from the voter that they've moved, a voter must miss two presidential elections — that's eight years — before they can be removed.
Partisan Democrats can scream all they want about voter ID requirements being discriminatory, but you cannot blame Republican voters for wondering about 2.8 million dual registrations and 1.8 million dead voters. This doesn't even count the people ineligible to vote for other reasons, from incapacity to incarceration.
February 12, 2012
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - South Carolina's attorney general has notified the U.S. Justice Department of potential voter fraud in primary election voting. 
Attorney General Alan Wilson sent details of an analysis by the Department of Motor Vehicles to U.S. Attorney Bill Nettles. 
In a letter dated Thursday, Wilson says the analysis found 953 ballots cast by voters listed as dead. In 71 percent of those cases, ballots were cast between two months and 76 months after the people died. That means they "voted" up to 6 1/3 years after their death.
At the same time, Democrats are right to distrust purely digital voting. Not that paper voting is perfect, though it is a good way to limit problems.

Ironically, it is Democratic strongholds of Illinois, New York, and New Jersey with a handful of serious voting violations. Still, I'm all for anything that helps prevent fraud. I'd also disallow any single vote or lever to mark a "party line" ballot. If you're going to vote, vote by the office. Years ago, it was common in NYC to rig the levers to favor Democrats. I've never liked voting machines after reading historical accounts of the rigging. Rigging a mechanical lever or hacking a computer… both are too easy.

We should never use wireless computing technologies in voting. I've lectured on computer security; I don't use wireless for banking and I don't want wireless used for voting. I do not trust "open source" any more than proprietary computer systems, either.

Like many in the Democratic base, I wonder if voting machine contracts aren't yet another form of crony capitalism. Of course, I distrust most large government contracts. Someone is always gaming the system.

My compromise proposal would likely appeal to most average voters: paper ballots, photo ID, and requiring all elections to last at least three days. I never liked the "all on Tuesday" model and I dislike voting by mail for security reasons.

Of course, the two parties would never admit they both have reasonable concerns about voting.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Krugman Misleads Again with 'Moochers Against Welfare'

Paul Krugman, unfortunately, is the dominant voice among left-leaning economists. His columns are too often a sad example of what passes for great intellectual insight from the Coastal Elites in today's United States.

Consider this series of logical leaps:

Moochers Against Welfare 
Published: February 16, 2012 
[The] regions in which government programs account for the largest share of personal income — are precisely the regions electing those severe conservatives. Wasn't Red America supposed to be the land of traditional values, where people don't eat Thai food and don't rely on handouts?
Krugman is a master of misleading arguments, resorting to a mix of straw man arguments and ad hominem insults that are meant to belittle conservative voters. Why the use of the word "moochers" for people on aid? If the goal is to make a point that people on aid are not moochers, Krugman fails. Instead, his use comes across as insulting. A moocher is someone who asks for handouts without offering to do anything in return. Krugman makes reference to an earlier New York Times article on business owners and others finding themselves on food stamps or other forms of aid.

These people are not moochers, and Krugman certainly knows this. His attempt to illustrate a larger point falls flat, if that is his real goal.

Throughout this column (and many others) Krugman is technically correct on some points, while relying on his readers being equally biased against specific regions and demographics. I believe Krugman wants to reinforce his "elite" readers' biases.

The overall argument he makes is ridiculous, though.

I can dislike the system, but find myself trapped within it. Being a slave within any system might leave an individual without a pragmatic option to accepting the food, shelter, clothing, or whatever else the system offers. For centuries prison camps have used this method: forced labor followed by "generous" offers of food or water for good behavior. The idea is that in time the prisoner starts to really believe this "handouts" are signs of kindness.

I'll offer the absurd extreme as a first rebuttal: Would it be wrong for a North Korean or a Cuban to accept government aid to survive while also blaming the government for his or her dire situation? On a closer parallel, is it wrong for the Greeks, Italians, or Spanish to blame their governments for their situations?

While I would argue that many voters in the social-democratic nations are also to blame for their economic situations, the point is that government can be to blame for lousy economic conditions or to the policies that exacerbate these conditions. Yet, because you find yourself unemployed or otherwise in need, what choice is there but to turn to the very power that is creating the mess?

You think it is wrong of a welfare recipient to assert the political system might be creating unemployment and poverty? I know many people who have had to accept aid while feeling horrible and angry about their situations.

In fact, one could argue that governments sometimes want citizens to be dependent. Governments can make the citizens no better than slaves, and seeing no choice but survival the people accept handouts.

Krugman is trying to imply fiscal conservatives are hypocrites when the reality is that many know the mess around them was created, in large part, by politicians. (I still also blame some voters, but our leaders haven't led well.)

Many "conservative" voters, especially the social conservatives, are not classical liberals. I'm not a social conservative, and don't share much with the modern GOP voting base, but I understand their "local is better" philosophy. They prefer a less powerful federal government, but they would accept a state or local government providing community-based assistance. You can support different government and not be anti-govenment.

Krugman and others seem to believe only an idiot could disagree with his love for centralized power.

But, there are plenty of reasons to dislike the dictates of the elites of both major parties.

If I were a parent and living in an urban setting, I could believe that our schools are failing students and still have no choice but to send my child to a failing government school. Of course, the reason I have no choice might be because liberal politicians (and many unions) oppose school choice while sending their children to private schools. That's genuine hypocrisy in my mind because it allows some children to be penalized; the burden of a bad education is life-long.

The parent is forced to accept the "handout" of a free government education for his or her children. A mediocre education, but a handout nonetheless. How dare they complain!

I've been in business and dislike any and all government "favoritism" that helps or hinders one business over another. Yet, I would relocate to an "enterprise zone" and I definitely claim every legal tax deduction for which I am eligible. I don't have to like the tax system, and I can decry its lack of uniformity, but it would be stupid of me to pay more taxes than my competitors do.

It is not ignorant or hypocritical to believe government forces some of us to accept handouts and other benefits we would rather not accept. Government is all about control, regardless of which parties are in charge at any given moment. They just seek different controls.

To further his thesis that conservative voters opposed to government are ignorant, Krugman writes:
Cornell University's Suzanne Mettler points out that many beneficiaries of government programs seem confused about their own place in the system. She tells us that 44 percent of Social Security recipients, 43 percent of those receiving unemployment benefits, and 40 percent of those on Medicare say that they "have not used a government program."
This is a technically correct argument, but misleading for a few reasons.

I can find quotes from Democrats and Republicans telling voters that we pay money into Social Security as if it is a retirement program. Unemployment is supposedly from unemployment insurance. Politicians talk of a "lock box" and keeping programs like Social Security "out of the hands of politicians."

You can forgive voters for believing the political rhetoric, especially since it is often liberal politicians claiming that voters deserve to receive "what they paid in" over a lifetime. The problem, as Krugman and others will acknowledge, is that most of us receive far more from federal "insurance" programs than we contributed to the programs.

The voters aren't stupid — they've accept the rhetoric that it is their own money they are receiving back. I don't blame people for being confused and I don't suggest anyone is ignorant because the system is so complex. If politicians of both parties explained that these programs are not "insurance" or defined contribution benefits, then the public would understand that recipients of aid are getting welfare.

Most voters also don't release the earned income tax credit is welfare. Again, it is named in a manner meant to confuse voters. Maybe Krugman should argue for truth in federal program naming.

I plan to write on the historical reasons some states and regions of states are distrustful of government, while other (mainly urban) settings embrace government. I've addressed this before, in terms of rural lifestyles and history. But, I don't know that many elites appreciate the rural experience, even those elites originally from rural communities.

Government "help" comes with strings attached and a sense of guilt. That's easy for me to understand.
More on that in another entry.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Obama, Taxes, and Jesus?

On February 2, 2012, President Obama spoke at the annual National Prayer Breakfast. This event dates back to Eisenhower, and is generally used to talk about unity and shared values. Not this year. Instead, Obama used the opportunity to promote his tax policies.

I do not mind a politician being guided by his or her ethical foundation, including religious beliefs, as long as those beliefs do not infringe upon my freedom. However, politicians of all types tend to misquote scriptures and misrepresent them. I'd rather politicians not attempt to be theologians.

Keep religion out of politics. Period. (I also dislike ending every speech with "God Bless America!" If there is a Creator, the entire world needs some blessings about now.)

I wrote this blog entry less than a year ago:

The president's speech is filled with misrepresentations of the Bible, selective readings that do not reflect the essence of the scripture.

I am agnostic, at best, and more inclined towards atheism. But, I am unwilling to accept a president intentionally or unintentionally misrepresenting a faith.

And when I talk about shared responsibility, it's because I genuinely believe that in a time when many folks are struggling, at a time when we have enormous deficits, it's hard for me to ask seniors on a fixed income, or young people with student loans, or middle-class families who can barely pay the bills to shoulder the burden alone. And I think to myself, if I'm willing to give something up as somebody who's been extraordinarily blessed, and give up some of the tax breaks that I enjoy, I actually think that's going to make economic sense. 
But for me as a Christian, it also coincides with Jesus's teaching that "for unto whom much is given, much shall be required." It mirrors the Islamic belief that those who've been blessed have an obligation to use those blessings to help others, or the Jewish doctrine of moderation and consideration for others.

What? Has Obama read the section of Luke he is citing, which includes Luke 12:48? It is a parable about servants keeping watch over a house. They have been given food, shelter, and other comforts. In return, they are expected to protect the house.

In case you miss the metaphor, which the president either misses or ignores: the "comforts" are faith and the servants to whom the Word was given are the faithful.
Luke 12:37: Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them sit down to meat, and shall come and serve them. 
38: And if he shall come in the second watch, and if in the third, and find them so, blessed are those servants. 
39: But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what hour the thief was coming, he would have watched, and not have left his house to be broken through. 
40: Be ye also ready: for in an hour that ye think not the Son of man cometh. 
42: And the Lord said, Who then is the faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall set over his household, to give them their portion of food in due season? 
43: Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. 
44: Of a truth I say unto you, that he will set him over all that he hath. 
45: But if that servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and the maidservants, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken; 
46: the lord of that servant shall come in a day when he expecteth not, and in an hour when he knoweth not, and shall cut him asunder, and appoint his portion with the unfaithful. 
47: And that servant, who knew his lord's will, and made not ready, nor did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes; 
48: but he that knew not, and did things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes . And to whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required: and to whom they commit much, of him will they ask the more. 
49: I came to cast fire upon the earth; and what do I desire, if it is already kindled? 
50: But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished! 
51: Think ye that I am come to give peace in the earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division: 
52: for there shall be from henceforth five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three.
This is a warning to be a good steward, to do your job well based on what you have been given by the household master (the Creator) so when the master returns he will be pleased. This has nothing, nothing at all with being given material comfort.

There is nothing about being blessed with physical comfort. Luke 12 isn't about sharing wealth. Servants have no material wealth. You could actually read it, if you wanted to twist it another way: "You've been given the means for a job. If you do the job, expect more rewards."

Actually, that's a pretty "conservative" idea. Do your job and you will be compensated. I like that reading of the text.

Remember, the Bible also asks us to work six days, warns against being idle and lazy, and even tell us that Jesus was once rich. I'm not kidding, you could read the following in several ways:
Corinthians 8:9: For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.
Remember, Jesus was a carpenter in a time that carpenters were also architects and engineers. It was a well-paid profession at that time. This entire "humble carpenter" thing has been distorted. Joseph was not poor, he was probably "middle class" or even "upper-middle" for the time period.

But, let's not let facts get in the way of a call for more taxes.

What does the Bible actually say about taxes and government? Again, please read my previous post:

It is clear in the Bible that The Creator does not approve of high taxes (they are declared equal to slavery!) or big government.

The president should have asked someone to check that little detail. He's calling for a 35 to 39 percent tax rate. Has he read what happened when David raised taxes and conducted a census? It wasn't pretty.
The story of Joseph and Pharaoh in Genesis, the first book of the Bible, is the story of a land grab by a government. During a time of hardship (famine) the Pharaoh buys the land of farmers, making them "slaves" to a 20 percent tax rate. The farmers were allowed farm the land, but not own it.
Genesis 47:20: So Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh, for all the Egyptians sold their fields, because the famine was severe on them. The land became Pharaoh's. 
21: As for the people, he made servants of them from one end of Egypt to the other. 
23: Then Joseph said to the people, "Behold, I have this day bought you and your land for Pharaoh. Now here is seed for you, and you shall sow the land. 
24: And at the harvests you shall give a fifth to Pharaoh, and four fifths shall be your own, as seed for the field and as food for yourselves and your households, and as food for your little ones."
Ironically, it was stored grain (a form of taxes) that allowed Pharaoh, to take the land. Sound familiar? Bailouts paid during a time of need lead to government control. Had the people stored their own grain instead of paying to Pharaoh during the good years, they might have avoided this fiasco.

In the Bible, when government takes from you, it seldom ends well. Maybe there is a lesson in that?
Christians are expected to give what their hearts compel them to give, not what a government takes from them. I certainly feel better giving time or money to causes about which I care. I'm not a Christian, but I definitely appreciate the concept that meaningful giving is voluntary. I don't feel great when the government takes anything. The president confuses giving with taxes.
II Corinthians 9:6: The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 
7: Each one must give as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 
8: And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. 
9: As it is written, "He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever."
As far as I'm concerned, this is all political theatrics. The president, like all politicians, is using faith to suit his goals. I don't like it when Republicans do it. I don't like it when Democrats do it.

In a speech that is overtly political, and misleading, the president does include this:
Now, we can earnestly seek to see these values lived out in our politics and our policies, and we can earnestly disagree on the best way to achieve these values. In the words of C.S. Lewis, "Christianity has not, and does not profess to have a detailed political program. It is meant for all men at all times, and the particular program which suited one place or time would not suit another."
He includes this citation right after talking about taxes and "giving."

I'm not a Christian, and you have no right to make me behave like whatever you imagine a Christian to be. I respect faith, but don't use your faith to justify making me do anything.