Showing posts from 2010

Liberalism 1.0 Through 4.0

The political terminology of the United States is often at odds with the terms used in Europe and the U.K. When corresponding with colleagues, I've had to recognize terms such as "neo-liberal," "Anglo-capitalist," and several others. The greatest confusion, though, is the simple "liberal" — which is seldom a compliment in European commentaries. What I consider "libertarian" might be close to "liberal" in European usage, but not quite a perfect equivalent.

Regardless, this is an interesting column on the word "liberal."
Can The L-word Be Saved? WALTER RUSSELL MEADPolitically speaking, America may be the most confused country in the world.  Millions of people in this country are conservatives and even reactionaries who think they are liberals; we have millions more liberals and radicals who call themselves conservative.It is an unholy mess and it needs to be cleared up.  It’s time for a language intervention.Despite the mess…

Obama & the Rhetoric of Progressivism

The following essay was one I read several times. It is interesting, regardless of one's particular biases because it does offer several important historical references to the nature of "progressive" political views.
Obama and the Rhetoric of Progressivism
December 10, 2010
By Peter BerkowitzIt seems Berkowitz is associated with the Hoover Institute, as a foreign policy expert specializing in the Middle East. He is a political scientist, it appears, with an interest in Western democratic trends and history. His introduction, then, to progressive political rhetoric, correctly begins with an acknowledgment that the movement of the early twentieth century was in many ways a positive force for change.
At their best, the original progressives responded to dramatic social and economic upheavals generated by the industrial revolution, opposed real Gilded Age abuses, and promoted salutary social and political reforms. They took the side of the exploited, the weak, and the wronged.…

Taxing the Rich vs Reality

Tax the rich! I hear that on MSNBC, read it online, and hear it on radio. The problem is, most of the "rich" are wealthy, which means you'd have to consider income not wealth when talking about "income taxes." You cannot tax what someone has in net worth, which might be property, money, stocks, et cetera. The wealth of Bill Gates, at $45 billion, is not income — the figure is his total wealth. You can't confiscate wealth. Even if you could, it wouldn't help the U.S. budget problem.

And, as my wife points out, Bill Gates and other billionaires paid income taxes on whatever they have already. You can't tax income twice.

I believe this is really about envy. We seem to want to punish success, and blame the successful for any financial problems our nation has. The simple truth is, our government suffers from out-of-control spending.

With a $3.5 trillion annual budget, all the wealth of Bill Gates ($45B) would fund 1.3% (4.7 days) of the U.S. government. …

Rush and the Media

It is called sarcasm. People seem to miss it is a trap, even when the obvious absurdity is employed. Limbaugh announces "Tweak the Press"with an intro... and people still repeat the information seriously. (And did anyone taking him out of context mention the Newsweek article he was citing? "Even Babies Discriminate" Sept. 5 issue.) I don't agree with Rush on ANY social issue, but at least I know when he's manipulating the media. It's a game to him, and Carter (et al) are walking right into the trap. Sad, sad, sad. Don't play the game, people -- you end up looking bad, too.

Idiotic "progressive" Web sites quote Rush out of context, making it easier for conservatives and libertarians to point out how sloppy the left and the media are. You never look good using snippets of what people say.

How can you miss blatant absurdity? How can you miss the fact any time Rush uses a "segment theme" that there is a comedy routine involved? Do …

GOP, Tea Party, and Trends

There is an assumption that the GOP is making a mistake when it shift to the right. I'm not so sure, in the short term, based on my travels and work this year. I've been from Florida to California, Minnesota to Texas. What I hear is a shift, a sharp shift, to conservative fiscal views -- and a deep anti-union, anti-corporation, anti-politician sentiment.From Pew (July 16, 2010):

"In assessing their own political views, 40% of voters describe their own political views as conservative (either conservative or very conservative), 36% as moderate, and 22% as liberal (including very liberal). There are substantial differences in the way that Republican and Democratic voters describe their political views."


Working with colleagues analyzing local views, we find a substantial "blue collar" shift to the right. Even in New Jersey, we find that 40% of "likely vo…

Obama's Ohio visit points to jobs divide between public, private sector -

If you want to know the difference between the ruling class and the rest of us:Obama's Ohio visit points to jobs divide between public, private sector -"Republicans have more private sector employment, with 63 percent of households citing at least one members privately employed, compared with 46 percent for Democrats."
From an article on the Reason website:Sixty-three percent of "the rich," those in the top 15 income segment (annual income greater than $100,000) are government employees. Among those in the top 1 percent of income($500,000 annually), 85 percent are private-sector. Bureau of Labor Statistics report reveals as of 2010 government workers earn an average of 44 percent more than similar private-sector workers and over 66 percent greater benefits.California taxpayers are already paying pensions of over $100,000 a year to more than 12,000 former government workers…Something is wrong with a system that pays the "ruling class" so m…

HR 847 - James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010

The media conversation last week on HR 847 demonstrated the problem with current politics: right-leaning talking heads ("commentators") without any knowledge at all of the bill, which makes it seem like the bill in current form is okay. However, the media reports of the Republican "poison pill" on illegal immigrants presented a part of the truth, but not the depth of HR 847's problems.The bill and its evolution are available at: history of this bill demonstrates why the public is cynical about the two parties:The bill was introduced at 70 pages, 18,737 words. Actually, there was a 50-page version that was strong enough to survive unanimous consent and a quick voice vote, but that bill did not leave committee. The bill voted on was 222-pages, 37,500 words, and had been expanded to fit the needs of several major NYC donors to campaigns. So, while there was no pork in the bill, there certainly were changes made to a…

Ms. Sherrod's Speech Was Most Certainly Not About Transcending Racism - Andy McCarthy - The Corner on National Review Online

Ms. Sherrod's Speech Was Most Certainly Not About Transcending Racism - Andy McCarthy - The Corner on National Review Online

What Ms. Sherrod did say, in the present tense:
You know. I haven't seen such a mean-spirited people as I've seen lately over this issue of health care. [Mumurs of agreement.]Some of the racism we thought was buried — [someone in the audience says, "It surfaced!"] Didn't it surface? Now, we endured eight years of the Bushes and we didn't do the stuff these Republicans are doing because you have a black president. [Applause]That certainly seems tinged by racial concerns, but I also appreciate her background shaped her views. Ms. Sherrod is both an inspiring story on many levels and a complex generational tale on others. Her biases are still present, whatever their causes. I can't imagine what she has endured, but to canonize her is also a mistake.

She should not have been fired, but she should be held to account for being politica…

Tea Party Critics: Mixing and Matching

The following mixes and matches several quite different groups, confounding Tea Party activists will a long list of varied demographics:The Very Angry Tea Party
By J.M. BERNSTEIN a bracing and astringent essay in The New York Review of Books, pointedly titled "The Tea Party Jacobins," Mark Lilla argued that the hodge-podge list of animosities Tea party supporters mention fail to cohere into a body of political grievances in the conventional sense: they lack the connecting thread of achieving political power. It is not for the sake of acquiring political power that Tea Party activists demonstrate, rally and organize; rather, Lilla argues, the appeal is to "individual opinion, individual autonomy, and individual choice, all in the service of neutralizing, not using, political power." He calls Tea Party activists a "libertarian mob" since they proclaim the belief "that they can …

Academic Groupthink = Political Homogeneity

Reflections on:Groupthink in Academia
Majoritarian Departmental Politics and the Professional Pyramid
February 11, 2009
Daniel B. Klein, Charlotta Stern
The Independent Review, Spring 2009 have two reactions to this article and, admittedly, my views are at odds on the surface. 1. We hire people like ourselves and seek to work in a place that mirrors our views.
2. Universities should be different and attempt to encourage debate and discussion.I don't know how to bring these two views into alignment. I would, however, draw a distinction between the humanities and "hard" sciences / engineering. The humanities are dominated by political theoreticians, while the differences in math, science, engineering, and medicine are less "political." This does not mean there are not serious intellectual differences that shape every discipline; from computer science to physics there are debates about which lines of research …

Do Economists Change Their Tune on Budget Deficits?

The Subject: When the White House Changes Party, Do Economists Change Their Tune on Budget Deficits?

Econ Journal Watch 7(2), p 119-156, May 2010
This paper investigates selected economists, to see whether their tune changes when the party holding the White House changes. Six economists are found to change their tune—Paul Krugman in a significant way, Alan Blinder in a moderate way, and Martin Feldstein, Murray Weidenbaum, Paul Samuelson, and Robert Solow in a minor way—while eleven are found to be fairly consistent. The good news is that 11 economists were consistent in their theories and writings. Of course, situations change and economics is not a science -- no matter what practitioners claim. Economics is a historically grounded art of sorts, a matter of interpretations and hypotheses. Still, consistency appeals to me.

I also don't mind the four economists note…

Politicians Cause Downsizing

I suggest reading this article:Politicians Cause Downsizing
“It was an enormous surprise, at least to us, to learn that the average firm in the chairman’s state did not benefit at all from the increase in spending,” says Coval. “Indeed, the firms significantly cut physical and R&D spending, reduced employment, and experienced lower sales.” -- Let's hear it for stimulus spending… The fact scholars were surprised that government spending does not result in improvements to a local economy is pretty sad. Most business owners could have explained this basic of Econ 101: government takes resources from the private sector, whether it is money (taxes) or intellectual capital (employees). Governments compete against the private sector and when the government is losing it can change the rules.

Consider the U.S. Postal Service. Each employee of the postal service is also a potential UPS or FedEx employee. But, laws prevent private competition in standard mail delivery. You can buy a mailb…

Confused Commentators

Today, I watched yet another MSNBC commentator asking libertarian scholars and a Republican party hack where their plans for national health care were.

Here's a clue, MSNBC: conservatives and libertarians both are suspect of federal power and effectiveness. By definition a libertarian isn't going to have a "national" plan with any central authority. To keep asking the question, badgering guests, demonstrates a special kind of ignorance. This line of questioning assumes a center-left alignment in the two major parties that does not exist.

Admittedly, the GOP under Bush expanded the federal government and control. You can find plenty of libertarians disgusted by the GOP expansion of federal authority: No Child Left Behind, Dept. of Homeland Security, Medicare Part D, and on and on. The GOP gave in to typical Washington intoxication.

But, a principled libertarian would not have a national health care plan. Libertarians might offer a plan to allow states to experiment,…

Racism: A Label to Silence Opponents

Democrats think it is a winning strategy to label every opponent as racist, sexist, homophobe. This is a serious mistake, but it is being repeated again and again in editorial pages across the United States. It's easy. Blame opposition to this president and the congress on anything other than their policies. When you scream Racist! you force opponents to either respond or waste time distancing themselves from true nutcases.

In some ways, it is brilliant politics. It is a no-lose slogan in the short-run of most political seasons. However, this is a long-term situation and eventually the cries of racism will lose effect.

The Democrats will continue to lose the independent voters, especially business owners. CNN/Money reports that a $14/hr employee costs $20/hr and that will continue to rise. Being afraid of going broke isn't racist. Small business is getting hammered. We oppose policies, not a person. At some point, the Dems will have chased away the middle class.

The other trut…

Health Care: Right vs. Good

For something to be a "right," it must be something you have the right and ability to pursue on your own. A right is contained within the self. If you believe in personal property, personal control, personal choice, the end result is a philosophy that rights are individual liberties.

A good is something it is nice to have, but to which there is no inherent entitlement. Goods are purchased or bartered for in some way.

Health care is not a right. You have the right to pursue a healthy lifestyle. You have the right to negotiate for health-related goods and services, but you are not entitled to the services of other people.

We cannot mandate a certain number of medical professionals exist. We cannot mandate that trained doctors treat everyone. A doctor is free to retire and go fishing if he or she wants.

Since health care relies on other people taking actions, to force them to do anything is servitude.

Is there an ethical reason to have national health care? Sure. But that …

Money, Corporations, and Reality

While the Citizens United case has ignited righteous indignation on the political left, the Supreme Court ruling last week removing most caps on campaign advertising was not only the correct decision but represents a return to how our founders approached politics.

Every newspaper, magazine, and "news" outlet was exempted from corporate finance restrictions even before this ruling. Why? Because you cannot limit the free press. But why should that logic apply to businesses?

When our nation was founded the political parties, various organizations, the wealthy, and even many in the merchant class set about publishing "newspapers" that were little more than campaign ads. Printing was a huge business as a result. A single sheet newspaper could be prepared simply and distributed for a reasonable cost.

Newspapers were named the "Middletown Press Democrat" or the "Anyville Republican Gazette" for a reason. Media bias was a given. Even small towns had t…