« June 2011 | Main | August 2011 »

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Voting with your (shackled) feet

I'm not sure whether this "prison voucher" idea from Prof. Alexander ("Sasha") Volokh is just crazy or crazy-brilliant, but it's certainly clever and intriguing, and it would be a wonderful topic for a spirited three-cornered debate (preferably among friends and over good food and drink) between libertarians, social-values conservatives, and liberals.

Posted by Beldar at 04:41 PM in Law (2011) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Barack Obama & Co. are themselves history's best argument in favor of a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution

I refuse to watch "Meet the Press" — I'd rather be waterboarded — but if NRO's Katrina Trinko accurately quotes former Obama campaign manager and current White House Senior Advisor David Plouffe's statement on that program today, I'm appalled:

White House senior adviser David Plouffe emphasized that the White House is unwilling to accept any deal that does not provide a long-term debt ceiling hike.

“This debt ceiling cloud has harmed our economy. Why on earth would we want to go through this again in the next few months?” Plouffe said on Meet the Press.

Got that? It's not the spending that's the problem, it's the limit on government borrowing to finance more government spending that's hurting the economy, according to Plouffe. Having a statutory limit on the amount of money the government can borrow — even a limit that can be raised by another mere statute, at the behest of simple majorities of House and Senate plus presidential signature — is "harm[ful] to our economy," according to the Obama Administration.

Obama and his party are obviously entirely content to go years without any budget, and now they're bitching about having any debt ceiling, any maximum amount on the national credit card.

So do not be fooled, friends and neighbors, when Barack Obama or Nancy Pelosi suddenly pretend to be fiscal hawks, devoted champions of cutting government spending. The entire Democratic Party is still devoted to the same mindset which was revealed by reporting on Obama's first budget efforts back in 2009. As I wrote then, Obama insiders had boasted to the New Yorker that

[b]ased on their "core beliefs," the [Obama Administration's] "smart people" simply decided "what we need to do," and that's how much the federal government will now spend — with no effort being made to base the budget on what revenues the government may take in, and with no "top-line budget number" to limit the appetites of those "smart people" as they set about to vindicate their "principles" by hurling huge chunks of federal cash in their general direction.

The danger is not merely that they're clueless. The danger is that they're still actively and passionately devoted to exactly that which has gotten us into this mess. They are completely unrepentant; they will neither act responsibly nor accept responsibility. And they will keep making things worse until they're out of office, be that in January 2013 or, heavens forbid, January 2017.

This is the strongest argument yet for a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget.


UPDATE (Sun Jul 31 @ 3:30pm): Here's some video from the same appearance, although it doesn't include the sentences Trinko quoted. My transcription therefrom (starting at 0:56):

The House Republicans mysteriously — because I don't know of anyone who watches this who would think this is a good idea — wanted us to go through this whole three-ring circus again in four or five months. We're not going to do that because it's bad for the economy.

So I suspect Plouffe not only made the "bad for the economy" remark, but deliberately repeated it at least once. It's today's talking point.

Insisting on compliance with the debt ceiling is "bad for the economy." Refusing to give Obama a big enough bump in the amount that he can increase the deficit to carry him on through the 2012 election is "bad for the economy." Having everyone focused on whether Washington is on a path to national bankruptcy or taking the first tentative steps toward a return to fiscal sanity is "bad for the economy." This is all the Republicans' fault, you see:

It's outrageous that here we are, 60 hours away from the United States of America potentially defaulting for the first time. And the reason we're here is that particularly Republicans in the House, but Republicans generally, have been unwilling to compromise.

Good heavens, the arrogance of this liar!

The "reason we're here" — the reason we're in this national financial crisis — is because the Obama Administration has spent government money at a rate unprecedented in human history, and as recently as February of this year submitted a ridiculous excuse for a budget that would have continued that spending spree. 

Could the Republicans' "unwillingness to compromise" merely be an unwillingness to continue down that disastrous path?

Nah, we must be racists.

(Or, perhaps, racist Sith Lords. Nancy Pelosi made a huge point yesterday of accusing Speaker Boehner of going over "to the dark side" for supporting a balanced budget constitutional amendment. Seriously.)

Plouffe even blew off David Gregory's request for an assurance that our troops fighting abroad will continue to be paid timely. That's how heavily invested the Democratic Party is in creating unnecessary fear and turmoil. And that's disgusting.

UPDATE (Sun Jul 31 @ 3:45pm): Here's an MSNBC story that contains the same sentences Trinko quoted, plus a video clip that I haven't watched yet and probably won't. (I'm already at toxic levels in my exposure to Plouffe for one day. I need a shower.)

Posted by Beldar at 02:30 PM in Budget/economics, Obama | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Beldar and Krauthammer agree: The Constitution must dictate — and is indeed dictating — conservative strategy and timing in the budget struggles

Dr. Krauthammer's latest column makes the point I've been making again and again since April, both on my own blog (in most thorough detail, here), and in comments I leave on many other blogs (e.g., on Patterico's, here):

The current struggle over spending, the deficit, and the debt ceiling absolutely must be viewed in the context of a four-year struggle that began the day Barrack Obama was elected. It is a struggle that cannot be completed in less than four years because of structural features of our Constitution — features that conservatives should cherish, protect, and continuously keep in mind for use to best advantage. In his words:

We’re only at the midpoint. Obama won a great victory in 2008 that he took as a mandate to transform America toward European-style social democracy. The subsequent counterrevolution delivered to that project a staggering rebuke in November 2010. Under our incremental system, however, a rebuke delivered is not a mandate conferred. That awaits definitive resolution, the rubber match of November 2012.

I have every sympathy with the conservative counterrevolutionaries. Their containment of the Obama experiment has been remarkable. But reversal — rollback, in Cold War parlance — is simply not achievable until conservatives receive a mandate to govern from the White House....

... [U]nder our constitutional system, you cannot govern from one house alone. Today’s resurgent conservatism, with its fidelity to constitutionalism, should be particularly attuned to this constraint, imposed as it is by a system of deliberately separated — and mutually limiting — powers.

Given this reality, trying to force the issue — turn a blocking minority into a governing authority — is not just counter-constitutional in spirit but self-destructive in practice.

Neither Dr. Krauthammer nor I are being terribly clever in pointing this out. It's junior-high level civics. Even the math is dirt simple, since one can figure out the entire situation without having to deal with any numbers greater than 435. But this is a truth that no amount of speech-making or clever posturing or principled defiance or back-room deal-making can change. So my warning to fellow conservatives from last April is now, I submit, even more urgent and apt:

We must not be foolish by being short-sighted, not even with the best of intentions. We must maintain discipline — and as with any discipline, this will be unpleasant to tolerate in the short term.

We're fighting about FY2012 and beyond, and the White House is using Twitter to try to sway public opinion. We are very modern and instantaneous and networked. But we're using exactly the political mechanisms that were envisioned and debated, and crafted in dynamic tension, and balanced and paced, by the framers of the Constitution in Philadelphia, oh so many decades ago. And from the depths of history, our Founding Fathers aren't calling today's precise tune, but their handiwork is certainly still dictating its stately (four-year) pace.

Posted by Beldar at 01:48 AM in 2012 Election, Budget/economics, Congress, Obama, Politics (2011) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Friday, July 29, 2011

Harry Reid's claim that a "bipartisan majority" voted against the Boehner bill is an intentional fraud

Harry Reid, United States Senator from Nevada, Democrat, and Senate Majority Leader, lied through his teeth to the American public tonight on national television. (Otherwise, why bother?)

The "revised Boehner bill" passed today by the House was immediately tabled by the Senate — without debate, without opportunity for amendment or improvement — on a vote of 59 to 41.

Reid immediately appeared before the television cameras, and the first words out of his mouth were: "Tonight a bipartisan majority in the Senate rejected Boehner's short-term plan."

So who who were the six members of the GOP in this "bipartisan majority"? Perhaps it was Scott Brown from Massachusetts, or maybe Susan Collins or Olympia Snow from Maine? Listening to the vote totals and then to Reid's smug claim of bipartisan support, I ground my teeth, as did doubtless many thousands of other conservatives, wondering who the RINOs would turn out to be this time.

But nope. Shame on me for putting my tooth enamel at risk based upon Harry Reid's basic honesty or the lack thereof. According to Josiah Ryan and Alexander Bolton of TheHill.com:

Six Republicans [who] joined Democrats to table the Boehner resolution were Sens. Jim DeMint (S.C.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Orrin Hatch (Utah), Mike Lee (Utah), Rand Paul (Ky.), and David Vitter (La.).

I've added hyperlinks to five of those names that lead to the respective senators' official web pages; I'm confident that by tomorrow I'll have a similar link for Sen. Hatch, but he's a bit slower in explaining his vote in his website.

The plain truth — known to Harry Reid and every U.S. Senator and every reporter and every American who's been following the details of this struggle closely — is that every one of these six GOP senators voted against the Boehner bill because they believed it did not adequately address the nation's long-term spending problem. Not one of these GOP senators was part of a "bipartisan majority" who agreed with Harry Reid and the Dems on anything of substance. Rather, these are the six senators who were to the right of Boehner, the House majority, and every other Republican in the Senate.

But Harry Reid wants the tens of millions of Americans who don't bother to look up who voted how — much less to look up the positions of each of the six GOP senators who voted against the Boehner bill — to believe that a bipartisan majority of the Senate believes the Boehner bill went too far and was too drastic. He claimed as a matter of objective, historical fact that his side had a "bipartisan majority."

That's fraud. That's an indefensible lie, told for the patent and sorry purpose of deceiving people who don't know better, or who want to be deceived (categories that overlap substantially with each other and, alas, with Democratic voters).

And that's Democratic Party politics in the 21st Century, friends and neighbors. If you're a Democrat, that's your party's representative, and you need to own him along with Obama and Pelosi:

Harry Reid. Shameless liar. And really, really bad at it.

If he weren't so ineffectual, he'd be a national tragedy, instead of just a national farce.

(P.S.: That phone call (at 0:35 in the clip) might just have been God calling Sen. Reid. He's maybe left Sen. Reid a voicemail — something including the words "lightning bolt" and "once too often." Certainly that would explain Sen. Schumer's snatching and hurling the phone away after merely glancing at the caller ID.)


UPDATE (Fri Jul 29 @ 10:40pm): The Salt Lake Tribune confirms my interpretation of Hatch's vote. He's to the right of Boehner, not to Boehner's left and in Reid's camp.

Posted by Beldar at 09:18 PM in Budget/economics, Congress, Politics (2011) | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Let's cover the moon in yogurt

I want this man as my party's presdiential candidate and then, our country's president.

He is the anti-Obama.

(Hat-tip to K-Lo at The Corner.)

Posted by Beldar at 08:26 PM in Budget/economics, Congress, Obama, Ryan | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Dems' and MSM's shared concept of "compromise" means "anything and everything the House GOP does will be D.O.A. at the Senate"

George Orwell would be very, very proud of the AP reporter who wrote this sentence in a report on the House of Representatives' passage today of the "modified Boehner plan" to cut spending and raise the national debt ceiling:

At the other end of the Capitol, Senate Democrats waited to reject the bill as swiftly as possible in a prelude to another attempt at compromise.

I'm thinking I'm going to track down Inigo Montoya and give him this AP reporter's name. Because that word — "compromise" — certainly does not mean what he obviously thinks it means. And I think that reporter, David Espo, has six fingers on his right hand.

If there's a government stoppage or shutdown, I'm offering to debate who's to blame with any and every Democrat or Democrat sympathizer in the cosmos. My only stipulation is that we have to start by comparing the two different bills that have now actually beeen passed by the GOP House to cut spending and raise the debt ceiling with all of the bills written down and introduced by the Democrats for that same purpose in the last 800 days.

While I'm waiting for someone to take me up on that offer, I'm still standing by my September 2009 assessment of the Obama Democrats:

Amateurs. Incompetents. Ideologues. Full-time politicians turned half-wit government officials. Brilliant leftists who, confronted with the real world, are exposed as clueless idiots and children.

Of course, I'm willing to compromise on both that offer and that assessment — by first and instantly rejecting every competing alternative.

Posted by Beldar at 07:06 PM in Budget/economics, Congress, Obama, Politics (2011) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

More wish from the grump

I just watched President Obama's latest press briefing on the on-going budget struggles. I continue to be perplexed how roughly half of the United States willfully blinds itself to the glaring contradiction in every one of Obama's speeches on this topic: He simultaneously attacks conservatives and apportions all the blame upon the GOP (lately, the House members), while insisting that everyone (except himself) needs to be more bipartisan and compromising.

Once again in this press conference, the entire gist was "If only everyone was as reasonable as me, we'd have this annoyance behind us." Of course, his version of "reasonable" continues to consist of buzzwords like "balance," meaning tax increases, which no one from either party in either chamber of Congress thinks can possibly be included as part of the debt ceiling increase. Obama's version of "getting specific" consists of him mentioning by name the specific legislators (Reid and McConnell) whose plans he sorta kinda likes at least in part. That even those plans are still vaporware as of this moment — as compared to Cut, Cap & Balance, which is (a) specific, (b) has already passed the House, and (c) would definitely raise the debt ceiling, if only about a half dozen Dem senators and Mr. Grumpy-in-Chief would go along — Obama utterly ignores.

Here we are — days from a potential default — and the last specific budget submitted by the President of the United States is the budget which Obama submitted in February, which was voted down in the Senate in May by a 97/0 margin. Even Slippery Rock State doesn't often take that stiff a whipping. (Of course, they're not afflicted by a coach who insists on directing both teams, and pouts and stamps his feet when he can't.)

If you cannot see how pathetic this is as an excuse for leadership, you're an Obama zombie. A leader gets results. Obama isn't even leading his own partisans, though; he can't even speak credibly for the House or Senate Dems, he can only scold.

If this gets solved, it will be no thanks to him. It will be despite him and his petulance. I'm not a bit annoyed that we're having this great political struggle: It was exactly what was demanded by the voters who delivered the House to the GOP in November 2010. But I am annoyed at having to hear so much blather, without end, from the worst poker player to inhabit 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in the last 100 years.


UPDATE (Fri Jul 29 @ 11:20am): I just heard Harry Reid tell the press outside the Senate this bit of delirium (my quote from DVR'd TV broadcast; boldface mine):

What is being done in the House is not a compromise. It's [the anticipated "revised Boehner plan"] being jammed through that [sic], with all kinds of non-transparent dealings, people shuffling in and out of the Republican leadership's offices. So we're — we're recognizing the only compromise that there is, is mine. We — ours is truly a bipartisan piece of legislation. And we, we — Republicans realize that. I've had a number of Republicans come up to me. I had one Republican come and say, "Thanks for your legislation." And we had meetings with a number of Republicans last night, various of my senators, and they, they feel concerned that we're not arriving at a compromise, moreso than what we have now. And we want to do that.

I repeat, I've asked my friend Senator McConnell to meet with me to try to work this out. And I'm confident he will, I hope, come back with some suggestions that he has. The stakes couldn't be higher....

He's deranged. The compromise from the House is agreeing to raise the debt ceiling at all.

"Thank you for your legislation"? What legislation would that be? Reid and his party haven't introduced any legislation. They have talking points they use when they're talking to the public and the press, and they have (very, very different) deal points that they've been discussing behind closed doors, but they don't have any damned legislation! The one truthful statement in the whole speech is that Reid is indeed waiting and hoping to get McConnell's "suggestions"! And yet Reid — this pompous old fool, this pathetic Polonius to Obama's Hamlet — still insists that "the only compromise that there is, is mine"!

Posted by Beldar at 09:56 AM in Budget/economics, Congress, Obama, Politics (2011) | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Thursday, July 21, 2011

More proof that you ought not trust cover art


I remember seeing Hush ... Hush, Sweet Charlotte when it came out in the theaters. I was about seven or eight. It scared the bejabbers out of me — particularly a beginning scene in which someone hacks off (a painfully young) Bruce Dern's hand and head with a meat cleaver, and then a later scene in which the body parts tumble down a staircase. The maudlin theme-song and lyrics are simple and haunting, hard to put out of mind — and so of course they too became part of my recurring nightmares.

Bette Davis was much more terrifying than any spider, real or fictional, if you ask me.

Posted by Beldar at 11:45 PM in Film/TV/Stage, Humor, Technology/products | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Ryan outlines "serious flaws" in Gang of Six proposal, promotes Cut, Cap & Balance instead

I had a violent negative reaction to the "Gang of Six" from the moment I heard of it. I expressed my political concerns about it on Monday when I called the Gang's GOP members "chumps," and I feel even more convinced of that having learned more details.

The devil, of course, is always in the details. But I trust House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's command of them, and I therefore commend to you his take on the so-called "Gang of Six" plan. (Hat-tip to the indispensable Jennifer Rubin at the WaPo.)

Ryan notes that "[t]he plan is not a budget. It is a set of talking points and graphs that outlines an ambitious proposal that has serious flaws but also the potential for worthwhile budget and tax reforms." He then gives this executive summary:

The proposal put forward by a group of seven senators today is a useful addition to the budget debate. I share the frustration that these senators appear to have with the U.S. Senate’s inability to pass a budget in over 800 days. While the proposal lacks detail in many respects, it includes some reforms that could help put our country on a sounder fiscal footing. Most importantly, it reflects a bipartisan recognition that lower tax rates are essential to help spur economic growth. Unfortunately, it increases revenues while failing to seriously address exploding federal spending on health care, which is the primary driver of our debt. There are also serious concerns that the proposal’s substance on spending falls far short of what is needed to achieve the savings it claims. Nevertheless, this effort serves as a sign that we can work together on a bipartisan basis to make a serious down payment now to avert the debt-fueled economic crisis before us.

As always, Ryan has numbers where numbers are to be had, and a sharp eye for puffery and flim-flam from the Dems; he's actually fairly diplomatic in this analysis, and he takes care to point out and give credit for the good ideas and positive developments that can be spotted amid the dross. But it's mostly dross.

The Gang of Six proposal doesn't even qualify as voodoo economics. It's just an outline, a prediction of future voodoo that can't possibly even be turned into a real plan by August 2. So yeah, we're not being offered even the beanstalk. It's all about the magic beans, a promise, and a wink from the likes of Dick Durbin (if the membranes that protect his reptilian eyes could actually retract for him to wink).

This is not something on which the GOP members of the Senate ought to continue investing time and energy. There are still moves to be made, but they're going to come from the House, not the Senate, and the GOP senators need to swallow their damned egos and get in line. They're not covering themselves with glory, they're tripping over their own feet. We expect and deserve better from them. And we specifically need them to be trying to build public awareness of, and support for, Cut, Cap & Balance:

I think Paul Ryan may be the only guy in America who I don't mind hearing use the phrase "cash-flow" as a verb. This is seven and a half minutes of distilled common sense, and I think it's worth your time to listen to it.

No, Cut, Cap & Balance won't pass the Senate. But what happens to it in the Senate is important: In the dance of negotiations and legislation that will take us to November 2012, it's not the last step, but it is indeed the very next step. Senators of both parties need to be forced to go on record on it because, yes: Names are being taken, and those GOP legislators who fall short of our justified expectations are going to have to answer for that.

Posted by Beldar at 02:02 AM in 2012 Election, Budget/economics, Congress, Politics (2011), Ryan | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

GOP Sens. Crapo, Coburn & Chambliss are the GOP chumps enabling Obama's "Gang of Six" farce

I have a message for Senators Mike Crapo (R-ID), Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), the GOP members of the so-called "Gang of Six" in the Senate:


You think you're being public servants who are negotiating in the interests of your constituents. You're not.

You've become pawns for Barack Obama's 2012 re-election campaign. You're good men operating from good intentions, but by letting yourself be used in this way, you're actively betraying your cause, your party, your constituents, and ultimately your country.

The Democrats — be they the three Dem Senators in your "Gang," or Sen. Reid or Minority Leader Pelosi, or their revered master at 1600 Pennsylvania — are perfectly capable of coming up with spending cuts if they want spending cuts. They've been capable of doing that since their party controlled both chambers of Congress and the White House, beginning in January 2009. It is not a coincidence or an accident or an oversight that we haven't had a federal budget voted out of the U.S. Senate in over 800 days, it's by their design.

Members of the 'Gang of Six,' clockwise from top left: Democrats Kent Conrad, Dick Durbin and Mark Warner; and Republicans Mike Crapo, Tom Coburn and Saxby Chambliss

If the Dems wanted to negotiate in good faith, they could have before now. They still could now. They will negotiate in good faith now if it suits them, and won't if it doesn't. And it's increasingly clear that they simply don't want to — that, instead, their Messiah's concluded his re-election hopes depend entirely on contriving a government shut-down for which he can blame the GOP.

It's time for the Dems to put definite spending cuts in writing and to commit to them. That hasn't happened yet. No deal can happen until it does. The public expects and demands that the Dems finally, at the eleventh-and-a-half hour, get specific. And yet you chumps are giving them another pass!

You're doing nothing now but helping Obama create the political lie on which he wants to run for re-election. Every bit of your energy will end up serving only one purpose: letting Barack Obama pretend that he's been trying to get a "bipartisan solution," but that he's been blocked from that by "unreasonable Republicans."

You're not only being chumps, you're being suckers. It's not excusable, and everyone in and out of Washington except you can see how you're being used.

Ask Jiang Qing (a/k/a "Mrs. Chairman Mao") and her three friends how well it worked out for them in 1976, having been part of the original Gang of [Small Positive Integer].

If you three don't think there are conservatives all over the United States who will eagerly support a primary challenger to your right over this incipient betrayal, you'd better think again.

If you think being part of this "Gang of Six" is a good thing, or by this juncture even an acceptable thing, with the people who elected you, then you're brain damaged.


UPDATE (Tue Jul 19 @ 11:55pm): This analysis by Dan Mitchell includes a list of the supposed benefits of the Gang of Six quote-unquote plan, and then its "bad" and "ugly" components too. I think he's also presuming good faith on the part of the Dems in their future performance of promises about the "yet-to-be-written" terms; differences in how the anticipated legislation would actually be written will make hundreds of billions of dollars in differences to taxes, spending, and the deficit. I don't think that presumption is justifiable given these same Democrats' demonstrated unwillingness and inability to pass responsible fiscal legislation.

Posted by Beldar at 06:36 PM in 2012 Election, Budget/economics, Congress, History, Obama, Politics (2011) | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Obama vs. Ryan: Fake vs. real "adult discussion" of the budget. [Update: Obama announces Medicare eligibility age to drop to 60, or something]

This week, President Obama has deliberately, consciously tried to seize recognition as "the grown-up in the room" during contentious meetings over the debt ceiling and budget.

My Democratic friends are convinced that's accurate. They believe — they insist — that Obama's offered up meaningful cuts in entitlement program spending for Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security. They believe that just because Obama says it. But he hasn't offered up meaningful entitlement spending cuts; Obama's just talked about doing so, without actually committing to any specifics (except for specifically and categorically ruling out any reforms to any Obamacare provisions).

I think that falls in the category of pretending to be a grown-up. It works on those who want to believe it and who aren't very diligent in looking at supporting facts (or their absence).

So once again, I offer you Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the GOP chairman of the House Budget Committee. Ryan has instant recall of all the important data, and a thorough and deep understanding of competing policy arguments and considerations. I commend to you in its entirety the transcript of Rep. Ryan's appearance on my friend Hugh Hewitt's national radio show Thursday. A sample (boldface mine):

Look at the difference between our two parties. Look at what we’re fighting for, and look at what they’re fighting for. We want to limit government, and we want to cut spending. We don’t want to raise taxes in this economy or at any time on people, because that’s not the problem. What are the folks on the other side of the aisle, our friends on the other side of the aisle, want to increase spending, want to increase taxes. I haven’t seen a time where the contrast and the difference between two philosophies has been more clear. That’s what I would look at over the next two weeks. We will hopefully, next week, show you how we would fix this problem with our cut, cap and balance plan. It’s a plan to fix this mess, this fiscal mess, to deal with this debt limit. You’re seeing what the other side wants, just let’s just borrow more money, okay, we maxed out this credit card? Let’s go get another credit card. And that’s the basic two positions. So what does that tell you? We have divided government. Are we going to get everything we want? No. We have the House. We don’t control the Senate or the White House. Will the Democrats get everything they want? No, because they don’t have the House. So you’re going to see a product of divided government come in the next two weeks. But let’s not lose the forest for the trees, and that is where do we stand on the issues, and how would we fix it if we had our druthers, and where would they go if they had their way.

"No-Drama Obama" may be the least deserved nickname ever given an American president. This week he's tried to play the role of "Father Knows Best (Now Shut Up Dammit Before I Shred Grandma's Social Security Check)." I credit a great many other GOP leaders with trying their respective bests in what's increasingly become a muddled approach. But in my opinion, Ryan is the consistently adult voice from either side on all these issues. And in any policy debate setting that prevented Obama from having the Marine Band interrupt with "Ruffles and Flourishes," Ryan would eat Obama's lunch and then drink his milkshake.


UPDATE (Sat Jul 16 @ 4pm): I asserted above that Obama has refused to commit to any specifics on cuts to entitlements, while pretending to have done so and insisting that he's done so. But look at the weasel-wiggling when ABC News' Jake Tapper put the question to Obama very directly yesterday (boldface and italics mine):

[Tapper:] You’ve said that reducing the deficit will require shared sacrifice. We know — we have an idea of the taxes that you would like to see raised on corporations and on Americans in the top two tax brackets, but we don’t yet know what you specifically are willing to do when it comes to entitlement spending. In the interest of transparency, leadership, and also showing the American people that you have been negotiating in good faith, can you tell us one structural reform that you are willing to make to one of these entitlement programs that would have a major impact on the deficit? Would you be willing to raise the retirement age? Would you be willing to means test Social Security or Medicare?

THE PRESIDENT: We’ve said that we are willing to look at all those approaches. I’ve laid out some criteria in terms of what would be acceptable. So, for example, I’ve said very clearly that we should make sure that current beneficiaries as much as possible are not affected. But we should look at what can we do in the out-years, so that over time some of these programs are more sustainable.

I’ve said that means testing on Medicare, meaning people like myself, if — I’m going to be turning 50 in a week. So I’m starting to think a little bit more about Medicare eligibility. (Laughter.) Yes, I’m going to get my AARP card soon — and the discounts.

But you can envision a situation where for somebody in my position, me having to pay a little bit more on premiums or co-pays or things like that would be appropriate. And, again, that could make a difference. So we’ve been very clear about where we’re willing to go.

What we’re not willing to do is to restructure the program in the ways that we’ve seen coming out of the House over the last several months where we would voucherize the program and you potentially have senior citizens paying $6,000 more. I view Social Security and Medicare as the most important social safety nets that we have. I think it is important for them to remain as social insurance programs that give people some certainty and reliability in their golden years.

But it turns out that making some modest modifications in those entitlements can save you trillions of dollars. And it’s not necessary to completely revamp the program. What is necessary is to say how do we make some modifications, including, by the way, on the providers’ side. I think that it’s important for us to keep in mind that drug companies, for example, are still doing very well through the Medicare program. And although we have made drugs more available at a cheaper price to seniors who are in Medicare through the Affordable Care Act, there’s more work to potentially be done there.

So if you look at a balanced package even within the entitlement programs, it turns out that you can save trillions of dollars while maintaining the core integrity of the program.

[Tapper:] And the retirement age?

THE PRESIDENT: I’m not going to get into specifics. As I said, Jake, everything that you mentioned are things that we have discussed. But what I’m not going to do is to ask for even — well, let me put it this way: If you’re a senior citizen, and a modification potentially costs you a hundred or two hundred bucks a year more, or even if it’s not affecting current beneficiaries, somebody who’s 40 today 20 years from now is going to end up having to pay a little bit more.

The least I can do is to say that people who are making a million dollars or more have to do something as well. And that’s the kind of tradeoff, that’s the kind of balanced approach and shared sacrifice that I think most Americans agree needs to happen.

"I'm not going to get into specifics." That could, and should, have been Obama's entire answer, because he once again refused to give any specifics at all. They maybe might "go in the direction" of raising eligibility ages, huh? As someone currently 53, that's an absolutely content-free statement of zero use to me in planning for my retirement. I am sure, however, that "We're willing to look at [fill in the blank]" amounts to a current savings of zero dollars in government expenditures. It's a promise of exactly nothing. It's an insult to your intelligence. It is something only said to stupid people to placate them.

Americans are left to parse this one peculiar bit of specificity from Mr. Obama: "[S]omebody who’s 40 today 20 years from now is going to end up having to pay a little bit more." Really? So we're going to lower the eligibility age to 60?

We have a president of the United States who thinks it's entirely cool to hold a press conference where he just makes up transparently silly numbers on the spot and spews them out into an uncritical media for eager consumption by eager-to-be-fooled groupies.

The only thing this long, rambling answer does is renew some familiar class-warfare themes and repeat always-broken promises of savings through magical (and soon-to-be-found! any day now!) efficiencies. We're once again assured that Barack Obama is all about punishing people for being prosperous. But solutions?

None. Nothing resembling substance. Just petulance, arrogance, class warfare, and smug self-righteousness.

PRESS: Be specific about structural cuts to which you're willing to commit!

OBAMA: Hey, guys, how about a joke about me joining AARP? I'm almost 50!

Posted by Beldar at 02:41 AM in 2012 Election, Budget/economics, Congress, Obama, Politics (2011), Ryan | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Friday, July 15, 2011

Beldar disputes pollster Jan van Lohuizen's bizarre assertion that Gov. Rick Perry "never really has done all that well in Texas"

I neither know, nor know of, political pollster Jan van Lohuizen, but in this Q&A with Business Insider (hat-tip Daniel Halper at the Weekly Standard), the editors point out that Dr. van Louhizen's PhD in political science came from Rice University in 1978, and they assert that he "know[s] Texas as well as anyone." And they point out that he's served as "George W. Bush's pollster in both of his presidential election campaigns," and that Dr. van Louhizen "is highly regarded by political professionals in both parties." I have no reason to doubt any of that.

But they then quote Dr. van Lohuizen as saying this about the potential presidential prospects of Texas Gov. Rick Perry:

... I don’t know if [Perry] will run but my sense of it is that he will — quite a few of the issues he pushed in the legislative session and in the follow-up special session were clearly designed to seed a run for President.

His assets are that he is a good communicator, appeals to tea party types, and he can point to the strength of the Texas economy. On the liabilities side, however, he did not get the things he introduced for that purpose, and the criticism of the balanced budget he passed is getting rougher and rougher: it is basically as flimsy as Gerry [sic ] Brown’s balanced budget. Add to that that he never really has done all that well in Texas. He got a 2nd full term with less than 40% of the vote in a 4 way race, and barely avoided a runoff in his own primary against a weakened Senator and an unknown.

Add as well that some of the issues he is associated with are deeply problematic to conservatives, including his record on property rights, increasing taxes, ‘pay to play’ fundraising and any amount of other raw material for opposition researchers that 10 years as Governor generates.

I agree in part with the first paragraph, and I won't quibble with parts of the second; but I think the end of the second paragraph and the entire third paragraph are both badly misleading — indeed, contrary to objective reality.


I don't have a strong sense of whether Gov. Perry will or won't run, and I have utterly no inside information either way. As my sidebar suggests, I've got another current non-candidate I'd like to see drafted for the GOP nomination; and I'm not one of those trying to drum up support for a Perry candidacy, at least not right now. But I've voted for Gov. Perry many times for many different offices over the last twenty years, and I can easily imagine myself doing so if he were part of a ticket running against Obama.

Nevertheless, the hot-button issues from the last Texas legislature (including special session(s)) to which Dr. van Lohuizen refers — voter ID, sanctuary cities, border security — are controversial at both the state and federal levels anyway. It would be a very dim Republican governor anywhere, but especially along the Mexican border, who wasn't keenly focused on those issues, regardless of whether he or she has aspirations for higher office.

So where Dr. van Lohuizen sees smoke signals, I see smoke puffs, frankly. I don't think Perry's interaction with the last Legislature furnishes very persuasive evidence that Perry was, or is, planning to run for POTUS. But that's a matter of interpretation, not observation; if Dr. van Lohuizen reaches the opposite conclusion from mine, that doesn't trouble me at all.

As for matters fiscal: Although we're comparatively better off than most other states,Texas still needs to squeeze value out of every penny, and like every other state government, ours has been trying to find creative ways to avoid raising taxes. There are reasonable arguments to be made that our proposed solutions here in Texas include some one-offs and some gimmicks; there's room for debate about our budget, and there's been quite a bit of it.

But there's not a rational soul in the universe who'd trade Texas' economic and fiscal situation for California's. Whatever details may underlie Dr. van Lohuizen's conclusion, to the extent he's trying to make a comparison between California and Texas, or between Jerry Brown and Rick Perry, he's simply full of bull. I have a hard time imagining two more vividly contrasting politicians, in fact, than Brown and Perry, both on matters of style and of substance.


Much, much more perplexing and troubling to me is Dr. van Lohuizen's assertion that Perry "never really has done all that well in Texas."

Rick Perry first won office as a Texas state representative (as a Democrat). After making a splash as a legislator and changing to the GOP, he won election over a popular incumbent Democrat, Jim Hightower, to become Texas Commissioner of Agriculture in 1990. He was reelected with 61% of the vote in 1994. Perry followed the legendary Bob Bullock to become Texas Lieutenant Governor in 1998 in a hard-fought race against Dem John Sharp, who'd previously won state-wide election as Texas Comptroller. By 1998, of course, it was already widely expected that then-Gov. George W. Bush would run for president in 2000, so those who elected Perry to the Lieutenant Governorship in 1998 certainly weren't surprised when Perry succeeded Dubya as Governor at year-end 2000.

Dr. van Lohuizen's assertion simply ignores the fact that Perry then won reelection in his own right in 2002 with 58% of the vote — a blowout.

Dr. van Lohuizen is correct that Perry's re-election margin in 2006, in a four-way general election field, wasn't nearly so impressive. It was a very odd election for a number of reasons besides the size of the field.

But I simply have no clue what Dr. van Lohuizen was talking about when he described Texas' senior sitting U.S. Senator, Kay Bailey Hutchison, as "a weakened senator" before or during the 2010 GOP gubernatorial primary. What are we supposed to think from that — that she was like Idaho's Larry Craig, barely hanging onto any office anywhere? That's utter nonsense that's insulting to Sen. Hutchison and to the 450,000+ Texans who voted for her in the 2010 primary, but it also undervalues the opinions of the 759,000+ Texans (51%) who voted for Perry.

To the contrary, Sen. Hutchison wasn't "weakened," but had instead long telegraphed her intention to leave the Senate to run for the Texas governorship. She had powerful, deep, and long-standing connections in the Texas GOP's old guard (going back to the John Tower/G.H.W. Bush days of the 1960s and 1970s Texas GOP). She had (and has) a talented staff and an experienced and successful campaign team. And she had tons of campaign money and volunteers. In sum, U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison was a formidable candidate whom Rick Perry nevertheless beat convincingly and without a runoff.

And yes, Sen. Hutchison's campaign had years of raw material about Perry from which to do opposition research, and she had all the resources and incentives anyone could want in order to exploit to the hilt any Perry missteps from days past. The exact same stuff that Dr. van Lohuizen cryptically references in the third of the paragraphs I've quoted — the supposed "issues [Perry] is associated with [which] are deeply problematic to conservatives" — absolutely failed to catch on in Sen. Hutchison's bare-knuckled attacks on Perry during the 2010 GOP primary. I'm unaware of any reason to think that those same attacks would catch on when made by, say, Mitt Romney or Tim Pawlenty or Michelle Bachman — and Dr. van Lohuizen doesn't give us any such reason.

Indeed, Dr. van Lohuizen notes, accurately, that Perry "appeals to tea party types," but he fails to mention that the third candidate who ran against both Perry and Hutchison in the 2010 GOP primary — Debra Medina, whom Dr. van Lohuizen fairly describes as an "unknown" — was a self-proclaimed Tea Partier who briefly surged based on pure pro-Tea Party movement/anti-incumbency sentiment. Both Perry and Hutchison had strong potential vulnerabilities to such a candidacy; sitting GOP politicians in many other states lost their primaries to just such candidates.

But Perry adeptly seized the Tea Party movement's themes, parried (no pun intended) the anti-incumbency attacks, and then rode a Tea Party/constitutional conservative/anti-Obama surge of 2.7 million votes into a crushing 55% to 42% general election victory over popular Houston ex-mayor (and former Clinton Deputy Secretary of Energy and Texas Democratic Chairman) Bill White — easily the strongest and best financed Democratic gubernatorial candidate since Dubya whipped incumbent Ann Richards in 1994.

Running and winning overwhelmingly on an anti-incumbency, anti-government theme — when you've been part of government for almost three decades yourself — is a fairly deft piece of political footwork, in my humble opinion.

I'm pretty sure, in fact, that Rick Perry has won every election he's ever run in. He's definitely won every state-wide race for public office he's ever run in Texas. And he's now served as Texas' chief executive longer than anyone else in a history that dates back to 1836.

How a PhD in political science can interpret that as "never really [doing] all that well in Texas," I simply cannot fathom, and I therefore respectfully dissent. Now, it's true that Gov. Perry hasn't yet been quite as successful as his immediate predecessor was at parlaying the Texas governorship into higher national officer. And to win higher office, Perry would once again have to overcome his deservedly lingering shame from having been Texas manager for Al Gore's aborted 1988 campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. But we've mostly forgiven him for that here already, and Ronald Reagan was a converted Dem who saw the light. So: short of running and winning the presidency, just how much more Texas history would Rick Perry have to write to satisfy Dr. van Lohuizen that Perry's managed to make something of himself on the Texas political scene?


UPDATE (Sat Jul 16 @ 2am): Hilary Hylton has a nicely detailed and perceptive examination of Perry's history with Gore. The Perry campaign should be absolutely thrilled with this essay, since it ends up not only "pulling the tooth" before it could be used to bite Perry, but indeed it presents a compelling tale of Perry's conversion to the GOP as part of a contemporaneous and much larger shift to the GOP throughout Texas.

Posted by Beldar at 12:57 AM in 2012 Election, Politics (2011), Politics (Texas), Texas | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack