Are Brat and Cantor even trying?

May 20, 2014

I understand that campaigns sometimes have to go negative, but there’s a way to do it right, and then there are the things that Eric Cantor and Dave Brat are doing.

We start with the incumbent, who has created his own little Brat-is-a-liberal page: It has six variations on one theme: Brat should be ashamed of himself for serving on an economic prediction council for Tim Kaine. Except that McDonnell kept him on, and unless Cantor is calling McDonnell a liberal, too…

Yet there is no mention of Brat’s 2007 contribution to tax-hike extraordinaire Walter Stosch in his primary battle against Joe Blackburn, something far more worthy of criticism as an actual…action. Nor is Brat’s bizarre assertion that Communist China is a free market on the list. Ditto his rant against “unfunded wars.” These things aren’t so hard to find.

Meanwhile, Mr. Brat himself has been taking aim at Cantor, but he focus on Cantor’s support for the hideous bank bailout? Or even Ryan-Murray (see previous link for both)? Of course not (WaPo).

It’s as if they’re both trying to lose on June 10.


The Hollande endorsement, two years later

May 10, 2014

Two years and about two weeks ago, I made my first ever left-wing national endorsement: Francois Hollande for President of France. I did so in the hope that Hollande would stop the destructive Fiscal Union treaty that threatened to bury Europe in Faux-sterity.

I’ll be blunt: that didn’t happen. If anything, Hollande doubled-down on Faux-sterity. That Nicolas Sarkoxy (the incumbent whom Hollande opposed and defeated) would have done little better was small consolation.

That said, while I didn’t get an end to the FU treaty, Hollande’s victory brought something greater: an end to the Paris-Berlin axis that was so harmful to Europe. Even last year, it was clear that Berlin had woken up to reality and was reaching out to less-integrationist members of the EU (such as the UK). Today, that sea change continues to bring in dividends. The Netherlands and most of Europe’s North are following Germany’s lead and rethinking “ever closer union.” Euroskepticism is on the rise throughout the continent – although in some places, such as France itself, the vehicle is beyond odorous (in France it’s the National Front – shudder).

Prior to the spring of 2012, “Merkozy” was wreaking havoc with national economies (especially in the Mediterranean) and euroskepricism alike. The former will take a long time to recover, but the latter’s prospects have greatly improved, due in no small part to Hollande’s victory. In short, France’s loss has been Europe’s gain.

Meanwhile, on Medicaid expansion in Virginia, the Republicans are actually winning

May 1, 2014

“First, you win the argument, then you win the vote” – Margaret Thatcher

On Medicaid expansion in Virginia, proponents have the newly-elected Governor, all of Virginia’s Democrats, a few dissenting Republicans,the State Senate and various well-heeled interests.

Opponents have the reality of Medicaid’s damage to poor people and (most of) the Republican Party of Virginia – a party that is badly, badly divided, controls only a majority in the House of Delegates, and was just handed it’s first goose-egg in Virginia offices in over twenty years.

Yet, according to Christopher Newport University, the RPV is actually winning the debate:

Virginians have been paying attention to the debate over Medicaid expansion taking place in Richmond, with 58% saying they have been following it either very closely or somewhat closely, and only 20% saying they have not followed it at all. Given the current contours of that debate, Virginians say 53% to 41% that they oppose Medicaid expansion. This is a reversal from the Wason Center survey released February 3 (see below), which showed general support for Medicaid expansion, 56% to 38%.

However, in that February survey, support for Medicaid expansion fell to 41% with 54% opposed, when respondents were asked if they would still support expansion if the federal government did not pay its share and Virginia had to cover the cost. That risk has been a key contention in the Republican argument against expansion. Those February numbers are very close to the 41% to 53% in the current poll, suggesting that Republican skepticism concerning expansion has gotten through to voters.

Simply put, this was hardly what was expected. In fact, I suspect most in the Virginia rightosphere still suspect that the Republicans in the House will cave on this issue…and perhaps they still will.

However, we should give credit where it’s due: not only has the Howell-led HoD held the line so far against Medicaid expansion, they also are winning the argument – the first critical step to winning votes, as Thatcher noted.

Cross-posted to Virginia Virtucon

VA – 7: No endorsement

April 15, 2014

I have previously posted my views on the political bloodletting within the Republican Party of Virginia. For those who chose not to click on the link, I lamented the vitriol, lack of strategic thinking, and personalizations that I have seen from both “sides” of this battle. It’s as if issues don’t matter anymore.

There is no better example of this debacle than the fracas over the Republican nomination for the 7th Congressional District – which is why I refuse to endorse either candidate who remains.

The incumbent – Eric Cantor – has been accused of much by the “insurgents” within the GOP. I have no idea if any of them are true. I do know that he was a leading supporter of TARP (a.k.a., the bank bailout), an economic and political mistake for which Americans are still paying (especially Republicans, from the political angle). I already slipped on this banana peel once in 2012, and I will not do so again – ever. Eric Cantor will never win my endorsement for a Republican nomination (supporting the Ryan-Murray budget didn’t help either, but that’s a minor matter, compared to TARP).

This does not mean, however, that I can support his opponent, Dave Brat. Brat, for all his strong rhetoric on spending today, spent years as an aide to State Senator Walter Stosch, one of the most prolific tax-hikers in the RPV (the Warner tax hike of 2004, HB3202 in 2007, and Plan ’13 From Outer Space). Brat even donated to Stosch as he faced the fight of his political life in 2007 – his nomination fight against Joe Blackburn.

That in itself would be troubling enough. When one adds Brat’s own statements on foreign affairs – such as his insistence (Breitbart) that Communist China “is feeding 1.2 billion people for the first time in human history” through “free market capitalism” (there are over half a billion desperately poor Chinese in the rural hinterland who would greatly dispute both points if they were free to speak) and his own campaign website where he rails against “two unfunded wars” – it becomes clear that he is not ready for Washington anymore than Cantor is deserving to stay there.

I am grateful that my home is in the 4th District, as thus I need not cast a vote in the 7th. To be fair, either man is sure to be superior to whomever the Democrats nominate.

That said, I do not know who would receive my vote if I were in the 7th. I do know that neither of them have deserved it. Therefore, I endorse neither. 

IMF Introduces Ukraine to Faux-sterity

March 28, 2014

No matter what the situation, no matter how bad the problem, no matter how catastrophic the state of affairs, a nation can always count on the International Monetary Fund to make things worse.

This week, Ukraine is about to learn that painful lesson.

The IMF is sending $18 billion to the new Ukraine government, but like everything else the IMF does, it’s merely a loan, and it comes with crushing conditions that will damage the already-flattened economy there even more.

Among the faux-sterity demands on the IMF….

An income tax hike from 17% to 25%: yet another reminder that “supply-side” is still foreign to the IMF (The Hindu)…

An increase in consumption taxes: showing that at least the IMF is consistent – they don’t understand Keynesian economics either (Wall Street Journal).

A reduction in gas subsidies (which is good), but not a privatization of the Naftogaz gas firm (which is bad): When you manage to make the governor of Yanukovic’s home province (Donetsk) sound like Mr. Clean, you’re doing it wrong (WSJ again).

Some (perhaps) reduction in the government bureaucracy: although it’s hard to tell just how many. CNN says 24,000. Russia Today says 80,000, but limited to the “law enforcement” sector only – leaving aside than anything out of RT should be taken with a lotswife of salt. Either way, at least the IMF learned not to try the government-pay-cuts that kept Greece’s government just as large in size and scope while pretending to cut its cost.

Still, overall, this is a painfully unnecessary set of “reforms,” which will badly miss revenue targets and likely put Ukraine in a far deeper economic contraction than the current projection of 3%.

Meanwhile, the Russian creditors get full return, despite propping up the Yanukovic regime that put Ukraine on its back in the first place (Telegraph).

So Ukraine will follow Greece and Spain over the economic cliff…

…while Putin and his cronies laugh all the way to the bank.

Cross-posted to Virginia Virtucon

On the Bank Bailout, the Buckley Rule, and Ed Gillespie

March 27, 2014

There has been increasing talk among Virginia Republicans about “the Buckley Rule,” and how it should impact decision on the nomination for U.S. Senate. There are, however, two problems with the application (usually from Ed Gillespie supporters): the rule isn’t quite what they think it is; and even if it did, Gillespie still wouldn’t qualify.

First of all, the rule itself is repeatedly “both misquoted and misapplied” as Neal Freeman noted in his account of when the rule was first promulgated (National Review). He should know; he was there. Buckley came up with the rule during the 1964 Goldwater-Rockefeller nomination battle. Despite what we may think, Rockefeller had his defenders on the right. He trailed LBJ by less than Goldwater, and his anti-Communism was rock-solid and unquestionable (Goldwater himself noted in his autobiography that before he decided to run himself, he was leaning to Rockefeller). It took months for NR itself to make a decision:

These intramural arguments, as I say, were protracted, begun in the winter and carrying on into the early spring. WFB sat at the head of the table, encouraging others to speak, keeping his own counsel. In early June, after Rockefeller had won the Oregon primary and Goldwater had won California, after all of us had had our say, after rumors had begun to creep out of 35th Street that NR might shift its support to Nelson Rockefeller — the equivalent, today, of word leaking out of 15th Street that the Washington Post might endorse Michele Bachmann — Bill, who rarely proposed, decided that it was time to dispose. With each of us in our assigned seat and with six pairs of eyeballs staring at him unblinkingly, Bill announced that “National Review will support the rightwardmost viable candidate.”

Victory for Team Goldwater! We all knew what “viable” meant in Bill’s lexicon. It meant somebody who saw the world as we did. Somebody who would bring credit to our cause. Somebody who, win or lose, would conservatize the Republican party and the country. It meant somebody like Barry Goldwater.

Indeed, NR did endorse Goldwater. More to the point, one year after this, Buckley himself chose to run for Mayor of New York – despite having no shot at winning – against the Republican establishment’s candidate, John Lindsay….

in the general election.

So clearly, those who use the Buckley rule as an electability argument have it wrong. However, even if they had it right, Ed Gillespie has a problem that sinks his electability: his support for TARP (a.k.a. the Bank Bailout).

Gillespie supporters will, of course, take issue with this. They will tell you (and me) that the key issue in 2014 isn’t the bank bailout, but the failures of the Obama Administration. As it happens, the critique against the Administration has three planks: government has grown massively large and costly; the economic “recovery” is so sluggish as to be hardly felt; and the president’s dangerous habit of assuming the Affordable Care Act is an American Enabling Act giving him legislative powers to change the law on the fly. The problem is that pro-TARP candidates are unable to use any of these arguments.

If Ed Gillespie tries to criticize the president and Mark Warner for reckless spending and government enlargement, Warner can throw the $700 billion bank bailout back in his face, but Mark Warner cannot accuse Shak Hill of supporting hundreds of billions in spending for America’s biggest banks.

Likewise, any attempt by Gillespie to discuss the economy will be trumped by Warner mentioning the 2008 financial crisis – and then remind everyone that Gillespie agreed the crisis was exceptional because of his support for the bank bailout. Only Shak Hill can remind voters that the bank bailout and hysteria ginned up by Washington to get it enacted made things worse, not better.

Finally, there is the fact that after TARP was enacted, Bush’s Treasury Secretary Henry Paulsen rewrote the law at whim. That he had the authority to do so was bad enough, but Warner can play it simple and demand to know why Bush can change the law at whim but not Obama. Only Shak Hill can address this issue with the hypocrisy charge being thrown back in his face.

In short, Shak Hill can deliver the conservative message in 2014 far batter than Ed Gillespie can. As a result, he is a more “viable” candidate than Ed, and in my opinion, a more electable one, too.

Cross-posted to Virginia Virtucon

Another achievement for government-run health care: VA deletes appointment to pretend its backlog is cleared

February 25, 2014

Mark Flatten (Washington Examiner) has the details on the latest government-run health system to succumb to fraud: the Veterans Administration.

Thousands of orders for diagnostic medical tests have been purged en masse by the Department of Veterans Affairs to make it appear its decade-long backlog is being eliminated, according to documents obtained by the Washington Examiner.

About 40,000 appointments were “administratively closed” in Los Angeles, and another 13,000 were cancelled in Dallas in 2012.

That means the patients did not receive the tests or treatment that had been ordered, but rather the orders for the follow-up procedures were simply deleted from the agency’s records.

That’s not all …

Debra Draper of the Government Accountability Office said reviews of scheduling practices at VA facilities, including Los Angeles, have repeatedly found instances in which appointment dates were falsified to meet performance goals. That finding was consistent with GAO and VA inspector general’s reports going back 10 years, Draper said.

Charles C. W. Cooke says this looks all too familiar (The Corner): “Alas, this feels all too familiar to someone who grew up with Britain’s National Health Service.”

He then gives some examples. I’ve gleaned a couple on my own. As Cooke puts it, “when one subordinates healthcare to government, one inevitably gets all of the usual government games.”

Games like this.

Cross-posted to Virginia Virtucon

Nancy Pelosi: locked out of her own argument

February 18, 2014

The Congressional Budget Office’s report on what Obamacare – given the president’s numerous rewrites and delays to the policy, I can now comfortably retire the term “Robertscare” – will do to the labor force (the equivalent of 2 million Americans leaving the workforce), Nancy Pelosi actually celebrated the news (Hot Air):

“What we see is that people are leaving their jobs because they are no longer job-locked,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters after House votes Tuesday afternoon. “They are following their aspirations to be a writer; to be self-employed; to start a business.”

While many of her critics lamented (and loudly) Pelosi and her allies for their devaluing of work, far fewer noticed that her own argument is completely wrong (to be fair, Hot Air’s Mr. Glass did).

As it happens, I have some friends who are writers, and they tell me that it involves quite a bit of hard work (no real surprise there). They also greatly enjoy it. More to the point, however, they don’t have rags-to-riches stories of their success. They started small, with short stories, and then moved up to novels. Writing, like any other career, has its well-worn paths.

What they didn’t have was a health-insurance subsidy that would disappear between, say, story five and story six, or between the sale of copy number 1000 and copy number 1001. That’s what Pelosi et al seem to miss: the subsidy-loss effect impacts all industries: manufacturing, services, and the arts she seems to prize.

The subsidy – and its clawback at certain income levels – doesn’t give workers the freedom to change jobs that would otherwise be blocked: it prevents people from advancing any career.

Of course, you’d have to understand microeconomics to get that, and economics of any kind just isn’t the Democrats’ strong suit.

Cross-posted to Virginia Virtucon

Immigration, economics, and the “defensive crouch”

February 17, 2014

George Will’s WaPo column on immigration reform has quite a few weaknesses (at least in my opinion, your mileage may vary), but the one phrase the struck me was his ending:

Opposition to immigration because the economy supposedly cannot generate sufficient jobs is similar defeatism. Zero-sum reasoning about a fixed quantity of American opportunity is for a United States in a defensive crouch, which is not for conservatives.

For the most part, the debate on immigration (legal or illegal) has focused on the American perspective. Perhaps most Americans believe this issue is more settled in the rest of the developed world. If so, then they couldn’t be more wrong. The current Australian government has instituted a policy of intercepting boats of immigrants and sending them back to their port of origin (Andrew Bolt). Swiss voters just passed a referendum calling for a cap on total immigrants from the European Union (of which Switzerland is not a member), while Germans would narrowly support a cap on all immigration (Open Europe).

Then there’s the United Kingdom, whose government put this on the road:

The British Government's message to illegal immigrants (photo from Rick Findler via the London Evening Standard)

The British Government’s message to illegal immigrants (photo from Rick Findler via the London Evening Standard)

Suffice to say, the “defensive crouch” is fairly popular in the developed world.

Now, if I were a restrictionist on immigration (and I was from about 2002 until 2012), I would simply wrap up here. Were I an anti-restrictionist (and I was that, too, before 2002), I’d likely respond with a little “Americans don’t do that” jingoism and call it a day. These days, however, I find the question why this is happening to be more interesting, and telling.

Truth be told, America is different in one regard to the rest of the developed world: this is a much bigger debate on the political right here than elsewhere. The American right usually has two major pieces of its worldview come into conflict when immigration comes up: cultural cohesion and the dynamism of the free market. Immigration is, to a large extent, the labor side of of the globalization cost (free trade is the product side). Will is correct in that the idea that the American economy can no longer handle freedom of movement and entry into its market place is not a talking point for conservatives, but rather an indictment of them. The rest of the developed world has little patience for the free market, so its easier for right-wingers there to be all-out restrictionists.

That said, this does lead to the one glaring flaw in most immigration reform proposals (and a missing part of the debate): how can immigration reform make labor more productive? After all, a more productive labor force will see wages rise (in real terms of goods affordable) no matter what the size or composition of the labor force. Yet there is practically no discussion of this in America (or, truth be told, anywhere else). Otherwise, the focus might be on the following questions….

What are we doing to encourage entrepreneurs to come to America?

What labor shortages in the American economy (such as, health care) can be alleviated via immigration reform?

How can we use our immigration policies to take advantage of capital flight in areas around the world, so that those who own that capital will feel more welcome here (along with their capital, of course)?

In other words, how can we use immigration reform as a supply-side economic opportunity, rather than merely an argument about Keynesian “aggregate demand”?

The relative silence on these questions should be an embarrassment to supporters and opponents of immigration reform. Not all immigrants are from south of the border (and what’s it to you if they did?); not all of them are poor; and not all of them will become welfare-state costs (and for those who do, I recommend local and state governments look to the entity actually at fault – the federal government – to demand recompense, but that’s for another post). On the flip side, immigration reform should not be about lighting bonfires of strawmen to prove one’s moral superiority; it should not be about ethnic politics; and it should not be about lining up recruits for culture wars in other areas.

Immigration reform should be about how newcomers to America can increase Americans’ prosperity, and what the government can do to make that more likely.

The rest – all the rest – is just noise.

Cross-posted to Bearing Drift

Bob Marshall is now running in the 10th, but I still prefer Barbara Comstock

February 10, 2014

One week ago today, I endorsed Barbara Comstock for the Republican nomination for the 10th Congressional District. Since then, a new entrant, Bob Marshall, has caused me to rethink my decision – but not to change it. Barring the discovery of documentation showing that Delegate Comstock supported the bank bailout, she is still my preferred choice for the seat.

Don’t get me wrong, Bob Marshall has done yeoman’s work for all Virginia taxpayers in his 20-plus years as a Delegate. In fact, that’s half the problem: the House of Representatives is a far different body, one in which individual members have far less power than legislators do in Richmond. If Bob were running for the Senate, I would be thrilled; he’s not.

Moreover, Barbara Comstock is not your typical “Establishment” Republican in Virginia. Last year – as a Fairfax County Delegate with nearly every interest group screaming, begging, and cajoling her to support Plan ’13 From Outer Space – she said No.

In other words, assuming this comes down to Comstock and Marshall (and given the rest of the field, it almost certainly will), it is in fact a battle between two genuine supporters of limited government. The question is this: would Virginia be better served by Comstock in Washington and Marshall in Richmond? Or the other way around?

I think the answer is obvious. Virginia would lose far more than it could possibly gain if Marshall is sent to Congress. Better for him to stay where he is most valuable (Richmond), while Comstock can continue standing up for taxpayers in her own, quiet way in Washington.


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