November 19, 2016

As we now know, Trump won a surprise victory in this election. This post provides some analysis of the Republican race, and what it means for the nation. I am saying farewell to this blog, and I explain my reasons below.

The following video was created in February 2016, just after the IA caucuses. I’m not going to say much about it. I thought William Kristol and Rich Lowry had some very keen, early observations of Trump, particularly that he’s a moderate, and that in fact the Republican Establishment decided it could live with him, but not Rubio or Cruz. A few of their conclusions were wrong, including that Trump could not win the nomination or general election, but I think it’s worth a listen

This interview with Kristol and Jonah Goldberg was done in July 2016, just before the Republican convention.

“The Trump non-sequitur” that Goldberg talked about 22 minutes in really hit home for me. I saw that constantly in this election. I had the same reaction to it as he did. It just did not make sense to me that people could go through a list of issue positions, with which I agree, and then say, “So we need to vote for Trump.” Trump for me represented none of those things. I always said he “mentions” issues when he’s talking with people about them. He doesn’t flesh them out, except when he’s given a speech to read on teleprompter, which was written for him. It usually sounds nice when he’s had a prompter (he’s gotten better at it the longer the campaign has gone on), but I don’t have confidence in that, because when he’s off prompter, he doesn’t seem to have it in his head, or he doesn’t talk about what he said in a recent speech. It’s like he’s just mouthing the words. What good is that? What it tells me is it’s not on his mind. He’s saying it because people like me might like to hear someone say it, but it doesn’t mean anything to him.

At 31 minutes, Goldberg says that it’s possible that the people who made up the Tea Party basically gave up on its core reason for being, and just went for broke. He said that there was a basic deal that the Tea Party had with itself that, “You told us that if we stuck to our principles that we would win the day. We held up our end of the bargain.” They saw Mitt Romney lose the election in 2012, and felt betrayed. Goldberg said he thought after that, people in the Tea Party just said to hell with all that “principles” stuff. They just wanted to win. I think there’s truth to that. I didn’t think Trump represented the Tea Party, but rather was using the Tea Party in a crafty way to create a sufficient coalition that would win him the presidency, and then he would continue the Establishment agenda, since he’d been part of it for so many years. I called it “running against the base,” while winning them over during the election. I’ve heard other conservatives say that there is in fact a lot of support in the Tea Party for Trump.

I didn’t make the connection at the time, but Glenn Beck talked about the same thing as Goldberg did, during the primaries. He said that “he could see it in the eyes of voters,” that they were giving up on the reform agenda. They were just going to throw their lot in with Trump, even though they knew he didn’t represent limited government principles, because they wanted to win. Beck said several years ago that it’s common in reform movements for this to happen, that just when the opportunity arrives for the movement to make some gains on its principles, the people in it give up. He said that’s what happened in this election. Republicans had the opportunity to nominate Cruz, but they didn’t trust him, and didn’t think he could win. They thought Trump was the train they could hitch their car to, and he would drive them to victory. They were right, it turns out, but I’ve asked conservatives to ponder this all along: What’s it worth to win, but not get what you want? In other words, what’s the point of winning if you’re not going to advance a principled agenda? I think many would argue that it puts a stop to the progressive agenda. I say that’s an illusion. What they’re really doing is pausing it, or slowing it down. I don’t think Trump is going to reverse it. Reversing it would mean dismantling parts of agencies (as a start), or ending them altogether, and taking out entire line items in the budget, particularly in entitlements and welfare programs (both for individuals and corporations which are dependent on them). Nothing in what Trump has talked about indicates he’s going to do that. He’s talked about repealing Obamacare, but, as an example, in 2015, after he’d been running for a few months, he said re. health insurance, “We’re going to take care of everybody,” and, “The government is going to pay for it.” That sounded like single payer, and should have raised alarm bells for everybody in the Republican Party! In fact, it didn’t. A survey showed that the moment Trump said this, Republican approval for single payer health care went from 19% to 44%! That’s the state of the Republican Party in a nutshell. It’s not very conservative. It’s Democrat-lite.

I have a different take from Goldberg on how the Tea Party felt betrayed. I think it’s possible the problem came earlier than Romney. If people will remember, the Republicans tried to pick anyone but Romney in 2012, but ultimately Romney won out, because the other candidates had some major flaws that made them unfit in some way. Romney was not the Tea Party’s first choice. He didn’t really reach out to the Tea Party, and what I was hearing was that the Tea Party was dismayed with him. He didn’t represent their principles. Romney lost in the general election, possibly because Tea Party types stayed home. It’s possible they regretted that decision, seeing what happened subsequently in the 2nd Obama term. Benghazi seems to be a particular turning point. Secondly, Obamacare came into effect after the election, driving employers away, and cancelling people’s policies that they were counting on to keep themselves and loved ones alive. Political correctness became more intense. That broke them.

So, they’ve given up on principles, and thought that being less judgmental of the candidate was their path to victory. In a shallow sense, they were right. Trump won the election, but I think all Republicans have won is a temporary reprieve from the pain they’ve experienced. They’re not solving the fundamental problems, because they either don’t want to deal with them, or don’t think they can be solved politically. They went for what I call “the morphine drip” once again, easing the pain, while they continue toward death in proverbial hospice care.

I sympathize a lot with Goldberg’s “What I got wrong” segment at 53 minutes, where he talked about how it’s been 10 years since he published “Liberal Fascism,” and he admits he gave the Right a pass in the book, basically putting all of the fascist tendencies in our country on the Left. He sees now that was a mistake. He said he made it because he thought that the Right was too dogmatic about its sense of independence from the government, and its skepticism of it to give in to authoritarian tendencies. He said he’s not afraid of an Orwellian dystopian future, as much as Huxley’s “Brave New World.” I found that very interesting, because that’s the same argument that Neil Postman made 30 years ago. Goldberg said that Trump has brought out emotional tendencies and states of mind in Republicans that he didn’t think were possible. At the end of his mea culpa, Goldberg said of his politics, “I feel homeless in a way that I have never felt in my entire life.” That really struck a chord with me, because I feel the same way. I thought of the Republican Party as “the thinking person’s party,” a place where serious intellects could advance the cause of liberty, and the interests of our nation, and that would influence policy in government. That isn’t how I see it now. The thinking man and woman is now an enemy in the Republican Party, at least until they cast their intellectualism onto a burning trash heap and support Trump. The charge against the intellects is, “You’re the ones who got us in this mess.” And since people like Kristol and Goldberg came out publicly opposing Trump, they’re seen as traitors who not only wanted to elect Hillary Clinton, but who have secretly been on the side of Democrats and their agenda the whole time. Nothing could be further from the truth. I think many Republicans should be looking in the mirror on that one. This is one reason I left the Republican Party in August. I got tired of Republicans week after week telling people like me that if we didn’t support Trump, we should be ashamed of ourselves. The other reason is I watched the Republican convention, and was kind of disgusted by it. They didn’t even follow their own rules, at least not in spirit. I realized it wasn’t going to get better from here.

I thought a few years ago that the Republican Party was teachable re. conservatism, that if the two major parties chose two non-conservatives, constitutional conservatives should just vote for the Democrat, and that way Republicans would learn that going that direction doesn’t work. It doesn’t elect Republicans. This election has proved me wrong. The moderates won, defeating the argument that it’s moderates who have been losing, not the conservatives. (Past moderates who lost were just bad candidates.) I’ve also come to realize that even when evidence was put in front of Republicans, they couldn’t see it. It’s not just that people are in denial. It’s that they literally cannot see the better answer. Trump was not just a blip. The problem is structural. As the saying goes, I didn’t leave the Republican Party. It left me. If people are wondering why Sen. McConnell was siding with Democrats, passing Democratic legislation week after week, after Republicans won their majority in the Senate, this is why. That wasn’t just an aberration. This is where the party is now. Speaker Ryan, even though he had a history of being to the Right of McConnell, also threw in with the big-government Establishment, because that’s where the party is. The indications show that Trump’s election hasn’t changed that. It’s affirmed it.

In this materialistic atmosphere, where the perceived choice is between “Thing 1” and “Thing 2,” where one is on “your side,” which cannot be defined (other than in a bumper sticker that says “I love America,” with no explanation of what that means), and the other is the devil incarnate that’s not on our side, the thinking is if you’re not for one, you’re for the other. That’s the only possibility that can be seen. People like Goldberg and Kristol have become symbols of hatred, the object of scorn. Rather than defeating evil, we become perceived as evil.

This is going to sound overly dramatic, but the ending to “The Dark Knight” comes to mind. The one who actually is evil is perceived as the hero, because we need heroes. People like Trump represent our aspirations for us, without embodying them. We take the illusion over the real thing, because it’s easier to understand. Sometimes people’s faith deserves to be rewarded. People like me are not heroes, but we are protectors of the ideas of what America is, what makes it great. We are conservatives. If the people hate those ideas, even while they chant, “USA!”, we can take it, as can America. It isn’t the first time it’s seen this hatred, and it won’t be the last, at least I hope it isn’t.

People might ask how I could call Trump “evil.” I’m going to be nuanced about this. I don’t know that Trump has evil intentions, but something about this man assuming he can be president strikes me as serving evil, rather than the good of this nation. He has not in my mind demonstrated the skill I think is necessary for the job, other than his skill at being a campaigner, which he drew from his many years as a salesman. Of course, for the good of the nation, I hope I am wrong about all of this.

This conversation with Kristol from June about “Where is the Republican Party headed?” provided what I thought were some good insights about what’s been going on in this election.

The most “down” note that Kristol made in this is that this election has looked a lot like those that have happened in the Third World. They’ve played out in Argentina, Eastern Europe, and Brazil in years past. They’ve had plenty of elections where one candidate is a socialist, one is an insider who’s gotten rich off the political system, and another is an authoritarian demagogic populist. What he didn’t address is how we’ve gotten to this state. I argue the reason is not economic. It is political. More deeply, it is epistemological. Not to say that we exist in an era where there are not economic problems, but that they’re a symptom. The cause is our ideas about how we should live together. The Obama presidency created a semi-banana republic, where the very wealthy could be looted at the whim of a dictatorial regime, but the property of most citizens was left untouched, though Obamacare is creating conditions where that’s becoming a problem for ordinary Americans as well.

This video by Bill Whittle explains that the Third World is really what “natural humans” create, humans who have not been educated morally and historically in the notions of equal rights, which include the natural rights of speech, association, religion, property/commerce, travel, among infinite others, and why we decided they should be respected, not just by us, but by our government, and that the government is there mainly to protect those rights.

Whittle said, “We’re the freaks.” We’re the ones who live unhumanly good lives compared to the rest of the world, because of our work ethic, and our understanding of freedom. I wonder if Kristol’s point is very observant. I wonder if what Whittle believes about us is a lie. If Kristol is right, we’re seeing a symptom of our decline in this election. The result isn’t going to get us out of our decline, because it is a product of our decline.

I should note that in the last couple weeks of the election, Whittle became a Trump supporter. I hope his faith in Trump is fulfilled, and Kristol is wrong. However, I don’t think that putting teleprompters in front of Trump is going to turn him into a more small-r republican executive. Habits don’t change that easily, and we should know better than that. I don’t see that level of understanding in our electorate.

Just to be clear, I would be saying the same thing if Clinton was elected. Once the Republican nomination happened as it did, the die was cast. The problem is our conception of the moral project of politics.

I’ve come to a pretty firm conclusion that I don’t understand the politics of this country anymore. I used to feel like I understood it somewhat. I saw it as a battle between progressives and semi-small-r republicans. Now, it’s progressive vs. progressive. We might as well say you can have any color you want, so long as it’s black; some dark shade of grey.

It used to be possible to have a reasonable conversation with many Republicans, at least (Democrats are largely a lost cause). Now, I think Republicans are mostly a lost cause as well. There wasn’t a strong affinity for my ideology of constitutionally limited government in the Republican Party, but there was some empathy for it. That is now gone. Limited-government Tea Party conservatives got crushed in this year’s Republican primaries. There will be fewer of them in the next session of Congress. Perhaps Republican voters thought good riddance. Less risk of another government shutdown with them out of the way, so that the public trough can be reliably full for them to feed off of. Romney’s 2012 statement about the “47%” was not off base in its basic thrust. Its criticism included Republicans as well as Democrats. I wish he had worded his statement differently, though. Not all dependents deserved to be painted with the same brush of “helplessness.”

I looked for third party candidates to support in the presidential race, but they were wanting as well. So, I didn’t vote for President in this election, and I think I will be leaving politics altogether, at least in the way I have pursued it. I want to understand better how to be influential in our culture. I have a desire to either enter education, or help educators, to help create better citizens, because what I see is that most of our citizens don’t understand what makes America great, even if many of them want greatness for our country. As a society, we don’t know what that means anymore, except for our memories of what it once was like. What I’ve been doing to help promote that understanding has utterly failed. Time to give that up, and do something that works.

This will be my last post. I’ve only been posting on here once a year, anyway. If I happen to see pro-liberty candidates for office, I will continue to vote for them.

I find it highly ironic that I’ve used this blog in an attempt to challenge political correctness in Boulder (and to talk about national political matters), and what’s convinced me to end my use of it is a political candidate who made running against political correctness his campaign theme. I think my departure from this blog will be for the good.

The American people have their own ideas for what they want this country to pursue, and it clearly doesn’t want people like me to be a part of the political discussion. So, I will leave the rest of you to it. Clearly, you’ve made our bed, and we’re all going to have to lie in it.

I leave you with this scene from the HBO series “Rome.” It illustrates the realization after Julius Caesar was killed that the Roman republic was dead. He was killed in the Senate, but caesarism did not die. All the people wondered afterwards was who would replace him as unquestioned ruler. In this scene, the defenders of the republic who killed Caesar are confronted by Mark Anthony, who offers a deal: Don’t call Caesar a tyrant, and you can stay as you are with no opposition from me. If you refuse, I’ll make your life a living hell, and I will do everything in my power to destroy you. Inside, the republicans debate whether to kill Anthony while they have the chance. Brutus, one of the republicans, refuses to consider it, saying basically that the reason they killed Caesar was his tyrannical acts. Anthony has done nothing wrong, and he’s offering a truce. They should agree. The others say no, Anthony is too dangerous. He was a close friend of Caesar’s, and he would betray them. In the end, Brutus speaks for all of them, and takes the deal. The republic was still dead. Nothing changed.

What Anthony got was the legitimacy of Caesar’s will, which would have been invalidated if the republicans had not taken the deal. All of Caesar’s wealth was bestowed on Octavian, but Anthony planned to use it all for himself. I see parallels with the game the country is now playing. We have the illusion of victory for “America,” but we’re dealing with power players who are playing their own game, carving up the spoils. The big question I think we should be asking ourselves is whether the republic is dead, or just in remission.


Understanding the separation of church and state

January 2, 2015

Often when we think about the separation of church and state, we think about the issues of the government wanting to restrict use of public facilities by religious groups, and not allowing them to erect religious symbols on public property at Christmastime, or forbidding a high school valedictorian from invoking God or Jesus during their graduation speech. Thinking on this lately, I’ve come to a different conclusion about it.

I’ve been talking with a group of people who are interested in an education project, a component of which is to bring back a proper education of American citizens, so they will understand something of what it means to be a citizen of the American republic, since our public education system has thrown that aside.

There is, I think, a need for philosophical, epistemological, and ethical clarity. It’s ironic to me now that we have in effect a state religion coming into effect in this country, with no officially recognized church or canon, though the church is in plain sight: the government itself. The high priesthood is the academics in our universities, with our media personalities being the lay priests. It’s invisible to most, because it doesn’t categorize itself as a religion. The only way I know of to recognize it is from an anthropological perspective (though, as I’ll attest, one doesn’t have to be a scholar of that subject to see it). The only hint we get of it out in the open is when we see certain leftists say that unless we’re willing to have the government give money to the poor–which they will say is the “charitable” thing to do–we shouldn’t call ourselves a Christian nation. Or, like Rep. Nancy Pelosi said, we should welcome the illegal immigrants who came in last year, because, “That’s the Christian thing to do, to give them shelter.”

Particularly with the gay marriage issue, I’ve told people on the Left that, “This is the reason we have a First Amendment, and separation of church (I’m referring to their church) and state, to protect freedom of conscience.” The cases of states going after Christian businesses, such as photographers and bakeries, have been ones where the Left has had an easy time, due to the principle of public accommodation, but to me it’s religious persecution by a different name. I’m not opposed to gay people entering into legally recognized relationships, but the people they’re going after mean them no harm. They should not be treated like civil rights violators.

When the Left talks about the need to have government programs to help the poor, I’ve come to the realization that they’re talking the same way that a Christian minister would to their congregation, calling on them to be charitable. When they talk about the evils of discrimination, they’re talking like a minister who calls on their congregation to recognize everyone as God’s children. If you take out references to scripture, and any religious terms, that’s what it is! I have told some on the Left that this is the sort of thing I’d expect to hear in church, not from my government, and certainly not as part of a political campaign.

I think it’s fine for politicians to invoke God, or any other supernatural being they choose in their speeches, to say things like, “God bless America,” and to talk about their personal faith, but when they admonish people to “be charitable” by agreeing to raise taxes, and have the government engaged in social spending, or subverting government policy that’s laid out in our law, excusing it as “the Christian thing to do,” or any other religious excuse, I think people should recognize that these people are stepping over a civic line. Charity is a religious and ethical concept, not a political one. If our government grants money, say, to a foreign government, or grants foreign aid, it should be recognized as a tool of foreign policy, something that advances the state’s interests in carrying out its requirements with respect to other nations. Likewise, money spent domestically by our government should be seen as a tool of domestic political policy, something that, again, advances the state’s interests, hopefully in carrying out its charter’s requirements. That’s what “separation of church and state” really means. It’s not just neutering religion by taking out any religious narrative, and any references to the supernatural, but leaving in all of the moral codes and requirements, and transferring it into politics and policy. It’s separating the ethical and moral admonishments, and requirements of religion from politics and policy. This applies equally to the Bush Administration’s “faith-based” initiatives, creating government subsidies that fund religious charities.

I think we should also be clear that it’s not about excluding religious groups from using public property, forbidding religious speech on the same, forbidding religious symbols on the same on holidays, or even forbidding religiously themed monuments on it. It is about forbidding the imposition of policies that are hostile to, or I’d even say a substitute for, the free exercise of one’s conscience. I think that no act of conscience should be forbidden, so long as it does not violate the natural rights of others, nor damage government property, nor impede the ability of the government to defend anyone’s rights. These days we forget that we have a duty to respect the right of other Americans to act according to their conscience, even if it offends us.

Separation of church and state is about keeping the qualities of religion squarely in society, and not in government policy, and likewise keeping government out of the business of religion.

Conservative speakers coming to CU Boulder

January 29, 2014

Dr. Steven Hayward, CU’s Visiting Conservative Scholar, has arranged for some conservative speakers to come to CU campus in February and March. It looks like these schedules could be tentative. Updates will be posted on the Conservative Thought and Policy blog.

Christina Hoff Somers
February 19
Atlas Rm. 100, 6:30-8:00 pm

Jonah Goldberg
February 25
HUMN Rm. 1B50, 6:30-8:00 pm

Roger Scruton
March 5
Atlas Rm. 100, 6:30-8:00 pm

Jonathan Adler
March 11
Atlas Rm. 100, 7:15-9:30 pm (tentative)

Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger
March 20
HUMN Rm. 1B50, 6:30-8:00 pm

A way forward for constitutionalists

November 21, 2013

I have not posted to this blog in almost two years. I started this 7 years ago, since I didn’t see a place to express myself politically anywhere else at the time. I’ve since found other venues for that. In this instance, I feel the need to return to this venue. I’ve been thinking of a way for constitutionalists to regain a power position in our government. It’s going to sound counter-intuitive to many, but I think it offers a way of pushing the idea forward. It’s not the only answer, and it may not apply to some, since they tend not to vote for the two major parties anyway, but I offer it for consideration.

Increasingly I’ve been coming around to the idea that the key to a return of constitutional government is not ultimately through the political process, but through education, and that includes most importantly the education of children. Most of what I’ll talk about here is not about that, but a political strategy for the meantime. However, I feel it’s important to emphasize that this cannot be the whole answer. How to go about education, I leave to others for now, as I have very little knowledge about how to educate, but nothing replaces it in the project of political reform. I am quite convinced that we got to where we are today politically because of past educational mistakes, mixed with some deliberate actions. That’s kind of a chicken and egg problem. Which came first? The intent, or the mistake?

I propose not only a takeover strategy of the Republican Party by the Tea Party, but also taking actions that goad the country to come back to conservatism. Some say that takeover is already happening, but I think something more is needed, and perhaps Tea Partiers are already doing this. I don’t know. It seems like we saw evidence of this in the 2012 election.

In the past, the Republican establishment has been able to keep conservatives at bay with moderate politicians. The scenario goes like this. Middle-of-the-road types (often called “moderates,” but I’ll use the term MOTRs) claim during the primaries that their conservative opponents are too extreme and cannot get elected. MOTRs win these primaries, successfully convincing Republican voters of this (and by virtue of the fact that many Republican voters, and independents who are allowed in open primaries, like moderates). Then, in the general election, conservatives complain that their moderate candidates don’t represent them. The same answer always comes, “Where are you going to go?” Conservatives feel compelled to vote for MOTRs, because it’s better to get “half a loaf” than nothing at all, but I think we should question whether we’re even getting “half a loaf” anymore. The presidency of George W. Bush I think did away with that notion. Bush gained office by creating a program of “big government conservatism.” He grew the government way more than prior Democratic presidents had. He knew the public wanted larger government, but he thought he could steer the country with larger government in a conservative direction with higher public spending on causes to which conservatives are agreeable. In the final analysis, I think this failed. With the election of Obama in 2008, all I see is that Bush handed the Democrats a loaded weapon, which they’ve used to attack liberty-loving Americans, and encourage more government dependency to a degree they had not dreamed of previously.

What I propose is a political strategy whose aim is to teach the people that their desire for bigger government is misguided, such that it will open an opportunity for Americans to search for an alternative. The strategy is simple. Absent monetary influence, I think it’s all we have. It will involve taking many losses, and bearing them with resolve. It will involve experiencing the burdens of big government, and suffering its predations. It may not work, but I do not see an alternative. I think we must be firm about what we prefer. I think we must tilt our votes towards those candidates for office whom we can surmise have skills in governing, and who have our priorities of constitutionally limited government at heart, and in mind. If we do not have such a candidate to support, we must not vote for MOTR Republicans. Instead vote for Democrats, no matter whether they’re moderates or extremists, or vote for an existing third party, if some prefer. As I heard one Tea Partier say (I think Sen. Ted Cruz of TX), in order to take back the country we must first take back the Republican Party. To do that, there must be an accommodation between constitutionalist voters and the party establishment. If the Establishment continues to offer up milquetoast candidates, we must be willing to accept party defeat for the time being to teach the party apparatus that their choices are not acceptable, and to teach the people, to the extent possible, what their desire for bigger government (with the Democrats) really means. This means of course that we will continue to suffer the predations of government, if the public’s desire for that continues, but it’s an unfortunate truth about humanity that people often do not change until they experience pain. They must feel the overbearing character of big government to seek an alternative, and we must be willing to bear it with them until they learn that this is not the way forward.

Some will feel alarmed at this proposal: Vote for Democrats?? Yes, if no suitable Republican candidate is available. The reason for my “madness” is simple. If the public indicates it wants bigger government, I suggest we give it to them, full on. What I want us to turn away from is the “frog in the slowly warming pot,” that ultimately “cooks” it alive. I think we will be able to make our point most effectively with stark contrasts in the political process. Rather than give big government slowly, give it quickly with gusto. People will feel the impact of it more quickly. If it comes on slowly, people will become inured to its effects–they’ll get used to it. Expectations will be lowered, and people will not aspire to anything better.

Some will point to my stance and say that this is asking for dysfunction, because we are displaying an unwillingness to compromise. That is not true. I recognize the need for compromise in our government, but there are some compromises that are not worth taking. In fact what many are calling “compromise” today–continuing to overspend at an alarming rate, and continuing to destroy constitutional government–is downright crazy. We all know it. All the traditional motions towards compromise by Republicans have gotten us is a larger, more oppressive federal state that is repressing small private enterprise, creating more government dependence to a point where nearly half the country is in such a state, and where the government is borrowing 40% of what it spends, increasing the debt to proportions not seen since WW II, with no end to it in sight. Many in the Democratic establishment have convinced themselves that this is not dangerous. They can continue growing the state, creating a larger and larger financial burden on the country. Money is no object. Absent full Democratic control of the presidency and Congress, they prefer dealing with moderate Republicans, who will vote along with them to continue growing the size of government, with their feckless protests, indefinitely. The Democrats, as far as I’m concerned, are a lost cause for the time being, but if this country is going to have a chance in the future, we must not see this as acceptable behavior on the part of Republicans. We must have a conservative party, with some power, to go to.

Some might also ask if this is just asking for ultimate defeat. If the country does not learn to reject big government, and continues going back to the same “well” for solutions, despite its failures, won’t this strategy ultimately lead us to a one-party state, and perhaps the end of the country itself? I say we are on that path already. Voting for Republicans, without regard for their inclinations for smaller or bigger government, will not stop it. It will only slow it down, but not change course. That I find unacceptable as well. I’ve had this sense since 2011 that the country needs to make a stark choice about which way it is going to go. If it is determined to keep going down the same path, voting for MOTR Republicans will not change our fate. It will only delay the inevitable. It will seem like we have made an alternate choice, but we will, in fact, have chosen a slight modification of the status quo, which still leads in the same direction. That’s not the kind of decision I’m talking about.

There have been increasing calls for constitutional conservatives to break away from the Republican Party and create a third party, but I caution against this. Creating a third party will not change the political landscape one iota. It will not instantly create a new majority. What people need to do is change their minds. That can happen within the existing system of two major parties. Being a part of the Republican Party creates an opportunity for engagement, to change the minds of people who we need to convert to our side of the argument. It also lets them know that we are not their enemy. We agree with them on many principles, but we have a different approach towards achieving them. They may say it doesn’t look like a strategy for success, and on that they have a point. The Tea Party is a minor, though somewhat successful, movement within the Republican Party. Success for our goals will only come when the American public learns that big government doesn’t work, and we learn to communicate, and educate, the public to that fact effectively. Part of what will help with that will be the public experiencing the downsides of big government.

The one scenario where I could see a break-away third party working is where the Republican Party apparatus actively suppresses our voice, but there’s an increasing public support with momentum for our views. In addition, a funding coalition would be needed. Simply having different ideas will not suffice. They must be ideas that people are willing to commit to with their cash, and, living with the practical realities of electoral engagement, it must be an agenda that attracts donations to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. Such fundraising can be done online in today’s world, but it might be necessary for such an agenda to attract large financial backers, rather than counting on a swarm of public excitement, and a large number of small donations.

The Tea Party has its enemies within the GOP, but I don’t see a large movement to actively suppress it just yet. I hope that does not develop. In the meantime I advocate taking the actions I’ve outlined to shape the Republican Party to our ends.

Edit 1/10/14: Glenn Beck did an excellent piece on this subject back in October. He didn’t say what I’ve said, but I think it dovetails. Where we agree is that we must do what we can to defeat what are commonly called “moderate” (or what Glenn calls Progressive) candidates in the party, in preference to pro-freedom, pro-Constitution, pro-market (I would add pro-federalism) candidates.

The end of the republic is nigh

December 1, 2011

This is going to sound overly dramatic. I believe we are headed for real political trouble in the coming decade. I don’t see a way out of it. I know there are reassuring voices who have said, and continue to say, that the election of this or that candidate will not be the end of the republic. I hope they are right, but I think they are wrong. I will explain why.

There are some who get it, that we are headed for a fiscal cliff if we continue the way we are going, but very few people, relatively speaking, understand what the real fiscal problem is. It’s apparently too complicated for most to grasp. It’s a lot easier to see things in terms of class strata, and who is or isn’t getting what.

I have come to really question the wisdom of TARP, which I once advocated in the most impassioned tones that we pass back in 2008. I have since realized that the people I was listening to back then were capitalists, but they were also anti-market business types who believe that the government should solve our problems. They probably didn’t deserve the respect I gave them. I am still not sure TARP was a bad idea, but I now take a dimmer view of it. I am now against the idea of doing anything similar to that again. We cannot afford to reward malfeasance. It just leads to more of it, which I fear we will feel the repercussions of in the future. One of the problems it has created is it has emboldened the left. It has enabled them to say, “The rich got bailed out by the government, but now the Republicans want to abandon the middle class,” by denying them unemployment and retirement benefits. This is going to come back to bite us hard! The Tea Party has been on the side of good, in my mind, looking at the situation realistically, but they’ve been cast as extremists, and the public has come to believe it. Most people now blame the Tea Party for the recent debt debacle. In my opinion the Republicans have flubbed this year. Twice now they have tried to pass large budget-cutting bills, and each time when push came to shove they backed off, resulting in effectively no change in spending. Sure, there have been some cuts, but they’re the same amount the government spends in a week. Each time it took them at least a month to get to that point, so the gains in solving the fiscal crisis are moot. It was all theater.

Some pundits have patted the Tea Party and Speaker Boehner on the back, saying they did an amazing job “changing the conversation.” Well they may lose the majority in the House next year. They’re not that popular right now. A lot of good that’ll do.

I make this prediction. Obama will win re-election next year, regardless of how unpopular he is right now. We may get a Republican senate, though. Here’s why I think that. Most of the people who voted in the House majority did not want Medicare to be cut or modified. The Republicans in the House have proposed doing that. It’s necessary. I think Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan was a good first shot at it, but even the Republican base hated it. The Tea Party Republicans put forward other proposals that cut back Medicare. The reason is it’s necessary. We can’t afford the rate it’s expanding anymore, mainly because of Medicaid’s growth in spending. Now they’re unpopular. The Democrats keep saying we need to raise taxes on the rich. That could be part of the mix, as far as I’m concerned. The reason is history shows that the top tax rate has no discernible impact on job creation. It may have an impact on GDP. I haven’t analyzed that yet. In any case, it can be the Democrats’ token issue they take back to their constituents. It won’t solve the problem, but apparently it would make the medicine go down better for some. I think it’s a worthy concession if it can be used as a bargaining chip to get Democrats to agree to huge budget cuts. Personally I think this is where the Republicans might’ve misplayed the whole situation. They insisted that taxes be off the table.

What I find really disturbing though is this year proved that this country does not have the stomach for budget cuts, at all, and we really need them now, and in the near future! The cuts that are coming as a result of the failure of the “super commission” are reversible. Maybe not next year, but the year after next. Besides, the cuts are not that significant from a budgetary perspective. The federal government is overspending by $1,400 billion a year. The cuts that take effect in 2013 as a result of the deal struck in July (and the failed “super commission”) are $120 billion a year. That’s less than a 10% chunk out of what the government is overspending. So now the government will be overspending by $1.28 trillion a year, instead of $1.4 trillion, that is if it doesn’t add on more spending after this. What accomplishment is that?

The one thing out of the Bowles-Simpson Commission that I think has real heft to it is the prediction that we are facing a known economic threat that will be caused by our government’s overspending, and it’s entirely preventable. However we may just walk right into it anyway, if we don’t get our act together and understand what will cause it. The reason being that the causes they identified are the very federal programs most voters don’t want cut: Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid.

This is the reason I fear for the very existence of our republic. So long as we keep not understanding the problem, we will step closer and closer to this crisis, like a sleepwalker. The financial crisis in Europe is not helping matters. It’s causing foreign investors to buy our bonds, which makes the interest rates drop temporarily, in a flight-to-safety move. This is causing people now to question whether there’s a debt crisis in our country at all. I mean, the bond yields are at record lows! What’s the problem? However, this is only temporary. The moment we look insolvent, our bonds will be dumped like a hot potato. I imagine the Federal Reserve will monetize the debt in that instance, increasing inflation, rather than allow interest rates to float.

Once before our country borrowed 118% of its GDP, and managed to keep its AAA rating. That was during WW II. We cut spending massively in 1947/48, after the war. Here’s what’s different now from then. We keep saying we need our retirement programs as-is, but these programs will kill our economy in the next several years. Social Security didn’t really get going until the Eisenhower Administration in the 1950s. Medicare didn’t get started until Lyndon Johnson’s term in office, starting in the mid-1960s. We appear destined to walk right into another financial crisis. I don’t see a way out of it politically yet.

Our past history is that electing one-party Republican governments doesn’t help the problem. It just delays the inevitable. Bush and the Republican congress spent more than Clinton did in his 8 years in office. That’s part of the reason we’re in this mess, though I hold Obama and the Democrats more culpable, because they’ve taken what Bush spent and tripled it, upping our deficits massively!

What I see we need this time around is a Democratic president with a Republican congress (House and Senate). This combination worked out well in the 1990s, because they were motivated to oppose each other. There were some contentious fights, and even a government shutdown, but they managed to get budget surpluses. I can’t imagine us getting such an outcome now, even with that arrangement, with our deficits the way they are. That would be too big a change, but I’d at least like us to get our budget deficit down to what Bush’s yearly deficits were, as a first goal, which was about $600 billion a year (and that was just 3 years ago!) That, at least, our government could manage. The thing is, I doubt we’ll get there, because getting down to that level will require cutting into programs we don’t want cut.

The long term goal is we need to have a growing economy. Here’s the dirty little question hardly anyone is asking: Grow with what? Each growth boom we had in the 20th century was spurred by invention. In the 1920s it was the invention of radio. In the 1950s it was the invention of modern appliances in our own industrial revolution. In the 1980s it was the computer revolution, and in the 1990s it was the deregulation of the internet and telecommunications. What do we have now? We won’t know unless our government deregulates small business, and establishes consistent policies that businesses can predict. Right now our government is not doing that, and we appear to have no political inclination to do so.

We could enter another Great Depression. Some Democrats even look forward to this. The private sector would be stifled. They remember FDR’s anti-business stance, and his government programs with fondness. The difference is now we have an America where a large swath of the country is dependent on government programs. We don’t want them cut, especially in this economy. If we don’t cut them, though, the economy will stay bad. Unless that political dynamic is broken, our state of economic depression will drag on for a few decades at least, not just one. What will make things worse than the last great depression is we’ll be a country that is known as a deadbeat, that can’t pay its bills. So interest rates will be high. Before the Depression of the 1930s, the government ran a revenue surplus, and always paid its bills. There will be demand for the government to borrow more and more money from abroad, or from the Fed (increasing inflation), as our demand for government programs remains insatiable, because the government will not be able to raise the necessary revenues to support all of the spending. I see tax increases as inevitable, though they are politically unpopular. I think the Democrats will eventually push them through. That’ll help some, perhaps, on the revenue end, but the effect will likely be negligible. The spending will just reach higher and higher. The private sector will eventually be crowded out. We’ll just have large corporations surviving, which will work hand-in-glove with the government, and the majority of the nation’s economy will be taken up by the government. Our transformation to a socialist society will be complete, and the constitutional republic founded in 1789 will be all but dead.

I hope I’m wrong about this, but to me the key to turning this around is breaking our societal dependence on government largesse. Unless we do that, we doom the next generation to a life of hardship.

Another Republican I won’t be voting for

May 15, 2011

Well, this pretty well seals it. I’m not voting for Newt Gingrich for the Republican nomination, and I’m not voting for Mitt Romney, either, for the same reason. Gingrich said on Meet The Press today that he backs an individual mandate, requiring every American to buy health insurance, though it sounds like he just doesn’t like the way it’s done in the Obama health care bill. It doesn’t matter. I still don’t like his idea. Saying that people should have health insurance makes sense, particularly for catastrophic situations, heart attack, cancer, etc., but “should” is not the same as “must.” “Should” is a suggestion. Saying that people must have it so that everyone can afford it, as Gingrich did, is BS. It’s an overreach of government. People should buy the insurance they think they need, and insurance should act like insurance, to deal with the consequences of risks. Health insurance should not be another name for managed care.

What’s going on with inflation?

May 2, 2011

Edit 5-4-11: Decided to change the title of this post, adding the “?”, since I realized Dick Morris’s article is more an opinion piece.

Dick Morris has a good column today on “How the Feds conceal inflation.” He not only talks about the “lying with statistics” that’s going on. He also mentions what is causing the increased prices that consumers are generally seeing.

He said that if we use the same standard that we used to measure inflation in 1980, after the Carter years, then our annual inflation rate would be measured at 10% right now. I’ve been thinking for a while that the predicted problems with inflation were overblown, that it’ll be like the 1970s, but Morris is saying it will be different, because the problem is different. He said that before, the problem was the textbook definition of inflation: too much money chasing too few goods. Demand increases while supply remains the same. Now he says the problem is there’s a “price push” on the goods we buy. I looked this up, and apparently what “price push” means is that demand remains constant, but supply decreases. Therefor prices increase without increased demand. It’s the opposite problem.

Morris says that increasing interest rates now will not help this situation, though it was the solution to the inflation problem of the 1970s. He doesn’t say what the solution for this is, but I suspect it has to do with decreasing taxes and regulation, and I’d imagine decreasing the rate of federal spending, because public debt is crowding out private credit. I’d imagine that if the Fed increased interest rates we would likely see out-of-control inflation, because banks would be more motivated to lend into the private economy. This would increase supply over the long term, but also increase demand in the short term. This would force the Fed to increase interest rates higher to try to contain the increase in demand. Morris has said we’re entering a stagflationary period, but I can see now how it could get really bad.