Thursday, December 29, 2011

Iowa GOP Losing Interest In Ethanol Subsidies

The long-standing "sacred cow" of Iowa politics may not be sacred anymore.

From The Iowa Republican:
A recent survey of likely Republican caucus goers shows that support of federal subsidies for the ethanol industry has waned significantly in recent years. The poll, which was commissioned by, finds that Iowa Republicans view a candidate who supports ending federal ethanol subsidies more favorably than a candidate who doesn’t.

The survey asked, “Some of the candidates have proposed to end federal subsidies for ethanol. Do you have a very positive, somewhat positive, somewhat negative, or very negative reaction to candidates taking this position?” Forty-seven percent responded by answering very or somewhat positive. Only 24 percent of respondents said that they had a negative reaction to a candidate who is campaigning against ethanol subsidies.
This is quite a change from previous Presidential election years.

Paul Abrams at The Huffington Post doesn't appear to have gotten the memo:
In the circus masquerading as the Republican Iowa caucus, there has been nary a word about ethanol subsidies, a major issue for Iowans.

But, where do these budget-cutting, waste-fraud-abuse claiming, shrinking-government demanding, laissez-faire extolling candidates stand on ethanol subsidies? The subsidies have been around a long, long time.
Consider the implication of this change in Iowa: The biggest obstacle to cutting government spending has been the "public trough" effect- the notion that voters would resist cutting excessive spending immediately beneficial to themselves. This effect has been particularly strong in Iowa, where ethanol subsidies were considered so sacred that every Presidential candidate had to publicly favor them or throw away any chance of success in that state.

We all know the left counts on this lack of self-deprivation as a safeguard against serious budget cuts. If Abrams' comments are any indication, the prospect of Iowans adopting some measure of self-discipline with regard to federal taxpayer dollars terrifies the left.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Romney's Christmas Gift To Voters: A VAT Tax

Mitt Romney gave an interview to The Wall Street Journal over the weekend, discussing his concepts on tax policy. I think the mere fact that Romney used the tactic of concealing the discussion, not just in a "Friday night news dump" way, but in a Friday-before-Christmas-news-dump, should tell the reader everything they need to know about what Romney had to say on taxes.

So, what did he say, you ask?

In typical Romney fashion, he didn't say much. From the WSJ interview:’s hard not to conclude that the candidate is trying to avoid offering any details that might become a political target. And he all but admits as much. “I happen to also recognize,” he says, “that if you go out with a tax proposal which conforms to your philosophy but it hasn’t been thoroughly analyzed, vetted, put through models and calculated in detail, that you’re gonna get hit by the demagogues in the general election.”
This is perfectly in keeping with Romney's 59-point plan, which I broke down in this post. Not a single point of the 59-point plan could be described as "bold", "controversial", or "original". It's a plan designed to be the least-offensive to the largest number of people.

Romney's tax proposal is equally vague and inoffensive:
"What I like—I mean, I like the simplification of a flat tax. I also like removing the distortion in our tax code for certain classes of investment. And the advantage of a flat tax is getting rid of some of those distortions."
He says this in regard to either a consumption tax or a "true flat tax".

In other words, he's playing both sides of the tax debate- some people like consumption taxes, some (like me) like flat income taxation, so Romney says he likes either.

Here's the interesting part:
He says he doesn’t “like the idea” of layering a VAT onto the current income tax system. But he adds that, philosophically speaking, a VAT might work as a replacement for some part of the tax code, “particularly at the corporate level,” as Paul Ryan proposed several years ago. What he doesn’t do is rule a VAT out.
I think it's important to pause here and give the reader a refresher on the VAT. I hate to say this, but it's true: The extent of the average American's knowledge of the VAT tax can be summed up as "VAT = Europe" and "Europe = Good (for a Democrat) or Bad (for a Republican)".

I know of no better explanation of the VAT and its dangers than this discussion with Murray Rothbard (via, and I highly encourage the reader to read the entire article):
The VAT is essentially a national sales tax, levied in proportion to the goods and services produced and sold. But its delightful concealment comes from the fact that the VAT is levied at each step of the way in the production process: on farmer, manufacturer, jobber and wholesaler, and only slightly on the retailer.

The difference is that when a consumer pays a 7 percent sales tax on every purchase, his indignation rises and he points the finger of resentment at the politicians in charge of government; but if the 7 percent tax is hidden and paid by every firm rather than just at retail, the inevitably higher prices will be charged, not to the government where it belongs, but to grasping businessmen and avaricious trade unions.

While consumers, businessmen, and unions all blame each other for inflation like Kilkenny cats, Papa government is able to preserve its lofty moral purity, and to join in denouncing all of these groups for "causing inflation."

It is now easy to see the enthusiasm of the federal government and its economic advisers for the new scheme for a VAT. It allows the government to extract many more funds from the public — to bring about higher prices, lower production, and lower incomes —and yet totally escape the blame, which can easily be loaded on business, unions, or the consumer as the particular administration sees fit.
As you can see, it's no surprise that VAT taxes are instruments of big socialist states.

The question, then, is whether or not Romney is proposing a VAT tax, but avoiding the conservative slings and arrows of such a proposal (by pointing out that Paul Ryan proposed a VAT at one point)?

Jim Pethokoukis believes so, but doesn't believe it's such a bad thing:
You can have a value-added tax that is economically efficient and pro-growth but does not have the transparency issues that Norquist and other small-government advocates worry about. Many flat taxers, for instance, like the 19 percent Hall-Rabushka flat tax, a plan which has served as the model for many flat tax proposals. As with the X tax, businesses under a Hall-Rabushka system would deduct cash wages from the cash flow on which they calculate the VAT.

Being a flat taxer, and one who has recommended Hall and Rabushka's book in a previous post, I have to make a point on this subject: The VAT-like effect of their plan comes from the fact that they propose taxing business expenses, something most flat taxers (in my experience) find objectionable. This is, in fact, my principal disagreement with the Hall-Rabushka plan (and one of my several disagreements with consumption taxes of all forms)- taxing business expenses creates a barrier to entering self-employment, and a barrier to small businesses' ability to compete against large businesses.

By this standard, the Forbes flat tax- which includes a deduction for business expenses- is definitely preferred by the majority of flat taxers I know (though it's possible there's a large community of flat taxers somewhere, whom I haven't met, and who favor taxing businesses in this fashion).

And on the subject of Paul Ryan: I like the man, but I am not a Paul Ryan cheerleader like some others, precisely because some of his proposals aren't all they're cracked up to be. Let's remember that, in addition to propising a European-style VAT, he recently partnered with Ron Wyden (D-OR) to craft a new Medicare proposal, which Dean Clancy aptly described as "Obamacare for Seniors". Romney's name-dropping effort shows that Ryan's name recognition among Republican voters is far better than his plan recognition.

In sum: Mitt Romneycare used Christmas weekend, when nobody reads or watches political news, to announce- in a vague and weasly way- his support of a VAT tax. And no matter how you slice it, VAT- in any form- is a bad idea.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Building A Bomb Shelter For The Race War

I touched on the subject of Ron Paul's viciously bigoted newsletters in my last post. The revelation of these newsletters doesn't just present problems for his presidential campaign, though; it presents a problem for many of us as well.

The danger for self-described libertarians- particularly those of us who are also registered Republicans- is that our message of individual liberty and limited government will be drowned out by Ron Paul's bigotry. It was bad enough when Democrats cast us as "the lunatic fringe" in the 1990s; one couldn't comment on the overreach of the federal government without a littany of "militia whacko" digs. Now Ron Paul may have given them- and many of our fellow Republicans- ammuntion to do it to us again.

The best thing we can do to preserve "the Libertarian moment" is to cut Ron Paul loose. Yes, he was one of the formative figures in modern libertarianism. But he's a liability to our movement we simply can't afford.

Instead, we have to relentlessly push our powerful message: That you, the individual, are a remarkable entity, capable of self-determination and self-reliance; that left to your own devices, you are capable of achieving whatever you want to achieve; that you have a broad array of rights which are as natural to you as the fingers on your hands; that you don't need or want government to make decisions for you or care for you or provide you a false sense of safety; that government deprives you of opportunities by taxing and regulating you and your endeavors; that government interferes with your pursuit of happiness by devaluing your money, seizing your property, and diluting your rights; and that we have a sacred text called the United States Constitution, which- in its glorious correctness- recognizes these truths.

This positivity of this message is the reason for the current "libertarian moment". If freedom is the natural condition of man, then how can anyone argue against this message? Nobody can, which is why we see counterarguments couched in "protection" and "fairness" rhetoric, or in ad hominem attacks accusing us of being drug addicts or conspiracy theorists. Ron Paul's racism hasn't helped our case.

And since Dr. Paul is currently running for President (and doing fairly well in the polls), one has to ask: If we don't support Paul, who do we support? I asked this question in a previous post: Which candidate will make government as inconsequential in your life as possible? My answer hasn't changed.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Come On, GOP!

Let's stop and assess the GOP frontrunners:

It's come to light this week that Ron Paul's newsletter didn't publish just one possibly racist article, it printed several definitely rasict articles. From Mark Mayberry at The Truth About Bills:
The comments below seem to be the most notable:
• “Given the inefficiencies of what DC laughingly calls the criminal justice system, I think we can safely assume that 95 percent of the black males in that city are semi-criminal or entirely criminal.”
• “We are constantly told that it is evil to be afraid of black men, it is hardly irrational.”
• After the Los Angeles riots, one article in a newsletter claimed, “Order was only restored in L.A. when it came time for the blacks to pick up their welfare checks.”
• One referred to Martin Luther King Jr. as “the world-class philanderer who beat up his paramours” and who “seduced underage girls and boys.”
Ron Paul's response to this revelation is, well, irrelevant. The statements were published, and they're clearly racially-charged. That should be the last nail in the coffin of Paul's campaign, but it probably won't be.

Then there's Newt Gingrich, whose history of government medicine, gun control, poor leadership, and unabashed admiration for FDR should disqualify him from consideration. Unfortunately, they haven't.

Thomas Sowell's "endorsement" of Gingrich this week is pretty standard fodder as far as Newt endorsements go. It can be summarized thus: 'Newt isn't a very good guy, but Obama is much worse... and yadda yadda Mitt Romney'. To me, common sense dictates that any candidate who must be endorsed with a disclaimer- such as "I know he's not a nice guy..." shouldn't be endorsed at all.

And the endorsements- just like Sowell's- follow the same unspoken inevitability assumption: There is no candidate other than Newt (well, OK, there's Mitt), Newt is the inevitable choice, suck it up and vote for him in the primary, and he'll look good debating Obama. I see no enthusiasm amongst Gingrich supporters, merely acquiescence.

Speaking of Mitt: I think it's safe to say few of us on the right really want to vote for him. The thrust of the Presidential race so far as been to find the un-Romney, after all. I don't think I need to say much more than that about him.

Jon Huntsman, Michele Bachmann, and Rick Santorum are barely worth mentioning. Their poll numbers are so consistently low, they're guaranteed to never earn the nomination.

And then there's Rick Perry. It is maddening to me that more people aren't getting behind him! Unlike Gingrich, he's extremely personable, has no plans to socialize medicine, and has a clean gun rights record. He's also the ideal 'not-Romney'. He has an impeccable record of governance in Texas and a sensible immigration plan.

In fact, I don't think anyone even disputes any of these points.

So what exactly is the barrier to getting behind Perry? If it's the one dumb video referencing 'gays in the military, let's point something out: Although it wasn't well-stated, the basic point of the ad was to illustrate that not all groups are gaining equality in the law. While one group- the gay community- are gaining legal equality, another group- Christians- are rapidly losing it. Compare this to Gingrich flatly telling the gay community to vote for Obama, and tell me who is less LGBT-friendly.

So again I ask: What is it about Perry- a solid small-government conservative with an impressive record as Governor of Texas (as well-illustrated by "Ace Of Spades" here)-  that makes him less appealling than Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich or Ron Paul? Anyone?

Come on, GOP! Do we really want a poor candidate like Gingrich or Romney? Or do we want a great candidate with a proven track record of success?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Let's Topple North Korea!

Kim Jong-Il has died, and will be replaced by his son, Kim Jong-Un. At this moment, I believe we have a singluar opportunity to topple the most barbaric regime in the modern world.

Some background:

North Korea relies on its black markets. North Korea's more-Stalinist-than-Stalin laws which centralize the economy are so restrictive that authorities have had to turn a blind eye to black market ventures- such as the private sale of grain between persons (illegal since 1957, but unenforced from 1990 until 2005)- just to allow people to subsist and to bring hard currency into the country.

A 2002 attempt by the NK government to legalize some of this black market and slightly liberalize the economy turned out to have worked too well- too many North Koreans were found to have been participating in these ventures, and the government rescinded these minor freedoms in 2005 and resumed enforcing Stalinist laws which hadn't been enforced in decades.

According to Andrei Lankov, the average North Korean household drew nearly 80% of its income from these minor capitalist ventures at one point. This is astonishing, considering the criminal penalties for breaking the law in North Korea. The communist system is such a complete failure that people risk execution or generational imprisonment of their families by undertaking minor black market activities just to survive in a country where famine is so widespread some people are resorting to cannibalism.

These necessary and natural black markets also carry outside information into North Korea, primarily in the form of South Korean CDs and magazines. There is clearly a desire in North Korea for contact with the outside world.

This reminds us of something we already know about communism in general: It's always doomed to failure. The more hardline a communist regime, the shorter the regime's life expectancy will be. North Korea has become more hardline in the last several years- tightening economic controls in 2005 and wiping out citizens' savings by revaluing the NK won, for example.

The death of Kim Jong-Il and the apparent takeover by his son, Kim Jong-Un, means that this monstrous state has reached its "rock bottom": the most total of totalitarian governments, organized for decades to be totally dependent on a single, deified leader, will now bestow absolute authority on a fat, spoiled, unprepared 28-year-old psychopath who only got the job because his older brother was deemed "too girly" by their father. In other words, Kim Jong-Un will undoubtedly be a modern-day Caligula in charge of an already-failing regime.

Couple this with an already-desperate condition for most of North Korea's population, and an ever-growing desire for contact and trade with the rest of the world, and we have the conditions for a regime change.

Any act which the United States and its allies can take to undermine this failing state would be a positive step- and would be especially devastating at this particular time. Suspending food and oil shipments, sanctioning North Korea's central bank, hijacking North Korea's broadcast media to spread the message of freedom, promoting North Korea's black markets, all of these acts and others would contribute to hastening the fall of the DPRK.

We have a unique opportunity at this moment to topple the most oppressive government in the world, without military force, simply by taking advantage of the already-present desire of many North Koreans to be free of their dictator and improve their living conditions.

In other words, we have a chance to do to North Korea what Ronald Reagan did to the Soviet Union.

And in case you're interested, here's my post about North Korea's constitution.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Rand Paul and Newt Gingrich At Odds On Gun Rights

From The Boston Globe:
As Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich campaigned in New Hampshire today, the National Association for Gun Rights sent out robo-calls in New Hampshire accusing the former House speaker of being “anti-gun.”

The calls say Gingrich has not returned the organization’s survey, adding, “Maybe it’s because of his past support for gun control.”
The National Association for Gun Rights is a Virginia group run by a gun rights lobbyist. Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond directed questions about Gingrich’s positions to Gingrich’s website – which notes that Gingrich is a supporter of the more well-known National Rifle Association, which has given him top ratings and awarded him a “Defender of the Second Amendment award” in 2010.
(emphasis mine)

There is considerable disingenuity on both sides of this story.

Let's start with National Association for Gun Rights- an organization run by a man named Dudley Brown. According to emails I recieve from the organization (yes, I'm on the mailing list, if only because I've been too lazy to unsubscribe and the emails go directly to my spam folder), if "members" don't "help", Mr. Brown might go to jail:

(email has been cropped)

The email is made to look like an "official" confidential communication from an attorney's office, yet it's sent out to an untold number of people. Another recipient of the email reproduced it here for discussion on GunBroker's forum.

From the letter linked in the email:

Dear NAGR Supporter,

If the gun-grabbers get their way, this could be the LAST letter I write you.

Anti-gun lawyers and their pals in the federal bureaucracy have targeted the National Association for Gun Rights for ELIMINATION.

Of course, I’ve had radical anti-gun groups and their pet lawyers, judges and politicians come after me before.

I’ve even been threatened with jail time in the past for my uncompromising defense of your Second Amendment rights.

But unless you act TODAY, I’m afraid the gun-grabbers could finally succeed in shutting me up -- and shutting the National Association for Gun Rights down.

That’s why it’s vital you fill out the National Association for Gun Rights’ MEMBER BALLOT I will link to in a moment.

You see, at the request of my attorney, David Warrington -- a close friend, former Marine and Chairman of the NAGR’s Board of Directors -- I’ve just finished a series of meetings with several lawyers who are all experts on grassroots organizations.

These lawyers specialize in defending pro-freedom groups like NAGR against spurious attacks from left-wing groups and their allies in the federal bureaucracy.

Going into it, I thought it was just a formality.  After all, NAGR doesn’t do anything wrong.

After all, left-wing groups like and ACORN are renowned for their underhanded tactics, yet they seemingly get away with murder and always seem to get off scot-free!

We follow the law.  Isn’t that enough?

The attorneys told me not to be naïve.

They said President Obama has stacked EVERY last bureaucracy in Washington with radical left-wing extremists -- all of whom HATE the National Association for Gun Rights and anyone who stands for freedom.

And if they believe they have the opportunity for a “quick kill,” they won’t hesitate to drag NAGR into court.

That’s why it’s vital you fill out this MEMBER BALLOT IMMEDIATELY.

You see, those attorneys told me my defense will be strongest only if as many folks as possible certify each year that they do consider themselves to be members of NAGR.

Aside from the supposed risk of imprisonment, this is stock-standard stuff for some organizations. At the end of the "ballot", the new "members" are asked to donate money.

Here's the interesting part: Among the emails I've recieved from NAGR, some have been addressed from Rand Paul:

I've omitted the body of the email for the sake of brevity- it's similar in theme to the above-mentioned items, citing a UN-led attempt to ban guns in the United States (a claim which has some merit, and I may cover it in another post).

So, we have a organization with which Rand Paul (son of Presidential contender Ron Paul) is associated, which uses the tactic of claiming that their executive director may face legal action if a survey isn't filled out by many people (and they need money too, of course).

Oh, and NAGR has also laughably tried to cast Rick Perry in an "anti-gun" light because he hasn't filled out their stupid questionnaire:
With his deadline close to passing without having returned a survey, Rick Perry is teetering on the edge of being added to this infamous group of Republicans who refuse to tell gun owners where they stand.
Suffice it to say, this organization is pretty tacky.

However, with regards to Newt Gingrich's gun rights record, NAGR is correct.

Gingrich did support requiring a thumbprint to purchase a firearm. From the Boston Globe article above:
The thumb print scan reference was based on a 1997 CNN story in when Gingrich said he would prefer an instant background check, based on thumb prints, to determine whether the buyer was a convicted felon or someone with dangerous mental behavior, rather than a background check process instituted by the Brady law.
Aside from the fact that nobody has to submit fingerprints to exercise any other Constitutional rights, there's a problem: This measure would require the federal government to keep a record of every buyer's thumbprint, creating a national registry of gun owners. This would violate the Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986 (FOPA)- a law signed by Ronald Reagan to prohibit the federal government from maintaining exactly such a database (current NICSFOPA).

On the subject of FOPA, Gingrich voted "YEA" on the Hughes Amendment- which banned the further acquisition of machine guns- which was added (in violation of House rules) to FOPA prior to its passage. Here is a (PDF) of the Congressional Record from that vote.

And on the subject of the Brady law: Among other things, it used the Commerce clause of the Constitution to regulate firearms (as all federal firearms laws do). Portions of the Brady law were struck down by SCOTUS on Tenth Amendment grounds, because the law mandated state and local governments to perform background checks on behalf of the federal government.

Although Gingrich voted against it, his suggested substitute preserved most of the Brady law, merely substituting thumbprint scanners for the NICS system. Gingrich's advocacy of thumbprint scanners parallels his attitude on other big-government programs- such as his idea to reduce the cost of Medicare and Medicaid by "modernizing the system"- as if using technology to streamline big government makes big government acceptable.

In 1996, Gingrich voted "YEA" on the Lautenberg amendment, which prohibits a person from possessing a firearm if convicted of a misdemeanor offense of domestic violence. This sounds reasonable at first, until one reads the text of the act- it violates the Constitution in several ways, including violation of the ex post facto and due process clauses; and the definition of "domestic violence" is so broad that it actually can be applied to a parent spanking their child (even if state law says the spanking is excuseable). The Lautenberg act has been challenged several times in federal court, unsuccessfully.

It's true that Gingrich voted against the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban- but not necessarily because he opposed a ban on "assault weapons". Here's the quote from Gingrich, in an interview with Hugh Hewitt:
HH: "...Do you support allowing individuals to own those weapons labeled assault weapons under that law?"

NG: "Well, if you remember, there are a number of weapons under that law that are not assault weapons, and the law the way it was written in the Clinton administration is an absurdity. And I think people proved that at the time. And I voted against the law, and in fact, I helped stop it at one point."
Newt's correct that the AWB was an absurdity. It banned the possession of firearms based solely on cosmetic features such as a carrying handle or a guard which prevents the hand from being burned by touching a hot barrel. The troubling part of this is the implication that he voted against it only because it also banned some firearms he considers 'acceptable' for civilian possession.

It should also be noted that Gingrich, as speaker, held a vote to overturn the AWB. Whether this was due to his sincere belief that the AWB should be overturned, or because he was answering to the same public opinion which swept the "Class of '94" into Congress is anyone's guess.

Lastly, as for the campaign's defense that Newt is an NRA-recognized "Defender of the Second Amendment": This isn't an "award", it's a novelty item mailed out to many, many NRA members over the years for making donations. I, myself, recieved a "Defender of the Second Amendment" certificate in the mail at age 16 or 17. I don't remember how much I donated, but at that age it couldn't have been much. It was a nice certificate, too- it looked like it cost the National Rifle Association at least a dollar to produce. You know who else has one? Harry Reid.

In sum: A tacky, misleading, money-grubbing organization associated with Rand Paul is robo-calling people to warn them about Gingrich's record (and only Gingrich, not Romney, who has a similarly undesirable gun control record). Gingrich's record on firearms is shady at best: He has a few acceptable votes on gun rights, but likely made those votes for the wrong reasons; he voted for legislation which misuses the U.S. Constitution's Commerce clause to regulate firearms, and which violates the Due Process clause and the Ex Post Facto clause; he favors a national registry of gun owners (or at least, gun owners' thumbs); and he voted to insert a gun ban into a law intended to protect gun owners. And Gingrich's defense invokes a novelty item no more significant than a coffee mug.

Sensible gun owners would do well to vote in the primary for a candidate with a clean gun rights record. Someone like Rick Perry, for example.

Photos at top by Gage Skidmore via

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Basis Of Big Government?

Let me ask you, the reader, this question: What motivates a person to believe that a government which controls every aspect of your life, your business, your personal habits, and your body, is a good idea?
To answer the question, let me emphasize the word your. Your life, your business, your habits, your body. We all know that big-government proponents seek to exempt themselves from the same measures intended to restrict you and I.

The evidence of this is legion: Far-left celebrities who preserve their own wealth rather than redistribute it as they would yours; far-left politicians who evade taxes while insisting that you pay more; leftists who keep guns in their homes while seeking to ban you from having them.

This isn't an attitude exclusive to the left, though. There are some on the right who also maintain this belief. Organizations like FreedomWorks are doing a good job ferreting them out.

So again I ask, why would someone adopt the belief that government should rule you? The answer is obvious: They believe themselves more qualified to make decisions for you, than you are. To them, we're simpletons, unable to make good decisions for ourselves. They see it as their divine obligation to protect us from ourselves.

When choosing a Presidential candidate, ask yourself this: Which of them is most likely to leave you alone? Which one will make government as inconsequential in your life as possible?

Or, which of them believes he's "the smartest man in the room"?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Rick Perry: A Man Of Great Soul

Until yesterday, I wasn't completely sure why I admired Rick Perry so much. I have a list of reasons, but none of them really got to the root of why I like him.

Yesterday the reason finally dawned on me. I watched this wonderful 11-minute video from Ben Howe entitled "The Rick Perry I Know"...

... and I had a revelation: Rick Perry is just like my Dad.

If you were to put a camera in front of my father, and ask him the same questions, you'd get the same mannerisms, the same pauses. Both men are clearly more comfortable doing than talking; both men also clearly possess a great depth of soul which is difficult to translate into words. This sort of authenticity can't be faked.

You'd get a similar story, too: Just as Perry emulated his father's service in the Air Force, Dad joined the Navy during Vietnam and became a hospital corpsman, which is what my grandfather did during World War II.

Recall Perry's response to Mitt Romney's $10,000 bet: "I'm not in the gambling business, but I'll show you the book". That's a Bill Kauffman quote if ever there was one. You can bet he's got the book at home, too: If Perry's anything like my father, he's always working on one book or another.

Like my Dad, Rick sees the population of the world in three categories: Innocent people, and the good guys, who protect them from the bad guys. This sort of man has a profound and selfless love for the first group; a great admiration and willingness to work with the second; and if you're the third group... God help you. A few people fall into the category of "I haven't figured you out yet", and are treated skeptically but fairly. This might be a simplistic worldview, but it's an admirable and pragmatic one which has served our species well for a very long time.

"Protection", in this case, has a much different meaning than it does to liberals: To liberals, it means protecting you from yourself, or from the imaginary monsters known as "the rich". This gives us a view of Rick Perry's small-government "street cred": People who grew up in a rural setting post-World War II genuinely believed most people could succeed through hard work. They've also experienced government getting in their way, which breeds an attitude we could call The Golden Rule of limited government: I wouldn't want to inflict any more government on you than I would want you to inflict on me.

On the subject of Governor Perry's "gay ad": My Dad didn't like gay people much, either, until he really got to know a few; as cliche as it sounds, one of them is a long-time business associate and friend. This shows us the distinction between "old-fashioned" and "bigoted"- a bigot demonstrates hatred, where someone old-fashioned may change their mind with time. I ask you this: If Rick Perry "hated" gays, would he have hired Tony Fabrizio? While I agree it was just plain stupid to run the ad, let's also bear in mind the blind hatred and intolerance the left has for us: I can't imagine anyone in today's left hiring someone of Perry's background as their high-level campaign operative.

This brings us to Perry's allegedly "soft" immigration policy: As he's often stated, he's lived around and gotten to know some illegal immigrants. He has come to know the particular problems faced by that community. And he's right- a person would have to "have no heart" to penalize children for their parents' decisions.

I think all of us know someone like Rick Perry. I'm lucky enough to have gotten my name from one. To men like them, "love of family" and "love of country" aren't catchphrases, they're absolute mandates, and having such a man in the White House would be a great benefit to our country.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

End The Fed... And Replace It With What?

Whenever the subject of eliminating the Federal Reserve is raised, there is an inevitable question posed: What would replace it? This question leads to one of the most common criticisms levelled against the "End the Fed" crowd: Eliminating the central bank and giving control of monetary policy to Congress would result a situation like Zimbabwe, where the national legislature printed insane quantities of worthless money. The Zimbabwean dollar was ultimately destroyed.

This argument is only valid if we assume that the government is allowed to issue fiat money. A government which can issue as much worthless currency as it likes, on a whim, is indeed the 'nightmare scenario'.

On the other hand, if the money issued is sound money, directly exchangeable for a set value of a commodity (such as gold or silver), then the government can only issue currency equivalent to the amount of that commodity it holds. This is, in fact, the monetary system our Constitution created.

I think it's safe to say that our government will never voluntarily return to a gold standard (or some other commodity standard). There is, however, another way to achieve this goal: Allow currencies to compete with the dollar.

I'll use a hypothetical (my own) to illustrate the point:
Suppose a local hospital wants to create a way for local businesses- which are cash-strapped- to have health services coverage. The hospital (like most today) is also cash-strapped, and has difficulty paying salaries and purchasing supplies. Solution? A barter credit system, which I'll call "HospitalBux", which are redeemable for services at the local hospital.

The local grocer's sales are down and he's throwing away unsold product, and he has difficulty paying his employees because of the poor sales. The hospital needs to stock its kitchen with foodstuffs. So, the hospital offers to trade foodstuffs for HospitalBux with the grocer, who then pays his employees partially in dollars and partially in HospitalBux, since they have no health insurance (the grocer couldn't afford to offer it). The local plumber, who is self-employed and has difficulty affording insurance, agrees to an exchange of plumbing services (as needed) for HospitalBux, offsetting another expense for the hospital and giving the plumber a way to save for health services when he eventually needs them.

HospitalBux can be accumulated and never lose value (unlike dollars) since they're exchanged for services rather than money- an appendectomy, for instance, will always cost 200 HospitalBux; a person could accumulate quite alot of HospitalBux over a working lifetime, and be assured of meeting their medical needs in retirement. HospitalBux are also insured by a private insurance company, in the event the hospital goes out of business.

Other hospitals in the region set up similar HospitalBux arrangements, and these hospitals set up an exchange mechanism between themselves, allowing HospitalBux to be spent at a number of hospitals. This saves each individual hospital the expense of having to purchase and maintain equipment and hire specialists to cover every single medical need, since hospitals can now share both services supply and patient demand.

Other businesses in the area accept payment for goods and services in HospitalBux, either because they will save and use them themselves, or because other people accumulate and save them and will trade dollars for them.
As we can see, it's actually a fairly straightforward proposition to set up a new currency. One can see the benefits of such a system; one can also see how such a currency could compete with the dollar, because it never loses value (in other words, there is no inflation).

Would "HospitalBux" be a viable currency? There's no way to know, except to try it against other alternative currency models and see which functions best in the long run. As always, competition reveals which concepts work best and which fail.

There's a problem we encounter, though: legal tender laws. Once a debt is accumulated, that debt can only be satisfied with legal tender. Taxes and government fees must be paid in legal tender, as well as wages and salaries of employees. This means that no other currency could genuinely compete with the dollar, since every business and every individual must have dollars, regardless of the faults of the dollar or the superiority of other currencies.

The subject of competition brings us to part of the explanation of why the United States Constitution mandates gold and silver: More than two thousand years of currency practices had shown that pure gold and silver coins, impressed with a government seal guaranteeing weight and purity, were the most viable form of money.

Even in 1789, competing currencies were a fact of life. Whiskey, for example, was more common than the dollar as a rural currency, which inspired the Whiskey Tax. Even at the turn of the 20th century (and after the passage of the first legal tender laws), competing currencies were still in use in some manner. One need only look at a Sears and Roebuck catalogue of that era (I have several in my collection) to see this: Paper, coin, bullion, and postage stamps were all accepted by Sears as payment.

As with anything else, competition can improve the dollar. If people prefer commodity-based money over a dollar which has no intrinsic value, and the federal government were barred from taking anti-competitive actions against other currencies (legal tender laws, for example), then the federal government would be left with only two options: Take actions to make the dollar more desirable, or let the dollar fail. On the other hand, if alternative currencies are a bad idea and the current management of the dollar is the best monetary policy, then competition would bear that out, too.

Ron Paul, the greatest champion of ending the Fed, favors currency competition to make the Fed irrelevant over ending the Fed immediately.

Newt Gingrich On FDR

From Breitbart TV, a series of quotes from Newt about his admiration of FDR:

Newt believes Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the greatest President of the 20th century. I need not chronicle FDR's socialism, as I'm sure the reader is well aware of it.

Glenn Beck has recent created some controversy by comparing Newt to Barack Obama. I think Beck is over-the-top (as usual) with his "color" comment, but the comparison can't help but be made.

Katherine Revello makes a good case for making the hair-splitting (and ironic) choice for Romney over Gingrich. This is a sentiment I've seen echoed in many other venues by many solid conservatives.

We've already seen Newt Gingrich's long history of supporting government medicine and his poor leadership skills. We know that self-destruction in an inevitability for him. We've seen the immensity of his ego, with his self-comparisons to Theodore Roosevelt, Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, and others.

How much more evidence is needed to convince Republican voters that he isn't fit to be President?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Rick Perry Comeback? Yes!

Anyone who follows GOP politics on Twitter can see that there's a resurgence of support behind Rick Perry. The #RevisitPerry and #PerryReboot hashtags are abuzz with activity, and the other options- Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney- have unpalatable big-government records.

Glen Asbury posed this question to me and others a few days ago:
I was still thinking through what a Perry comeback scenario might look like and wanted some general thoughts.
Well... I think it's already happening naturally. The fervor I mentioned above isn't the result of unexplainable phenomenon, it's a natural post-2010 reaction to the top two candidates being long-time big-government supporters.

The question, then, is how to capitalize on this surge. My answer is simple: Message!

The message needs to be simple but ideally suited for the current environment: Texas' economic performance. The economic success in Texas needs to pushed constantly. This is Perry's strongest point, it's something Gingrich and Romney can't match, and it's Obama's weakest point (to make an understatement!).

Stay off of every other subject, and stick to that winning message.

Every advertisement, every public appearance, every TV commentator proxy, every contact about Perry between fans and undecideds needs to reflect that message. Social issues are a divisive distraction. What needs to be pushed over and over is his knowledge of what is needed- and not needed- to promote economic growth.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Truth About Firefighting In Obion County

As reported around the internet yesterday, a second home in Obion County, Tennessee was allowed to burn down on Tuesday. John McQuaid at Forbes had this to say in response:
But here’s the deeper problem. Look at Mayor Crocker’s rationale for letting homes burn: you pay, you get a service. Don’t pay, you get nothing. No free riders. This is straightforward and thus appealing. But it is also misguided: it puts abstract principle over the business of governing. Lives and property are put in danger in exchange for the satisfactions of bean-counting and moralistic coercion. Is letting homes burn, and scaring non-payers, really an effective positive incentive? Fire protection isn’t like water or electricity: if you cut if off for non-payment, people don’t notice until it’s too late. If a house burns for non-payment, most will think “oh, it’ll never happen to me” and go on about their business. Instead of throwing up their hands, public officials should account for this somehow, because protecting the houses of the poor and/or irresponsible from death and destruction is a public good. It’s bad for you when your neighbor’s house goes up in flames.
In other words, people are entitled to fire protection funded by someone else.

To cut through the entitlement rhetoric, let's examine the facts:

From the 2008 Obion County Comission fire report (PDF):
On January 19, 1987, the Obion County Commission passed a resolution establishing an Obion County Fire Department, but no action was taken to implement the resolution. Therefore, Obion County has a county fire department on paper, but is unmanned, unfunded and not operational.

Because there is no operational county fire department, Obion County has missed the opportunity to actively pursue receipt of FEMA Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG) and Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), which could amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars of funding.
According to survey information, over 75% of all municipal fire department’s structure calls are rural. All fire departments in Obion County charge a $500.00 fee per call in rural areas, but collections are, less than 50% and the fire departments have no way of legally collecting the charge. Therefore, the service was provided at the expense of the municipal tax payer.
Each individual municipality currently furnishes operating funds for their fire departments without assistance from the county or state.
From digitaljournal:
"According to the policy, the City of South Fulton provides rural service to residents who have paid the rural fire membership fee. This policy has been in place since 1990."
This is in reference to the prepaid $75 annual fee, not the $500 per-call fee mentioned above. The article also mentions that approximately 700 of the 900 residences not covered by municipal fire departments have opted to pay the $75 fee.

So let's review:

-The county established a fire department on paper nearly 25 years ago, but has failed to implement it, and in doing so, has missed the opportunity to have most of its firefighting operations funded by federal block grants;

-The country collects a property tax, but contributes none of it to firefighting operations;

-For 21 years, the city of South Fulton has permitted county residents with no fire service to pay a $75 fee for fire protection (probably the smallest amount any homeowner pays for firefighting service anywhere in the United States);

-Fire departments in Tennessee have no legal recourse for collecting un-reimbursed fees or firefighting expenses;

-The fire department already refused to put out one house fire earlier in the year, and the owner of the home which burned two days ago still hadn't paid the fee.

And for some strange reason, this problem is seen as the city of South Fulton's fault.

Folks, each of us pay property taxes, either because we are homeowners or because the cost is embedded in our rents. Those of us who have fire protection, police service, and other emergency services, pay for them (unless we are homeless). The situation in Obion County, Tennessee is a result of incompetent government, entitlement mentality, and a lack of individual responsibility.

Remember this whenever a "registered Republican" chastises the South Fulton Fire Department: "incompetent government", "entitlement mentality", and "lack of individual responsibility" are three things the rest of us are battling against.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Gary Johnson For VP?

Ramesh Ponnuru makes this point in his piece "Heartbreak Awaits Republicans Who Love Gingrich":
We already know the basic strategy of the Obama campaign. It will be to portray the Republican nominee as a dangerous right-wing extremist. Romney’s demeanor -- his steadiness, his reasonableness -- would undercut that strategy. It seems likely to be much more successful against Gingrich. After all, it already was: In 1996, Clinton ran against Gingrich as much as he ran against his nominal opponent, Bob Dole. Clinton portrayed Gingrich as callous and radical, and used Gingrich’s ill- considered words, such as his claim that Republican plans would cause the Medicare bureaucracy to “wither on the vine,” against him.
(emphasis mine)

Obviously, Ponnuru isn't saying anything we don't already know: The liberal media will use that attack against us. He's also right that that attack won't work so well against Romney- but then, how many of us actually want Romney as President? I certainly don't.

Whomever gets the GOP nomination- assuming it isn't Romney- will need a running mate who can do two things: a) Pull the "middle"- independents and moderate Dems- to our side, since we need more than half the country to vote for our guy; and b) nullify the Democrat "heartless" myth.

Enter Gary Johnson: Two-term Republican governor of New Mexico, a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans two-to-one. He didn't win election and reelection by compromising, either: Johnson dramatically cut state government regulations on businesses, balanced New Mexico's budget every year, and got concealed carry for New Mexico residents. These are three things one wouldn't expect to happen in a two-thirds Democrat state, but Johnson accomplished them.

The secret to Johnson's success in that state is that he has an excellent capacity for educating: He uses facts, presented in an inoffensive way, to change minds on critical subjects. He has a gift of reason and casual "good guy" appeal which is attractive to the center and immunize him from the Democrat attack machine.

I think our eventual candidate would do well to capitalize on Gary Johnson.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Rick Perry's Immigration Plan Is Tough But Realistic

One constant criticism I see of Rick Perry's policy positions is his stance on immigration. I've seen commentary on Twitter, Facebook, and elsewhere on the 'net that he's "soft" on the subject; that he favors 'amnesty' or something like it; these criticisms are absurd.

Let's detail Perry's position on illegal immigration:

He favors deporting illegal aliens who are arrested while committing crimes:
"The Obama administration has a 'catch-and-release' policy where nonviolent illegal aliens are released into the general public today," Perry told patrons at a New Hampshire diner Tuesday morning. "My policy will be to detain and to deport every illegal alien that we apprehend. That is how we stop that issue."
He proposed a law to prohibit 'sanctuary cities' in Texas, and allow law enforcement officers to ask questions about immigration status, while avoiding the problems of an Arizona-style immigration law:
"Texas owes it to the brave law enforcement officials, who put their lives on the line every day to protect our families and communities, to give them the discretion they need to adequately do their jobs"
He promises to secure the border within 12 months of becoming President:
"So putting that secure border in place with strategic fencing, with the boots on the ground, with the aviation assets, and then working with Mexico in particular, whether it's putting sanctions against the banks, whether it's working with them on security with Mexico, all of those together can make that country substantially more secure and our borders secure."

He also realizes a vast border fence would be ineffective and cost-prohibitive, and recommends using "strategic fencing" (closing off certain areas to reduce the length of border to be patrolled), aerial surveillance using drone aircraft, and "boots on the ground"- National Guard troops and/or law enforcement officers to patrol the border.

Perry also came up with another idea- and a pretty creative one at that: Positioning webcams on the border, and live-feeding the video to the internet. People could watch, anytime, 24/7, and if the viewer spotted an illegal border crossing, they could phone in the sighting. I like this free-market approach as a supplement to border security, although (as the author points out at the link) it could be much better if a reward were offered for sightings.

Now, once greater security is in place on the border, sanctuary cities are eliminated, and deportation of illegals caught committing crimes is a fact, we still have a problem: What do we do about the millions of illegal immigrants already here? Pursuing as many as 15 million people, arresting, and deporting all of them is clearly impossible, from both a logistical and a budgetary standpoint.

This is where the "soft on illegal immigration" criticisms come into play:

Perry signed the Texas DREAM Act to allow the children of illegal immigrants to pay the in-state tuition rate at state colleges. Let's be clear about this: It's not "free education", it's not "education for illegals", it's a program for children who had no say in the decision to enter the country. As a condition of the program, the student must have attended high school in Texas for three years, and must apply for United States citizenship.

This represents a rational solution to a real problem: Illegal immigration is a drain on, among other things, our public welfare system. This program encourages the children of illegal immigrants to get an education (or a trade certificate, which is even more valuable these days), become citizens, and pay taxes, which is vastly superior to being a life-long drain on the welfare system.

Part of the border security issue is stemming the flow of people across the border. Perry's answer to this is to distinguish between people who want to enter the country to work, and those who don't, by issuing work visas. Perry is adamant that this is not a 'path to citizenship', which George W. Bush supported.

It's amazing to me that some conservatives can ignore the opinions of a long-time border state governor. If a paramedic tells you to go to the hospital, you'd be wise to do so; if the ten-year governor of Texas has a solution to the problem of illegal immigration, we'd be wise to listen.

It should also be noted that the other long-time border state governor in the race, Governor Gary Johnson, has a similar plan with regard to illegal immigration- although Johnson's plan doesn't involve as much weaponry on the border (I'm a big fan of weapons).

And incidentally: Sheriff Joe Arpaio, whose stance on illegal immigration borders the extreme, endorses Rick Perry. For the ultra-hardcore among us, this should be all the endorsement Perry's plan requires.

I think we can safely dispense with the hype about Perry's plan being "soft on illegal immigration". It's a reasonable, workable plan, based on his extensive experience with border issues.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Ten Reasons To Love Rick Perry

Rich Mitchell made this comment yesterday in this post:
Can’t we ask “What reasons does this candidate give me to vote for him or her” instead of stating the reasons we hate the others?
I'm certainly guilty of both. I've spent some time detailing reasons to mistrust Newt Gingrich, based on his record and his stated plans, as well as Mitt Romney and Herman Cain (though Cain is now out of the race). I've also penned a brief synopsis of reasons to get behind Rick Perry (my candidate).

Rich also had this to say:
(...) it’s obvious – we don’t know how to love our candidate.
While I'm usually the "don't love a politician" sort, I get the message. So, here it is, ten reasons to love Rick Perry (in no particular order):

1) Using the Federal Reserve for political purposes is "treason"- I agree (as do all other sound-money folks). Devaluing our money for pretended short-term benefits undoubtedly harms our nation's economic security.

2) He gets the concept of individual rights trumping state authority. Let me cite a few examples:

From pg. 51 of "Fed Up!":
The Civil Rights Act, which, among many things, prohibited private discrimination in so-called public accommodations, such as hotels and restaurants, was the glorious fulfillment of the principles of the Declaration of Independence and, ultimately, the intent behind passage of the Reconstruction Era amendments. I believe there was ample basis for the establishment of that law in that following the Civil War the people ratified three amendments, the purpose of which was to give the federal government the power to fight racial discrimination.
On the subject of Reconstruction-era acts of the states, Rick Perry has direct experience. As I noted in this post, Perry has spent considerable time as governor working to repeal modern variants of Reconstruction-era Texas gun laws intended to disarm blacks, which are now imposed on all residents of his state.

Perry's policies have borne out something else we know about individual rights: When individuals have the greatest personal autonomy to protect themselves and their property, the rule of law endures.

3) He's humble. How can we tell? He's made wonderful fun out of his "and uhh..." gaffe. Instead of being a constant source of bashing, it's now a distant memory we get a little chuckle from. Other candidates' egos wouldn't allow them that kind of self-deprecating humor- I can imagine Herman Cain doing a terrible job of rationalizing such a gaffe, the way he botched his attempt to rationalize his bizarre abortion gaffe.

4) If there were "dirt" on Perry, it would've come out by now. He's been the governor of his state for more than a decade, and he's been a national icon of the right. As he joked on Jay Leno, he's been investigated over and over again. We simply can't afford the liability of a candidate with skeletons in his/her closet.

5) As I've said before, nobody questions Rick Perry’s sincerity when he speaks. One may not agree with him on a given topic- and I do disagree with him on some things- but when he states his position, there’s no doubt he’s calling it as he sees it. Considering the weasely-ness of Gingrich and Romney, this should be Perry’s greatest selling point.

6) On jobs: Under Perry's governorship, more than one million jobs have been created in Texas while other states have been bleeding jobs. Note that he doesn't claim "he created" them; his policies have gotten state government out of the way of job creation.

7) Under his governorship, Texas went from 6th lowest state debt-to-GDP ratio in the nation to 2nd lowest(Tennessee being 1st).

8) Perry has been fighting the good fight against federal intrusion: Battling the EPA and the TSA, among others.

9) Yes, Social Security is a ponzi scheme. Let's fix it.

10) Perry has the most executive experience- and arguably, the most successful executive experience- of anyone in the race. He has more than 10 years at the helm of a state government, and his governance has been unquestionably exceptional.

So, there it is. I'm with Rick Perry. Who are you with?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Newt Gingrich's Poor Leadership

This morning on FOX News Sunday, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) said he won't support Newt Gingrich for President:
I'm not inclined to be a supporter of Newt Gingrich's having served under him for four years and experienced personally his leadership (...) I found it lacking often times."
Coburn isn't alone: As of November 25th, Gingrich hadn't garnered endorsement from a single member of Congress. By comparison, Mitt Romney has gathered 44 such endorsements.

From the link:
“He’s a guy of 1,000 ideas, and the attention span of a one-year-old,” Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., told The Hill in April. “His discipline and his attention to any individual thing is not his strong suit.”
This cuts right to the heart of Gingrich's candidacy: He has a track record of being an ineffectual leader. Let's remember that Gingrich faced a leadership challenge from his own party which ultimately led to his resignation from the House of Representatives.

Part of the reason for that leadership challenge were Gingrich's ethics violations. From The Washington Post, January 22, 1997:
The House voted overwhelmingly yesterday to reprimand House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) and order him to pay an unprecedented $300,000 penalty, the first time in the House’s 208-year history it has disciplined a speaker for ethical wrongdoing.

The ethics case and its resolution leave Gingrich with little leeway for future personal controversies, House Republicans said. Exactly one month before yesterday’s vote, Gingrich admitted that he brought discredit to the House and broke its rules by failing to ensure that financing for two projects would not violate federal tax law and by giving the House ethics committee false information.

“Newt has done some things that have embarrassed House Republicans and embarrassed the House,” said Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.). “If [the voters] see more of that, they will question our judgment.”
Gingrich doesn't lead by example. In fact, he doesn't lead, period. This is another unsavory aspect of Gingrich's record which bears greater scrutiny.

In my mind, it's yet another reason to take a second, harder look at Rick Perry.

Herman Cain "Pulls A Palin"

Herman Cain has decided to "suspend" (read: "end") his Presidential campaign.

He has also announced the launch of a new website to continue advertising the solutions he's been messaging during his campaign. I'm not exactly clear on what the solutions have been, aside from his 999 tax plan and his less-than-stellar position on gun ownership, but he's adamant about continuing to spread them, whatever they are.

I can't help but draw a comparison to Sarah Palin. In only four years she's made quite a journey from obscure governor of the most remote state in the country, to one of the most recognized names in America today, and much of this success has been based on the sympathy of her fans and the Republican public-at-large to her mistreatment by the media. She, too, stepped down (from the governorship of Alaska) amid criticism. Along the way she's racked up lucrative book deals, a gig with FOX News, numerous speaking engagements, and a reality TV program.

Herman Cain has made a similar journey in a short span of time, from obscure businessman and commentator to top-tier Presidential candidate, and he too has been seen as a victim of the media- and, like Palin, he played this victimhood like a violin. However, the degree of malevolence toward Cain can't really be compared to that of Palin. Nobody has made 'retard' jokes about Cain's children, for example.

On the one hand, this corollary between meteoric rise to fame and the mantle of victimhood demonstrates the superiority of conservative compassion: Liberal icons often hold their status due to their venomous nature (Debbie Wasserman-Schultz being a perfect example), whereas conservative icons tend to be those who have endured some great hardship, or are at least seen to have. The very noble conservative mindset wants to sympathize with the downtrodden and see them succeed. Conservatives view the American way of life as being under assault by a leftist media- and in many ways, that's very true- so there is an immediate sympathy to a personality who is under assault by that same media.

On the other hand, this emotionally-charged attachment to a personality leaves no room for criticism. Any mention of the incompetence of Cain's campaign, and his major policy failures, was met with a barrage from Cain's devotees, touting Cain's great character and "natural leadership". As I expressed in this article, this perception of great character was, ultimately, Cain's only substantive selling point.

There's one significant difference between Palin and Cain: Palin wasn't accused of numerous acts of adultery. I think this distinction will prove to be toxic to Cain's post-campaign ventures- one can't successfully wear the mantle of victimhood while being percieved as a victimizer. There will be no Herman & Octomom camping trip in Cain's future.

Cain also announced that he will be endorsing another candidate soon. Because of campaign finance laws, the fact that Cain's campaign is "suspended" rather than "ended" means he'll be able to continue accepting donations for his campaign- and will be able to donate them to related ventures. This could mean a financial windfall for whomever he endorses. Although Cain endorsed Mitt Romney in 2008, my money says he'll endorse Newt Gingrich this time around.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Newt Gingrich's Economic Plan In One Syllable: Ugh.

I think it's about time we take a good look at Newt Gingrich's plan to reform welfare entitlements through "promoting growth and innovation", detailed in this 48-page white paper.

First and foremost: Gingrich (or his writers) use very idyllic language which sounds very plausible. It's the same sort of language Gingrich employs in debates with great success. I ask the reader to ignore it, and focus only on the particulars of his plan. In other words, I want you to be Joe Friday for the next several minutes.

Second, the reader will notice something which is almost laughable: The white paper uses the words "growth" and "innovation" dozens of times in 48 pages, but gives no details about how such "growth and innovation" would occur. It's a meaningless catchphrase, like "Hope and Change".

Third, Newt Gingrich firmly cements his opposition to cuts in government spending in the introduction:
The first path is the "fantasy" option: Pretend that everything is working just fine, and fundamental change is unnecessary (...) The second path is the "Austerity" option: Conceding that we will not become as prosperous and secure as we once thought we would, so we should be prepared to settle for less (...) The third path is what this paper will address: Securing Americans' retirement, expanding world-class healthcare for everyone, and lifting millions of Americans out of poverty through growth and innovation.
(Emphasis mine)

To review: According to Gingrich, budget-cutting (otherwise known as "austerity") is a defeatist attitude; and one of his goals is "expanding healthcare for everyone". Note again that Newt camouflages his intentions by mixing his ideas with the language of fiscal conservatism.

The white paper is organized into three "Steps", which I will also use to analyze the proposal.

Step 1: Social Security Personal Accounts. Gingrich is not alone in championing the Chilean model for Social Security reform, already implemented in part of Texas- in fact, every Republican candidate except Mitt Romney is championing exactly this reform. Newt does, however, provide a fascinating history of the Chilean system, and I'm highly impressed by the thoroughness and accuracy of this section of the white paper.

Step 2: Fundamentally Reforming The Welfare Empire. On welfare, we encounter some problems. Gingrich provides excellent and indisputable background material about the nature of the "welfare trap", and some history about his much-touted welfare reforms of 1996. It's fortuitous that I had decided this past weekend to write a four-part series about taxation, and had decided to include a discussion of the Negative Income Tax Credit, as it's directly relevant to this discussion.

There is one fact about Gingrich's 1996 reforms which goes underreported: The reforms, which Gingrich claims resulted in a 50% reduction in welfare recipients, had no such effect.

Backstory: Prior to 1996, the federal government operated a program called "Aid to Families With Dependent Children" (AFDC), which paid out benefits to low-income persons with minor children. This program existed in addition to food stamps, housing assistance, heating assistance, and a number of other grants.

Gingrich's reform restructured AFDC into a new program called "Temporary Assistance to Needy Families"
(TANF), which still exists today. The key component of TANF was a two-year limit on benefits for the parent (not the child[ren]). This much is already known by most of us on the right.

What isn't commonly known is that the TANF Act also eased the procedures for certifying people with disabilities. As the number of "welfare recipients" shrank, the number of "disabled" persons grew exponentially.

Stated another way: The bulk of the people removed from the welfare system in 1996 were merely reabsorbed into the federal disability system, which is part of the Social Security Administration. Gingrich's claims of success, and the figures he presents to prove this success, don't reflect this transition from welfare to pretended disability.

Among Gingrich's assertions:
As a result, total federal and state spending in constant dollars dropped 31% between 1995 (under the AFDC program), and 2006 (under TANF), and down by more than half of what it would have been under prior trends.
This figure doesn't reflect a painful fact: State and Federal funding for other assistance programs intended for legitimately disabled people, such as funding for group homes for the mentally and physically handicapped, was diverted to pay for the rash of new disability checks being issued.

This highlights a basic problem with the welfare system: Cash benefits are prone to fraud. I discuss this problem in greater detail in my Negative Income Tax Credit article (linked above).

While the build-up of this topic in the white paper is extensive, the solution part of this section is pretty brief:

1) Reduce assistance to working families to include only the minimum wage, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and the Child Tax Credit.

This promotes exactly the problem Newt's 1996 reform was intended to abolish: It provides incentives to have children one can't afford. EITC and CTC are both based on the number of children one has. People without children would be shut out of the safety net, while people in the net would recieve more money with each new child.

2) Transform unemployment into a job training program.

As I illustrated in my analysis of Mitt Romney's 59-point plan:
Government retraining programs put very few people back to work. They are a perfect example of a feel-good program- a waste of money which "feels" productive but really isn't.

To illustrate why, consider this hypothetical: You are an employer looking to hire a mechanic. You have two candidates, one with 10 years' experience as a mechanic, and another who just recently graduated from trade school and has never held a job as a mechanic. Which candidate do you hire? Obviously, you would hire the more experienced applicant.
This is a fatal flaw of retraining programs, which cannot be resolved by any amount of "restructuring".
3) Block-grant federal welfare funds to the states.

This is a relatively sound idea, assuming one particular: States aren't required to give excess funds back to the federal government, or spend the funds exclusively on welfare. If states are required to give back money not disbursed through welfare programs, then there is no incentive for a state to not spend the money by enlarging its welfare programs.

In other words, if the money must be spent only on welfare or given back, then governors will naturally splurge on their constituents by expanding their welfare programs- and in the process, make more new entitlement promises which can't be sustained long-term. On the other hand, if states may devote excess welfare funds to other programs, then the states have an incentive to spend federal welfare dollars more wisely.

Newt's white paper doesn't address this issue.

4) Provide federal incentives for welfare recipients to establish two-parent households.

I have only one comment to make on this point: This is being proposed by the guy who called Paul Ryan a "right-wing social engineer" for advocating Medicare reform. This constitutes monumental hypocrisy on Gingrich's part.

Note something conspicuously absent from these points: Newt makes no mention of reforming the fraud-prone disability system he helped to create. In other words, leaving the disability hole open would nullify most of these reforms via the same mechanism which nullified his original welfare reform concept in 1996.

Step 3: Healthcare Reform: Obamacare versus Patient Power.

As I detailed in this article, Newt Gingrich was- until only six months ago- a long time, ardent supporter of government-run medicine. He championed the individual mandate a decade before Mitt Romney did, and he helped to craft Medicare Part D.

In reading the first few pages of this section of the white paper, you'd almost believe Gingrich really has changed his mind in the short span of six months. He gives an excellent argument against Obamacare and socialized medicine, and describes the "Third-Party Payment Problem", long-recognized by fiscal think tanks as one of the major factors driving up the cost of health care.

He even references Paul Ryan's reforms- precisely the same reforms Gingrich called "right-wing social engineering" only six months ago (see above).

Gingrich's solution to the cost of health care is Health Savings Accounts combined with high-deductible insurance policies- a stock-standard, free-market approach to reducing medical costs. As with the Chilean model, this is another reform being championed by every other GOP Presidential candidate except Mitt Romney.

He extends this concept to include HSA/high-deductible account for Medicaid recipients- something already done in Indiana by Governor Mitch Daniels with the "Healthy Indiana Plan". Gingrich borrows Daniels' program, but gives him no credit whatsoever! This is just plain despicable.

In sum: Gingrich's plan employs a worthless catchphrase to inspire a message of "hope and change"; he establishes his intent to avoid spending cuts and his disdain of those of us who champion them; his good ideas are commonly-accepted ideas borrowed from other venues (some are plagiarized with no credit given- for shame, Professor!); his welfare plan merely perpetuates a problem he created; and, as expected, the paper distorts or ignores substantive portions of Newt's record.

Stated differently: It's more proof of Newt's slick salesmanship.