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Say What?

New Corbett ad.

It is rather astonishing to me that Wolf is running on a platform of raising taxes.

Yesterday at 9:39 pm Comments (0)

Government is not a business

Tom Wolf wants us to think that he’ll run the state government like a business. His business, specifically. Government is not a business. Government is more like a mafia.

Not quite, but not as far off as you might think. Try stiffing the government its protection… er… tax payments, and see how long it takes until the men with guns come to sell your house out from under you, or maybe even stick you in a cage.

Don’t get me wrong, businessmen can be good in public office. Many of them see the need to streamline operations and cut fat. Quite a few of them understand the need for modest rather than overbearing regulation, and tax regimes that are low and predictable. These do not seem to be the major points Mr. Wolf is selling.

The “business” lesson Wolf seems most eager to apply is the raising of revenue. (“Fiscally responsible” is the new “tax and spend”.) But government revenues are an altogether different animal from business revenues. Business revenues are obtained by providing a valuable good or service to a voluntary customer base. Government revenues are obtained through force (implied and first, then literal) of arms. The only way to avoid this is to leave the state for another hopefully less mafioso jurisdiction.

Given that some level of taxation is necessary for any government, the question of growing revenues –presuming such a thing should be deemed desirable– relies on one or both of the following: growing the economic base and raising rates.

The latter, though more easily accomplished, undermines the former. Guess which one Tom Wolf emphasizes.

With glee, Wolf also brags about his company’s employee profit-sharing model. I don’t want government to share profits with its employees. Neither should any sane taxpayer.

But if we’re going to use a business analogy, ethical businessmen don’t fudge figures, as with the supposed billion dollar education cuts that have somehow resulted in record state spending on education. Neither do sound businessmen ignore long-term obligations, as with our broken pension system, for which the Wolf pack has no apparent solution. And nobody walks in to the board of directors and asks to be CEO without putting out a detailed fiscal plan.

Imagine it:

CEO candidate: We need to spend more on R&D.
Board: How much more?
CEO candidate: No clue.
Board: Thank you for your time. Please leave.

September 23, 2014 at 9:33 pm Comments (0)

Excellent ad from Corbett camp

It’s nice to be able to applaud a campaign ad for once.

Kudos to whoever made this ad. The campaign would be wise to give you all their money.

It’s about time our side started pointing out that all the “cuts” to education have resulted in record high funding.

There are so many brilliant aspects to this ad that I don’t want to jinx it by pointing them out.

April 17, 2014 at 8:57 pm Comments (0)

A Lack of Nuance

Having recently railed against the “establishment”, it’s time for a crack at the base.

As I have previously asserted, the base is allergic to compromise.  While this idea is widely taken as a given among the establishment and the Left, few take the time to analyze the behavior.  The problem is actually a somewhat broader aversion to nuance.  Outrage fuels donations, and donations pay the bills, so there’s somewhat of a negative incentive for base-oriented groups to promote nuance.  But a lack of nuance can often inhibit constructive conservative policy movement.

A thought experiment: What if Democrats credibly and convincingly offered to cut Federal spending to such a degree that the budget would come into immediate balance, and also could somehow fix the Federal entitlement problem.  In exchange, Republicans would agree to a one percent increase in the personal income tax.  Do we take the deal?

True, the parameters of the thought experiment are absurd on their face, but for the sake of argument, take it for what it is.  We’d be fools not to take this deal, right?

Whoa, now!  Once you start to entertain this deal, you’re “for” raising income taxes.

Well, no, you weren’t really “for” it.  You were willing to make a concession in order to get a number of other things that you wanted and thought were more significant.

Take a more realistic issue, immigration.  The moment a Republican starts having any sort of conversation about immigration reform,  he is blasted as being “for” amnesty.  (The opponents of immigration reform use the term “amnesty” rather promiscuously, but for the sake of argument, I’ll use it here and not bother about details of what does or does not constitute “amnesty”.)

Understand that, to the Left, some form of amnesty is a sine qua non for any concessions on significant border security improvements, employment e-Verify, or – heaven forbid – voter ID.  You don’t even begin to have negotiations about how to deal with millions of illegal immigrants until you lay your amnesty bargaining chip down on the table.

But by reacting violently to this potential offer of amnesty as something we could consider giving up in order to get a better outcome, the base makes this a question of amnesty vs non-amnesty, not a question of what we could possibly get in exchange for amnesty.  When we put the focus on what we get in exchange for amnesty, we put the Democrats on the defensive.  When we focus on whether to offer amnesty at all, we make ourselves irrelevant, and the status quo reigns.

To be fair, Republican politicians have a history of being cheap dates.  I dare say though, it wouldn’t kill us to “show a little leg” on this issue.  I’m not “for” amnesty, I’m for using the offer of amnesty as a means of getting more significant concessions from the other side and for (hopefully) putting the issue behind us.  If we get a bad offer in return, we walk away and blame the Democrats for not being serious and for keeping people in the shadows unnecessarily.

Unfortunately, nuance requires trust, which is in short supply.

March 2, 2014 at 5:44 pm Comments (2)

A Lack of Trust

Some weeks ago I was asked my thoughts about the way forward for the conservative movement. I felt a little like I had been asked to provide a proof for Einstein’s general relativity and then handed a napkin and a crayon.

I mentioned the obvious “base-vs-establishment” split, but could not see an obvious way forward.  If anything, the divide continues to grow wider.  Both sides are at some fault, and I would be hard pressed to say which is more blameworthy.  However, the flaws of the base are fairly well known and understood, so I will be focusing more on the “establishment”.

The authority of the “establishment” is predicated on two assumptions.  Firstly, that they know what they are doing, and secondly, that the base will get at least some of what they want by deferring at times to the party leadership.  This is the essence of the unwritten compact among Republicans.

Both legs of this platform have been thrown into serious question in the last few election cycles. The McCain and Romney campaigns epitomize the failures of the party, both technical and ideological.  Our last two standard bearers did not understand the philosophy underlying the conservative movement, and then when pressed had no chance of adequately conveying or defending it.  Steve Schmidt should have his proverbial license to campaign revoked.  There are many more examples than these, which are merely the most prominent.

The transactional leg of the compact is no less suspect.  Pennsylvania Republicans, despite controlling both houses of the legislature and the governor’s mansion, have been unable or unwilling to take even small steps toward privatizing our Soviet-style liquor stores, nor have they been able to mitigate the certain fiscal doom of the looming pension crisis.  Federally, Republican leadership recently capitulated on the debt ceiling hike without getting so much as the re-naming of a post office in return.  (Please note, I have argued for having fights on appropriation bills and continuing resolutions, not the debt ceiling.  Nevertheless, the swift and unconditional surrender was a little unsettling.)

The “establishment” relies on a model of the electorate that assumes voters (1) have consistent policy preferences that (2) are logically consistent and unidimensional and (3) that voters cast their votes according to which party or politician best satisfies these policy preferences.  It’s an interesting model, one that has served academics and political practitioners for decades.  But like all models — even the useful ones — it is wrong.  It also happens to be least applicable where practitioners would most like to apply it — with the “swing”/”centrist” voter. The major problem with this seductively simplistic model is the general and perpetual prescription of retreat on all substantive issues.

The base, understandably irritated with the strategy of perpetual retreat and burned by a few too many failures of the transactional leg of the compact, has become allergic to compromise on any issue. Simply, to the extent that the base ever trusted the establishment, the base doesn’t trust them any more at all.

It doesn’t help matters that the establishment has declared open war against the Tea Party.  To be fair, the feeling is often mutual, but party leaders “misunderestimate” the intensity and resolve of the base.  Attacking or delegitimizing certain elements of the base/Tea Party (-even deservedly-) does not make the party leadership any more attractive.  Democratic pollster Pat Caddell threw up a flag prior to the 2010 elections that America was in a “Pre-Revolutionary” state. Among Republican base voters, this feeling has not subsided.  Tens of thousands of Connecticut gun owners have seemingly scoffed at the state requirement to register their weapons.  (And why should they, when registration seems to lead to police abuse and eventual confiscation of weapons.)  Those Connecticut –Connecticut– gun owners are surely not all tea partiers.  And yet, they have shown a clear disregard for state control.  This is not how a healthy democracy functions.

The base, much to its detriment, seems not to comprehend that the electorate is against us.  Frankly, it is a little incomprehensible to me that Obama was re-elected, and yet here we are.  The general electorate was never particularly well-informed or sophisticated, but seems much less so in recent years. Correspondingly, there has been an increase in “liberal” political identification amidst the massive disruption and likely collapse of Obamacare, the biggest liberal project in several generations.

The common ground may be what the base wishes to do, but can’t seem to, and what the establishment may be somewhat better equipped to do, but won’t, and that is to fight the basic linguistic and cultural assumptions that have crept into the swing-voter’s mind.  Maybe once in a while somebody should explain the difference between “insurance” and pre-payment for service.  Or explain that “access” is not equivalent to “subsidy” (birth control), and lack of subsidy is not equivalent to a “ban” (embryonic stem cell research).  When debating Democrats, have our candidates ask, “and then what will happen?”, per Thomas Sowell’s Applied Economics.  Explain that the Democrats would rather that the poor were poorer when it comes to “inequality”. And once in a blue moon, explain that the economy is not a zero sum game.

But as things stand now, there’s just no trust to be found for Republican leadership.  Until some modicum of trust can be re-established, hostilities will persist.

February 17, 2014 at 3:21 pm Comments (0)

Toying with us

In a sane and rational world, and in light of the illegal delays and waivers issued by the administration, insisting that the individual mandate be delayed for a year was not a particularly radical demand.

Despondency surged as I realized Obama was toying with us, much like a predator might play with its prey before delivering the death-blow. The administration took extraordinary care to make sure the shutdown was as inconvenient as possible, shutting down things that it is not ordinarily possible to shut down, such as open-air monuments, private businesses and homes,… and the ocean.

At first I thought Obama’s strategy might backfire. Surely he had overplayed his hand! Then I watched the 6:30 news for a few evenings. And what finally convinced me that the administration would get away with it was the concern-trolling by the media about the Obamacare rollout failures.

–Oh, if only the Republicans’ antics weren’t sucking up so much oxygen, we might be able to report more about these glitches in Obamacare!–

Really? What have I experienced in the last five years would lead me to believe that the media was eager to report on a story reflecting negatively on Obama? Would that be the failure of the stimulus? Or Fast and Furious? Or Benghazi? Or the IRS?

No, they were pretty openly mocking conservatives. They knew what an empty promise they were suggesting.

Brian Williams’ snarky asides during the evening newscasts would have made Dan “fake but accurate” Rather blush.

Speaking of Benghazi, the modus operandi was pretty similar. Put out some bogus story for the weekend/Sunday show cycle, allow the media to go with it, and let the story die within a week, because heaven knows neither the media nor the American public has an attention span longer than a week. With Benghazi it was that ridiculous story about the YouTube video. With Obamacare, it was the fairy tale about overwhelming demand for the product.

Though nobody was exactly covered in glory in the public’s eye, polls showed Republicans faring worse than Democrats on the subject of the “negotiations” long before any actual negotiations took place, and in spite of the fact that it was the publicly stated position of both Harry and Barry that they would not be negotiating at all. The mind boggles.

And to top it off, you’ve got the likes of John McCain, who should be ejected from the party for serial violations of the eleventh commandment. If anybody invents a time machine, they need to loan McCain the Delorean so he can go back and retire 15 years ago.

This is not an environment in which any serious policy debates can be had, let alone won.

Oh, and the next time somebody says we’ll have more leverage on the debt ceiling rather than the continuing resolution, just go ahead and slap that person in the face for me.

October 16, 2013 at 10:55 pm Comments (0)

Scranton on the road to B/K?

Mike Shedlock:

“It’s time for Scranton to face the simple truth. It is bankrupt.”

In other news, this should be interesting.

July 23, 2013 at 9:13 pm Comments (0)

Teaching Chimps to Fly F-16s

You’ve done your required reading, right?

I could probably write ten thousand words about the pair of NYT articles I’ve begged people to read, but I’ll keep my response to a few select points.

Digital Divide

Overall I find little fault with the article’s take on this issue. One simple graph makes that apparent. The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem.

Demographics

From what I can gather from various reports about the Romney strategy, there really was no messaging strategy. They decided to make one last go at the white-majority strategy, with catastrophic results. As pollster Kristen Anderson was quoted in the NYT piece, “Did you not see the census? Because there was one! And it had some pretty big news — like that America’s biggest growing population is the Latino community! Surprise, surprise! How have we not grasped that this is going to be really important?”

We’ve known about the diminishing white majority for some time. We didn’t just wake up one morning to a bunch of Latin-American immigrants and their children.

The excuse of the bad polling model not is a very good one. Not because it was impossible to have gotten that wrong, but because the strategy they decided to implement was a narrow, skin-of-your-teeth strategy that required every last thing to go right with no margin of error, even if they did manage to get the demographic weighting right, which they didn’t. There was no room in the Romney strategy for expansion. No room to persuade anybody, and the results show it.

Issues and Deal Breakers

Issues have some importance, though not all issues are created equal. The evidence that people really don’t vote exclusively on issues keeps piling up. I might even be persuaded to argue that issues are not even of primary importance. There are certain issues though –the deal-breakers– that deserve some attention.

In my opinion, abortion and the entirely fabricated birth control issue should not be deal breakers for most swing voters. (For the sake of brevity, I’ll leave it at that.) Same-sex marriage may for some folks be a deal-breaker, though I can’t imagine it’s too terribly many since Obama ran in 2008 on a tepidly anti-SSM position. At the very least SSM combines with abortion and birth control to create a social super-issue. I really don’t have a good answer to this, though I would like to point out something that rubbed me the wrong way. The above-mentioned Kristen Anderson was said to identify herself as “socially tolerant” rather than “moderate”, as “moderate” is something like “Satanic” to base conservatives. I object to this supposedly improved designation on the grounds that everybody else must be “intolerant” if they object to gay marriage. I suggest reworking this, perhaps to “libertarian”.

Immigration reform is a deal-breaker for Hispanics. No, it is not going to mean Hispanics will suddenly wake up to Republicanism. It means we get an opportunity to make our case. And yes, as the article suggests, Rubio qua Rubio will not save us.

Nobody Ever Gets Fired

Eric Telford:

“I think there’s a very incestuous community of consultants who profit off certain tactics, and that creates bias and inhibits innovation.”

I’ve been complaining about this for a long time. If major changes don’t occur in the wake of 2012, the GOP should just pack up shop.

More than Tech – The Tin Ear problem

Of course, the problem is much greater than just the internet and social media. (I think most of the subjects interviewed in the article would agree to that general proposition.)

A major component of the techie complaint is that the Romney team ran an old-style TV and traditional media campaign. This is true, but I would also argue that even on traditional grounds the Romney camp exhibited a lackluster showing. They seem to have regressed from the Bush-era campaigns. “Applebee’s America” was published in 2006, so long ago that its antiquated title sells short the wisdom within its pages. Democratic campaign operations have taken this wisdom and expanded upon it. It seems to be a remedial reading recommendation for the Romney campaign.

Something the NYT article doesn’t directly address is what I’ll call the “tin ear” problem. Do Republicans not understand how they sound?

How many times lately have you heard the term “balanced approach”? How many times have you heard a Republican competently respond to that phrase? Even Deval Patrick and Harold Ford Jr recently talked about “economic growth” on Sunday morning talk shows. Most astonishing to me is the jujitsu reversal Obama has managed on closing tax loopholes. This is a Republican issue! Yet somehow Obama has made Congressional Republicans defenders of everything that is wrong with the tax code.

Do they not understand how badly they are being beaten? The more I see this pattern of behavior, the more I am convinced that they really don’t get it.

Forget “rapid response”, there’s not even a competent slow-response team.

Sometimes I think our problem is so enormous it would be easier to teach chimpanzees to fly F-16s.

March 10, 2013 at 5:56 pm Comments (0)

Required Reading

From, of all sources, the New York Times.

Yes, I know.  But they’re good.

Can the Republicans Be Saved From Obsolescence?
Behind the Cover Story: Robert Draper on Why the G.O.P. Is So Slow to Adapt to the Digital World

I plan on eventually commenting on these as I don’t quite agree with everything, and think a few things were overlooked.

And yes, these are absolutely required readings.  There will be a quiz afterward.

February 18, 2013 at 5:47 pm Comments (0)

Will we really do any better on the debt ceiling negotiation?

It’s been said that the GOP will get serious about spending reductions when the debt ceiling comes to a vote. Supposedly we have more leverage on that issue.

I’m thinking not. The GOP has less leverage on that issue.

The basic structure of the debt ceiling vote is similar to the fiscal cliff vote. Republicans have the ability to block something the President wants, with a painful consequence if a deal is not struck.

However, with the debt ceiling, the overall breakdown value is worse than it was with the fiscal cliff vote, and is far worse for Republicans than Democrats. If the fiscal cliff had broken down, there would have been some negative economic consequences, public pressure, and if it dragged on long enough, perhaps some electoral pain. Had we gone off the cliff in a meaningful way, we might have even eventually worked out a better deal. But Congress was unable to bear the pain.

The debt ceiling is worse for Republicans in several ways. Firstly, the overall consequences of a breakdown are worse in the sense that a sovereign default would almost guarantee a severe and long-lasting depression that would make the Great Recession look like a walk in the park. Secondly, knowing that this consequence is unbearable to Obama as well, we should anticipate his actions. Who doubts that Obama would invoke the 14th Amendment, or perhaps pull out the old platinum coin trick? The breakdown value of the debt ceiling negotiation could be a massive unconstitutional power grab by the executive. Huzzah!

If we try to play hardball with the debt ceiling, we’d get a repeat of the fiscal cliff vote, and we’d walk away with out pants around our ankles.

Does anybody think that a Congress unable to explode the daisy-cutter they were sitting on will have the intestinal fortitude to explode the debt ceiling nuclear device? I thought not.

No. Pass the debt ceiling, relatively cleanly. I mean, sure, try to get some cuts, but when push comes to shove, just pass the thing.

Then shut down the government – Gingrich style. Don’t pass another spending bill. Save for defense and homeland security, don’t so much as appropriate toilet paper for government lavatories. Not one dime.

Deprive Obama of something he wants. The relative pain of the breakdown values should be reversed. Obama loves government. So do Republicans, but less so than Obama. Take it from him. Perhaps for months.

And if you think a prolonged total government shut-down is too harsh, you really didn’t have the stomach for the debt ceiling vote in the first place.

(“Plan B” is looking pretty sweet right now, ain’t it? Remember that.)

January 2, 2013 at 11:51 pm Comments (0)

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