Posts Tagged ‘economy’

Is the Republican Party Worthwhile ?

Sunday, June 14th, 2015


Today, an interesting column was published suggesting that, if the Republicans don’t beat Hillary, they should just disband the party.

I think this makes some sense. We have an attractive group of candidates and some valid issues, including the economy and foreign policy. She is a terrible candidate.

Add this to the mounting scandals, polls showing a lack of trust for her, the historical difficulty of political parties winning three presidential elections in a row, and the deep bench of fresh-faced Republican options, and the GOP should be in prime position to win the next election.

But the next election will test whether demographic headwinds are too much for Republicans to overcome.

Maybe the country is just not serious about issues anymore.

She brought up Republican skepticism on climate change and opposition to abortion, saying “they shame and blame women rather than respect our right to make our own reproductive health decisions.”

She blasted Republicans for supporting policies that would increase deportation of immigrants and for “turn[ing] their backs on gay people who love each other.” She lashed out at Republican support for voter ID laws. “I’ll fight back against Republican efforts to disempower and disenfranchise young people, poor people, people with disabilities and people of color,” she said. And she argued that, “Fundamentally, [Republicans] reject what it takes to build an inclusive economy. It takes an inclusive society.”

Some of us read history and can recall that the Whig Party dissolved over the issue of slavery. The history of the Whig Party was of a party devoted to economic progress. It was also a party of opposition. Lincoln, when a Whig, opposed the Mexican War at some cost to himself.

The work of the Whigs was, as (James G.) Blaine admitted, negative and restraining rather than constructive. Still, “if their work cannot be traced in the National statute books as prominently as that of their opponents, they will be credited by the discriminating reader of our political annals as the English of to-day credit Charles James Fox and his Whig associates—for the many evils they prevented.” If that is true, then we have not had very much in the way of “impartial” histories of American politics since Blaine’s day.

Also true. Particularly Coolidge and Harding were slandered by the Progressives of the New Deal and its apologists.

Part of the success of Schlesinger’s casting of antebellum America as Jacksonian lay in Schlesinger’s identification of Andrew Jackson and Jackson’s Democratic party with Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the New Deal. To this day, one comes away from The Age of Jackson with the clear sense that Jackson and the Jacksonians embodied democracy and championed the interests of the “common man,” while the Whigs were the voice of selfish elite interests, and looked like nothing so much as forecasts of Herbert Hoover and Robert Taft.

The Republicans have had hardly better treatment by the news media of today than the Whigs by the Progressives.

[T]he question arose whether the Whig complaint against Jacksonian Democracy might have had more substance to it than it had seemed.

That question rose first in one of the genuinely pathbreaking works of American political history, Daniel Walker Howe’s The Political Culture of the American Whigs (1979).

The Whigs sound more like Republicans today than those of the 19th century.

Howe reintroduced the Whigs, not as Eastern elitists bent upon wickedly obstructing the righteous class-leveling justice of Jackson/Roosevelt, but as the “sober, industrious, thrifty people,” as the party of the American bourgeoisie, attracting the economic loyalty of small businesses and small commercial producers, and enlisting the political loyalty of those who aspired to transformation. Transformation was the key concept. It made the Whigs optimistic and serious all at once, since it embraced both the religious moralists and moral philosophers of the established denominations and colleges who preached personal and moral transformation as well as the upwardly mobile professionals who found in the dynamic world of international commerce the opportunity to escape from rural isolation and agrarian drudgery.

Sound familiar ? The Whigs were the party of railroads and canals that linked commerce across the country. Their fall from power, and from grace, occurred as the culture broke apart in the colossal struggle with slavery.

it was the Whigs who advocated an expansive federal government—but it was a government that would seek to promote a general liberal, middle-class national welfare, promoting norms of Protestant morality and underwriting the expansion of industrial capitalism by means of government-funded transportation projects (to connect people and markets), high protective tariffs for American manufacturing, and a national banking system to regulate and standardize the American economy.

The question today is whether the Republican Party can cope with the rapid debasement of the culture with gay marriage and bizarre aberrations like transexual exhibitionism.

The Democrats seem to be succeeding with their new emphasis on the strange and the bizarre.

Jackson’s Democrats came off as frightened, snarling, and small-mindedly anticapitalist in mentality. Jacksonianism glorified agriculture and defined wealth as landholding, and its interest in the “common man” was limited to building defenses around an agrarian stasis—simple subsistence farming, trade in kind, and no taxes, banks, or corporations—that would never be threatened by the demons of competition or the fluctuations of markets. Linked to this preoccupation with stasis and personal independence was the Jacksonians’ resistance to public declarations of morality.

Andrew Jackson fought a duel with a man who criticized his wife, Rachel, who had some controversy regarding her previous marriage.

During the presidential election campaign of 1828, supporters of John Quincy Adams, Jackson’s opponent, accused his wife of being a bigamist, among other things.

Here is Holt’s story of the Whigs, in as compressed a fashion as possible: Rather than being a branch out of the root of Federalism, the Whigs evolved like the Jacksonians from the original Jeffersonian Republicans who triumphed in the “Revolution of 1800.” They were originally an opposition faction to Andrew Jackson in the 1820s, but they detached themselves as a separate organization in 1834 under the leadership of Jackson’s nemesis, Henry Clay of Kentucky, and took the name Whig to underscore their opposition to Jackson’s high-handed near-dictatorship in the presidency. They cast themselves first as republican antimilitarists.

The modern Republican Party has adopted national security as a core issue but it was not always so. Democrats dominated military subjects from 1912 until Lyndon Johnson when the party revolted over the Vietnam War. Republicans fought the Civil War over slavery, the basic reason of the party, but the rest of the century was one of peace and only Theodore Roosevelt, a figure of the early Progressive Movement, was interested in war. His career really took wing with the Spanish-American War, which was not a “war of necessity” shall we say.

The 1837 economic panic also set in place the two principal mechanisms for Whig electoral success, which were (a) to concentrate public attention on the failings of Democratic politics and (b) to scoop up the largest percentage of new voters in every presidential cycle. It is a significant point in Holt’s description of antebellum parties that American voters, once recruited to a party, rarely switched allegiances over time. What was critical in each presidential cycle, then, was to energize the existing Whig voter base by throwing their policy distinctives into sharp contrast to the Democrats’ and by organizing new voters.

Can the Republicans, or a succeeding party, interest new voters ? The welfare state did not exist prior to the New Deal and this has warped American politics in new and unprecedented ways.

[W]henever it made the mistake of relying on charming personalities to head tickets or making generous accommodations with the Democrats on major issues [it lost ground]. But keeping such focus steady was an ideological problem for Whigs. They prided themselves on being a coalition of independent thinkers, unlike (in their imagination) the disciplined faithful of the Democrats, and they did not hesitate to turn on each other with divisive and disheartening abandon. Linked to that, the Whigs valorized the image of themselves as statesmen rather than (like their opposite numbers) party hacks who loved politics only for the power political office conferred.

The similarity is striking. There are differences, of course,. The issues of the 1850s were not the same as they are now but there is a theme to be kept in mind.

What finished the Whigs was their failures, not over national policy questions, but in the state and congressional elections in 1854 and 1855, where the new parties could get the most ready purchase on the electorate. No longer did Whig voters, galvanized by Democratic awfulness, take their votes to Whig candidates to express their disgust; they could go to the Know-Nothings, to the Free-Soilers, the Republicans, and so on.

Third parties are no solution to the problem of the Republicans. I think the Tea Party must capture the party mechanisms and oust the representatives of The Ruling Class. If that does not occur peacefully, it may occur with violence.

Could Obama go rogue if the Senate flips ?

Saturday, October 11th, 2014

Roger L Simon has an interesting column on the consequences of a GOP win this fall.

Barack Obama is a man unaccustomed to losing. Life has been exceptionally kind to him, sailing, as he did, through balmy Oahu sunsets, college, law school and career on into the presidency with scarcely a bump. He has been a protected man beyond any in recent memory, feted and praised virtually everywhere he went until the last couple of years. Even now, despite catastrophe after catastrophe, there are acolytes who continue to celebrate him, paying tens of thousands merely to have their photographs taken with him.

When such cosseted people are forced to confront failure, they typically do not do so with grace.

Obama’s style of governing seems to be quite unusual for modern presidents. He does not have a circle of “Wise Men” as most presidents have done, including Bill Clinton, who had Robert Rubin advising him on economics and the bond market.

Obama, instead, relys on a small circle of advisors with little or no experience in national affairs.

Insider books by Robert Gates, Hillary Clinton and Leon Panetta have appeared in rapid succession, implying or directly alleging that the president lives in a bubble, unwilling to listen to advice. He frequently threatens to — and sometimes does — go around the Congress to get his way via, often unconstitutional, executive fiat. We all know that he lies, constantly.

His closest advisor appears to be Valerie Jarrett who has no policy experience and who seems to be a Chicago insider.


Where is housing going ?

Sunday, March 9th, 2014

UPDATE: Megan McArdle has some doubts about house prices.


The housing inflation seems to be limited to certain cities. How will this last in the poor (except District of Columbia) economy ?

I live in south Orange County and have noticed a huge amount of rental construction going on. This area has been mostly single family homes and condos since 1972 when I moved here. Now, we see big projects like this and others nearby that I don’t know the name of. These are big projects including hundreds and perhaps thousands of units. The builder is the Irvine Company which, in my previous experience, has built mostly homes and condos. Recently, I began to notice more rental projects in Irvine.

The Irvine Company Apartment Communities is dedicated to making it easy to find a home you’ll love with unsurpassed services meeting your every need. With approximately 122 exceptional apartment communities located throughout the prime California regions of Orange County, West Los Angeles, San Diego and Silicon Valley, we offer choices to fit every lifestyle and budget.

They seem to be going to rental property in a big way. Maybe this is the reason.

From reading the mainstream press all you hear are glorious signs of housing resurrection! Come one come all into the house of real estate where the almighty Fed will allow no harm to occur. Just sign and pray and the next thing you know you’ll be the next Donald Trump. The flipping, rehabbing, and housing shows are once again filling the space on a cable station near you. The perception of the Fed being this almighty protector of housing makes a bit of sense but where was the Fed in 2007?

I see lots of housing flips in southern California, not in Orange County so far.


Even in 2013 we had 1.4 million properties with notice of defaults, scheduled auctions, and full on REOs taken on. Early in the crisis these stories were common since they were a novelty to the press. Now however, many of these properties are shifting over to large investors pushing inventory up. A clear consequence of this is a large pool of potential buyers that are unable to buy.

These may be the renters.


Yup. The would-be first time buyers have student loans and bad credit. They are renting.

The number of first time buyers is pathetic because household formation is weak and many young Americans are living at home with mom and dad. Forget about buying, they are having a tough time paying higher rents to the new feudal landlords. You would expect with the rapid rise in prices that existing home sales are off the charts but they are not.

Housing prices do NOT mean buyers who will be occupants. Look at mortgage applications !


Wow ! We are back to levels last seen nearly 20 years ago! Only difference is that we have 50,000,000 more people today walking the streets of the U.S. of A. than we did back then. Since access to middle class living is getting tougher thanks to weak income growth, more people are opting to rent:


This is what I am seeing in Orange County. I have been looking in San Pedro for a small house near the ocean. I can no longer afford Orange County except condos. I sold my house four years ago and bought a house in the mountains. That was a bad move. I found that I could not tolerate the altitude. I had to sell into the bad market of 2012. That cost me a lot. Now, I have to lower my sights and may just stay a renter for a while. At my age, it may make better sense.

Here comes 1933.

Saturday, November 23rd, 2013


The Depression did not really get going until the Roosevelt Administration got its anti-business agenda enacted after 1932. The 1929 crash was a single event, much like the 2008 panic. It took major errors in economic policy to make matters worse. Some were made by Hoover, who was a “progressive” but they continued under Roosevelt.

James Taranto has a good take and quotes a couple of lefty commentators. Like Ezra Klein.

There’s a lot of upside for Republicans in how this went down. It came at a time when Republicans control the House and are likely to do so for the duration of President Obama’s second term, so the weakening of the filibuster will have no effect on the legislation Democrats can pass. The electoral map, the demographics of midterm elections, and the political problems bedeviling Democrats make it very likely that Mitch McConnell will be majority leader come 2015 and then he will be able to take advantage of a weakened filibuster. And, finally, if and when Republicans recapture the White House and decide to do away with the filibuster altogether, Democrats won’t have much of an argument when they try to stop them.

As Taranto puts it:

“”The political problems bedeviling Democrats” is a marvelous bit of understatement. The abject failure of ObamaCare has made the prospect of a Republican Senate in 2015 and a Republican president in 2017 much likelier. Thus even from a purely partisan standpoint, rational Democrats would have been more cautious about invoking the nuclear option when they did than at just about any other time in the past five years.”

The filibuster maneuver by Reid is not a demonstration of strength. It is an admission of weakness. The idiots at HuffPo and the LA Times are beating their chests in joy at the prospect of eternal Democrat majorities that can ignore those pesky Republicans.

In fact, what Reid is acknowledging is that the Democrat majority in the Senate is going away and now is the time to pack the courts and regulatory agencies with ideologues and get all the anti-business regulations in place while they can. The hard left, which believes in magic and Cargo Cults, is cheering them on.

Bloomberg sees what happened, too.

“Under any administration, federal agencies seek to implement the president’s policies by developing regulations,” Jeff Holmstead, a lawyer at Bracewell & Giuliani LLP in Washington who has represented coal-heavy utilities, said. “But in most cases, the judges on the D.C. Circuit are the people who decide whether those regulations comply with federal law.”

I fully expect to see anti-fracking regulations roll out soon, once the Obama appointments get confirmed by the rump Senate. However, what goes around, comes around.

It is our understanding that the Supreme Court exception was included to satisfy pro-abortion extremists, the most active and basest part of the activist base. The Wall Street Journal’s Laura Meckler reported yesterday that the two biggest such groups, Planned Parenthood Federation of America and NARAL Pro-Choice America, both declined comment on the nuclear move, “leaving it unclear whether they are concerned about their ability to block future objectionable”–i.e., Republican–“nominees.”

The abortion lobby sees the future better than giddy leftists who think government creates wealth and jobs.

Why healthcare is in trouble.

Friday, November 8th, 2013

Our health care system has been built up over the years in a jury-rigged, ramshackle fashion. Before World War II, there was very little health insurance and what there was often was the product of labor union contracts. The early years were concerned with accident insurance and workers compensation laws.

The American life insurance system was established in the mid-1700s. The earliest forms of health insurance, how­ever, did not emerge until 1850, when the Franklin Health Assurance Com­pany of Massachusetts began providing accident insurance, to cover injuries re­lated to railroad and steamboat travel. From this, sickness insurance covering all kinds of illnesses and injuries soon evolved, but the first modern health insurance plans were not formed until 1930.

The Baylor program for school teachers was the first in 1929.

Medical insurance took stride in 1929 when Dr. Justin Ford Kimball, an administrator at Baylor University Hospital in Dallas, Texas, realized that many schoolteachers were not paying their medical bills. In response to this problem, he developed the Baylor Plan – teachers were to pay 50 cents per month in exchange for the guarantee that they could receive medical services for up to 21 days of any one year.

In those days, the concern was lost wages more than hospital care.

In 1939, the American Hospital Association (AHA) first used the name Blue Cross to des­ignate health care plans that met their standards. These plans merged to form Blue Cross under the AHA in 1960. Considered nonprofit organizations, the Blue Cross plans were exempted from paying taxes, enabling them to maintain low premiums. Pre-paid plans covering physician and surgeon services, includ­ing the California Physicians’ Service in 1939, also emerged around this time. These physician-sponsored plans com­bined into Blue Shield in 1946 and Blue Cross and Blue Shield merged into one company in 1971.

The modern insurance plans were very recent in origin. I was there for much of it. The commercial insurers fought the status of Blue Cross, which was not required to have reserves. Blue Cross asserted that it promised hospital care, not payment, so reserves were not necessary.

The 1940s and 1950s also saw the proliferation of employee benefit plans, and the included health insurance pack­ages became more and more compre­hensive as strong unions negotiated for additional benefits. During the Second World War, companies competing for labor had limited ability to use wages to attract employees due to wartime wage controls, so they began to compete through health insurance packages. The companies’ healthcare expenses were exempted from income tax, and the resulting trend is largely responsible for the workplace’s present role as the main supplier of health insurance.

The war produced much of this as wage limitations were in force but fringe benefits, like health insurance, were permitted. A lot of this history is contained in Paul Starr’s book The Social Transformation of American Medicine.

From the first, commercial insurers focused on employer plans while Blue Cross and Blue Shield (which was founded by the California Medical Association to pay doctor bills) were individual plans.

In 1954, Social Security coverage included disability benefits for the first time, and in 1965, Medicare and Medicaid pro­grams were introduced, in part because of the Democratic majority in Congress. In the 1970s and 1980s, more expen­sive medical technology and flaws in the health care system led to higher costs for health insurance companies. Responding to higher costs, employee benefit plans changed into managed care plans, and Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) emerged. Man­aged care plans are unique in that they involve a particular network of health­care providers that have been verified for healthcare quality and that have agreements with the insurer about price and related issues. HMOs were originally primarily nonprofit, but they were quickly replaced by commercial interests, and managed care only suc­ceeded in temporarily slowing the growth of healthcare costs.

Two major changes came in the 1970s. In 1978, the federal government established what were called Professional Standards Review Organizations or PSRO. All doctors had to receive training in how to do these reviews and it was immediately apparent that cost was the only consideration, not quality of care.

I decided to educate myself and took a course from an organization called “The American Board of Quality Assurance and Utilization Review Physicians. I took the exam and passed, then attended the annual meeting. This was about 1986. People I met at that meeting informed me that the exams were graded by throwing them up in the air. Any that landed balancing on one edge were flunked. Nonetheless, the experience was valuable because I could see what was coming.

I was president of the Orange County Medical Association that year and had served for eight years on the Commission on Legislation of the CMA, now called The Council on Legislation. This gave me an opportunity to meet many legislators, many state level and some federal. The impression they made on me was that few knew anything about medicine and most were not very intelligent.


The rolling catastrophe

Monday, November 4th, 2013

Obamacare debuted on October 1. It is now November 4 and the mess is worse. I have been posting about it, here, and here, and here, and even here.

The political left is trying very hard as can be seen here.


It’s kind of complicated so I will summarize. You are screwed !

There are accusations that insurance companies are using this to drop high risk subscribers. Maybe that is true but it is the consequence of ignorant people designing Obamacare. Did these guys ever set up a new business ? As Casey Stengel once said to the Mets , “”Can’t anybody here play this game?”

I guess not.

The New York Times has done what it can.

We are also told that “in all the furor, people forget how terrible many of the soon-to-be-abandoned policies were. Some had deductibles as high as $10,000 or $25,000 and required large co-pays after that, and some didn’t cover hospital care.” Never mind that we have seen cancellations of insurance policies with deductibles much lower, and customers forced to purchase replacement policies with higher deductibles, and with premium increases of 100%, if not higher.

Then there is this argument.

Why can’t people opt out of mental health coverage if there is not a reasonable chance that they will need that coverage? Why can’t they get mental health coverage when it is needed? After all, pre-existing conditions can no longer be denied, so in the event that mental health coverage is needed down the line, it can be obtained and the insurance companies cannot deny people who already have pre-existing mental health conditions. The Times assures us that over-coverage–and the high premiums that come with it–is “one price of moving toward universal coverage with comprehensive benefits.” They don’t explain why having unnecessary coverage is a step towards social justice, but as we saw from the beginning of this intelligence-insulting, repulsively dishonest op-ed, the New York Times is less about explaining, and more about covering up a disastrous rollout with disastrous policy consequences for the country.

Weak attempts at best.

Peggy Noonan, who has frustrated me with her obtuseness at times, gets it now.

Politically where are we right now, at this moment?

We have a huge piece of U.S. economic and social change that debuted a month ago as a program. The program dealt with something personal, even intimate: your health, the care of your body, the medicines you choose to take or procedures you get. It was hugely controversial from day one. It took all the political oxygen from the room. It failed to garner even one vote from the opposition when it was passed. It gave rise to a significant opposition movement, the town hall uprisings, which later produced the tea party. It caused unrest. In fact, it seemed not to answer a problem but cause it. I called ObamaCare, at the time of its passage, a catastrophic victory—one won at too great cost, with too much political bloodshed, and at the end what would you get? Barren terrain. A thing not worth fighting for.

So the program debuts and it’s a resounding, famous, fantastical flop. The first weeks of the news coverage are about how the websites don’t work, can you believe we paid for this, do you believe they had more than three years and produced this public joke of a program, this embarrassment?

She assumed that it wasn’t worth it if it worked !

The problem now is not the delivery system of the program, it’s the program itself. Not the computer screen but what’s inside the program. This is something you can’t get the IT guy in to fix.

They said if you liked your insurance you could keep your insurance—but that’s not true. It was never true! They said if you liked your doctor you could keep your doctor—but that’s not true. It was never true! They said they would cover everyone who needed it, and instead people who had coverage are losing it—millions of them! They said they would make insurance less expensive—but it’s more expensive! Premium shock, deductible shock. They said don’t worry, your health information will be secure, but instead the whole setup looks like a hacker’s holiday. Bad guys are apparently already going for your private information.

This is the worst that could be imagined. The New York Times is trying.

We are also told that “in all the furor, people forget how terrible many of the soon-to-be-abandoned policies were. Some had deductibles as high as $10,000 or $25,000 and required large co-pays after that, and some didn’t cover hospital care.” Never mind that we have seen cancellations of insurance policies with deductibles much lower, and customers forced to purchase replacement policies with higher deductibles, and with premium increases of 100%, if not higher. Really ?


The Lost Boys

Saturday, March 2nd, 2013

Belmont Club has an unusually good post for yesterday. I could say that more than once a week, if truth be known. This one is quite to the point on Sequester Day.

The NHS, which its creators boasted would be the ‘envy of the world’, has been found to have been responsible for up to 40,000 preventable deaths under the helm of Sir David Nicholson, a former member of the Communist Party of Britain. “He was no ordinary revolutionary. He was on the hardline, so-called ‘Tankie’ wing of the party which backed the Kremlin using military action to crush dissident uprisings” — before he acquired a taste for young wives, first class travel and honors.

The NHS is dealing with the shortage of funds by pruning its tree of life, so to speak. He also does not tolerate anyone telling the truth about it.

it emerged he spent 15 million pounds in taxpayer money to gag and prosecute whistleblowers — often doctors and administrators who could not stomach his policies.

The public money spent on stopping NHS staff from speaking out is almost equivalent to the salaries of around 750 nurses.

It has recently been noted that NHS staff no longer recommend their own hospital for family members. Also one quarter report being harassed or bullied at work.

The other half of the equation involves the youth.

The European Youth will remain outside the Death Pathways for some time yet. But they will spend the time waiting for their turn at affordable, caring and passionate medicine in poverty and hopelessness. With the exception of Germany youth unemployment in Europe is over 20%. “A full 62% of young Greeks are out of work, 55% of young Spaniards don’t have jobs, and 38.7% of young Italians aren’t employed.”

Unemployment exceeds even our own Obama economy for failure. (more…)

The Sequester

Friday, February 22nd, 2013

As we count down to March 1, we are hearing more and more about the dreaded sequester. The left is confused about its history.

How did this become Obama’s fault? It started with Mitt Romney, a once-influential Republican Party politician and its 2012 nominee for president. In the third debate with President Obama, Romney fretted that “a trillion dollars in cuts through sequestration and budget cuts to the military” would weaken America’s defenses. The president literally dismissed this with a wave of his hand. “The sequester is not something that I proposed,” he said. “It’s something that Congress has proposed. It will not happen.”

How did this get to be the story ?

The accidental Bible of Sequestration is The Price of Politics, Bob Woodward’s history of the debt-limit wars, and one of the least flattering portrayals of the president this side of In it, Woodward recounts a July 27, 2011, afternoon meeting between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and White House negotiators. Reid wanted a “trigger” as part of a debt deal, some way to force more cuts in the future without defaulting on the debt that summer. Chief of Staff Jack Lew and adviser Rob Nabors proposed sequestration, as a threat that could be averted if/when Congress passed a better deal.

OK. The White House staff suggested it. Why ? Because they assumed that Republicans would cave in rather than accept cuts in the defense budget.

Republicans have “twice passed legislation” to replace the sequestration cuts. Who told you that? It’s a common Republican talking point, but it’s misleading in two ways. The House passed two bills related to sequestration replacement, but the first one, in May 2012, didn’t offer specific cuts. It moved the total amount of defense cuts over into the non-defense budget, like a croupier moving chips into the winner’s pile. The actual replacement cuts were only spelled out in the Spending Reduction Act of 2012, passed by a razor-thin, Republicans-only vote on Dec. 20, 2012. The Congress that passed it expired on Jan. 3 of this year, so the bill is dead.

Oh, OK. The House bill passed with “Republican only” votes so it doesn’t matter ? The real story is the Obama and Democrats’ gamesmanship. What is their position?

The Senate plan would replace the $85 billion of cuts this year with $110 billion of cuts and taxes, reducing the defense cuts to $27.5 billion and raising (hopefully) $54 billion with the “Buffet rule,” the new millionaire income tax.

I thought we passed a “millionaire tax” last January 1 ? Well, that was only the first “millionaire tax” which affected those with incomes above $200,000. Now they want another one. Why ? Because that’s what Democrats do.

To reduce the deficit in a weak economy, new taxes on high-income Americans are a matter of necessity and fairness; they are also a necessary precondition to what in time will have to be tax increases on the middle class. Contrary to Mr. Boehner’s “spending problem” claim, much of the deficit in the next 10 years can be chalked up to chronic revenue shortfalls from the Bush-era tax cuts, which were only partly undone in the fiscal-cliff deal earlier this year. (Wars and a recession also contributed.) It stands to reason that a deficit caused partly by inadequate revenue must be corrected in part by new taxes. And the only way to raise taxes now without harming the recovery is to impose them on high-income filers, for whom a tax increase is unlikely to cut into spending.

Even the New York Times people have to know that tax increases on high income people adds to unemployment and causes the really rich to flee to other countries. Unless, of course, they have bought favors from Obama. As for “revenue” the government’s share of the GDP is the highest since World War II and well above historic norms, no matter what the tax rates were

As for entitlements, Republicans mainly want to cut those that mostly go to the middle class and the poor, while ignoring nearly $1.1 trillion in annual deductions, credits and other tax breaks that flow disproportionately to the highest income Americans and that cost more, each year, than Medicare and Medicaid combined. Clearly then, there is both ample room and justification to reduce the deficit by curbing tax breaks at the high end, as Mr. Obama has proposed and Republicans have rejected.

Those “tax breaks” are the home mortgage deduction and other deductions that are of long standing (like state and local taxes and tax exempt municipal bonds). What the Democrats want is to have no limits on spending. I don’t believe that the Times’ people are so stupid and ignorant that they do not realize we are asking for the situation of Japan, which used Keynesian spending twenty years ago to deal with a real estate bubble collapse. They are still mired in a stagflation economy after a generation.

I will be very disappointed but not particularly surprised if the GOP caves in once again to the old tax now and cut spending later routine that we have seen before. It might be enough to get a third party started if it happens again. The Whigs got too far from their base in 1854. It could happen again.

For an important and entertaining history of the Whigs, read this.

The three most important components of that political culture were the Whig commitment to “improvement” (including both self-transformation as well as national economic improvement), to morality and duty rather than equality and rights, and to national Page [End Page 74] unity rather than local diversity.[4] Their opposition to Andrew Jackson and Jacksonian Democracy did not follow the lines of Schlesinger, which pitted progressives who wanted to use an expansive government to help farmers and the victims of robber-baron capitalism against monied exploiters who wanted to keep government small and impotent against their greed. Instead, it was the Whigs who advocated an expansive federal government—but it was a government that would seek to promote a general liberal, middle-class national welfare, promoting norms of Protestant morality and underwriting the expansion of industrial capitalism by means of government-funded transportation projects (to connect people and markets), high protective tariffs for American manufacturing, and a national banking system to regulate and standardize the American economy. Howe’s Whigs were the embodiment of Horatio Alger, of upward striving, of the triumph of reason over passion, of the positive liberal state, [5] and the counterparts of Disraeli’s “one nation” conservatism.

Arthur Schlesinger libeled more than just Calvin Coolidge.

Death Wish

Friday, December 21st, 2012

The Republican House members did not pass the “Plan B” legislation that would press President Obama to settle the “fiscal cliff” negotiations. They chose the perfect over the good or completely lost their nerve. It seems the revolt was mostly from the right, which demanded more spending cuts and increases in defense spending.

You would think that Romney had won the election and the GOP won the Senate. Boehner played a weak had well, and,if I were he, I would think hard about resigning.

Upstairs by the House floor, which was now closed after Boehner’s announcement, a handful of senior members discussed the whip count. They decided to go out for drinks near Union Station, in order to avoid their colleagues who’d be hanging at the Capitol Hill Club on the House side. “I don’t want to talk to the people who ruined this, at least right now,” a retiring House member told me. “They don’t get it.” Another senior member told me that Boehner was always going to struggle with the whip count since most House conservatives have little interest in seeing the speaker strike any kind of deal. “Boehner was trying to play chess and the caucus was playing checkers,” he said, sighing. “Boehner is willing to lose a pawn for a queen. I’m not sure about the rest.”

That’s how I see it. They wanted to act as if they had control when they don’t. Politics is often about image and “spin.” That was all Boehner had. Now the field is wide open for Obama to take control of the “tax cut” issue by letting all tax rates rise on January 1. Then a few weeks later, he can have the Democrat introduce a tax cut for the lower rate half of the public and take credit. The republicans will have to go along or face a real disaster in public image. They will have no leverage with the defense .

Representative Justin Amash of Michigan, a conservative with libertarian leanings, was stunned. As he walked back to his office, he said the episode was unfortunate, even though he was planning to vote against the measure. For the past month, since House leaders booted him off the budget committee, he has been railing against Boehner for his management style. But even Amash wondered whether the House GOP was making the right move. “Too many people in there were arguing that this thing is a tax increase, and I don’t think that’s what Boehner was trying to do,” he said. As much as he disagrees with Boehner’s approach, even he regretted how the speaker’s plan was killed.

Even the opponents of Boehner’s plan are distressed !

Plan B was Mr. Boehner’s attempt to salvage some political dignity and a policy victory or two in return for conceding on tax rates. The bill wasn’t even technically a vote to raise taxes because the rates are set to rise automatically on January 1 if Congress does nothing. The bill also kept the estate tax at 35%, rather than going up to 55% as now scheduled, and it made the tax cuts on lower incomes permanent.

With a narrow deal on taxes, Mr. Boehner figured he could live to fight another day on spending. But it is a measure of the mistrust the President has engendered that many Republicans didn’t want to give up even this much on taxes in return for nothing at all.

The best scenario for the economy now would be for Mr. Obama to offer to extend all the tax rates for six months and start negotiating anew in January. That would give everyone the chance to decompress and back down from the barricades.

Does anyone believe that Obama will not overreach in the state of mind he seems to occupy ?

Do the rich vote Republican ?

Saturday, November 17th, 2012

The question about who the rich vote for is a serious one as we head for the “fiscal cliff” next year. The Republican Party has been defending the “top 2% of income groups” that Obama wants to exclude from the extension of current income tax rates. The argument is that this group, with incomes above $200,000 for individuals and above $250,000 per year for couples, includes small business owners who create most of the jobs in this country. This is probably true and the small business owners are a reliably Republican group of voters. What about the really rich ? The group whose taxes Obama wants to raise is really mostly the upper middle class. The inflation of the 1970s, and the coming inflation which will be the only result of Obama’s “budgets,” changes the income levels that determine the middle class.

Recently, there has been some discussion of the voting patterns of the “rich” and whether the Republicans are really defending Republican voters and what are the voting patterns of the rich. Bill Kristol recently wrote that the Republicans may be courting disaster by risking a trip over the fiscal cliff defending people who are not Republican voters. Data on this last election is still thin but there are a few bits of information available.