Good News, Bad News

Good News:  After five years of “economic growth” under Obama, the economy might actually take off again.

The US economy will grow by 2.3 percent in 2017 and 3.0 percent in 2018, said the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, revising its earlier forecast.

That compares to gross domestic product growth of 1.5 percent this year, according to the OECD.

Bad News:  Because Keynesianism:

The Republican property tycoon’s team has said he will devote $550 billion to rebuilding decrepit infrastructure.

Really Bad News:  And that’s all presuming the Democrats don’t call in their markers with Janet Yellen.

I, Kirkian

I started noticing the fracture sometime during the Bush II administration;  vast swathes of conservatives who could simply not tolerate other vast swathes of conservatives.

It was unheard of during the Reagan era – and even under Newt Gingrich in 1994, conservatism was a fairly cohesive voting bloc as well as strategy.

But somewhere during the Bush years – when our “conservative” governed more as a Democrat than his Gingrich-haunted predecessor did – the flaking started happening.

By 2008, “conservatism” had split into three separate factions.  I identified them as:

  • Northeastern:  These are your grandfather’s Repubicans.  They are focused on GDP growth and domestic and national security; much weaker on personal liberty, limited government and cultural issues.   Think Rudy Giuliani or Chris Christie, or the original Mitt Romney.  At one point, Arne Carlson would have qualified.
  • Southern:  The culture warriors.  Also strong on national and domestic security, but perfectly comfortable with big government.   Think Mike Huckabee.
  • Western:  Heavily into limiting government and personal liberty, especially property and privacy rights.  The heart of the Second Amendment movement.  Non-intentionist on national security, laissez-faire on the economy.   Think Barry Goldwater, the Paul family and the Tea Party in its original conception.

James Heaney in Federalist, in a piece called “Conservatism is Dead; Long Live Conservatism” reaches a similar conclusion.

He divides the movement…

…well, no.  The “movement” is dead.  He divides it also into three major centers of activity:

  • Populists:  Nationalists, not uncomfortable with taxes and government intervention.  Mostly Trump voters, intuitively enough.
  • Establishment:  Focused on growing GDP.   Think the Jeb or Kasich voters.
  • Grass Roots:  The culture warriors.  Think Cruz and Rubio voters.

The problem is, the three largely detest each other – in some cases, more than the Democrats (indeed, the Populists drove a “former” Democrat who favors more Democrat-friendly policies than the other 18 contenders he beat to the nomination, all the way to victory).

Is there a way forward?

Not sure Heaney answers it.  But he notes that the way back – to a fundamental definition of what conservatism is supposed to be – is important:

When the modern conservative movement started out under the political leadership of Barry Goldwater and later Reagan, it was built on centuries-old principles handed down by men like Edmund Burke and Alexis de Toqueville. In 1953, the great intellectual, Russell Kirk, summarized those central premises of conservatism.

In his “six canons,” Kirk articulated a conservativism that embraces “a transcendant order, or body of natural law,” because “[p]olitical problems, at bottom, are religious and moral problems.” Conservatives, Kirk said, reject “uniformity, egalitarianism, and utilitarian aims,” even as they recognize “ultimate equality in the judgement of God and… before courts of law.” They maintain the importance of property rights against Leviathan government, and distrust “sophisters, calculators, and economists who would reconstruct society on abstract designs.” Finally, a Kirk conservative is prudent, recognizing “that change may not be salutary reform: hasty innovation may be a devouring conflagration, rather than a torch of progress.”

The modern “conservative movement” has lost touch with these essentials. The establishment builds entire fiscal plans out of the “abstract designs” of “calculators and economists,” and the Wall Street Journal editorial board wouldn’t recognize a “body of natural law” if that body hauled back and punched L. Gordon Crovitz in the nose. Even if they did take notice, the Journal and its Acela Corridor buddies would find it gauche in the extreme to actually speak out loud about political problems in fundamentally “religious and moral” terms.

The populists, for their part, often preach about problems in highly charged moral language, but their only common theme is outrage, and their chosen avatar is Trump, the serial adulterer. Moreover, their desire to burn down all our political institutions is the very definition of the “devouring conflagration” Kirk warns of.

Conservatism has failed, then, partly because a large swath of the “movement” has lost touch with its central ideas. The very word “conservative” has been badly damaged. Corrupted and polarized, the label has become little more than a tribal marker, and alienates many voters who would otherwise naturally align with Kirk’s principles.

I’m going to try to write more about this in the coming week or so.

Let That Cycle Spin

Leftist parties in Europe are facing declining membership, electoral routs, and a general malaise:

The sick list is headed by Britain’s Labour Party, where veteran radical Jeremy Corbyn last week easily won a leadership challenge by centrist MPs angry at his part in the shock Brexit vote.

But political analysts say the venerable party — founded in 1900 — faces electoral oblivion despite his victory.

Its dismal standing in the opinion polls is mirrored across Europe.

As with Labour, Spain’s Socialist Party is in the grip of a fratricidal war over the performance of its leader, Pedro Sanchez, at a time of national crisis.

In Germany, the Social Democratic Party has lost half its members since 1998.

In France, President Francois Hollande is the most unpopular president in his country’s modern history and would be routed if he stands in next year’s presidential elections, according to opinion polls.

Centre-left parties recently lost power in Denmark, a stronghold of social democracy, and registered their worst-ever results in Finland and Poland. In Greece, support for the once dominant Pasok has plunged to just six percent.

“Social democracy is a shadow of itself,” German political analyst Albrecht von Lucke said on NDR television channel. “We are dealing with decline of historic proportions.”

The bad news?  While the center right and populist parties are benefitting, many near-left voters are moving even further left.

The Economics Of Duh

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Liberals think 2% inflation is a good thing, it keeps the economy growing.

That’s insane.

The definition of “money” is “a store of value.”  The whole point of using a monetary system instead of a barter system is to maintain the

value of money.  Inflation erodes the value of money.

If there’s 2% inflation and you get no cost-of-living adjustment in your wages, then at the end of the year you can buy 2% less stuff because the

money you earn isn’t enough to buy the same amount of stuff at the new, higher prices.  Everybody knows this but they accept it because we’re

conditioned to accept it.

Suppose instead there was 0% inflation, but your employer cut your wages 2% each year.  End result would be the same – the smaller amount money

you earn isn’t enough to buy the same amount of stuff.  But would people shit a brick?  Damned right.  They’re working just as long, just as

hard, but they’re losing ground.

To me, it’s so obvious I want to scream.  How can Liberals not see this?

Joe Doakes

“Liberal economist” is another word for “economic phrenologist”.

Gotta Hand It To The Brazilians

The Brazilians just finished impeaching their first female leader, Dilma Rousseff, for corruption.

As Kevin Williamson points out, her corruption was pennies on the American “Progressive” dollar; the sort of creative accounting that the left (has been foisting on the American public for decades (with the connivance of way too many Republicans in DC, naturally), and why it, at this point, really matters anyway:

Corruption leads to poverty. It leads to poverty in Brazil, in Chicago, in Detroit, in Philadelphia, in Los Angeles, in Upstate New York, and in the Rio Grande Valley. Capitalism — the awesome productive capacity of free people — can bear many burdens and defray many costs, but it can be perverted and misdirected, too. From the state-run enterprises in Brazil and Venezuela to the green-energy fantasies of U.S. progressives, we see that the real threat to capitalism is not domination but seduction. Brazil seems to be hearing that gospel. We refuse to listen.

Is it because the media wouldn’t call Hillary (or any) Clinton “corrupt” if they caught her walking out of Fort Knox with a stack of gold bars in her purse?  Or because Americans favor the corruption – the looting of the public treasury – that benefits them?

We’ll see – sooner than later:

In November, the people of the United States almost certainly are going to elect Hillary Rodham Clinton their next president. Like Dilma Rousseff in Brazil, she will be the first woman to hold the office. Like Dilma Rousseff, she is an old-fashioned party-machine pol who is deeply and consistently corrupt, habitually dishonest, funny with money, and prompt to dismiss any and all efforts at holding her to some basic standard of decency and accountability as — remember the words, which could have been Rousseff’s — “a vast right-wing conspiracy.” We had to impeach the president the last time we had the poor national judgment to send a member of this hilljack crime syndicate to the White House, and Mrs. Clinton already has been acting as a one-woman crime wave when it comes to the laws that regulate how sensitive government information is handled and how official communications are archived for the purposes of accountability and oversight. Mrs. Clinton has argued that this all stems from her being too stupid to understand how to operate a mobile phone: “I used one device,” Mrs. Clinton lied. (She used many and has a talent for nesting lies within her lies.)

Americans may one day – soon – envy the corrupt, malarial hellhole that had the common sense to show at least one member of that class the door.

Finally.

A Rhetorical Question

MINNESOTA CONSERVATIVE:  If a conservative, libertarian or Republican gets hit, spit on and otherwise attacked, and no media reports on it, did it really happen?

MINNESOTA LIBERAL:  If what happened to who?  Huh?

MINNESOTA CONSERVATIVE:  I said, if a conservative, libertarian or Republican gets hit, spit on and otherwise attacked, and no media reports on it, did it really happen?

MINNESOTA LIBERAL:  If what happened to who?  Again, I have no idea what you’re talking about.

MINNESOTA CONSERVATIVE:  Well, you got that part right

Clairvoyance

So it looks like all the people who were caterwauling about doom and gloom for British trade in the wake of the “brexit” were unreservedly correct, and the English economy is going to spiral into the toilet like an airplane missing both wings…

… I’m sorry. I got something caught in my throat. As I was trying to say, the lesson is clear: without the guidance of “experts” who’ve never run a business, and whose entire frame of reference is nothing but being bureaucrats, a sovereign peoples’ hopes of a decent living or just wind and sales…

…hopes of a decent living are just wind and sales…

… No, that’s just something in my throat still…

… Oh, who am I kidding?   It’s been less than two weeks, and countries are lining up to cut trade deals with Britain, independent of the EU.

Why, it’s almost as if all those jeremiads from the wonks, and the wannabee wonks in the media, the American and European left, and National Public Radio, we’re just trying to scare people into acquiescence with the wishes of their self-appointed betters or something.

It Should Surprise Nobody…

… that the most fiscally sound and best managed states in the union are controlled by Republicans, while all of the worst marriage states are controlled by Democrats.

[…while] Mercatus makes no mention of the states’ political leanings, every state in the top 10 except for Florida is solidly red, meaning those states voted for the Republican in each of the past four presidential elections (see table). And Florida has had a Republican governor since 1999, and the state House and Senate are both controlled by Republicans.

At the other end of the spectrum, except for Kentucky, the 10 worst states are all solidly blue. And all but two of the governors since 1947 have been Democrats.

I said it should surprise nobody. But you know it will.

Cop Resident

SCENE:  Mitch BERG is buying topsoil at Kern Landscaping in Saint Paul.    Busily loading his car, he doesn’t notice Avery LIBRELLE climbing out of an oil-belching Subaru wagon to make a deposit.  

LIBRELLE:  Merg!  If we elect Hillary, we’ll get Bill Clinton for co-president!

BERG:  So?

LIBRELLE:  That means the economy will boom!

BERG:  Wait – didn’t NPR tell me the economy is already booming?

LIBRELLE:  It’ll boom even more!

BERG:  OK.  So we’ll get Bill Clinton.  Will we also get Newt Gingrich?

LIBRELLE:  No.  Why?  Hisssssssssssssss!

BERG:  Because it was the Gingrich Congress’s enforcement of fiscal discipline on the Clinton Administration after the 1994 Republican Wave that kept the Feds out of the way of the economic boom.  By the way, speaking of boom – will there be any empires falling, paving the way for a massive transfer of resources from the military?

LIBRELLE:  Huh?

BERG:  The “Peace Dividend”.  When the USSR collapsed – thanks to Ronald Reagan – the US was able to move a lot of defense spending to civilian uses.  Which dumped a ton of money, skill and technology into the civilian market.   Which led, after a brief recession, to the beginning of a boom that ran until 9/11.

So – if Hillary plans to bring back a conservative Congress and has another “peace dividend” in her purse, we might have ourselves a deal.

LIBRELLE:  (Stands, mutely flapping jaw)

BERG:  Have a nice day, Avery.

(And SCENE)

I’m No Longer From The Government, And I’m Here To Help

There is an actual, credible move underway to privatize air-traffic control (ATC) – a long-overdue move to modernize a system where government’s hide-bound, politically-driven intellectual sclerosis isn’t merely slow, annoying and exquisitely expensive, but directly threatens lives:

Air-traffic control (ATC) is operated by the Federal Aviation Administration and funded by a combination of aviation taxes and a subsidy from general revenues. Ever since the Reagan administration, the FAA has been trying to modernize the ATC system, taking advantage of new technology to unclog the congested airways. Yet the system still relies on 1960s technology: radar instead of GPS to keep track of planes, paper flight strips with handwritten changes instead of electronic data on controllers’ screens, and unreliable voice radio instead of digital communication. Tens of billions have been spent on new computer systems and minor technology upgrades, but three decades of reports by the GAO and the Department of Transportation’s inspector general have documented repeated cost overruns and late deliveries and an ever-receding target date for true modernization.

The push isn’t new:

Dating back to Reagan’s transportation secretary, Jim Burnley, a growing consensus has emerged that air-traffic control is better viewed as a 24/7 high-tech service business than as a tax-funded, federally subsidized bureaucracy. National commissions, think-tank reports, and industry studies have all reached this conclusion, but reform efforts have gotten nowhere in Congress — until this year. In February, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee passed a bill that would remove the Air Traffic Organization (the operational arm of the FAA) from the FAA and reconstitute it as a self-funded, nonprofit, private company. It would be governed by a board representing all segments of aviation and regulated for safety — at arm’s length — by the remaining FAA, just as that agency regulates airports, airlines, and private pilots.

Read the entire article – which notes that many of the other nations that both the left and right admire have done the same, with great success (and arrested and diminishing cost (!) in recent years.

And then stop and think – where else would this work?

Swedish Style

The things Bernie Sanders – and, to be fair, every single one of his American supporters – miss about Scandinavian socialism today (as opposed to the seventies-era variety that Sanders seems to think still applies), via Johan Norberg:

“Sanders is right: America would benefit hugely from modeling her economic and social policies after her Scandinavian sisters. But Sanders should be careful what he wishes for. When he asks for ‘trade policies that work for the working families of our nation and not just the CEOs of large, multi-national corporations,’ Social Democrats in Sweden would take this to mean trade liberalization — which would have the benefit of exposing monopolist fat cats to competition — not the protectionism that Sanders favors. … Being more like modern Sweden actually means deregulation, free trade, a national school voucher system, partially privatized pensions, no property tax, no inheritance tax, and much lower corporate taxes. Sorry to burst your bubble, Bernie.”

If there’s one thing the American left can build, it’s shatterproof intellectual bubbles.

In The Closet

While Hollywood (a wholly owned subsidary of the American Left) toes the left’s designated political line, they get almost…conservative, sometimes, when the proverbial chips are down:

On some issues, Hollywood can be downright right-wing. From the value of guns in The Walking Dead to the honor of police in countless dramas to the importance of family in most sitcoms, there is a lot more conservatism, broadly understood, on TV than conservatives or liberals ever notice.

And so it is with abortion. With the exception of Maude (an awful left-wing 1970s TV show)  and some “edgy” HBO series, there have been no major sitcoms in which a character has had an abortion.

I’d add Neve Campbell’s “Julia Salinger” from Party of Five which, it’s alarming to note, was 22 years ago.

Why? Well, one reason is abortions aren’t funny. There’s no reason to write a storyline in which a character gets pregnant only to decide later not have a baby. That’s not a punch line, it’s a tragedy. Even the very liberal Mindy Kaling, star and producer of The Mindy Project, says the show won’t touch the issue of abortion — and Kaling plays a gynecologist.

And so while politics is downstream of culture, at least some part of the culture business finds it in its interest to remember that most people are, broadly, conservative.

It’s Always Sunny In Gøteborg

It’s nothing new for America’s pollyannaish, historically-and-economically illiterate left to jabber “why can’t we try Scandinavian-style ‘Democratic Socialism?’  What do they have that we don’t?”

The  correct answer is “they have small countries – about the same population as Minnesota – with socially, ethnically and economically-homogenous societies (seriously – ethnic and social homogeneity is so ingrained in Scandinavian society, they have a word for it – Janteloven) with traditions of simultaneously-uplifting-and-suffocating communitarianism dating back hundreds of years”.

You could also add “…and a willingness to reassess how their sustainable their systems actually are in the real world“, which is something the American left flops at.

 

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Obama apparently had so much fun during the original Housing Bubble, he’s setting up another.

President Obama’s economic advisers and outside experts say the nation’s much-celebrated housing rebound is leaving too many people behind, including young people looking to buy their first homes and individuals with credit records weakened by the recession.

In response, administration officials say they are working to get banks to lend to a wider range of borrowers by taking advantage of taxpayer-backed programs — including those offered by the Federal Housing Administration — that insure home loans against default.

Housing officials are urging the Justice Department to provide assurances to banks, which have become increasingly cautious, that they will not face legal or financial recriminations if they make loans to riskier borrowers who meet government standards but later default.

Read:  Again, the government will socialize the risk, while privatizing the rewards.

Lather, Rinse, Repeat

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Just returned from a trip where I met a couple from Canada, dairy farmers who milk 150 head.  They couldn’t understand why Americans would support Sanders.
It seems the political party that dominated their province was conservative until a “Tax The Rich Corporations” party won and raised corporate taxes in order to lighten the load on the middle class.  Corporations are rich, they’re not stupid, so they moved out, taking their jobs with them, leaving a budget shortfall that required raising taxes on the middle class, who are now worse off because greed blinded their common sense.
Gee, where have I heard that one before?
Joe Doakes

We have a generation of voters who don’t remember the lessons of socialism in Eastern Europe.

Or Cuba.

Or Argentina.

Or Western Europe in the ’60s and ’70s (and coming back for an encore now)

Or India through the seventies, when it almost starved itself back to the 1600s.

Or Africa,’til today.

Or Venezuela in the past 20 years.

Other than that…

“We Want Change!”

Barack Obama got swept into office on a wave of people seeking “hope” and demanding “change”.

Few could articulate the change they were hoping for – or, rather, there were tens of millions of different changes being hoped for – but by jinky, they were gonna get it.

It’s hardly arguable that most of the changes were bad; more Americans have healthcare than before, but they can afford it less.

And against that, the accusation is that the GOP did nothing – which is, of course, the impetus for much of Donald Trump’s popularity.

As Kevin Williamson points out, it’s not true – but you need to have an attention span to see it (emphasis added)

Having been elevated in the 2010 elections and fortified in subsequent elections, congressional Republicans have made a little bit of progress on the deficit, which was reduced from 8.7 percent of GDP in 2010 to 2.5 percent of GDP in 2015. In 2007, before the credit crisis and the subsequent recession, it had been about 1.1 percent of GDP — too high for the liking of many deficit hawks, but arguably manageable.

Arguably manageable – and at least moving in the right direction.

Another way to look at the spending problem is deficit compared to revenue, i.e., how much we’re borrowing to finance spending vs. how much we’re taking in. This gives you an idea of what the “stretch” is, what we’d need to cover in additional taxes or reduce through spending cuts to bring expenditures in line with income. In 2010, the deficit was 60 percent of revenue ($1.29 trillion deficit vs. $2.16 trillion revenue), whereas in 2015 the deficit was 13 percent of revenue ($439 billion deficit vs. $3.25 trillion revenue).

The moral of the story?

For those of you who habitually ask what it is that congressional Republicans have accomplished, that’s it: Despite having Barack Obama in the White House and a public that clamored for more benefits and lower taxes, the deficit has been reduced substantially in absolute terms, relative to GDP, relative to the federal budget, and relative to revenue, since the height of Democratic power under the Obama-Pelosi-Reid triumvirate.

A triumvirate that, Williamson points out, Trump funded.

Could and should the GOP majorities have done more?  Perhaps.   Changing the course of government is slow, unless  you control the entire shootin’ match (like Obama did from ’09 through ’10).  That’s intentional; there was a time when conservatives, if nobody else, knew that government was supposed to be slow.

(Which is the biggest reason Obama’s overreaches on immigration, among other topics, are so very dangerous).

 

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

One of the keys to achieving a healthier citizenry is providing everyone with affordable (meaning subsidized) health insurance.  Naturally, since the government is paying for most of it, the government needs the data supporting the billings.  So all your medical records belong to the government.  But it’s okay, the data is totally secure, just like the personnel records at the Department of Homeland Security.

Joe Doakes

In all things, we must reinforce failure and reward incompentence.

With government, anyway.