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.

Happy Reagan’s Birthday!

It’s Ronald Reagan’s birthday.  He’d be 105 if he were alive today.

I’ve been writing about Reagan – who, along with PJ O’Rourke, Solzhenitzyn, Dostoevskii and Paul Johnson is the reason I’m a conservative today – as long as this blog has been in existence, and long before.   He was the first Republican I ever voted for – growing up in the left-leaning household I did, Reagan was utterly trayf.

His eight years in the Presidency, like his two terms in California, were not perfect, and I don’t beatify my presidents, even if they’ve been out of office for two and a half decades.  His last term wasn’t as stellar as his first, and his last two years were very difficult.

Still and all, he was the greatest president of the second half of the 20th Century.  All it takes is one great accomplishment; he had two.

He caused the implosion of Communism.  Let no liberal bobblehead tell you otherwise.  They’ll say the USSR fell because of Mikhail Gorbachev; they ignore (or, more likely, never dig beyond the left’s chanting points to learn) that Gorbachev only became Premier as a reaction to Reagan.

And he not only saved the economy (for a couple decades), but thanks to the end of the Cold War, he ushered in the greatest period of unmitigated prosperity in history; Bill Clinton cashed the “peace dividend” (and the Gingrich congress prevented him from squandering it), to the benefit of everyone in the world who wasn’t living in complete tyranny.

Some hamsters say “Reagan could never get nominated today!”    It’s possible.  I have a copy of a George Will book from the middle of Reagan’s second term that hammers the President’s departures from conservative orthodoxy; I can imagine what today’s Mark Levins and Laura Ingrahams would say and do.

But on the other hand, listen to “A Time For Choosing”, his 1964 speech supporting Barry Goldwater, where he “came out” as a conservative.  Tell me that wouldn’t fit in at a Tea party meeting:

Anyway – have a safe and blessed Reagan’s Birthday.

 

The Scary Thing About Iowa

OK, conservatism had a good night, and the Trump bubble got deflated ever so slightly, maybe.

But the scariest thing to come out of Iowa is that a whole lot of people consider socialism an acceptable alternative.

Peggy Noonan:

A conservative of a certain age might say: “No, he’s a fad. Socialism is yesterday! Marx is dead, the American economic behemoth rolled over and flattened him. Socialism is an antique idea that rocks with age. America is about the future, not the past.”

I disagree. It’s back because it’s new again.

For so many, 2008 shattered faith in the system—in its fairness, usefulness and efficacy, even in its ability to endure.

As for the young, let’s say you’re 20 or 30, meaning you’ll be voting for a long time. What in your formative years would have taught you about the excellence of free markets, low taxes, “a friendly business climate”? A teacher in public high school? Maybe one—the faculty-lounge eccentric who boycotted the union meetings. And who in our colleges teaches the virtues of capitalism?

If you are 20 or 30 you probably see capitalism in terms of two dramatic themes. The first was the crash of ’08, in which heedless, irresponsible operators in business and government kited the system and scrammed. The second is income inequality. Why are some people richer than the richest kings and so many poor as serfs? Is that what capitalism gives you? Then maybe we should rethink this!

And Mr. Sanders makes it sound so easy. We’re rich, he says; we can do this with a few taxes. It is soft Marxism. And it’s not socialism now, it’s “democratic socialism” like they have in Europe. You’ve been to Europe. Aside from its refugee crisis and some EU problems, it’s a great place—a big welfare state that’s wealthy! The French take three-hour lunches.

I was about to say that younger Americans’ illiteracy about the history of socialism was a failure of the American educational system…

…but I stopped myself.  To the teachers unions and most of academia, it’s a feature, not a bug.

Doakes Sunday: Glacial

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

My grandkids got school photos [a few] weeks ago.  I received my prints a week ago and took the extra set to the UPS store to send to my parents, the Great-Grand Parents.  Cheapest to send by US mail First class in a flat mailer so that’s what I did.  No tracking, no signature, just mail them.

Spur of the moment, decided to visit my folks on Saturday: no photos.

The mailer should have gone out in the evening mail from Lexington Avenue at 5:00 on Monday.  I was at my parents’ house Saturday.  Five business days is not long enough for a First Class letter to get from St. Paul to Rochester?

[Columbus Day, when Joe mailed this], is a federal holiday.  Tomorrow delivery maybe, for a total of eight days?  Pony Express could have gotten it to California in that much time.  The quality of service has fallen off dramatically.

It’s only photos, nothing urgent; but every time I use the Post Office for anything other than a Money Order, I am reminded why I refuse to use the Post Office for anything other than a Money Order.

Joe Doakes

I actually sent a letter – not an urgent one – via USPS last weekend.  It was the first time I’ve done it in years.

The Why We War

It’s the time of the election season when conservatives of all stripes engage in that greatest of relatively recent right-of-center traditions – one that might seem counterintuitive for people calling themselves “conservatives”:  the collective purity test.

My favorite example:  Marco Rubio – who, four years ago, was a Tea Party insurgent – is now “establishment”, because of his position on immigration.  But examples attach to every single candidate in the field;  any given conservative wants to toss Jeb Bush because he’s soft on Common Core, Rand Paul because he’s soft-ish on defense, Christie because he’s weak on the Second Amendment and hugged Obama, Fiorina because her Senate campaign in dingy-blue California catered toward dingy-blue voters, Carson because he’s very weak on the Second Amendment, Trump because for most of his life he never really talked like a conservative, and Cruz because he’s that all-purpose political diagnosis when you can’t find anything better, “Crazy”.

After watching Mitt Romney lose an election he could have won had 400,000 conservatives in Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Colorado gotten over their various quibbles with his history on abortion, gun control and healthcare, I’ve despaired at times that anyone could be perfect enough to satisfy everyone enough to actually get them to the polls.

Jay Nordlinger  wrote about this on National Review the other day. You should read the whole thing if the subject has ever affected you as well.

He concluded it with a quote from a podcast he did with British conservative thinker Roger Scruton:

“I think that, in the end, there is something that unites all conservatives, which is that they are pursuing something they love.

My view is that the Left is united by hatred, but we are united by love: love of our country, love of institutions, love of the law, love of family, and so on. And what makes us conservatives is the desire to protect those things, and we’re up against people who want to destroy them, and it’s very simple.”

And if conservatives can’t unite around that, then I despair for the nation’s, and the world’s, futures.

Not For Failing To Celebrate

Today, as we look at the prospect of a President whose entire portfolio as a “feminist icon” was hitching her political wagon to a lothario, enabling him in a way that’d no woman on Mad Men would have done for fear of looking contrived, and “Serving” as a hack Senator and the worst Secretary of State since Madeline Albrecht, it’s useful to remember when a real feminist held sway.

Today would be Margaret Thatcher’s 90th birthday.

And none of today’s “gender identity”-obsessed self-styled campus radicals are fit to carry her gig bag, as a human or as a feminist.

Low Expectations

Democrats are fond of trying to find statistics that try to show that the Obama Administration has not been a complete economic disaster.

One way is via a blizzard of charts that claim to show a long series of months with job growth:

Raw Numbers

“It’s Bush’s fault! It’s Bush’s fault!”

Of course, as Mark Twain once said – and it’s a cliche I almost regret to say – but there are three types of data; lies, damned lies, and statistics put out to defend Democrat economic policy.

A graph will look very, very different, and depict very different things, depending on the two dimensions you select, as Philip Bump points out in the Wall Street Journal.

Obama looks best when you compare his job creation record with the day he took office – a graph which, by the way, has some liberals chortling, in that it makes Jimmy Carter look like a boss job creator:

Versus First Month

Of course, Clinton is the champ – he’s the only two-term president since World War II that didn’t have a recession on his watch – thanks, of course, to Ronald Reagan and the Peace Dividend, as well as Newt Gingrich stifling the worst of Bill and especially Hillary’s agenda.  Clinton was a champ in spite of himself, and largely due to his opposition.

We also note that more jobs were created on Dubya’s watch in three years than in six and a half of Obama; remember, Dubya had the 9/11 recession and the housing bubble in his eight years.

But isn’t comparing job growth versus a president’s first day in office a little artificial?

Sure.  Let’s compare presidents with their administration’s low points:

Versus Low

 

 

So in other words, Obama’s like Nixon.  I wasn’t very old at the end of the Nixon administration, but we all know what a lousy time that was.

But of course, the population has changed; Reagan added 17 million jobs in a population that was around 260 million.  Obama has added nine million jobs in a nation of 315 million (although nobody’s really counting anymore).  So how about we measure this in terms of concrete percentages?

Versus Population
As anyone who was looking for work back then knows, life under Reagan was infinitely better; the economy added a higher percentage of jobs in the quarter after the end of the’82 recession than it has in the six years of the Obama recovery.

Print out that last graph.  Share it with your liberal friends.

Diagnosis: Idiots

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

An electrician friend had his van broken into, hundreds of dollars of copper wire stolen.  Repeatedly.

The cops wrote a police report so he can report it to his insurance company.  But there’s a $500 deductible for each incident, so the few nickels the thieves make selling scrap wire cost him thousands of dollars out-of-pocket.  Thievery in Minnesota is a “cost of doing business.”

Minnesota is too civilized to punish thieves by cutting off their hands and thereby dissuade others.  We put them on probation to steal again.

Minnesota is too civilized to punish thieves.  Nobody is dissuaded from crime.

Minnesota is too civilized, too afraid of offending the offensive.

Minnesota is . . . doomed?

Joe Doakes

When citizens can’t count on “law and order” to uphold the law and preserve order (and, let’s be honest, also count on law enforcement to prosecute organic civilian efforts to enforce law and order more rigorously than actual criminality), how long can a free society survive?

Follow The Money. And Jobs. And People.

I do a lot of speaking to GOP, Tea Party and Conservative groups around the Metro Area.  And when I drive out to a place like Mound, or Maple Grove, or Lakeville, I often start my remarks with something like “It’s so nice to be here – with that smell of competence, prosperity and success all around”.

It’s at least in part a dig at Saint Paul – a beautiful city with a failed one-party government.

But census data also shows it’s absolutely true; Red states are leading whatever economic “recovery” that’s going on:

The new Census data on where we live and where we moved to in 2014 shows that the top seven states with the biggest percentage increase in in-migration from other states are in order: North Dakota, Nevada, South Carolina, Colorado, Florida, Arizona, and Texas. All of these states are red, except Colorado, which is purple.

Meanwhile the leading exodus states of the continental states in percentage terms were: Alaska, New York, Illinois, Connecticut, New Mexico, New Jersey, and Kansas. All of these states are blue, except Alaska and Kansas.

There’s a reason the left’s noise machine focuses as much “energy” as it does on Kansas; it’s neither a failing Democrat hellhole like New York, nor a booming Conservative success story like North Dakota, Florida or Texas.

The Vortex

The GOP is about to embark on a bruising battle over who’ll succeed John Boehner as Speaker of the House.

Kevin Williamson notes that it really might not matter that much, because Congress at the moment is little but a speed bump (emphasis added):

As [Conservative speaker candidate Louis] Gohmert notes without quite saying so, these United States are in the process of transforming the form of their union government from that of a democratic republic to that of a unitary autocratic administrative state. Barack Obama and other progressives have hastened that transformation in no small part because they consider the American constitutional order in purely instrumental terms rather than as a good in and of itself. Sometimes the constitutional order serves progressive ends and sometimes it constrains them, which is why President Wilson despised the Constitution and President Obama simply ignores it when he believes it necessary, adopting as he has — with rather less fuss than one might have expected — a Gaullist rule-by-decree model.

And if you’re a frustrated conservative Republican?  You’ve got reason:

The familiar ratchet effect is in operation: The Left in power expands the state, particularly the executive, and the Right in power does not reverse the turn, in part because conservative politicians like power, too, in part because reversing those expansions is difficult, and in part because even if conservatives win the fight there’s not much juice in it.

Is this part of an eccentric, unpredictable cycle of the ebb and flow of power?  Or an inevitable part of the United States getting just too big and too diverse?

 As my colleague Charles C. W. Cooke points out, the lack of an American king and an American prime minister has not prevented the traditional English contest between crown and parliament from sneaking into American politics. And the crown is winning. The waxing of the president and the consequent waning of Congress is a result of the deep psychological structure of mass democracy on the American scale, probably an inevitable one. TAmerican democracy was born in the New England town-hall meeting and in state assemblies, relatively intimate venues where following the operations of government was non-cumbrous. A population of more than 300 million with worldwide interests is a very different sort of thing. From the very beginning, the mere scale of the American project ensured that most Americans would find it incomprehensible: How many Americans at the time really understood that James Madison and Alexander Hamilton went into the Philadelphia Convention plotting to abolish their government and set up a new one? How many can identify the main points of contention between Senator Cruz and Senator McConnell?

It’s easy to try to boil it all down to simplistic chanting points – and both sides do it.

But the American experiment was largely predicated on the idea that we’d have a population full of people who weren’t all that different from each other (intellectually and politically, anyway) – a point the unwitting nostalgia for which I satirized in Trulbert, but which also happens to have had some merit in analyzing our founding.

We’re anything but that, anymore.

Our Nation Turns Its Lonely Eyes To You

What do we really need for President?

Jack Kemp.

The former Bills quarterback and congressman from Buffalo was perhaps the most influential American politician who never became President; he was behind much of the “get out of the way” legislation that led us to the prosperity of the ’80s and ’90s.

And he rose to prominence during an era with great similarities to today.

Morton Kondracke and Fred Barnes write in the WSJ:

The present era resembles the miserable 1970s. Growth is glacial. Incomes are stagnant. The country’s mood is sour. Divisions are widening. In 1979 only 12% of Americans thought the nation was headed in the right direction. Now it’s around 30%. And politicians are pitting class against class: the “1%” against the “47%”; white workers against Mexican immigrants. The public is furious with Washington, and no wonder. Polarized Republicans and Democrats do nothing for them.

Jack Kemp shook things up—but with dramatic ideas about policy, not by pitting outsiders against insiders. The Republican establishment resented the gall of a backbencher’s butting into tax policy. Democrats hated tax-cutting, even though Kemp kept reminding them that President John F. Kennedy first proposed lowering the top rate to 70% from 90%. Special interests were furious when Kemp proposed reducing their tax breaks. He once wrote Reagan’s deficit-hawk budget director, David Stockman,demanding to know why Mr. Stockman wanted to raise taxes on working people and cut food stamps, Medicaid and Head Start, but keep subsidies and tax breaks in place forBoeing,Exxon and Gulf Oil.

Go on and read the whole thing.

And then ask yourself – which candidate would Kemp support?

Kemp was, of course, one of the people who converted me to conservatism.  We could do much, much worse, and we usually do.