A Republican Proposal for the Buffett Rule

Unlike many Republicans, I’m not tax-aphobic.  I accept the need for taxes and I don’t mind raising them when necessary.  The problem is that there is a world of difference between what I think is necessary and what Democrats think of as necessary.  Especially considering the poor record of deals the Republicans have made with Democrats where we raise taxes now for spending cuts later… only later never comes, and taxes and spending both continue to increase.

That’s why I was in full agreement when during the Fox News Debate last August all of the Republican candidates in response to a debate question, soundly rejected a 10 to 1 spending cut deal for tax increases.  Although it caused various MSNBC host’s hair to catch fire, the actual, real world result of any such deal would have been a tax increase and no actual spending cuts.

That being said, the Buffett tax is just a stunt.  After promising that the tax would “stabilize our debt,” the Joint tax committee scored the Buffett tax as a replacement for the AMT tax (that tradeoff is in the President’s budget proposal) and found it adds to the deficit, not reduces it.

Only Obama could come up with a tax increase that actually increases the debt.

But even though this is just a stunt, I think the Republicans should fight stunt for stunt.  If I were in the Republican House leadership, I would cobble together a bill for the Buffett tax, along with spending cuts, real spending cuts.  The problem with all of the phony negotiations on spending cuts is that spending cuts for the next ten years, or any year other than the current fiscal year, are meaningless.  They can be changed with the next deal or the next election, which is why all of the hard won spending cuts that Republicans have negotiated over the years have always vanished like wisps of smoke.  They were cuts that never were.

So to negotiate real cuts, it has to be from the current 2012 fiscal year.  The Buffet rule raises 5 billion a year?  Great, then the Democrats should be willing to support 5 billion in spending cuts in the remaining 2012 budget.  And if the Republican House leadership wants to throw in Planned Parenthood or NPR funding cuts to sweeten the deal, so much the better.

Oh, and the tax should just be for one year.  Let the Democrats come back every single year to renew the tax increase.  After the Taxmageddon that’s due to strike on January 1st, 2013, that’s likely to be a harder sell.

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The Stimulus: I’m Right, You Eggheads are Wrong

Although the  Administration was crowing about February’s release of new job figures showing a drop in the unemployment rate to 8.3%, for some reason they are less vocal about the newest job figures in for the month of March.   February’s increase of 243,000 jobs was nothing to sneeze at, however the increase of only 120,000 for March looks like, once again, yet another slowdown in the midst of recovery.  Of course, we’ve been in “recovery” since July of 2009 and we are still facing a crippling unemployment rate.  Yes, the unemployment rate dropped another point down to 8.2% thanks to those who volunteered to stop looking for work and in the face of a grim economy, just give up.  But historically speaking, shouldn’t we have been doing a lot better than this for the past three years?

And historically speaking, yes we should have had a much stronger recovery, but given the type of response the administration chose, and for reasons I’ve been saying since February 2009, when there was an active debate about the Obama stimulus, pro and con, we were doomed to have a dragging sluggish recovery.  So yes, I predicted this. This was the wrong type of recession to respond to a Keynesian stimulus (actually I’m not sure any recession is the right kind.  History has not been kind to this economic theory).  I felt sure at that time that Obama’s stimulus idea would be a big dud.  The economy would “recover” but it would do that anyway whether there was a stimulus or not, and we would be stuck with sluggish growth for years.

But wait, you say, how could you have been right all along and real, actual economists, including those who worked in the White House (that team has largely fled to the hills now) been wrong?  After all, these guys graduated from the most elite schools, had the most training, and had access to the most updated and accurate economic data and models available.  What’s your background?

I had a semester of both Micro and Macro in college.  Plus a lower level survey course but I’m not counting that.

So by the logic of credentials, experience, and education, those guys should have been right on the money and I should have been just talking out of my ass.  Instead, it was the other way around.

So why did I think what actually happened was going to happen?    Two reasons, first, there was Japan.  Japan had a recession very similar to the one we had.  They had a real estate boom that went bust, taking their property values into the toilet.  Japanese economists and politicians had read all the same books that White House economists read, so they started borrowing a great deal of money for “stimulus;” spending projects and infrastructure.  What was the result of those multiple stimuli?  They got a sluggish economy that dragged and dragged and dragged on.

Then of course, there was proof closer to home.  We already had a stimulus program In 2008 President Bush signed into law a tax rebate program to pump cash into the economy and forestall a recession (the data was not yet in by February 2008 to know that the recession began in December 2007).  But by February of 2009, when we were debating the Obama stimulus, we already knew that the tax rebates failed.  So why would we think further stimulus would do any good?

Because these knuckleheads told us so!

And they were wrong

You first have to remember what kind of recession it was. The financial crisis that we suffered was a symptom of the housing market collapse. We were already well into a recession when the financial crisis happened. And also well into a stimulus. We had already had a Bush stimulus in 2008, the rebate checks. By the time we were discussing Obama’s stimulus in February 2009, we already had the data in on how that worked, which was; it didn’t. It failed because households were in so much debt that this time they really did use the stimulus to pay down debt rather than spend, spend, spend; which had been the intent. This was because the US saving rate was actually in the negative right before the recession, so when the recession hit, people started out in a deep hole.

So what was the Obama response to those conditions? More stimulus!  Naturally it didn’t work. And for the same reason the Bush stimulus didn’t work. We were already too deep in a debt hole. All it did was add the nation’s indebtedness to the nation’s household indebtedness, so it made things worse of course.

The other issue was the Bush/Obama response to the financial crisis. Apparently establishment, Harvard educated economists don’t understand that in capitalism, crappy firms are supposed to go out of business. It kills me that for years the liberals had bitched about Wall Street and the finance industry, but when the free market was actually going to correct that and eliminate the worst firms and trim the industry down to a size that would fit our economy, the government came in and showered tons of money on these same bad actors. The more stupid your decisions, and more venal your finances, the more money you got from the government.

Lesson learned unfortunately.

Recessions are a lot like a hard freeze that kills the weakest plants, but as conditions improve, allow the hardiest ones to thrive. That’s why job creation and economic growth is usually very strong after recovering from a recession.

Except for this one.

We fertilized the weeds, and then are surprised that weeds took over the whole lawn.

Bush did a lot of damage before he left office with TARP and bailing out firms like AIG, but Obama, supposedly the smartest guy in the history of forever, came in and double downed on the Bush bailout policies, continuing the bailout of AIG, bailing out GM, and spending the rest of the TARP money.

Probably the only effective program was the FED backing up of the banks, QE1. But even then, they sabotaged their own program by paying the banks interest on the dollars sent to the banks. Considering the low interest rates and uncertain economy, it made more sense for the banks to sit on the money and not loan it out, which choked off new lending and economic growth.

I learned some valuable lesson in all this.  First, credentialed experts are wrong, a lot.  Just because a guy from Hahvahd says it, doesn’t make it so.  Secondly, I should trust my own instincts.  Prior to the recession and financial crisis, I was handed the keys that showed we were heading for an economic collapse and I chose to ignore them.  First, median family home prices in the Orlando area (where I live) jumped to over $300,000.  Secondly, in 2005 US households had a negative personal savings rate.  I remember reading the paper and turning to my wife asked, “How in the world can the average working class family afford to buy a house in this town?”  Well the answer was, they couldn’t.  But no highly credentialed experts were warning that we were heading for the brink.  Instead it was blue skies and clear sailing.  Those two data points available in your local newspapers were worth more than all of the reams of economic data the government collected and all of the Ivy League economists that the government employed.

So I apologize is advance if in the future I fail to be impressed by highly educated people with advanced degrees that can’t do the job that an average working class shmoe can do just by reading the daily fish wrap.

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Policing the Racists

The political blogosphere was both atwitter and Twitter over the firing of John Derbyshire from National Review this weekend.  Not for nothing though.  Derbyshire posted a column last Thursday on the Taki’s Magazine website called, “The Talk: Nonblack version.”  Due to the Trayvon Martin shooting hysteria, much has been made of The Talk in the national media.  The Talk, as defined by the New York Times (where I go to find out what being black in America is like) is, “the one that has nothing to do with sex, and everything to do with what it means to be a black teenager in a country with a history of regarding young black men as a threat. The talk about standing up straight, dressing the part, keeping your hands in sight at all times and never, ever letting your anger get the best of you.

That’s not bad advice for anyone, particularly when dealing with law enforcement, but that sort of talking to is totally unlike Derbyshire’s version; which consists of “guidance” to his children.  A sample of such advice consists of:

(10a) Avoid concentrations of blacks not all known to you personally.

John Derbyshire

John Derbyshire (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(10b) Stay out of heavily black neighborhoods.

(10c) If planning a trip to a beach or amusement park at some date, find out whether it is likely to be swamped with blacks on that date (neglect of that one got me the closest I have ever gotten to death by gunshot).

(10d) Do not attend events likely to draw a lot of blacks.

If you want to read the whole thing, you can go to the website, but I think you get the idea, but the one that particularly bothered me was this:

Only one black in six is more intelligent than the average white; five whites out of six are more intelligent than the average black.

By the most standard definitions of racism, that’s racist.

On the face of it, Derbyshire was probably conflating IQ with intelligence, a mistake that is its own whole area of social commentary.  Although the IQ/Intelligence topic is worth reviewing, it’s not necessary to read Derbyshire’s mean spiritedness in this piece.  This wasn’t meant as a joke or parody, Derbyshire was being serious.  In probably the only bit of actual reporting ever done by the website Think Progress, they actually contacted Derbyshire to check if he meant it as some kind of parody.  Rather than taking the opportunity to back off of his harsh column, he double downed on it, “I’d call it social commentary.”  More to the point, Derbyshire wasn’t hiding from the accusation of being a racist, he admitted it.

Given that, I would say National Review had no choice.  NR editor Rich Lowery posted a comment disavowing Derbyshire’s piece Friday night and by Saturday posted another comment letting him go from the magazine staff.  Lowery gave a pretty clear eyed reason:

“His latest provocation, in a webzine, lurches from the politically incorrect to the nasty and indefensible. We never would have published it, but the main reason that people noticed it is that it is by a National Review writer. Derb is effectively using our name to get more oxygen for views with which we’d never associate ourselves otherwise. So there has to be a parting of the ways.”

This wasn’t about political correctness, but about letting one writer’s racism contaminate the reputation of the National Review, and by extension, the conservative movement.  I think National Review did the right thing in letting Derbyshire go. One of the ways that William F. Buckley, founder of the magazine and probably the godfather of modern American conservatism, helped make conservatism a legitimate force in American politics again was by pushing out the conspiracy nuts and other cranks that contributed nothing to the movement but bad press.

Without Buckley and his cleaning up of conservatism, there would have been no Reagan, and Obama’s current (public) views would now be considered center right.

The left had a field day with Derbyshire’s appearance at CPAC. How much more of that crap does the right need to allow? It’s not as though the right controls the message, the left does since they control the media.   That’s why the left not only doesn’t need, but just doesn’t’ police their own.  They are immune from the kookiness of their fringe nuts.  It’s why the media will drumbeat their coverage of Republican birthers, even though birtherism originated with the pro-Hillary Democrats.  Meanwhile, during the Bush administration more than half of Democrats believed Bush was complicit in the 9/11 attacks, but since they also control the media, it never taints them.

Unfair or not, it’s the way it is so it falls on the right to be diligent in making sure that we police our racists and conspiracy theorists.  So Derbyshire can continue to write what he wants, where he wants, but just not under the banner of the National Review.

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Andrea Mitchell, Leaning Leftward

Since MSNBC started its Lean Forward campaign, I’ve gotten a kick out of the network’s show hosts video shots where they earnestly expound the latest liberal tropes.  It’s a bit surprising because I had thought MSNBC wanted to keep pretending it was an actual news network instead of merely a televised version of Media Matters or Think Progress.  Of course I for one am glad the mask is finally off. Be free MSNBC!  Be who you are!  It really bugs me for liberal TV news channels to pretend to be objective while at the same time presenting “The News” from a liberal slant.  At least MSNBC is out of the closet.   If you’ve not seen them (and I realize that I’m among only a couple of hundred regular views of the network) they can be a real hoot.  Like this one from Lawrence O’Donnell:

That never struck me as plausible that the GI Bill was derided as some sort of welfare program.  Sure enough, Politifact rated it as mostly false.  No surprise there.  But this is MSNBC.  It’s more about a mood than mere factual accuracy.

Most of the hosts have done a series of Lean Forward ads.  Some try to push unconscious buttons like Rachel Maddow’s evocation of Socialist realism with her Hoover Dam ads:

My son came into my office one day while I was watching this promo and asked, “Who’s that fella?”

But that Hoover dam ad vaguely reminds me of something…

And of course, there is the always incoherent Al Sharpton.

He’s trying to tell a parable of how everything is really Bush’s fault.  A line that never gets old with the left.  But the execution makes him sound as incoherent as Grandpa Simpson.

The credit for these mish mash of promos can go to Spike Lee, who produced these Lean Forward spots for MSNBC, although the quality makes me suspicious that Mookie showed up to direct instead.

But the real disappointment is how MSNBC takes and warps their few real journalists into just one more Ed Schultz.  And really, did we need more than one?

Andrea Mitchell has been a real journalist.  While working at NBC she has been the Chief Congressional correspondent, Chief White House correspondent, and Chief Foreign Affairs correspondent. With such a resume, it would make sense that she would back away from doing a Lean Forward promo about how the Republicans stole the GI Bill with a Blueberry pie on top of the Hoover dam.

And in fact her first Lean Forward promo touted her foreign policy credentials:

But MSNBC must have kept leaning on her, until she agreed to do this:

Obviously she is referring to Voter ID laws; a thorn in the side of Democrats who feel voting is so fundamental even illegal aliens and the dead should have it.  Unlike Al Sharpton, she can’t bring herself to actually name the villains in this piece, Republicans trying to maintain the integrity of the process.  Still, it’s as far as she has officially gone to begin the slide over to pure opinion journalism.

Must MSNBC contaminate every host?  Careful Andrea, or after decades of professionalism, you’ll find yourself dragged down to the level of Al Sharpton arguing about Republicans eating your blueberry pie.  Once you go down that road, you can’t come back to being a legitimate journalist again.

Just ask Chris Matthews.

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