Monday, November 26, 2012


One of the few good things to come out of the last elections was some more clarity on the political atmosphere surrounding entitlement reform.  Once again the electorate resoundingly rewarded the candidate who said little to nothing about entitlement reform, and punished the team that had the audacity to bring up the subject.  It is now more clear to me than ever before that we need to take several more steps before we can even have a rational discussion on entitlement reform.

First, raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans.  The President campaigned on taxing the wealthy "a little bit more".  I assume he was alluding to the restoration of the pre-Bush tax rates on those who make more than $250,000 per year.  Of course, this tax increase will have only a marginal effect on the annual budget deficit, which has been running at more than a trillion dollars per year for the last five years.  But symbolically, the average voter must see that the wealthy are paying their "fair share", whatever that is, before even listening to an argument about changing entitlement programs. 

Second, cut defense spending substantially.  The average voter is no longer interested in watching American blood and treasure being expended in far away lands filled with people who hate us no matter what we do.  They are also tired of America as world policeman, accepting responsibility for defending Europeans, Japanese and others who have plenty of wealth to spend on defense but instead, since they are covered by our military, choose to spend their money on other things, like their own welfare states.

Third, cut all other programs to the bone.  Starting with foreign aid, then moving on to various and sundry other subsidies.

Once we have taken these three steps, no matter how self-destructive, then, perhaps, the average voter will awaken to the fact that the real money is in the entitlement programs and only the reform of those programs will stop the flow of red ink.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


The re-election of Barack Obama as President of the United States is cause for a great deal of soul-searching by Republicans at all levels.  Most of the discourse has, so far, been centered on the composition of the electorate (older and whiter for the GOP, younger and more ethnically diverse for the Democrats), and those policies that might be preventing the Republicans from making themselves and their candidates more attractive to a larger group of voters (immigration, social issues, etc.).  But a look at the raw numbers in historical context brings up another explanation, one much harder to address by any change in policy.

First, the raw numbers for every presidential election since the end of the Cold War;

D - 63,679,412 (50.73%)     R- 59,769,964 (47.61%)

D-69,499,428 (52.87%)       R-59,950,323 (45.60%)

D-59,028,439 (48.27%)       R-62,040,610 (50.73%)

D-51,003,926 (48.38%)        R-50,460,110 (47.87%)

D-47,400,125 (49.23%)        R-39,198,755 (40.72%)

D-44,909,806 (43.01%)         R-39,104,550 (37.45%)

As you can see, the Democrats have won the popular vote in five of the six elections held since the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 and the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.  By contrast, the GOP won the five out of six held between 1968 and 1988.  The total for the entire Cold War period (1948 to 1988) was seven wins for the GOP (1952, 1956, 1968, 1972, 1980, 1984, 1988) and three for the Democrats (1948, 1960, 1964).

Correlation is not causation.  But is it not possible that the existence of an existential threat may have given the Republicans an advantage when choosing a President who is, after all, the man in charge of our war-making capabilities?  It has often been argued persuasively that the Democrats are perceived as the party of domestic, bread and butter issues while the GOP is the party seen as strong and robust on defending the country against foreign threats.  It seems to me not simply a coincidence that the one election won by the Republicans in the post-Cold War period was, in fact, the 2004 election, an election when memories of the 9/11 attacks were still fresh and our soldiers were only recently engaged in large-scale combat in Iraq, seen by many (correctly or not) as a part of the "War on Terrorism".  By 2008 the war, while still ongoing, seemed less relevant, especiall without another major domestic attack.

It may be that all the speculation about how the Repoublicans can revise their policies or re-make their image is sound and fury signifying nothing.  It may simply be the case that domestic concerns being predominate in the minds of the electorate in this historical era has given the Democrats the advantage.  When the wheel of history brings war or the threat of war back on the horizon, the Republicans may be seen as the party best suited to provide the leadership necessary to guide us through those troubled waters.                

Sunday, July 29, 2012


Is outsourcing of American jobs overseas inevitable?  The Obama-Romney campaign has brought to the fore once again the question of outsourcing.  Obama and his people believe they can use the issue as a club to beat Mitt Romney over the head.  There is always a segment of the population that can be riled up by the vision of selfish, greedy plutocratic businessmen putting their profits ahead of the welfare of their fellow Americans.  Of course, as this New Hampshire Union Leader editorial points out, the reason outsourcing happens is because products can be made more cheaply overseas, and when they are imported into the U.S. our consumers will usually choose the cheaper option, especially if there is little or no difference in quality.

If we accept the premise that business owners are going to do those things that ensure they make more money, and cease doing things that lose them money, and if we understand that a failure to do those things will eventually lead to the demise of the business, then we are left with one question.  What are the best policies for creating an atmosphere within our borders that allows our business owners to make the most money in the widest possible array of economic activities, thus creating the most vibrant economic atmosphere for the creation of the most jobs?  Unfortunately, as you know, there is absolutely no consensus on the answer to that question.  In the specific arena of outsourcing, from some one hears that raising tariffs is the answer.  If we just tax imports to such a level that those products are equalized on price, or even made more expensive, than American-made goods, American consumers will buy them, and American high-wage jobs will be saved.  But if we do that, free trade proponents will say, then other nations will retaliate on our exports, thus damaging those industries and losing jobs in those sectors.

I do not have the answer.  I have interviewed dozens of protectionists and dozens of free-traders over the years.  Both sides make compelling arguments.  In the end, our generally free trade policy as a nation continues under both Republican and Democratic administrations, and many of our manufacturing industries have died as a result.  Of course, we have also still been at the forefront of inventing new products and industries.  Perhaps outsourcing is inevitable.  But I have to believe that our strengths as a nation so far outweigh our weaknesses that we shall overcome these job losses, if only we remember that it is the private sector economy that has made this nation prosperous, and not the heavy hand of the state.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


...and pretty soon you're talking about real money.  According to figures from the U.S. Treasury Department, the federal government is set to add another trillion dollars to the accumulated federal debt by the end of this fiscal year.  That makes five straight years of adding a trillion dollars a year to the debt.  Can anyone say, "unsustainable"?

Robert Costa is one of the many national writers and political analysts who has noticed that New Hampshire is very much in play for Mitt Romney.  We are a swing state, and our four electoral votes could make the difference in a close race.

While Eugene Robinson goes the typical gun control route, Charles Lane exposes Europeans' hypocrisy when the decry our 'gun culture'.

Jay Cost looks at polls and whether or not they are skewed toward Obama.

Saturday, July 21, 2012


The story arc following the mass shooting at a movie theater in Colorado is following a very predictable pattern.  Having lived professionally as a talk host, producer and electronic journalist for much of the last 30 years I have, depressingly, seen this all before more than a few times.  The story begins with the shock of the incident itself, the first, often erroneous, reports about the shooter, the number of victims, and the weapon or weapons used.  Then the trickling out of information about the shooter.  Then the weapons used and how they were obtained.

What follows almost immediately is the same old argument about gun control.  How is it that an obviously mentally ill man can walk into a gun store and buy an AR-15 (the civilian version of the M-16 rifle) and, within only a few days, buy two Glock automatic pistols, a shotgun, and thousands of rounds of ammunition without anyone trying to stop him or anyone monitoring these unusual purchases? 

First, it will be pointed out that the suspect passed the federal background check when he purchased the weapons because he had no criminal record and no record of institutionalization for treatment of mental illness.  Then the story arc will move quickly to the second part, which is the fact that these weapons are available for civilian purchase.  That will lead to the same arguments by the same people and exploited by the same groups to benefit the same politicians as all the arguments following all the other mass shootings in recent American history.

Eventually, the story will move on to the issue of how we deal with mental illness.  The shooter's whole life story will be picked over, and many friends, colleagues and family members will be interviewed and reveal all sorts of disturbing details about his life and actions.  In retrospect, it will all be so clear that this young man was seriously disturbed, and columnists and pundits will talk endlessly of how we fail to properly treat so many who desperately need treatment.

Finally, the story will center around our "culture of violence".  This line of attack will be used by those who wish to assail our primarily liberal-dominated popular entertainment industry as well as by those who wish to splatter mud on conservatives and the "Tea Party" movement.

In the end, of course,we will be left right back were we started.  Democrats will attempt to pass more stringent gun control laws.  Republicans will block them when they can.  Financially strapped cities and states will not expand mental health services.  In fact, it is rather more likely that those services will be cut.  In any event, we will probably learn that the shooter would not have fallen into any category that would have made him eligible for treatment, even were he motivated to seek such treatment.  Political operatives on both sides will seek to use the story for their own purposes, with some success, but not so much as to change the basic political balance.  The shooter will be tried and convicted, with the very remote possibility that he will be found mentally unfit for trial.  In either case, he will spend the rest of his life in some form of confinement (Colorado has the death penalty, but they have not executed anyone since 1997, and have only four people on death row).

In the end, we will move on to other controversies, until another lone, mentally unstable young man walks into another theater, or stalks another campus, or a restaurant or shopping mall, and opens fire.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The significance of the new CBS News/New York Times poll is not simply that it shows Mitt Romney and Barack Obama in a virtual tie at 47-46, but that it is a poll of registered voters.  Typically, registered voter polls lean more Democratic, while likely voter polls tend to be a shade more conservative and Republican.  If Obama is struggling to maintain a tie with Romney in registered voter polls, and in late July no less, then he is in trouble.

Speaking of trouble, the United States Postal Service is also facing trouble as they are poised to miss a $5.5 billion payment to their retirement system.  While the Senate has come up with an aid plan (the postal employees do not like the term 'bailout', and I don't blame them), the House does not appear as if it will move before the August recess.

John Podhoretz hits the nail on the head with this piece about what he calls "the biggest mistake of campaign 2012".  I entirely agree with his conclusion that President Obama really stepped on it when he told every small business person and entrepeneur that he/she didn't build their business themselves.  What they know, and Obama doesn't, is that they DID work harder, for longer hours and less pay, than many of their neighbors.  They took risks and busted their tails to get what they've got, and now they know the Community-Organizer-in-Chief doesn't think they deserve whatever they managed to get for their pains.  He just may have pushed several hundred thousand more voters Mitt Romney's way...maybe more.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The campaign theme for President Obama and the Democrats is now clear.  Because they cannot run on the economy, which is sputtering along at less than two percent growth with unemployment hovering around eight percent, they have to run on something they believe will gain favor with most of the population and will box the Republicans into an unpopular position.  That position is good, old-fashioned class warfare, exemplified by the proposal coming from the Democrats in the Senate that they would rather go over the "fiscal cliff" than let the wealthy keep their Bush tax cuts.  They figure if they push hard enough the GOP will cave, infuriating the Tea Party types and depressing their turnout in the Fall.  They also hope to win over white, working class voters with this approach.

It might just work.  It depends on whether or not some sufficient mass of those voters (and some young voters and minorities as well) have become immune to the siren call of 'tax the rich', realizing that it is 'the rich' who do the investing, job-creating, and hiring that leads to more economic activity.  But the liberals who dominate the Democratic Party don't believe in that concept, which is why the President can say individuals who own their own businesses did not build them on their own (therefore, they do not deserve to be the beneficiaries of their success).

Perhaps, though, it will backfire on them, as millions of people who have dedicated their lives to building their own businesses come to realize that President Obama and the Democrats are their worst enemy, worse than any big business Republicans, worse than any banker, worse than anything.  Perhaps some are paying attention, and perhaps they will remember in November.