Monday, February 28, 2011


Walter Russell Mead argues that public employee unions are not facing assault simply from Republican politicians and their Tea Party supporters, but are in even more danger from the budget cutting axes being swung by Democrats in deep blue states. He gives some compelling examples, and his case fits the common sense test. What common sense is that? The proposition that majorities can no longer be found, in Red or Blue states, for significant tax increases. Without significant tax increases, or any more bailout money from Washington, the states can only get their fiscal houses in order by cutting expenses, and the fastest way to do that is to cut down your personnel costs, as all of us in the private sector have learned only too well over the last few years.

Kevin D. Williamson argues that the fight between GOP governors and the public employee unions is not simply a matter of balancing budgets, but a contest to determine whether or not those unions can maintain their political power.

Bob McManus writes that the late New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan saw the current crisis coming because he believed labor intensive services, like health care and much of what is done by public sector employees, would increase in cost without gaining much in productivity.

Robert J. Samuelson writes that what we are witnessing in Wisconsin and elsewhere is really the death knell of Big Labor as we have know it as a political and economic force in the United States for the last 75 years.

The labor movement is, indeed, on the wane. For private sector unions it was a competitive labor dynamic that put relatively high cost American workers into direct competition with lower wage workers, both overseas due to a globalized economy, and here at home due to higher levels of immigration (legal and illegal). For public sector unions it is the fact that there is a limit to the overall tax burden. The same principle, of course, applies. You can only raise prices so high on a product before people can either no longer afford it, or they find a cheaper alternative. For the private sector, cheaper alternatives were available. For the public sector, voters can choose representatives who will refuse to charge them more for their public services. In the end, I agree with those who believe unionization as we have know it is coming to an end.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Nile Gardiner says the Obama Administration has been spineless so far in their response to the revolt in Libya.

Yesterday I wrote that the President's decision to end federal legal support for the Defense of Marriage Act was all about the 2012 election. Michael A. Walsh says the same thing.

Paul Krugman compares Madison 2011 to Baghdad 2003. Of course, in his analogy the public employee union demonstrators equate to the oppressed people of Baghdad, and the Republican governor and legislators to the evil, corrupt and incompetent American administrators of the 'occupation'. Always remember when reading Krugman that he really believes the conservative movement is a cover for the capitalist oligarchy attempting to rule this country for their own selfish ends. Those of us who are conservatives, in his view, are either dupes or willing co-conspirators.

On the other hand, Karl Rove writes that the events in Wisconsin could have enormous consequences for the 2012 election.

Joe Klein writes a muddled piece about the events in Wisconsin. It is muddled because he has sympathy for the average state worker, especially those who work on the lower end of the pay scale, but he also has sympathy for government administrators trying to bring sanity to the system. But it is really muddled because as a true believing liberal, he believes America is under taxed.

Charles Krauthammer understands that the GOP effort to break the power of the public employee unions on the state level, combined with their insistence that they will take on middle-class entitlement spending on the federal level, if they follow through, is truly crossing the political Rubicon. Of course, historically speaking, when Caesar crossed the Rubicon he sparked a civil war in Rome.

When it comes to the nuts and bolts of cutting spending, this article in The Washington Post profiles the trials and tribulations of my very own brand new Member of Congress, Frank Guinta. Rep. Guinta is the former Mayor of Manchester, and he has found himself voting for cuts in programs that benefit his home town, his district and his state, while defending programs that anger his Tea Party supporters, here and elsewhere. This is what 2012 will be all about. Will those independent, swing voters who threw the Democrats out in such numbers in 2010 be willing to keep the GOP members in while they slash spending? I remain hopeful, but skeptical.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Tim Carney hits the nail on the head in this piece about the current political atmosphere here in the United States. The liberal elites do not understand what is driving the Tea Party, populist anger. It is not anger against "the rich" or Wall Street or big corporations, although members of each category are included in the anger. It is against everyone who is perceived by the public to be getting special or unfair benefits through their connections with big government. That is why the anger was sparked by the bailouts, and that is why it will now focus on public employee unions. While the beneficiaries are different, Wall Street bankers on one hand and your average state employee on the other, the anger is the same. We are headed for insolvency, both on the state and federal level, and our economy continues to slowly drag along with the average private sector worker who still has a job in fear of losing it. One can argue about the rationality of the approach, but as a political matter it is very real.

Michael Barone writes about the money trail which leads from the taxes paid by citizens, into the state treasuries, then into the pockets of state employees as their salaries and wages, then into the legally required union dues paid by those state employees, through the union coffers, into the pockets of Democratic politicians, who then use their power to aid the unions in getting more money out of the taxpayers.

Victor Davis Hanson writes about the consequences of Obama's failure to deal realistically with our federal deficit and debt situation.

Fareed Zakaria writes about the seismic shift going on in the Arab world.

Protests against government austerity measures continue in Greece, and efforts to prevent austerity continue in Wisconsin and Indiana.

President Obama, sensing that his chances for re-election continue to shrink, now looks to shore up his liberal base by shifting the government stance on the Defense of Marriage Act. The Justice Department will no longer defend the law in court. Obama's views on the issue are said to be 'evolving'. Yeah, right. Whatever his personal view, his political stance is what is at question. Opposition to same-sex marriage is pretty strong inside the African-American community, especially the more actively religious part of that community. When he was a State Senator representing a Chicago district, and when he was attending Reverend Wright's church, it was good politics to be opposed to same-sex marriage. It did not damage him when he became a U.S. Senator from Illinois, and it was a peripheral issue in 2008. But now he need all the help he can get. He knows that his African-American support is unshakably monolithic, so he does not worry about losing any of them. He worries about gaining, or regaining, the support of social liberals and the gay community. That is what this is all about.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The battle between GOP governors/legislators and public employee union members and their Democratic legislators continues in state capitols across the country. As in Wisconsin, Democratic legislators in Indiana have now left their state to prevent a quorum. What are the real stakes involved in this battle?

First, the political stakes are enormous. The union movement in general, and public employee unions in particular, are one of the pillars of the Democratic Party, as left-wing columnist Harold Meyerson points out in this piece assailing what he calls a GOP war against unions waged at the behest of their corporate masters. Markos Moulitsas believes this "war" will backfire on the Republicans as it will cause them to lose Republican and Independent voters who are union members. I happen to think that while it may cause some losses from conservative leaning public employee union members (think cops and firefighters), it will generate even greater enthusiasm from Tea Party supporters and those who earnestly believe that deficits and debt are an existential threat to our general prosperity.

Second, moving beyond the political calculations, it must be pointed out that the real-world economic consequences are even larger than the political ones. Unless we are saved by a huge economic upsurge, as happened in the mid-1990s, tax revenues will continue to lag behind expenditures. States will continue to be squeezed by pension and health care obligations. Since there is no process for states to go into bankruptcy, eventually state legislatures will have to raise taxes or cut spending to get into balance. If the unions win this round of political combat (by which I mean if the Democrats win back some legislatures and governor's mansions in 2012) , taxes will have to go up, and in some states substantially. I suspect if that happens an even larger voter backlash than just seen will swamp the Democrats in 2014, and we will be right back to where we started.

I suspect the GOP will prevail in some states, get some sort of mushy compromise in others, and fail in still others. As we are seeing in the case of the big federal entitlement programs, the can will get kicked down the road. Inevitably, though, we will have to deal with these issues, one way or the other.

Jonah Goldberg says the problem is the ability of public employees to join unions. He believes that should be outlawed (as it once was).

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


The combined federal, state and local government debt now exceeds the size of the U.S. economy.

Awareness of this fact, and concern over its consequences, is the number one political story of the moment, because so many voters are now linking these high deficits and enormous debt to the slow economy. Thus, stories that show the movement of states from the Democratic column to the Republicans are a good indicator of the electoral consequences of all of this.

The demonstrations by public employee union members in Madison, Wisconsin only serve to highlight the disconnect between how good the government workers have it as opposed to those in the private sector, and by that I mean middle and working class folks. This would not be a problem except for the fact that those private sector working and middle class folks know that they are paying for the generous pay, pensions and benefits through their tax dollars. They are beginning to realize that these unions, through their ability to require state employees to contribute dues, use their power to support Democratic candidates who, when elected, use their power to provide ever more generous pay and benefits to the public employees, at the expense of everything else state government does. Of course, at some point in the future the average taxpayer will be forced to realize that the very same dynamic is at play when it comes to middle-class entitlements like Social Security and Medicare.

Yet, despite it all, President Obama does not get it, and he will not, as he is a left-wing ideologue, a community organizer who never ran any kind of large organization, never had to hire or fire anyone, never had to balance a budget.

By contrast, men like Wisconsin's governor Scott Walker do understand that it takes real money to balance a budget, and that money does not grow on trees, but comes from the pockets of taxpayers.

2012 will be all about whether or not a majority of American voters want to go forward with the socialistic vision of a community organizer, or the vision of someone (hopefully) who knows how to balance a budget, and wishes for a smaller, less intrusive federal government.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Turmoil continues in the Middle East as violence in Libya has led to reports that Colonel Qaddafi has fled the country. We can only hope.

Protesters continue to occupy the central square in the capitol of Bahrain.

Protests also continue in Iran and Morocco. In Tunisia a general debate is going on over what a new government will look like.

Amir Taheri says a recent speech by the top Iranian general could signal that the military will not help the government crack down on protesters.

Meanwhile, here at home the union protests in Madison, Wisconsin continue to lead to a debate about the power of public employee unions and the meaning of elections. Paul Krugman, of course, is rooting for the unions as a way to prevent our descent into oligarchy. Joe Klein says the events in Madison are really about the fact that elections have consequences and oh, by the way, the Republicans won the last one.

Robert J. Samuelson, looking at the federal budget mess, says we will not effectively deal with the problem until we deal with the fact that the AARP is really running the show.

Friday, February 18, 2011


You may have been reading about the protests in Wisconsin. Essentially, the public employee unions are upset with legislation that would curb their power and benefits. It is, of course, their right to protest against the legislation. It is, however, indefensible for the Democratic members of the legislature to abandon their duties as a ploy to prevent action on the bill. It is indefensible for some of the more radical union members to attempt to intimidate lawmakers and the governor by demonstrating at their homes. I hope that many Americans are watching this and are beginning to understand that the only way to prevent the unabated growth of government is to fight (through peaceful political means) against the people who benefit from that growth.

Peggy Noonan writes about the leadership that is coming from some state governors, as she profiles the courage and commitment of Mitch Daniels of Indiana and Chris Christie of New Jersey. If Scott Walker of Wisconsin holds the line against the unions in his state, we can add him to the list.

One person who does not fit the leadership bill is Barack Obama. As Charles Krauthammer points out, his new budget can aptly be described as a Louis XV budget ("after me, the deluge").

In fact, the story is even worse than simply one of a President who does not have the courage to lead. Barack Obama does not lack courage or conviction, in my estimation. He believes in his left-wing vision of government. He wants to achieve political victory in order to implement that vision. Facing the enormous repudiation at the polls last November, he has decided to fight back. He has sent in a budget that does very little to deal with deficits because he has made the political calculation that the true believers in the GOP will come out with alternatives that make REAL cuts, and may even go after entitlements. He believes that by doing so the GOP will alienate the great mass of independent voters, which will help him win reelection in 2012 and give him a Democratic majority in Congress. I believed that before today, but this article in The Washington Post about the political activities of the President and his people makes me even more certain, as they are now jumping in with both feet regarding the battles in the states over the power and perks of the public employee unions. Winning in 2012 will depend on that power on a state-by-state basis.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

It has taken some doing, but today I can announce some truly bipartisan agreement on an issue. In this case, the partisans are columnists with varying ideological perspectives. The issue is the new budget just issued by the President and his team. The consensus opinion? It's a joke.

Scot Lehigh of The Boston Globe says the President punted on making the hard choices and has abdicated his responsibility to educate the American people on the tough realities we face.

Megan McArdle of The Atlantic says the budget proposal is disastrous.

Dana Milbank of The Washington Post says the budget simply kicks the can down the road...again.

I think it is clear that the President and his people have made a strategic political calculation. They assume that the Republicans will have to come out swinging with significant budget cuts to programs people like, including entitlements. The President will then rally his Liberal base and hammer away, hoping to get enough non-ideological voters so concerned about their programs that they will come his way, leading to a big comeback victory in 2012. If Stephen Hayes of The Weekly Standard is correct, then the GOP leadership in the House is going to jump in with both feet by proposing real cuts to these programs. This will set the stage for the battle. Unfortunately, I am not optimistic about the results. I suspect that if the GOP stays true to their belief that programs should be cut without raising taxes, then Obama and the Democrats will be able to give them a beating in the media. That will likely lead to an Obama victory in 2012 with the Democrats regaining the House. Of course, they will still be faced with the same problems. They will have to raise taxes, which will lead to their defeat in 2014, and so on. I hope I am wrong. If the GOP can propose significant cuts and still win in 2012, then we might see some real progress.

Jay Cost predicts that the 2012 election may prove to be a true ideological contest, in his estimation for only the third time in American history.

Andrew McCarthy continues to warn about the true nature of the Islamists in Egypt and elsewhere.

Soaring food prices may ignite instability in Asia, a scary thought indeed.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Small businesses in Massachusetts, beset by the high cost of employing people, are reluctant to hire new workers. It makes sense, of course. A logical remedy would be to reduce or eliminate the government regulations that impede hiring (minimum wage and insurance requirements, as well as payroll taxes). It will not happen, of course.

Mort Zuckerman lays out the grim unemployment numbers for the nation as a whole. Like the Great Depression, this Great Recession will last for many years.

As the President introduces his new budget, which Fred Barnes believes is pathetic, it includes many foolish things, large and small, but perhaps the most foolish is his proposal to spend even more money on passenger rail service, as Robert Samuelson explains.

Irwin Stelzer explains how politics trumps economics, while Paul Krugman believes that politics, and an uninformed or misinformed public, is leading to GOP proposals that will eat the future.

Each of these columns has something valuable within it, even Krugman's column. At the core, in my opinion, is the fact that the general public does not have a good understanding of the realities of public spending at either the state or the federal level. That does not mean that there are not individuals out there who have such an understanding. It simply means that majorities cannot at present be found who do understand those realities. What are the realities? At the federal level, no real progress can be made at reigning in annual deficits or paring down the accumulated debt without either significantly raising taxes or cutting entitlement spending, or some combination of both. Here is a link to a simple pie chart representing the federal budget. Combine health care and pension programs (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the pensions and health care of all federal employees and retirees, including military) and you get to 44% of the entire pie. Add 24% for defense and you are talking about 68% before you even get to things like foreign aid, or rail service subsidies, and the like. As long as majorities can be found to defend these spending programs, we will continue to rack up huge deficits until a crisis point is reached.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Amir Taheri believes the Islamists have set their sights on Egypt.

Fareed Zakaria believes the Army is still in the saddle in Egypt, which is why the comparisons with Iran in 1979 are not accurate.

Robert J. Samuelson reminds us that the turmoil in North Africa is in itself a reminder that we have not, and will not anytime soon, weaned ourselves off of imported oil.

Paul Krugman writes about exploding food prices as a causal factor for the recent unrest in Tunisia and Egypt, which he attributes to climate change caused by anthropogenic global warming. He is correct when he writes about rising food prices, and he is right to attribute much of the increase to weather conditions, as weather is always the most important factor in food production. As for AGW, I still am not entirely convinced, and even if I were to be convinced, I am certain that we will do next to nothing about it.

There is a debate going on in Israel about whether or not they face an existential threat from the increased power of the Islamists in the region. As long as the Israelis have a monopoly on nuclear weapons, then they are relatively safe. Once the Islamists get nuclear weapons, then all bets are off. I do not believe the Islamists can be deterred in the same fashion that the Soviet Union was deterred during the Cold War.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Con Coughlin feels a bit sorry for Hosni Mubarak as a staunch and reliable American ally so quickly abandoned by President Obama. Reminiscent, of course, of how quickly the Shah of Iran, another staunch and reliable American ally, was abandoned in 1979. We remember how that turned out, don't we?

Jonathan Freedland writes about the growing unease in Israel over the events in Egypt. Freedland believes real peace can only be achieved with true, representative Arab democracies. I disagree. Arab governments that wish to truly reflect the will of their majorities would be implacable foes of Israel, and would maintain the singular goal of its destruction as a Jewish state.

Benny Avni also writes about the stakes for Israel.

On another subject, here are the nuts and bolts of the recent judicial decision concerning Obamacare.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Victor Davis Hanson says for President Obama 2011 is beginning to look a lot like 1979 did for Jimmy Carter, and for many of the same reasons.

Amir Taheri is optimistic about the coming change in Egypt. I do not share his optimism.

Tom Friedman says the potential loss of a stable Egypt should make the Israeli government more willing, not less, to negotiate a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

Such an agreement is, in my view, getting less likely because I expect a negative outcome in Egypt. Others agree with this view, including Yossi Halevi in Jerusalem, who writes that many Israelis now worry that they will soon be surrounded by the Islamists.

Maine is now a Red State, at least for the time being, and it is due to a confluence of factors that drove its white, working class voters to the GOP.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Hundreds of thousands of people are gathering in Cairo as the protests against the autocratic government of Hosni Mubarak continue. Meanwhile, an army spokesman announces that the military will not take action against the protesters. What does this all mean? I think it means that Mubarak is about to fall.

What is the likely result for Egypt? I hate to be pessimistic, but I have to agree with Richard Cohen on this one that the outcome will likely be a bad one. I expect El Baredei will be placed into position as the head of a caretaker government, followed by elections which will be won by the Islamists. The other likely scenario is a caretaker government that is unable to get a grip on the economic and social problems of the country, leading to more protests, leading to its fall and replacement by an Islamist government.

Gordon Chang points out that the Butchers of Beijing are watching events in Egypt with a nervous eye. They could be next, which would be especially ironic since this is the 100th anniversary of the 1911 revolution in China.

Here at home the centerpiece of President Obama's first term, the health care reform law, is ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge. This makes two rulings in favor and two against so far. Clearly, the issue will be decided by the Supreme Court.