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So Now Liberals Want to Talk About Benghazi

November 13, 2013 By: Scott Spiegel Category: War on Terror

Lara-Logan-60-Minutes-Benghazi-618x400Now that CBS reporter Lara Logan has frittered away her credibility by conducting a sloppy background check on a fraudulent eyewitness to the terrorist attack on our consulate in Libya, suddenly liberals are salivating to talk about Benghazi.

Last fall, investigations by the U.S. State Department and the House committees on Armed Services, Intelligence, Foreign Affairs, the Judiciary, and Oversight and Government Reform all concluded that the administration’s claims that the attack had been precipitated by spontaneous protests over an inflammatory YouTube video were false, and that the premeditated attack had been the product of growing Islamic radicalism in the region.  Liberals just yawned.

When Anderson Cooper reported that murdered Ambassador Chris Stevens’ diary had documented his fears of growing instability in the region and of being on an al-Qaeda hit list, liberals sniped that CNN was invading Stevens’s family’s privacy.

When multiple news sources produced evidence that al-Qaeda-linked groups were involved with the attacks, liberals sneered, “What difference does it make?”

Nine days before the 2012 election, every major Sunday news show except Fox News declined to cover the Benghazi story.  Liberals preemptively declared the attack a “sideshow” and a “phony scandal.”

Hundreds of heavily armed attackers had carried out the assault on the anniversary of September 11, but liberals couldn’t see the connection.  Libya’s president attributed the attack to al-Qaeda and was infuriated by the U.S. claiming it was caused by a video, but liberals told us to get a life.  A group of SEALs reported that the administration had denied their request for backup during the attack, but Facebook suspended their account.

But now that a feverish reporter has foolishly trusted a witness one year after the 2012 Presidential election, when it can’t possibly benefit Republicans electorally, liberals have suddenly decided it’s time to jabber about Benghazi.

MSNBC’s Chris Hayes opened his show Monday night with a segment on Dan Rather’s pre-2004 election presentation of forged National Guard documents showing that President George W. Bush hadn’t fulfilled his military service.  Hayes segued to Logan interviewing now-discredited eyewitness Dylan Davies and then a clip of her apologizing.  He gasped, “We all remember the last time 60 Minutes made a blunder this big…  That time around, CBS News then embarked on a mission to do everything possible to prove to the public it was worthy of their trust…  Given the obvious similarities with this Benghazi story, many were expecting a similar level of self-examination and explanation…  There are still a lot of questions about how this happened, [including] why CBS News doesn’t think we deserve an answer to how that happened.”

I still have a lot of questions about how Benghazi happened, including why the Obama administration doesn’t think we deserve an answer to how it happened, but I’m not holding my breath for answers.

Logan, you may recall, is the reporter who flounced around in Tahrir Square during Egypt’s “democratic” uprising interviewing supposedly moderate young male protestors, and subsequently found herself being groped and assaulted by these idealistic reformers.  So Logan’s blind acceptance of a fraudulent witness’s testimony isn’t exactly evidence of a blinkered right-wing Benghazi conspiracy movement.

The major difference between the Rather and Logan stories is that Rather trotted out the former just weeks before a Presidential election, in a calculated attempt to impugn Bush’s character and sway the results.  In contrast, the latter involved a center-left news outlet agreeing to talk to a witness who had approached them a year after an election.

Showcasing the forged National Guard memos fifty days before the 2004 election was the equivalent of detonating a block of C4 in a powder keg.  Interviewing nobody Dylan Davies a year after the 2012 election is the equivalent of tossing a wet cigarette butt in a flowerpot.

Hayes then made the hilarious point that Republicans kept “shifting their story” as to why Benghazi was a scandal.  He cited the following reasons offered by Republicans: Obama didn’t appreciate the growing threat of Islamic radicalism in the region; the administration failed to increase security in the face of increasing violence; Obama didn’t put enough troops in Libya and depended on unreliable local militias; Obama failed to react quickly enough to the situation; Obama didn’t want to admit that al-Qaeda’s influence was on the rise; Obama rebuffed Republican Congressmen’s attempts to gather information about the attack; and the administration delayed its investigation into the attack until after the election.

In fact, Benghazi was a scandal because of all of the above reasons, which conservatives highlighted one by one as investigators uncovered the facts behind them.  That doesn’t mean conservatives were shifting their story; it means Democrats were stonewalling and covering up.  If the administration had been a bit more forthcoming from the start, Republicans might have been able to weave a more consistent storyline from Day 1.

But give liberals credit for their impeccable timing: just when Americans are getting tired of talking about Benghazi, the left drags out the whole affair again as though the past twelve months of Republican evidentiary hearings never happened.

Remember those old Olympics scandals when the U.S. would accuse some Communist Eastern European country of cheating?  The accused country would lob counteraccusations at us but still be found guilty—because only guilty parties make accusations requiring investigation when their misdeeds have been exposed and they have nothing to lose.

Similarly, Democrats are fighting back on Benghazi, only because they know they lost on this issue a long time ago, and they might as well lob grenades at Republicans in the hope that some of them hit their targets.

Previously published in modified form at Red Alert Politics

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GOP’s Demographic Challenge: Not Women Or Youth, But Race

June 05, 2013 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Elections: 2012

EC_121109_markstein425x283The College Republican National Committee recently released a report claiming that the GOP is losing young voters and must change its overall tone and better explain how its positions match theirs.

The report criticized the GOP’s focus on reducing the size of government and cutting taxes as stuffy relics that don’t address Millennials’ concerns (“We’ve become the party that will pat you on your back when you make it, but won’t offer you a hand to help you get there”), and claimed that young people are turned off by strong rhetoric against gay marriage, immigration, and abortion.

While I’m all for removing social issues from the table, CRNC’s suggestion to compromise on economic issues worries me.  In addition, the impetus for their report may be based on a false premise.

CRNC claims, “The issue of the Republican Party’s challenges with the youth vote and the party’s challenges with non-white voters are inseparable.”  Similarly, many analysts have been trying to make sense of the GOP’s recent Presidential electoral loss by claiming that Republicans face (1) an age problem, whereby they’re getting older people’s votes but losing young people’s; (2) a gender problem, whereby they’re getting men’s votes but losing women’s; and (3) a race problem, whereby they’re getting whites’ votes but losing other races’.

But an analysis of 2008 and 2012 exit polls reveals that only the last of these three claims has any truth to it.

First, contrary to popular opinion, the GOP does not have a gender deficit or a youth deficit.  It has a race deficit.  Mitt Romney won both the white female vote and the white under-30 vote in 2012.  He lost the overall female vote and overall under-30 vote only because he lost to Obama with all other female and under-30 racial groups.

Second, from 2008 to 2012, the GOP did not lose young people, women, or even non-whites.  For the most part, it gained all three.

In 2008, men voted for Obama over John McCain 49% to 48%, and women chose Obama 56% to 43%—a gender difference of 12%.  In 2012, men voted for Romney over Obama 52%-45%, and women chose Obama 55%-44%—an 18% gender difference.

But this apparently growing gender gap is illusory: It is explained entirely by black males voting more Republican, and Latinas voting more Democratic, in 2012.

Consider: In 2008, white males chose McCain over Obama 57%-41% and white females chose him 53%-46%, a gender difference of 9%.  In 2012, white males chose Romney over Obama 62%-35% and white females chose him 56%-42%, a gender difference of 4%.

So white women actually voted Republican in greater numbers relative to men in 2012 than in 2008.

But the gender story is completely different when we consider non-white voters.  Black males chose Obama over McCain 95%-5% and black females chose him 96%-3.  But in 2012, black males chose Obama over Romney only 87% to 11%, whereas black female party vote was identical to 2008.  Thus, the black male vote swung 14% in Republicans’ direction from 2008 to 2012, while for black females it was unchanged.

The GOP didn’t lose white women in 2012, and it didn’t even lose black women.  It gained black men.

Similarly, in 2008 Latinos chose Obama over McCain 64%-33%, and Latinas chose him 68% to 30%.  But in 2012, Latinas swung 15% in Obama’s direction, whereas Latinos swung only 1%.

To sum up these race-gender differences: The GOP didn’t lose female voters from 2008 to 2012—it gained white male voters, white female voters, and black male voters; held its ground among black female voters and Latinos; and lost only Latinas.

The race-age intersection tells a similar story.  Obama won whites under 30 by 10% in 2008 and lost all other white age groups by 14% to 18%.  In contrast, he won all black age groups by 88% to 91% and all Hispanic age groups by 18% to 57%.

In 2012, however, Romney won whites under 30 by 7%—a 17% shift in under-30 white voters from 2008.  He made much smaller gains among all other white age groups, from 4% to 9%.  So Romney didn’t drive away young white voters—he attracted them in droves.

In contrast, the GOP’s gains among black voters were smaller and more homogenous across age groups—though, as with white voters, its largest gain (8%) was among blacks under 30.  And although Hispanic voters aged 30-44 and 45-64 swung further in Obama’s direction in 2012, both Hispanics under 30 and those 65 and older voted for Romney in greater numbers than they did for McCain (8% and 6% shifts).

So the GOP didn’t lose young voters in any racial groups: It made huge gains among white voters under 30; it made modest gains among black voters under 30 (and other black age groups) and among young and elderly Hispanic voters; and it suffered losses only among Hispanics aged 30 to 64.

The GOP is simply, factually not the party of old white men.  That claim is as ludicrous as stating that Democrats are the party of under-30 lesbian Jews, just because each of those demographic groups leans Democratic.  The GOP is the party of both genders and all age groups of white voters, and is making inroads among young voters, including black and Hispanic voters.  Of the three most populous racial groups, it has lost only Hispanics aged 30-64 since 2008.

Being the party that’s winning all white gender and age groups and is just beginning to recapture the non-white female and youth vote is not the ideal situation to be in.  But understanding where we stand as a party, rather than castigating ourselves as the party of cranky white geezers, will help us clarify our message.  Namely, our Mission #1 should be, not pandering to women or young people, but recapturing once and for all the non-white vote that Democrats stole from us half a century ago.

Previously published in modified form at Red Alert Politics

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Top 10 Conservatives of 2012

November 21, 2012 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Miscellaneous

I usually wait until later in the year to publish this, but honestly—what’s going to change between now and the end of 2012?  Time to leave this miserable twelve months behind and plan for the 2014 midterms.

This was a year in which conservative winners were losers: in 2012, most of the top conservatives demonstrated greatness despite falling short in their electoral, legislative, or judicial battles:

1. Mitt Romney – Governor Romney was never as liberal as his detractors insisted—he did nominate Prince of Entitlement Reform Paul Ryan as his running mate, defend capitalism in stark moral terms in rousing campaign speeches, and promise right up until Election Day to repeal Obamacare and issue a fifty-state waiver.  He was never as incompetent as his opposition insisted—anyone who misinterpreted his harmless “gaffes” wasn’t going to vote for him anyway.  Suck it up, conservatives: Romney was our best chance to beat Obama, the most consistently conservative of the final four primary candidates, and simply our best presidential nominee since Reagan.  (Think about it.)

2. Paul Ryan – It was debatable whether Congressman and Pathway to Prosperity author Ryan could do more good by helping Romney get elected or remaining Chair of the House Budget Committee, so it’s hard to be too upset over his share in the GOP ticket’s defeat.  After maintaining a low, peaceable profile on the campaign trail, Ryan emerged with his reputation unscathed and his fiscal aims untarnished.  Four more years and he’ll be the perfect age to run as the conservative JFK—though he’d better take a stab at the Senate first, since our nation has only once elected a sitting House member President.

3. Scott Walker – The one big winner on this list, Governor Walker swatted away the gubernatorial recall effort—launched against him by Wisconsin’s teacher’s union Occupy types—with an even bigger margin than the one he won by in 2010, even if he couldn’t quite swing his state in Romney’s direction.  Wisconsin’s unemployment rate dropped from 9.3% under his Democratic predecessor to 7.3% (and 6.7% in April) in the 21 months Walker held office.  Definitely on the 2016 GOP Presidential short list, or maybe our next Speaker of the House.

4. Anthony Kennedy – Everyone had their nervous eye on Justice Kennedy as the swing vote in the Obamacare ruling; turns out he was the principled one and Chief Justice John Roberts the treacherous sellout.  After the decision upholding Obamacare, insiders publicized Kennedy’s efforts to first persuade, then distance himself from the hopelessly confused Roberts.  After perusing Kennedy’s record and learning that his occasional liberal rulings were mostly on social issues—he comes closer than any Justice to a true libertarian—I developed a newfound respect for him.

5. John Kasich – The economy has been improving markedly in many states that recently switched from Democratic to Republican governors.  After rescuing Ohio despite the tailwind of the national economy via his union-busting activities—second in force and effectiveness only to Walker’s—and helping push unemployment from 9.5% under his Democratic predecessor to 7.0% in September 2012, Governor John Kasich unfortunately was rewarded by watching Obama take credit for Ohio’s recovery and grab the state’s 18 electoral votes.

6. Mia Love – After energizing the Republican National Convention with tales of her Haitian parents’ immigration and lessons of self-reliance, this Mormon mayor from Utah and one-time aspiring Broadway dancer lost by a hair in her nationally scrutinized Congressional election.  Commentators declared that Love “broke the GOP mold,” but failed to note that she “broke the black politician mold” of left-wing, grievance-mongering Democrats.  The 113th Congress will be a lesser place without this firebrand who promised to join the Congressional Black Caucus, then “take that thing apart from the inside out.”

7. Artur Davis – One of the earliest Obama 2008 backers, former Alabama Representative Davis was a one-time campaign co-chair, and delivered one of Obama’s nominating speeches at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.  Davis stunned the political world earlier this year by announcing his switch to the Republican Party and his opposition to Obama’s reelection, and by speaking in support of Romney at the RNC in Tampa.

8. Susanna Martinez – In an instantly classic speech at the RNC, the U.S.’s first female Hispanic governor humorously related her political epiphany after a chat with two acquaintances who were trying to convert her to the GOP.  Despite her and her husband’s being lifelong Democrats, the future New Mexico Governor’s support for small government, lower taxes, and a limited welfare state led her to conclude, “I’ll be damned.  We’re Republicans!”

9. Marco Rubio – Though he lost the Vice-Presidential nomination to Paul Ryan, Rubio’s influence presaged the growing importance of the Latino-American vote and the necessity for Republicans to adopt a sane immigration policy—Romney’s one major policy weakness.  The default choice for GOP Vice-Presidential nominee in 2016, Rubio made his way to Iowa just 11 days after the election and started wowing crowds while raking in fundraising dollars for fellow Republicans.

10. Clint Eastwood – Rachel Maddow snarked that the GOP wouldn’t gain one Romney vote as a result of Eastwood’s hilarious, absurdist appearance at the RNC in which he addressed an imaginary Obama in the form of an empty chair.  Maddow’s right—the GOP isn’t impressed by vapid, conformist celebrities; our pulses are quickened by sturdy accountant types like Romney who roll up their sleeves and create wealth via bold business ventures rather than egomaniacs who bore us with politically correct cinematic trash.

Honorable Mention: Allen West – Tea Party mainstay West lost his House seat in a close election rife with voter fraud, but his two fantastic years in Congress have been well worth it.


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The Ohio-Republican Myth

October 31, 2012 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Elections: 2012

Mitt Romney doesn’t need to win Ohio to win the presidential election, he needs to do well enough overall that he ends up winning Ohio.  There’s a huge difference.

First, remember that correlation is not causation.  Ohio voters do not cause voters in other states to vote one way or another, such that securing Ohio votes secures votes in other states.  Ohio reflects a larger trend.

The Electoral College scenarios by which Romney can win the election start to proliferate at the point where he’s doing so well generally that the most likely outcomes include him snagging Ohio.  The site 270ToWin reports that there are 161 combinations of swing states Romney can win to reach 270 electoral votes, but that 8 out of the 10 most probable ways involve winning Ohio.  Nonetheless, Romney should concentrate on doing well generally, not spending all his time in Ohio.

Second, it’s true that since the first election in which Republicans participated in 1856, the party has won Ohio every time it has won the White House.  However, since 1928 the same statistic is true for Colorado, Florida, Nevada, and Virginia, all swing states this election cycle.  That is, 100% of the time the GOP won the White House since 1928, it also won each of these states.  (North Carolina and New Hampshire also have near-perfect records on this metric.)  So why the obsessive focus on Ohio?

Also consider the inverse question: When the Republican lost the White House, how often did he lose particular states?  Since 1928, Republicans who lost the White House lost Ohio 82% of the time.  But they also lost Florida, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina 82% of the time, and Nevada 91% of the time.  Again, why the spotlight on Ohio?

Here’s the real reason Ohio keeps getting so much national attention: luck.

For 75 years after the Civil War, Ohio was a much more Republican state than it is today.  Thus, it’s not surprising that Ohio had a perfect record predicting Republican wins during that period.

Then Ohio went for FDR in 1932, 1936, and 1940, during the Great Depression.  Since then, shifting demographics—an influx of Democratic-voting African-Americans from the South, a trend for Ohio unions to become more Democratic under FDR—morphed Ohio into its present-day, racially-mixed, blue-collar, purple condition.

After 75 years of being solidly Republican, another 75 years of good luck as a swing state in predicting elections—but no better than Florida, Virginia, Colorado, or Nevada—gave Ohio the bellwether reputation it has today.

But none of those swing states was as consistently Republican as Ohio in the 75 years prior to 1928.  This explains why none of their track records goes as far back as Ohio’s in picking Republicans, and why no one cites these as bellwether states today.  Specifically, Ohio voted for the Republican candidate 89% of the time in elections between 1856 and 1924, compared to only 60% for Nevada, 58% for Colorado, 18% for Florida, and 6% for Virginia.

Saying that Ohio was a bellwether state for Republicans from 1856 to 1924 is like saying that Kansas was a bellwether state for Republicans during that period.  Imagine if Kansas’s demographics had suddenly shifted during the Great Depression, such that a greater proportion of likely Democratic voters began flooding the state, and Kansas suddenly become a swing state.  Then everyone would be proclaiming today that no Republican president has ever won the White House without winning Kansas.

In short, for 75 years Ohio was Kansas, then it turned purple and had a string of good luck predicting elections for 75 years (like Florida, Virginia, Colorado, Nevada, North Carolina, and New Hampshire); ergo, pundits consider Ohio an infallible barometer of the national political soul back to the days of Abraham Lincoln.

The Ohio effect is a historical anomaly, and any of a number of other states could easily replace it as a more accurate bellwether as we experience changing demographics, population shifts, and voting trends in years to come.  The fact that the Ohio vote will likely depend on just a handful of on-the-fence counties—not a statewide electorate wildly shifting back and forth from election to election—reinforces this notion, as does the fact that Ohio’s electoral count has been dwindling since 1968.

Ohio is the Republican bellwether state—until it isn’t.  One of these days, a Republican is going to win the general election without taking Ohio, and it could happen in 2012.  Pundits will simply move the starting date of their favorite metric to the earliest date after which one of the other swing states had a perfect record, then declare this new state the hurdle Republicans absolutely must clear to win the general election.

Instead of camping out in Ohio for the next week, Romney should focus on connecting with as many voters in all of the swing states as possible, and hope that his nationwide momentum spreads to the important, but not eternally-important, Ohio.

Previously published in modified form at Red Alert Politics

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Quinnipiac: Only 8% of Voters Think Polls Biased Toward Obama!

October 03, 2012 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Elections: 2012

Contrary to popular opinion, which is being grossly distorted by the detestable misreporting of left-leaning pollsters, Mitt Romney is not floundering in the race against President Obama.

Every time you read a story about how Romney must “reverse course” after a “disastrous month” of “Obama momentum,” realize that this narrative was entirely created by biased pollsters and a complicit media seeking to sway election turnout.

Left-leaning pollsters are actively trying to discourage conservative voters and donors, put the Republican ticket on the defensive, and suppress GOP turnout.  What’s the proof?

Modern-day pollsters weight their raw sample results to match the electorate by expected turnout for key demographic groups.  Almost every poll showing Obama ahead of Romney in swing states by double digits uses a weighting model that predicts Democratic turnout equal to or greater than it was in 2008.  Specifically, these polls overweight demographic groups that flocked out en masse for Obama in 2008 and underweight anti-Obama groups.

Rather than assuming that unemployed college students and African Americans are more excited about voting for Obama this year than in 2008, reliable polling agencies such as Rasmussen, Purple Strategies, Gallup, and AP are using a weighting model that predicts Democratic voter turnout closer to what it was in 2004, or to a combination of 2004 and 2008.  These firms have consistently found the race to be a toss-up, or for Obama to have only a slight lead.

The issue of weighting is not a statistical lacuna, a minor methodological difference that leads to slight differences among polls without affecting the overall result.  In close cases, weighting is everything.  It determines the predicted results.

Imagine a state with 5.1 million registered Democrats and 4.9 million Republicans.  If both parties saw 75% turnout in 2012, the Democratic candidate would beat the Republican 51% to 49%.

Now suppose that Democrats saw 80% turnout and Republicans only 70%, comparable to 2008.  In this case the Democrat would win 54% to 46%.  But if Democrats saw 70% turnout and Republicans saw 80%, closer to what happened in 2004, the Republican would win 52% to 48%.

Assuming only slight differences in numbers of registered voters across parties, as in most swing states, turnout decides results.  And most pollsters are relying on an outdated turnout model that enormously benefits Democrats, despite the fact that Democratic voter enthusiasm is down and Republican enthusiasm is up.

To get a flavor of how off-the-mark most polling firms’ numbers are, consider the regularly updated Real Clear Politics average of poll averages.  As of September 30, it predicts Obama beating Romney by a greater margin than he did McCain in Ohio, Florida, and North Carolina, three key swing states; and by similar margins in other swing states.  Factor out the more reliable, unbiased polls, and Obama is outpacing Romney to such a degree as to make the 2008 election look like a nail-biter.  In North Carolina, the average of averages predicts that Obama’s margin of victory over Romney will be almost four times greater than his win over McCain.

Taking an average of several polls doesn’t solve the problem, because most polls are making the same mistake.  This isn’t a case of some polls being a little biased one way, some another way, so let’s take the average and call it even.  It’s a case of almost all polls being hugely biased in the same direction and for the same reason.

Defenders of the insanely optimistic pro-Obama polls claim that even right-leaning pollsters such as Rasmussen and Fox show slight Obama leads.  Fine—they show slight Obama leads, not double-digit leads.  But pollsters with an agenda know that a lead of a point or two six weeks before an election is not enough to dispirit and demoralize half the population.

As former New York Times columnist Bob Herbert noted, “There’s a disconnect between what the polls are showing and… what the feel is… among the electorate.  The polls are showing within the margin of error or close races.  But there is this feeling that Romney is losing it, and if that becomes the general impression, that’s really bad for Romney…  If this impression of Romney gets set in stone, that’s very difficult to overcome, debates or no debates.”

If we’re lucky, left-leaning pollsters’ efforts will be overcome by Romney and Ryan performing well in the upcoming debates, September and October jobs reports proving the economy still disastrous, Romney parlaying his monetary advantage over Obama, states implementing new voter fraud laws, and undecided voters breaking against the incumbent as they have historically done.

If pollsters successfully influence voter turnout by suppressing Republican enthusiasm and push the election to Obama, they will have electoral blood on their hands.

Previously published in modified form at Red Alert Politics

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The 2012 GOP Platform: Play by Play

August 29, 2012 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Elections: 2012

I’m not sure if I agree with Phyllis Schlafly that the 2012 Republican Platform is the best GOP platform ever, but it’s not too shabby.  This year’s document addresses the economy, constitutional government, energy, entitlement reform, social issues, and foreign policy, in that order.  Some highlights:

Economy

“The best jobs program is economic growth.”

This may be the one sentence in the platform that best demonstrates that Republicans “get it.”  Whatever your thoughts on big-government entitlements, workless welfare, or unfunded liabilities, all of these programs are made possible only via the engine of roaring economic growth.  (How’s Venezuela’s SCHIP program faring these days?)

It’s not the federal seat-warmer, bleeding-heart liberal, or self-satisfied wealth redistributor who creates the riches that all these characters appropriate and spread around after the government takes its gluttonous share.  None of these programs—or these bureaucrats’ jobs—would be possible without the risk-taking, foresight, and hard work of the private sector.

One of the few disadvantages of living in an economically prosperous society is that our affluence hides the extent to which the government leeches our productive citizens dry.

The authors also “get it” when they lament a federal budget process that “gave us the insidious term ‘tax expenditure,’ which means that any earnings the government allows a taxpayer to keep through a deduction, exemption, or credit are equivalent to spending the same amount on some program.”  (Democrats, in contrast, often claim that we can’t “afford” a proposed tax cut, as if it were a new pair of shoes.)

Constitutional Government

“We salute Republican Members of the House of Representatives for enshrining in the Rules of the House the requirement that every bill must cite the provision of the Constitution which permits its introduction.”

Ironically, this policy would help Democrats if enacted, in that it would prevent embarrassing gaffes like Nancy Pelosi’s “Are you serious?” response to a query about Obamacare’s constitutionality.

The platform condemns Obama’s proliferation of “czars,” numerous recess appointments, and executive orders that bypass Congress’s authority.  It disparages the President’s failure to consult Congress before going to war, allowance of heavy-handed actions by regulatory agencies, and abridgment of states’ rights via interference with voter ID laws, health care policy experimentation, and land use determination.

Everyone expects a party’s platform to include language condemning the other party’s policies.  But it’s astounding the extent to which the current administration and Democratic Congress have circumvented the processes by which such policies are supposed to be approved.  That the GOP felt the need for an entire section on restoring constitutional government speaks volumes about the current administration’s lawlessness.

Energy

“Unlike the current Administration, we will not pick winners and losers in the energy marketplace.  Instead, we will let the free market and the public’s preferences determine the industry outcomes.”

This stance would prevent billions of dollars in subsidies from going to politically connected companies promoting economically unfeasible technologies, e.g., former solar power manufacturer Solyndra.  It would also demonstrate the continued need for more traditional methods of energy production such as coal burning, and obviate committing prematurely to trendy “green” alternatives that engineers have yet to make cost-effective.

Entitlement Reform

“We salute the Republican Governors and State legislators who have, in the face of abuse and threats of violence, reformed their State pension systems for the benefit of both taxpayers and retirees alike.”

That one sentence, especially the part about “threats of violence,” says it all about Democrats’ intransigent opposition to enacting any hint of entitlement reform.

The rest of the section mostly addresses Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security reform.  While I wish the platform’s language had been tougher regarding phasing out these Ponzi schemes, I understand the need to placate seniors scared by Democratic threats that Republicans want to ruin their retirement and throw them in the street.

Social Issues

I’m glad the authors placed their inevitable “social issues” section near the end, which shows their sense of priority in this era of anemic growth and trillion-dollar deficits.  (Don’t count on the same sense of perspective from Democrats, whose platform I expect to rail frequently and loudly about the phony Republican “War on Women,” and about Romney and Ryan’s supposed ideological proximity to Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akin.)  In fact, outside of a plug for “traditional marriage,” this section spends most of its verbiage endorsing economic positions such as keeping the work requirement in welfare reform, repealing Obamacare, and instituting free-market health insurance reforms.

Foreign Policy

The final section revisits the threat of Islamic terrorism and the need for the U.S. to vigorously defend itself without apologizing for its ideals.  The platform decries Obama’s defense budget cuts and affirms that “the best way to promote peace and prevent costly wars is to ensure that we constantly renew America’s economic strength.  A healthy American economy is what underwrites and sustains American power.”

The platform laments Obama’s foreign policy strategy, which “subordinates our national security interests to environmental, energy, and international health issues, and elevates ‘climate change’ to the level of a ‘severe threat’ equivalent to foreign aggression.  The word ‘climate,’ in fact, appears in the current President’s strategy more often than Al Qaeda, nuclear proliferation, radical Islam, or weapons of mass destruction.”  Ouch.

Though economic issues trump national security this election year, I do wish the authors hadn’t waited until the last page to mention the threat of Iran obtaining weapons of mass destruction.  Our prosperity is what makes our strong defense possible, but we’re not going to have much of an economy if Iran is allowed to wreak havoc on the U.S. and its allies via nuclear, biological, or cyber attacks.

Previously published in modified form at Red Alert Politics

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Cutting Waste and Fraud Is Not a Medicare Reform Proposal

August 22, 2012 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Health Care

A candidate who promises to preserve, protect, and defend Medicare, save it from going bankrupt, implement his plan for only those under 55, and let you keep your benefits exactly as they are now if you don’t like his changes: this is the candidate Democrats are portraying as a faceless monster diabolically wheeling Grandma off a cliff.

We’ve reached the apotheosis of the Democratic Party’s political strategy: take the Republican who’s most likely to do it the favor of justifying, rescuing, and strengthening its bloated, big-government welfare programs, and then smear him as their callous, murderous destroyer.

Ten days after Mitt Romney’s Vice-Presidential nomination announcement, liberals are still spreading the meme that Paul Ryan was a suicidal choice, because he dared come up with a serious Medicare reform proposal—gradually turn the program into a voucher-supported private system—and include it in two House-passed federal budgets.  The left waited about five minutes after the VP pick, then cried, “See—Romney didn’t get a Ryan bounce.  He screwed up!”

Wait till Americans hear Paul Ryan debate Joe Biden and field questions from a smarmy, economically illiterate press.  Then they won’t be crowing that Romney committed political hari-kari.

Back in 2010, the left claimed that Tea Party candidates would hurt the GOP in the midterm elections, because Americans wouldn’t tolerate their extremist, far-right views.  Then Republicans won a historic landslide, picking up 63 seats in the House, 6 seats in the Senate, 6 governorships, and 680 state legislature seats.

The left claimed that Marco Rubio would terrify seniors in Florida with his support for privatizing Social Security and his signing a pledge that labeled the program “generational theft.”  Then Rubio returned from 20 points behind to crush his opponents in a three-way senatorial election.

The left claimed that wishy-washy compromiser John McCain was the contender most likely to deliver a knockout blow to Obama in the 2008 presidential election.  Then McCain embarrassed Republicans by offering a tepid, watered-down alternative to Obama’s platform and lost the election.

Pundits imply that Romney should have picked a VP candidate with no strong positions on Medicare—or any other issue of substance—lest he alienate independents.  In fact, if any voters truly are undecided, they’re going to be blown away by what Ryan has to say on Medicare and every other budgetary topic he addresses in his upcoming campaign appearances, because it’s so much bolder and more honest than what almost any other politician has said to date.

Ryan is one of the rare political candidates who’s even more impressive in enemy territory than he is on friendly turf.

Since they don’t like the Big Bad Wolf’s proposal, what are Democrats’ plans for shoring up Medicare?

They have none.  They don’t even think there is a problem.

The New Yorker’s John Cassidy, for example, argues that Medicare is doing just fine, that the only reason costs are out of control is the large number of retiring Baby Boomers.

It doesn’t matter what the cause of Medicare’s looming insolvency is.  The increase in retirees just lays bare the Ponzi-scheme structure of Medicare and other federal unfunded liabilities.

Contrary to some Democrats’ claims, the Medicare problem is not going to solve itself.  Medicare is not, as they argue, more cost-effective than private health insurance.  The federal government prohibits the sale of private health insurance across state lines, which cripples the private insurance industry’s ability to compete and innovate.  No such hindrance exists for Medicare.

Medicare is not more cost-effective than health maintenance organizations.  The IRS hamstrings HMOs by virtually forcing private health insurance plans to be tied to employers rather than employees, which reduces flexibility and competitiveness.  No such obstacle exists for Medicare.

Medicare could never survive on its own, not without sponging off of the much larger private insurance industry.  If Medicare has such a bright future, more doctors wouldn’t be refusing to accept Medicare patients with each passing year.

The irony is that Democrats warn Republicans that Ryan’s nomination will make the Medicare issue unavoidable for them.  In fact, it’s taken Ryan’s nomination to force Democrats to finally stop avoiding the Medicare issue.

What is Obama’s proposal to address Medicare’s imminent bankruptcy?  He reassures us that we don’t need to cut benefits, that we can keep the program solvent simply by reducing fraud and waste.  In his words, “My plan saves money in Medicare by cracking down on fraud, and waste and insurance company subsidies…  My plan’s already extended the life of Medicare by nearly a decade.”

Please.  Every politician who wants to preserve the status quo claims that gobs of money can be saved from a federal program just by reducing fraud and waste.  Everyone wants to reduce fraud and waste.  John Gambino wants to reduce fraud and waste.

Obama also claims he can save hundreds of billions of dollars by reducing subsidies to insurance companies and hospitals—as if they’re going to just altruistically pony up the difference, rather than cutting services or finding some other way to pass the cost on to customers.

Democrats show no interest in acknowledging the fact that Medicare is going broke, that benefits are going to have to be cut—and soon.  They live in a fantasy land where—at best—they pretend they can save hundreds of billions of dollars via rosy projections of improved Medicare cost-efficiency that will take place just a few years down the road, after the next couple of election cycles, by which time voters will have forgotten about their unfulfillable promises.

At worst, they ignore the problem and demonize Republicans for proposing actual solutions.

Previously published in modified form at Red Alert Politics

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Ryan: Romney’s Only Choice

August 08, 2012 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Elections: 2012

The best objection I’ve heard to Mitt Romney’s nominating seven-term Wisconsin Representative/financial wunderkind Paul Ryan as his vice-presidential running mate is that Ryan could do more good for the country’s financial health as Chair of the House Budget Committee.

The 42-year-old Ryan has certainly done some amazing things in his dozen years in Congress—most notably rolling out his 2010/2012 “Path to Prosperity” proposals, which would cut trillions from the deficit, turn the Medicare program into a voucher system, and simplify the tax code.

But Romney can do even more to fix our budget woes as President than Ryan can in Congress.  And Romney is most likely to end up President with Ryan on the ticket.

Ergo, Ryan must join Romney.

How formidable a Romney-Ryan ticket would be.  Ryan has demonstrated a masterful ability to articulate budget and spending issues in such a way that everyday voters can understand just how thoroughly Democrats are screwing us over.  He’s managed to put serious entitlement reform proposals on the table for the first time in a decade.  He’s resisted caving in to faux-conservative RINO-bait like temporary payroll tax cut extensions.  He’s earned the deep respect of conservatives while getting under Obama’s thin skin and driving fear into the hearts of liberals, all while wearing a smile.

True, Ryan has a long career ahead of him, and there would be plenty of time for him to serve as Vice-President or President if he chose.  He can absolutely do more in concrete terms for the nation’s fiscal stability where he is now than as Vice President.

But consider last spring’s protracted Republican primary nomination fight.  Everyone knew Romney was the candidate Democrats most dreaded Republicans would select—because they knew he had the best chance of winning.  A party can generally deduce its most effective electoral strategy by doing what the opposite side most fears.  I’d bet good money that in an election year in which the economy is not just one of the biggest issues but the only effective issue, liberals would be most terrified at Ryan being selected as Romney’s running mate.  (Such a ticket would include not one, but two candidates with more knowledge of economics in their pinkies than Obama.)

Romney-Ryan 2012 would bring the perfect balance of capitalist vs. populist worldviews, seasoned vs. fresh governing approaches, outside vs. inside-the-Beltway experience, and private vs. public sector service.  To pot-stirring liberals who cry that Romney’s private sector experience proves he cares nothing about the public sector, he can simply respond: Look who I saw fit to choose for my running mate.

No pairing—not Romney-Christie, not Romney-Rubio, not Romney-Daniels, all and many more of which would be fantastic—would cost liberals more sleep over the next three months than Romney-Ryan.  I’m guessing David Axelrod’s nightmares right now is a hovering image of a smiling Romney and Ryan standing side-by-side.  (And just think of the entertainment value of a Biden-Ryan Vice-Presidential debate!)

Some will object that Ryan’s Path to Prosperity proposals are too draconian and extreme for voters.  And by “some,” I mean confused Republicans who still haven’t learned that conservative principles win elections.  (See Gingrich, Newt, “right-wing social engineering.”)

As Jonathan Karl notes, “[The] attacks will come anyway (Democrats already speak of the ‘Romney-Ryan Budget’).  Picking Ryan for VP would put on the ticket the person best able to respond to those attacks.”  While I believe Romney’s ability to articulate conservative economic principles is underappreciated, Ryan can do it even better.

As for whether Ryan’s proposals will scare off timid voters: remember last summer when Democrat Kathy Hochul beat Republican Jane Corwin in a special election in NY-26, a result supposedly due to the landscape-changing fallout from Ryan’s apocalyptic Medicare proposal?  The Huffington Post was gloating about it for weeks.  No?  Don’t worry—no one else remembers, either.

In choosing between a candidate who excites millions of Americans or soothes John Boehner, I’ll take the former.

Romney and Ryan’s economic plans are utterly in sync; pairing up on the same ticket would be a natural fit for them.  Ryan’s plan is more detailed and even more conservative than Romney’s—a boon for jaded conservatives who’ve learned that we have to have our facts perfectly straight down to the last punctuation mark in order to counter Democrats’ lies, and that we have to aim especially high to get even a fraction of what we want.

If it were a step down for this Badger State policy wonk and budget guru to hold the Vice-Presidency, I would suggest we urge Ryan to take one for the team.  But Romney-Ryan 2012 would have the advantage to Ryan of setting him up to run for president in 2020.

Finally, the primary duty of the Vice-President is to step in if the President becomes incapacitated.  Given that more primary voters arguably wanted Ryan than Romney to run for President, I think Ryan’s pretty much got that criterion sewed up, too.

Does Romney want to cut to the chase, win this, and kick Obama out of office?  If so, there’s no sane choice of running mate other than Paul Ryan.

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Obama’s Reelection Slogan: “I Saved Us From Becoming Greece!”

March 21, 2012 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Economy

In 2008, presidential candidate Barack Obama ran, not against the promises of Republican nominee John McCain, but against the policies of second-term president George W. Bush.  In 2012, Obama apparently plans to run against Bush once more.

Obama sure doesn’t seem to want to run on his record, since the economy is still in terrible shape after three years of his leadership.  Instead, it appears he’s going to campaign on the conceit that Bush left him with a much worse economy than anyone—he, economists, Nostradamus—could have predicted.  Obama now would have us believe that his policies prevented an economic slide the likes of which would have made 2010 look like boom times.

That’s a very interesting campaign platform, because even a cursory look at the trajectory of unemployment rates and economic growth in the months following the country’s recessions of the past 50 years shows that the downturn that started in December 2007 is singularly deep, protracted, and devastating.  If Obama’s right, and our economy would have been much worse had he not enacted his resuscitating policies, then our country narrowly dodged a plunge to a standard of living on par with that of the 1960s.

Take a look at the following chart, which I generated using data from the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis (hat tip: Robert Tracinski).  It shows the percent change in total U.S. employment for all post-World War II recessions averaged together (the red line), and for 2007 by itself (the blue line), for each month after the start of the recession:

For the average recession, monthly change in employment decreased until hitting rock bottom at -2%, a year after the start of the recession; then headed up to 0% two years out; and finally continued up to 7% five years out.

In contrast, the 2007 recession looks radically different.  One year after it began—around the time Obama was elected—monthly change in employment was at the historical average of -2%.  But change in employment continued to plummet, down to 6% per month two years out, when by historical trends it should have been back to 0%.  Three years out it was still sunk at -5% rather than up at the 3% average.  Four years out it had “improved” to -4% rather than the 5% average.

If the average of all other post-war recessions resembles the Little Dipper, the 2007 recession is the Big Dipper.

Think the non-2007 average is hiding wide variation in recovery rates for previous recessions that dwarfs the apparent outlier of 2007?  In fact, the chart below shows employment trajectories for each recession alongside the 2007 trend (light blue line at the bottom).  The 2007 path was comparable to that of the worst recessions for 15 months; then, three months into Obama’s presidency, it plummeted into uncharted negative territory and has stayed there ever since.

When liberals blithely claim that Obama has kept things from being worse than they could have been, what they fail to realize is that things are already atrocious by historical standards.  Compared to the rapid growth and recovery we’ve always seen after economic recessions in modern times, the 2007 recession is not on par with those recessions, it’s not a little worse, it’s not moderately worse—it’s much, much worse.  In fact, it’s not even comparable—it’s in its own separate category.

The seasonally-adjusted percent change in real GDP per quarter is equally sickening:

Note that for our current recession, quarterly changes are barely above 0%, when historically they should be at 12.5%.

Here’s the graph showing GDP for each recession separately:

The only post-recession period that came close to 2007’s for change in GDP was 1980’s—and that’s because 1980 began a double-dip recession, the second half of which followed shortly after in 1981, and looked just like the other recessions.  Other than that, 2007 stands alone.

Here’s the cumulative monthly increase in number of jobs:

The average for all non-2007 recessions never even dipped below 0%, whereas for the 2007 recession it went negative for more than 18 months, and after four years has still only recovered to where other recessions were at 9 months.

Finally, here’s the cumulative increase in GDP per quarter:

The cumulative GDP trajectory for other post-WWII recessions is 1% per quarter.  For the 2007 recession, it’s half that.

Here is a point that can’t be emphasized enough during the general election season: The recession Obama inherited, and more importantly, presided over and extended, is the worst this country has seen since the Great Depression.

I’ll repeat: The recession that technically ended in 2009, but whose fallout we are still enduring three years later, and 75% of which Obama presided over, is uniquely cavernous, prolonged, and dreadful among all U.S. recessions of the past half-century.  Obama is nonetheless campaigning on the platform that, were it not for his $1 trillion stimulus bill, auto company bailout, health care bill, $1- and $2-trillion deficits, record federal spending, and onerous regulations (four times as many in three years as Bush in eight), the United States would be suffering an apocalypse of famine, chaos, and desperation.  Does anyone really believe things would have been that much worse if Obama hadn’t gotten his way?

For those unsure about the hypothetical impact of heavy federal government spending vs. fiscal austerity, or confused by competing Democratic vs. Republican claims about the sources of economic growth, stop and think: Isn’t the notion that recovery from the recession would have looked more like recoveries from all other post-war recessions if Obama hadn’t enacted unprecedented, unparalleled spending at least as likely as Obama’s scenario?  Isn’t the fact that Obama carried out actions unmatched in scope in U.S. history possibly capable of explaining a sluggish recovery unmatched in modern history?

Obama’s supporters in the media are right about one aspect of his presidency.  It certainly has been historic: historically ruinous for the economy.

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Romney’s “Gaffes” vs. Obama’s Graft

February 29, 2012 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Elections: 2012

So far there’s not a whit of evidence that Mitt Romney’s “gaffes” in inadvertently referencing his personal wealth at campaign appearances and debates have cost him a single vote in the 2012 presidential election.

We hear from mainstream pundits and wire service reporters—most of whom wouldn’t dream of voting for a conservative, but are terrified that Romney will be the GOP nominee—how Romney’s horrifying Freudian slips are bound to alienate undecided voters, Reagan Democrats, and moderate Republicans.

Romneys’ unspeakable comments have included: extolling voluntary contracts in the free market (“I like being able to fire people… if someone doesn’t give me the good service that I need”), affirming the social safety net (“I’m not concerned about the very poor—we have a safety net”), challenging candidate Rick Perry on a falsehood (“$10,000 bet?”), and expressing his support for the Detroit auto industry (“Ann drives a couple of Cadillacs”).  These forbidden lines have supposedly frightened off otherwise open-minded voters and driven them straight into the comforting arms of humble everyman Obama.  Good citizens everywhere were supposedly all set to pull the lever for Romney, but are now running screaming at the thought of a president who has achieved phenomenal business success in the private sector and isn’t ashamed of it.

Commentators claim that voters will be dissuaded from choosing Romney because of his “tone-deaf” comments, or the fact that Romney doesn’t “register with ordinary folks.”

I have yet to hear any actual, living-and-breathing voter attest that he will not be voting for Romney because of his remarks on his wealth.

The way I see it, anyone impervious enough to lockstep liberal ideology to be an independent is reasonable enough to cut Romney some slack and comprehend his meaning.  Anyone contemptuous enough of profit, wealth, and capitalism to be offended by his remarks wasn’t going to vote for him anyway.

But Romney’s loose tongue—supposedly the fatal flaw of a candidate so slick he’ll say anything to get elected, except… um, when he doesn’t—is as tight as a spring compared to Obama’s penchant for blowing through other people’s money.

Just for comparison: Which candidate deadpanned “I’m also unemployed” in a coffee shop in Florida with voters, who laughed at his joke; and which candidate glibly proclaimed that his trillion-dollar stimulus package—which was supposed to keep unemployment under 8% but failed to keep it below 10%—was a success because unemployment hadn’t shot up to 15%?

Which candidate affirmed that “corporations are people,” in the sense that “everything corporations earn ultimately goes to people”; and which candidate bashes corporations, even though his presidential election committee raked in millions of dollars in corporate donations?

Which candidate bet a fellow presidential contender $10,000 of his own money, and which candidate has increased the national debt by $4 trillion of ours?

Which candidate said he liked being able to fire people for giving him crummy service and hire more talented workers, in the context of arguing why health insurance should be decoupled from employment and everyday citizens should be free to shop around for different insurers?  Which candidate proclaimed his desire for the productive coal industry and its innocent blue-collar employees to go “bankrupt,” rates for vital electricity service to “skyrocket,” and a permit for the Keystone Pipeline that would have created tens of thousands of jobs for hardworking Americans to be denied?

Which candidate expressed confidence in the coverage offered by the welfare state he disproportionately funds with his earnings; and which candidate lectured a middle-class, self-employed plumber in Ohio to “spread” his “wealth” around to welfare recipients?

Which candidate bought two Cadillacs with his own money, and which candidate flies Air Force One around the country attending fundraisers wasting millions of dollars of ours?

Which candidate modestly suggested, “I get speaker’s fees from time to time, but not very much”—$374,000 in 2011, for making dozens of coveted speaking appearances at companies such as HP, Barclays, and the International Franchise Association, whose leaders were eager to hear his Midas touch business advice and confident that implementing his tips would more than compensate them for his fees?  In contrast, which candidate’s wife received a boost in her salary from $122,910 to $316,962 the year after her newly appointed Senator husband from Illinois awarded $1,000,000 in federal earmarks to the hospital where she worked?

Which candidate noted “I have some friends who are NASCAR team owners” in explaining his connection to the sport, and which candidate has spent three months as president golfing on the taxpayers’ dime?

Romney may have lots of money, but Obama just craves more of ours—for himself, for his family, for his cronies, and for his political ambitions.  I don’t want a president who’s “in touch” with everyday Americans, if being in touch means slapping them on the back while reaching into their pockets and emptying their wallets.

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