Libertarian Hawk


Winnowing the 2016 Field

January 07, 2015 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Elections: 2016

Presentation1Who do we want on our 2016 GOP presidential ticket? There are a lot of people out there pushing bad choices who claim to know best, but who will put us in a world of hurt if we don’t analyze this with a view toward winning.

Below are my ten conditions that the Republican 2016 ticket must meet:

  1. Both presidential and vice presidential candidates must be governors. Being a governor gives a candidate an enormous electoral advantage relative to being a senator, representative, cabinet appointee, pizza magnate, Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery, or any other job. Both halves of the ticket must be governors, so we don’t have to listen to Democrats tout what-if scenarios involving the death of our president and the ascension of our VP to his role.
  2. Both halves must be governors of swing states, or at least bluish-purple states. If we win a landslide we won’t need those states; if we lose miserably they won’t help; but neither of those scenarios is as likely as one in which we win by a handy but not comfortable margin. Let’s preclude the nail-biting and choose among the 20 or so purple/violet states to give ourselves a head start.
  3. Our presidential candidate must be a governor of a large state. See #2. By large I mean top-20 by population.
  4. At least one member of our ticket must be black, Latino, or female. It’s unfortunate that we have to play racial and gender politics. But we do, because Democrats rely on it to win, which means we can’t give them that advantage. The GOP is demonstrably less racist than Democrats, but we have to be 1/10th as racist to be seen as only twice as racist.
  5. Both halves must have served as governor for at least four years (the length of a presidential term). Both must have been reelected.
  6. Both must be popular governors. General popularity is necessary to win purple/violet states.
  7. Our nominees needn’t be Tea Partiers, but they can’t be the sort of centrists the Republican base has increasingly been grumbling about. White voter turnout was a shocking 6 million less than projected in 2012, and 4.5 million less than in 2008—the only reason Democrats thrived despite their lower-than-2008 turnout. This cannot happen again.
  8. Both candidates must be people no one has been talking about as serious candidates. There’s widespread dissatisfaction among the base about our choices. Therefore, both halves of our ticket must be people who aren’t currently in any poll’s top 10, though perhaps in some polls’ top 15 or 20. We need fresh faces.
  9. Our presidential candidate should have a record of making wise policy choices but not be so on the frontlines that he has become the object of scorn. We have to consider the positives and negatives of our candidates. We don’t need one with a big, fat bull’s eye on him for the media to destroy.
  10. Our presidential candidate must be 60-69; our vice presidential candidate must be 50-59. These are the Magic Ages for maximum appeal/credibility.

Who does that leave?

#1 rules out non-governors Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Paul Ryan, Rick Santorum, Bob Corker, Donald Trump, Carly Fiorina, Allen West, and Ben Carson. No Ben Carson, conservatives. Step away from the neurosurgeon. Keep your hands where I can see them.

#2 rules out non-swing-staters Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, Bob Ehrlich, George Pataki, Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal, John Huntsman, and Sarah Palin.

#3 rules out small-state guvs Nikki Haley, Susana Martinez, and Brian Sandoval, at least for the top of the ticket.

#4 means at least one half of the ticket must be a “minority” like Haley, Martinez, or Sandoval; the Cruzes, Rubios, Wests, Carsons, Cains, Rices, Fiorinas, Bachmanns, Palins, and Jindals have already been disqualified.

#5 rules out Mike Pence, who’s been Governor of Indiana for only two years.

#6 rules out Rick Snyder, who’s in solidly negative territory.

#7. Sorry, Jeb.

#8. Sorry, Chris Christie. If people are already sick of you, they’re not going to fall back in love with you in 2016.

#9. Sorry, Scott Walker. You and Christie broke the mold for union-busting governors, but you’ve also got a (ridiculous) lawsuit against you and a lot of determined enemies.

#10 rules out Nikki Haley, who—like Jindal, Rubio, Cruz, Lee, and Ryan—are babies, politically speaking.

Who’s left? Mitch Daniels and Jim Gilmore have expressed no interest in running, and are also former governors, which isn’t a plus.

That leaves just three names: John Kasich for the top spot, and Brian Sandoval or Susana Martinez for the second. Both of the latter are extremely popular, but Nevada is more of a swing state and has a 50% larger population, so I’m going with Sandoval.

Kasich-Sandoval sounds like a stab in the dark. Given the vagaries of presidential elections, I’ll feel vindicated if these two emerge as serious top-five choices.

But if you agree that the above criteria have merit, the logical endpoint is: Kasich-Sandoval.

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Civil Rights, Conspiracy Charges, Embarrassing Foreigners, and Un-P.C. Health Recommendations

December 31, 2014 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Miscellaneous

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????(Excerpts from favorite 2014 columns)

Civil Rights

Democrats: Stuck Between Little Rock and a Hard Place

NPR reporter Debbie Elliott recently commemorated Brown v. Board of Education by implying that absolutely nothing has changed since then… Elliott quoted one superintendent: “‘I have had people comment about their kids going where black students are, and not wanting to. That’s still a truth about human nature.’”

But not wanting your kids to go to school with black children in the 1950s and being leery about sending them to inner-city schools today are entirely different phenomena. Democrats pretend that government-sanctioned segregation is the same as parents wanting to send their children to schools Democrats haven’t screwed up.

The Civil Rights Legacy Democrats Stole from Republicans

In liberals’ fantasy world, Democrats spearheaded civil rights while dragging along reluctant Republicans, and Johnson did the right thing even though he knew Southern Democrats would switch parties.

In fact, Republicans had been pushing civil rights throughout the 1950s, and the transformation of the South from Democratic to Republican started in the 1920s and had nothing to do with race.

After the dissolution of the Dixiecrats in 1948, 23 of the 26 Dixiecrats returned to being lifelong Democrats. Only 1 of 97 Democrats who signed the Southern Manifesto opposing Brown v. Board of Education switched to the Republican Party.

Democrats’ War on Competent Women

Obama recently renewed his push to remedy the civil rights issue of pay inequality by promising to go around Congress if it doesn’t act.

Yet he failed to acknowledge that women’s life circumstances differ from men’s in many ways that affect their earnings. Women major in subjects that lead to lower-paying jobs. Women are more likely to interrupt their careers to have children.

Controlling for all of the above factors, the gender gap dwindles to 6.6 cents.

Even the Labor Department admitted in a comprehensive study in 2009, “There may be nothing to correct.” Is Obama unaware of his own Labor Department’s pay gap research?

Conspiracy Charges

For Liberal Politicians, Lane Closure Is a Way of Life

Imagine a big-state governor supposedly conspiring to shut down the busiest bridge in the country, holding up thousands of drivers.

Now imagine the President holding up millions of online health care shoppers for three months, causing frustration and anger, not to mention lost coverage and discontinuity of care. Which do you think liberals would be livid about and demand federal investigations into? Which do you think they would brush off as trivia hardly worth mentioning?

The left’s raison d’être is closing lanes in every area of our lives. At least Christie’s aides stopped their shenanigans after four days.

More Horses Lose Their Heads When Liberals Are in Power

Democrats have been hyping conspiracy charges against a union-busting Republican Governor. No, not Christie—Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. Forget Bridgegate: this scandal should be called Free Speechgate. But it’s Walker’s opponents who have been behaving scandalously.

The Club for Growth filed a lawsuit against state prosecutors, alleging that their ruthless investigation was chilling conservative groups’ free speech. Due to the sleazy, shadowy nature of John Doe investigations, Walker was prevented from defending himself against public charges.

Liberals are now officially trying to keep conservatives from speaking out about how liberals are trying to keep them from speaking out.

It Takes a Village to Clear the Field for Hillary

Suppose you and your buddies were high-ranking political operatives and sleazy Democrats and wanted to conspire to take out top Republican contenders for the 2016 Presidential election.

You’d want to focus on governors, such as pension reformer Governor Chris Christie. By and large you’d focus on the more conservative candidates… You might target Governor Scott Walker, who survived a recall election in 2011, or Governor Rick Perry, who presided over 14 years of explosive economic growth.

But which trumped-up charges would you conspire to saddle these governors with? Conspiracy, naturally.

Embarrassing Foreigners

What’s Next After Sochi: Synchronized Beheadings in Tehran?

Should countries that support state sponsors of terror, give traitors asylum, and commit human rights abuses be rewarded?

The Winter Olympics are now unfolding in supposedly post-Soviet Russia in a farcical spectacle that has yielded a panoply of disasters.

Witness Sochi hotels, whose sparkling amenities include empty elevator shafts, falling light fixtures, and rooms without WiFi, heat, or water.

Russian television displays have been showing the wrong flags for competing countries. The last of five animatronic snowflakes that were supposed to blossom into Olympic rings during the opening ceremony failed to open.

There hasn’t been a rollout this embarrassing since

Nobel Peace Prize Committee Still Lauding Frauds

Conservatives have been posting portraits of this year’s Peace Prize co-winner Malala Yousafzai and former winner Obama with captions implying that one of them deserved the award and the other didn’t.

They’re right that one winner is more deserving. Unfortunately, he doesn’t much deserve it, either.

Education activist Yousafzai holds the distinction of being the youngest hit speaker on the international Marxist convention circuit… While other teenagers were making crafts and learning to swim, Malala spent her summer studying Lenin and Trotsky.

Malala simply rejected one murderous totalitarian ideology to flirt with another, more murderous totalitarian ideology.

Politically Incorrect Health Recommendations

Health Recommendation for Summer 2014: Get Out In the Sun

There’s not one longitudinal study out there showing that sun tanning causes skin cancer… The few controlled studies that exist show that sun burning increases skin cancer.

Skin cancer is one of the least lethal types of cancer… Risking skin cancer could help you fight more lethal cancers.

Scientists have long known about the health benefits of vitamin D, including protecting against multiple other types of cancer. Even if tanning led to a slight increase in skin cancer, we would predict it to yield a net reduction in deaths.

Several sets of researchers have crunched the numbers and drawn just that conclusion.

Are Clogged Arteries and Type 2 Diabetes Patriotic?

Why are conservatives so quick to jump to the defense of companies that push mass-produced, preservative-laden, nutritionally-stunted fare? Can Republicans support the right of businesses to sell what they want without championing low cuisine?

According to a recent survey, conservatives support Chick-fil-A, Domino’s, Waffle House, Carl’s Jr, Denny’s, and Hardee’s; while liberals frequent Au Bon Pain, Chipotle, Jamba Juice, Panera Bread, P. F. Chang’s, and Starbucks.

Is there something shameful about having healthy tastes? Is it essential for conservatives’ pride in their country to view carnival food as haute cuisine?

Can conservatives at least admit that kale and bacon taste delicious together?

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4 Out of 5 Presidential Election Voters Prefer Governors

October 22, 2014 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Elections: 2016

Republican_Governors_Association_Logo-500I used to think Republicans needed to run either a governor or a senator as our next presidential nominee, but after studying the electoral history, I’ve decided that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is right—it’s gotta’ be a governor.

Or at least it does in 2016, given that the senatorial map is much more favorable to Democrats in 2016 than in 2014, and that Republicans’ likelihood of keeping the Senate (assuming they grab it in 2014) skyrockets if Republican senatorial candidates are able to run on the coattails of a strong Republican presidential candidate.

And consider the following facts about strong presidential candidates:

Forty percent of all presidential winners in U.S. history have been former or current governors, including Jefferson, Monroe, and Tyler (Virginia), Van Buren, Cleveland, and both Roosevelts (New York), Polk and Andrew Johnson (Tennessee), Hayes and McKinley (Ohio), Wilson (New Jersey), Coolidge (Massachusetts), Carter (Georgia), Reagan (California), Clinton (Arkansas), and George W. Bush (Texas). A similar percentage—thirty-seven percent—have been former or current senators.

But twenty-one percent of all winners ran for president while sitting governors. In contrast, only three winners—seven percent of the total—ran while senators, including Harding, Kennedy, and Obama.

If you count only elections after 1854, the year the Republican Party formed, thirty-one percent of winners were sitting governors, compared to only ten percent who were sitting senators.

So we’ve elected as president former or current governors from New York, Virginia, Tennessee, Ohio, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Georgia, California, Arkansas, and Texas. If we’re trying to repeat history, Christie (New Jersey) and Rick Perry (Texas)

In an intriguing analysis, Patrick J. Egan recently identified Republican governors John Kasich (Ohio), Bill Haslam (Tennessee), Robert Bentley (Alabama), Brian Sandoval (New Mexico), and Dennis Daugaard (South Dakota) as having higher-than-expected support in the polls in their current reelection bids, controlling for statewide factors such as party control of the legislature and percentage of voters who usually choose the Republican presidential candidate. Egan suggested that these governors’ higher-than-predicted popularity margins make them especially strong potential candidates in a general election.

A few Republican governors have been getting presidential buzz—Christie, Rick Perry (Texas), Scott Walker (Wisconsin)—but most haven’t, including Rick Scott (Florida), Mike Pence (Indiana), Bobby Jindal (Louisiana), Susana Martinez (New Mexico), Nikki Haley (South Carolina), Sean Parnell (Alaska), Rick Snyder (Michigan), Jan Brewer (Arizona), Nathan Deal (Georgia), and a dozen others I haven’t mentioned.

Why aren’t more of these governors household names, at least among Republicans? Do we want to learn something from electoral history and win the 2016 presidential election or don’t we?

I’ve argued that the executive branch may be a more natural fit for the Republican Party, and less suitable for Democrats, because governors have more “actual responsibilities” such as balancing budgets, making unpopular decisions without being able to hide behind 99 weasels or vote “Present,” and fighting sleazy opposition party opponents who file baseless accusations that risk embarrassing entire states. This suggests that the best route to the presidency for Republicans is through governorships.

The directive that we choose a governor as our 2016 nominee does rule out some fantastic Senatorial candidates—such as Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Mike Lee. But let’s save these politicians—each just 43 years old—and others in the adolescent stage of their careers for an election in which the Senate map is favorable to Republicans again, or at least until these candidates have served as governor.

And just because Christie is on the warpath demanding a gubernatorial nominee doesn’t mean he’s the one we should pick. I’d be equally happy with Walker, Perry, or former Governor Mitt Romney.

Radio host Mark Levin, willfully misinterpreting Christie’s remarks (as usual), recently cited the counterexample of Abraham Lincoln, one of only three presidents whose highest elected office attained was U.S. Representative. But clearly Lincoln is an exception that proves the rule. (And remember that only three sitting senators have ever been elected president.) Nominating a sure-thing liberal Republican rather than taking a chance on a viable conservative candidate would be a betrayal of principles. But why can’t we aim for a conservative and someone with governing experience?

If we acknowledge which high-profile office is most commonly held by those elected president, then the first stage of our 2016 nomination process is clear: We’ve got to choose a Chief Executive as our next nominee for Chief Executive.

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Dear South Carolina: Please Give Rick Perry One Last Look

January 11, 2012 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Elections: 2012

Michelle Bachmann, the most conservative and articulate 2012 GOP presidential candidate, dropped out of the race after her poor showing in Iowa last week.  Herman Cain’s disappointing withdrawal last month over spurious sexual harassment allegations suggests we won’t be discussing a flat federal income tax for at least another election cycle.  John Huntsman was a surprisingly conservative governor of Utah, and could still benefit from the shell game Republican voters have been playing with their candidates for the past six months—if voters ever notice he’s running.  Mitt Romney is an unreliable conservative; Newt Gingrich is a combustible bloviator; and Ron Paul is a nutty America-hater.

What about Rick Perry?  Last September, he was the GOP’s latest, greatest hope for about three invigorating weeks.  The only—only—reason Republican voters abandoned him in droves after his bump in the polls was his clunky and unscripted performance in the first few debates—a flaw he’s long since overcome.  Perry’s marble-mouthed tendencies have been limited thus far to one format—the presidential primary debate—and even there he’s improved dramatically, such that commentators have been gushing, “Perry had a really good night!” and “This was the best Perry debate performance so far!”

(I don’t fault Perry for not being able to remember the third agency he would close; there are so many I would shut down, I also would lose track.  When Ron Paul helpfully offered “EPA?” I would have said, “That too!”)

Perry detractors who are incessantly angling for Romney argue that the country doesn’t want another cowboy as president, but those objections are more stylistic than ideological.  I’m confident that conservatives would warm to a President Perry who repealed ObamaCare and rid us of the Commerce, Education, and Energy Departments, even if his Texas twang recalled George W. Bush’s.  As for liberals’ being driven clinically insane by another Lone Star president: Are we seriously counting that as a negative?

As RedState notes in a lengthy, thoughtful endorsement, Governor Perry snatched the Texas governorship at a time when the state was left-leaning; he has won more state elections than all the other candidates combined; and he boasts a fearsome track record as a limited-government conservative.

Perry doesn’t have Romney’s real-world business experience—we could argue whether it’s more appropriate for a president to have private or public sector experience—but he is the longest-serving governor in the nation’s second-largest state, which suggests he’s been doing something right as an executive.

Perry opponents quibble about his support for in-state tuition for the children of illegal immigrants and his introduction and retraction of an opt-out HPV vaccination for young girls—minor issues that don’t loom large in the big picture.  I’ll trade you one Romneycare for a Gardasil any day.

Some who viewed Saturday night’s debate were aghast at Perry’s heretical suggestion that we send troops back to Iraq if need be to consolidate and preserve the fragile security gains we made during our eight-year war there.  To any conservative who believes Obama removed troops from Iraq prematurely and precipitously to fulfill a campaign promise to the anti-war left, Perry’s suggestion is logical and common-sensical.  Would conservatives prefer we send troops back to Iraq in ten years to fight this war again after conditions dramatically worsen because we didn’t finish it the first time?

Perry is the only candidate who’s served in the military other than Paul, the latter of whom has more or less pledged to decimate it.  I think we can safely assume that Perry, of all candidates, would not take lightly the decision to send troops in harm’s way.

Perry’s gotten flack for calling Social Security a Ponzi scheme—it’s not; it’s much worse—and labeling the Fed’s quantitative easing program “almost treasonous.”  As for the latter, he did say “almost,” and in this era of trillion-dollar deficits, I’d wager that our greatest danger is underreacting to the federal government’s overreach, not overreacting.

Perry deserves major points for expressing “inappropriate” enthusiasm for the death penalty for aggravated violent crimes, which are particularly prevalent in his state—and would prevail even more under a liberal, soft-on-crime governor.

Perry has taken brave, “extremist” positions on abolishing the 16th and 17th Amendments to the Constitution, which would rid us of cancers like Olympia Snowe and the IRS, respectively.

Of course Perry didn’t make a dent in New Hampshire’s primary on Tuesday, where he didn’t even campaign, but with any luck he’ll make a strong enough showing in the Palmetto State next Saturday to encourage him to stay in the race.

Before Mitt kills it in South Carolina and we succumb to “Romney is the inevitable nominee” fever, please, early primary and caucus states that have yet to vote, give Rick Perry—a flawed but underappreciated candidate—one more careful look.

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Top 10 Conservatives of 2011

November 30, 2011 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Miscellaneous

Top 10 Conservatives of 2011

Image by Scott Spiegel via Flickr

10. Andrew Cuomo – Yes, really.  As I wrote earlier this year, “When Democrats cut spending and refuse to raise taxes, as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has—i.e. when they abandon their party’s core philosophy and govern like conservatives—they enjoy skyrocketing popularity ratings and set their constituents on a path to financial solvency.”  Cuomo’s late-career, probably temporary, but remarkable conversion followed the example set by New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who also stood up to public sector unions, slashed spending, and held down taxes.

9. Darrell Issa – California Representative Darrell Issa held hearings this summer on the Justice Department’s botched, scandalous Operation Fast and Furious gun-trafficking sting operation, including gripping testimony from ATF officials from Phoenix and Mexico.  Recently Attorney General Eric Holder was forced to admit that Fast and Furious was “flawed in its concept and flawed in its execution”—kind of like his boss’s presidency.  Along with the Treasury Department’s pursuit of the administration’s tainted $535 million loan to solar energy company Solyndra, Issa’s persistent work erased the laughable notion that the corrupt Obama tenure has remained blissfully transgression-free.

8. Peter King – New York Representative Peter King bucked controversy by holding hearings on whether Muslim Americans were becoming radicalized and linking with terrorist groups to plot attacks on home soil.  From my column “Liberals’ Game of Cat-and-Muslim”: “[King] held a hearing on whether al-Qaeda is trying to recruit young Muslims in the U.S. and whether Muslim Americans are sufficiently cooperating with federal officials…  [H]undreds of willfully naïve, politically correct New Yorkers gathered in Times Square, steps from where [Faisal] Shahzad tried to kill hundreds of New Yorkers, to protest King’s hearing as racist and Islamophobic.”

7. Mitch Daniels – Second-term Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels navigated such juvenile obstructions as Democratic legislators walking out to protest Republicans’ agenda, and ultimately got the bulk of long-stalled GOP legislation passed in the state.  Daniels wowed CPAC with a speech on fiscal austerity that included such zingers as “Our morbidly obese federal government needs, not just behavior modification, but bariatric surgery” and his reference to federal debt as “the new red menace.”  One of the only feasible GOP presidential candidates both conservative and articulate, Daniels declined to run this year despite widespread pressure to do so.

6. Pat Toomey – The deficit reduction supercommittee boasted only one reliable fiscal conservative: Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey.  All five other GOP members voted for the boneheaded budget bill in August that unnecessarily raised the debt ceiling.  Without Toomey, Republican supercommittee members might have caved to Democratic pressure to raise tax rates on high-income earners.  The committee failed—which, given Democratic intransigence, is the best outcome we could have hoped for.  Toomey’s first year in office after dispensing with Joe Sestak in hostile blue-state territory in the 2010 midterms was a resounding success.

5. Rick Perry – Texas governor and presidential candidate Rick Perry held the distinction of leading the state that oversaw 40% of all new U.S. jobs created since the recovery began, triple the number of the next-closest competitor New York, with over 1 million added since he took office.  Texas’s jobs boom resulted not just from rising oil prices—private sector industries such as construction, hospitality, and professional services also saw growth—but also Perry’s understanding of the hindrance excessive regulation places on incentives to invest and hire.  Perry offered a more conservative alternative to Mitt Romney, thus helping push the GOP front-runner to the right.

4. Herman Cain – Businessman, radio host, rocket scientist, and presidential candidate Herman Cain spent the year touting his 9-9-9 flat tax plan, which would gut the federal tax code and replace it with a 9% federal income tax, 9% corporate tax, and 9% national sales tax.  Rick Perry produced a copycat plan, and Newt Gingrich revived his old plan, and suddenly the nation began seriously debating the merits of flat tax plans for the first time since Steve Forbes’ last run.  And did you know that, back in the day, as president-elect of the National Restaurant Association, Cain was one of the most vocal critics of Hillarycare?

3. Ann Coulter – The left-wing, Obama-endorsed Occupy Wall Street movement that seeped into the national consciousness like a whiff of raw sewage had no concrete antagonists, just the sorry spectacle of a bunch of hippy retreads and trust fund brats battling hypothermia and body lice in tent cities around the country.  Ann Coulter was the conservative who foretold it best, in her bestseller Demonic: How the Liberal Mob Is Endangering America.  From the book jacket: “The Democratic Party activates mobs, depends on mobs, coddles mobs, publicizes and celebrates mobs—it is the mob.”

2. Scott Walker – From “Wisconsin’s Government Cheese Revolution”: “Governor Scott Walker… proposed a bill that would… prevent [public sector] unions from forcing members to pay dues, require annual secret ballots on whether to remain unionized, and ask members to contribute a pittance toward their lavish pensions and health care plans.”  Walker’s courage in standing his ground in the face of protestors calling him Hitler and Hosni Mubarak, and Democratic legislators fleeing the state to avoid voting on the bill, presaged the guts that mayors around the country didn’t have in dealing with Occupy Wall Street.

1. Michele Bachmann – Minnesota Representative and Tea Party leader Bachmann embodied the best combination of conservative/articulate out of all the 2012 GOP presidential nominees; it’s inexplicable that she isn’t doing better in the polls.  From my column “CDC Prepares for Outbreak of Bachmann Derangement Syndrome”: “Bachmann has labeled herself a ‘constitutional conservative’—precisely the correct label to use in this bizarre era of pay czars, light bulb bans, and trillion-dollar deficits…  Bachmann [took] leadership roles on… repealing [Dodd-Frank] and replacing ObamaCare with free market reforms.”  Here’s hoping she can at least snag the VP slot.

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Tax the 47% So They’ll Leave the Other 53% Alone

October 26, 2011 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Economy

tax code

Image by Scott Spiegel via Flickr

Presidential candidate Herman Cain has been touting his 9-9-9 tax plan, which would replace the three-million-word tax code with a flat 9% federal income tax, 9% corporate tax, and 9% national sales tax.

Fellow candidate Rick Perry recently proposed a flat tax of 20% on earned income and 20% on corporate income, and a simplification of the tax code, including elimination of loopholes and eradication of the death tax.  Newt Gingrich has similarly suggested a 15% flat tax.

These plans recall the flat tax Steve Forbes campaigned for president on in 1996 and 2000.  All of these plans would massively reduce the U.S.’s collective tax compliance cost to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars.  (Though liberals don’t realize it, it would be a fantastic thing for our economy if every employee of the Internal Revenue Service and H&R Block, and every tax lawyer, accountant, and tax preparation service employee lost his job and had to go out and find useful productive employment.)

In response to these thoughtful Republican proposals, liberals are screaming that conservatives’ plan for getting us out of our present fiscal crisis is to “tax the poor.”

If only we could get out of our current budget predicament by taxing the poor.  In fact, we can’t even get out of it by taxing the rich.

As has been amply demonstrated, massively increasing taxes on high earners wouldn’t come close to relieving our budget woes.  These can be alleviated only via radical entitlement reform.  Eating the rich now will not ensure an enriching long-term diet for the nation later.

The reason conservatives have been advocating flatter taxes is not that they want to “balance the budget on the backs of the poor,” or some other such nonsense.  It’s so that the 47% of the population who, due to the expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit over the past several decades, pays no federal income tax will be forced to contribute something, however measly, to the country’s tax revenue.

Free market types don’t want to raise taxes on the poor to be meanies.  They just want liberals to stop demanding that high earners pay more, and Democrats to stop spending so much, and are willing to call the left out by shining a blinding spotlight on how little almost half the population pays to fund our government.

Conservatives hope that if the income of the lower-earning half of the electorate were considered fair game, then maybe the voters who receive it wouldn’t be so quick to rally around politicians who want to increase spending via public boondoggles like Obama’s Jobs Act, which will have to be paid for via tax revenue.

If Democratic politicians weren’t constantly dreaming up new ways to steal and waste the hard-earned income of the nation’s most productive citizens, perhaps so many Republican candidates wouldn’t be gaining traction by proposing that a greater proportion of society have some “skin in the game.”

And contrary to Democrats’ claims, a flat tax doesn’t “help” or “benefit” the rich—it merely punishes them a little less.  If Occupy Wall Street types weren’t going around hollering that the rich should be even more exorbitantly taxed than they are now—the highest-earning 1% already shoulder 40% of the federal tax burden, a fact of which most protestors seem blissfully unaware—then the glaring lunacy of their demand that the rich pay their fair share wouldn’t be so ripe for ridicule.

It’s possible that neither Cain nor Perry is the best Republican candidate to deliver the flat tax message, since each seems to have some difficulty explaining the intricacies of his policies to audiences (though see Perry’s fine Wall Street Journal editorial outlining his plan).  But having three of the most prominent candidates pushing for a flat tax may pressure other candidates to endorse similar plans, should they secure the nomination (ahem, Mitt Romney).

Liberals must be scared that these flat tax proposals will resonate with voters, as witnessed by the flurry of recent editorials declaring, not that the plans won’t work, but that smart voters would never, ever go for them.

Conservatives often play the game of asking liberals how much those earners in the highest tax bracket should pay—that is, how much would satisfy the left’s desire to bash the rich.  50% of their income?  60%?  70%?

How about a different game: What percentage of their income would it be fair to ask those in the lower 47% to pay?  Would 10% a year be too much too ask?  How about 5%?  1%?

Something greater than 0.00%?

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A Conservative Who Can Talk

September 28, 2011 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Elections: 2012


FiveThirtyEight whiz Nate Silver recently asked whether Chris Christie is the anti-Romney or the anti-Perry.

The answer is yes.

Christie is the anti-Romney, because he genuinely and unapologetically embraces and enacts conservative policies, at least on fiscal matters—in particular entitlement reform, the most important policy realm our nation currently faces.

Critics charge that he’s not consistently conservative on issues such as global warming and gun control.  Yet Rick Perry critics complain that he’s not consistently conservative on issues such as immigration and the HPV vaccine, and most people wouldn’t call Perry a liberal.

Christie is the anti-Perry, because he knows how to identify, articulate, and justify his positions, using fiery, uncompromising rhetoric that doesn’t sound rehearsed, and isn’t afraid to say things that tick off hallowed interest groups.

Critics charge that he’s arrogant, has a temper, and insults people.  Yet his style has proven wildly popular with voters who are fed up with politicians who can’t or won’t stand up to bullying public employee unions that are bankrupting the nation’s most populous states.

If Mitt Romney held more consistently conservative positions on the major issues of the day, he’d be able to articulate them to voters.  But he doesn’t.

If Rick Perry were more articulate and had a better understanding of the issues, his positions would be conservative enough for most Republicans.  But he isn’t.

The other candidates still in the running all have their weaknesses, with most embodying one of the fatal flaws represented by frontrunners Romney and Perry.

Ron Paul is blisteringly conservative on economic issues but crazily isolationist on foreign policy, to the extent that he thinks Iran should be allowed to build nuclear weapons to defend themselves against the U.S., and to the degree that he approvingly quotes Osama bin Laden’s reasons for attacking us on 9/11.  Newt Gingrich led the Republican Revolution of 1995 and enacted welfare reform, but is prone to making insane statements such as claiming that repealing ObamaCare involves as much abridgment of people’s liberty as enacting it.

Michele Bachmann is a solid conservative, but is prone to gaffes and sloppy slips of the tongue such as her mindboggling insinuation that the HPV vaccine causes mental retardation.  Herman Cain is a successful former businessman with sensible ideas about the economy but a stunning, blissful ignorance about foreign policy.

Michael Barone correctly notes that just about the only remaining feasible Republican presidential candidates who both are conservative enough and know how to speak without sounding like idiots are Mitch Daniels, Paul Ryan, and Chris Christie.  Daniels is concerned about his family’s privacy and has decided not to run; Ryan is young, early on in his career, and clearly has no intention of running in 2012.

That leaves Christie, who has certainly denied numerous times that he is running, but whose supporters and staffers seem to be leaking rumors that he may change his mind.  Christie has spent the past few months jetting around the country speaking at high-profile Republican fundraisers, giving speeches at prominent venues such as the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, and meeting with potential donors.

Elsewhere I have written at length about why we should encourage Christie in particular to run, including the fact that Republican candidates for governor did well in 2010 in part by emulating his substance and style; that he knows how to take the fight to his opponents; that his popularity among Republican voters is underreported; and that his electability among independents and Democrats is underappreciated.

Christie’s not perfect.  But where is the glaring RomneyCare albatross–whose defense Romney cheekily deleted from the paperback version of his book No Apology—in Christie’s past that will come back to haunt him in the general election, when voters are focused perhaps foremost on repealing ObamaCare?

Christie’s not perfect.  But where are the embarrassing misstatements—like Perry’s lame, botched attack on Romney’s flip-flopping in last week’s debate in Orlando—that lead us to fear Christie will flounder in debates with the supposedly golden-voiced Obama?

Contrast Christie, if you will, with the Republicans’ 2008 nominee, John McCain, who combined the worst aspects of Romney and Perry: liberal policies and inarticulateness.  Republicans should never again have to suffer the ignominy of a nominee who differs only a little bit from the Democratic candidate—or who can’t convincingly explain why he’s to the right of Barack Obama.

The conservative establishment prefers Romney to Perry because they believe him to be more electable.  Some commentators, such as columnist Sandy Rios, believe Republicans will break for Perry over Romney because people “prefer an honest hesitator over a slickster with all the answers.”

But why should Republicans have to choose between a conservative and someone who can talk?

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Social Security: Too Shady To Be Called a Ponzi Scheme

September 14, 2011 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Economy

Social Security Poster: old man

Image via Wikipedia

Recently Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney criticized fellow contender Rick Perry for labeling Social Security a Ponzi scheme.  Romney extolled the virtues of the soon-to-be-bankrupt program and vowed to support its continuance unconditionally if elected.

A Ponzi scheme, so named after white-collar criminal Charles Ponzi, involves a huckster collecting money from numerous investors who are promised a high or reliable return on their investment, with payments being made by future investors lured in by similar promises of financial gain.  The scheme is unsustainable, because dividends received are not actually invested, and are not equaled by the dividends promised to investors.  Earlier investors fare better than later investors, who lose their money once the scheme collapses.

Sound familiar?

Social Security, signed into law by white-collar criminal Franklin Delano Roosevelt, involves the federal government collecting money from all working citizens, who are promised a reliable pension when they retire, with payments being made by subsequent generations who are dragged into the program.  The system is unsustainable because, due to slowing population increases and politicians raiding the Social Security Trust Fund, most payroll taxes received are not actually invested, and are not equaled by the payments promised to retirees.  Earlier generations fare better than later generations, who will not receive benefits once the system collapses.

The history of Social Security’s establishment and implementation reveal that Governor Perry is wrong about the program’s being a Ponzi scheme.  It is much worse.

Social Security is bigger, by many orders of magnitude, than any Ponzi scheme ever enacted in human history.  It is the largest government program in the world, and the biggest component of U.S. federal expenditures.  Social Security is to the average Ponzi scheme what the Great Pyramid of Giza is to a traffic cone.

Social Security is involuntary, whereas Ponzi schemes are at least voluntary.  Though applying for a Social Security number is not technically mandatory to live and work in the U.S., the Internal Revenue Service and other agencies require it, which forces everyone to participate in the program, or makes their lives very difficult if they don’t.

Social Security is better disguised than a Ponzi scheme, and thus more insidious.  Unlike a Ponzi scheme, the true nature of Social Security is hidden in broad daylight, which lulls ordinary citizens into thinking it couldn’t possibly be as fraudulent or unsustainable as it is.

Social Security is longer-lasting than any real-life Ponzi scheme.  Whereas most Ponzi schemes are lucky to survive a few months, Social Security has continued for over 75 years.

Social Security’s insolvency won’t affect young, naïve, retrainable investors, but rather elderly people at the potentially neediest and most vulnerable stage of their lives.

All of the above negative consequences of Social Security are a direct result of its being administered by the federal government.

Government has access to billions of participants, trillions of dollars in capital, and decades of time to continue the ruse.

Government forces all citizens to participate, even if they’d rather keep their money, invest as they choose, and take their chances later in life.

Government gives Social Security its imprimatur—whatever that’s worth these days.  Most members of both major political parties approve of continuing Social Security more or less as is.  The program is referred to as the “third rail” of politics, meaning that if you touch it, you die politically.  It is as though Bernard Madoff were a major donor to both parties, and Congress refused to question his investment strategies because Madoff were considered the “third rail” of politics.

Government designed Social Security to increase its ability to control the populace, by forcing them to pay in when they’re young and healthy and then meting out or scaling back benefits when they’re old and infirm.  (By “government,” of course, I mean Democrats.)  The Supreme Court actually ruled, in Flemming v. Nestor (1960), that the Social Security Administration is not legally required to pay benefits to retirees who have contributed to the system their whole lives, if it finds itself in a pinch: “To engraft upon the Social Security System a concept of ‘accrued property rights’ would deprive it of the flexibility and boldness in adjustment to ever-changing conditions which it demands…”  Would that everyday businesses were afforded the same “flexibility” and “boldness” to decide not to honor their contracts in order to better adjust to “ever-changing conditions.”

Supporters of Social Security only wish it had the air of respectability of a garden-variety Ponzi scheme.  Then we could send the fraudulent originators to jail, cut our losses, and start over.

Instead, we’re saddled for eternity with the mother of all entitlement programs, the granddaddy of confidence games, the oldest relic of the Seven Entitlement Wonders of the Modern World.  Even supposedly conservative presidential candidates—including, sadly, Rick Perry—are now duking it out to show how badly they want to preserve this fraud.

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Global Warming Fanatics: This Generation’s Flat-Earthers

August 31, 2011 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Environmentalism

flat earth

Image by Scott Spiegel via Flickr

No longer content to compare global warming skeptics to mere Holocaust deniers, Al Gore recently implied that climate doubters will someday be seen as this generation’s Klansmen.

In an interview with the Climate Reality Project, Gore declared that the civil rights and climate change movements are similar in that both harbor a profound moral component.  (Honestly, Gore’s new comparison lacks the punch of “Today the evidence of an ecological Kristallnacht is as clear as the sound of glass shattering in Berlin.”)

The bloated old walrus offered his awestruck, rosy-cheeked interviewer a two-pronged strategy that global warming believers should adapt from anti-racism protestors to “win the conversation.”  First, global warming fanatics should persuade non-believers through facts; second, they should confront “inappropriate” statements by expressing loud disapproval just as if they were racial slurs.

I could be wrong, but I think in order to “win the conversation,” you have to actually have a conversation first, at least one in which both sides are allowed to speak.  Yet the Goracle is notoriously reluctant to accept invitations to debate climate change skeptics such as brilliant mathematician and former Margaret Thatcher advisor Christopher Monckton—probably because he knows Monckton has enough logic and facts at his disposal to mop the floor with Gore.

In his Climate Reality Project interview, Gore claims that it is no more difficult for warming adherents to “win the conversation” on global warming than it was for pro-equality Southerners to “win the conversation” on racism.  In other words, put Gore on record as stating that it’s no more accepted fact that people should be judged by the content of their character than it is that the folks who overestimated the impact of Hurricane Irene on New York City by an order of magnitude can tell us how many degrees warmer the planet will be in 100 years.

Gore also chides Texas Governor and presidential candidate Rick Perry for claiming that the world’s scientists are in on a vast conspiracy to profit from preventive actions to halt climate change.  In fact, Perry said no such thing.  What Perry said is that climate change has become a politicized issue—which it has—and that key researchers have been caught shielding data from the public—which they have.  Perry also noted that scientists have been stepping forward en masse to express skepticism about climate change science—which is true.

It is also true that a prevailing orthodoxy has set in regarding climate change, such that skepticism is discouraged, and only research expected to confirm the outlines of preordained alarmist conclusions is deemed fundable by government agencies and even most private foundations.  It’s unlikely that scientists the world over think as objectively about climate change as they would if there were equally large gobs of money for research opposing the notion of manmade global warming.

But back to Gore’s ludicrous race-climate comparison: Since he brought it up, it’s worth noting that most climate change skeptics these days are Republicans.  In contrast, the most recalcitrant racists from the 1950s and 1960s were Southern Democrats—like Gore’s father, Al Gore Sr., who voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and Bull Connor, whom Gore cites for his brutal act of turning fire hoses on protestors.  So comparing Republicans to civil rights opponents may not be Gore’s best rhetorical move.

Meanwhile, noted climatologist Paul Krugman advances the skeptic-bashing on another front by sneering that Republicans are “anti-science,” “anti-knowledge,” and “anti-intellectualism.”

Let’s see: What does the science tell us about climate change?  For one thing, it tells us that there has been no statistically significant rise in global temperature over the last 16 years, even though CO2 emissions have increased.  It tells us that there has even been evidence of global cooling over the last 11 years.

The science tells us that 9 out the past 11 winters have delivered above-average snowfall and below-average temperatures to North America, Europe, and Asia.

The science tells us that H20, not CO2, is by far the biggest greenhouse gas—though I don’t recall Democratic politicians’ calling for a ban on sprinklers watering the neatly manicured lawns at their beachfront resorts.

If all of this were really about the science, then climate “scientists” would be aggressively working to falsify accepted hypotheses, challenge conventional knowledge, and test the rigor of their models—not toadying up to politicized government funding agencies that hand out taxpayer-funded research money like candy.

Far from resembling Gore’s smear of narrow-minded segregationists, climate change skeptics have demonstrated abundant open-mindedness and courage in their willingness to confront institutionalized wrongheadedness and public acceptance of falsehoods.  These qualities suggest that, if right, global warming skeptics will someday be seen as this generation’s moral heroes.

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