Category: William Sullivan

208944.png

Nike Goes Long on Kaepernick and America's Self-Hatred


Anyone paying the slightest bit of attention, however, knows that nothing could be further from the truth.

First of all, as someone who watched the guy play for years, I take issue with the Nike’s choice to nourish this ridiculous myth that Kaepernick somehow wasn’t allowed to reach his peak athletic greatness in the NFL because he chose to take center stage as a Black Lives Matter protestor.

The unspoken truth in this campaign is that Kaepernick was just not a very good quarterback by NFL standards.  Yes, he took over for an injured Alex Smith in 2012 to lead the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl.  After that, however, he fell hard from that early and short-lived pinnacle in his career.  In what you might call his three-season heyday of 2012-2014, he did manage to rack up an incredible 1,500+ rushing yards in San Francisco’s read-option scheme.  Yet even in these, his very best years, he was still one of “the league’s least-accurate passers,” according to Kevin Seifert at ESPN. 

In 2015 and 2016, he ranked 35th in off-target passing percentage (22.6%) and 32nd in completion percentage (59.1%).  These numbers are nothing short of abysmal.

Unsurprisingly, the beginning of the 2017 NFL season found him as a 29-year-old free agent, and all but washed up as an NFL starter.  “There’s no more important attribute for a quarterback than accuracy, especially for a free agent who is shopping himself to teams with various schemes,” Seifert writes. 

In short, protest or no protest, Kaepernick would likely be a backup today, at best.  Just as he was a backup when he first decided to kneel for the National Anthem in 2016.

Is that the “everything” that he “sacrificed?”

And what did Kaepernick “believe” so fervently that he “sacrificed” all of that mediocrity to promote it? 

He proudly refused “to stand up and show pride” in the American flag, because America is nothing more, in his mind, than “a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”  He believes that police officers are pigs (if we are to believe his socks represent his beliefs) who stalk the streets at night looking to maim and murder black people for no reason at all.  He praised mass-murderer and Communist Fidel Castro who made slaves of the Cuban people, while he enjoys the free speech rights allowing him to become millions of dollars richer via Nike endorsements. 

Perhaps the best indication of his deeper beliefs occurred back in November of 2016, when he invoked radical Black Panther ideology, hosting a “Black Panther-inspired youth camp” in which campers wore a T-shirt with “10 rights listed on the back that organizers said every child of color should know.”  These “10 rights” were “inspired by the popular Ten-Point Program created by the Black Panther Party,” which, at that time, had just “celebrated its 50th anniversary.”

The Washington Times reports this all very nonchalantly.  But what some of us know, though the general public may not, is that the Ten-Point Program he pressed upon those children was a racist call for revolutionary socialism and violence against White Americans.  Among these Ten Points is a suggestion that “the federal government has the obligation to give every man employment or guaranteed income.”  If the “White American businessman will not give full employment, then the means of production must be taken from the businessman and placed in the community.”

These points also include the demand that black men are to be exempt from military service so as not to “be forced to fight in the military service to defend a racist government” and a demand that “all Black people should be released from the many jails and prisons” because they have all, ostensibly, been wrongfully been imprisoned due to the color of their skin.

All of that militant radicalism and America-hatred is what Colin Kaepernick believes so fervently that he bravely gave up a few more years of being a backup in the NFL to promote it.

I have no idea how Nike’s new ad campaign will fare in a business sense.  Marketing data undoubtedly suggest that younger demographics may respond well to this campaign, and it may yield increased revenues for the company.

Dave Portnoy, founder of Barstool Sports, told Tucker Carlson on Wednesday that, “as a shareholder, I like the move.  Everyone’s talking about it, it makes [Nike] relevant.” 

Carlson went on to say, “So you think they’re going to gain more from people who are “fighting the power” with millionaire Colin Kaepernick than they will lose from people like me, who are, like, “I’m New Balance from here on out?””

Portnoy chides Carlson by saying, “I’d like to see the pair of Nikes you wore, ’cause I’m willing to bet they’re not that trendy, not that hip.”

Nike’s almost certainly thinking the same thing.  But consider that, perhaps, Portnoy and Nike are missing a key factor here. 

Who often buys the products, after all?

Take me, for instance.  I’m a husband, and dad of two, in my thirties.  I’d never suggest that I’m trendy or hip, and no, I don’t wear the most expensive Nike sneakers every day. 

However, I do own two pair of Nike cross-trainers that I regularly wear to the gym.  In fact, I think I’ve bought (or have had bought for me) a pair of Nike sneakers every year for as long as I can remember. 

And don’t get me started about the gear.  My family and I own countless shirts, pairs of shorts and wind pants, hats, etc. that bear Nike’s trademark Swoosh.  And I think I can safely say that I have, for years, annually spent at least $3-400 on Nike shoes and gear for me, my children, or as birthday or Christmas gifts for family members.

But I’m not going to buy Nike anything for myself, my kids, or anyone else as long as Kaepernick remains a face of the brand.  I’d wager I’m not alone in that. 

Nike’s certainly free to alienate unhip thirty-somethings like me.  Maybe that’s part of their good business move, I guess.  Time will tell.  But if I were a betting man, I’d bet that the move might yield a lot of grandparents, parents, and generally less-hip-older folks (you know, people with money) who have historically bought their product who will, in the future, choose to buy different products because of this stupid, tone-deaf marketing campaign celebrating a militant, mediocre sports figure who clearly and proudly hates everything for which America stands.

William Sullivan blogs at Political Palaver and can be followed on Twitter.

Nike, the world’s leading athletic footwear and apparel brand, recently made Colin Kaepernick the face most identifiable with the company after it released an ad with his picture, captioned: “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”  Kaepernick utters those very words in Nike’s new commercial, which depicts him staring reverently at the American flag.

The ad campaign seeks to present Kaepernick as a patriot who loves America, in spite of his having become a victim of its intolerance. 

Anyone paying the slightest bit of attention, however, knows that nothing could be further from the truth.

First of all, as someone who watched the guy play for years, I take issue with the Nike’s choice to nourish this ridiculous myth that Kaepernick somehow wasn’t allowed to reach his peak athletic greatness in the NFL because he chose to take center stage as a Black Lives Matter protestor.

The unspoken truth in this campaign is that Kaepernick was just not a very good quarterback by NFL standards.  Yes, he took over for an injured Alex Smith in 2012 to lead the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl.  After that, however, he fell hard from that early and short-lived pinnacle in his career.  In what you might call his three-season heyday of 2012-2014, he did manage to rack up an incredible 1,500+ rushing yards in San Francisco’s read-option scheme.  Yet even in these, his very best years, he was still one of “the league’s least-accurate passers,” according to Kevin Seifert at ESPN. 

In 2015 and 2016, he ranked 35th in off-target passing percentage (22.6%) and 32nd in completion percentage (59.1%).  These numbers are nothing short of abysmal.

Unsurprisingly, the beginning of the 2017 NFL season found him as a 29-year-old free agent, and all but washed up as an NFL starter.  “There’s no more important attribute for a quarterback than accuracy, especially for a free agent who is shopping himself to teams with various schemes,” Seifert writes. 

In short, protest or no protest, Kaepernick would likely be a backup today, at best.  Just as he was a backup when he first decided to kneel for the National Anthem in 2016.

Is that the “everything” that he “sacrificed?”

And what did Kaepernick “believe” so fervently that he “sacrificed” all of that mediocrity to promote it? 

He proudly refused “to stand up and show pride” in the American flag, because America is nothing more, in his mind, than “a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”  He believes that police officers are pigs (if we are to believe his socks represent his beliefs) who stalk the streets at night looking to maim and murder black people for no reason at all.  He praised mass-murderer and Communist Fidel Castro who made slaves of the Cuban people, while he enjoys the free speech rights allowing him to become millions of dollars richer via Nike endorsements. 

Perhaps the best indication of his deeper beliefs occurred back in November of 2016, when he invoked radical Black Panther ideology, hosting a “Black Panther-inspired youth camp” in which campers wore a T-shirt with “10 rights listed on the back that organizers said every child of color should know.”  These “10 rights” were “inspired by the popular Ten-Point Program created by the Black Panther Party,” which, at that time, had just “celebrated its 50th anniversary.”

The Washington Times reports this all very nonchalantly.  But what some of us know, though the general public may not, is that the Ten-Point Program he pressed upon those children was a racist call for revolutionary socialism and violence against White Americans.  Among these Ten Points is a suggestion that “the federal government has the obligation to give every man employment or guaranteed income.”  If the “White American businessman will not give full employment, then the means of production must be taken from the businessman and placed in the community.”

These points also include the demand that black men are to be exempt from military service so as not to “be forced to fight in the military service to defend a racist government” and a demand that “all Black people should be released from the many jails and prisons” because they have all, ostensibly, been wrongfully been imprisoned due to the color of their skin.

All of that militant radicalism and America-hatred is what Colin Kaepernick believes so fervently that he bravely gave up a few more years of being a backup in the NFL to promote it.

I have no idea how Nike’s new ad campaign will fare in a business sense.  Marketing data undoubtedly suggest that younger demographics may respond well to this campaign, and it may yield increased revenues for the company.

Dave Portnoy, founder of Barstool Sports, told Tucker Carlson on Wednesday that, “as a shareholder, I like the move.  Everyone’s talking about it, it makes [Nike] relevant.” 

Carlson went on to say, “So you think they’re going to gain more from people who are “fighting the power” with millionaire Colin Kaepernick than they will lose from people like me, who are, like, “I’m New Balance from here on out?””

Portnoy chides Carlson by saying, “I’d like to see the pair of Nikes you wore, ’cause I’m willing to bet they’re not that trendy, not that hip.”

Nike’s almost certainly thinking the same thing.  But consider that, perhaps, Portnoy and Nike are missing a key factor here. 

Who often buys the products, after all?

Take me, for instance.  I’m a husband, and dad of two, in my thirties.  I’d never suggest that I’m trendy or hip, and no, I don’t wear the most expensive Nike sneakers every day. 

However, I do own two pair of Nike cross-trainers that I regularly wear to the gym.  In fact, I think I’ve bought (or have had bought for me) a pair of Nike sneakers every year for as long as I can remember. 

And don’t get me started about the gear.  My family and I own countless shirts, pairs of shorts and wind pants, hats, etc. that bear Nike’s trademark Swoosh.  And I think I can safely say that I have, for years, annually spent at least $3-400 on Nike shoes and gear for me, my children, or as birthday or Christmas gifts for family members.

But I’m not going to buy Nike anything for myself, my kids, or anyone else as long as Kaepernick remains a face of the brand.  I’d wager I’m not alone in that. 

Nike’s certainly free to alienate unhip thirty-somethings like me.  Maybe that’s part of their good business move, I guess.  Time will tell.  But if I were a betting man, I’d bet that the move might yield a lot of grandparents, parents, and generally less-hip-older folks (you know, people with money) who have historically bought their product who will, in the future, choose to buy different products because of this stupid, tone-deaf marketing campaign celebrating a militant, mediocre sports figure who clearly and proudly hates everything for which America stands.

William Sullivan blogs at Political Palaver and can be followed on Twitter.



Source link

208825.jpg

Double-Double Failure for the Left's Fast Food Boycotts


We all remember when, in 2012, the left pressed for a massive boycott against Chick-fil-A for the company’s stance on a definition of “marriage” that includes same-sex couples.  In short, CEO Dan Cathy had expressed some opinions in favor of the traditional (or Biblical, as he refers to it) definition of marriage, and the left lost its collective mind.

Leftists demanded a boycott, suggesting that all Americans who ate at Chick-fil-A were not just Americans who happened to like chicken sandwiches more than they cared about the extremely partisan smear campaign, but that anyone who would eat at Chick-fil-A is an evil person who hates gay people. 

Some would argue that the efforts backfired when the restaurant chain immediately experienced a “record-setting day,” as “supporters thronged to many of its 1,600 locations, causing traffic jams and hours-long waits.”  Chick-fil-A saw massive turnout from supporters aligning with Dan Cathy’s political statements in the weeks after the calls for boycott.  Then the politics faded, and people once again decided to continue patronizing a store with quality food and fantastic service rather than not patronize it because the leftist criers demanded that they not do so. 

The left later tried to make it an issue again, this time spearheaded by New York City mayor Bill de Blasio in late 2015 after the first store was opened in the city.  Immediately after, the chain “gobbl[ed] up market share” among its rivals in the city, and four new stores have been opened there since then.  In July of 2016, Chick-fil-A was named “America’s best fast-food restaurant for the second year in a row.”

But third time’s the charm, as the saying goes.  And so they tried again earlier this year, this time with the Huffington Post editor Noah Michelson writing a “scathing commentary headlined ‘If You Really Love LGBTQ People, You Just Can’t Keep Eating Chick-fil-A.'” 

Talk show host Dave Rubin entered the fray on behalf of the restaurant, tweeting: “Hi, I’m Dave.  I’m married to a dude [sic] and I eat chicken sandwiches whenever I want.”

Rubin’s comment is excellent – not because he’s a gay man, but because it drives right to the heart of the issue.  He chose to eat Chick-fil-A not because he loves their stance on marriage.  He chose to eat it because he likes the sandwiches, it seems – but he appears to love the liberty he enjoys by pointing out that he can do whatever the hell he wants, and he won’t be told what to do by those voices who claim to be the moral arbiters determining what someone can or can’t do if he “loves” gay people.

This was all so juicy to watch for us because we recognized it as the left’s effort to control the political narrative and the American people.  The public smear campaign against Chick-fil-A can be described only as the left’s complete and utter failure to do so, and Chick-fil-A is enjoying “staggering growth” in the fast food marketplace.

The left hasn’t learned the slightest thing from any of that, obviously, because now its acolytes are trying to do the same thing to California’s most popular fast food staple, In-N-Out, known for its trademark double cheeseburger, the Double-Double, and fresh-cut French fries.


Photo credit: Flickr.

Democrats, initially spurred by California DNC chair Eric Bauman, are calling for a boycott of In-N-Out for its having donated $30K to the California GOP in 2017.  “[L]et Trump and his cronies support these creeps,” he tweeted.

“These creeps,” as he put it, are “a California institution that some hold with the same level of esteem as the Golden Gate Bridge and Joshua Tree,” according to the Los Angeles Times.  That alone might run the boycott efforts into the brick wall of regional pride – and there’s nothing more American than that.

But there’s another, more thoughtful reason why Californians and reasonable people everywhere may dismiss the calls to boycott. 

Ashley Reese of The Slot writes that she’s “never been more insulted by a burger” in her life. 

She should have known, she says, that this revelation was coming.  After all, she knew that In-N-Out “hid Bible scriptures on their soda cups and burger wrappers,” and that “reeks of GOP.”  But what’s perhaps most telling is that her indignation continues even though she is quite aware that the chain also donates to Democrats, including $80K “this election cycle to Californians for Jobs and a Strong Economy, a committee focused on electing business-friendly Democrats to the State Legislature.”

In-N-Out quickly addressed the “controversy” in its having donated to Republicans with the following statement: “For years, In-N-Out Burger has supported lawmakers who, regardless of political affiliation, promote policies that strengthen California and allow us to continue operating with the values of providing strong pay and great benefits for our associates.”

To a reasonable observer, that statement suggests balance, not a partisan agenda.

But, Reese whines, “that doesn’t make me feel better, you guys!”

For the increasingly radical and intolerant left, you see, the facts don’t matter.  The only thing that matters is submission to leftists’ preferred agenda, and the fast food chain must support only the political party that leftists support.  Stop everything you’ve done with your family for years, Californians, and boycott the iconic restaurant that has made native Californians happy for generations – not because the delicious food, nostalgic atmosphere, and cost-effective pricing no longer make you happy, but because the left demands that you do so.  After all, the restaurant had the audacity to support Republicans and Democrats!

This boycott will be no more successful than the Chick-fil-A boycott, I predict, likely for the same basic reason.  As Jaime Regalado, emeritus professor of political science at California State University, Los Angeles describes, “[t]he stomach overrules the mind … a cheap, good-tasting burger is hard to dismiss politically.” 

But the premise of left-wing activists for this boycott is even more radical than the boycott of Chick-fil-A, given that In-N-Out’s only crime is that it is beholden to the non-ideological goal of “providing strong pay and great benefits” for its employees and appears to seek bipartisan solutions to attain such progress legislatively.  That is, in fact, what many Americans in the political center want.   

It’s as if the universe is providing us with yet another metaphor for just how radical and intolerant the left is rapidly becoming, and how leftists would rather scream more loudly into their ideological echo chamber than appeal to anyone outside it.

William Sullivan blogs at Political Palaver and can be followed on Twitter.

We all remember when, in 2012, the left pressed for a massive boycott against Chick-fil-A for the company’s stance on a definition of “marriage” that includes same-sex couples.  In short, CEO Dan Cathy had expressed some opinions in favor of the traditional (or Biblical, as he refers to it) definition of marriage, and the left lost its collective mind.

Leftists demanded a boycott, suggesting that all Americans who ate at Chick-fil-A were not just Americans who happened to like chicken sandwiches more than they cared about the extremely partisan smear campaign, but that anyone who would eat at Chick-fil-A is an evil person who hates gay people. 

Some would argue that the efforts backfired when the restaurant chain immediately experienced a “record-setting day,” as “supporters thronged to many of its 1,600 locations, causing traffic jams and hours-long waits.”  Chick-fil-A saw massive turnout from supporters aligning with Dan Cathy’s political statements in the weeks after the calls for boycott.  Then the politics faded, and people once again decided to continue patronizing a store with quality food and fantastic service rather than not patronize it because the leftist criers demanded that they not do so. 

The left later tried to make it an issue again, this time spearheaded by New York City mayor Bill de Blasio in late 2015 after the first store was opened in the city.  Immediately after, the chain “gobbl[ed] up market share” among its rivals in the city, and four new stores have been opened there since then.  In July of 2016, Chick-fil-A was named “America’s best fast-food restaurant for the second year in a row.”

But third time’s the charm, as the saying goes.  And so they tried again earlier this year, this time with the Huffington Post editor Noah Michelson writing a “scathing commentary headlined ‘If You Really Love LGBTQ People, You Just Can’t Keep Eating Chick-fil-A.'” 

Talk show host Dave Rubin entered the fray on behalf of the restaurant, tweeting: “Hi, I’m Dave.  I’m married to a dude [sic] and I eat chicken sandwiches whenever I want.”

Rubin’s comment is excellent – not because he’s a gay man, but because it drives right to the heart of the issue.  He chose to eat Chick-fil-A not because he loves their stance on marriage.  He chose to eat it because he likes the sandwiches, it seems – but he appears to love the liberty he enjoys by pointing out that he can do whatever the hell he wants, and he won’t be told what to do by those voices who claim to be the moral arbiters determining what someone can or can’t do if he “loves” gay people.

This was all so juicy to watch for us because we recognized it as the left’s effort to control the political narrative and the American people.  The public smear campaign against Chick-fil-A can be described only as the left’s complete and utter failure to do so, and Chick-fil-A is enjoying “staggering growth” in the fast food marketplace.

The left hasn’t learned the slightest thing from any of that, obviously, because now its acolytes are trying to do the same thing to California’s most popular fast food staple, In-N-Out, known for its trademark double cheeseburger, the Double-Double, and fresh-cut French fries.


Photo credit: Flickr.

Democrats, initially spurred by California DNC chair Eric Bauman, are calling for a boycott of In-N-Out for its having donated $30K to the California GOP in 2017.  “[L]et Trump and his cronies support these creeps,” he tweeted.

“These creeps,” as he put it, are “a California institution that some hold with the same level of esteem as the Golden Gate Bridge and Joshua Tree,” according to the Los Angeles Times.  That alone might run the boycott efforts into the brick wall of regional pride – and there’s nothing more American than that.

But there’s another, more thoughtful reason why Californians and reasonable people everywhere may dismiss the calls to boycott. 

Ashley Reese of The Slot writes that she’s “never been more insulted by a burger” in her life. 

She should have known, she says, that this revelation was coming.  After all, she knew that In-N-Out “hid Bible scriptures on their soda cups and burger wrappers,” and that “reeks of GOP.”  But what’s perhaps most telling is that her indignation continues even though she is quite aware that the chain also donates to Democrats, including $80K “this election cycle to Californians for Jobs and a Strong Economy, a committee focused on electing business-friendly Democrats to the State Legislature.”

In-N-Out quickly addressed the “controversy” in its having donated to Republicans with the following statement: “For years, In-N-Out Burger has supported lawmakers who, regardless of political affiliation, promote policies that strengthen California and allow us to continue operating with the values of providing strong pay and great benefits for our associates.”

To a reasonable observer, that statement suggests balance, not a partisan agenda.

But, Reese whines, “that doesn’t make me feel better, you guys!”

For the increasingly radical and intolerant left, you see, the facts don’t matter.  The only thing that matters is submission to leftists’ preferred agenda, and the fast food chain must support only the political party that leftists support.  Stop everything you’ve done with your family for years, Californians, and boycott the iconic restaurant that has made native Californians happy for generations – not because the delicious food, nostalgic atmosphere, and cost-effective pricing no longer make you happy, but because the left demands that you do so.  After all, the restaurant had the audacity to support Republicans and Democrats!

This boycott will be no more successful than the Chick-fil-A boycott, I predict, likely for the same basic reason.  As Jaime Regalado, emeritus professor of political science at California State University, Los Angeles describes, “[t]he stomach overrules the mind … a cheap, good-tasting burger is hard to dismiss politically.” 

But the premise of left-wing activists for this boycott is even more radical than the boycott of Chick-fil-A, given that In-N-Out’s only crime is that it is beholden to the non-ideological goal of “providing strong pay and great benefits” for its employees and appears to seek bipartisan solutions to attain such progress legislatively.  That is, in fact, what many Americans in the political center want.   

It’s as if the universe is providing us with yet another metaphor for just how radical and intolerant the left is rapidly becoming, and how leftists would rather scream more loudly into their ideological echo chamber than appeal to anyone outside it.

William Sullivan blogs at Political Palaver and can be followed on Twitter.



Source link

Social Security and Fiscal Doomsday


2035.  That’s the optimistic date for Social Security’s impending doom, after which Social Security is expected to provide only 75-80% of expected benefits to retirees.  For the record, I turn 67 (full retirement age, for me) in 2047, so I, like many Americans, have been skeptical about the program for some time.

But perhaps it’s pertinent to note that when I began following this looming doomsday in earnest, it was projected at 2038.  It’s been creeping forward, with some estimates placing it as early as 2034.

But there’s an interesting thing that happens when people think about Social Security, just as that same interesting thing happens when people imagine the impending doom of municipal and state pension liabilities that are now crippling governments across the country with a roughly $5 trillion hole nationally.  Somehow, Americans think, the money is there if governments are capable of properly managing the inflows from workers, capitalizing upon the underlying investments, and just delivering the outflows to beneficiaries.

Each and every of those assumptions are wrong.

Let’s begin with municipal pensions. 

The inflows from workers in a city, for example, have a direct correlation to tax revenue raised by the populace.  This can vary wildly from decade to decade, city to city, as populations move for new opportunities due to business or governmental policy changes over time, but the municipal pension obligations do not typically change from the baseline optimistic assumptions employed by politicians and union representatives in setting them long ago.

For example, Detroit, once an American city gleaming upon the hill of unionized employment, has, since the 1960s, seen its “population decline by 60%.”

“Rather than reduce the size of government as its population shrank,” Alison Acosta Fraser and Rachel Grezler observe at Heritage, “Detroit sought higher levels of government spending. City leaders, following in the footsteps of automakers, acquiesced to the unions by increasing employee benefits, especially future pensions and retiree health care.”

Now apply this at a larger scale, to a state like California.  “By 2024,” writes Adam Ashton at the Sacramento Bee in an article, the likes of which are becoming increasingly commonplace, “cities anticipate that they will spend an average of 15.8% of their general funds on pensions, up from an average of 8.3% today.” 

This near-doubling of expected expenditures is exacerbated by reductions in returns in the investment forecast of the underlying pension funds.  In the past, you see, pension funds have enjoyed actuarial assumptions based upon more optimistic returns on the funds’ fixed positions, i.e., bond holdings.  Rates of return on those investments have fallen sharply over the past decades, and there is little to suggest a return to “normalcy” in the bond market, so actuaries have rightfully downgraded expected returns.

All of this is to say that, on top of lower interest returns on fixed investments, local and state pension funds are exposed to what retirement planners call the risk of a “sequence-of-returns” risk

If there is a market downturn, and particularly, a long-standing market downturn like we saw in the tech crash of 2000, being forced to liquidate investments to pay obligations will deplete the funds faster than if the funds were able to hold those investments as a typical investor would. 

The average American investor might understand this, in principle.  For example, if you had an IRA (Individual Retirement Account) in 2008, it may have lost 30% or more due to the market crash of the Great Recession.  The government requires that, if you are over the age of 70-and-a-half, that you must begin liquidating money from your tax-sheltered accounts in order for the government to collect the revenue from your doing so.  Congress declared, uniquely in the scope of United States’ tax history, that in 2009 those Americans were not required to take their “required minimum distribution” in that year, thereby not forcing retirees to sell their investments at a dramatic loss, because doing so might be detrimental to the longevity of their retirement accounts.

Pension funds do not have that luxury.  They must liquidate the investments to pay ongoing obligations.

That alone causes myriad problems.  Social Security, however, is a horse of a different color.

Social Security has no underlying investments, as local and state pension funds do.  The “trust fund” for the Social Security Administration simply does not exist. 

The misunderstanding of this principle has led to the fallacies which you’ve undoubtedly heard, or may even believe.  Perhaps you believe, for example, that the Social Security trust fund has been “raided” by politicians over the years.  In truth, Social Security has run at a surplus until 2010, and the Social Security Administration has taken more in revenue than has been necessary to pay its obligations year-to-year until that time.  Excess revenue had, up to that point, only one place to go, by law — to the federal government, and with that money, the federal government issued bonds back to the Social Security Administration with the promise of the repayment of the principal and interest.

What did the federal government do with that excess capital over the years?  They spent it.  It’s now part of the $20+ trillion debt that the federal government owns.

Now, here’s the really important part.

When you hear about the “reserves” of the Social Security trust funds that are meant to keep Social Security afloat until 2035, they’re talking about the repayment of this money by the federal government, and the interest involved.  But the money was never “invested.”  It was given to the government to spend.  And spend that money, the government did.

So, the “reserves” for Social Security now represent nothing more than red on the ledger for the federal government.  To pay for the growing deficit in Social Security revenues versus obligations, the government must take on more debt.

Heritage provides a chart showing the level of these new expenditures relative to government spending:

This is a key component of increasing government spending.  Demographics have hammered the Social Security Administration the same way that they’ve hammered pensions across the country.  The back end of the Baby-Boomer generation is massive.  They will be retiring in even greater numbers in the coming years, further straining these shortsighted redistributive systems to an extent not seen before.

I do not claim to have the political answers to solve the problems that socialistic policies set in place long before I was born.  But I would suggest that addressing the question of entitlement spending, this massive Damocles’ blade hanging above our collective heads, would, at least, be prudent.

Yet no one is clamoring to do so, you’ll notice.

It’s not easy for politicians to encroach the touchstones of socialism which have been embedded in our nation.  I get that.  But if we cannot make practical changes to modestly maintain those foolhardy programs’ sustainability, with working and collecting voters in consideration, we run the risk of running headlong into a million-mile-thick brick wall which may make the American experiment little more than a memory.

William Sullivan can be followed at Political Palaver and can be followed on Twitter.

Image courtesy the Heritage Foundation.

2035.  That’s the optimistic date for Social Security’s impending doom, after which Social Security is expected to provide only 75-80% of expected benefits to retirees.  For the record, I turn 67 (full retirement age, for me) in 2047, so I, like many Americans, have been skeptical about the program for some time.

But perhaps it’s pertinent to note that when I began following this looming doomsday in earnest, it was projected at 2038.  It’s been creeping forward, with some estimates placing it as early as 2034.

But there’s an interesting thing that happens when people think about Social Security, just as that same interesting thing happens when people imagine the impending doom of municipal and state pension liabilities that are now crippling governments across the country with a roughly $5 trillion hole nationally.  Somehow, Americans think, the money is there if governments are capable of properly managing the inflows from workers, capitalizing upon the underlying investments, and just delivering the outflows to beneficiaries.

Each and every of those assumptions are wrong.

Let’s begin with municipal pensions. 

The inflows from workers in a city, for example, have a direct correlation to tax revenue raised by the populace.  This can vary wildly from decade to decade, city to city, as populations move for new opportunities due to business or governmental policy changes over time, but the municipal pension obligations do not typically change from the baseline optimistic assumptions employed by politicians and union representatives in setting them long ago.

For example, Detroit, once an American city gleaming upon the hill of unionized employment, has, since the 1960s, seen its “population decline by 60%.”

“Rather than reduce the size of government as its population shrank,” Alison Acosta Fraser and Rachel Grezler observe at Heritage, “Detroit sought higher levels of government spending. City leaders, following in the footsteps of automakers, acquiesced to the unions by increasing employee benefits, especially future pensions and retiree health care.”

Now apply this at a larger scale, to a state like California.  “By 2024,” writes Adam Ashton at the Sacramento Bee in an article, the likes of which are becoming increasingly commonplace, “cities anticipate that they will spend an average of 15.8% of their general funds on pensions, up from an average of 8.3% today.” 

This near-doubling of expected expenditures is exacerbated by reductions in returns in the investment forecast of the underlying pension funds.  In the past, you see, pension funds have enjoyed actuarial assumptions based upon more optimistic returns on the funds’ fixed positions, i.e., bond holdings.  Rates of return on those investments have fallen sharply over the past decades, and there is little to suggest a return to “normalcy” in the bond market, so actuaries have rightfully downgraded expected returns.

All of this is to say that, on top of lower interest returns on fixed investments, local and state pension funds are exposed to what retirement planners call the risk of a “sequence-of-returns” risk

If there is a market downturn, and particularly, a long-standing market downturn like we saw in the tech crash of 2000, being forced to liquidate investments to pay obligations will deplete the funds faster than if the funds were able to hold those investments as a typical investor would. 

The average American investor might understand this, in principle.  For example, if you had an IRA (Individual Retirement Account) in 2008, it may have lost 30% or more due to the market crash of the Great Recession.  The government requires that, if you are over the age of 70-and-a-half, that you must begin liquidating money from your tax-sheltered accounts in order for the government to collect the revenue from your doing so.  Congress declared, uniquely in the scope of United States’ tax history, that in 2009 those Americans were not required to take their “required minimum distribution” in that year, thereby not forcing retirees to sell their investments at a dramatic loss, because doing so might be detrimental to the longevity of their retirement accounts.

Pension funds do not have that luxury.  They must liquidate the investments to pay ongoing obligations.

That alone causes myriad problems.  Social Security, however, is a horse of a different color.

Social Security has no underlying investments, as local and state pension funds do.  The “trust fund” for the Social Security Administration simply does not exist. 

The misunderstanding of this principle has led to the fallacies which you’ve undoubtedly heard, or may even believe.  Perhaps you believe, for example, that the Social Security trust fund has been “raided” by politicians over the years.  In truth, Social Security has run at a surplus until 2010, and the Social Security Administration has taken more in revenue than has been necessary to pay its obligations year-to-year until that time.  Excess revenue had, up to that point, only one place to go, by law — to the federal government, and with that money, the federal government issued bonds back to the Social Security Administration with the promise of the repayment of the principal and interest.

What did the federal government do with that excess capital over the years?  They spent it.  It’s now part of the $20+ trillion debt that the federal government owns.

Now, here’s the really important part.

When you hear about the “reserves” of the Social Security trust funds that are meant to keep Social Security afloat until 2035, they’re talking about the repayment of this money by the federal government, and the interest involved.  But the money was never “invested.”  It was given to the government to spend.  And spend that money, the government did.

So, the “reserves” for Social Security now represent nothing more than red on the ledger for the federal government.  To pay for the growing deficit in Social Security revenues versus obligations, the government must take on more debt.

Heritage provides a chart showing the level of these new expenditures relative to government spending:

This is a key component of increasing government spending.  Demographics have hammered the Social Security Administration the same way that they’ve hammered pensions across the country.  The back end of the Baby-Boomer generation is massive.  They will be retiring in even greater numbers in the coming years, further straining these shortsighted redistributive systems to an extent not seen before.

I do not claim to have the political answers to solve the problems that socialistic policies set in place long before I was born.  But I would suggest that addressing the question of entitlement spending, this massive Damocles’ blade hanging above our collective heads, would, at least, be prudent.

Yet no one is clamoring to do so, you’ll notice.

It’s not easy for politicians to encroach the touchstones of socialism which have been embedded in our nation.  I get that.  But if we cannot make practical changes to modestly maintain those foolhardy programs’ sustainability, with working and collecting voters in consideration, we run the risk of running headlong into a million-mile-thick brick wall which may make the American experiment little more than a memory.

William Sullivan can be followed at Political Palaver and can be followed on Twitter.

Image courtesy the Heritage Foundation.



Source link

The Invisible Victims of Gun Control


She’d always “felt safe in her neighborhood,” said an unnamed young woman in Cape Girardeau, Missouri.  That is, until around midnight of October 25, 2008, when she heard a crash in her basement. 

A 47-year-old registered sex offender named Ronnie W. Preyer had broken into her home.  She “made a beeline to the back door, but Preyer was waiting for her,” writes Bridget DiCosmo of the Southeast Missourian.   She fought back, but was punched, “twice, she thinks.”  Before leaving, her rapist told her, “Don’t tell anybody, I know where you live.”

“I wasn’t going to tell, but the more I thought about it, the worse I felt,” she recalls.

The landlord fixed her window and installed security devices to the doors, and, “in a gesture that may have saved her life, purchased a shotgun for her” before teaching her how to load it.

At 2 AM on October 31st, the lights went out.  “She knew she’d paid the electric bill,” according to DiCosmo.  And she knew “something wasn’t right.”

DiCosmo continues, “She got her gun.  Growing nervous, she opened the blinds, sat down in a chair, and waited.”  When Preyer came crashing through the door, she fired, striking her assailant in the chest and killing him.

Police had been making rounds to her home after the first encounter with her rapist.  But they weren’t there in that fateful moment when she had to defend herself with a gun that had been purchased for her by her landlord.  The gun was the difference between her being raped again and/or killed and surviving unmolested.  The gun preserved her life and liberty in spite of another person who looked to rob her of one or both of those things.  Not the cops, and not the good intentions of lawmakers who wish violent sexual predators like Preyer did not exist.

What if she did not have a SecondAmendment right to have such a weapon for self-defense, as former Justice John Paul Stevens recently argued in the New York Times should be repealed?

Well, okay, some gun control advocates may argue.  A shotgun is alright. 

Take sensible Joe Biden’s advice to other women like her.  “If you live in an area that’s wooded or somewhat secluded,” Joe says, just “walk out on the balcony” and fire two shots with a double-barreled shotgun to scare attackers away.

The only problem is that the woman in the aforementioned story from Missouri didn’t live in a “wooded” or “secluded” area with a “balcony” as Biden’s wife Jill apparently does.  She was “several feet away in her tiny kitchen” as she frightenedly awaited her assailant, as the report makes clear.  Several aspects of the story suggest that she a) likely lives alone, b) is not financially well-off (she remembered she “paid the electric bill”), and c) doesn’t have the logistical advantages Jill Biden might enjoy when invaders arrive, with a balcony to signal her deadliness while keeping a safe distance from invading attackers.

But an AR-15 is another story altogether, Biden says.  No one needs that for self-defense, he argues. 

Unless you happened to be in Sutherland Springs, Texas on November 17, 2017.  The fifth-deadliest mass shooting in United States history occurred less than half a year ago, and for some reason, the very reason that it was assuredly not deadlier has been all but forgotten in the public discussion.  After a murderous madman had killed 26 people in a nearby church, NRA instructor Stephen Willeford retrieved his AR-15 from his gun safe, ran barefoot across the street, and opened fire on the murderer, striking him “with a precisely aimed bullet in a small gap in the perpetrator’s body armor.”  He proceeded to jump into “another man’s truck and the two pursued the gunman down the road to make sure he hurt no one else.”

“I’m no hero,” Willeford said afterward.  “I mean, I’m not.  I just thank my God, my Lord protected me and gave me the skills to do what needed to be done.”

He’s most certainly a hero, though.  Contrast his actions to those of the Broward County Sherriff’s Department who, armed with firearms, refused to do their job and engage the shooter during the recent Parkland massacre.

Why did they not engage, similarly placing themselves at risk as Willeford did?  In an interesting turn of the narrative, it was because those representing the security offered by the State lacked not only the courage that Willeford possessed, but the firepower that he legally owned, thanks to our Second Amendment protections.

“A bullet fired from an AR-15 travels 3x faster than one from a handgun,” Lawrence O’Donnell tweeted.  Therefore, according to O’Donnell, it’s understandable that Broward officers did not engage the shooter. 

The point, however, is missed by O’Donnell.  As writer Streiff elaborates at RedState:

If a teacher emerges from a bypassed room (remember, [mass shooters] don’t waste time forcing doors open because most of them know they only have a short time before the cops arrive) and engages the shooter, win or lose, that means the shooter stops killing, he has to take cover and defend himself, and more people survive.

This logic is impenetrable.  Had the Broward County employees engaged the shooter, as is their job, fewer students would have died.  Brave school employees, unarmed, shielded other students from the attacker, saving the lives of students with names you will have never heard.  There is no leap of faith required to imagine that if those employees faced less daunting odds by having a handgun in their possession at the time of the attack, they would have chosen to do what the Broward County employees were too cowardly to do.

The police will not always be there in time, and even if they are, they will not protect Americans.  That is the primary lesson. 

Now, take this final example, because the left’s narrative around gun control logically leads here.

Curiously, handguns are less vilified in the gun control debate than the AR-15, despite the fact that the vast majority of gun murders are committed with handguns.  In 2015, for example, there were 252 murders committed with rifles, including those by the dreaded AR-15, versus 6,447 murders committed with handguns.  But, perhaps even more so, inconspicuously-carried handguns are the greater deterrent to violent crime.

Here’s an example.  In 2015, 22-year-old Evarardo Custodio “began firing into the crowd” at the 2900 block of North Milwaukee Avenue in Chicago.  A nearby Uber driver, equipped with a legally carried concealed handgun, “fired six shots at Custodio, hitting him several times.”  No other injuries, beyond the would-be murderer’s, were reported that night.

Here’s the kicker.  This outcome was only achieved because Chicago’s previously “Draconian laws” had been erased by a 2010 ruling in McDonald v. Chicago.  “Under the previous regime in Chicago,” writes Adam Bates at Cato, “the driver would have had to choose between saving lives and avoiding a lengthy, potentially life-ruining prison sentence.”

You never hear these stories.  But how many lives were saved that night because our Second Amendment rights were firmly in place?  How many lives were saved in Sutherland Springs because a good American owned his AR-15?  The unnamed woman in Missouri; would she still be among the living, and would she have avoided being raped a second time if not for her Second Amendment right to self-defense, as the left now openly proclaims a desire to repeal?

These are questions which are never pondered by those who’ve resorted to trotting out children to present their case for gun control.  There is little political value in doing so, because you cannot specifically point to the names of the lives saved and build a concrete narrative around it, as can easily be done to fabricate a crisis meant to drive an impetus for gun control.

However, the state of facts remains unchanged.  A modern CDC study has concluded that guns are used in cases of individual self-defense anywhere between 500,000 and 3,000,000 times annually.  How many unidentified lives are saved in those instances?  Is the preservation of our Second Amendment rights a less worthy cause than the specific and horrific examples cited by the media to rob us of those very same rights?

As gun sales and concealed and open carry laws have expanded, violent crime rates have declined in America, including mass shootings.  This is an undeniable fact.  Yet in the U.K., to which leftists routinely point as an example for gun control, violent crime has been relentlessly climbing.

In the end, our Second Amendment right is about more than just data.  It is about the preservation of individual liberty, to which countless unnamed Americans saved by it might attest.  The data, however, prove that the media prefer to construct narratives which make good stories rather than preserve life and liberty for the larger number of Americans.

William Sullivan blogs at Political Palaver and can be followed on Twitter.

She’d always “felt safe in her neighborhood,” said an unnamed young woman in Cape Girardeau, Missouri.  That is, until around midnight of October 25, 2008, when she heard a crash in her basement. 

A 47-year-old registered sex offender named Ronnie W. Preyer had broken into her home.  She “made a beeline to the back door, but Preyer was waiting for her,” writes Bridget DiCosmo of the Southeast Missourian.   She fought back, but was punched, “twice, she thinks.”  Before leaving, her rapist told her, “Don’t tell anybody, I know where you live.”

“I wasn’t going to tell, but the more I thought about it, the worse I felt,” she recalls.

The landlord fixed her window and installed security devices to the doors, and, “in a gesture that may have saved her life, purchased a shotgun for her” before teaching her how to load it.

At 2 AM on October 31st, the lights went out.  “She knew she’d paid the electric bill,” according to DiCosmo.  And she knew “something wasn’t right.”

DiCosmo continues, “She got her gun.  Growing nervous, she opened the blinds, sat down in a chair, and waited.”  When Preyer came crashing through the door, she fired, striking her assailant in the chest and killing him.

Police had been making rounds to her home after the first encounter with her rapist.  But they weren’t there in that fateful moment when she had to defend herself with a gun that had been purchased for her by her landlord.  The gun was the difference between her being raped again and/or killed and surviving unmolested.  The gun preserved her life and liberty in spite of another person who looked to rob her of one or both of those things.  Not the cops, and not the good intentions of lawmakers who wish violent sexual predators like Preyer did not exist.

What if she did not have a SecondAmendment right to have such a weapon for self-defense, as former Justice John Paul Stevens recently argued in the New York Times should be repealed?

Well, okay, some gun control advocates may argue.  A shotgun is alright. 

Take sensible Joe Biden’s advice to other women like her.  “If you live in an area that’s wooded or somewhat secluded,” Joe says, just “walk out on the balcony” and fire two shots with a double-barreled shotgun to scare attackers away.

The only problem is that the woman in the aforementioned story from Missouri didn’t live in a “wooded” or “secluded” area with a “balcony” as Biden’s wife Jill apparently does.  She was “several feet away in her tiny kitchen” as she frightenedly awaited her assailant, as the report makes clear.  Several aspects of the story suggest that she a) likely lives alone, b) is not financially well-off (she remembered she “paid the electric bill”), and c) doesn’t have the logistical advantages Jill Biden might enjoy when invaders arrive, with a balcony to signal her deadliness while keeping a safe distance from invading attackers.

But an AR-15 is another story altogether, Biden says.  No one needs that for self-defense, he argues. 

Unless you happened to be in Sutherland Springs, Texas on November 17, 2017.  The fifth-deadliest mass shooting in United States history occurred less than half a year ago, and for some reason, the very reason that it was assuredly not deadlier has been all but forgotten in the public discussion.  After a murderous madman had killed 26 people in a nearby church, NRA instructor Stephen Willeford retrieved his AR-15 from his gun safe, ran barefoot across the street, and opened fire on the murderer, striking him “with a precisely aimed bullet in a small gap in the perpetrator’s body armor.”  He proceeded to jump into “another man’s truck and the two pursued the gunman down the road to make sure he hurt no one else.”

“I’m no hero,” Willeford said afterward.  “I mean, I’m not.  I just thank my God, my Lord protected me and gave me the skills to do what needed to be done.”

He’s most certainly a hero, though.  Contrast his actions to those of the Broward County Sherriff’s Department who, armed with firearms, refused to do their job and engage the shooter during the recent Parkland massacre.

Why did they not engage, similarly placing themselves at risk as Willeford did?  In an interesting turn of the narrative, it was because those representing the security offered by the State lacked not only the courage that Willeford possessed, but the firepower that he legally owned, thanks to our Second Amendment protections.

“A bullet fired from an AR-15 travels 3x faster than one from a handgun,” Lawrence O’Donnell tweeted.  Therefore, according to O’Donnell, it’s understandable that Broward officers did not engage the shooter. 

The point, however, is missed by O’Donnell.  As writer Streiff elaborates at RedState:

If a teacher emerges from a bypassed room (remember, [mass shooters] don’t waste time forcing doors open because most of them know they only have a short time before the cops arrive) and engages the shooter, win or lose, that means the shooter stops killing, he has to take cover and defend himself, and more people survive.

This logic is impenetrable.  Had the Broward County employees engaged the shooter, as is their job, fewer students would have died.  Brave school employees, unarmed, shielded other students from the attacker, saving the lives of students with names you will have never heard.  There is no leap of faith required to imagine that if those employees faced less daunting odds by having a handgun in their possession at the time of the attack, they would have chosen to do what the Broward County employees were too cowardly to do.

The police will not always be there in time, and even if they are, they will not protect Americans.  That is the primary lesson. 

Now, take this final example, because the left’s narrative around gun control logically leads here.

Curiously, handguns are less vilified in the gun control debate than the AR-15, despite the fact that the vast majority of gun murders are committed with handguns.  In 2015, for example, there were 252 murders committed with rifles, including those by the dreaded AR-15, versus 6,447 murders committed with handguns.  But, perhaps even more so, inconspicuously-carried handguns are the greater deterrent to violent crime.

Here’s an example.  In 2015, 22-year-old Evarardo Custodio “began firing into the crowd” at the 2900 block of North Milwaukee Avenue in Chicago.  A nearby Uber driver, equipped with a legally carried concealed handgun, “fired six shots at Custodio, hitting him several times.”  No other injuries, beyond the would-be murderer’s, were reported that night.

Here’s the kicker.  This outcome was only achieved because Chicago’s previously “Draconian laws” had been erased by a 2010 ruling in McDonald v. Chicago.  “Under the previous regime in Chicago,” writes Adam Bates at Cato, “the driver would have had to choose between saving lives and avoiding a lengthy, potentially life-ruining prison sentence.”

You never hear these stories.  But how many lives were saved that night because our Second Amendment rights were firmly in place?  How many lives were saved in Sutherland Springs because a good American owned his AR-15?  The unnamed woman in Missouri; would she still be among the living, and would she have avoided being raped a second time if not for her Second Amendment right to self-defense, as the left now openly proclaims a desire to repeal?

These are questions which are never pondered by those who’ve resorted to trotting out children to present their case for gun control.  There is little political value in doing so, because you cannot specifically point to the names of the lives saved and build a concrete narrative around it, as can easily be done to fabricate a crisis meant to drive an impetus for gun control.

However, the state of facts remains unchanged.  A modern CDC study has concluded that guns are used in cases of individual self-defense anywhere between 500,000 and 3,000,000 times annually.  How many unidentified lives are saved in those instances?  Is the preservation of our Second Amendment rights a less worthy cause than the specific and horrific examples cited by the media to rob us of those very same rights?

As gun sales and concealed and open carry laws have expanded, violent crime rates have declined in America, including mass shootings.  This is an undeniable fact.  Yet in the U.K., to which leftists routinely point as an example for gun control, violent crime has been relentlessly climbing.

In the end, our Second Amendment right is about more than just data.  It is about the preservation of individual liberty, to which countless unnamed Americans saved by it might attest.  The data, however, prove that the media prefer to construct narratives which make good stories rather than preserve life and liberty for the larger number of Americans.

William Sullivan blogs at Political Palaver and can be followed on Twitter.



Source link

In a World Where Everyone's Offended by Everything, Can Comedy Exist?


It’s safe to say Brooks speaks from a podium of unparalleled wisdom on this matter.  His movie Blazing Saddles remains one of the least politically correct movies Hollywood has ever made.  It’s also probably the funniest. 

Brooks has said that that “political correctness would almost certainly have prevented Blazing Saddles … from being made today.”   

Imagine he’s right, as I believe he is.  Imagine that Mel Brooks, or Richard Pryor (few know he helped write the screenplay), had first considered whether a joke would be politically correct before first considering the more important question for a comedy: whether or not a joke will land with an audience.  What you’d be left with is a generally unfunny piece of propaganda defending the ideas of the status quo, hardly “the little elves whispering in the king’s ear, always telling the truth about human behavior.”

As political correctness is driven by prevailing political actors, it and the truth rarely go hand in hand. 

Take this article, for example, written by the New York Times in 1992, discussing demographic trends:

Just a decade ago, gas station ownership usually mirrored the ethnic makeup of the surrounding neighborhood.  But now, about 40 percent of the city’s stations are run or owned by South Asians[.] …


The forces that draw immigrant groups to certain occupations – such as Indians to gas stations … – are complex and varied.   

“Indians” owning and operating “gas stations” in America at a high rate was a simple observation of truth back then.  It’s remained the truth over the years, such that over half of America’s convenience stores were owned by members of the Asian-American Convenience Store Association as of 2013.  (A glimpse at the web page shows that we’re not talking about East Asian representation, by the way.)

All of that is truth.  And what’s more, it’s Americans’ reality. 

Enter The Simpsons, riffing on that reality, which introduced the character of Kwik-E-Mart proprietor Apu Nahassapeemapetilon three years before the New York Times observed that reality more formally in 1992.

America’s longest running television show came under fire last year when Hari Kondabolu, “a comedian of South Asian descent,” made a documentary titled The Problem with Apu.  The documentary asserts that Apu perpetuates a negative and racist stereotype, and as such, his portrayal in the show is offensive and should be addressed.

The show addressed Kondabolu’s criticism last week by dismissing it.  Lisa, the progressive voice of the show, sitting in bed with her mother, Marge, discusses how to make a book inoffensive for 2018, quipping, “Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect[.] … What can you do?”

Just as nothing makes a child angrier than ignoring his tantrum, this dismissal of Kondabolu’s criticism earned the furor of all of those who’ve been triggered by Apu’s portrayal.

Full disclosure: The Simpsons is my favorite television show of all time, and it is among the smartest and most influential television comedies ever aired, evidenced by the numerous paths it laid for similar prime-time animated comedy shows that followed (think King of the Hill and Family Guy).  Particularly, seasons three through nine are without parallel in the world of television comedy, in my opinion.

This kerfuffle raises a simple question about the stereotypes deemed suitable for comedy these days.  For if one must find a stereotype in the show (and there are certainly many), Homer Simpson is the most obvious.  He’s white, fat, lazy, and dumb, seeking only to satisfy his basest desires for beer, food, and television.  He is the show’s leftist creators’ vision of the American everyman.  But the American everyman can generally overlook all of that because Homer is redeemable and good, and most of all because he is funny.

Apu, on the other hand, is highly intelligent, generally kind, a thriving business owner with a strong work ethic, and a complex individual whom fans know and appreciate.  Yes, he speaks with a thick Indian accent.  Yes, he owns a convenience store.  But his character, most importantly, is well developed and funny, which is why he’s beloved by most fans of the show, so much so that the show could simply not be what it is without him.

The left is not interested in any of that.  Leftists are driven by a political narrative within which the humor must fit, rather than humor for the sake of making people laugh – though making people laugh should be the essence of comedy.

The fascistic approach to comedy presented to us today is, indeed, as Mel Brooks relates, a serious problem.

Perhaps you remember that a few years back, Jerry Seinfeld took some flak for saying he would not play colleges because they’re so politically correct.  “They just want to use these words,” said Seinfeld, like “that’s racist,” “that’s sexist,” and “that’s prejudice.  They don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.”

There to prove his point (by trying to disprove his point) was Anthony Berteaux at the Huffington Post.  “As a college student that loves and appreciates offensive, provocative comedy,” he was disheartened by Seinfeld’s comments.

“While I do agree with you that college students are more sensitive to issues of race and gender politics, it’s simply because that’s our job as learners,” he writes, and continues:

It isn’t so much that college students are too politically correct (whatever your definition of that concept is), it’s that comedy in our progressive society today can no longer afford to be crass, or provocative for the sake of being offensive.  Sexist humor and racist humor can no longer exist in comedy because these concepts are archaic ideals that have perpetrated injustice against minorities in the past.

College students’ “job” is to learn to be triggered by things that offend them, he argues, rather than learning skills that provide actual value in the world.  

That’s stupid.  Even stupider, he’s arguing that comedy must conform to his vision of the culture.  When he says he “likes” offensive comedy, what he means is that he enjoys comedians feigning an offensive posture while, say, riffing on white male privilege, as he references that Louis C.K. does.  Anything offensive to prevailing intersectional political thought simply “can no longer exist in comedy.”

In the end, comedy exists not to validate the worldview of overly sensitive audience members.  In fact, comedy should do just the opposite, and expose the delicate sensibilities of audience members who can’t take a joke, just as the world around them does. 

That would be reality. 

Comedy, at its core, exists to make people laugh, even at our own expense.  Radical leftists demanding that comedians conform to their P.C. worldview are not arguing about comedy.  They’re arguing about conformity.  And conformity and comedy are, and always will be, odd bedfellows.  

William Sullivan blogs at Political Palaver and can be followed on Twitter.

One of the greatest comic minds of the twentieth century, Mel Brooks, said late last year that “stupid political correctness” would be “the death of comedy.”

“It’s not good for comedy,” Brooks said in September 2017.  “Comedy has to walk a thin line, take risks.  Comedy is the lecherous little elf whispering in the king’s ear, always telling the truth about human behavior.”

It’s safe to say Brooks speaks from a podium of unparalleled wisdom on this matter.  His movie Blazing Saddles remains one of the least politically correct movies Hollywood has ever made.  It’s also probably the funniest. 

Brooks has said that that “political correctness would almost certainly have prevented Blazing Saddles … from being made today.”   

Imagine he’s right, as I believe he is.  Imagine that Mel Brooks, or Richard Pryor (few know he helped write the screenplay), had first considered whether a joke would be politically correct before first considering the more important question for a comedy: whether or not a joke will land with an audience.  What you’d be left with is a generally unfunny piece of propaganda defending the ideas of the status quo, hardly “the little elves whispering in the king’s ear, always telling the truth about human behavior.”

As political correctness is driven by prevailing political actors, it and the truth rarely go hand in hand. 

Take this article, for example, written by the New York Times in 1992, discussing demographic trends:

Just a decade ago, gas station ownership usually mirrored the ethnic makeup of the surrounding neighborhood.  But now, about 40 percent of the city’s stations are run or owned by South Asians[.] …


The forces that draw immigrant groups to certain occupations – such as Indians to gas stations … – are complex and varied.   

“Indians” owning and operating “gas stations” in America at a high rate was a simple observation of truth back then.  It’s remained the truth over the years, such that over half of America’s convenience stores were owned by members of the Asian-American Convenience Store Association as of 2013.  (A glimpse at the web page shows that we’re not talking about East Asian representation, by the way.)

All of that is truth.  And what’s more, it’s Americans’ reality. 

Enter The Simpsons, riffing on that reality, which introduced the character of Kwik-E-Mart proprietor Apu Nahassapeemapetilon three years before the New York Times observed that reality more formally in 1992.

America’s longest running television show came under fire last year when Hari Kondabolu, “a comedian of South Asian descent,” made a documentary titled The Problem with Apu.  The documentary asserts that Apu perpetuates a negative and racist stereotype, and as such, his portrayal in the show is offensive and should be addressed.

The show addressed Kondabolu’s criticism last week by dismissing it.  Lisa, the progressive voice of the show, sitting in bed with her mother, Marge, discusses how to make a book inoffensive for 2018, quipping, “Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect[.] … What can you do?”

Just as nothing makes a child angrier than ignoring his tantrum, this dismissal of Kondabolu’s criticism earned the furor of all of those who’ve been triggered by Apu’s portrayal.

Full disclosure: The Simpsons is my favorite television show of all time, and it is among the smartest and most influential television comedies ever aired, evidenced by the numerous paths it laid for similar prime-time animated comedy shows that followed (think King of the Hill and Family Guy).  Particularly, seasons three through nine are without parallel in the world of television comedy, in my opinion.

This kerfuffle raises a simple question about the stereotypes deemed suitable for comedy these days.  For if one must find a stereotype in the show (and there are certainly many), Homer Simpson is the most obvious.  He’s white, fat, lazy, and dumb, seeking only to satisfy his basest desires for beer, food, and television.  He is the show’s leftist creators’ vision of the American everyman.  But the American everyman can generally overlook all of that because Homer is redeemable and good, and most of all because he is funny.

Apu, on the other hand, is highly intelligent, generally kind, a thriving business owner with a strong work ethic, and a complex individual whom fans know and appreciate.  Yes, he speaks with a thick Indian accent.  Yes, he owns a convenience store.  But his character, most importantly, is well developed and funny, which is why he’s beloved by most fans of the show, so much so that the show could simply not be what it is without him.

The left is not interested in any of that.  Leftists are driven by a political narrative within which the humor must fit, rather than humor for the sake of making people laugh – though making people laugh should be the essence of comedy.

The fascistic approach to comedy presented to us today is, indeed, as Mel Brooks relates, a serious problem.

Perhaps you remember that a few years back, Jerry Seinfeld took some flak for saying he would not play colleges because they’re so politically correct.  “They just want to use these words,” said Seinfeld, like “that’s racist,” “that’s sexist,” and “that’s prejudice.  They don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.”

There to prove his point (by trying to disprove his point) was Anthony Berteaux at the Huffington Post.  “As a college student that loves and appreciates offensive, provocative comedy,” he was disheartened by Seinfeld’s comments.

“While I do agree with you that college students are more sensitive to issues of race and gender politics, it’s simply because that’s our job as learners,” he writes, and continues:

It isn’t so much that college students are too politically correct (whatever your definition of that concept is), it’s that comedy in our progressive society today can no longer afford to be crass, or provocative for the sake of being offensive.  Sexist humor and racist humor can no longer exist in comedy because these concepts are archaic ideals that have perpetrated injustice against minorities in the past.

College students’ “job” is to learn to be triggered by things that offend them, he argues, rather than learning skills that provide actual value in the world.  

That’s stupid.  Even stupider, he’s arguing that comedy must conform to his vision of the culture.  When he says he “likes” offensive comedy, what he means is that he enjoys comedians feigning an offensive posture while, say, riffing on white male privilege, as he references that Louis C.K. does.  Anything offensive to prevailing intersectional political thought simply “can no longer exist in comedy.”

In the end, comedy exists not to validate the worldview of overly sensitive audience members.  In fact, comedy should do just the opposite, and expose the delicate sensibilities of audience members who can’t take a joke, just as the world around them does. 

That would be reality. 

Comedy, at its core, exists to make people laugh, even at our own expense.  Radical leftists demanding that comedians conform to their P.C. worldview are not arguing about comedy.  They’re arguing about conformity.  And conformity and comedy are, and always will be, odd bedfellows.  

William Sullivan blogs at Political Palaver and can be followed on Twitter.



Source link

Perpetually Progressive Confiscatory Taxation in America


Here’s a troubling fact.  According to data from The Open Syllabus Project, the most frequently assigned book “relating to economics and money” in college curricula over the last decade is Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto.

The book is often taught as “social theory,” so the story goes.  But that’s an incorrect description of the content.  It’s social theory that requires a specific economic prescription to finance the social vision, which Marx simply describes as a “heavy progressive or graduated income tax.”

America adopted this communist prescription long ago.  But don’t take my word for it.  Speaking of America’s highly progressive income tax, Ronald Reagan said in 1961:

We were once told the income tax would never be more than 2%, and only on the rich.  In our lifetime, this law has grown from 31 to more than 440,000 words.  We have received this progressive tax direct from Karl Marx, who designed it as the prime essential of a socialist state. …


We have a tax system that, in direct contravention of the Constitution, is not designed solely to raise revenue but is used, openly and admittedly, to control and direct the economy and to equalize the earnings of our people.

He is right about it being “in direct contravention of the Constitution” as intended and adopted by the Founders.  Even Alexander Hamilton, who had liberal views regarding taxation among the Founders, argued in Federalist 35, after discussing a need for “indefinite” powers of taxation when it comes to consumption taxes:

Nothing remains but the landed interest; and this, in a political view, and particularly in relation to taxes, I take to be perfectly united, from the wealthiest landlord down to the poorest tenant.  No tax can be laid on land which will not affect the proprietor of millions of acres as well as the proprietors of a single acre.  Every landholder will therefore have a common interest to keep the taxes on land as low as possible; and common interest may always be reckoned upon as the surest bond of sympathy.

If one considers wealth property (which it surely is), the principle here should be entirely clear.  Confiscatory taxes could ensure the practical service of the “common interest” only if they were uniform in nature, thus allowing citizens to have equal interest in compelling representatives to keep confiscatory taxes, as a whole, low

Our deviation from that simple principle has cobbled the path we walk today.

With income earnings broken down into quintiles today, the bottom two quintiles (up to $48,000 annual income) not only pay no taxes, but collect additional income from the coffers filled by the other three.

But we just had a tax cut passed, remember?  In the wake of that tax cut, we find that those bottom two quintiles collect more from the coffers.  The next two quintiles do not collect more, though they pay less.  The top quintile of earners (over $150K annually) will provide a full 87% of the revenue to the federal coffers, up from 84% this demographic represents in revenue this year. 

In what sense has the principle of uniform property rights and representative liberty, as described by Hamilton, been upheld?  We now have Republican Congress and a Republican president, yet in spite of that, the share of profit versus liability in exchange for votes among the economic classes, as it relates to tax policy, has become more steeply progressive.  This ensures that the “common interest” can become only less likely to be “reckoned upon as the surest bond of sympathy.”  For if 80% of Americans are either paying less or collecting more, what reason might they have to protect the property rights of the other 20%?

This is all by design, make no mistake.  We have become an ever more redistributive nation, with a government creeping toward Marx’s vision.

We like to pretend we have a “mixed economy” – that we can embrace those good things about progressive taxation and socialism, as Marx described, to find that ever elusive “third way” between the economic principles of economic liberty and government interventionism without forthrightly abridging the foundation our Founders prescribed. 

That’s pure fantasy.  And Marx knew it.  That’s why he prescribed the heavily progressive income tax in the first place.

As Ludwig von Mises writes in “The Anti-Capitalistic Mentality”:

When Marx and Engels in the Communist Manifesto advocated definite interventionist measures, they did not mean to recommend a compromise between socialism and capitalism.  They considered these measures – incidentally, the same measures which are today the essence of the New Deal and Fair Deal policies – as first steps on the way to full communism.  They themselves described these measures as “economically insufficient and untenable,” and they asked for them only because they “in the course of the movement outstrip themselves, necessitate further inroads upon the social order, and are unavoidable as a means of revolutionizing the mode of production.”

We opponents of socialism and government interventionism now find ourselves in a curious position.  Republicans, who have run on the premise of reducing spending and government intervention, have been elected.  Yet still, it is mandated that those who earn more must fill the federal troughs with an increasing amount of their wealth, only to have everyone else fill it with less or take more from it.

As happy as we may be about the tax legislation, it is clear that the fundamental problem has gone unaddressed.

Reagan had it right, and to his credit, during his tenure, he made great strides toward economic liberty by significantly reducing the progressive nature of confiscatory taxation.  Reagan said in 1961:

Governments don’t tax to get the money they need.  Governments will always find a need for the money they get. …


Here is the main battleground.  We must reduce the government’s supply of money and deny it the right to borrow!

Government obligations have become so bloated that we’ve reached a point where to discontinue borrowing is tantamount to collective economic ruin.  And our government’s insatiable appetite for our money can be conveniently, and selectively, satiated by our heavily progressive tax structure, even via broad “tax cuts” that widen the gap of property confiscation by the government among the low-income earners and the high-income earners.    

It’s safe to say we have a tough row to hoe in deviating from the path to communism cobbled in America for over a century.  When you consider that our youths are sent to state-sponsored universities to be taught that the values of communism are morally greater as a social and economic principle than the values of economic liberty, it becomes increasingly hard to find reasons for optimism for the future.

William Sullivan blogs at Political Palaver and can be followed on Twitter.

Here’s a troubling fact.  According to data from The Open Syllabus Project, the most frequently assigned book “relating to economics and money” in college curricula over the last decade is Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto.

The book is often taught as “social theory,” so the story goes.  But that’s an incorrect description of the content.  It’s social theory that requires a specific economic prescription to finance the social vision, which Marx simply describes as a “heavy progressive or graduated income tax.”

America adopted this communist prescription long ago.  But don’t take my word for it.  Speaking of America’s highly progressive income tax, Ronald Reagan said in 1961:

We were once told the income tax would never be more than 2%, and only on the rich.  In our lifetime, this law has grown from 31 to more than 440,000 words.  We have received this progressive tax direct from Karl Marx, who designed it as the prime essential of a socialist state. …


We have a tax system that, in direct contravention of the Constitution, is not designed solely to raise revenue but is used, openly and admittedly, to control and direct the economy and to equalize the earnings of our people.

He is right about it being “in direct contravention of the Constitution” as intended and adopted by the Founders.  Even Alexander Hamilton, who had liberal views regarding taxation among the Founders, argued in Federalist 35, after discussing a need for “indefinite” powers of taxation when it comes to consumption taxes:

Nothing remains but the landed interest; and this, in a political view, and particularly in relation to taxes, I take to be perfectly united, from the wealthiest landlord down to the poorest tenant.  No tax can be laid on land which will not affect the proprietor of millions of acres as well as the proprietors of a single acre.  Every landholder will therefore have a common interest to keep the taxes on land as low as possible; and common interest may always be reckoned upon as the surest bond of sympathy.

If one considers wealth property (which it surely is), the principle here should be entirely clear.  Confiscatory taxes could ensure the practical service of the “common interest” only if they were uniform in nature, thus allowing citizens to have equal interest in compelling representatives to keep confiscatory taxes, as a whole, low

Our deviation from that simple principle has cobbled the path we walk today.

With income earnings broken down into quintiles today, the bottom two quintiles (up to $48,000 annual income) not only pay no taxes, but collect additional income from the coffers filled by the other three.

But we just had a tax cut passed, remember?  In the wake of that tax cut, we find that those bottom two quintiles collect more from the coffers.  The next two quintiles do not collect more, though they pay less.  The top quintile of earners (over $150K annually) will provide a full 87% of the revenue to the federal coffers, up from 84% this demographic represents in revenue this year. 

In what sense has the principle of uniform property rights and representative liberty, as described by Hamilton, been upheld?  We now have Republican Congress and a Republican president, yet in spite of that, the share of profit versus liability in exchange for votes among the economic classes, as it relates to tax policy, has become more steeply progressive.  This ensures that the “common interest” can become only less likely to be “reckoned upon as the surest bond of sympathy.”  For if 80% of Americans are either paying less or collecting more, what reason might they have to protect the property rights of the other 20%?

This is all by design, make no mistake.  We have become an ever more redistributive nation, with a government creeping toward Marx’s vision.

We like to pretend we have a “mixed economy” – that we can embrace those good things about progressive taxation and socialism, as Marx described, to find that ever elusive “third way” between the economic principles of economic liberty and government interventionism without forthrightly abridging the foundation our Founders prescribed. 

That’s pure fantasy.  And Marx knew it.  That’s why he prescribed the heavily progressive income tax in the first place.

As Ludwig von Mises writes in “The Anti-Capitalistic Mentality”:

When Marx and Engels in the Communist Manifesto advocated definite interventionist measures, they did not mean to recommend a compromise between socialism and capitalism.  They considered these measures – incidentally, the same measures which are today the essence of the New Deal and Fair Deal policies – as first steps on the way to full communism.  They themselves described these measures as “economically insufficient and untenable,” and they asked for them only because they “in the course of the movement outstrip themselves, necessitate further inroads upon the social order, and are unavoidable as a means of revolutionizing the mode of production.”

We opponents of socialism and government interventionism now find ourselves in a curious position.  Republicans, who have run on the premise of reducing spending and government intervention, have been elected.  Yet still, it is mandated that those who earn more must fill the federal troughs with an increasing amount of their wealth, only to have everyone else fill it with less or take more from it.

As happy as we may be about the tax legislation, it is clear that the fundamental problem has gone unaddressed.

Reagan had it right, and to his credit, during his tenure, he made great strides toward economic liberty by significantly reducing the progressive nature of confiscatory taxation.  Reagan said in 1961:

Governments don’t tax to get the money they need.  Governments will always find a need for the money they get. …


Here is the main battleground.  We must reduce the government’s supply of money and deny it the right to borrow!

Government obligations have become so bloated that we’ve reached a point where to discontinue borrowing is tantamount to collective economic ruin.  And our government’s insatiable appetite for our money can be conveniently, and selectively, satiated by our heavily progressive tax structure, even via broad “tax cuts” that widen the gap of property confiscation by the government among the low-income earners and the high-income earners.    

It’s safe to say we have a tough row to hoe in deviating from the path to communism cobbled in America for over a century.  When you consider that our youths are sent to state-sponsored universities to be taught that the values of communism are morally greater as a social and economic principle than the values of economic liberty, it becomes increasingly hard to find reasons for optimism for the future.

William Sullivan blogs at Political Palaver and can be followed on Twitter.



Source link

Is the Second Amendment for Just the Militia?


Let’s begin with the simplest of observations.  Our United States Constitution serves two distinct purposes. 

The first is to explicitly enumerate the powers and procedures of our nation’s central government, which was defined as the three distinct bodies (which, by the way, two thirds of the high school students currently lecturing us about the Second Amendment cannot name) – the Legislative, the Executive, and the Judicial, with levels of authority descending in that precise order.

The second is to explicitly enumerate the limitations of that central government’s power, which is the sole reason why our Bill of Rights exists.  The Constitution would not have been ratified in 1791 without the addition of these first ten amendments.  Therefore, our Constitution would not exist without the limitations to our central government’s authority described therein.

Some miss this simplest of understandings. 

Take Brett Arends, who, in 2016 after the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, committed to a different argument at Market Watch.  He argues that the Second Amendment does not describe a “limitation” of the federal government’s authority, as is commonly understood of each of the other nine amendments in the Bill of Rights.  Rather:

The Second Amendment is an instrument of government.  It’s not about hunting or gun collecting or carrying your pistol into a saloon.  The Founding Fathers left it up to us to pass sensible laws about all these things.  The Constitution is about government.

His argument as to the veracity of this statement is among the more laughable things you’ll ever read.  He cites Alexander Hamilton in Federalist 29, cherry-picking choice phrases from the essay, filling in the gaps with his own thoughts.  For example, Arend writes:

Each state militia should be a “select corps,” “well trained,” and able to perform “the operations of an army.”  The militia needed “uniformity in … organization and discipline,” wrote Hamilton, so that it could operate like a proper army “in camp and in the field,” and so that it could gain the “essential … degree of proficiency in military functions.”

Hamilton was explicitly arguing against a standing, full-time federal military, favoring “well-regulated” militias among the states to preserve liberty from a tyrannical federal government.  But Arend’s logic appears to be based upon nothing more than an observation of the fact that a “well-regulated militia” is cited by both the Second Amendment and Federalist 29, so therefore, Federalist 29 must be making the case that the Second Amendment’s purpose is to secure solely the militia’s “right to keep and bear” firearms, not the right of “the people” as the Second Amendment explicitly states.  There is nothing more that binds Federalist 29 to Arend’s claim.

Perhaps it’s pertinent to note, however, that there are mountains of practical examples among Hamilton’s contemporaries refuting that claim. 

Samuel Adams, in 1788 (the same year this Federalist Papers essay was published), said plainly that the “Constitution shall never be construed to prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms.”

James Madison, in 1789, said before the explicit language of the 2nd Amendment had been ratified (emphasis added) that the “right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.  A well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the best and most natural defense of a free country.”

George Mason, in 1788 to the Virginia Ratifying Convention: “I ask, sir, what is the militia?  They consist now of the whole people, except a few public officers.”

Even Hamilton, in Federalist 29, asserts the same.  It’s pretty clear that Brett Arend missed a key point Hamilton makes in the essay. 

Arend offers that “Hamilton was scathing about the idea that the ‘militia’ could mean every Bob, Billy, and Benjamin with a musket,” saying Hamilton wrote that a militia is “the only substitute that can be devised for a standing army, and the best possible security against it.”

But that’s not the whole quote by Hamilton in Federalist 29.  It actually reads (emphasis added):

[A]n army of any magnitude … can never be formidable to the liberties of the people while there is a large body of citizens, little, if at all, inferior to them in discipline or the use of arms, who stand ready to defend their own rights and the rights of their fellow citizens.  This appears to me the only substitute for a standing army, and the best possible security against it, should it exist.

This is the sentence immediately before the one Arend references, which specifically cites that a “large body of citizens” – i.e., every law-abiding “Bob, Billy, and Benjamin” – should be both disciplined and armed with weaponry comparable to the “standing army,” and that this is the “best possible security against [a standing army], should it exist.”  Arend conveniently left that last bit out in his selective dissection of the essay, too.  Because that “standing army” does exist, and Hamilton’s words are still relevant. 

Hamilton’s prescription for liberty was explicit.  It describes an armed populace.  Never once does he say guns should be limited among law-abiding citizens by the federal government, the tyranny feared by the anti-Federalists, whom he was entreating or hoped to pacify with this essay.

Like the Second Amendment, Hamilton is describing the necessity of a “well-regulated militia” as a reason for an armed populace.  Given that a “well-regulated militia” will, at times, be necessary to “the security of a free State,” “the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed” by the federal government. 

This is all easily understood and sensible.  Why is that wisdom disavowed by modern gun-grabbers, and worse, why are Hamilton’s words being misrepresented? 

Leftists lost this battle long ago, because suggesting that the Second Amendment applies only to protect a “state-sponsored militia” and not “the people” was always a losing battle when fought on the grounds of reason.  The only way this “militia” boondoggle could succeed would be through revisionist assumptions about a “living Constitution” and judicial activism, not observation of history or honest appraisal of our Constitution’s purpose. 

And thankfully, the Supreme Court abrogated all of that nonsense in recent years in the cases of Heller v. District of Columbia and McDonald v. Chicago.

Look no farther as to why former justice John Paul Stevens (whose last case over which he presided was McDonald) recently penned an op-ed for the New York Times calling for the repeal of the Second Amendment.  It is nothing short of surrender to the unmistakable logic of the Second Amendment’s purpose.  For the sweeping gun regulation that the left demands to be found consistent with the Constitution, the Second Amendment must first be abridged.  And that will not happen anytime soon.

Like most gun rights advocates, I appreciate Stevens’s honesty, and I welcome the left’s efforts to try.

William Sullivan blogs at Political Palaver and can be followed on Twitter.

Let’s begin with the simplest of observations.  Our United States Constitution serves two distinct purposes. 

The first is to explicitly enumerate the powers and procedures of our nation’s central government, which was defined as the three distinct bodies (which, by the way, two thirds of the high school students currently lecturing us about the Second Amendment cannot name) – the Legislative, the Executive, and the Judicial, with levels of authority descending in that precise order.

The second is to explicitly enumerate the limitations of that central government’s power, which is the sole reason why our Bill of Rights exists.  The Constitution would not have been ratified in 1791 without the addition of these first ten amendments.  Therefore, our Constitution would not exist without the limitations to our central government’s authority described therein.

Some miss this simplest of understandings. 

Take Brett Arends, who, in 2016 after the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, committed to a different argument at Market Watch.  He argues that the Second Amendment does not describe a “limitation” of the federal government’s authority, as is commonly understood of each of the other nine amendments in the Bill of Rights.  Rather:

The Second Amendment is an instrument of government.  It’s not about hunting or gun collecting or carrying your pistol into a saloon.  The Founding Fathers left it up to us to pass sensible laws about all these things.  The Constitution is about government.

His argument as to the veracity of this statement is among the more laughable things you’ll ever read.  He cites Alexander Hamilton in Federalist 29, cherry-picking choice phrases from the essay, filling in the gaps with his own thoughts.  For example, Arend writes:

Each state militia should be a “select corps,” “well trained,” and able to perform “the operations of an army.”  The militia needed “uniformity in … organization and discipline,” wrote Hamilton, so that it could operate like a proper army “in camp and in the field,” and so that it could gain the “essential … degree of proficiency in military functions.”

Hamilton was explicitly arguing against a standing, full-time federal military, favoring “well-regulated” militias among the states to preserve liberty from a tyrannical federal government.  But Arend’s logic appears to be based upon nothing more than an observation of the fact that a “well-regulated militia” is cited by both the Second Amendment and Federalist 29, so therefore, Federalist 29 must be making the case that the Second Amendment’s purpose is to secure solely the militia’s “right to keep and bear” firearms, not the right of “the people” as the Second Amendment explicitly states.  There is nothing more that binds Federalist 29 to Arend’s claim.

Perhaps it’s pertinent to note, however, that there are mountains of practical examples among Hamilton’s contemporaries refuting that claim. 

Samuel Adams, in 1788 (the same year this Federalist Papers essay was published), said plainly that the “Constitution shall never be construed to prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms.”

James Madison, in 1789, said before the explicit language of the 2nd Amendment had been ratified (emphasis added) that the “right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.  A well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the best and most natural defense of a free country.”

George Mason, in 1788 to the Virginia Ratifying Convention: “I ask, sir, what is the militia?  They consist now of the whole people, except a few public officers.”

Even Hamilton, in Federalist 29, asserts the same.  It’s pretty clear that Brett Arend missed a key point Hamilton makes in the essay. 

Arend offers that “Hamilton was scathing about the idea that the ‘militia’ could mean every Bob, Billy, and Benjamin with a musket,” saying Hamilton wrote that a militia is “the only substitute that can be devised for a standing army, and the best possible security against it.”

But that’s not the whole quote by Hamilton in Federalist 29.  It actually reads (emphasis added):

[A]n army of any magnitude … can never be formidable to the liberties of the people while there is a large body of citizens, little, if at all, inferior to them in discipline or the use of arms, who stand ready to defend their own rights and the rights of their fellow citizens.  This appears to me the only substitute for a standing army, and the best possible security against it, should it exist.

This is the sentence immediately before the one Arend references, which specifically cites that a “large body of citizens” – i.e., every law-abiding “Bob, Billy, and Benjamin” – should be both disciplined and armed with weaponry comparable to the “standing army,” and that this is the “best possible security against [a standing army], should it exist.”  Arend conveniently left that last bit out in his selective dissection of the essay, too.  Because that “standing army” does exist, and Hamilton’s words are still relevant. 

Hamilton’s prescription for liberty was explicit.  It describes an armed populace.  Never once does he say guns should be limited among law-abiding citizens by the federal government, the tyranny feared by the anti-Federalists, whom he was entreating or hoped to pacify with this essay.

Like the Second Amendment, Hamilton is describing the necessity of a “well-regulated militia” as a reason for an armed populace.  Given that a “well-regulated militia” will, at times, be necessary to “the security of a free State,” “the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed” by the federal government. 

This is all easily understood and sensible.  Why is that wisdom disavowed by modern gun-grabbers, and worse, why are Hamilton’s words being misrepresented? 

Leftists lost this battle long ago, because suggesting that the Second Amendment applies only to protect a “state-sponsored militia” and not “the people” was always a losing battle when fought on the grounds of reason.  The only way this “militia” boondoggle could succeed would be through revisionist assumptions about a “living Constitution” and judicial activism, not observation of history or honest appraisal of our Constitution’s purpose. 

And thankfully, the Supreme Court abrogated all of that nonsense in recent years in the cases of Heller v. District of Columbia and McDonald v. Chicago.

Look no farther as to why former justice John Paul Stevens (whose last case over which he presided was McDonald) recently penned an op-ed for the New York Times calling for the repeal of the Second Amendment.  It is nothing short of surrender to the unmistakable logic of the Second Amendment’s purpose.  For the sweeping gun regulation that the left demands to be found consistent with the Constitution, the Second Amendment must first be abridged.  And that will not happen anytime soon.

Like most gun rights advocates, I appreciate Stevens’s honesty, and I welcome the left’s efforts to try.

William Sullivan blogs at Political Palaver and can be followed on Twitter.



Source link

Big Budget Bills and the Death of Small Government


Speaking of the new $1.3 trillion, 2,232-page omnibus spending bill that Congress hastily crafted, no elected official had read, and that Donald Trump grudgingly signed into law, Fox News’ Greg Gutfeld said on The Five, with surprising nonchalance, “I don’t understand why people are angry over this.  I mean, how could you not see this coming?  Donald Trump is not a libertarian.  He’s not small government.”  With a somber smirk, he proclaims, “small government is dead.  Sadly, as a conservative, it is dead.”

 

To a certain degree, he’s correct.  We should have seen this moment coming.

Donald Trump notwithstanding, neither Republicans nor Democrats have even feigned fiscal conservatism in the last few years.  In recent memory, though, Republicans did tout fiscal conservatism as a fundamental principle in shaping policy, but that charade ended in 2014 when they lost the ability to claim that bloated government spending was solely the fault of the Democrats in Congress and the White House.

Since 2009, excessive federal spending has been the battle cry of conservatives everywhere, amplified early-on by the upstart Tea Party.  Barack Obama and the then-Democrat Congress had issued the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the Affordable Care and Patient Protection Act, which carried tentative taxpayer price tags of $787 billion and ~$900 billion, respectively.  Disaffected taxpayers who, and whose children and grandchildren, were destined to foot the bill were assured by Republican candidates that majorities in both chambers of Congress would restore fiscal sanity in Washington.  Bills would then be carefully crafted, and actually perused before passage. 

All of that was reasonable enough for Americans to demand.  In fact, it’s disheartening to consider that this is how little we actually ask of the stewards of our wealth in Washington. Imagine handing ~25% of your annual income to a financial advisor to be invested, only for you to not only be unaware of how it’s being spent, but for that advisor to take on massive amounts of new debt in your name without telling you how, precisely, that money will be spent. 

In the real world, that advisor would be arrested and subject to prosecution.  In Washington, it’s often argued, particularly by the left, that anything short of that arrangement is greed and bitterness on the part of the taxpaying “investor.”

But immediately after conservative voters delivered a majority in both the House and the Senate in 2014, John Boehner and Congressional Republicans crafted and quickly passed a $1.1 trillion spending package in a lame duck session, which Barack Obama happily signed.  “We’ve done this in a bipartisan fashion,” Boehner assured disaffected Republicans, “and, frankly, it’s a good bill.”

Democrats had no qualms with such excessive spending they’d been driving for years, so they simply went about their business, proceeding headlong into more peculiar identity politics and inventing new social grievances for their base to be enraged about, like men who think they’re women being able to use ladies’ toilets.  Republicans, on the other hand, simply dropped the notion of fiscal conservatism as a prominent line item in the platform, continuing to harp about Obamacare and immigration, which were still winning issues with constituents.

So, perhaps if you’ve been paying attention, you shouldn’t be surprised by this new spending bill.  But that doesn’t change the fact that you should you be outraged at a 2,223-page, $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill that even Trump, to his credit, had the honesty to admit that no one had read before voting upon. 

And if you are not outraged by that, but you spent 2010 barking about the fiscal irresponsibility of Obamacare that was similarly passed, then you can be nothing short of a hypocrite.

But then there’s the bigger question.  Is small government really dead?  If the answer to that question is yes, then Gutfeld’s blasé disappointment doesn’t capture the deep despair to be felt in the realization.  Because if small government is dead, then the very idea of America is truly dead.  What exists after its death is something else entirely.

In perhaps my favorite single paragraph of Mark Steyn’s essential After America: Get Ready for Armageddon, he writes*:

Conservatives often talk about “small government,” which, in a sense, is framing the argument in leftist terms.  They’re for “Big Government” – and, when you’re arguing for the small alternative, its easy to sound pinched and mean and grudging.  But small government gives you big freedoms – and Big Government leaves you with very little freedom.  The opposite of Big Government is not small government, but Big Liberty.  The bailout and the stimulus and the budget and the trillion-dollar deficits are not merely massive transfers from the most dynamic and productive sector to the least dynamic and productive.  When governments annex a huge chunk of the economy, they also annex a huge chuck of individual liberty. 

At its core, that is what massive government spending does.  It turns a nation of individual savers and spenders into a nation of serfs, beholden to a government which holds a collective debt that must be paid in order to continue a collective existence. 

Government is simply not a good steward of our wealth, as has been proven time and time again, if our $20+ trillion debt doesn’t signify that enough.  And our wealth, along with the opportunities to freely attain, preserve, or lose it, is among the most fundamental cruxes of liberty. 

This is not a new notion, by any stretch of the imagination.  Our wealth is our property, and to it, we have a God-given right.  That right should is to be protected by a just government, not infringed and usurped to finance the desired whims of others, be they government bureaucrats or envious grumblers demanding free housing, college, or education.

Small government principles aid in preserving this individual right to property.  Big government, which seems to be the preferred panacea for both Republicans and Democrats these days, aids in destroying that right.  And if that right continues to be thus degraded, all that the American idea once was is surely dying.

There should be no surprise in Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi cheering the new spending bill as a victory for big government Democrats.  And again, there should be no surprise in this bill being presented and passed with Republican majorities, despite their having run wholeheartedly against such things not so long ago. 

The biggest surprise, for me, is Donald Trump.  He gave verbal opposition to it before signing it, and even open criticism after signing it.  He seemed honest in doing both of those things, even if the only reason for that is his belief that it wasn’t a “good deal.”

Right now, despite my occasional differences with him, Donald Trump may indeed be a small government conservative’s best spokesman in Washington.  But given that, as Greg Gutfeld says, Donald Trump is “not small government” and never has been, that provides little substance to the thin gruel that we small government conservatives are being offered by Washington right now.

*Steyn, Mark.  After America: Get Ready for Armageddon.  Washington, D.C.: Regnery Publishing, 2011. pp. 346

William Sullivan blogs at Political Palaver and can be followed on Twitter.

Speaking of the new $1.3 trillion, 2,232-page omnibus spending bill that Congress hastily crafted, no elected official had read, and that Donald Trump grudgingly signed into law, Fox News’ Greg Gutfeld said on The Five, with surprising nonchalance, “I don’t understand why people are angry over this.  I mean, how could you not see this coming?  Donald Trump is not a libertarian.  He’s not small government.”  With a somber smirk, he proclaims, “small government is dead.  Sadly, as a conservative, it is dead.”

 

To a certain degree, he’s correct.  We should have seen this moment coming.

Donald Trump notwithstanding, neither Republicans nor Democrats have even feigned fiscal conservatism in the last few years.  In recent memory, though, Republicans did tout fiscal conservatism as a fundamental principle in shaping policy, but that charade ended in 2014 when they lost the ability to claim that bloated government spending was solely the fault of the Democrats in Congress and the White House.

Since 2009, excessive federal spending has been the battle cry of conservatives everywhere, amplified early-on by the upstart Tea Party.  Barack Obama and the then-Democrat Congress had issued the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the Affordable Care and Patient Protection Act, which carried tentative taxpayer price tags of $787 billion and ~$900 billion, respectively.  Disaffected taxpayers who, and whose children and grandchildren, were destined to foot the bill were assured by Republican candidates that majorities in both chambers of Congress would restore fiscal sanity in Washington.  Bills would then be carefully crafted, and actually perused before passage. 

All of that was reasonable enough for Americans to demand.  In fact, it’s disheartening to consider that this is how little we actually ask of the stewards of our wealth in Washington. Imagine handing ~25% of your annual income to a financial advisor to be invested, only for you to not only be unaware of how it’s being spent, but for that advisor to take on massive amounts of new debt in your name without telling you how, precisely, that money will be spent. 

In the real world, that advisor would be arrested and subject to prosecution.  In Washington, it’s often argued, particularly by the left, that anything short of that arrangement is greed and bitterness on the part of the taxpaying “investor.”

But immediately after conservative voters delivered a majority in both the House and the Senate in 2014, John Boehner and Congressional Republicans crafted and quickly passed a $1.1 trillion spending package in a lame duck session, which Barack Obama happily signed.  “We’ve done this in a bipartisan fashion,” Boehner assured disaffected Republicans, “and, frankly, it’s a good bill.”

Democrats had no qualms with such excessive spending they’d been driving for years, so they simply went about their business, proceeding headlong into more peculiar identity politics and inventing new social grievances for their base to be enraged about, like men who think they’re women being able to use ladies’ toilets.  Republicans, on the other hand, simply dropped the notion of fiscal conservatism as a prominent line item in the platform, continuing to harp about Obamacare and immigration, which were still winning issues with constituents.

So, perhaps if you’ve been paying attention, you shouldn’t be surprised by this new spending bill.  But that doesn’t change the fact that you should you be outraged at a 2,223-page, $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill that even Trump, to his credit, had the honesty to admit that no one had read before voting upon. 

And if you are not outraged by that, but you spent 2010 barking about the fiscal irresponsibility of Obamacare that was similarly passed, then you can be nothing short of a hypocrite.

But then there’s the bigger question.  Is small government really dead?  If the answer to that question is yes, then Gutfeld’s blasé disappointment doesn’t capture the deep despair to be felt in the realization.  Because if small government is dead, then the very idea of America is truly dead.  What exists after its death is something else entirely.

In perhaps my favorite single paragraph of Mark Steyn’s essential After America: Get Ready for Armageddon, he writes*:

Conservatives often talk about “small government,” which, in a sense, is framing the argument in leftist terms.  They’re for “Big Government” – and, when you’re arguing for the small alternative, its easy to sound pinched and mean and grudging.  But small government gives you big freedoms – and Big Government leaves you with very little freedom.  The opposite of Big Government is not small government, but Big Liberty.  The bailout and the stimulus and the budget and the trillion-dollar deficits are not merely massive transfers from the most dynamic and productive sector to the least dynamic and productive.  When governments annex a huge chunk of the economy, they also annex a huge chuck of individual liberty. 

At its core, that is what massive government spending does.  It turns a nation of individual savers and spenders into a nation of serfs, beholden to a government which holds a collective debt that must be paid in order to continue a collective existence. 

Government is simply not a good steward of our wealth, as has been proven time and time again, if our $20+ trillion debt doesn’t signify that enough.  And our wealth, along with the opportunities to freely attain, preserve, or lose it, is among the most fundamental cruxes of liberty. 

This is not a new notion, by any stretch of the imagination.  Our wealth is our property, and to it, we have a God-given right.  That right should is to be protected by a just government, not infringed and usurped to finance the desired whims of others, be they government bureaucrats or envious grumblers demanding free housing, college, or education.

Small government principles aid in preserving this individual right to property.  Big government, which seems to be the preferred panacea for both Republicans and Democrats these days, aids in destroying that right.  And if that right continues to be thus degraded, all that the American idea once was is surely dying.

There should be no surprise in Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi cheering the new spending bill as a victory for big government Democrats.  And again, there should be no surprise in this bill being presented and passed with Republican majorities, despite their having run wholeheartedly against such things not so long ago. 

The biggest surprise, for me, is Donald Trump.  He gave verbal opposition to it before signing it, and even open criticism after signing it.  He seemed honest in doing both of those things, even if the only reason for that is his belief that it wasn’t a “good deal.”

Right now, despite my occasional differences with him, Donald Trump may indeed be a small government conservative’s best spokesman in Washington.  But given that, as Greg Gutfeld says, Donald Trump is “not small government” and never has been, that provides little substance to the thin gruel that we small government conservatives are being offered by Washington right now.

*Steyn, Mark.  After America: Get Ready for Armageddon.  Washington, D.C.: Regnery Publishing, 2011. pp. 346

William Sullivan blogs at Political Palaver and can be followed on Twitter.



Source link

Why Reports of a Coming Republican Bloodbath in November Are Premature


A curious thing happens when you look beyond the media elation over Democrat Conor Lamb’s victory in House district PA-18, which was framed as a referendum on Donald Trump’s presidency.  Trump won the district by 20 points in the 2016 election, and Trump lent his support to Lamb’s opponent, Rick Saccone.  But Saccone was not a good candidate by many measures.  Even before the election, it was public knowledge that he had been admonished by Republicans for a “sluggish campaign” and for failing to mobilize “any donor infrastructure.”  He was “panned as a deeply underwhelming candidate who leaned on the national party to execute a massive, multimillion-dollar rescue effort.”  Several Republicans echoed those sentiments more loudly after his loss.

Conor Lamb, beyond his Ivy League pedigree and military service, was inversely dynamic and engaged.  He also had broad appeal to some conservatives.  A campaign video featured him firing an AR-15, signifying to the public his sensible position to oppose any new restrictions on gun ownership, supporting only firmer background checks.  Interestingly, this fact had the left wondering whether it should cheer his victory or fear what it portends for Democrats’ future gun control efforts if he won.

Lamb also supports Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs, a big plus among Pennsylvania’s working class.  He even openly opposes abortion, though he also opposes any infringements upon the ability to procure an abortion.  (This is a curious position that signifies he doesn’t actually oppose abortion, but that’s lost in the media spin.)  He had such across-the-aisle appeal that Paul Ryan went so far as to say that both Lamb and Saccone “ran as conservatives.” 

A questionable assertion, maybe.  Lamb generally held the party line on health care and immigration and called Trump’s tax cuts a benefit for the wealthy. 

But the point is, this wasn’t monotone, unlikable Hillary playing for the hard left against the bombastic, likeable Donald Trump with broad appeal beyond the urban Democrat citadels.  This was precisely the opposite, and Pennsylvania’s 18th district chose differently this time around. 

I’m not discounting the loss in a district that voted heavily against Obama in 2008 and 2012.  That’s a big deal.  But it is to say that the candidate matters in local elections.

This brings us to the other big reason Democrats are optimistic about a Republican electoral bloodbath in November: Alabama.

The red-state staple voted blue for hard-left Doug Jones over Roy Moore in a special election last year for Jeff Sessions’s vacated Senate seat.  But Roy Moore was the subject of a mass-orchestrated character assassination, which included everything from the dating of younger women to allegations of sexual assault, all accusations being many decades old.  There were nine accusations in total, all quite different, and all lumped into one media campaign suggesting that he is a sexual predator who is unfit for office.

You can say that’s unfair.  What you can’t say is that this translates to public appeal, even if you consider a thirty-something-year-old man frequently dating girls in their teens as the worst of his infractions.  Political candidates’ life choices, and particularly the life choices of a polarizing candidate who lacks any broad appeal, matter when trying to mobilize the vote.

Then there are the elections in New Jersey and Virginia.  Much is made of these by the left, too. 

New Jersey is the easiest to appraise.  After eight years of Chris Christie as governor, the once praised “moderate” Republican hopeful for 2016 was at a horrific 80% disapproval rate in his state.  He left office as officially “the least popular governor in his state’s history.”  Those were pretty tough odds for his lieutenant governor, Kim Guadagno, to overcome.  This election was certainly more a referendum on Christie than Trump.

Virginia was the bigger flip Democrats will point to as evidence of a backlash against Trump. 

Republicans did lose many seats in the state legislature, and Democrat Ralph Northam soundly defeated Ed Gillespie to become Virginia’s governor.  None of that is good for Republicans.

But Trump also lost Virginia by a pretty significant margin.  And here’s a curious fact.  Gillespie won a greater share of Virginians’ votes than Donald Trump, 45% vs. Trump’s 44%.  And the numbers certainly suggest that this was not a negative reaction to Trump, expressed as independents and conservatives turning away from the Republican Party. 

The truth is that Virginia has long been a blue state.  Four of Virginia’s last five governors have been Democrats.  The last Republican senator was elected in 2002.  It was the only Southern state to vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016, and Barack Obama won the state twice.  As nonpartisan political analyst and pollster Ron Feucheux wrote last November, “Republicans haven’t been doing so well in Virginia, and the 2017 vote totals are, unremarkably, in line with that trend.”

He continues:

Democrats won the 2017 governor’s race by turning out Democrats – not by winning over swing voters or expanding their base.  Nonwhite voters – mostly blacks and Hispanics, both strong Democratic constituencies – made up 33 percent of Virginia’s electorate this year.  In the 2013 governor’s election, also won by a Democrat (Terry McAuliffe), only 28 percent of the electorate was nonwhite.  This year, 28 percent of the state’s electorate was composed of self-described liberals.  In 2013, it was 20 percent.

The Democrat base is motivated; that’s obvious.  But the media have been fond of suggesting that what’s been tipping the scales in Democrats’ favor is the “highly educated, high-income voters” like those in D.C.’s suburbs (who, incidentally, have a vested interest in voting for the party promising to protect and expand their livelihoods in federal government jobs and contracts).

However, logic and the numbers suggest that Virginia’s results were simply a function of a state of Democrat voters, voting how Democrat voters vote. 

Most of America where Republicans hold seats doesn’t share Virginia’s political proclivities.  Rather, a lot of it is more like PA-18.  And so Democrats have a choice.  Do they reject intersectional politics and support some of President Trump’s policies and some conservative principles to curry favor across the aisle, or do they rush ahead with the intersectional political messaging that alienated them from the American people and spurred their having lost the House, the Senate, and the presidency since 2010? 

To have anything close to the sweep Republicans enjoyed in 2010 (a 65-seat congressional swing in Republicans’ favor), they will have to do the former.  But can Democrats do this with the media and its hard-left activist base in tow?  I, for one, am nervously curious.

Whether it will it happen is yet to be seen.  It certainly could.  Polls do give evidence for broad Democratic victories.  But then, on November 6, 2016, there were no polls I can recall suggesting a Trump victory on November 8. 

What should be clear is that none of this other evidence so far signifies the broad scope required to appraise the upcoming national midterm elections as a Republican “bloodbath,” as each example that has led to the frenzied optimism of the left has been a microcosm of singular circumstances.

Perhaps Ron Feucheux said it best.  “Off-year elections are fun to analyze.  And easy to overstate.”  It seems easy to conclude, at this point, that this is what the left is doing.   

William Sullivan blogs at Political Palaver and can be followed on Twitter.

A curious thing happens when you look beyond the media elation over Democrat Conor Lamb’s victory in House district PA-18, which was framed as a referendum on Donald Trump’s presidency.  Trump won the district by 20 points in the 2016 election, and Trump lent his support to Lamb’s opponent, Rick Saccone.  But Saccone was not a good candidate by many measures.  Even before the election, it was public knowledge that he had been admonished by Republicans for a “sluggish campaign” and for failing to mobilize “any donor infrastructure.”  He was “panned as a deeply underwhelming candidate who leaned on the national party to execute a massive, multimillion-dollar rescue effort.”  Several Republicans echoed those sentiments more loudly after his loss.

Conor Lamb, beyond his Ivy League pedigree and military service, was inversely dynamic and engaged.  He also had broad appeal to some conservatives.  A campaign video featured him firing an AR-15, signifying to the public his sensible position to oppose any new restrictions on gun ownership, supporting only firmer background checks.  Interestingly, this fact had the left wondering whether it should cheer his victory or fear what it portends for Democrats’ future gun control efforts if he won.

Lamb also supports Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs, a big plus among Pennsylvania’s working class.  He even openly opposes abortion, though he also opposes any infringements upon the ability to procure an abortion.  (This is a curious position that signifies he doesn’t actually oppose abortion, but that’s lost in the media spin.)  He had such across-the-aisle appeal that Paul Ryan went so far as to say that both Lamb and Saccone “ran as conservatives.” 

A questionable assertion, maybe.  Lamb generally held the party line on health care and immigration and called Trump’s tax cuts a benefit for the wealthy. 

But the point is, this wasn’t monotone, unlikable Hillary playing for the hard left against the bombastic, likeable Donald Trump with broad appeal beyond the urban Democrat citadels.  This was precisely the opposite, and Pennsylvania’s 18th district chose differently this time around. 

I’m not discounting the loss in a district that voted heavily against Obama in 2008 and 2012.  That’s a big deal.  But it is to say that the candidate matters in local elections.

This brings us to the other big reason Democrats are optimistic about a Republican electoral bloodbath in November: Alabama.

The red-state staple voted blue for hard-left Doug Jones over Roy Moore in a special election last year for Jeff Sessions’s vacated Senate seat.  But Roy Moore was the subject of a mass-orchestrated character assassination, which included everything from the dating of younger women to allegations of sexual assault, all accusations being many decades old.  There were nine accusations in total, all quite different, and all lumped into one media campaign suggesting that he is a sexual predator who is unfit for office.

You can say that’s unfair.  What you can’t say is that this translates to public appeal, even if you consider a thirty-something-year-old man frequently dating girls in their teens as the worst of his infractions.  Political candidates’ life choices, and particularly the life choices of a polarizing candidate who lacks any broad appeal, matter when trying to mobilize the vote.

Then there are the elections in New Jersey and Virginia.  Much is made of these by the left, too. 

New Jersey is the easiest to appraise.  After eight years of Chris Christie as governor, the once praised “moderate” Republican hopeful for 2016 was at a horrific 80% disapproval rate in his state.  He left office as officially “the least popular governor in his state’s history.”  Those were pretty tough odds for his lieutenant governor, Kim Guadagno, to overcome.  This election was certainly more a referendum on Christie than Trump.

Virginia was the bigger flip Democrats will point to as evidence of a backlash against Trump. 

Republicans did lose many seats in the state legislature, and Democrat Ralph Northam soundly defeated Ed Gillespie to become Virginia’s governor.  None of that is good for Republicans.

But Trump also lost Virginia by a pretty significant margin.  And here’s a curious fact.  Gillespie won a greater share of Virginians’ votes than Donald Trump, 45% vs. Trump’s 44%.  And the numbers certainly suggest that this was not a negative reaction to Trump, expressed as independents and conservatives turning away from the Republican Party. 

The truth is that Virginia has long been a blue state.  Four of Virginia’s last five governors have been Democrats.  The last Republican senator was elected in 2002.  It was the only Southern state to vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016, and Barack Obama won the state twice.  As nonpartisan political analyst and pollster Ron Feucheux wrote last November, “Republicans haven’t been doing so well in Virginia, and the 2017 vote totals are, unremarkably, in line with that trend.”

He continues:

Democrats won the 2017 governor’s race by turning out Democrats – not by winning over swing voters or expanding their base.  Nonwhite voters – mostly blacks and Hispanics, both strong Democratic constituencies – made up 33 percent of Virginia’s electorate this year.  In the 2013 governor’s election, also won by a Democrat (Terry McAuliffe), only 28 percent of the electorate was nonwhite.  This year, 28 percent of the state’s electorate was composed of self-described liberals.  In 2013, it was 20 percent.

The Democrat base is motivated; that’s obvious.  But the media have been fond of suggesting that what’s been tipping the scales in Democrats’ favor is the “highly educated, high-income voters” like those in D.C.’s suburbs (who, incidentally, have a vested interest in voting for the party promising to protect and expand their livelihoods in federal government jobs and contracts).

However, logic and the numbers suggest that Virginia’s results were simply a function of a state of Democrat voters, voting how Democrat voters vote. 

Most of America where Republicans hold seats doesn’t share Virginia’s political proclivities.  Rather, a lot of it is more like PA-18.  And so Democrats have a choice.  Do they reject intersectional politics and support some of President Trump’s policies and some conservative principles to curry favor across the aisle, or do they rush ahead with the intersectional political messaging that alienated them from the American people and spurred their having lost the House, the Senate, and the presidency since 2010? 

To have anything close to the sweep Republicans enjoyed in 2010 (a 65-seat congressional swing in Republicans’ favor), they will have to do the former.  But can Democrats do this with the media and its hard-left activist base in tow?  I, for one, am nervously curious.

Whether it will it happen is yet to be seen.  It certainly could.  Polls do give evidence for broad Democratic victories.  But then, on November 6, 2016, there were no polls I can recall suggesting a Trump victory on November 8. 

What should be clear is that none of this other evidence so far signifies the broad scope required to appraise the upcoming national midterm elections as a Republican “bloodbath,” as each example that has led to the frenzied optimism of the left has been a microcosm of singular circumstances.

Perhaps Ron Feucheux said it best.  “Off-year elections are fun to analyze.  And easy to overstate.”  It seems easy to conclude, at this point, that this is what the left is doing.   

William Sullivan blogs at Political Palaver and can be followed on Twitter.



Source link

Trump's Tariffs Are All about Politics


I’ve noticed recently an interesting dichotomy of general presumptions being made by President Trump’s most fervent supporters.  It goes like this.  If you’re for Trump’s protective trade policy demanding tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, you’re a patriot who’s looking to protect American workers’ jobs.  If you’re against that policy, you’re a globalist cuck who doesn’t care about American workers.

It’s an incredibly unjust framing of the argument, because there are myriad legitimate doubts about the efficacy of Trump’s protectionist trade policy.  Inexhaustible amounts of evidence exist to suggest that such policies do little to spur economic growth, at best, and at worst, they are economically destructive.

First of all, the steel industry is thriving and has been growing in America.  We are the fourth largest steel-producing nation in the world, and the steel industry has seen substantial growth in recent years.  It simply happens to be doing that with fewer workers. 

That’s not the result of our nation being the victim of some predatory trade policy of foreign nations.  It’s the result of innovation and global competition, two inescapable realities in any free marketplace, neither of which is a bad thing.

But Trump continually touts that steel imports have created an “unfair” balance of trade, leading us to have deep trade deficits with certain countries.

Let’s pretend that the opposite of the dreaded trade deficit, a trade surplus, is some kind of economic Nirvana that we are desperate to achieve, as the argument seems to be. 

We’ve experienced that several times in the past.  Here’s an example of a time when we had a pretty large, sustained trade surplus: every single year of the Great Depression.

Any guesses as to how we achieved that?

There are several reasons for the Great Depression, but you’d be hard pressed to find economists who don’t give a lot of the credit for those awesome trade surpluses to the Smoot-Hawley tariff.

There is an open question as to whether the Smoot-Hawley tariff factored heavily into the stock market crash of 1929, but there is no question that the tariff attributed to the depth of the Great Depression and the severity of the trade war which followed.  As Burton Folsom, Jr. describes in New Deal or Raw Deal: How FDR’s Economic Legacy Has Damaged America,* Smoot-Hawley “instituted the highest trade tariff in American history” and was a major contributor leading to the Depression:

Foreigners were understandably outraged.  In Switzerland, for example, the leading industry was watch (and clock) making, and the leading customer for these timepieces was the United States.  But the sharp increase in tariffs made Swiss watches less competitive than the inferior American brands.  What the United States may have gained in shutting out Switzerland was more than lost when Switzerland passed retaliatory tariffs and refused to import U.S. cars, typewriters, or radios.

He continues, saying that “the Smoot-Hawley tariff was a direct attack on our home economy.  When we pay more for American-made watches and wool blankets than foreign-made substitutes, we are able to buy fewer American made [sic] radios, cars, or telephones.”

Now, Trump’s steel tariff is not Smoot-Hawley, and I’m not suggesting it’s the same in scope.  That bill taxed 3,218 imported items.  And Trump is taxing steel and aluminum imports while enjoying executive flexibility to carve out exemptions for, say, Mexico and Canada that did not exist in 1930 (thanks to the 1962 Trade Expansion Act, which broadened executive scope in trade). 

But history has been pretty clear about one thing: tariffs create negative consequences beyond the “saving American jobs and industry” that have been routinely pitched to justify them.

This brings us back to steel.

In the vein of Folsom’s argument that a tariff is an unrecognized “direct attack on our home economy,” famed economist Walter E. Williams noted in 2016 that we should “examine not only what is seen but what is unseen” when it comes to tariffs.

He argues that the 2002 George W. Bush tariff levied taxes on imported steel of 8 to 30% “in an effort to save jobs and protect the ailing steel industry.”

The domestic price of some items, such as “hot rolled steel,” rose by as much as 40%.  Yes, it benefited “1,700 or so” steelworkers.  But without question, “steel users” such as “the auto industry and its suppliers, heavy construction equipment manufacturers,” were “harmed” by the tariff.  “It is estimated,” Williams continues, “that the steel tariffs cost 4,500 job losses in no fewer than 16 states, with more than 19,000 lost in California, 16,000 in Texas, and about 10,000 each in Ohio, Michigan and Illinois.”

“It would have been cheaper,” Williams says, “to tax ourselves and give those steelworkers a $100,000 annual check.”  It would have been less costly but “politically impossible.  Why?  Because the costs of protecting those steel jobs would have been apparent and thus repulsive to Americans.  Tariffs conceal such costs.”

So what’s different today?  China is “dumping” steel at $200 a ton when the going rate is $500 a ton because the Chinese are able to find fewer buyers in their flagging industrial production marketplace?  And it’s not just their flagging economy.  The expected slowing global demand for steel in 2018 was discussed in 2017, so what we have here is a global overabundance of product, which naturally yields a reduction in price.

How is such a thing anything but a boon to the American economy, where there are roughly 120,000 steelworkers but roughly six million workers who rely upon steel consumption for their industries’ health?  Isn’t the net benefit of such reduced production cost due to cheaper imports a much larger net benefit for all Americans than temporarily protecting some of those steelworkers’ jobs by demanding that all of those other companies purchase their steel at a higher price than a willing seller might offer?

As Mercatus Center senior research fellow Dan Griswold explains, “[t]hree-quarters of the steel used in the United States is within the construction industry, the automobile industry, the energy sector, you’ve got appliances …”

That’s a lot of potentially reduced cost to a lot of industries, and the benefit of cheaper steel could translate to a lot of economic growth and a lot of less expensive goods for American citizens.

This isn’t rocket science, and we shouldn’t kid ourselves to believe that Trump’s tariffs are about economics.  It’s politics. 

China has massive tariffs on imports, which has arguably led to its flagging economy.  Why we should follow that country’s lead is beyond me.

When you frame it as a political move, I understand why people say we should place a tariff on Chinese steel as retaliation for China’s heavily taxing our exported products.  But that’s essentially an economic sanction upon a political enemy, not something that will yield practical economic benefit to our country.  And it’s certainly not something that will “save American jobs” or be of net benefit to the American people as a whole, unless you consider our pressing of the Chinese government as something that will yield some sort of long-term benefit beyond the prospect of a trade war or, God forbid, actual war.

William Sullivan blogs at Political Palaver and can be followed on Twitter.

*Folsom, Jr., Burton.  New Deal or Raw Deal: How FDR’s Economic Legacy Has Damaged America.  New York, NY.  Threshold Editions, 2008, pp 31-32.

I’ve noticed recently an interesting dichotomy of general presumptions being made by President Trump’s most fervent supporters.  It goes like this.  If you’re for Trump’s protective trade policy demanding tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, you’re a patriot who’s looking to protect American workers’ jobs.  If you’re against that policy, you’re a globalist cuck who doesn’t care about American workers.

It’s an incredibly unjust framing of the argument, because there are myriad legitimate doubts about the efficacy of Trump’s protectionist trade policy.  Inexhaustible amounts of evidence exist to suggest that such policies do little to spur economic growth, at best, and at worst, they are economically destructive.

First of all, the steel industry is thriving and has been growing in America.  We are the fourth largest steel-producing nation in the world, and the steel industry has seen substantial growth in recent years.  It simply happens to be doing that with fewer workers. 

That’s not the result of our nation being the victim of some predatory trade policy of foreign nations.  It’s the result of innovation and global competition, two inescapable realities in any free marketplace, neither of which is a bad thing.

But Trump continually touts that steel imports have created an “unfair” balance of trade, leading us to have deep trade deficits with certain countries.

Let’s pretend that the opposite of the dreaded trade deficit, a trade surplus, is some kind of economic Nirvana that we are desperate to achieve, as the argument seems to be. 

We’ve experienced that several times in the past.  Here’s an example of a time when we had a pretty large, sustained trade surplus: every single year of the Great Depression.

Any guesses as to how we achieved that?

There are several reasons for the Great Depression, but you’d be hard pressed to find economists who don’t give a lot of the credit for those awesome trade surpluses to the Smoot-Hawley tariff.

There is an open question as to whether the Smoot-Hawley tariff factored heavily into the stock market crash of 1929, but there is no question that the tariff attributed to the depth of the Great Depression and the severity of the trade war which followed.  As Burton Folsom, Jr. describes in New Deal or Raw Deal: How FDR’s Economic Legacy Has Damaged America,* Smoot-Hawley “instituted the highest trade tariff in American history” and was a major contributor leading to the Depression:

Foreigners were understandably outraged.  In Switzerland, for example, the leading industry was watch (and clock) making, and the leading customer for these timepieces was the United States.  But the sharp increase in tariffs made Swiss watches less competitive than the inferior American brands.  What the United States may have gained in shutting out Switzerland was more than lost when Switzerland passed retaliatory tariffs and refused to import U.S. cars, typewriters, or radios.

He continues, saying that “the Smoot-Hawley tariff was a direct attack on our home economy.  When we pay more for American-made watches and wool blankets than foreign-made substitutes, we are able to buy fewer American made [sic] radios, cars, or telephones.”

Now, Trump’s steel tariff is not Smoot-Hawley, and I’m not suggesting it’s the same in scope.  That bill taxed 3,218 imported items.  And Trump is taxing steel and aluminum imports while enjoying executive flexibility to carve out exemptions for, say, Mexico and Canada that did not exist in 1930 (thanks to the 1962 Trade Expansion Act, which broadened executive scope in trade). 

But history has been pretty clear about one thing: tariffs create negative consequences beyond the “saving American jobs and industry” that have been routinely pitched to justify them.

This brings us back to steel.

In the vein of Folsom’s argument that a tariff is an unrecognized “direct attack on our home economy,” famed economist Walter E. Williams noted in 2016 that we should “examine not only what is seen but what is unseen” when it comes to tariffs.

He argues that the 2002 George W. Bush tariff levied taxes on imported steel of 8 to 30% “in an effort to save jobs and protect the ailing steel industry.”

The domestic price of some items, such as “hot rolled steel,” rose by as much as 40%.  Yes, it benefited “1,700 or so” steelworkers.  But without question, “steel users” such as “the auto industry and its suppliers, heavy construction equipment manufacturers,” were “harmed” by the tariff.  “It is estimated,” Williams continues, “that the steel tariffs cost 4,500 job losses in no fewer than 16 states, with more than 19,000 lost in California, 16,000 in Texas, and about 10,000 each in Ohio, Michigan and Illinois.”

“It would have been cheaper,” Williams says, “to tax ourselves and give those steelworkers a $100,000 annual check.”  It would have been less costly but “politically impossible.  Why?  Because the costs of protecting those steel jobs would have been apparent and thus repulsive to Americans.  Tariffs conceal such costs.”

So what’s different today?  China is “dumping” steel at $200 a ton when the going rate is $500 a ton because the Chinese are able to find fewer buyers in their flagging industrial production marketplace?  And it’s not just their flagging economy.  The expected slowing global demand for steel in 2018 was discussed in 2017, so what we have here is a global overabundance of product, which naturally yields a reduction in price.

How is such a thing anything but a boon to the American economy, where there are roughly 120,000 steelworkers but roughly six million workers who rely upon steel consumption for their industries’ health?  Isn’t the net benefit of such reduced production cost due to cheaper imports a much larger net benefit for all Americans than temporarily protecting some of those steelworkers’ jobs by demanding that all of those other companies purchase their steel at a higher price than a willing seller might offer?

As Mercatus Center senior research fellow Dan Griswold explains, “[t]hree-quarters of the steel used in the United States is within the construction industry, the automobile industry, the energy sector, you’ve got appliances …”

That’s a lot of potentially reduced cost to a lot of industries, and the benefit of cheaper steel could translate to a lot of economic growth and a lot of less expensive goods for American citizens.

This isn’t rocket science, and we shouldn’t kid ourselves to believe that Trump’s tariffs are about economics.  It’s politics. 

China has massive tariffs on imports, which has arguably led to its flagging economy.  Why we should follow that country’s lead is beyond me.

When you frame it as a political move, I understand why people say we should place a tariff on Chinese steel as retaliation for China’s heavily taxing our exported products.  But that’s essentially an economic sanction upon a political enemy, not something that will yield practical economic benefit to our country.  And it’s certainly not something that will “save American jobs” or be of net benefit to the American people as a whole, unless you consider our pressing of the Chinese government as something that will yield some sort of long-term benefit beyond the prospect of a trade war or, God forbid, actual war.

William Sullivan blogs at Political Palaver and can be followed on Twitter.

*Folsom, Jr., Burton.  New Deal or Raw Deal: How FDR’s Economic Legacy Has Damaged America.  New York, NY.  Threshold Editions, 2008, pp 31-32.



Source link