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Saturday, September 06, 2008

THE NEW YORK TIMES GETS IT RIGHT   Here's a wise and thoughtful Times editorial, seeking to damp down the hateful wave of criticism of a female vice presidential nominee, just on the basis that she has little political experience.
Where is it written that only senators are qualified to become President? Surely Ronald Reagan does not subscribe to that maxim. Or where is it written that mere representatives aren't qualified, like Geraldine Ferraro of Queens?

...Where is it written that governors and mayors, like Dianne Feinstein of San Francisco, are too local, too provincial? That didn't stop Richard Nixon from picking Spiro Agnew, a suburban politician who became Governor of Maryland. Remember the main foreign affairs credential of Georgia's Governor Carter: He was a member of the Trilateral Commission.

...What a splendid system, we say to ourselves, that takes little-known men, tests them in high office and permits them to grow into statesmen. This rationale may even be right, but then let it also be fair. Why shouldn't a little-known woman have the same opportunity to grow?

Unfortunately, the Times wrote this in July, 1984, when it could scarcely imagine that the female nominee it hoped for would be -- gasp! -- a Republican!

Thanks to Jameson Campaigne for the link.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 4:04 PM | link  

CRAZY 'BOUT SARAH   Paul Krugman's New York Times column yesterday is priceless. His way of diminishing the wave of public adulation for Sarah Palin is to claim that Palin, and the GOP in general by putting her forward, is employing a Nixon-like "resentment strategy." It's designed to stir up anger among conservatives against political elites. Why, oh why, Krugman wonders, can't the unwashd masses huddled in red states not be grateful for the interventions in their lives -- their health care, their jobs, their guns, their taxes, their pathetic little religions -- by elitists such as himself? Don't they know that he's from the government, and he's only trying to help them?

My DC-insider friend "Mick Danger" has his own take on the Democratic reaction to Palin as America's new populist heroine.Now this is innovation.

It's the kind of innovation at which Americans lead the world. Yep, talking about making up new words, such as this one: "blamestorm."

With Governor Palin (let's use her title as a sign of respect) under attack.

The left is not enraged by her words, her political record or her policies. The left lives in a world of words and symbols and the fact that Governor Palin is now more popular than every other major American political figure is causing an overdose of the shared madness of those on the left.

The left hates her acceptance of her ordinariness. The left loves to berate, mock, condemn, dismiss and hate the happy middle income American family.

The pressure of losing the symbol race to someone so real on the right is driving the media elites on the left into a huge "blamestorm."

Allow me to introduce one prominent American liberal woman into evidence, Judith Warner, former Newsweek correspondent and now author and blogger. She's a little crazy 'bout Sarah; "crazy" as in she seems to transfer her own anxieties into hate for the Governor, as if Sarah is stealing her dreams, her hope, her very being.

Exhibit A is a brief blurb on her from National Public Radio: "Judith Warner is the author of the new book Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety. In it she writes about the "choking cocktail of guilt and anxiety and resentment and regret" that is poisoning motherhood for American women. Warner is a former special correspondent for Newsweek in Paris."

Sarah Palin does not seem -- not in the slightest -- to be "choking" with "guilt, anxiety, resentment or regret" about being a mother and wife. She seems to love her life, her children, her husband and herself.

Now see Exhibit B, Warner's blog on the New York Times web site. She calls the choice of Palin for VP "nauseating." She asked, concerning Palin's triumphant acceptance speech on Wednesday, "Could there be a more thoroughgoing humiliation for America’s women?"

Why? Listen to her plaintive cry for help:

These days, I fear, this need for direct mirroring - and thus this susceptibility to all sorts of low-level tripe - is particularly acute among women, who are perhaps reaching historic lows in their comfort levels with themselves and their choices.
Maybe the Hillary crowd wants to socialize medicine so they can load up on drugs.

Judith Warner must have "Folie à Deux.". Sally Quinn, too.

So the left attacks middle America. And when someone who personifies it, such as Governor Palin defends it, the left blamestorm calls that defense the "politics of resentment" -- per Paul Krugman.

Congressman Wexler is even crazier. He used the other "N" word on her. "Nazi," that is.

Governor Palin, though, is defined by what she loves. It's the left which chooses to define itself by its many, many resentments and anxieties. Just ask Judith Warner.


Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 3:33 PM | link  

KUDLOW REPLAY   Here's the YouTube video of Friday's appearance. For your viewing pleasure, I edited out Michael Pento's obsequious flattery of our host Larry, designed no doubt to make upfor his calling Sarah Palin a "pin-up girl" last week.


Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 12:46 PM | link  

A FINE MESS FOR RANGEL   A number of readers have pointed to this story about how liberal icon Congressman Charlie Rangel is admitting failing to pay taxes on rental income from a villa he owns in the Dominican Republic. The hypocrisy is off the charts -- for this consistent advocate of the Democratic "fairness" doctrine of higher taxes for the rich -- he who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, the key tax-policy body of the federal government -- he of the party that mocks John McCain for owning seven houses, when he himself owns a "villa."

As one reader commented, it's remarkable that the New York Times would have even covered this story (it normally ignores stories embarrassing to Dems, such as the scandal surrounding John Edwards' adultery). This time -- admittedly after an endless repetition of defenses and excuses from Rangel's lawyer and Clinton insider Lanny Davis, at least there is some real juice:

The villa, Casita 412, has three bedrooms and three bathrooms and is decorated with coral stone, heavy rattan furniture and stylish island fabrics. In July, a Times reporter visited the villa, which is nestled among palm trees with a stunning view of the ocean.

Mr. Rangel bought it for $82,750 20 years ago, according to documents from the resort. He was urged to buy the property by Theodore Kheel, a New York labor lawyer...

In a written statement on Thursday, Mr. Kheel said the congressman’s interest in the project was more recreational than financial. “The purpose of that investment was not to create cash payments to Mr. Rangel, but rather, to have a place for occasional vacations for himself and his family similar to a time share,” the statement read.

But how does that square with the fact that, according to the same story,
...Mr. Rangel will probably have no federal tax liability, Mr. Davis said, because he considered the villa an investment rather than a vacation home, and was therefore entitled to deduct depreciation on the property, as well as taxes the resort management paid to the Dominican Republic.
Perhaps the answer is that Rangel considers the payment of taxes "voluntary," a claim of his I examined last year in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. But that doesn't make the embarrassment go away. As the Times puts it:
Whatever his legal exposure, the tax problems present a political embarrassment for Mr. Rangel, a Harlem Democrat who has sat on the Ways and Means Committee since 1975. As chairman, Mr. Rangel has pushed for higher taxes on the wealthy, unveiling a $1.3 trillion proposal last year that businesses denounced as a threat to the economy.

His finances have been under scrutiny since July, after news reports that a major real estate developer had allowed him to lease four rent-stabilized apartments, including one he had used as a campaign office. Mr. Rangel announced he would give up the campaign office, but keep the other three, and asked the House ethics committee to investigate whether the landlord’s decision to charge him below-market rent should be restricted under the Congressional gift ban.


Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 12:28 PM | link  

THIRD WAY   Don't feel that your choice in November is limited to Obama or McCain. It's not even limited to voting for a white or a black, a man or a woman. There is another way!

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 11:45 AM | link  


Friday, September 05, 2008

PELOSI ENDORSES PALIN   The Speaker of the House in an interview with Ladies Home Journal. Turns out Nancy thinks Sarah has all the requisite experience:
LHJ: You are a mother of five and were a homemaker for many years before entering politics. You say in your book that the skills you honed doing those things were the same ones you needed when you got to Congress. How so?

NP: Absolutely, and this is what I want women to know, so they recognize the value of their own path, their unique experience. I've been in politics a while, over 20 years in the Congress of the United States, and this is a very rough-and-tumble.... I shouldn't say 'rough,' let me say a very challenging arena to be in. But as challenging as it is, nothing is as challenging as raising a family -- nothing. That experience forced me to be disciplined, diplomatic, focused, and successful, and I brought that discipline and focus to the Congress. Also, having a family keeps you focused on the future, which is the biggest inspiration in politics. In order to do what it takes to succeed in politics, you have to be inspired by your constituents, the power of your ideas, and the fact that you speak on behalf of children and their future, whether you have children of your own or not. It makes all the difference in the world.

Thanks to Dave Duval for the link.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 10:51 PM | link  

WEEKEND PHOTOBLOGGING EXTRAVAGANZA   Seen in Nashville. Presumably a water-conservation scheme to "save the planet." But isn't this a false dichotomy? What are you supposed to do in an "all of the above" situation? Flush twice?

Update... Reader Mark Spahn, a professional translator, writes:

That sign you found in Nashville appears to be a poor, long-winded translation of what appears on toilets in Japan.

The flushing handle can be pushed either to the left, labeled "shoh", which is short for "shohben", literally, "little ben", or urination -- or the the right, labeled "dai", which is short for "daiben", literally, "big ben", or defecation.

But what's this about "up" and "down"? Personally, I don't want anything flushing up out of my toilet.

Here's another one from Nashville, this week's entry into the permanent collection of mysterious quotation marks. What -- oh, dear Lord, what! -- do they signify?

And here's an improvised Obama poster seen at the site of a predatory price-gouging purveyor of carbon excess in Silicon Valley.

Update... Aptly named reader Timothy J. Roe sends this fond memory of a visit to Maui, and he comments,

Removing the fish is clearly wrong, but ENTERING them? I don’t think even Bill Clinton could stoop so low!

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 3:15 PM | link  

THE TIMES EDITORIAL BOARD SHOULD READ THE NEWS PAGES   They might learn a thing or two about the incentive effects of high taxes, and uncertainty about future taxes.
British Companies Emigrating Over Taxes

...In the last week alone, three companies have announced plans to move their headquarters abroad before the end of the year. They say they are trying to cut their tax bills and frustrated by a lack of clarity about future tax rules.

...“It’s a very serious issue,” said Chris Sanger, head of tax policy at Ernst & Young in London. “There will be knock-on effects of top management leaving the U.K. to make important decisions and the government needs to do something to address it.”

British companies are required to pay tax on profits earned in other countries where the corporate tax rate is less than Britain’s 28 percent. Other countries, including the United States, have similar laws, but Britain has a stricter interpretation and offers fewer discounts, according to tax advisers.


Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 11:24 AM | link  

GROSS!   "Mick Danger" can smell lobbying a mile away. Is that what Pimco's Bill Gross is doing with his call for government to take unwanted debt out of the hands of the private sector?
Consider these two quotes:
If we are to prevent a continuing asset and debt liquidation of near-historic proportions, we will require policies that open up the balance sheet of the US Treasury.
and
...Capitol Hill will look to the Fed's actions 'as a wondrous new font of seemingly costless federal funding - a magical piggy bank'.
The latest dance sensation -- the Pimco two-Step!

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 7:25 AM | link  

A FRIEDMAN FIX   Milton Friedman has been caricatured in various ways since his death in 2006, with much of the subtlety and brilliance of his economic prescriptions lost in the process. Here's an interesting piece by Steve Hanke showing that Friedman was no one-way zealot for floating exchange rates, but rather in some cases saw fixed rates as the best free-market alternative.
Friedman clearly favored both floating and fixed exchange-rate regimes in principle. However, as a matter of practice, for most developing countries he favored fixed over floating rates.11 Yet most economists and financial journalists believe that he espoused floating rates as the sole solution. Friedman's real position was that an exchange rate driven by a free market was best, and that both fixed and floating exchange rates had equal claims to be considered market-determined.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 7:18 AM | link  

MICK FOR MAC?   My DC-insider friend "Mick Danger" has known and worked with John McCain for years, and has always been highly critical of him. But suddenly he's warming up to Mac, thanks to his brilliant choice of Sarah Palin. Seems like, for Mick, Palin far outshines McCain. But doesn't it take a real man to pick a subordinate who outshines you? Who was it who said, "A-players pick A-players. B-players pick C-players"?
Rarely, a story comes along which is as engrossing and as well-constructed as a great novel, except that it's true. Even more rarely, the story is about a political figure who toils in a corner of the country, mostly unnoticed, doing battle for the right reasons and to a successful conclusion.

This is the story of Sarah Palin. By all means, let's compare her record of reform to those of Obama and Biden. It only takes a few seconds because neither Obama nor Biden have records of reform.

Let's also compare Governor Palin's record of reform to McCain's purported record as a reformer. Hmm, McCain-Feingold -- no, that constricted our free speech. It also badly damaged the two party system which moderates our government. It helped revive the political power of the union leaders even as their market share in the workforce continues to decline. It propels folks such as George Soros and deters most Main Street businesses from political activity. McCain-Feingold did get John McCain a decade of fawning media attention, which we do not believe was his motivation, though he enjoyed it. He was trying to exorcise an imaginary demon from his brief, non-consequential association with Charles Keating. [He was found innocent by the lead Democratic investigative counsel. Other Senators were not.] This pesky detail is important because this imaginary demon haunts John McCain still.

As for McCain-Kennedy and McCain-Lieberman, well, they are very bad ideas too, but neither has become law. Yet.

Don't get me wrong -- I like the McCain who picked Sarah Palin and I love all his reasons why. She owes -- and shows -- sincere gratitude to McCain for her elevation from Hockey Mom Governor to potential VP and, one day perhaps, POTUS.

Read this important story about Palin in the Wall Street Journal, and consider that Palin's history of a reformer trumps McCain's and by a long shot. She didn't call the oil companies -- or oil production per se -- "evil" as she culled out the individuals from within industry and government who were indeed evil. She wasn't preening for the New York Times or solving some weird, inner-imaginary demon. She picked a fight with and prevailed over the Ole Boys and the Oil Boys.

I'm coming around to McCain as he submits to pro-growth conservative policies but he's capable of relapsing, too. With Sarah Palin by his side, we've got someone very real, and reliable, on our side. In case John McCain needs reform.


Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 7:09 AM | link  


Thursday, September 04, 2008

SARAH PALIN DRAWS A CROWD!   All that controversy really paid off. This, from an A. C. Nielson press release I just got via email (no link available yet):
Nielsen just released its ratings for Day 3 of the GOP convention. Some highlights:

The Sara Palin speech generated 37.2 million viewers, just a 1.1 million viewers short of Barak Obama’s record-breaking speech on Day 4 of the Democratic Convention. The Palin speech was carried on only six networks while the Obama speech was carried on ten (including BET, TV One, Univision and Telemundo).

Palin attracted a large female audience (19.5 million women, or 4.9 million more than Day 3 of the Democratic Convention).

Update... Reader Todd Sullivan makes a good point:
Any bets on whether or not Palin would have outdrawn Obama on TV were half of Louisiana, Mississippi and Eastern Texas not displaced due to the storm? I am betting yes..... and that is very good news.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 2:12 PM | link  

MAYBE THIS EXPLAINS THE ATTACKS ON PALIN   Turns out Republicans are as scared of her as Democrats are. From an interview on the Reason blog with a libertarian Alaskan Democrat:
The Republicans hate her. If you go and talk to the Alaska delegation here, they despise her.

...Hate her. Oh my god! This whole thing about her retarded son really being her daughter's was started by Lyda Green, who is president of the senate, a Republican. ...

She gave a two-finger salute to Conoco Phllips and Exxon Mobile, raised their taxes on their oil, put in place a transparent way to bid for the seed money and the licenses to finally, finally, put in a natural gas pipeline in Alaska. And it was won by a Canadian company. And she went to the mat and made it happen. She has been systematically pulling the drilling licenses of Conoco Phillips and Exxon Mobile for areas that they haven't touched. I mean, they've been hoarding reserves, and she says, you know, use it or lose it, and she has been sending the attorney general time after time to revoke these things. It's absolutely fascinating.

Thanks to Jameson Campaigne for the link.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 8:22 AM | link  


Tuesday, September 02, 2008

I'M CONFUSED   We told you that Joe Biden just can't shut up. And we told you that he "Obama Bin Biden" brand would be confusing. From Political Punch:
At a town hall meeting at the Palm Beach County Convention Center in West Palm Beach, Florida, Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del, ignored pleas from his staff to wrap up, and riffed for an hour and 15 minutes.

The evening was full of Biden-isms, including the inevitable Obama/Osama slip, made when Biden was discussing the mountainous Afghanistan-Pakistan border "where Obama, Osama Bin Laden lives, and Obama wants to go to get him."

..."I’ve got to tell you, I’m tired," Biden continued. "Let me tell you. If you’re looking for a very sophisticated, Harvard graduate who went to Columbia undergrad and was president of the Law Review, he’s totally intellectual. Baby, you ain’t seen nothing yet. This guy is steel. This guy is steel, and I assure you that."

So which guy was he talking about there?

Thanks to Dave Duval for the link.

Update... Dave has more. Check out the Teddy Kennedy edition. And the Chris Matthews edition.

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 11:21 PM | link  

COVERING ALL THE BASES   A headline from the Chronicle of Higher Education:
Political Scientists Predict Victory for Obama, or a Tight Race

Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 3:18 PM | link  

BRISTOL A STROKE OF LUCK FOR MCCAIN?   From the Nashville Post blog:
Bristol Palin has single-handedly dealt the Republican Party its winning hand. With an economy in decline and an unpopular war started by Republicans, Bristol Palin’s unborn baby has now made the Culture War the focal point of this election. This is one ground and, in fact, the only ground on which Republicans can win this election.

The Obama campaign may realize that their supporters are about to give John McCain the upper-hand but with the explosion of the internet they will be unable to stem the tide of a netroots community far too eager to expose the hypocrisy of one more wayward social conservative.

The Left on the internet and elsewhere will attack this mother of five for failing to live up to the code that she preaches. They will explain that this is proof that traditionalism doesn’t work. That the religious right is a fraud. That the preaching of abstinence is a fool’s errand. They will explain all this thinking they have just laid down the trump card when all they have done is hand it to the opposition.

Sarah Palin is a working mom with five kids who managed to become Governor of her state. Now Palin has been confronted with the great fear, and for many, the difficult reality of a pregnant teenage daughter. Sarah Palin lived by a code and tried to have her kids live by it as well. Did she fail?

Maybe she did. But as many parents know, you do the best you can with your children.

The Left will fight this battle as a political debate. They will argue that Bristol Palin proves their assertions about traditionalism. They will lay it out point by point. The evidence will be solid. And their case will make sense — in theory.

But this is not theory, and to a certain extent its not even politics, this is life. Steve Schmidt is not wrong when in reaction to the news he says, “Life happens.”

Life does happen. It happens again and again to people in rural America who go to church, work and pray hard. Everyday life happens. Despite their prayers, it happens.

The Left simply misunderstands the Cultural War because they believe that social and religious conservatives think they are perfect people. Rural, working class people know exactly who they are. The Left seems to think that they are somehow breaking the news to social conservatives that sometimes, even often, kids will have sex and get pregnant. Social conservatives know these things. They are not as divorced from reality as they sometimes get painted.


Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 9:37 AM | link  


Sunday, August 31, 2008

SO MUCH FOR THIS OLD LIBERAL CHESTNUT   Here's a rusty old Democratic talking point heard once again, this time in a New York Times op ed by Alan Blinder.
Data for the whole period from 1948 to 2007, during which Republicans occupied the White House for 34 years and Democrats for 26, show average annual growth of real gross national product of 1.64 percent per capita under Republican presidents versus 2.78 percent under Democrats.
I'm so sick of this one, this time I pulled up the data myself and fact-checked it. The claim here is essentially correct. But as with so many statistical claims, its superficiality makes it meaningless, even if strictly correct. Are we to assume, as it would seem, that economic outcomes are due solely to the party affiliation of the president? What about what the presidents actually do (Kennedy cut taxes, Bush I raised them)? Doens't congress figure into this at all? And are the results supposed to be instantaneous -- is a president responsible for economic outcomes from the very moment he is inaugurated?

These results, presented as open-and-shut by Blinder -- who would flunk any of his Princeton students who dared to turn in research this superficial -- are in fact highly sensitive to some of the issues I just raised. For instance, if you lag the per capita GDP results by two years -- not a bad guess of how long it takes policy to show up in output -- the difference between Democratic and Republican presidencies vanishes (both are 2.2%). And if we look at it terms of government control -- that is, party control of both the presidency and both houses of congress -- then the Democrats do worse than the Republicans (2.0% versus 2.1%). But wait! Divided government, when no party controls both the presidency and the congress, does even better: 2.3%!

Thanks to reader John Tomasso for the link the Blinder op-ed.

Update [9/2/2008]... Reader Jim Allen weighs in:

This item raises a couple of more questions than you probably had time to consider.

First, why did they start at 1948 and not at 1932 when FDR began the federal government's massive intrusion into the economy? The probable reason is that despite the massive increase in fiscal policy, the economy remained in horrible condition throughout his first two terms. Despite a momentary gain prior to the 1936 election (unemployment still in high double-digits), the economy fell into a deeper depression afterward partly because of Roosevelt's assault on business and partly as a consequence of his capricious dollar policy (see Amity Shlaes' The Forgotten Man). It wasn't until the increased efforts first to help Britain with Lend-Lease, and than the full onsalaught of WWI that the economy started to recover.

Second, why didn't they start the comparison in 1960 or 1964? It is probably because coming out of WWII, we were the uncontested global economic champion. We spent much of the next five to 10 years trying to rebuild our old enemies and allies, which certainly made growth in that period look pretty good.

Either way, it's rather selective timing on their part to start in 1948 (the post-war period) rather than something more like the post-Marshall Plan period when we actually had to compete in the world.


Posted by Donald L. Luskin at 5:26 PM | link