Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Colin Powell Another Well-Meaning Disoriented Republican Counselor

I got a reference to an article at Newsmax: Rush Limbaugh Lashes Out at Colin Powell 'Turncoat'

The article relates that Rush made a simple and obvious point to a lot of rank & file conservatives with whom I rarely engage. Though I once did, I have not listened to Rush Limbaugh for many years. Not always, but I often agree with his conclusions. However, I usually find his approach unproductive. It seems largely the same as it was nearly twenty years ago, when his conservative voice was emerging from dark obscurity. Conservatives were enthusiastic: “At last, someone is speaking for us!” Perhaps he mentions it now, but after much Republican electoral victory, Rush seemed still focused on a posture of victimhood. I sure hope that now, since I stopped listening and a Republican dominated government has spent the United States into oblivion, setting the table for the current economic crisis and facilitating Democrats’ blame of conservatism and attendant Democratic victories, that Limbaugh is expressing a lot of criticism of Republican governance. Though I have points of disagreement with them, my talk-radio listening is largely focused on the more reflective and constructive fare of Dennis Prager (on at the same time as Rush) and Michael Medved.

Along the way, Rush also veers into his longstanding and predictable disparagement of John McCain, including an unnecessary remark on McCain’s failure to endorse Palin for 2012. Hey, I’m a conservative who has often disagreed with McCain. But 1) I concluded it was honest disagreement on McCain’s part. And 2) McCain was not only honest, but extraordinarily solid on a few essentials; the sanctity of life and federal spending. And as for Palin, I like her but she hasn’t even approached declaring, and his declining to endorse is unnecessary because it would be plain stupid for McCain to endorse a 2012 candidate this far out. The article relates Rush’s scorn of Powell’s counsel for conservatives to…basically…become less so, and become less identified with talk-radio hosts like Rush. It finally concludes with Rush’s question of what one is to make of Powell’s counsel to disregard conservatives like he and members of his audience who supported a more moderate McCain and the counsel to moderate of someone like Powell who did not support McCain and endorsed Barack Obama. Basically, most of those who welcome Powell’s counsel to Republicans voted for Obama and were never likely to support a Republican.

Powell’s culprits are like those of Kathleen Parker and Davids Brooks and Frum. It should warn us of the difference between intelligence and wisdom. These are bright people who are provincially constrained from embracing a most critical political reality. It’s called “a base.” Without one, a political party is in deep trouble. And without those conservatives that these people spurn, The Republican Party is in for a long hibernation from power.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Ben Stein's Smarts and God's Wisdom - Ben on Friday's Medved's Show

Michael Medved was surprised in a discussion of federal stimuli and bailouts on Friday, to hear the reaction of Ben Stein who is accomplished on many fronts and traditionally a Republican. He is also the son of noted Republican economist, Herb Stein. I was not surprised. Stein supports both a huge stimulus and a bailout of the auto companies. Taxes or debt aren’t necessary: just print the money, he says. I have heard Stein say these things many times. He also says the very wealthy must be taxed to provide health care for those who can’t afford it. That’s a noble sentiment, but it has practical problems. It’s a disincentive to achieve and a disincentive to attentive and innovative health care. But I think there is a conflict buried at the bottom of Stein’s sentiments on this and the matter subsequently discussed.

There was also a brief discussion about one specific (there were many, Republican and Democrat) criticism of Republican politicians like Sarah Palin and Bobby Jindal who supposedly do not accept evolution. I say supposedly because I haven’t heard Jindal opine on the matter (perhaps he has, but surely any uncertainty about that reflects the absolute FACT that the question is utterly irrelevant to national politics) and Palin has said specifically that evolution should be taught in schools. I agree that it should be, simply as a matter of understanding Western culture. But whatever any politician may say, let’s just bring the matter home. Though I think schools should teach evp;ution (though not as FACT in my school district), I explicitly do NOT believe in evolution as a sufficient explanation for all of life on earth. I will also say that I am not philosophically resistant to the possibility of evolution being an explanation for all earthly life. Yes, I believe in God and the truths of The Bible. But, I wouldn’t lose those beliefs if I thought the case for an evolutionary explanation was compelling. I simply don’t find it compelling at all but rather find it feeble as persuasion. I’m not forced to cling to it by a philosophical commitment to deny creation.

Stein of course finds the evolution case at least eminently questionable, for those of you whose heads have been so otherwise occupied as to be entirely unfamiliar with the movie, “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed,” which Stein hosted and which laments the resistance of the public science establishment to even the SUGGESTION of the possibility of an intelligent designer of either life or the cosmos. If I say a (now non-existent – I’m not holding my breath) demonstrable truth of evolution would not disturb my faith in God, it appears the same cannot be said of the doctrinaire evolutionists as to their faith. That just affirms that for them the issue is not one of empirical data, but rather one of naturalist philosophical dogma: intelligent design is beyond their consideration because the idea challenges evolution. I don’t, but many noted scholars who advocate intelligent design, believe that design was expressed through evolution.

Anyway, I question Stein’s sincere conviction that there must be a huge stimulus and bailouts of large industries on the basis of my belief that the prods of a free market are part of God’s design, just as is biological life. Let’s stipulate some things: Ben Stein is intelligent and accomplished. I’m a disabled ex-salesman. They shouldn’t command it anyway, but in this case clearly I’m not pleading credentials. Just as in any other case, I only plead consideration of my words, themselves. I have heard Stein express several times that the very rich have the money to finance what are some worthy needs, and these specific actions are necessary to avoid economic pain. He’s correct about that, but that isn’t the entire story. However he might distinguish it, this is essentially the argument advanced by liberals to defend most all of the projects they find so urgent. In fact, when Medved pressed Stein to name a politician who agrees with his prescription, the only name that he mentioned was Barney Frank. Ouch!? Stein admitted creating the money would be inflationary, and it is so by definition. But, he said the effect was outweighed by the urgency of sparing the pain of the alternative, whether unemployment or tight credit.

After Stein’s schedule dictated his departure, Medved did say that he opposed those economic matters advocated by Stein because they reward failure and punish success, which is true. Medved also said that what rich people do with their money if they keep it, is invest it. Stein countered that there is enough money to invest out there, but it is held because of fear. He's right that money would be freed if fear were relieved. But incremental money above what some projects demand, is also invested. The only thing better for an economy than money invested is more money invested.

But there are more reasons that I believe inhere in human nature that those prescriptions are wrong. Specifically, I believe there is no prod to achieve success and/or to avoid failure like the very pain that Stein seeks to alleviate. I’m not saying that those who are experiencing difficulty should not be helped. They should be, by private individuals and organizations; but not by government. To make such aid the presumptive duty of government removes the urgency to succeed or avoid failure. On a micro scale, it’s the same reason that government bailouts and subsidies are not constructive things for large commercial organizations. This is a disincentive to achieve for one’s family, which both will reduce the general product of society and also preclude the pride and accomplishment of having done so. All of that in addition to the monetary inflation and generally weak monetary policy.

Just as Stein believes as I do that the biological world evinces a stunning complexity and elegance reflective of design, so these prods and rewards are inherent in human society, having been built into the system of human society by the very same designer. None of this is accidental or without purpose. As in most things, when government imposes itself upon the system it more often than not corrupts it. It not only corrupts but devalues the system: the true fulfillment and reward of work is diminished and the value of true charity is all but lost.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Palin 2012 Correspondence

The one who alerted me to Sarah Palin in July of '07, now works with a group of Blogs advocating for her to run for President in 2012. Here is my exchange with him. which relates concerns for The future of The Republican Party

Howard Richman was a Blogger for Huckabee: Jews 4 Huckabee. I ordered the book on economics that he wrote with his father and son, linked here: Trading Away Our Future: How to Fix Our Government-Driven Trade Deficits and Faulty Tax System Before it's Too Late

I am certain that a lot of his motivation about Huckabee was their belief that The Fair Tax was the best prescription for the economy and the society. I share that belief and believe that the current economic difficulties which have become so acute since the book was written only make the need for The Fair Tax more urgent. You will see below how this might be particularly relevant if Sarah Palin is to make a run. I tried both to get Huckabee to exploit the Richmans and their book in his campaign, and to call the attention of The McCain campaign to The Fair Tax, both to no apparent avail. Anyway, besides honing her expression of foreign policy, Sarah Palin would do well to take up the cause of The Fair Tax. Besides the fact that I think The Fair Tax is expedient for America, there is a substantial and relatively vocal constituency in The Republican Party that she should begin to tickle as soon as possible. These were enthusiasts that Huckabee garnered beyond the on-so-publicized evangelical constituency. She needs to build economic and foreign policy alliances.

I will post soon enough what I believe are the urgent necessities for The Republican Party to restore itself. For one, they should not dismiss social conservative principles which are critical to American principle generally, and the huge constituency that is animated by them and crucial to Republican success. If Republicans dismiss them, they will likely retreat to the sidelines from which they came after Roe. Wade and from which they came to snatch The Republican Party from decades in the legislative wilderness.

But beyond that, The Republican Party must resolutely and obviously distance themselves from any actual or apparent association with the subsidy or legislative support of corporate or money interests. I have no problem with money or corporations, only the same problem I have with most other government subsidization and regulation: it’s usually more counter-productive than productive and it’s against the spirit of the now beleaguered Constitution of the US.

A few things make such ostentatious action particularly fortuitous, right now:
1) The Republican Party has been traditionally identified with such and the corruption that became apparent along with the profligate spending during the Bush administration, has resulted in two consecutive electoral spankings.
2) I oppose(d) it because it is unconstitutional, but McCain-Feingold added another obstacle (one suspects that money like water finds its way to follow political gravity) to corporate/big money inducement, which long provided Republicans with a financing advantage. (recall that George W. Bush once jokingly-many didn’t take it as a joke-referred to a moneyed audience as “my base.” Such money had already been forcibly routed through parties and PAC’S (“soft money”). What I favor is not big business specifically but the freedom of everyone. And, so should The Republican Party.
3) Not unexpectedly, much of such money was funneled to Democrats this year in expectation of a Democratic victory. The money and the attendant bribing will follow the power. Favor can be more assertive to corporate interest by Democrats: regulation actually favors established money, suppressing potential competition, and thus innovation and entrepreneurial expansion. Democrats also effectively solicited small donorship over the Internet, largely with their rhetorical (and becoming ironic) appeal to the “little guy.” I recall this talk among laborers in my youth in Detroit. All of this resulted in a huge funding advantage this cycle for Democrats generally and Barack Obama specifically. Let Democrats become the party of the big corporations; an electoral minority. I can’t wait to see Republicans be the party of the aspiring minority.

All of this can be addressed by endorsement and implementation of The Fair Tax.
1) The Fair Tax would expand opportunity among the less-moneyed and powerful by a) provoking a “massive” (this adjective can only be an understatement, not an overstatement 0 it would be many trillions of dollars) infusion of capital and work into the American economy, b) entirely untaxing the poor and reducing middle-class taxation with its “prebate” of taxes to everyone of taxation to the poverty level, b) effectively expanding taxation of upper incomes, particularly of extravagance, by enacting a substantial tax on previously untaxed “business expenses.” For small businesses, this would be more than counter-balanced by the elimination of business and capital gains taxes: they would no longer “write off” entertainment, office, and vehicles lumped under “business expenses. But on the other hand, they would pay capital gains no income taxes on their person or business.
2) The huge and often extravagant deductions that large businesses take would now be taxed like other expenditures. What this will accomplish is not only taxing large businesses at the same rate of everyone else, but encouraging prudence in determining what expenses are actually necessary for maximizing business generally and not just profit.
3) I’m generally a free-trader. But, I also appreciate Huckabee’s call for “free but fair trade.” Seek out foreign markets and products. But, don’t just give away our markets to other nations while sitting quietly while they apply tariffs to our products in their markets. I don’t think its too mush to ask equity for the access to lucrative American markets. And here again is a political appeal to both exporter and labor constituencies.

Huckabee could possibly be a candidate for 2012, which might leave me of a divided mind. I think Huckabee is more fully equipped, right now. I would hope that he and Sarah could devise away to collaborate. I said that Howard Richman’s support for Huckabee was largely due to The Fair Tax. But this closing post at Jews 4 Huckabee early this month suggest that he might also have been favorably disposed to social conservative ideals, Sarah Palin’s forceful history with corporations and corruption, or both:

Dear Readers,
Thank you for reading this Blog. Now that the election is over, I am suspending posting until such time as Governor Huckabee again runs for national office. I originally planned to suspend this Blog if Huckabee was not chosen for VP, but decided to keep it open when Palin was chosen. If you want to continue to follow my posts about the economy, I suggest you read the Blog that I share with my father and son: Also, it couldn’t hurt to have a “Jews 4 Sarah” site, either.

Here are links to the old Jews For Huckabee site and the economic one where Howard Richman works with his son and father: