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Archive for February 21st, 2010

The President presumably does not want to destroy jobs, but I explain in this Cato podcast that this will be the result if he succeeds in further tilting the playing field against American multinationals.

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Did Republicans lose in 2006 and 2008 because they were too far to the left or too far to the right? And which approach should they adopt if they want to regain power in 2010 and 2012? Some people think the GOP needs to be more moderate. David Frum, for instance, says Republicans need to mimic David Cameron in the United Kingdom. And at his website, Frum highlights this (rather disturbing, as I will explain below) video of Cameron making a pitch to the British people.

First, the good news about the video. It is possible that Cameron intends to do good things about education and welfare policy. Unfortunately, it’s also possible that he intends to do bad things. But we don’t know since there is nothing but rhetoric. Speaking of rhetoric, it is troubling that he also has lots of language about a “fair” society and the gap between rich and poor. This doesn’t necessarily mean he intends to push bad policy. A policy of smaller government and free markets, after all, will boost economic growth and help poor people climb the ladder. Shrinking government also will reduce the power of special interests, which will make society more fair. But it’s also possible – and perhaps more likely – that he is using this rhetoric to signal support for more redistribution.

What is most troubling, though, is that Cameron sides with government and against taxpayers whenever he gets specific about policy. About one minute into the video, he endorses the minimum wage and higher fuel subsidies. Fifteen seconds later, he wants more redistribution for food programs. The worst proposal comes around the 2:50 mark, when he endorses wage indexing instead of price indexing for the U.K.’s version of Social Security (which would be grossly irresponsible and undermine one of the best achievements of Margaret Thatcher). Last but not least, he then endorses more spending on government-run healthcare.

These proposals are all bad policy, but they’re also bad politics. If an election is decided on the basis of which party is more excited and more sincere about redistribution, that benefits left-wing parties. That doesn’t mean that a (supposedly) right-wing party will never win an election. Indeed, Gordon Brown may very well lose to Cameron later this year. But that will simply be a case of the electorate rejecting an incumbent party for doing a terrible job. There will be no mandate for better policy. Indeed, it appears that Cameron wants to be like Obama – a big-spending politicians who takes over from another big-spending politician. In the long run, this is a recipe for the Tories to be a minority party. And if Republicans follow the same approach, they also will be a minority party.

One final comment. It should go without saying that right-leaning parties should always be figuring out better ways of selling the message of liberty, freedom, prosperity, and responsibility. And they should be finding the candidates who are best able to articulate that message in an optimistic, forward-looking way to average voters. But that’s not what Cameron represents. From what I can tell, he’s Richard Nixon with a smile.

P.S. Cameron also has surrendered to the left on the global warming/climate change issue, though maybe the absence of any rhetoric in this video is an indication that he realizes the tide has turned and there is nothing to be gained electorally by imposing that particular piece of awful policy.

P.P.S. And he has refused to say that he will undo Gordon Brown’s reckless decision to raise the top tax rate from 40 percent to 50 percent.

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Howie Rich has a very good column at Townhall.com. He asks whether Republicans have learned any lessons during their time in the minority, specifically whether they recognize that bloated and wasteful spending under Republicans is just as bad as bloated and wasteful spending under Democrats:

The GOP’s new revisionist message was summed up in a billboard that appeared recently on Interstate 35 in Wyoming. “Miss me yet?” a smiling picture of former President Bush asks passing motorists. In a word? “No.” What this theory of “Republican revisionism” lacks is even a tangential basis in fact. That’s because Republicans – at least prior to the election of a Democratic Congress in 2006 and a Democratic President in 2008 – were engaged in precisely the same policies they now spend all of their time railing against. …Republicans are no strangers to massive government overreaching. For example, President Bush responded to the September 11 terrorist attacks by creating a huge new government bureaucracy… Meanwhile, he supported the unconstitutional suppression of free speech by signing so-called “campaign finance” reform, dramatically stifling the ability of the public to criticize incumbent politicians. …Bush and his cronies loved pork barrel spending, too. In 2005 – over the strenuous objections of taxpayer advocates – he signed a massive $286 billion transportation bill that included 6,371 pet projects inserted by Republican and Democratic lawmakers. …Bush and his GOP allies also fought to create new entitlement spending – including a prescription drug benefit to Medicaid that has cost taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars. They federalized education with No Child Left Behind… Republicans are quick to forget that Bush is on the hook for a considerable portion of the unsustainable spending that is currently driving our debt even further into the stratosphere. Indeed, Bush cemented his anti-free market legacy in late 2008 with the passage of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) and tens of billions of dollars worth of automotive bailouts – additional examples of his kneejerk tendency to resolve every crisis faced by the nation with an unprecedented expansion of government power and taxpayer debt. Was Bush a better steward of your tax dollars than Obama? Yes – but that’s the problem. Getting mugged worse the second time around doesn’t absolve the first thief of his culpability.

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