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Archive for the ‘Democrats’ Category

If you like to go along to get along, I suggest you don’t become a libertarian. At least not if you follow politics or work in Washington.

Otherwise, you’re doomed to a life of endlessly pointing out that the emperor has no clothes. Here are three examples.

1. When almost every Republican and Democrat argued for a Keynesian-style stimulus in 2008, libertarians had the lonely job of explaining that you don’t get more growth by increasing the burden of government spending.

2. And when most Republicans and Democrats said we needed a TARP bailout that same year, it was libertarians who futilely argued that the “FDIC-resolution” approach was a far more sensible way of dealing with the government-created crisis.

3. More recently, there were a bunch of stories complaining that 2013 was a very unproductive year for Congress, and libertarians were among the few to state that we’re better off with fewer laws rather than more laws.

The same is true for “bipartisanship.” Almost every pundit, politician, and lobbyist in Washington will extol the virtues of bipartisanship. But what they really mean is that they want both Republicans and Democrats to join arms in a business-as-usual game.

Indeed, the standard libertarian joke is that you get bipartisanship when the Stupid Party and the Evil Party both agree on something. Needless to say, that often means laws that are both stupid and evil.

Which is a good description of Bush’s 2008 stimulus and the corrupt TARP legislation.

But since we’re at the end of the year, I don’t want to get overly depressed. So let’s share some cartoons that celebrate the Murray-Ryan budget, which is the most recent example of “bipartisanship.”

We’ll start with ones that have a Christmas theme.

The politicians were glad to escape the fiscal constraint of sequestration, but Lisa Benson is not overly impressed by their cooperative effort.

Budget Deal Cartoon 8

Gary Varvel isn’t very happy, either.

Budget Deal Cartoon 1

Varvel is very explicit in this cartoon about Democrats and Republicans being united against taxpayers.

Budget Deal Cartoon 4

The bag should have been labelled “spending,” but that’s a minor complaint.

Steve Breen points out that the budget deal achieved three out of four goals.

Budget Deal Cartoon 2

And Michael Ramirez astutely identifies too much spending as the problem and shows that the budget deal did nothing to address that issue.

Budget Deal Cartoon 3

Here’s another Lisa Benson cartoon, though this one focuses on establishment GOPers trying to hook the Tea Party on the demon rum of big government.

Budget Deal Cartoon 5

Sort of reminds me of this great Henry Payne cartoon about Obama and Greece. Or maybe this Nate Beeler cartoon about weak-willed GOPers.

I’ve saved the best for last.

This Glenn McCoy cartoon shows what bipartisanship really means inside the DC beltway.

Budget Deal Cartoon 6

McCoy had another cartoon last year with a similar theme, as did Michael Ramirez.

In closing, I want to say something vaguely optimistic. The Murray-Ryan budget deal was unfortunate, but it was a rather minor setback compared to the kinds of “bipartisan” big-government schemes we got during the Bush years.

It was sort of akin to the fiscal cliff deal at the beginning of the year. Government got a bit bigger and a bit more expensive, but it was peanuts compared to TARP, the prescription drug entitlement, and many of the other schemes that eroded economic liberty last decade.

P.S. Fairness requires that I point out that bipartisanship doesn’t automatically mean bad legislation. The bipartisan 1997 budget deal between the GOP Congress and Bill Clinton cut some taxes and reduced the growth of federal spending. And the successful sequester came about because of the bipartisan 2011 debt limit legislation.

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According to a story from U.S. News and World Report, there’s new research showing that 4th of July celebrations boost the GOP. I have no idea if the methodology is sound, but the researchers found that attending Independence Day events influences voting behavior. Key findings include: “When done before the age of 18, it increases the likelihood of a youth identifying as a Republican by at least 2 percent” and “It raises the likelihood that parade watchers will vote for a Republican candidate by 4 percent.”

Here’s more from the USNWR story.

Democratic political candidates can skip this weekend’s July 4th parades. A new Harvard University study finds that July 4th parades energize only Republicans, turn kids into Republicans, and help to boost the GOP turnout of adults on Election Day. …”The political right has been more successful in appropriating American patriotism and its symbols during the 20th century. Survey evidence also confirms that Republicans consider themselves more patriotic than Democrats. According to this interpretation, there is a political congruence between the patriotism promoted on Fourth of July and the values associated with the Republican party. …Their findings also suggest that Democrats gain nothing from July 4th parades, likely a shocking result for all the Democratic politicians who march in them. …What’s more, the impact isn’t fleeting. “Surprisingly, the estimates show that the impact on political preferences is permanent, with no evidence of the effects depreciating as individuals become older,”said the Harvard report.

I’m interested in how to get people to believe in freedom, not vote Republican, so I’m not sure what to think about the Harvard study. But my Republican friends can probably make a few snarky observations about whether patriotism is inconsistent with being a Democrat. My thoughts on patriotism, meanwhile, can be found here.

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The main political goal of the left is to seduce Republicans into supporting higher taxes. Bluntly stated, all of their fiscal policy goals require more tax revenue coming to Washington.

The most important factor (from their perspective) is that they can’t make government much bigger than it is right now without a major tax increase. Sure, they can finance spending with borrowing, but it appears that we’ve finally gotten to a point – both politically and economically – where higher deficits are no longer an option.

But here’s the problem for the left. Higher taxes generally are not popular with voters and politicians who campaign for higher taxes do not fare very well. This is why Democrats, if they want to get more tax revenue and avoid political fallout, need to somehow convince GOPers to be part of the process (indeed, The Hill has reported that “the Democratic playbook has changed, with a key goal: get Republicans to violate the Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) pledge not to raise taxes.”

It’s easy to understand why the left wants the GOP to give up the no-tax-increase pledge. Voters today think Democrats want to raise their taxes and Republicans want to protect them. That’s political gold for the GOP.

But if dumb Republicans can be convinced to sell out, then the political dynamics get completely reversed. All of a sudden, voters have a big incentive to make sure they’re not the ones who get hit, so they are prone to support higher taxes on the rich. This is where the Democrats have a home-field advantage.

Democrats already are willing to endorse higher tax rates on upper-income taxpayers, to be sure, even without getting cover from Republicans. But it’s much better to lure the GOP into a tax deal. After all, even soak-the-rich tax hikes generate a lot of opposition. Simply stated, voters wisely suspect that higher taxes on the so-called rich eventually will translate into higher taxes on everybody else.

But even if they could unilaterally impose class-warfare taxes on upper-income taxpayers, that still doesn’t solve the left’s problem. They would never admit it publicly, but smart left wingers understand that there are two very powerful reasons why soak-the-rich tax increases won’t raise much revenue.

    1. There are not enough rich people to finance big government. According to the latest IRS data (from 2008), there are only about 321,000 households with income greater than $1 million of annual income. And they have aggregate taxable income of only about $1 trillion. That’s a lot of money, of course, but it wouldn’t balance the budget even if the government confiscated every penny (which would have catastrophic consequences on the incentives of rich people to earn and report income in future years).

    2. Rich taxpayers will change their behavior to avoid the tax increases. This is the “Laffer Curve” effect, and it basically means that higher tax rates don’t raise as much revenue as expected because people respond to incentives and reduce the amount of income they are willing to earn and report. The Laffer Curve is especially strong for upper-income taxpayers because rich people have much greater access to lawyers, lobbyists, and accountants. Moreover, rich people are far more likely to earn capital income (interest, dividends, capital gains, etc), and it is much easier to control the timing, level and composition of capital income.

This doesn’t mean the left won’t push for class-warfare tax increases. They will. But their main motive will be politics, not raising revenue.

This is why, looking at the long-run fiscal situation, the left needs a value-added tax. The VAT is the only realistic way to collect the huge amount of revenue that would be necessary to finance promised entitlement benefits. As I’ve noted before, the VAT is a giant source of tax revenue, so the left no longer would have to worry about financing a European-sized welfare state. After all, a VAT would give America a European-style tax system.

But a VAT would generate a firestorm of opposition. The Democrats would be committing political suicide to push such a tax scheme, especially since it would be a huge burden for the poor and middle class. This is why the left desperately needs to trick gullible Republicans into going along with a tax hike.

Enacting a VAT would be a win-win situation for the left. The torrent of new revenue would make it much easier to preserve the welfare state, so it’s easy to understand why they want to make it happen from a policy perspective. But the political benefits for the left are equally large. Here are a couple of inevitable consequences if GOPers get tricked into participating in a budget summit and wind up getting seduced into supporting a VAT.

    1. There will be civil war inside the Republican Party. The vast majority of GOP politicians have pledged to vote against higher taxes. Some of them are insincere, of course, but many of them genuinely believe if defending taxpayers. A tax-increase deal would create a divisive fight, similar to what happened in 1990. This is a very nice fringe benefit for the left.

    2. Conservative voters will rebel against the GOP establishment. When Republicans do the wrong thing, “base” voters get disillusioned. Some inside-the-beltway GOPers say this doesn’t matter because these voters have “no other options.” But they have the option of staying home, like they did in 2006 and 2008. Or sometimes they have a third party option, like in 1992. This is a very nice fringe benefit for the left.

    3. Putting a VAT on the table will give the left a perfect opportunity to impose additional class warfare taxes. Because of the zero-sum mindset on Capitol Hill, there is strong bias to maintain the existing “distribution” of the tax burden. This means that a VAT, which is perceived as discriminating against the poor and middle class, almost surely will be married with some punitive taxes that target the nation’s most productive taxpayers. This is a very nice fringe benefit for the left.

To summarize, the VAT would be a fiscal policy disaster. It would single-handedly guarantee that the United States would turn into a Greek-style welfare state. And for those who care about the political future of the GOP, it would cripple the party in the eyes of voters.

Fortunately, there is a very simple way of stopping this horrible outcome. Republicans merely need to say no. At the risk of stating the obvious, there is no way that a VAT would be imposed without the GOP giving political cover to the Democrats. Indeed, it is highly unlikely that any significant tax increase, from this point forward, could be enacted without Republicans providing the margin of victory.

They may be the “Stupid Party,” but it’s an open question whether they are that self-destructively foolish. Especially when there is no legitimate argument for higher taxes.

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For my latest electoral prediction, click here.

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A lot of my Republican friends (yes, I admit to having some) are feeling very confident about the 2012 election. They’re not quite measuring the drapes in the Oval Office, but this electoral map seems to be their “worst-case” example of how the states will break in 2012.

Notwithstanding my reasonably accurate 2010 election predictions, I don’t think I’m an expert on politics. But that’s never stopped me from commenting on things beyond economics, so here’s why I think Republicans are prematurely giddy.

First, while I certainly agree that Obama is much less popular than he was in 2008, that’s not terribly important since the election is still more than 18 months away.

Second, we don’t know what the economy will be a net plus or net negative next year. There’s a lot of evidence that people vote on pocketbook  issues, and it appears that disposable income is an important variable. If we manage to have any sort of growth, even sub-par growth of perhaps 2.5 percent annually, that may be enough to make people more comfortable and to bring unemployment down close to 8 percent. If that happens, Obama will claim he brought the nation back from the brink of a second Great Depression. The fact that his policies actually retarded the recovery will be overlooked.

Third, you can’t beat something with nothing. Barack Obama’s secret weapon is the names on this list.

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When existing spending authority expires on March 4, the “non-essential” parts of the federal government will shut down unless Republicans and Democrats reach an agreement. This is causing lots of agitation in Washington, both by Democrats who don’t want the money spigots in the off position and Republicans who fret that they will be blamed for (gasp) gridlock.

I have a new piece at National Review that explains how the GOP can win this fight. Indeed, I explain that Republicans actually did a pretty good job during the 1995 fight, even though they now have negative memories of the experience. This excerpt provides my basic assessment, but the full article has lots of additional information, including quotes from news accounts in 1995 showing that the GOP held the upper hand, as well as four specific recommendation of how advocates of limited government can do even better this year.

With the GOP-led House and the Democratic Senate and White House far apart on a measure to pay the federal government’s bills past March 4, Washington is rumbling toward a repeat of the 1995 government-shutdown fight (actually two shutdown fights, one in mid-November of that year and the other in mid-December). This makes some Republicans nervous. They think Bill Clinton “won” the blame game that year, and they’re afraid they will get the short end of the stick if there is a 1995-type impasse this year. A timid approach, though, is a recipe for failure. It means that President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid can sit on their hands, make zero concessions, and wait for the GOP to surrender any time a deadline approaches. In other words, budget hawks in the House have no choice. They have to fight. But they can take comfort in the fact that this is not a suicide mission. The conventional wisdom about what happened in November of 1995 is very misleading. Republicans certainly did not suffer at the polls. They lost only nine House seats, a relatively trivial number after a net gain of 54 in 1994. They actually added to their majority in the Senate, picking up two seats in the 1996 cycle. More important, they succeeded in dramatically reducing the growth of federal spending. They did not get everything they wanted, to be sure, but government spending grew by just 2.9 percent during the first four years of GOP control, helping to turn a $164 billion deficit in 1995 into a $126 billion surplus in 1999. And they enacted a big tax cut in 1997. If that’s what happens when Republicans are defeated, I hope the GOP loses again this year.

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I am pleasantly stunned that GOP leaders have increased the level of cuts in the bill that will fund the government for the final seven months of fiscal year 2011. Kudos to the freshman members, the Tea Party, and the conservatives who have led the charge and achieved so much. They certainly exceeded my expectations. Here’s the good news from the Washington Post.

Republicans, who control the House, yielded to calls from their conservative wing and roughly doubled the size of spending cuts to be considered next week as part of a resolution to fund the government for the remainder of fiscal 2011. They offered a real cut in spending of almost $61 billion. But, more important to conservatives, the reductions amount to $100 billion less than President Obama’s 2011 budget called for. The budget was never enacted. …”It’s not about demands; it’s about us standing up on some principles and letting [people] know that we support them,” said Rep. Allen B. West (Fla.), an outspoken member of the new freshman class. West will give the keynote speech Saturday at the Conservative Political Action Committee’s conference. The package of spending cuts is the largest since just after World War II… The legislation would eliminate more than $121 million in funding inside the White House, including money for the so-called health-care czar and climate-change czar. And it would slash the Environmental Protection Agency’s annual budget by almost 30 percent. Republicans proposed earlier this week to eliminate funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and AmeriCorps. …The House expects to begin debate on the bill Tuesday and to set up a final vote by the end of the week.

I’m particularly happy to see that my election-night buddy, Cong. Allen West, continues to be a strong leader on these issues.

But let’s not rest on our laurels (I’m not even sure what laurels are, but hopefully they’re not too comfortable since there’s a lot more work to be done). This legislation presumably will be approved by the House, notwithstanding a few big-government Republicans. But we know that Harry Reid and the Senate are a big obstacle, and President Obama surely won’t approve anything to reduce the burden of government.

So does this mean a government shutdown? Under current law, funding for the government runs out on March 4. If there’s not an agreement by that time, this will mean a high-stakes battle very reminiscent of the battle between congressional Republicans and Bill Clinton in the 1990s. Republicans feel they got out-maneuvered in that conflict, so they may be a bit gun-shy if the same fight occurs this year.

And let’s not forget that a similar dynamic will exist later this year on the vote to increase the debt limit. Republicans will be very reluctant to give the government more borrowing authority without getting something in exchange. But if Democrats are obstinate, that sets up another game of brinksmanship.

Having been very involved in those battles in 1995 and 1996, I’ll soon have more to say about how fiscal conservatives can win these government shutdown battles.

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This is the type of story that makes me sick to my stomach. I’ve already commented on how I don’t like redistribution from rich to poor, but I really, really hate redistribution from poor to rich. And that’s exactly what happens when taxpayers subsidize the presidential nominating conventions of the two big political parties.

Republicans claim to be on the side of taxpayers, but read this story from the Tampa newspaper to get a flavor for how the Republican National Committee was wasting our money.

They rented an exclusive waterfront mansion, wined and dined at five-star restaurants and hired family members and friends, all on the taxpayers’ dime. …Recently filed Federal Election Commission records show that Steele’s convention team, which was headed by Belinda Cook, his long-time personal assistant, spent most of a $1 million line of credit to the RNC’s Committee on Arrangements. That loan was backed by $16 million in federal funds the committee will receive for convention security next year. …Since the 1970s, the federal government has subsidized both the Republican and Democratic party conventions as part of the public financing program for presidential campaigns. Parties can use the money for any legitimate political expenses.

Political conventions are largely four-day parties for political hacks and lobbyists. And even if they were serious affairs, taxpayers should not be subsidizing private political organizations. Republicans and Democrats should be able to nominate candidates without reaching into my wallet…or your wallet.

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