Fred and Kim Kagan have an excellent analysis of the apparent results of the Iraqi election here:
It's unfortunate that so many of the usual liberal media outlets barely mentioned the striking success of the elections and the near-complete lack of violence.
Instead, many articles continue to look for ways to simply jab at the US, such as a NY Times article which talks about unemployment in a certain Sunni-majority region of Iraq, saying of the job situation that "much of it (was) caused by the Americans’ de-Baathification policies..."
Even the writers of the NY Times article which mentions the low level of violence, by the second paragraph feel the need to say "Senior members of several political parties were complaining publicly even before the polls closed" as if that's even close to being one of the most important parts of the story, as compared to the obvious success of "the surge" at this point.
Of course, Iraq is far from perfect. And the elections weren't perfect either. There is still a real chance that recent Sunni "allies" of the US in the fight against al Qaeda will try to claim their local elections fraudulent and invalid (and maybe they'll be right) and become a problem for the Iraqi government. If so, I hope they work something out. I trust they realize how much they have to lose at this point. The fact that Prime Minister al-Maliki is running as a nationalist rather than as a Shi'ite bodes well for at least a serious attempt at reconciliation.
There is still a tremendous amount of hard work to be done in Iraq, the vast majority of it by the Iraqis themselves.
Still, the obvious attempts by the dominant liberal media to bury any stories of success in Iraq speak yet again to their overwhelming bias and their inability to function as journalists rather than opinion writers.
It's a few months old, but still right on target:
I faxed this to Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday evening...
Dear Senator McConnell,
As a sometime-political-activist (Republican) here in Colorado and a writer for Human Events magazine, I have my ear fairly well to the political pulse.
If there is anything that the GOP should have learned from the last election it is that given a choice between a real Democrat and a might-as-well-be-a-Democrat-except-for-social-issues, voters will take the real thing almost every time.
The House Republicans finally got it through their thick heads and all walked away from the stimulus package.
While I’m glad that some in the Senate have been standing fast against the “stimulus”, which will really only stimulate the growth of government, your statements that the stimulus really just needs some modifications represent a huge mistake, both in terms politics and economics.
You know as well as I do that Keynsian economics are wrong. You also know as well as I do that in the long run, ideas matter. So why cave in and offer any political cover to the Democrats when what they are going to embark on will almost certainly fail. If you can stop it dead in its tracks, great. If you can’t, then let them take the blame which they will so richly deserve.
I urge you to follow Tom Coburn’s lead on this and get the GOP back on track to standing for something that the millions of fiscally conservative Republicans and Independents in this country can cheer for.
And stop letting President Obama go unchallenged with his statements that Republican “failed theories helped lead us into this crisis in the first place." If anything, it was the Democrats’ manipulation of the CRA and the GSE’s which lead us here. And if anything, the Bush tax cuts were the key reason the economy was so good for most of his presidency.
If you’re going to “trim” the bill, it should be trimmed in the same way that Robespierre “trimmed” his enemies. The stimulus bill is cancer. Saying you’re going to inject slightly fewer cancer cells into a patient doesn’t make you a good doctor.
Tell your fellow Republican Senators to stop tinkering around the edges by saying we need more infrastructure spending or that there’s “plenty of room to cut”. Do everything you can to simply kill the measure. If any GOP Senators defect, they’ll pay the price later, but it will do a world of good for the party overall and more importantly for the nation.
I'm not going to get the quotes exactly right, but close enough to exactly right that you'll get the point...
A couple of hours ago, I saw Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) interviewed on Fox News by Greta Van Susteren. Greta asked the Senator how the numbers for each line item were arrived at to which the Senator replied "People can look at any line item in the bill and find something they don't like."
Now, I'm sure she didn't mean it the way it sounded, i.e. that every line item was objectionable to almost everyone, but that probably is fairly close to the truth if you were to ask anyone other than Democrats in DC for his opinion. So how is it that such a disaster is likely to be passed in close to its current horrendous form?
It goes along with another answer given by Landrieu to a similar question. When asked again if the line items were carefully studied to come up with the amounts allocated to them, she said "It's not that scientific."
In other words, Senate Democrats are abdicating any pretense of responsibility to understand how they are burning future generations' money. And they're so cowed by the enormous sums (and who wouldn't be) that they are intellectually unable to defend them or even to comprehend them. Furthermore, there must be a heck of a lot of "you leave my pork alone and I'll leave yours alone." Typically these things are a couple million dollars each. This time they're a couple billion.
They say there are two things you never want to see made, laws and sausages. Right now I feel like I'm seeing both, as the Senate grinds our economic and political liberty to little bits in order to stuff it into a nasty skin of permanent expansion of government intrusiveness and cost.
Streaming under the Fox News interview were two excellent quotes.
First, from the always clear-thinking (at least on economics) Tom Coburn: "the economic stimulus bill represents one of the most egregious acts of generational theft in our nation's history."
And second, from the surprisingly on-target John McCain: "If this legislation is passed, it'll be a very bad day for America. My goodness, it's a moment in history of spending the likes of which this nation has never seen."
It appears that the villains at the vote will be the RINOs Arlen Specter and Susan Collins. If true, I will do what I can to encourage and support a primary challenge to both, but especially to Specter. He's worse than worthless.
If the bill passes the Senate by just one or two votes more than necessary to get past a filibuster, it will be a small political victory for the Republican Party but a huge loss of wealth and freedom for the nation.
One interesting thing to consider: I wrote quite a bit before the election about how politicians tend to believe that an electoral victory means the voters were voting for them whereas just as often they were simply voting against the other guys. When Obama and Pelosi argue "we won, so we'll make the laws", I believe they're making that exact mistake. Their majorities are so large that they can probably get away with it for two years but I strongly believe that their distinctly partisan behavior dealing with the most important issue in decades will come back to haunt them. And again, as I've said many times, that prediction will only have a chance to come true if the Republican Party can offer a better alternative than simply "at least we're not them."
[Update: I see that Charles Krauthammer has written an article in a similar vein: "The Fierce Urgency of Pork", WSJ, 2/6/09. Krauthammer is always good, but this one is particularly excellent.]
In at least three public appearances yesterday, Barack Obama cried that our economic troubles would turn into a catastrophe if we don't pass his "stimulus" bill. Other Democrats are making the same pitch, including Nancy Pelosi's statement that "500 million Americans will lose their jobs every month."
On Friday morning, we received an employment report that was even worse than bad expectations. Payrolls were down by 598,000 jobs, the most in almost 35 years, and much worse than the Bloomberg consensus estimate of 540,000 jobs. The last two months' employment numbers were also revised lower. The unemployment rate rose to 7.6%, the highest since 1992.
One of the only places which increased hiring was government. You know what that means: They'll need to charge you more to cover their vote-buying schemes, even as you worry about whether you'll have a job in a month. At least the US Postal Service is looking to cut its employment costs.
There is no doubt that the economy is in disastrous shape, and as I've argued recently I don't think this recession will stop before becoming the worst since the depression. But that doesn't mean the answer is a government spending binge that largely replicates the fiscal failure of the Bush Administration.
While running for election, Barack Obama and other Democrats rightly decried the increase in the deficit under so-called conservative George W. Bush. And now they want to nearly triple it with one piece of legislation. It's true, the National Debt nearly doubled under George W. Bush, something for which he should be deeply ashamed. But the Democrats' proposals for this year combined with lower tax revenue due to the recession will likely increase the debt by more than twice Bush's worst year while making government permanently more expensive.
In fact, the Congressional Budget Office recently sent a letter to Senator Judd Gregg, with their analysis of the economic effect of the current Senate stimulus bill. Basically it says there would probably be a modest economic improvement from the bill starting in 2010 (not 2009!), dropping each year after, to the point that within a decade, "the Senate legislation would reduce output slightly in the long run, CBO estimates, as would other similar proposals...CBO estimates that by 2019 the Senate legislation would reduce GDP by 0.1 percent to 0.3 percent on net. H.R. 1, as passed by the House, would have similar long-run effects." In other words, the Democrats are trying to sell us candy in the short term, forgetting about the rotting teeth we'll then have for the rest of our lives. They're trying to sell us a brief "artificial" bump in the economy in return for putting a wet blanket on the economy for who knows many many years in the future. (Even the least educated politician in DC should know that socialist economies have always underperformed our economy. OK, that's far too generous to our politicians. But we know it, and we should make sure they're reminded.)
(See more about the CBO letter at the end of this note.)
It was also helpful to hear this from The Chosen One, after hearing criticism that the "stimulus" bill was really just a spending bill: "What do you think a stimulus is? That’s the whole point." In a Keynsian sense, he's right, but it's also a huge political loser for him, I believe, as the average American is woken up to realize that very fact. Most people probably believe government can wave a wand, change a rate, or perform some other feat of prestidigitation and change economic growth. When you make it clear to them that the proposal revolves around taking their money -- or their children's money -- the picture begins to crystallize in their heads. And it's not a pretty picture.
Recessions, especially deep ones like this, are a terrible thing. The only thing worse than letting the market sort it out and stabilize over time would be to pass a "stimulus" bill which not only hardly contains any "stimulus" (if you really believe you can stimulate the economy by draining money from the private sector) but it also contains many billions of dollars of pork and socialism, from unproven and inefficient alternative energy spending to a giant step toward socialized medicine.
It's interesting to hear Obama's other argument: "We won" so we're going to do what we want to. He seems truly to believe that the "change" people voted for was to massively increase government spending even while it seems clear that people abandoned the GOP in large part because they didn't curtail spending.
Some sort of stimulus bill will almost certainly be passed. The Senate Republicans in particular have two choices. One: "Work with" the Dems, tinkering around the edges. Two: Act like the House Republicans and "just say no" to the whole thing. It's in part a political bet. If the economy improves (which would be in spite of, not because of, the "stimulus" and Republicans had nothing to do with the bill, they stand some real political risk. But, if as seems more likely to me, the economy doesn't recover quickly, just as much of FDR's New Deal prolonged the depression, the GOP would stand to gain much politically by trying to kill the whole bill, or forcing the Dems to start over and come back with something 1/3 of the size and mostly pork- and socialism-free. Beyond the political aspect, that is the best outcome for the nation among the things that might have some chance of happening.
Note: For those of you interested in more of the CBO's comments, the letter to Senator Gregg is a good read. Here is a very important section:
In contrast to its positive near-term macroeconomic effects, the Senate legislation would reduce output slightly in the long run, CBO estimates, as would other similar proposals. The principal channel for this effect is that the legislation would result in an increase in government debt. To the extent that people hold their wealth as government bonds rather than in a form that can be used to finance private investment, the increased debt would tend to reduce the stock of productive capital. In economic parlance, the debt would “crowd out” private investment. (Crowding out is unlikely to occur in the short run under current conditions, because most firms are lowering investment in response to reduced demand, which stimulus can offset in part.) CBO’s basic assumption is that, in the long run, each dollar of additional debt crowds out about a third of a dollar’s worth of private domestic capital (with the remainder of the rise in debt offset by increases in private saving and inflows of foreign capital).
One of the truly excellent organizations I'm involved with, perhaps the most excellent, and one of the best investments I make each year since becoming involved is with the Leadership Program of the Rockies.
In addition to a fantastic 9-month course (one day per month, generally) full of tremendous speakers -- real experts in areas from political communication to economics -- LPR puts on an annual "Retreat" at the Broadmoor Hotel (in Colorado Springs) which brings both great speakers and a great audience (which gets quite involved with Q&A and other discussions with the speakers.)
Read on to learn more about it, and please consider attending. It really is a great event, especially for those of us who believe in such out-of-fashion concepts as liberty, limited government, and free markets. Sign-up information is here:
In recent years, keynote speakers have included Ann Coulter (admittedly not my favorite), Laura Ingraham, and last year, Mike Huckabee (who massively exceeded my expectations and was an excellent speaker, including being enjoyable to chat with at the VIP reception.) But it's not just the keynote speakers who are great. Other speakers have included John Fund (WSJ political writer), Fred Barnes (Daily Standard), Jonathan Hoenig ("The Capitalist Pig"), Dr. Pat Michaels (Cato Institute, expert on "Global Warming"), Steve Moore (WSJ editorial board & economist), Frank Luntz (leading pollster and author of "Words that Work") and lesser known speakers such as a fascinating women who was organizing women to participate in Iraq's fledgling Democracy.
Beside the speakers, the Broadmoor is just a fabulous place. It has to be the best hotel in the state. My wife even loves to go to this event..and she's no fan of politics...because she loves the hotel (and spa) so much. They have great baby-sitting services, which really helps us make the most of things.
This year is shaping up to be a GREAT one at the LPR retreat. It's March 6th and 7th at the Broadmoor Hotel, and the few of the confirmed speakers so far are already tremendous:
Dinner keynote on the 6th will be Bill Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard and fixture on Fox News political discussions. More from Kristol's bio: Before starting The Weekly Standard in 1995, Mr. Kristol led the Project for the Republican Future, where he helped shape the strategy that produced the 1994 Republican Congressional victory. Prior to that, Mr. Kristol served as chief of staff to vice president Dan Quayle during the Bush administration and to Secretary of Education William Bennett under President Reagan. Before coming to Washington in 1985, Mr. Kristol taught politics at the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.
Lunch keynote will be Jonah Goldberg, editor of and writer for National Review Online, and author of "Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning"
Michelle Malkin, who recently moved to Colorado, is also a confirmed "session speaker", meaning during the day on Friday. Even though I don't agree with her on everything, Michelle is by far my favorite of the many well-known female conservative pundits...and that was even before she had the good sense to move to our state.
There is a wide range of ticket packages and sponsorships available, including offering the ability to join us at the VIP cocktail hour with Bill Kristol. More info is available at the LPR Retreat page:
There's also a usually-excellent silent auction (which you're welcome to donate things to in order to help LPR raise money, and get a tax deduction for yourself at the same time since LPR is a non-profit organization.)
If you sign up soon, you should also be able to get the Leadership Program of the Rockies room rate at the Broadmoor, which is a big discount over their usual rates. (Ask for a room overlooking their lake when you get there!)
I haven't missed the retreat any year since I've moved to Colorado and I'll be there this year. I strongly urge you to come to the Broadmoor on March 6th and 7th (my wife and I always go a day earlier just to enjoy the place for another day and evening), for 24 hours of intellectual stimulation about liberty, free markets, and leadership. And the food is good, too!
Hotel and Retreat registration info can be found at:
I hope to see you there! (Even liberals are welcome, as long as you're willing to learn!)
On Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal had two opinion pieces by two of my favorites in the world of political economy.
First, Dick Armey argues that Hayek was right in saying that Keynes, and therefore this Keynsian "stimulus" package, is all wrong:
see "Washington Could Use Less Keynes and More Hayek", Dick Armey, WSJ, 2/4/09
And second, Senator Tom Coburn who says that this bill is simply a pork-fest.
see "The Stimulus Package Is More Debt We Don't Need", Tom Coburn, WSJ, 2/4/09
And third, from Daniel Henniger, WSJ columnist, the bill is not only full of outrageous waste, but it also presents a rare opportunity for the GOP to do something right and become relevant again...by refusing to support it in any way:
see "What is Congress Stimulating?", WSJ, 2/5/09
The Rocky Mountain News was good enough to publish my letter to the editor about the theft of Mike Rosen's savings by Bernie Madoff. It's a much shorter version of a note I posted on the subject the other day, but I think it bears repetition in this form.
see "Liberal glee at plight of theft victim Rosen is typical", Ross Kaminsky, RMN, 2/5/09
Another brilliant letter from Boudreaux...though I'm sure even Don would admit it isn't that hard to be brilliant when quoting Mencken.
Editor, The Wall Street Journal
200 Liberty Street
New York, NY 10281
To the Editor:
Ed Glaeser wisely argues that it's a bad deal to copy ideas from the New Deal - including that of subsidizing mortgage debt ("The GOP Has a Dumb Mortgage Idea," Feb. 5). As one of the most astute Americans ever to live, H.L. Mencken, said about the New Deal, "It is a puerile amalgam of exploded imbecilities, many of them in flat contradiction of the rest." And among the imbecilities that Mencken highlighted was the New Deal proposal "to lift the burden of debt by encouraging fools to incur more debt."*
Donald J. Boudreaux
Chairman, Department of Economics
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030
* H.L. Mencken, On Politics : A Carnival of Buncombe (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1996 ), p. 311.
Dear Senators Udall and Bennett,
I am contacting you to urge you in the strongest possible way to oppose the current "stimulus" bill or anything vaguely resembling it.
The bill will not stimulate the economy. It will saddle my 3-year old daughter and 1-year old son with an even higher mountain of debt for the rest of their lives.
You and I would probably not agree on much in terms of economic policy. You probably enjoy the idea of the permanent enlargement of government which is the clear primary goal of this bill, despite it's "stimulus" cover story.
But at a time of national economic crisis, you have a duty to Colorado and the nation to act in good faith for the economy and not for the benefit of your party, unions, or favored liberal industries and interest groups.
If you want to support all those things, do it later, in the clear and politically disinfecting light of day, not under cover of a so-called "stimulus" bill and during a time of substantial confusion among the electorate.
At the end of the day, supporting this bill by claiming it is "stimulus" is dishonest. And while I may not agree with you gentlemen frequently on policy matters, I do think you are honest men (all prejudices against politicians aside.)
On a purely political note, I believe any rational economist (which means not Robert Reich or Paul Krugman) will tell you that this bill is simply burning money, at least in economic terms. (I realize that it may buy a lot of votes in political terms.) When it fails, at it must, to stimulate the economy, the Democrats' losses will reverse most or all of your gains in the last two elections, particularly if the Senate Republicans are smart enough to leave Senate Democrats holding the bag as the House Republicans did to Nancy Pelosi and friends. (Sadly, I don't think Senate Republicans are as smart as House Republicans.)
For the sake of my children's economic future, and in order to maintain some hope that they can reach a higher standard of living than I have, just as we reached higher than our parents, I urge you to oppose S. 1 and anything like it that might come out of a conference.