“I will not allow America to become New Jersey.”

That’s a good idea in so many ways, but this specifically refers to not allowing government to grow wildly as has happened in the so-called Garden State:

Think of it as our gift to the nation. Other states offer promising experiments in areas such as Medicaid, taxes, education and regulatory reform. In contrast, the People’s Republic of New Jersey offers America something truly unique: the perfect bad example.

As harmful as this has been for our own prosperity, our example could be invaluable for President-elect Obama. That’s especially true given that his team appears to be considering some of the same things that have long been popular in Trenton. For years, the solons in our state capital have operated on the assumption that you can have high taxes everywhere — on income, on property, on business — without suffering any consequences.

Thomas Sowell’s Random Thoughts

People who are impressed by how many of Barack Obama’s advisors have Ivy League degrees seem not to remember how many people with Ivy League degrees mismanaged the Vietnam war and how many people with Ivy League degrees mismanaged economic policy during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

The fact that sales at Starbucks are going down, while sales at McDonald’s are going up, shows that people are adjusting to economic adversity by cutting back their spending. Only in Congress do people adjust to economic adversity and growing deficits by spending more money.

Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke seems to be pretty popular thus far. My own preference is for Federal Reserve chairmen who are unpopular. When Paul Volcker was chairman of the Fed back in the 1980s, he was hated like poison, but his policies finally broke the back of the inflation that had been out of control for years– not without some painful costs, but few benefits can be gotten without costs.

It is fascinating to see that politicians whose interventions in mortgage lending have created a disaster in financial institutions are now moving on to intervene in the automobile industry.

Wal-Mart has done more for poor people than any ten liberals, at least nine of whom are almost guaranteed to hate Wal-Mart.

Ronald Reagan had a vision of America. Barack Obama has a vision of Barack Obama.

One of the signs of how easily we are bullied by small and vocal groups is how many universities, among other institutions, dare not even refer to the Christmas vacation but instead refer to “the winter holiday.”

As American incomes have risen over the years, liberals have kept changing the definition of “poverty.” Otherwise, the dwindling numbers of people who could be called “poor” would take away the liberals’ main claim to influence and power.

An e-mail from a reader whose job requires him to take urine tests, to make sure he is drug-free, wonders why he is taxed to provide money to people on welfare who are also on drugs. He thinks they should have to take urine tests too, before they get his money.

Recent covers on Time magazine and Newsweek– as well as the stories inside– suggest that these magazines are as giddy as teenagers are over some rock stars, when it comes to Barack Obama.

Always worth reading. (Read the Whole article)

Blagojevich Selling Obama’s Senate Seat?

From the criminal complaint against Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich (source):

By law, after the President-elect’s resignation of his position as a U.S. Senator, which was effective on November 16, 2008, ROD BLAGOJEVICH has sole authority to appoint his replacement for the two years remaining of the President-elect’s Senate term. During the course of this investigation, agents have intercepted a series of communications regarding the efforts of ROD BLAGOJEVICH, JOHN HARRIS, and others to misuse this power to obtain personal gain, including financial gain, for ROD BLAGOJEVICH and his family. In particular, ROD BLAGOJEVICH has been intercepted conspiring to trade the senate seat for particular positions that the President-elect has the power to appoint (e.g. the Secretary of Health and Human Services). ROD BLAGOJEVICH has also been intercepted conspiring to sell the Senate seat in exchange for his wife’s placement on paid corporate boards or ROD BLAGOJEVICH’s placement at a private foundation in a significant position with a substantial salary. ROD BLAGOJEVICH has also been intercepted conspiring to sell the Senate seat in exchange for millions of dollars in funding for a non-profit organization that he would start and that would employ him at a substantial salary after he left the governorship.

Emphasis added.

If this is accurate, wouldn’t the bolded part implicate Obama in this conspiracy as well, or am I misunderstanding something? After all, only the President has the authority to nominate Cabinet officers. Am I missing something?

UPDATE (10:22 AM):

The AP seems to confirm that the Governor (no way am I trying to type that last name) did indeed attempt to use Obama’s seat for personal gain:

A 76-page FBI affidavit said the 51-year-old Democratic governor was intercepted on court-authorized wiretaps over the last month conspiring to sell or trade the vacant Senate seat for personal benefits for himself and his wife, Patti.

The affidavit said Blagojevich discussed getting a substantial salary for himself at a nonprofit foundation or an organization affiliated with labor unions.

It said that Blagojevich also talked about getting his wife placed on corporate boards where she might get $150,000 a year in director’s fees.

He also allegedly discussed getting campaign funds for himself or possibly a post in the president’s cabinet or an ambassadorship once he left the governor’s office.

U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald said in a statement that “the breadth of corruption laid out in these charges is staggering.”

“They allege that Blagojevich put a for sale sign on the naming of a United States senator,” Fitzgerald said.


Why the “Team of Rivals” was neither a team nor rivals

An interesting perspective that makes sense to me (with the disclaimer that I am not really up on my Civil War or the antebellum periods of America History). An excerpt:

For the previous sixty years, presidential Cabinets had been expanding in power and influence, to the point in the 1850s where some Cabinet secretaries (like John B. Floyd, the secretary of war under the helpless James Buchanan) actually overshadowed the presidents they were supposed to serve. Lincoln, by contrast, ruled his cabinet with an iron hand, treating Cabinet secretaries as little more than executors of decisions he had already made, rather than involving them in deliberations as semi-independent players. At the infrequent moments when Seward or Chase did challenge him, Lincoln slapped them back vigorously. In this way, Lincoln reversed the trend toward ever-more-mighty Cabinet secretaries, and established the pattern we have lived with ever since, of Cabinet subservience to presidential decision-making. By inviting real-time “rivals” into his Cabinet, Mr. Obama may find that the resemblance he conjures up may not be that of Lincoln, but James Buchanan.

I generally don’t approve of post-election sniping…

but this is priceless:

“I saw Frank Luntz,” said McInturff, “who is a moron — I want to make sure this is clearly on the record — he was talking to Republican governors, making fun of John for not being able to use a BlackBerry. The man can’t do it because he is much more disabled than people can imagine… I would like to take a hammer and start breaking bones in Frank’s arms.”

First, it’s hilarious how blunt he is. (I have no opinion on Frank Luntz. I only know that he’s a pollster.)

Second, you’ve got to love the fact that not only is he willing to put his name on the record (unlike those cowards anonymously attack Sarah Palin after the election), but that he goes out of his way to emphasize that he wants to be on the record.

Good show.

Socialism is already here

George Will layeth the smacketh down:

The seepage of government into everywhere is, we are assured, to be temporary and nonpolitical. Well.

Probably as temporary as New York City’s rent controls, which were born as emergency responses to the Second World War and are still distorting the city’s housing market. The Depression, which FDR failed to end but which Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor did end, was the excuse for agriculture subsidies that have lived past three score years and 10.

The distribution of a trillion dollars by a political institution — the federal government — will be nonpolitical? How could it be? Either markets allocate resources, or government — meaning politics — allocates them. Now that distrust of markets is high, Americans are supposed to believe that the institution they trust least — Congress — will pony up $1 trillion and then passively recede, never putting its 10 thumbs, like a manic Jack Horner, into the pie? Surely Congress will direct the executive branch to show compassion for this, that and the other industry. And it will mandate “socially responsible” spending — an infinitely elastic term — by the favored companies.

In America, socialism is un-American. Instead, Americans merely do rent-seeking — bending government for the benefit of private factions. The difference is in degree, including the degree of candor. The rehabilitation of conservatism cannot begin until conservatives are candid about their complicity in what government has become.

As for the president-elect, he promises to change Washington. He will, by making matters worse. He will intensify rent-seeking by finding new ways — this will not be easy — to expand, even more than the current administration has, government’s influence on spreading the wealth around.

Will does a great job showing the failures of both parties in expanding socialism; Democrats (rightly) get more blame for it, but the GOP is far from innocent on this count.

Great interview with Bob Novak

In your memoir, you describe an early meeting in the Oval Office with Reagan in which he quoted a couple of obscure 19th-century British free-trade advocates and some little-known modern Austrian economists. How underrated intellectually do you think Reagan was?

He was extremely underrated, particularly by the press. The press was very derisive. They were derisive of Eisenhower, too—they thought he was just another army officer—but the attacks on Reagan were harsher. He was portrayed as stupid, uneducated, out of his element. I think he was very well educated and understood a lot of things. He was also very flexible in his policies—too flexible for my taste.

How do you feel about Dick Cheney?

I think he’s the most forceful, effective vice president in history.

I like some of the things he’s done. I think he was instrumental in getting the tax cuts through, which I approve of. I’m at odds with his aggressive military policy, but he’s put a new dimension on the vice presidency that I don’t think will be continued and maybe shouldn’t be continued.

Read the whole thing

Hat Tip: The Club for Growth

We Blew It

P.J. O’Rourke on the failures of the conservative movement.

Let us bend over and kiss our ass goodbye. Our 28-year conservative opportunity to fix the moral and practical boundaries of government is gone–gone with the bear market and the Bear Stearns and the bear that’s headed off to do you-know-what in the woods on our philosophy.

An entire generation has been born, grown up, and had families of its own since Ronald Reagan was elected. And where is the world we promised these children of the Conservative Age? Where is this land of freedom and responsibility, knowledge, opportunity, accomplishment, honor, truth, trust, and one boring hour each week spent in itchy clothes at church, synagogue, or mosque? It lies in ruins at our feet, as well it might, since we ourselves kicked the shining city upon a hill into dust and rubble. The progeny of the Reagan Revolution will live instead in the universe that revolves around Hyde Park.

Where was the meum and the tuum in our shakedown of Washington lobbyists? It took a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives 40 years–from 1954 to 1994–to get that corrupt and arrogant. And we managed it in just 12. (Who says Republicans don’t have much on the ball?)

Our attitude toward immigration has been repulsive. Are we not pro-life? Are not immigrants alive? Unfortunately, no, a lot of them aren’t after attempting to cross our borders. Conservative immigration policies are as stupid as conservative attitudes are gross. Fence the border and give a huge boost to the Mexican ladder industry. Put the National Guard on the Rio Grande and know that U.S. troops are standing between you and yard care. George W. Bush, at his most beneficent, said if illegal immigrants wanted citizenship they would have to do three things: Pay taxes, learn English, and work in a meaningful job. Bush doesn’t meet two out of three of those qualifications. And where would you rather eat? At a Vietnamese restaurant? Or in the Ayn Rand Café? Hey, waiter, are the burgers any good? Atlas shrugged. (We would, however, be able to have a smoke at the latter establishment.)

And now, to glue and screw the lid on our coffin, comes this financial crisis. For almost three decades we’ve been trying to teach average Americans to act like “stakeholders” in their economy. They learned. They’re crying and whining for government bailouts just like the billionaire stakeholders in banks and investment houses. Aid, I can assure you, will be forthcoming from President Obama.

Anyway, it’s no use blaming Wall Street. Blaming Wall Street for being greedy is like scolding defensive linemen for being big and aggressive. The people on Wall Street never claimed to be public servants. They took no oath of office. They’re in it for the money. We pay them to be in it for the money. We don’t want our retirement accounts to get a 2 percent return. (Although that sounds pretty good at the moment.)

What will destroy our country and us is not the financial crisis but the fact that liberals think the free market is some kind of sect or cult, which conservatives have asked Americans to take on faith. That’s not what the free market is. The free market is just a measurement, a device to tell us what people are willing to pay for any given thing at any given moment. The free market is a bathroom scale. You may hate what you see when you step on the scale. “Jeeze, 230 pounds!” But you can’t pass a law making yourself weigh 185. Liberals think you can. And voters–all the voters, right up to the tippy-top corner office of Goldman Sachs–think so too.

We, the conservatives, who do understand the free market, had the responsibility to–as it were–foreclose upon this mess. The market is a measurement, but that measuring does not work to the advantage of a nation or its citizens unless the assessments of volume, circumference, and weight are conducted with transparency and under the rule of law. We’ve had the rule of law largely in our hands since 1980. Where is the transparency? It’s one more job we botched.

One flaw in his article is that (likely unknowingly) he’s confusing libertarianism and conservatism. Many of the ideas he mocks conservatives for, I would support. (For example, I would gladly vote for a constitutional amendment defending marriage. No one’s talking about illegalizing homosexual activity, despite how some misrepresent our stance, but redefining marriage is one thing that is truly beyond our pay grade.)

We had our chance, but after Reagan failed to nominate anyone who was a Conservative. George H.W. Bush. Come on. (I loved him at the time, but I was 13-14. I was too young to know any better.) Bob Freakin’ Dole? I couldn’t vote for him even holding my nose. I voted for W in 2000 because he was able to act conservative enough to convince us he might just be with us, and in 2004 because Kerry was a joke. But his use of the phrase “compassionate conservatism” should have been a red flag; many, myself included, took it for campaign rhetoric, but it should have served to warn us that he was not one of us. And we’re paying the price now: even though W was never a conservative, he’s taken us down with him. And then McCain; I hardly think I need to spend any time showing how he’s not a conservative.

No, conservatives, in many ways, are victims of Reagan’s success. Showing that America was (and still is, despite the denials of many on the Left) a center-right nation, Reagan showed that there were votes to be won on the Right. And many old-style Rockefeller Republicans have learned to mouth the platitudes of the Right, while staying in the center/left in their hearts. The first Bush ran as the heir to Reagan: he gave us the Americans with Disabilities Act, a tax hike, and a larger government. Bob Dole never really changed from the man who was once called the tax collector for the welfare state. Bush the Younger gave us two wars, national control over education, a prescription drug benefit that will bankrupt MediCare (or is it Medicaid? too lazy to look) even more quickly, among other sins. And McCain only made it due to the failure of conservatives to coalesce around a single candidate, and the fact the early states allow Independents and Democrats to decide who the nominee of the party they’re not part of should be.

Anyway, the failure is ultimately ours: we allowed those who were not one of us to portray themselves as one of us. We even participated in it. Now, some are pushing Newt Gingrich as President for 2012. Are you kidding me? The man who started the downfall of the GOP in the 90s is not the man who will save us in the teens. (Besides, he’s one of the ones I referred to above; he’s a Rockefeller Republican at heart.)

We need to rebrand conservatism, remind people that government gets in the way. Outside its specific realm of competence, it doesn’t solve problems, it creates them. After all, do we really want the people behind the Veterans’ Administration to be in charge of all health care? Do we want the people who run the DMV’s, Air Traffic Controls and Transportation Safety Administrations in charge of planning the economy? Not if we want to increase wealth.

I was talking to a fellow Republican today at Church and he asked me what we can do to start rebuilding. My first answer was “String Bush up ourselves.” While said tongue-in-cheek, it’s still something we need to accomplish rhetorically. Anyone who’s paid attention knows Bush isn’t conservative; we need to make that clear. I’ve been saying such for quite a while. (Here’s a post from January 2004 where I defended conservatives breaking with Bush.) While conservatives, tending to be the loyal sort, admirably stuck by the President in war time, we no longer are bound by that. We need to make clear that the person responsible for the largest increase in government since the Great Society is not, and could not be, a conservative.

At the core, we need to push this simple message: the Left will give themselves control over your life, your money and your family; the Right will give you freedom to be yourself, and raise and care for your family as you see fit. It’ll be a tough sell after our recent failures; but that’s still the truth even if people can’t see it.

This says it well, Part II

What does the Right have to show for eight years of a Republican presidency? I supported George W. Bush in 2000 because I thought he had a conservative bone in his body somewhere. I supported him in 2004 because I thought him the lesser of two evils. At this point, I wouldn’t let the fool park his car in my driveway.