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June 16, 2012

Insight From The Ace

In a post that describes a rising sense of panic among Democrats, Ace of Spaces offers some insight on attitudes of the independent voter.

One of the most frustrating thing about the politically unaware is their unchanging belief that Something must be done! (all attempts to panic the public into agreeing that Something Must Be Done! are directed at this cohort), but they have little idea of what, specifically, should be done. Something. You know, something. Something must be done, why are you not getting this?

One thing many conservatives never acknowledge is that, ultimately, a successful candidate must agree with this cohort that Something Must Be Done. They cannot be argued out of this position; they've held it all their lives. It's not merely a belief, it's an article of faith.

It's the single thing they know about politics -- Something must be done.

It's a libertarian article of faith that most of our economic pain comes about because of all the things government does that it shouldn't do.  Over the last few years Barack Obama has very ably demonstrated many of the specific things government shouldn't do. 

At a time when America is in dire need of job growth, the Obama administration stepped in to block the opening of a non-union Boeing plant in South Carolina.  Then there was the offshore oil drilling moratorium in the Gulf of Mexico, and almost simultaneously the administration set about killing the Keystone pipeline construction project. 

While actively stifling some business activities, the Obama administration put its thumb on the scale to favor others, running up the deficit to hand vast sums to failing green companies like Solyndra.  Examples abound of government interfering where it shouldn't at Obama's direction.

But as Ace points out, preaching that the government shouldn't do something is a losing argument, and fortunately, Mitt Romney gets the point.

If you believe in laissez-faire economics, you shouldn't say the government should not be involved in the private sector, as a matter of politics. You should say, as Romney does, that the government should "unleash the private sector."

See, that's something. He's saying he's going to do Something. Something must be done, and that something is "unleashing the private sector."

Just something to keep in mind. The difference we're quibbling about, in some of these ideological disputes, is whether we're going to employ an active verb or a passive verb in describing policy.

Newt Knew This! Newt was a master of this. He was always proposing to do something, and not just do something, mind you, but do something fundamentally transformative.

Because, Something Must Be Done.

It's true.  Something Must Be Done.  Obama has brought us to the point where Something Must Be Done, and even a small-L libertarian can see that Something Must Be Done.  Something Will Be Done.  November.

Posted by Tom Bowler at 08:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 10, 2012

Fairness Or Money?

Ronald Brownstein wrote recently that Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin offered a false choice by engaging public sector unions in a battle over collective bargaining privileges.

In Wisconsin, Republican Gov. Scott Walker this week won a war of choice. But his victory doesn’t erase the question of whether he needed to wage the war at all. Or whether this kind of scorched-earth political combat offers the best model for resolving the comparable challenges awaiting the next president, as some may now insist.

Walker faced a genuine challenge when he arrived in office in 2011: a $3.5 billion state budget deficit swelled by the sustained economic downturn. But he responded with a consciously confrontational solution that ignited two years of unprecedented and unstinting partisan conflict. The fact that Walker’s opponents responded with excesses of their own (including, arguably, the recall election itself), or that he’s left standing after the last shot has been fired (at least until 2014), shouldn’t be confused with proof that he was wise to initiate these hostilities. Victory in an unnecessary battle isn’t really a victory at all; ask the generals at Verdun.

Brownstein complains that all parties in Wisconsin did not share equally in the sacrifice to balance the state budget.  The unions gave up more than anybody else and therefore Walker's solution was unfair and divisive. 

[H]e refused to balance the cuts for union members (and the local school boards facing a sharp reduction in state aid) with higher tax contributions from the affluent or corporations. Then, he threw gasoline on the fire by deciding not to negotiate givebacks directly with the public-employee unions (which they had signaled they would accept), but to strip them of their rights to collectively bargain on those issues altogether.

Since then, Wisconsin has lived through tumultuous protests and occupations in the state Capitol and two rounds of bitter, astronomically expensive recall elections that culminated in this week’s voting that sustained Walker but apparently flipped control of the state Senate to the Democrats. The climate has been so toxic that in a Marquette University poll conducted just before the vote, one-third of Wisconsin adults said they have stopped talking politics with someone because of their disagreements over Walker.

In both parties, many activists will say Walker’s survival proves that in this polarized era, the only way to achieve effective change is to ruthlessly unify your own party, concede nothing to the other party (or its constituencies), and bulldoze forward as long as you can hold support from 50-plus-1 percent of the voters.

Brownstein never questions whether it was fair for public sector unions to have those collective bargaining privileges to begin with.  Was it fair that government employees could not choose whether or not to join the union?  Membership was a condition of their employment, and union dues were automatically deducted from paychecks.  How fair was that?  It turns out there was another poll that more accurately gauged public sentiment.

According to the Journal, when Walker first proposed his fiscal reforms in early 2011, AFSCME’s Wisconsin membership stood at a healthy 62,818. By February 2012, the labor behemoth had shrunk to 28,745. “It’s a profound shift,” says George Lightbourn, the president of the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute and the state’s former secretary of administration.

The loss of 34,073 Wisconsin AFSCME members speaks volumes.  That's more than 54% of union members who simply left the union because of Governor Walker's reforms.  What does that tell you about fairness? 

It's not about fairness, it's about the money.  Here's what 34,073 individual ideas of fairness mean when measured in dollars and cents.  Using a conservative $35 per month for union dues, it means a loss of over $1.4 million annually for AFSCME in Wisconsin.

LIberal partisans, as Brownstein appears to be, argue that this places the Democratic party at an unfair disadvantage when you look at the Republican party's fund raising abilities.  But wouldn't it be nice if the Democratic party could attract funding on the strength of its platform.  It can't.  It rationalizes instead. It invents issues by, for example, forcing Catholic organizations to fund insurance coverage for contraceptives and abortificents, then declaring that there is a war on women when the church objects. 

The real fairness issue concerns union members and taxpayers who have been forced to support a political party whose positions they don't agree with. Fifty-four percent of Wisconsin's AFSCME membership have just said what is fair.  Fair is being allowed to hang onto your own money and to support unions and political parties, or not, as you see fit.

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June 08, 2012

Give Obama Some Credit

Here's a stunning surprise.  Lefty pundit Jonathon Chait says Mitt Romney is a liar

Here’s Romney’s incredibly false account:

A book that was written in a way that’s apparently pro-President Obama, was written by a guy named Noam Scheiber and in this book he says that there was a discussion about the fact that Obamacare would slow down the economic recovery in this country and they knew that before they passed it.  But they concluded that we would all forget how long the recovery took once it had happened, so they decided to go ahead.  The idea that they knowingly slowed down our recovery in order to put in place Obamacare, which they wanted and they considered historic but the American people did not want or consider historic, is something which I think deserves a lot of explaining …

The lies. Let us tote them up.

First, and most importantly, at no point did anybody in the Obama administration ever believe that passing the Affordable Care Act would “slow down the recovery.”

Looking at this from another perspective, at least Romney gives Obama credit for knowing what a lot of other people recognized:  ObamaCare would be a drag on the economy.  By calling out Romney, Chait unwittingly acknowledges that Obama was, and still is, utterly without a clue. 

Posted by Tom Bowler at 06:41 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 07, 2012

Brilliance Percolating

The writing is on the wall for the Obama presidency.  While browsing Memeorandum this morning I ran across this from Taylor Marsh.  Ms. Marsh is a progressive.

I remain fascinated that anyone pretending to have Democratic, progressive, let alone liberal, political views cares whether Pres. Obama wins or loses. What it’s going to take for people to understand he’s not fighting any of your battles, but only waging his own for himself, is unknown at this point, but maybe when he shoots for legacy on the “grand bargain” fence of history people will tune in and, perhaps, wake up. Then it will be too late, though it already is and was a long time ago.

Ah, the dawn comes to Marble Head.  After three and a half years of Obama, the keen progressive mind dimly perceives a disconnect between Obama oratory and Obama action.  Morning brightens ever so slowly over there on the left.  They've been fumbling around in the dark looking for the switch for so long that they never noticed the sun is up and they don't need to turn on a light.  It's been a three and a half year sunrise. 

Then suddenly recognition, like an ice cold shower. 

The collective political ego of the Democratic Party insiders, activists, union bosses, and voters are holding on to Barack Obama for dear life to convince themselves the cause is relevant.

What “cause” exists, exactly?

What is Pres. Obama fighting for besides himself, the only cause that makes him rise up to do anything?

The guy can’t even find a slogan, stuck with We’re Not Done Yet.

God help us all.

Obama is Obama's cause?  What a painful shock!  Or it would be if the progressive brain could only make sense of those muddled nerve impulses attacking it.  There's little evidence of that, though.  Reality seems to get lost as it tries to make its way through Ms. Marsh's sexist filters.  She makes that clear as she gets to the real point of her diatrive.

One of the most important battles worth waging in 2012 is one for the survival and preservation of Elizabeth Warren to make sure her power is institutionalized in the Senate (though I remain skeptical Warren will remain who she is today in that cave of men and party group think). Her brilliance percolating for the lone road of the presidency, a choice that could be dashed if she loses in November.

 Brilliance percolating? 

A working class hero from Harvard whose latest assault from the right is about her native American heritage, which they’re attempting to turn into scandal.

Somehow it goes ignored.   Warren is a working class hero who railed against the bank foreclosures, but who also made hefty profits flipping foreclosed homes in Oklahoma.  I suppose that's pretty typical of today's heroes of the proletariat.

Elizabeth Warren Flip

RETURN ON HER INVESTMENT: Elizabeth Warren purchased this Oklahoma City home at 200 NW 16th Street for $30,000 in August 1993, then sold it for $145,000 five months later.

So much for heroics.  How 'bout some percolating brilliance?  Don't look to the late Professor Philip Shuchman of Rutgers University Law School for a Warren brilliance endorsement. 

In 1990, Rutgers University Law School Professor Philip Shuchman wrote a review of As We Forgive Our Debtors: Bankruptcy and Consumer Credit in America, the 1989 book Ms. Warren co-authored with Teresa Sullivan and Jay Westbrook. In his review, “Social Science Research on Bankruptcy,” published in the 43rd volume of the Rutgers Law Review (pages 185-244), Professor Shuchman assailed Ms. Warren’s academic credibility in a lengthy article that culminated in this hard-hitting charge (see page 187):

Most of their study replicates several earlier research publications. These are hardly mentioned. The writers make extravagant and false claims to originality and priority of research. There appear to be serious errors in their use of statistical bases which result in grossly mistaken functions and comparisons. Some of their conclusions cannot be obtained even from their flawed findings. The authors have made their raw data unavailable so that its accuracy cannot be independently checked. In my opinion, the authors have engaged in repeated instances of scientific misconduct. [emphasis added]

You can read Professor Shuchman’s review in its entirety here.

Such "scholarly" work was not what you would call an aberration.  Megan McArdle was outraged at Warren's inordinate influence in the promotion of ObamaCare through a deceptive study of medical bills and bankrupties.

I am mad, first of all, because Elizabeth Warren is not a third-year statistically illiterate policy analyst at a health care advocacy group. She's a professor at Harvard, and the head of the Congressional TARP oversight panel. This conveys a certain responsibility to present data in the most illuminating way, not in the way that will induce journalists to say things that aren't true.

And they have done just that. Read a sampling of the stories about this study on Google News. It's clear that none of the authors of the stories I've read understand that we're talking about a smaller absolute number of medical bankruptcies, representing a larger proportion of a much smaller overall number:  that this increase in the proportion could at least as easily have been driven by less need for non-medical bankruptcy, than by bigger, scarier medical bills. Indeed, many of the stories indicate that medical bankruptcies have risen since 2001, which is not true even according to Warren's figures.

On the one hand I have to give Taylor Marsh a little credit.  At least she's got brains enough to see Obama for what he is — a self serving con artist.  Too bad she can't take off her sexist blinders.  She might see that Elizabeth Warren is only a feminist version of Barack Obama.  There's nothing brilliant about that.

Linked by fellow New Hampshire blogger the Weekend Pundit!  Thanks!

Posted by Tom Bowler at 08:32 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 06, 2012

What The Recall Means On TheLeft

Writing for Firedoglake David Dayen said,

Walker already won the war. The policy of defunding the left, defunding the checks on conservative power, was the entire point of Scott Walker’s agenda. And it was successful when he signed Act 10, the anti-worker law, last year. The entire point was to decimate public unions, one of the last bastions of labor strength. And that’s exactly what happened; public unions in Wisconsin lost thousands of members over the past year. As a result, labor couldn’t keep up with outside spending to compensate for the massive loophole-induced funding lead Walker had. Labor didn’t have the numbers or the public sentiment to make the argument for the importance of unions and collective bargaining.


The labor movement represents one of the only remaining checks on corporate power, in the fight for economic justice.

In other words lefties believe that in the fight for economic justice, government employees ought to be required to contribute to the Democratic party as a condition of their employment.  That is the effect of compulsory union membership with dues automatically collected by the state.

Posted by Tom Bowler at 06:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Pyrrhic Victory Worse Than I Thought

From Hot Air:

That’s correct — the Wisconsin Senate will be out of session until 2013.  In November, 16 of the 33 seats will be up for grabs, and thanks to the redistricting that will be in place for the first time in that election, Republicans are supposed to pick up at least two seats.  The unions spent millions of dollars and over a year’s worth of effort to get a temporary one-seat majority in a chamber that will never meet in session.   And that’s assuming that their lone win from last night holds up in a recount. Congratulations, Big Labor!


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Tea Party Influence

As mentioned in my last post, Tea Party influence has gone largely unmentioned, so far, in mainstream coverage of Governor Scott Walker's tectonic victory in the Wisconsin Recall election.  In fact most of the headlines mentioning the Tea Party imply that the Tea Party is more beneficiary of the Wisconsin Recall outcome than a prime cause of it — Scott Walker Wisconsin Recall Win Boosts Tea Party Morale.

And here again we have yesterday's New York Times blog, The Caucus.

Q. What is the influence of “Tea Party” groups in Wisconsin? -Jeffrey C. Wilson, via Twitter

Tea Party groups have been visible across Wisconsin during the recall election of Gov. Scott Walker. For the last two years in the state, the rising Tea Party presence has helped invigorate the conservative movement in the state. The role of the groups was first evident in the 2010 elections when Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin, defeated Senator Russ Feingold, a Democrat.

Yet it’s difficult to measure the actual influence of these groups and their supporters. Are they new supporters? Or simply conservative activists who are attending a Tea Party rally instead of a local gathering sponsored by the Republican Party? A Tea Party rally in Racine over the weekend drew a large crowd, but it also featured several Republican establishment leaders, including Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, and Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, chairman of the House Budget Committee.

Local Tea Party groups across the state have been extremely visible and have attracted voters who are deeply motivated by fiscal concerns. But many of these activists simply consider themselves good tried-and-true Republicans and would have been involved even before the Tea Party movement came alive. — JEFF ZELENY

Mainstream journalists are confused, in denial, or both.  But here's a clue from the Wall Street Journal:

The resounding failure by unions and Democrats to recall Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker on Tuesday is a significant moment for democratic self-government. It shows that an aroused electorate can defeat a furious and well-fed special interest that wants a permanent, monopoly claim on taxpayer wallets.

"Aroused electorate" equals "Tea Party."  Get used to it.

Posted by Tom Bowler at 09:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Wisconsin Senate Control Too Close To Call

Fox News reports that the outcome in Racine's 23rd Senate District is still too close to call.

The chamber stood evenly divided between the two parties going into Tuesday's elections. Democrats needed to win just one Senate race to gain a one-seat majority. Republicans needed to win all four.

The GOP swept all the contests except in Racine's 23rd Senate District. Democrat John Lehman led incumbent GOP Sen. Van Wanggaard by fewer than 800 votes with all precincts reporting, making the race too close to call.

Flipping the Wisconsin Senate would provide some consolation for progressives, but the big prize has eluded big labor.  With Governor Scott Walker, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, and at least three Republicans in state Senate races surviving, there will be no wholesale rollback of Walker's reforms.

Meanwhile, progressive blame big money as if all messages are created equal and that voting automatons, as we the people are perceived in progressive circles, merely vote for the message heard most often, regardless of what it says.  But two words that seemed to garner little or no mention in mainstream coverage of the recall are "tea" and "party."  Heavy labor union turnout for the recall election was more than matched by turnout in support of Governor Walker and his reforms.  That implies a high level of Tea Party activism and voter intensity on the ground in Wisconsin. 

Looking towards November, if results of massive recall effort should turn out to be a gain of just one Wisconsin Senate seat, it will have been a Pyrrhic victory for progressives.  The implications for Obama are dire to say the least.  Wisconsin is likely to be in play.

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June 05, 2012

It Wasn't That Close

The Wall Street Journal reports that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has withstood the recall challenge from big labor as projections have him winning 58.2% of the vote to Tom Barrett's 41.2% with 54% of precincts reporting.

Mr. Walker had 58% of the vote with 33% of the state's precincts reporting, while his opponent, Tom Barrett, the Democratic mayor of Milwaukee, had 42%. Turnout was said to be heavy.

The vote capped a contentious 15-month battle that polarized Wisconsin, long a centrist state, with union members and Democrats protesting angrily against Mr. Walker's signing in March 2011 of a law removing most collective-bargaining rights from public employees.

The race drew more than $63 million in spending by the campaigns and their allies—most of that supporting Mr. Walker and much of it from outside Wisconsin—and saw nationally prominent politicians from both parties travel to the state to rally support in what was widely considered the country's second-most-important election this year after November's presidential contest.

Contradicting the Wall Street Journal's theme which drew ominous conclusions as to what the recall results mean for President Obama in November was MSNBC's Rachel Maddow.  She said that the recall results don't mean a thing regarding November and pointed to an exit poll showing that 44% rate Obama as better able to fix the economy over 36% who think Mitt Romney will do better.  Nineteen percent were undecided.  The fly in Maddow's ointment was from analysis by Pat Caddell on Fox, who said exit polls also showed that those 19% undecided went heavily in favor of Walker.

Posted by Tom Bowler at 10:56 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

On Wisconsin!

Two bits of encouraging anecdotal information regarding voter turnout in the conservative suburbs in the Wisconsin Recall vote.  First via Power Line Live.

Chuck Bogh                                                                                                   12:29PM
Just heard from my sister in River Falls WI. At 8:45 she was voter number 210, which is a huge turnout so early.

Second comes from the Weekly Standard where Bill Kristol received this email.

Now that my vote is cast, I am going to try to avoid analysis of the recall election today (capped off with a trip to Miller Park tonight to watch the Brewers beat the hapless Cubbies with my family)....  Beforehand, however, I thought I would share this anecdote from my voting place.  

I live in Mequon, which is a suburb of Milwaukee in Ozaukee County.  This is clearly Walker country.  The polls opened at 7 a.m.  I arrived at 7:20 a.m. to a line running outside of the school and a 45 minute wait to cast my ballot.  I have voted at the same location in every state and national election since 2002, and I have never seen that many people at the polls at that hour of the day.  People seemed enthusiastic to be there this morning, with several in line mentioning how important this election is for Wisconsin.

Now that is an unscientific sample, to say the least.  But if Governor Walker can maintain that level of turnout throughout the day, I think he is in for a good night.  I certainly hope so.

On Wisconsin!



Democratic enthusiasm remains a question mark.  But I can't help but be encouraged by reports of this kind of turnout in the conservative strongholds.

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