11 November 2010

Simpson-Bowles commission presents a "Wimpy" proposal; don't give them the hamburger!

The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform ("Simpson-Bowles Commission") has released its preliminary report on debt and deficit reduction. The report has met a mixed reaction, although on balance, it seems that Democrats are most strongly opposed to it. It's hard for me to understand why, and I mostly agree with ATR's take.

The most important thing for you to know about this "measured, bipartisan" proposal is that it boldly calls for balancing the budget in thirty years. Yes, thirty. To accomplish that, it calls for a number of measures that I still need to take some time to absorb, but let me take on one of the more alarming ones here.

The report calls for "capping" tax revenues at 21% of GDP. At a glance, I suppose, most people like any sort of cap on taxes. Here are some reasons this may be the most appalling proposal
  • Since the end of the Second World War, the tax burden has gone above 20% only twice, and only very briefly (in 2000 and in 1945.) For the past thirty years, it has averaged 18.2% of GDP. That "cap" of 21% would be the highest tax burden in American history, and nearly a 17% tax hike above the average. See here.
  • During times of recession, the burden normally appears to fall. Right now, tax receipts are about 14.2%. Under Simpson-Bowles there would still be room for a 33% tax hike. Think about that.
  • Based on track records, there is reason to believe that the "cap" would in practice become a "floor."
  • One of the many difficulties of pinning taxes to GDP is that it requires accurate forecasts of GDP, income and profits. There are no such forecasts - especially from the Congress.
  • Having a cap suggests that tax rates would automatically drop if the cap is exceeded, but there is no enforcement mechanism; tax rates don't adjust throughout the year. There is also no mechanism for a "make-up" if the burden is exceeded in any given year.
There are numerous problems with the proposed cap, not least of which is that, as I pointed out above, it would be the heaviest tax burden in our history. And in exchange for that, we'll balance the budget by the time your unborn grandchildren get married.

When I call this a wimpy proposal, I don't mean it isn't bold enough. I mean it reminds me of Wimpy: "I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today."

Don't fall for it. Don't give them the hamburger.

10 November 2010

There may not be a conservative "mandate," but there is definitely an anti-liberal "mandate"

Democrats can't wait to jump in front of a microphone to declare that, despite the overwhelming margin of victory in last week's elections, Republicans don't have a "mandate."

Well, what does that mean, exactly?

There is really no question that electoral victories - by any margin - can be won without regard to, or even discussion of, any issues. (Alvin Greene anyone?)

There is also no doubt that parties and office-holders can "go too far" interpreting a mandate to do so from their election.

What Democrats are in denial about right now is that it is they who went too far. There may or may not be a mandate for conservative policies, but one thing is abundantly clear: there is a mandate to undo everything Democrats did for the last two years.

04 November 2010

It turns out, "the most electable conservative candidate" is exactly who got nominated

I'm a little tired of being lectured about the supposed iron-clad rule of William F. Buckley, Jr. that one should vote for "the most electable conservative candidate." Or was that "the most conservative electable candidate?" Because that would mean something different, if you think about it.

Either way, the phrase has been over-used, mis-used and abused, and mostly brought out to hammer candidates like Sharron Angle and Christine O'Donnell. So let me lay some things to rest here.

Exactly who was "the most electable" in the Nevada primary? Sue Lowden? Why? Because she's represented one state senate district for a few terms? That would have made her a formidable opponent to the sitting Senate Majority Leader, who's held statewide office in Nevada for decades?

Let me put it this way: I'll bet chickens to doctor's appointments that Sue Lowden would not have fared any better in the general election, and would have been painted as just as much of an eccentric as Angle.

Who else was there for Republican primary voters to consider? Danny Tarkanian? Tarkanian, though successful in suing his opponent for defamation in a failed state senate bid, has never won an election for anything. The sum total of arguments in his favor seems to be that his father was a very famous basketball coach. Enough said.

CNN's exit polls in Delaware tell us that voters would not have elected Mike Castle, either. That's not really provable, because it's an election that never took place, but the data puts a bit of dent in the ongoing claims that he'd have been a shoo-in to the Senate. Neighboring Maryland rejected the eminently "electable," likable, popular, mainstream Republican Bob Ehrlich for governor by a margin similar to O'Donnell's. Some states were remarkably immune to this year's "wave."

Ultimately, though, the sheer emptiness of the "most electable" dictum comes down to this: electability is determined by elections, and that includes primaries.

And that is the one really big flaw in the ongoing arguments for the "electability"of Mike Castle, Sue Lowden, and all those others that we were too stupid to nominate: they lost their elections.

You can argue that Republicans could have used some better candidates in places like Nevada and Delaware. You can't argue that they were ever on the ballot.

The American Spectator : The Observer at His Own Funeral

The American Spectator : The Observer at His Own Funeral: "Obama's metaphorical 'car in the ditch' is apparently an electric car which, if it ever gets out, will drive America into a glorious future by picking up 26-year-olds and depositing them at job interviews for work made possible through the 'Stimulus' package."

As they say, read the whole thing...

03 November 2010

The morning after

Before getting too worked up about the handful of races Democrats managed to pull out, let's reflect on the enormity of last night's electoral victory.


  • Republicans now hold a larger House majority than at any time since the 1946 election. AS big as 1994 was, this one is bigger.
  • Republicans gained more seats in the House and Senate than Democrats gained in the wake of Watergate and Nixon's resignation in 1974. Keep that in mind as a "scale of repudiation."
  • Democrats will want to talk about the races they squeaked out, starting with Harry Reid. Reid, the sitting Senate Majority Leader, squeaked out barely 50% against a complete unknown, and may well have broken election laws to do so. Let the Democrats talk. They were thoroughly thrashed. No party wins every race.
Now comes the fun part - holding Republicans' feet to the fire.