The Locker Room

May 7, 2010

Dems, you may now turn and kiss the bride

Posted by Dr. Roy Cordato at 3:32 PM

As one would suspect the new financial reform proposal is not about cleaning up Wall St. but advancing the crony capitalism, i.e., the progressivist dream of marrying big business and big government, and electing and raising money for Democrats. This op ed by WSJ columnist Kimberly Strassel, tells the story.  According to Strassel here's how the game plan has worked:

In the run-up to the 2006 election, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer and then-Rep. Rahm Emanuel—in charge of electing Senate and House Democrats—took a special interest in tapping the financial sector. The political winds were shifting, the two men warned Wall Street. The message the bankers heard was that thing could be bad for them, or less bad, depending on the love they showed. The resulting tide of financial-sector cash helped propel Democrats to their majority.

The next year Democrats vowed to double the taxes on hedge funds and private equity. The financial titans coughed up, and Mr. Reid dropped the idea. In 2008, the majority threatened to crush "speculators" who were supposedly driving up the price of oil. The campaign money flowed, and Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin swept in with legislation that wasn't too mean to his Chicago futures exchanges.

Then came the financial crisis and a whole new political opportunity for the taking. Mr. Obama campaigned on terrorizing Wall Street, and was rewarded with (among other financial-sector contributions) nearly $1 million in donations from Goldman Sachs.

And now they're back at it again with the big boys on The Street quite happy to play the game. As Strassel points out:

As for the bill the Senate is now debating, it is tough alright—just not on the guys who've been handing over all this money. On the No. 1 issue—whether it protects taxpayers from again being held to ransom by a failing bank system—the legislation remains a giveaway. The financial giants particularly like a provision that allows the FDIC to backstop any failing bank (or parent, or affiliate) by guaranteeing their corporate debt, with congressional approval.

And if anyone thinks the cozy financial relationship between Dems and Wall St. is changing:

In the 2010 cycle so far, the securities and financial sector has stumped up $5.3 million for Senate Democrats. That's three times the amount it gave to Senate Republicans. The top three Senate recipients include Mr. Schumer ($1.4 million), his fellow New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand ($630,000) and Mr. Reid ($530,000).


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How much big government is enough big government?

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 3:29 PM

It's a question William Voegeli asks in the new book Never Enough: America's Limitless Welfare State. Ramesh Ponnuru discusses Voegeli's work in the latest National Review:

His new book begins by asking: What would count as enough? "All the bitter accusations about the insufficiency of our social programs must point to a criterion of sufficiency, defining a completely adequate welfare state."

Except that, he discovers, they don't. Liberalism has no such "limiting principle." Its agenda, like that of Samuel Gompers, is always: "More." The tax code is never sufficiently progressive. The government is never meeting enough human needs. One might think that as a country grows richer it would need a welfare state less and less. But that thought is rarely voiced in a politics influenced by liberalism, which constantly finds new needs for government to meet and can find no reason not to meet them. "We're in favor of a lot of things and we're against mighty few," said Lyndon Johnson in 1964.

If that attitude didn't generate a sufficient set of problems on its own, Voegeli, as Ponnuru notes, documents another flaw in the big-government mindset.

Voegeli continues, "In the 78 years since FDR promised to try one method, and 'if it fails, admit it frankly and try another,' there is not one clear instance of a welfare state program that liberals by consensus came to regard as a failure, to be frankly admitted and abandoned." Programs have ended only "as a result of political victories by their opponents."

When voters impose limits on government, such as caps on taxes, liberals tend to say that they are overreacting. Voegeli makes a nice point in response: "Liberals are in a weak position to complain that the voters resort to sweeping, indiscriminate measures to curtail government spending. Since liberalism itself offers no criteria to distinguish between more and less deserving programs, it's churlish to abuse the voters for coming up with the wrong answer, when they received so little guidance from liberals about how to find the right one."

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Obama is turning the US into Europe...

Posted by Dr. Roy Cordato at 3:20 PM

...except without the charm.

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The welfare state's treatment of Peter and Paul

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 11:01 AM

Yes, the welfare state robs the former to pay the latter.

Within another segment of National Review's special constitutional issue, Matthew J. Franck explains how the convoluted system obfuscates its thievery:

[W]hat is the transfer-payment bureaucracy of the welfare state if not a great Rube Goldberg machine for the accomplishment of such expropriations from A for B's benefit, multiplied by many millions on a daily basis? What makes the welfare state such a large-scale engine of expropriation and transfer is that it does not rely on the traditional mode of the decree, moving property from some named individuals to others, or even from one named class to another. Instead it obeys the forms of law, relying on the power to tax from one and appropriate to the other. This enables a vast increase in the numbers of people deprived of their wealth, and of those provided with the wealth so obtained, now called welfare benefits. Yet while the arrangement has the outward form of law, the fact that tax dollars are spent directly on persons (again, with no consideration of value in return, or of past service now rewarded) rather than things, means that the substance of lawfulness is hollowed out by the welfare state. In effect, the state becomes a money launderer. What due process would not permit it to do on a case-by-case basis — decreeing that A's money shall be directly shifted to B's pocket — it does instead by gathering tax dollars into the treasury from A and then disbursing them to B, often in the undisguised indecency of a single statute accomplishing both steps, as in Social Security.

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Rejecting arbitrary power and returning to constitutional government

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 10:46 AM

The latest dead-tree version of National Review devotes roughly a third of its editorial content to a special section titled "What Happened to the Constitution?"

In his lead-off piece, Charles R. Kesler of Claremont McKenna College notes the degree to which the Constitution has receded from political debates:

[T]he party system itself had been developed in the early 19th century to pit two contenders (occasionally more) against each other for the honor of being the more faithful guardian of the Constitution and Union. Even from today's distance, it isn't hard to recall the epic clashes that resulted: the disputes over the constitutionality of a national bank, internal improvements, the extension of slavery, the legality and propriety of secession, civil rights, the definition and limits of interstate commerce, liberty of contract, the constitutionality of the welfare state, the federal authority to desegregate schools, and many others.

What's different today is that, although it still matters, the Constitution is no longer at the heart of our political debates. Today's partisans compete to lead the country into a better, more hopeful future, to get the economy moving again, to solve our social problems, even to fundamentally transform the nation. But to live and govern in accordance with the Constitution is not the first item on anybody's platform, though few would deny, after a moment's surprise at the question, that of course keeping faith with the Constitution is on the program somewhere — maybe on page two or three.

In addition to picking up the latest NR to read Kesler's full article, you might enjoy revisiting constitutional scholar Kevin Gutzman's 2008 presentation to a John Locke Foundation Headliner audience, along with his Carolina Journal Radio interview.

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Naive or duplicitous?

Posted by George Leef at 10:42 AM

Don Boudreaux responds to the latest column by E. J. Dionne in the Washington Post:

Editor, Washington Post
1150 15th St., NW
Washington, DC 20071

Dear Editor:

Ever the romantic about popularly elected government, E.J. Dionne
writes that "The central tasks of democratic government, after all,
typically involve standing up for the many against the few, the less
powerful against the more powerful" ("Can we reverse the tide on
government distrust?" May 6).

That's the theory taught to children. Here's the reality understood by
adults: The central achievements of democratic government, after all,
typically involve standing up for the few against the many, the more
powerful against the less powerful.

History overflows with evidence that democratic reality seldom lives up
to democratic theory. Tariffs; farm subsidies; military-weapons
programs that thrive even in the face of opposition by the Pentagon -
these are only three of the more blatant examples of the many way that
government heaps benefits on relatively small interest groups (the few)
by screwing the general public (the many).

Gullibility is tolerable in children because kiddies have little
decision-making authority. But gullibility in adults is dangerous.
And no instance of gullibility is as dangerous as that which leads
adults such as Mr. Dionne to "trust" that a handful of people hungry
for power and the privilege of spending taxpayers' money, will - once
chosen by voters - cast off their human vanities and ignorance to
become selfless saviors of millions upon millions of strangers whom
these officials will never as much as lay their eyes on.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
George Mason University

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The great con game called government

Posted by George Leef at 10:03 AM

Sheldon Richman discusses the proclivity for people to subjugate themselves to the state in his weekly column.

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Liberal tolerance explained

Posted by Dr. Michael Sanera at 09:15 AM

This post from the Ashbrook Center blog "No Left Turns" tells us about our future under a liberally tolerant regime:

Free Speech and “Liberal Tolerance”

A Christian preacher in England was arrested over the weekend for telling a woman that engaged him in conversation that he believed God disapproves of homosexuality. While the arrest alone is foolishly deplorable in a country nominally committed to free-speech, the details are more interesting.

[The preacher] was handing out leaflets explaining the Ten Commandments or offering a "ticket to heaven" with a church colleague ... when a woman came up and engaged him in a debate about his faith.

During the exchange, ... he quietly listed homosexuality among a number of sins referred to in 1 Corinthians, including blasphemy, fornication, adultery and drunkenness.

After the woman walked away, she was approached by a PCSO [police community support officer] who spoke with her briefly and then walked over to [the preacher] and told him a complaint had been made, and that he could be arrested for using racist or homophobic language.

The street preacher said...: "I am not homophobic but sometimes I do say that the Bible says homosexuality is a crime against the Creator".

...the PCSO then said he was homosexual and identified himself as the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender liaison officer for Cumbria police. [The preacher] replied: "It's still a sin."

... Three regular uniformed police officers arrived ..., arrested [him] and put him in the back of a police van.

First, what is a "police community support officer" and are tax-payers funding the local police's "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender liaisons?" Second, is there any doubt that this PCSO is the one with the complaint, and not the woman he approached? Third, is there any doubt that the PCSO's intention was to intimidate and silence the preacher because he personally disagreed, as a gay man, with the message? Fourth, does this arrest, and others like it, for simply having a conversation in public, not demonstrate the comparative weakness of personal liberty in the face of European-style liberal tolerance?

The Public Order Act was intended to curb rioters and (no kidding) football hooligans in England. It was immediately used by liberal activists, however, to target Christian groups for messages with which they disagree. Yet Democrats, inspired by such events, are staunch supporters of "hate crimes," the conservative-talk-radio-targeting "fairness doctrine" and university "speech codes" - all intended to duplicate the European model in the U.S. This is not the "freedom" intended by the Founders.

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Gold standard

Posted by George Leef at 09:11 AM

Authors Sean Fieler and Jeffrey Bell make an excellent case here for returning to the monetary system that politicians can't control: gold.
De-politicizing money is the first step toward de-politicizing many other things the federal government meddles in but shouldn't.

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Greece and US suffering from the same disease

Posted by George Leef at 08:37 AM

Mona Charen's column today is not to be missed.

We might call the disease governmentitis. It slowly kills off productive, healthy cells while generously feeding fatty and cancerous ones.

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Judge Manning is an idiot

Posted by Dr. Michael Sanera at 08:30 AM

Judge Manning is frustrated here that failing schools are not making more progress and so am I. Unfortunately, his orders will have little lasting impact on a Soviet style, centrally planned system that is operated from the top down.  I think he needs someone to explain to him why the Soviet Union failed.   If that system could not produce milk, shoes and even toilet paper after trying for 70 years, who in their right mind would expect a similar system to be able to educate kids. 

The new Republican majority on the Wake County School Board is faced with the same problem and so far, it looks like they have not learned the lesson of the centrally planned Soviet economy.

If anyone doubts that the system is the problem they should read John Chubb and Terry Moe's book Politics, Markets and America's Schools. He writes that "...government has not solved the education problem because government is the problem."

The judge should consider that the real remedy is for him to order the school systems to give vouchers to the kids in the failing schools. Giving parents the freedom to enroll their children in a public, private or parochial school that will educate them will show immediate results.  No excuses, Judge Manning, you have the power to improve the education of North Carolina's children and the time is now.

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This weekend on Carolina Journal Radio

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:53 AM

This year’s legislative session will focus primarily on adjusting the state budget, and you’ll hear several reactions to the governor’s budget plan during the next edition of Carolina Journal Radio. You’ll hear part of Gov. Beverly Perdue’s budget presentation, Joe Coletti’s response, plus commentary from chief Senate budget writer Sen. Linda Garrou, D-Forsyth, and House Minority Leader Rep. Paul Stam. R-Wake.

While the budget will dominate legislative debate this year, there’s a chance lawmakers also will consider expanding the state’s system of taxpayer-funded election campaigns. Some lawmakers believe cities and town should be able to use tax dollars to fund campaigns. Daren Bakst will join us to explain why that’s a bad idea.

Meanwhile, Terry Stoops assesses North Carolina’s pursuit of federal education grant dollars in the president’s Race to the Top program. Speaking of education, we’ll get an update from John Hubisz, adjunct faculty member with N.C. State University’s physics department, about the quality of current middle-school science textbooks. Plus we’ll learn why state lawmakers have been warned they need to change the way they’re funding college scholarships.

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New Carolina Journal Online features

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:38 AM

This week's Carolina Journal Online Friday interview features a conservation with David Frum, former economics speechwriter for George W. Bush, about the future of the conservative movement. 

Michael Sanera's guest Daily Journal offers ideas for counties seeking to address jail overcrowding.

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