“But there is one thing of which I am nearly perfectly certain: If we pass this thing, no American politician, left or right, is going to cut any of these programs, or raise the broad-based taxes necessary to pay for them, without any compensating goodies to offer the public . . . until the crisis is almost upon us. I can think of no situation, other than impending crisis, in which such a thing has been done–and usually, as with Social Security, they have done just little enough to punt the problem down the road. The idea that you pass a program of dubious sustainability because you can always make it sustainable later, seems borderline insane. I can’t think of a single major entitlement that has become more sustainable over time. Why is this one supposed to be different?” — Megan McArdle, on the impending ObamaCare
Archive for the '(modern day) Liberalism' Category
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“We’ve been arguing about the health care bill, in all its many iterations, for more than a year. Along the way, liberals have made a lot of predictions about what its passage will mean for America — for our health care system and our health, our economy and our long-term solvency. It will be interesting, to put it mildly, to see if they end up coming true.” — Ross Douthat, on the recent passage of the healthcare bill
National Journal writes:
Embattled incumbents with ethics problems. Allegations of sexual harassment leading to a competitive open seat. Dems have seen this movie before — only last time, it happened to the other guys.
Now, a beleaguered Dem majority has to hope their party can withstand a building wave that favors the GOP, and that effort isn’t made any easier by countless, and mounting, self-inflicted errors.
4 years ago, it was GOPers who found themselves on the receiving end of jolt after jolt of bad news. This time around, Dem strategists are beginning to accept the inevitability of big losses, and a sort of morbid gallows humor has settled over Congressional and political aides.
Read the full story for the strong parallels.
Jay P. Greene, professor of education reform at the University of Arkansas, writes on the recent vote to end DC Vouchers:
It was perfectly predictable but still sad to watch. The U.S. Senate voted 55-42 yesterday against continuing the DC voucher program. Among Republicans only Olympia Snowe voted against the program. Among Democrats (or Independents), Feinstein, Lieberman, Nelson, and Warner voted for the program.
What was the reason Democrats gave for voting against the D.C. Voucher program that primarily helps minorities? He explains:
the quality of the opponents’ scientific reasoning was exemplified by Sen. Byron Dorgan of South Dakota. As you can see in this link to CSPAN coverage (starting around minute 21), he argues that there is no need for vouchers because our public school system is doing a great job. And we know this because graduates of American public schools were the people who put a man on the moon. I’m not sure what public school Wernher von Braun attended.
But it sure wasn’t a public school like those in DC…or any public school in the ghetto, schools that minorities are forced to attend. Like I’ve said a thousand times on this blog, Democrats first and foremost priority is to the teachers union and public school, Republicans, atleast on Education Vouchers, are on the side of the students – especially minority students.
Jay P. Greene, professor of education reform at the University of Arkansas, writes on Obama’s Education policies:
In a major address last March, President Obama declared that his administration would “use only one test when deciding what ideas to support with your precious tax dollars: It’s not whether an idea is liberal or conservative, but whether it works.” Unfortunately, the test that seems to guide the administration’s education priorities is not whether a policy works, but whether it serves a political constituency.
Consider the administration’s treatment of two federally funded programs: The D.C. voucher program, which it is helping to kill, and Head Start, on which it has bestowed billions more dollars. If the administration actually did care about results, its positions would be just the opposite.
If you look at Obama’s education policies from the point of view of what works you will come out seriously disappointed. The way to make sense of his education policies is not to look at what works and what doesn’t work but what serves the interest of one of his strongest constituencies: the teachers unions. Sure, Head Start doesn’t work but what matters is whether it benefits the teachers union. And because Head Start – like universal preschool, smaller classrooms, and higher pay for teachers – means more teachers, directly benefiting the teachers union, Obama and Democrats in general will support it.
This is why I have long given up hope of any real education reform coming from the Democrat side.
“The anguished cries of left-leaning folk over the Citizens United ruling seem to me to be emanating from an alternate universe, so bizarre are they. This was a case about whether the state can suppress the distribution of an unflattering documentary about a powerful political candidate produced by a small group of private citizens. The crazy thing to me is that anyone ever thought that such a rule was not in blatant violation of the First Amendment. The extra-crazy thing is that four Supreme Court justices evidently think this kind of state censorship of political speech is hunky dory. I’m going to chalk up some of the freakout to this week’s spectacular pileup of disasters for progressives. Sorry guys. I know it’s been rough. But I have to say I was taken aback by the vehemence with which people I like and admire have insisted that the state must selectively silence political speech. I didn’t realize that this was such a profound point of disagreement. As I see it, these regulations have accomplished very little other than to protect the interests of powerful, entrenched incumbent politicians against public criticism.” — Will Wilkinson
“Alabama has the same per capita income and slightly faster growth rate as the Social Democratic EU.15, which Krugman wants us to believe is a “Dynamic” region that the US should “learn from”. Has Paul Krugman ever written a column asking us to learn from the economy of Alabama? Of course not. That would be simply idiotic. Alabama is poor, and has a lower standard of living, just like the E.U 15. It only manages to grow faster than others because it starts off at such a low level (the EU doesn’t even manage to do that).” — Super Economy blog
A continued theme on Matthew Yglesias blog is that conservatives in general are more concerned with anti-racism than racism, this is how he explains it:
“…most conservatives, think that the preeminent racial problem in the United States is that white people are too put upon by political correctness. Conservatives are very very very concerned about this alleged problem of anti-racism run amok. And they’re very concerned about the alleged problem of reverse discrimination. But they don’t seem concerned at all about racism or discrimination and certainly not nearly as concerned as they about helping out the poor, put-upon white man.
This is actually true and though Yglesias views it as a flaw, I see it as a virtue. In fact, its one of the reasons why I find the conservative side more appealing than the progressive side. Just to be clear though, Yglesias is not saying that conservatives view racism as historically unimportant, or that racism is completely unimportant, cuz then I would agree with Yglesias that that is a flaw; no, Yglesias is chiding conservatives for not seeing todays racism as a bigger problem than todays “anti-racism”.
Of course racism is important, very important, to those who are suffering under racism. If I was denied a job solely because of my race, I would be really pissed off and want some justice. However, as a policy issue I think racism is very low on the totem poll of problems (though not zero).
Like the March of Dimes’ victory against polio in the U.S., civil rights organizations can claim victory as well. At one time, black Americans did not enjoy the same constitutional guarantees as other Americans. Now we do. Because the civil rights struggle is over and won doesn’t mean that all problems have vanished within the black community. A 70 percent illegitimacy rate, 65 percent of black children raised in female-headed households, high crime rates and fraudulent education are devastating problems, but they’re not civil rights problems. Furthermore, their solutions do not lie in civil rights strategies.
Civil rights organizations’ expenditure of resources and continued focus on racial discrimination is just as intelligent as it would be for the March of Dimes to continue to expend resources fighting polio in the U.S. Like the March of Dimes, civil rights organizations should revise their agenda and take on the big, non-civil rights problems that make socioeconomic progress impossible for a large segment of the black community.
In other words, racism as a source of minority failure is not all that important anymore. Most real impediments to minority success – issues like illegitimacy rates, crime, failing public schools – are only loosely, very loosely I would argue, tied to race. But because race is such a hot button issue, these issues are difficult to talk about openly – ultimately harming the search for the cure. Bring up your concerns with crime in the ghetto, illegitimacy rates, the widening educational gap, or affirmative action and unless you walk a very tight line, you can be easily accused of racism. This censorship, namely, this “anti-racism”, hampers progress on such important issues (even some progressives agree, see here).
This is much more a problem on the left than it is on the right. The left tends to see the world through the prism of “racism” (and”class warfare”), making honest dialog on race issues extremely difficult – trust me, I’ve tried. The right, on the other hand, has a more balanced view on these issues and because of it you are able to go further in finding a cure.
Not only does overemphasis on racism result in unintended censorship on important topics, but it also leads to a blinding force when searching for solutions. When dealing with the issues of illegitimacy rates, crime and failing public schools, for example, the progressive tries hard to find its racist connection – however strained that connection may be. This is a serious stumbling block and is one of the main reasons why real educational reforms, whether it’s charter schools, vouchers, or even NCLB have all come from the right.
So I would argue that as far as real effective policy goes, emphasis on racism has now ran into significant diminishing returns, whereas the overemphasis on racism is a real roadblock to discussing important minority problems.
And it seems like Matthew Yglesias, ultimately, is not too far off. For example, in a separate post, he lists what he considers the real problems of racism today:
At any rate, I’ve made this point a million times, but it’s fascinating to me the kind of double standard conservatives apply to these issues. You never hear Rush Limbaugh decrying everyday racism against non-whites in the United States. You never hear him recounting an anecdote about an African-American man having trouble hailing a cab or being followed by a shopkeeper. He doesn’t do stories about how people with stereotypically “black” names suffer job discrimination. He doesn’t bemoan the fact that the United States has an aircraft carrier named after a fanatical segregationist.
What is interesting about this list is what type of “racism” it is: specifically, statistical racism (more here and here), or what economists call statistical discrimination. This type of “racism” is very different than the invidious racism that comes to mind when we think of racism: issues like being forced to sit in the back of the bus, forced segregation, laws against interracial marriages, poll taxes and so forth. Statistical discrimination, while still offensive, is based on statistics, not bigotry.
That is not to say that it is any less offensive to the person being statistically discriminated against but it makes a huge difference when looked at from a policy perspective. Take the claim “about an African-American man having trouble hailing a cab”, as an example. The reason that Blacks have trouble hailing a cab, specifically in New York City, is because Blacks have a higher crime rate than many other groups. A cab driver, being in an especially vulnerable position, has a strong incentive to ensure his safety but at the same time he also wants to make the most money he can. So every approaching customer gets put through some sort of subconscious statistical analysis: is this person more likely to rob me? Given that the cab driver has a limited amount of information to go on, race plays an important factor. This is not unique to white cab drivers either, cab drivers of every race, including Black cab drivers, show the same tendency of picking up Black passengers less than non-Black ones. While this may be offensive, from a policy perspective there is no practical way to prevent it – as long as the cab driver has an incentive to reduce the likelihood of robbery, and as long as being Black signals a higher probability for robbery, there is always going to be the desire to resist providing a cab when the cab driver deduces the risk is too high. The same general principle applies about stereotypically “black” names, see here.
The real gains in reducing statistical discrimination come not from government fiat but from the inside, as economist Bryan Caplan states,”If you really want to improve your group’s image, telling other groups to stop stereotyping won’t work. The stereotype is based on the underlying distribution of fact. It is far more realistic to turn your complaining inward, and pressure the bad apples in your group to stop pulling down the average.” Which is, btw, more likely when you don’t see racism behind every corner.
Besides, hasn’t Yglesias noticed that we have a Black President? How much of an impediment can racism really be in a country that elected its first Black president? John McWhorter has more here.
“You have got to see this video to believe it! It’s an undercover gonzo journalism exercise in which two reporters pretending to be a pimp and a prostitute go into the Baltimore office of ACORN asking for its help in importing underage Latin American girls for a sex ring, and committing tax fraud to do it. Incredibly, the left-wing “community activists” are pleased to comply.” — Rod Dreher, Megan McArdle has more
Update: Newt Gingrich has more.
Radley Balko explains:
Let me see if I have the logic correct here: Whole Foods is consistently ranked among the most employee-friendly places to work in the service industry. In fact, Whole Foods treats employees a hell of a lot better than most liberal activist groups do. The company has strict environmental and humane animal treatment standards about how its food is grown and raised. The company buys local. The store near me is hosting a local tasting event for its regional vendors. Last I saw, the company’s lowest wage earners make $13.15 per hour. They also get to vote on what type of health insurance they want. And they all get health insurance. The company is also constantly raising money for various philanthropic causes. When I was there today, they were taking donations for a school lunch program. In short, Whole Foods is everything leftists talk about when they talk about “corporate responsibility.”
And yet lefties want to boycott the company because CEO John Mackey wrote an op-ed that suggests alternatives to single payer health care? It wasn’t even a nasty or mean-spirited op-ed. Mackey didn’t spread misinformation about death panels, call anyone names, or use ad hominem attacks. He put forth actual ideas and policy proposals, many of them tested and proven during his own experience running a large company. Is this really the state of debate on the left, now? “Agree with us, or we’ll crush you?”
These people don’t want a dicussion. They don’t want to hear ideas. They want you to shut up and do what they say, or they’re going to punish you.
The full post can be found here.
“Nearly 75 percent of Washington, D.C. residents supported school vouchers in a new poll; 68 percent of residents oppose Congress’ effort to end the federally funded program. Under the Opportunity Scholarship Program, low-income children who win a lottery have been eligible for scholarships up to $7,500, which can be used at private schools of their parents’ choice.” — Joanne Jacobs
Remember the Democrats claim that by empowering a new panel (the Independent Medicare Advisory Council) to recommend future spending reductions we could save several billions of dollars in healthcare costs? If this was before the creation of the CBO (1974, according to Wiki), such claims would be nearly impossible to disprove. Democrats could get away with making the claim and fiscally conservative politicians would have little to say in opposition. The whole debate would break down into a he-said she-said debate, with Republicans pointing to some economist at some University showing the proposal would barely save a few billion dollars and Democrats responding with their own economist and study arguing that it would save multiple billions. How would the average citizen distinguish who is right?
Of course, years after the policy changes had been put into effect, the truth would have come out – which is why in every single healthcare change, including the recent Massachusetts healthcare reforms, the healthcare policies have turned out to cost far more than people assumed – but by then the changes would have already been in affect for atleast a couple of years. New special interest groups would have already been created, and the government program, like any other government program, would become nearly impossible to stop.
But that was before the CBO had so much influence. Today, Democrats have to get their claims past the CBO and are having a very difficult time doing it. The latest is their claim that an Independent Medicare Advisory Council would save several billions of dollars. The CBO argues that that simply is not true, Donald Marron reports:
CBO estimates that the proposed legislation would save a paltry $2 billion over the next ten years, less than 1/500 of the 10-year cost of health reform.
Long gone are the days when Democrats could simply propose some theoretical cost saving legislation and ask the public to take it on good faith. Imagine if the CBO had existed when FDR was around? LBJ?
Although that doesn’t mean the CBO itself doesn’t have serious shortcomings, on the contrary, it too tends to underestimate the costs of policies, as it recently did in predicting the fiscal stimulus recovery (see here and here) but atleast now the Democrats proposals have to pass a higher standard than simply their word.
Keith Hennessey has more here.
Update: The Economist has more.
Casey B. Mulligan, professor of economics at the University of Chicago, made a comment that he should know is disingenuous, he wrote:
the “big spending Democrat” stereotype is incorrect — government spending / GDP fell under Clinton and increased under Bush.
This comparison, used to argue that when it comes to spending there is no difference between Republicans and Democrats, is made often, both in the blogosphere and by academics who should know better. The main problem I have with it is that it is not comparing apples to apples. Milton Friedman argued that the best form of government, from a small government and low spending perspective, is a Democratic president and a Republican Congress, where Republicans control the spending (congress), and Democrats control foreign policy – precisely what we had under Bill Clinton. The worst form of government is when the same party controls the presidency and congress – precisely what we had under George W Bush.
In other words, you are comparing arguably the best scenario under a Democratic president with the worst scenario under a Republican president – of course they are going to be alot closer than what they really are. Don’t get me wrong: I am not arguing that Republicans are true fiscal conservatives, no, I am arguing that the gulf between the two is larger than what these “Clinton years vs Bush years” argument would lead you to believe.
The difference between the two is even larger when you compare the kind of spending each does: Republicans tend to overspend on wars while Democrats tend to overspend on entitlements. Wars are temporary, they are one time events that come to an end, whereas entitlements are forever and worst of all, they get more inefficient and expensive with time. Take FDR and LBJ – both were involved in wars and both created entitlements, FDR with World War II and social-security and LBJ with the Vietnam war and medicare. Yet today we worry about the growing costs of social-security and medicare while the financial costs of World War II and Vietnam, though expensive at the time, are now but forgotten.
And Bill Clinton would not have been any different, had he had more control of congress, Matthew Yglesias explains:
If the health care bill that the Clinton administration authored, pushed for, and staked its presidency on had passed you would say that FDR, LBJ, and Bill Clinton were the three main architects of the modern welfare state. Because the bill didn’t pass, the institutional legacy of the Clinton years is considerably more moderate than that and the Clinton administration is instead remembered for its responsible stewardship of national affairs. But that’s because congress blocked the bill not because of Clinton’s moderation.
That was the Republican controlled (for the first time in ~50 years) congress that blocked the bill.
A better comparison is between the Bush years and the Obama years – but given the fact that in Obama’s first 100 days in office, he’s already proposed spending more than Bush spent in his entire 8 years, including both wars, its a strong argument that there really is a difference between the two parties. Especially considering that most of Obama’s spending comes in the form of very expensive entitlements – entitlements that Obama is hoping will last forever.
You can argue that entitlements are worth the costs, that is an argument for another day, but you can’t make the argument that the spending is the same between the two parties.
“Many people think Cheney is scare-mongering and owes President Obama his support or at least his silence. But there is a different problem with Cheney’s criticisms: his premise that the Obama administration has reversed Bush-era policies is largely wrong. The truth is closer to the opposite: The new administration has copied most of the Bush program, has expanded some of it, and has narrowed only a bit. Almost all of the Obama changes have been at the level of packaging, argumentation, symbol, and rhetoric. This does not mean that the Obama changes are unimportant. Packaging, argumentation, symbol, and rhetoric, it turns out, are vitally important to the legitimacy of terrorism policies.” — Jack Goldsmith, former Bush administration lawyer writing in the New Republic…Glenn Greenwald, writing in Salon, agrees and has more to say here.
“A week after 200 low-income Washington, D.C. families were offered $7,500 vouchers, Education Secretary Arne Duncan canceled the scholarships. No new children will start at private schools in the fall; those already attending will lose voucher aid in another year, unless Congress reconsiders. As the Washington Post editorializes, this makes it easier for congressional opponents to end the voucher program for good, despite a new study showing reading gains for voucher students.” — Joanne Jacobs