Capping Prosperity, Trading It For Poverty

As the media fixates on the death of Michael Jackson, Congress stands ready to enact the largest and most regressive tax hike in history in the guise of “cap-and-trade.” Jim Lindgren explains why this bill is so dangerous:

The cap-and-trade bill, if passed by the Senate and actually implemented over the next few decades, would do more damage to the country than any economic legislation passed in at least 100 years. It would eventually send most American manufacturing jobs overseas, reduce American competitiveness, and make Americans much poorer than they would have been without it.

The cap-and-trade bill will have little, if any, positive effect on the environment — in part because the countries that would take jobs from US industries tend to be bigger polluters. By making the US — and the world — poorer, it would probably reduce the world’s ability to develop technologies that might solve its environmental problems in the future.

Cap-and-trade is a joke—it is a policy that has already failed in Europe and in virtually guaranteed to fail here in the United States. By giving in to the demands of radical environmentalists, Congress is preparing to take our current recession and plunge it into depression.

As the media focuses once again on celebrity, the advent of the next Great Depression comes closer. Cap-and-trade is terrible policy enacted for foolish reasons, and we will all pay the price for it if we allow it to pass.

Liar, Liar, Pantsuit On Fire

Charles Krauthammer has a typically great column on the ongoing debate over “torture” after Nancy Pelosi’s denial that she knew anything about waterboarding. Pelosi, assuming that the liberal press would cover for her, has now gotten caught up in a web of her own lies. So much so that the press has the scent of blood in the water:

Rep. Pelosi has ended up making a laughingstock of herself—her desperate attempts to backpedal from her own words are Clintonian in audacity without the skill of Slick Willy. Even the mainstream press has caught on.

Krauthammer puts the political impact of all this succinctly:

The reason Pelosi raised no objection to waterboarding at the time, the reason the American people (who by 2004 knew what was going on) strongly reelected the man who ordered these interrogations, is not because she and the rest of the American people suffered a years-long moral psychosis from which they have just now awoken. It is because at that time they were aware of the existing conditions — our blindness to al-Qaeda’s plans, the urgency of the threat, the magnitude of the suffering that might be caused by a second 9/11, the likelihood that the interrogation would extract intelligence that President Obama’s own director of national intelligence now tells us was indeed “high-value information” — and concluded that on balance it was a reasonable response to a terrible threat.

And they were right.

In the end, that’s correct. The “torture” issue will never have legs because the average American doesn’t share the sense of moral outrage that some have over that issue. In war, bad things happen. People get killed. Killing is a moral wrong, yet it is part of the nature of warfare. In the same vein, a practice like waterboarding may be credibly called torture, and torture is a moral wrong. Yet it is also a part of war. Pelosi doesn’t care about the morality of torture, she wants to score political points for partisan reasons. Some have a legitimate, rational, and moral objection to these practices, but they are a distinct minority.

In the end, Pelosi’s dissembling masks the real issue here. Waterboarding someone who was directly responsible for the inhuman September 11 atrocity is morally and politically different than the mistreatment of detainees. The abuses of Abu Ghraib and others are examples of acts that harm America’s reputation and dishonor our military. Yet the focus is not on those acts, but on the waterboarding issue. Were this a moral rather than a political issue, detainee abuse would be placed in its full context, rather than being used as a truncheon against the Bush Administration.

Pelosi’s lies are political in nature, just like this whole attempt at a partisan witch-hunt. Even for those who legitimately and truly oppose torture, tying their wagons to such a despicably partisan crusade only undercuts the seriousness of their position. If the anti-torture campaign will be spearheaded by outright liars like Rep. Pelosi, it will never be taken seriously.

Specter’s Pyrrhic Self-Preservation

Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania is now officially becoming a Democrat. There isn’t much of a shock to this—Specter has always been an erstwhile Republican, and he would have lost in the Pennsylvania GOP primary to Pat Toomey. Specter’s argument that somehow the GOP has moved too far to the right for his liking is really just political cover—this is all about his own political self-preservation.

The problem for Specter is that there’s a good chance that he won’t win the Democratic primary. As NRO’s Jim Geraghty notes, why would the Democrats want a former Republican with a lifetime ACU rating in the 40s who opposes the union-backed “Employee Free Choice Act” and has ties with President Bush? Pennsylvania Democrats don’t need Arlen Specter nearly as much as Arlen Specter needs Pennsylvania Democrats.

The GOP should have gotten rid of Specter in 2004 when they had the chance. Specter’s claim that the GOP has moved too far to the right is based largely on his vote on the stimulus bill—which is opposed by far more than just Republicans. The GOP needs to remake its image, and jettisoning the old guard is probably better in the long run. What is needed now is a party that is more self-confident in their ideology and in their policies. The GOP right now is at war with “moderates” who barely identify with Republican principles and hard-liners who have failed to identify with the American people. That’s not a good position for a party to be in, especially not with a Democratic Congress and a President who could be caught on national TV greedily consuming a mewling infant and still get a 60% approval rating.

The GOP needs to get its act together and fast. Doing so without excess baggage is probably better over the long term, even if it is a huge problem over the short term. Specter was not the sort of person who could motivate the GOP base or the American people. His party switch hurts the Republicans in the short term, to be sure. But it is quite possible than even this Hail Mary play won’t be enough for Specter to keep his political career afloat.

The United Socialist States Of America

The United States of America is now a de facto socialist nation.

That may seem like hyperbole, but there’s more than enough evidence to suggest that it’s true. Look at the definition of socialism from that font of all knowledge: Wikipedia:

Socialism refers to a broad set of economic theories of social organization advocating public or state ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods, and a society characterized by equality for all individuals, with a fair or egalitarian method of compensation.

Let’s assume that definition is roughly accurate. Does the U.S. fall under that definition?

Well, we now have a system in which the government has a controlling interest in several major sectors of the U.S. economy. Whether the banking system is officially nationalized or not is largely irrelevant—it has already been de facto nationalized. The U.S. government now has effective control over all of AIGs operations, right up to the the amount that it may pay its workers. At least for a huge swath of the financial sector, the government has effective control.

Now, President Obama has set his sights on the auto industry, essentially firing GM’s president. The fact that the President just ordered an official of a private company to step down should be deeply troubling to all. What if President Bush had demanded that the Democratic president of a major arms manufacturer resign? The left would have been in an uproar. Regardless of Wagoner’s competency, to have the President of the United States order a private company to fire an employee should not happen in our system. The government is now calling the shots at GM. This isn’t forced nationalization, but like AIG, GM and Chrysler are now de facto state-run enterprises.

The government now controls the means of production in two huge swaths of two major industries. Even if we have not arrived at full-scale socialism yet, we are at the very least perilously close.

Economist Arnold Kling calls the current state of affairs “Progressive Socialism“—although it is really another version of state socialism. Socialism doesn’t require the government to own all the means of production (as does Communism), but merely to have effective control over the economy. Right now, the Obama Administration is effectively in the driver’s seat of the U.S. economy. Looking at the markets, it’s quite clear that the aimless direction that Obama is taking us is destroying trillions of dollars of actual value.

The Fall of Capitalism, The End of Freedom

Why should we care? The reason why the advent of American state socialism is such a problem is because political freedom and economic freedom are really two sides to the the same coin. As Janet Daley notes in The Telegraph an attack on capitalism is ultimately an attack on human freedom itself:

When we make the case for capitalism, we are defending the political principle of freedom, not arguing for one kind of rigid economic organisation over another. The debate is being hopelessly muddied by those late converts to free enterprise – politicians like Mr Brown who believe that markets should only survive if they can be made to serve Left-wing purposes.

Capitalism is premised on individual agency. Socialism is premised on the power of the state. The second we give government—which has the legal ability to use force—all of our economic power, what do we really have left? In essence, socialism is really a more “enlightened” form of feudalism in which the serfs trade their freedom for the protection of the elites.

The United State should not fall into the trap of socialism. Socialism is not a workable economic model. The larger and more diverse the nation, the more quickly socialism fails. Industrious and homogenous Sweden can ride out the problems of strong government control longer than could the large and diverse United States. If we continue down this road, our economic collapse will only get worse.

The United States has become a de facto socialist state, and the crisis on Wall Street is a reaction to this untenable and unsustainable trend. If we want to preserve our quality of life, we cannot have our economy being run by the same Washington apparatchiks who have caused this crisis in the first place. Obama’s shift of the U.S. economy to a more centralized and socialized one will lead this country ever closer to disaster.

What McCain Needs To Say Tonight To Defeat Obama

John McCain will attend tonight’s Presidential debate in Oxford, Mississippi.

McCain has an opportunity to take Obama out, and it looks like he is going to go for it. The way he can do this is to run against the “politics as usual” in Washington. His dangerous political gambit this week can pay off for him, but only if he makes it work tonight. That is his “must-do” for this debate.

Here is what he needs to say in his own words: the American people are sick and tired of politics as usual in this country. They are sick and tired of a lack of leadership from Washington. The choice to suspend the campaign was a necessary one because partisan politics has to come second and the country has to come first.

But moreover, he needs to go on the offensive. Here is what he can do to deliver the knockout punch. Republicans won’t like this, but it will help McCain win. The argument is this: for the last eight years we have had a political culture that put politics above country. Sen. Obama’s decision to carry on his campaign while the economy was collapsing was just like President Bush sitting back while the levees collapsed in New Orleans. President Bush said “heckuva job, Brownie.” Sen. Obama has Jim Johnson, one of the architects of the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac disaster as his campaign advisor.

We don’t need another four years of politics first. When the country is in crisis, politicking is not the right response.

That will provoke Obama like nothing else. It may offend some Republicans, and it is somewhat unfair to President Bush. But McCain is not Bush and has to distance himself from the failures of the Bush Administration.

He can turn this whole series of events against Sen. Obama. He can make this debate a turning point. He can turn this into Obama’s Katrina, if he has the guts to do this. I know he does.

The question is will he?

UPDATE: Jim Geraghty thinks that agreeing to the debate was mistake as it undercuts McCain’s message. If a deal emerges today, perhaps not. It is a risky move, but that can be erased if McCain handles the aftermath well enough. Obama thinks he has the upper hand here, which means he’s going to go into this thing cocky. McCain needs to be able to turn that against him.

Obama’s “Pig” Comment And Unforced Errors

It seems as though everyone has seized on Barack Obama’s comment about “putting lipstick on a pig” yesterday&mash;and Glenn Reynolds has the links to prove it.

At first, I figured that there was no way that Obama could have been that stupid—he would never be dumb enough to make that big a gaffe. But in context, it does sound like he’s calling Palin a “pig” and then goes on to compare McCain to an “old fish.” That also seems to be the way that the audience interpreted it.

This was an incredibly dumb move by Obama. It was an unforced error, and comments like that are enough to sink a political career. Obama is a gifted rhetorician, but without the crutch of a teleprompter, he makes mistake after mistake after mistake. He’s as gaffe prone as President Bush, and now the media is starting to take notice of this.

Obama’s campaign is making mistakes at the worst time. Not accepting public financing means that he has to do 40 fundraisers this month—time that could have been spent on the campaign trail. What’s worse about that is that the message that a Democratic donor wants to hear is not going to be the message that a swing voter wants. Obama cannot afford to swing to the left now. but his need for cash forces him to play to two audiences while McCain can play to independents.

From the beginning, I’ve said that Obama has never run a truly competitive national race. The bruising primary with Clinton seemed to have shown that he could handle it. Now, I’m beginning to wonder how much of that victory was the collapse of Clinton rather than the skill of Obama. Obama has spent the first part of this week on the defensive, which is not where a candidate should be. He’s making errors, looking foolish, and undercutting his claim to be something more than your typical politician.

Obama’s idiotic “pig” comment doesn’t itself mean all that much. What it does suggest is that Obama’s mouth is becoming a problem for him—and with less than 60 days to go in this election, a major unforced error can be fatal.

UPDATE: The overly whiny way that Obama is handling this situation doesn’t suit him. Comparing this to “Swift Boating?” Is that any way to make this controversy go away?

Obama is clearly rattled now, and coming off as desperate and whiny doesn’t make Obama look like a strong leader. Obama does not play well on the defensive, and it shows.

McCain Gets A Bounce

The first batch of post-RNC polls are out, and they contain good news for John McCain.. In the Gallup Tracking poll, McCain is up 3% against Obama. In the Rassmussen Tracking poll, McCain is tied 48% to 48%.

These polls show that McCain did get a bounce from the RNC, and that this race is very fluid. It would not be surprising if these numbers get better for McCain by mid-week as weekend polls sometimes undercount Republicans.

I am going to go off on a limb and predict that Obama will underperform his polling numbers—just as he did in New Hampshire in January. I believe that there is a strong “bandwagon” effect among Obama voters and that McCain will actually peel away some of the Hillary voters that have “come home” to the Democrats after the DNC.

Watch the swing state vote—states like Colorado, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan will decide this election. Obama needs some of the key Western states to win. McCain must take Ohio and Florida to win. Obama has to hold all of Kerry’s states and peel off enough electoral votes for the red states to win.

If Pennsylvania goes to McCain, Obama is toast. He is unlikely to pull enough additional electoral votes to make up for that loss. If I were McCain, I’d be having Sarah Palin circling the Great Lakes states while McCain pulls Colorado, Nevada, and possibly New Mexico from Obama.

This race is completely up in the air. McCain has taken some of the wind out of Obama’s sails. He has an opportunity to run as an “agent of change” and beat the prevailing political climate. Obama is now on the defensive, and could lose. The debates will be critical, and the next two months will be some of the most exciting in American politics yet.

UPDATE: The latest Gallup/USA Today tracking poll has even better news for McCain: a lead of 10% in a survey of likely voters. That poll is likely an outlier, but there’s little doubt that McCain has gotten a bounce from his convention, and that Obama’s lead has evaporated.

UPDATE: Today (Sept. 8), McCain has a 3.2% lead in the RealClearPolitics average. All the major polls show the race either tied, or with McCain in the lead. There’s no doubt that McCain got a bounce from the convention, and that it was a substantial one. The question will be whether he can make the best of that momentum into Election Day.

Did Obama Get A Convention Bounce?

The RealClearPolitics polling average shows a typical 6–8% convention bounce for Barack Obama. These polls may be right, but note that all of them are polls conducted over a weekend—and there is anecdotal evidence that weekend polls favor Democrats. Even though the evidence is far from conclusive, Obama’s “bounce” is just that—a bounce. The dynamics of this race have not significantly changed, and such as they have, it’s more likely in McCain’s favor.

To be bold, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Obama will underperform his polling numbers. The reasons aren’t as much due to race as the bandwagon effect. Some Clinton voters are “coming home” to Obama now, but they may tell the pollsters one thing, but do another. Remember Obama’s big lead in New Hampshire? As it turned out, the polls were wrong. I have a feeling that late breaking voters will break towards McCain. Voters who haven’t made up their minds tend to go to the “safe” choice, and here that choice is McCain—the more experienced candidate.

Much will be made of polling over the next 60 days, but polling is as much art as science. There’s plenty of reasons to think that conventional methodologies for political polling are breaking down. Polls give some indications of where things are headed, but they are in no ways dispositive.

Obama may have gotten a typical convention bounce, but he should be wiping the floor with McCain. An unpopular war, a deeply unpopular President, a Republican Party with an image problem—and yet Obama can only eke out a slender lead against McCain. McCain, to his credit, has proven to be a disciplined and effective candidate, and the results of the Presidential debates could be telling—there is a reason why Obama refused McCain’s invitation to do voter town halls.

One thing is clear: this race is not even close to over, and the predictions that Obama has this in the bag are unwarranted. McCain is much tougher than he appeared to be, and he could end up doing to Obama nationally what Clinton did to Obama in New Hampshire this winter.

Obama Fails To Inspire

I’ve long said that Barack Obama is one of America’s most gifted orators. The man knows how to turn a phrase. He can inspire. He can speak.

That Obama was barely on the stage tonight.

Instead of soaring rhetoric, we got attacks. Instead of a compelling vision, we got what Obama is not. Instead of great lines, we got rhetoric that will not last beyond this election. This speech failed to satisfy.

Obama could have done better. This was a small speech on a momentous occasion. I honestly expected more from him. Even as a partisan, I can recognize great rhetoric when I see it, and this was not it. It was too small for him, and while some may love the red meat, this was not a speech for the ages.

On the other hand, perhaps it need not be. Obama wants to win the election, and that’s what this speech is about. The problem is that when Obama ran, he ran as a uniter. He ran as a post-partisan candidate. He leaves this speech as just another partisan.

UPDATE: Oddly enough, the conservative commentators on Fox News thought this was a great speech. My theory is that partisans seem to think that this was a great speech—because this speech was so partisan. The real question is whether this speech will attract the undecided.

On the other hand, generic Democrats are doing well in this bad year for Republicans. Obama has turned himself into a generic Democrat—which perhaps is enough for him. But I don’t think that’s enough.

I can accept that Obama took the “agent of change” mantle back, as several commentators have argued. The problem with that is that Obama’s appeal was that he was a post-partisan figure as well as an agent of change. He lost that tonight. It was a gamble, and perhaps it will pay off for him. But even as an admitted McCain partisan, I wanted to see a real vision beyond attacks and a laundry list of focus-group tested policies. Something real to spar with. That did not appear tonight, and that’s why Obama’s speech did not achieve what it should have.

Here is McCain’s challenge: let us accept that the American people have had “enough.” (Which is true.) But the American people don’t know what “change” Obama will bring—and McCain has to paint a compelling vision of what he will do that Obama will not.

That is something that McCain can do, but it will be a challenge. McCain does have a big job ahead of him, but the contrasts are clear.

UPDATE: In all fairness, the set was not merely as bad as I thought it would be. Granted, I watched PBS, which didn’t play with camera angles too much, but it didn’t really seem all that distracting. That and neo-classical architecture is my bag…

UPDATE: Wow, I’m really in the minority here. Even Jay Nordlinger thought the speech was good. The problem is that Obama had huge expectations placed before him. I can believe that this was a good partisan speech for the moment, but I don’t see it lasting. This wasn’t great oratory, from an orator who has the capability to truly inspire. Had a John Kerry or a Walter Mondale given this speech it might have been better in my eyes. But Barack Obama has more raw political talent than either. My biggest problem with this speech, my partisanship aside, is that Obama could have done better.