I’ve been pretty remiss about writing lately, I’ve just had too much on my plate and I haven’t felt like I’ve had much to contribute… Anyway, here’s a few must reads from the week that was…
The Wall Street Journal last week published two columns that are absolute must reads, first is Daniel Henninger’s Op-ed titled “It’s the Spending, Stupid“:
At a backyard town-hall meeting in Fairfax, Va., Monday, President Obama explained why Christine O’Donnell was going to beat Mike Castle in the GOP’s Delaware Senate primary:
“They saw the Recovery Act,” he said. “They saw TARP. They saw the auto bailout. And they look at these and think, ‘God, all these huge numbers adding up.’ So they’re right to be concerned about that.”
Of course Mr. Obama was speaking generally about the public mood. Let’s call it his “generic” explanation for the current voter impulse to wipe out GOP incumbents now and Democrats in November.
Here’s your bumper sticker for the 2010 elections: It’s the Spending, Stupid.
And the president didn’t mention the two $3 trillion-plus budgets passed on his watch or the trillion-dollar health-care entitlement. They, the voters, are not “concerned” about Uncle Sam’s spending floating toward the moon. They are enraged, furious, crazed and desperate.
Pennsylvania’s shrewd Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell, scripting the new conventional wisdom, says the tea party movement supporting Christine O’Donnell, Sharron Angle in Nevada and Joe Miller in Alaska proves the GOP is in the grip of crazies. With luck, none of his audience will wake up from this delusion before November.
Back in April, the New York Times/CBS did a poll of tea party supporters. When asked, “What should be the goal of the Tea Party movement,” 45% said, “Reduce federal government.” That is, cut spending. Everything else was in single digits.
While I agree with Mr. Henninger that out of control government spending is significant issue in this election cycle I don’t think it’s quite as simple as cutting spending. At its core this still a center-right country — that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a conservative country. In fact I’d argue it’s probably more libertarian than conservative, there has always been a certain tension between the American people and their government. In many respects the Tea Party movement is the embodiment of that tension… The people want as little governmental involvement in their daily as possible, the government on the other hand wants what all governments want… Power — or more specifically the power to control and influence the people.
Reducing the federal government isn’t simply about cutting spending, it’s about reducing the power and influence of the the federal government in our daily lives… It’s about the thousands upon thousands of pages of government regulation that by some estimates represent roughly $1 trillion in stealth taxes on the private sector.
To quote Ronald Reagan “The federal government has taken too much tax money from the people, too much authority from the states, and too much liberty with the Constitution.” that’s the bottom line and it leads us into Peggy Noonan’s “Why It’s Time for the Tea Party” column.
I’ve had more than a few disagreements with Ms. Noonan over the last couple of years, in fact pretty much stopped reading her column after she endorsed Barack Obama during the 2008 elections.
Anyway Ms. Noonan seems to have regained some of her senses and her current column perfectly encapsulates the tension between the Republican Party establishment and the Tea Party movement:
Everyone has an explanation for the tea party that is actually not an explanation but a description. They’re “angry.” They’re “antiestablishment,” “populist,” “anti-elite.” All to varying degrees true. But as a network television executive said this week, “They should be fed up. Our institutions have failed.”
I see two central reasons for the tea party’s rise. The first is the yardstick, and the second is the clock. First, the yardstick. Imagine that over at the 36-inch end you’ve got pure liberal thinking—more and larger government programs, a bigger government that costs more in the many ways that cost can be calculated. Over at the other end you’ve got conservative thinking—a government that is growing smaller and less demanding and is less expensive. You assume that when the two major parties are negotiating bills in Washington, they sort of lay down the yardstick and begin negotiations at the 18-inch line. Each party pulls in the direction it wants, and the dominant party moves the government a few inches in their direction.
But if you look at the past half century or so you have to think: How come even when Republicans are in charge, even when they’re dominant, government has always gotten larger and more expensive? It’s always grown! It’s as if something inexorable in our political reality—with those who think in liberal terms dominating the establishment, the media, the academy—has always tilted the starting point in negotiations away from 18 inches, and always toward liberalism, toward the 36-inch point.
Democrats on the Hill or in the White House try to pull it up to 30, Republicans try to pull it back to 25. A deal is struck at 28. Washington Republicans call it victory: “Hey, it coulda been 29!” But regular conservative-minded or Republican voters see yet another loss. They could live with 18. They’d like eight. Instead it’s 28.
I’m not sure what I can add, Ms. Noonan has explained the conflict perfectly… Thank you Peggy, your column just crystallized the what I’ve been thinking for months, but haven’t been able to articulate.
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Alright shifting gears… For most of the last decade the Democrats and the pop-culture obsessed soundbite media have been harping the “The Bush tax cuts only benefited the rich” line. With those tax cuts about to expire, the Associated Press at least, is finally admitting the fallacy of that line:
Expiring tax cuts hit taxpayers at every level
Hmm, let’s dig a little deeper in to Stephen Ohlemacher’s report:
A typical family of four with a household income of $50,000 a year would have to pay $2,900 more in taxes in 2011, according to a new analysis by Deloitte Tax LLP, a tax consulting firm. The same family making $100,000 a year would see its taxes rise by $4,500.
Wealthier families face even bigger tax hikes. A family of four making $500,000 a year would pay $10,800 more in taxes. The same family making $1 million a year would get a tax increase of $53,200.
The estimates are based on total household income, including wages, capital gains and qualified dividends. The estimated tax bills take into account typical deductions at each income level.
Hmm, wouldn’t that mean that the Bush tax cuts weren’t just for the rich as virtually every pop-culture obsessed soundbite media outlet in America has been claiming since they were first proposed?
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And last but not least… New York Times reporter Kate Zernike’s daft advice to Republican candidates: ‘Enlist (Tea Partiers), but Avoid Speeches on the Constitution’. Right… avoiding the Constitution is how we into this mess.
I’m tempted to post a couple paragraphs from her column, but you’d be far better off reading the New York Sun’s take down of her column:
“Republicans: Enlist, but Avoid Speeches on the Constitution.” That’s the way the headline writer for the New York Times encapsulated the advice of one of its reporters, Kate Zernike, in a dispatch over the weekend. “The trick,” she writes, “is to take advantage of the Tea Party passion and stay away from its extremes. Celebrate the genius of the Constitution, but don’t get into the particulars.”
Ms. Zernike goes on to quote the political sage Stuart Rothenberg as saying he reckons it’s “very clear” that “what’s best for the election” is to focus on President Obama, Speaker Pelosi, health care, and the deficit. “You see these rallies and the signs are all about the Constitution,” Ms. Zernike quotes him as saying. “They want it to be about these big ideological ideas, when I don’t think most voters think that way.”
Hmmmm. Our own view is that Ms. Zernike and Mr. Rothenberg are selling the voters short. We don’t belittle their own credentials. Ms. Zernike is the author of a new book on the Tea Party, “Boiling Mad,” which is well up on the Amazon.com list. Mr. Rothenberg is the publisher of a non-partisan political report. But everywhere we’ve gone lately where the conversation or the speeches turn to the Constitution, the place lights right up.
The Sun is quite right, the idea that constitutional principles are beyond the understanding of the American people strikes is as not only condescending but inaccurate… We the People have good deal respect for the Constitution and our Founding Fathers than most of our elected leaders these days. We are deeply concerned about the erosion of liberty and the growth of government.
I should also note the Sun is far more forgiving of Ms. Zernike than I would be… She’s hardly sympathetic to the conservative ideas or the Tea Party movement, something Clay Waters notes in his review of her book “Boiling Mad — Inside Tea Party America,” over at Newsbusters:
Like her reporting for the Times, “Boiling Mad” covers the movement from a mostly hostile perspective that only intermittently becomes something like empathy when she’s talking to one of the invariably pleasant Tea Party citizens themselves.
Behind the (of course) red-as-a-Red State-cover lies a mere 194 pages of text, not including a 33-page reprint of an old, biased Times poll on the Tea Party. While not wholly a notebook dump, there’s little new, and Zernike evinces little sympathy or feel for conservative concerns. Her expertise is instead finding racism everywhere she looks in Tea Party land.