Saturday, February 05, 2005

The Democrat party's elitism

David Brooks has written an excellent column that describes the current state of the Democrat and Republican parties.
Since the 1960's there has been a breakdown in the machinery that allowed Americans to work together across class and other divisions. The educated class has come to dominate, and the issues of interest to that class overshadow issues of interest to the less educated and less well off.

But the two major parties were affected unequally. The Republican coalition still contains some cross-class associations, like the N.R.A. and the evangelical churches, which connect corporate elites to the middle classes. The Democratic coalition has fewer organizations like that. Its elite - the urban and university-town elite - has less contact with the less educated.

Not coincidentally, Republicans have a much easier time putting together electoral majorities.
The one advantage that the Democrats seem to have over the Republicans at this point is ideological conformity. It's easy to name a few prominent Republicans who have dissented on issues such as abortion, gun control, tax cuts and the Federal Marriage Amendment. John McCain and Rudy Guiliani come to mind. But how easy is it to name a Democrat who is supportive of concealed carry laws or a flat tax? This ideological conformity is both an advantage and a disadvantage. It limits the ability of the Democrats to attract moderate voters, but it also nearly guarantees that future Democrat nominees for President will receive at least 45 percent of the popular vote.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

SOTU 2005

Last night President Bush laid out a bold agenda for his second term. Never the most eloquent of speakers, he had few of the "one-liners" that will go down in history. This was no "evil empire" speech. But the purpose of a State of the Union address is to outline policy objectives, and this he did well. Weather you agree with him or not on all of the issues, you have to admit that he is willing to take on big issues. No "coasting" for him.

Junk Lawsuits
Small business is the path of advancement, especially for women and minorities, so we must free small businesses from needless regulation and protect honest job-creators from junk lawsuits.
How John Edwards must have cringed when he heard that line! No doubt they were in full panic mode at the Association of Trial Lawyers last night.

On the other hand, I cringed when he said "especially for women and minorities" Some people are more equal than others? There is no reason to favor or protect any group more than another, but this is not the time for that discussion.

Energy Independence

Nothing bold here, unfortunately. No mention of ANWAR, so it looks like that resource is going to go untapped. Ethanol is a bad idea and simply a sop to the corn industry. Hydrogen power is pie-in-the-sky stuff, and given the energy required to separate water molecules, darn close to perpetual motion.


Here the president risks alienating his own party. Conservatives are fairly up in arms about his proposals.
America's immigration system is also outdated — unsuited to the needs of our economy and to the values of our country. We should not be content with laws that punish hardworking people who want only to provide for their families, and deny businesses willing workers, and invite chaos at our border. It is time for an immigration policy that permits temporary guest workers to fill jobs Americans will not take, that rejects amnesty, that tells us who is entering and leaving our country, and that closes the border to drug dealers and terrorists.
Is enforcing the law "outdated"? It seems that the president has taken the position that illegal immigration is beyond our control to stop, so we may as well legalize them. Perhaps. And the GOP does seem to be picking up Hispanic voters, much to the consternation of the Democrats. The risk is that he'll loose his base.

Social Security

Rarely does one hear "boos" at a SOTU speech. President Clinton got a few, but most of the time the opposition is simply silent.

This is an example of where the president is not afraid to tackle an issue that he sees as important, regardless of what the "poll of the day" says. He thinks big thoughts, takes big risks, but if he is successful will go down in history as one of our greatest presidents.

President Bush spent some time on Social Security and was fairly specific. He laid it all out;
Thirteen years from now, in 2018, Social Security will be paying out more than it takes in. And every year afterward will bring a new shortfall, bigger than the year before. For example, in the year 2027, the government will somehow have to come up with an extra 200 billion dollars to keep the system afloat — and by 2033, the annual shortfall would be more than 300 billion dollars. By the year 2042, the entire system would be exhausted and bankrupt.
The choices are actually fairly simple; we can ignore the problem and keep raising taxes and reducing benefits, or we can overhaul the entire system. If you don't like the president's proposals, fine, come up with some of your own. But it is clear that the Democrats are simply the party of the past, unwilling to face the future.


The president said that judges should not "legislate from the bench", a line that made me cheer. This leads to the issue of gay "marriage". If judges could be trusted, then the existing Defense of Marriage Act would be sufficient. As it is, we cannot trust judges, so the president feels as I do, that an amendment to the Constitution is necessary.

As Long as it Takes
Our country is still the target of terrorists who want to kill many, and intimidate us all — and we will stay on the offensive against them, until the fight is won.
There are three key phrases here: "still a target", "stay on the offensive, and "until the fight is won."

Get it, liberals? The terrorists are bound and determined to get us, we can't play defense and delude ourselves with "police action" only, and our "exit strategy" is victory.

The Case for Democracy

I think that when the President said that we are not going to "...impose our form of government on anyone else" he meant our specific type and structure of democracy. But our "ultimate goal" is to "end tyranny." This means that some sort of open, participatory democracy is to be preferred.

No we are not going to be able to rid the world of dictators overnight, but the President never said that we would. He said that we would work towards that goal. I hope that he is as good as his word. By specifically mentioning Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, and Bahrain, I believe that he was putting them on notice that it is no longer business as usual.

The Smackdown
We will succeed because the Iraqi people value their own liberty — as they showed the world last Sunday. Across Iraq, often at great risk, millions of citizens went to the polls...

One of Iraq's leading democracy and human rights advocates is Safia Taleb al-Suhail. She says of her country, "we were occupied for 35 years by Saddam Hussein. That was the real occupation. … Thank you to the American people who paid the cost … but most of all to the soldiers."
This and the rest of the President's words on the Iraqi vote was a direct in-your-face to those who said that the elections were illigitimate or didn't mean anything.

The story of Sgt Norwood was very moving and appropriate.

The Democratic Response - We're the Ostrich Party

To be fair, the opposition has an unenviable task after a SOTU; they almost have to be negative. But the two people they selected, Senator Harry Reid and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, made the worst of a bad situation.

They are bound and determined to ignore the facts regarding Social Security. "What, me worry?" is or should be their new motto. And as for a mascot, they've gone from stubborn as a mule to heads in the sand. Kate O'Beirne said that Reid sounded "tinny and small", and I agree.

Nancy Pelosi tried to tell us that "we have never heard a clear plan from this administration for ending our presence in Iraq" Uh, it's called victory, Nancy. You know, defeating the terrorists.

She talked about "three key elements"; transfering responsibility to the Iraqis, accellerating Iraq's economic development, and intensifying regional diplomacy. Where has this woman been? Earth to Nancy; we are doing all of these things, but they are not easy. It is easy, however, to sit on the sidelines and criticize.

Stanley Kurtz had some of the most incisive analysis of the Democrats;
The most striking part of the audience reaction tonight was the catcalls during the president’s discussion of social security. It’s been noted that liberal bloggers have been mostly silent on the Iraqi election. But what have they been talking about. As far as I can tell, the overwhelming topic on the lips of Democrats tonight is social security. You can staunch political wounds on social issues or defense by downplaying those subjects. (Or at least you can try.) But to win, you need a positive theme. The theme the Democrats have chosen is the idea of saving social security from the president’s plan.
Read the whole thing.


A bold speech by President Bush, and a weak response by the Democrats

Monday, January 31, 2005

A plug for Social Security Reform

President Bush's plan for
Social Security Reform is based on the current retirement plan for federal employees.

There already is a model for such a reform, the Thrift Savings Plan, or TSP, for federal employees. It allows them to contribute up to $12,000 into a personal account they own and control. Employees can chose from five different funds: government bonds, a fixed-income fund, a common stock fund, international investments and a small-cap stock-investment fund--or a mixture of them. Today, nearly 3.5 million federal employees participate, and the fund's value is more than $120 billion. No one has lost his shirt, and participants own real assets for their retirement.

One option for making a TSP-type system available to all American workers is a proposal advanced by Thomas Saving, a Social Security trustee and senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis (of which I am chairman). Under the Saving plan (see a worker making $35,000 in 2005 would invest about $1,585 a year in his retirement account: 1.25% of wages ($437) out of his pocket, a like amount from his employer, and diverting 2.03% ($711) of the payroll tax that would otherwise go to the government.

Young people would instantly become owners of real assets, which would be, in President Bush's words, "a nest egg you can call your own and government can never take away." How big a nest egg? At $1,585 a year, a young medium-wage worker entering the workforce today would amass about $302,000 over his working life, enough to pay a benefit equal to what the current system promises. And for minority workers, who have shorter life spans and often don't live to receive Social Security benefits, the assets their survivors would receive would be a huge positive.

Federal Employees do not invest in Social Security, all of their retirement contributions go into TSP (or into the original Civil Service Retirement System - CSRS). And, similar to what is being proposed in Bush's reform plan for Social Security, when TSP was first started up, federal employees who were under the old CSRS plan were given the option of staying in the old plan or converting into TSP. New hires in the Federal Government are not allowed an option and are all automatically included in TSP. The people who stayed with CSRS can contribute into a TSP account which is separate from CSRS, but without matching funds from their employers, the Federal Government. It acts as a traditional IRA for those folks. Thus, those employees who were heavily invested in CSRS (had many years of service) usually opted out and those who were relatively new to federal service opted in.

A lot of federal employees were leery of the new TSP system, but contrary to what they thought would happen, that it would fail like most govennment ideas, it has turned out to be a well planned, well run, successful endevor.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Election day in Iraq

Reports coming out of Iraq indicate that voter turnout in the January 30, 2005 Iraqi elections will be approximately 72 percent. That is a higher turnout than any American Presidential election in American history. When one considers that generally Americans don't have to worry about being bombed or shot as they stand in line to vote, the Iraqi elections seem like an even more remarkable success story. Mark Steyn writes about the maturity and political dexterity of the Iraqi political leaders:
When you consider the behavior of the Shia and Kurdish parties, they've been remarkably shrewd, restrained and responsible. They don't want to blow their big rendezvous with history and rejoin the rest of the Middle East in the fetid swamp of stable despotism. The naysayers in the Democratic Party and the U.S. media are so obsessed with Rumsfeld getting this wrong and Condi getting that wrong and Bush getting everything wrong that they've failed to notice just how surefooted both the Kurds and Shiites have been -- which in the end is far more important. The latter, for example, have adopted a moderate secular pitch entirely different from their co-religionists mullahs over the border. In fact, as partisan pols go, they sound a lot less loopy than, say, Barbara Boxer.
The events in Iraq today demonstrate how wrongheaded Democrat leader Ted Kennedy was when he proposed a withdraw of American troops just three days before the Iraqi elections. When it comes to sending messages that embolden freedom's enemies and demoralize freedom's allies, the Democrats are the champions. Fortunately for Americans, Iraqis and the free world, President Bush has chosen to advance democracy and freedom rather than appease terrorists at every turn.

As we reflect on Iraq's first election day, what first comes to mind is the determination of the Iraqi voters. Today is also a day to commemorate the sacrifices given by American and coalition military men and women, including Iraqi security forces. This day would not happened if it weren't for the courage of these brave people. Some final questions: Will the today's election in Iraq reduce the murderous impact of the terrorists there? Will "people power" spread to other Arab nations and force Arab dictators to make additional moves towards democracy?

UPDATE: The voter turnout in this Iraqi election might end up being somewhere between 55 and 61 percent. Is estimated that about 8 million Iraqis voted.

Also here are some additional items related to the election:

A New York Times story describing a party atomosphere in the streets of Iraq throughout election day and a statement from President Bush describing the elections as a success.