Tag Archives: Republican

At Issue with The Collapse of Conservatism

In the week’s Economist, the Lexington article (see A Republican senator revolts) praises senator Jeff Flake for a book, written in secret, that laments the decline and failing of conservatism. and the mistakes made by siding with, and electing, Donald Trump.  On first blush the well-written article leads me to conclude I want to read the book. But the author lets slip their own political views and so I’ll now give Mr. Flake’s book a pass.

What is conservatism?  It seems, if you read the article, that a ‘put your country second’ perspective is equitable to free trade. Why is a, ‘put America first’ not consistent with fair trade? Really, if you ever look at global trade and international supply chains, every organization, every country, looks out for their own benefit first.  They may not always say this – as it is all part of the negotiation.  But no one actually puts their own interests on hold for the other guy.  Only when satisfied or when satisfaction is in reach do sides negotiate closely and come to a ‘free trade’ agreement. And note, there is virtually never ‘free’ trade. There is almost always some cost, tax, cover charge, buy-back, duty etc.  

Mr Trump’s ‘put America first’ is not a call for nationalist policies; it is not a call for tariffs and duties.  It is a call to those that negotiate for their country that the US will now negotiate more fairly and not keep helping others out.  If you put a tariff on imports from the US, so the US will put tariffs on imports into the US.  That is fair trade – it is not protectionism.  When will the media, even the fair media, get this right?  Mr. Trump is making a political statement that says the obvious: this country needs to fair, as every other country is fair, in trade deals. Trump does not disbelieve the benefits global trade; all smart business leaders grasp the principles and see the benefits. Mr Trump believes in trade- period!

So we are left with asking why is his rhetoric picked on? We can only assume that such complaints and criticisms pander to a political sore that came about from losing the election; an institution and establishment that wanted to feed its own bloated cause: more government begets more government. Left and right have played this tune for years. Trump just happened to take the Republicans with him but in truth he needs his own part: New Deal Republicans.  

I get the feeling that Mr Trump is more conservative than many give him credit: freedom of the individual; responsibility of the individual over government; the expectation that the individual is not owed anything; that hard work and merit will be rewarded. And yes, that a safety net will be provided for those that need it.  However we live in s society today that assumes other owe them a living; that it is their right to sit on that backsides and be given everything the need and want.  We have become a A Nation of Takers.

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Trump One Step Closer to Quitting

Reference:

I believe Donald Trump will quit the Presidency of the United States. I forecasted Trump would win (see April 2016: Trump Will Eat Clinton Alive), and in that article last Spring I suggested that he would quit. He will quit due to the inability for politicians in Washington to be rational and negotiate. He will quit with acrimony and bolshiness. About the only thing that will prevent this situation from taking place is tax reform.

Let me first state that I think that Obamacare was the wrong tool for the job. It was a rushed, Ill-focused, partisan and socialist effort to undermine the best parts of America. Its namesake and his supporters suggested that the Affordible Care Act (ACA) it helps those that need most help (the uninsured), and it does (in some way) but at a system-wide cost that is unacceptable and unaffordable.

The free market is anything but that; regulation is like a strangling vine; prices remain untouched and high; big pharmaceutical remains unfettered; patient outcomes remain anathema to healthcare. This country continues to spend ever more on healthcare, more than any other developed nation per capita, and yet our outcomes and their improvement reman poor and lacking, even on a good day. Obamacare was the wrong tool for the job.

The bad news is the Republican approach to Obamacare has split its own party. Worse, the repeal and replacement was in their reach. Yet last week the chance for correction was thrown out.  

There were even votes against the Republican policy from folks like Ron Paul who didn’t want the ‘Obamacare Lite’ but who wanted a full repeal. So he withheld his support. The Freedom Caucus, apparent fiscal hawks, had a chance to budget-fence Medicaid, yet they withdrew support in the mad hope of a perfect policy sometime in the future.  

This is madness. This is political suicide. The Democrats have been handed a free ticket and Trump must be mad. This is Washington at its worst. There will likely never be a perfect policy or time enough to develop it.

Now the movement shifts to tax reform. If an overhaul is not executed Trump will feel like quitting and he may yet do so. The Republicans need to realize that they have a rare opportunity but only if they unite. If they play party politics and splinter again, change will not be forthcoming. The Democrats, not in power of any sort, will be in power in all but name.

Obama won on the promise of change and socialists alike all rammed through their left-leaning, redistributive, anti-business and anti-free market policies. We are slowly bleeding to death now under the weight of ignorance and self feeling. Our polices cannot be paid for without printing money since we are all too happy to free-ride the masses and garrote the rest. The rest who are free and employed folks who work for a living, who want to improve their lot with their own blood, sweat and tears, not from hand-outs from Uncle Sam.

Trump also won on an argument for change. Alas the Republicans have forgotten how to govern.    

Why Trump Won

As the ashes gather on the General Election, and the tea leaves start to get surveyed, the realization of the significance of the result are just beginning to emerge. However, something is quite clear. Few of us really know what just took place.

The media on the left suggest that the Klan, and White extremists, racists, sexists and bigots just took over the White House. The media in the right suggest a struggle against politically correct progressiveness resisted, finally, in some titanic struggle. The reality, I am sorry to say, is more mundane than that.

A Trump win has little to do with any sexist or racist or any other extremist view. The facts don’t support the notion that  bigots, sexists, and racist groups banded together to beat out the other votes; and this does not fit well with the view of the Left that needs to rationalize its stunning defeat, lest it implode. According to the latest exit pole tea leaves, it turns out that Trump attracted more votes from women, blacks and Latinos than Mitt Romney did. How is that possible?  

Today I read an article that suggested the Democratic Party and promise was over; that a lifetime of hope was being sunk. That the right had prevailed and some kind of ‘normality’ had been restored. Again, the practical realities of this election are simpler than that.

In truth there is no need for the Democratic Party to panic. They didn’t lose for any complex reason. Both sides were throwing a decent amount of political rhetoric at each other during the election, let’s be honest. Anyone who still claims Hillary is a crook and Donald is a racist is first barmy, secondly ignorant.

Yes, both sides slandered the other. So what? There is nothing new in that; even if it was pretty keen and even edgy. And the press played its usual role in exalting the excessive claims, since it met with their intended goal (they thought) of securing higher numbers of eyeballs and ratings.

The fact is that this election was not about well defined voting blocks such as ‘Latino’, or ‘black’, or ‘women’ or even ‘disaffected white’ segments; the real driver was more of an economic call-to-arms for families of all colors and styles and sexes. The real winner here were those large numbers of the disaffected population that have seen their opportunities wither and who saw path forward to negate the left/right schism the US has experienced for 12 or more years.  

There is no right or left block any more in government. We, the people, have been left behind. The majority of politicians (not all, we hope) are corrupt. They beget regulation only to beget more.  

Some pundits have said that democratic progressivism is dead. I don’t accept that. I think it is alive and well and it will be back soon. It is only “down for the count” since family salaries, jobs and standard-of-living concerns took precedence this time around. Such concerns are not a block, or a group, but an economic condition. It so happened that such a forming was somewhat triggered by progressive policies long ago that came about due to a nation being so rich for a long time.

The fat and pork we must have farmed to afford ourselves the time, money and right, to consider the sex classification of national bathrooms for a size of the population impacted that might approach one small town, is telling and damning. We will return to this debate once we solve the real issue: how to regurgitate the American Dream.

Lastly I am being lampooned by friends and colleagues who claim that they cannot explain to their children what happened this week. Apparently some folks are claiming that their children are scared to go to school. Why? This country has not suddenly unleashed a batch of fanatics into the street. The only reason children are scared today is because irresponsility and ignorance is accommodated by a small minority of sore losers, seeking to undermine the rest.  Shame on them.  

I have faith in the American system. I have faith in a country born of conflict and forged in faith. I believe that a Trump presidency is a huge risk. But I feel that the risk is worth it. We are not afraid. No one should be. If we see racism and sexism and bigotry in our midsts we should all, every one, root it out and eliminate it. That is a given. But to confuse reality with political rhetoric is to suspend reality.

We have a new reality today. We have a chance. Let us unite together and rid the world of extremism and create a place where our children have more opportunity than we experienced. Hopefully that transcends sex, color, race and religion.

The Fact of the Matter with Trump

Let me say this first: I am not a fan of Donald Trump. The leader in last week’s The Economist sits well with my feelings: The Dividing of America: Donald Trump’s nomination in Cleveland will put a thriving country at risk of a great, self-inflicted wound. The article highlights how the facts are quite different from the rhetoric.  

As we know now, Trumps’ acceptance speech was very Nixon-like in that it portrayed a negative America that needs saving. I certainly believe that Trump’s business and some economic policies might favor high (GDP) growth, but even in this department, some of Trump’s polices are anti-global trade and so will reduce growth. Worse, his apparent temperament and terminology, let alone immigration and foreign policy, puts the backs up of many, left and right. In a nutshell, most of Trump’s policies are populist.   

And for total transparency, I actually dislike Clinton: she has demonstrated poor judgement, represents the establishment of big and bigger government, tax-based growth, large busines/lobbies and whatever her rhetoric, just look at her and Bill’s net worth. She is the epitome, the ultimate, political animal.

What I have to applaud is the US political system. After 8 years of gridlock, and since the early 70s, the US system has been leading up to this point. The Opinion piece in today’s Wall Street Journal, Why the Democrats Have Turned Left, by Ruy Teixeira of the Center of American Profress, captures the point with the idea of “equitable growth”. The idea is that capitalism as we know it creates more inequality. Growing inequality slows growth. Faster growth could alleviate these problems but that leads to increased inequality and so on. And apparently the Clinton elixir of taxing innovation and wealth creation (her band of capitalism) will save the day. Not one of her policies in the past has led to sustained economic growth.

It’s not capitalism that is at fault here, it’s the political system. The fact that every 4 or 8 years we flip-flop captains and direction, let alone direction changed mid-term, and in each case what passes as capitalism itself changes. We have seen more socialism, funded off the back of capitalism, than you can shake a stick at. Even the media are party to the game.  

The causes of the financial crisis are many but popularism suggest that poorly regulated selfish bankers were the true cause. They played a part, yes, but selfish poor homeowners who preferred to accept dodgy deals than work harder and wait their tern, were also at fault. But that is not politically correct, and as such, seems Trump-like. More at fault were republican and democratic presidents that signed off on socialist programs and policies to increase home ownership at the low end of the income and wealth scale, thus creating the original bubble. The financial industry simply exploited the creation. But this is not the story you read in the papers and nor do you hear left or right politician admit it. They are all in this thing together: for their own sake.

What I admire about the US system is that it has allowed itself to come to this near breaking-point. At one point we almost conceived of Trump v Saunders; two extremists. Now we end up with the establishment (Clinton) versus the wrecking-ball (Trump). And with the choice comes calamity in either case. But that calamity will be tempered by the changes in House and Senate control. What the system has nearly given us is a chance for extremism to be evaluated.  

If Trump wins, the US will certainly go through changes. If the House and Senate stay with the Republicans, the country will see radical changes that will likely create rapid growth (short term) but potentially global and even social damage (medium term). There is a slight chance that it all comes out well but it does not look promising.

In the other hand, if Clinton wins, and he House and Senate remain unchanged, we will have more gridlock and continued economic malaise. Inequality will continue to worsen, mainly due to a need to increase quantitative easing and helicopter money from the Fed and its banks. Innovation will further be eroded (the US has fewer start-up firms per year than at any time in its history) and wealth creating engines will be replaced with government led programs and the printing presses. All this works for a while; until China’s role in currency reserves changes. At that point Clinton’s clothes will vanish- and with it, the American economy and standard of living.

As such there is a chance that in either case, the damage will be significant enough that four years later, a real progressive conservative hybrid president and house and senate will get established. A new middle ground might appear, focused on smaller government but smarter government too. The problem is we have to wait 4 years for the current experiment to play out. And worse, the Supreme Court will be changed for a lifetime. In either case, it 2 or 3 new appointments will shift its markedly left or right for many years to come. Whoever wins, this next general election will have a lot to answer for in the future.

Why does the US government debt limit only ever go up?

Let me ask you this: Why does the US government debt limit only ever going up?

Every 6 to 9 months there seems to be another dance with the Devil whereby Democrate’s and Republican’s spa for some kind of agreement to increase the US debt limit. Yet again we have seen a spate of stories in the newspapers in the last couple of days. Today in the US print edition of the Wall Street Journal, there was an article titled, “Debt-limit Deadline Now Early November“. Yet again we are told that the left and the right will have to negotiate some deal lest the Federal Government will shut down and possibly avoid paying some bills.

I mean really! If I went to my bank every 6 to 9 months and only ever negotiated an upward change to my debt limit, I would soon be chastised and kicked-out of the branch for being so profligate and irresponsible. I have never once heard of a story whereby the US debt limit was reduced. It cannot be that we only ever borrow more money from tomorrow to pay bills of today. This is no way to run a bank account, let alone a country – the most important country in the global economy. 

In a “Nation of Takers“, Nicholas Eberstadt highlights how the US federal spending has been ballooning for years, and most of that increased spending is in support of burgeoning social, disabled, unemployment and other “welfare”. Even though over 50% of American’s receive at least one kind of benefit from Uncle Sam (it’s in the book, and many of those do receive benefots do not need them financially), my point is that spending only ever goes up and so the debt limit also keeps going up.  

Interestingly, there was a Commentary piece in yesterday’s US print edition of the Wall Stree Journal that implied that federal ‘outlays’ (whatever that means) as a percentage of GDP has been reduced in the last few years under the recent Repulican House and now Senate leadership.   Since GDP has grown, a falling percentage of spend does not necessarily mean that real government spending has fallen. But if the debt limit keeps going up, how can spend go down?

In some ways I really like Donald Trump’s rhetoric that he can shrink the government. This is a very “Reagenesc”and Thatcherite message. It once attracted a large popular vote since; and it used to be a clarion call from Republicans. It wasn’t always pretty and it didn’t work every time but it was a clear goal faught with tooth, nail and handbag.  The last Republican in the Whitehouse, however, did not reduce government spending – and to a great degree this explains the rise of the Tea Party movement. We need to get to grips with our spending, and this includes a smaller government, before the bank manager throws us out.

Trump Continues Lead after CNN Debate

GOP Presidential Nomination Debate, CNN September 16 2015, Reagan Library.

I just love watching these political debates.  It is so interesting watching folks joust openly and off the cuff for what is the most powerful single position in the world, President of the United States.

The early evening debate (made up of the bottom 4 polling nominees) was clearly won by Senator Lindsey Graham.  He has disappointed me so far, seeming detached from popularism and unable to put his ideas into marketable words and phrases.  This changed last night.  If Graham started the evening in the bottom 4, he ended the evening in the top 11.  

I felt sorry for Rick Santorum.  I felt that Santorum’s ship sank deeper and deeper last evening.  Grahame took him to task over a failed immigration bill, Santorum’s future immigration ‘plan’, that had previously failed in the house. But Graham stepped up his game and emphasized how he wants to put American’s in the line of fire in the middle east.  Graham’s policy of increased military presense globally is a risky one.  This is not pandering to the masses but defensible leadership.  Santorum sunk further when he suggested that elected officials should flout a law if they disagreed with it.  He should have focused on changing a law if it is wrong, not breaking it.  That leads to choas.  

Bobby Jindal was upbeat, in a bit of a rush, but understandable.  He said all the right ‘fighting’ words but lacked details.  Grahame overall won the early round and his self-deprecating humor helped a lot too. Bobby Jindal had the best closing comments.

Then the top 11 polling nominees took to the stage.

Bottom line: Trump (“We need $19tn dollars”) did fine, even a little better than the in the previous debate.  He did not implode, nor did he put his foot in it.  A couple of times he said things that raised the eyebrows; his opening remark attacked “1% Rand” which didnt make sense – why attack the least popular guy at the table?  He was also perhaps, in some peoples mind, condescending to Carly Fiorina (“She is a lovely woman”) but that’s Donald.  When it came to improving his position he did many of the things he needed to do: he showned signs of humility, honesty, while keeping his scathing remarks in check.  The boy did good.

Carly Fiorina did very well too; my “most improved” nominee.  She is an artful CEO.  Her poise was perfect; she rarely spoke first or jumped in.  But she waited for the others to lay out their stall and then she often tried to close and take an argument with a highly marketable catch phrase or poignent piece.  This was an effective tactic for her.  She was artful, respectful, meaningful, and calm.  She did not answer her first question posed to her dirrectly: If Donald had his finger on the button, would she trust him?  Why didnt she attack?  She should have said yes or no and either attack or defended.  She avoided this but as a CEO, she knows when and how to attack.  She would do well against Hillary.  At least (1% Rand) Paul said he would not trust Trump with his finger on the button.

Donald did touch on the depressing side of the lobby group.  Trump is right about the crass influence over politicans and how money and lobbies, peddling for every interest group, influence some politicians.  Donald even trumped Jeb Bush who tried to suggest he was not involved in the smear, and that Donald was.  Who knows if Trump tried to lobby Bush for a casino in Florida?  Who cares?  Lobby groups are out of control – read my book review on This Town by Mark Leibovich, Blue Ridge Press, 2013. 

Carly was very effective and involved with regard to foreign policy with Russia and the middle east.  She wants to rebuild the sixth fleet (of all things) and she implied a massive increase in defense and military spending….but how would that be paid for?  Her words certainly roused the beating chests of the empire building world policemen among us, but again that’s a risky policy.  It does not pander to the masses, just the smart one’s out there.  She knows how to communicate a message.

Initially Rand Paul seemed no longer to be the isolationist his father and he had originally been.  By the end of the evening this was all gone.  He reminded us that he would not use force until the last moment.  He might be too late to send in the troops and the damage he suggests he wants to avoid may already have happened.  Shame – I still like many of Rand Paul’s ideas regarding momentary policy and support for the constitution.  The 10th ammendement came up – which was great to see.  Federal government really has gone bananas trying to control everything around us.

Huckabie nailed the Iran agreement.  This could be a topic that undoes the Democrates if only the Republicans can message the issue in 20 words or less.  Huckabie’s argument was, for me, his high-point of the night though he remains still on the fringe, not realy making the general debate move forward.

I thought initially that Jeb Bush was finished. He just does not speak simple words on camera.  He fumbles for words, and seems not sure when to stop speaking.  He finds a strong phrase or response, then seems to try to carry on as if a gene inside tells him that politicians win arguments when they stop the other guy from speaking.  A few times he upped his game.  His jousting with Donald was much better (“more animated”) and I think he recovered from his poor performance in the first debate.  But he is not a ruthless tiger when he needs to be.

Marco Rubio was effective, and put together a couple of good sections with marketable phrases.  But he did not seem to dominate.  His strong start in the first debate is fading. Maybe he works better in smaller settings?

Ted Cruz was clearly told to speak to the camera – I dont think I ever saw him speak to the local audiance.  He is an accomplished lawyer and political operator.  But he seems too close to the establishement.  He talks a good game about how he made change happen from within, but overall faith in the system is the challenge the people have – not with politican A versus politican B.  I am not sure he gets this yet.  But he is a strong challenger nonetheless.

Ben Carson was stable and did fine too.  I called him out as a possible Vice President when I first saw him in the first debate a month ago.  I stick by my idea than.  Carson would be a great VP to add to a ticket led by a strong politican – the problem is we dont have one.

Scott Walker didnt do much for me.  He was fine, don’t get me wrong, but he did not shine or stand out.  John Kasich said a number of good things, and held his ground just fine.  But can he keep pace with the pack?

Chris Christie, an original favorite of mine, did better this debate than in the first.  But he is coming from behind and has a lot of ground to catch up.  I think he is also marketable and seemed engaged and involved last night.  He husbanded his words well.  Any politician that can say something meaningful, and end on a high note, and allow a pause before anyone else steps in, wins the day.  Christie has that skill too.

At the end of the day I suspect the chance of a Trump led ticket is becoming fleetingly possible.  I never thought it would but could it work?  Is it that strange?  If he had a very capable and engaged vice president, it is just becoming possible…  Trump/Rubio?  Trump/Carson would be cool but could never happen.  But will Trump attract enough of the female vote?  Will he attract the Hispanics?  He may gain the rest of the middle class though, and lose a fraction of the other groups.

This is how I see the GOP “race” right now:

Front runner by a couple of lenghts:  Trump

Second: Fiorina

Small group ahead of the pack led by Rubio (beginning to fade), Carson, Cruz, and improved Bush

Christie, ahead of the pack by a neck.  

The pack is bunched up: Pataki, Huckabie, Kasich, Jindal, and Graham who is improving.  The back of the pack and begining to drift: Walker, and Paul.

Santorum, after stumbling at the first, still several lenghts off the pace, bringing up the rear.