Saturday, September 18, 2010

Free Trade Is Not America's Problem

In a recent article in Human (h/t Glenda McGee) Pat Buchanan gives an incisive analysis of the faltering neo-conservative, "Rockefeller Republican" movement within the Republican Party. He lyrically depicts professional Republicans' attitudes toward the Tea Party movement as those of plantation owners toward their field hands.  I appreciate Buchanan's Populist writing, but Populism is part of the problem, not the solution. 

In particular, Buchanan does not offer a coherent model of trade.  He couples his attack on the neo-conservatives with an attack on free trade, or at least what seems to be an attack on free trade. He does not articulate a rational position. If his position is protectionist, he is suicidal. If he is in favor of a laissez faire, zero tariff trade policy as preferable to the various treaties he mentions I'm all for it. Also, I wouldn't mind eliminating NAFTA which just creates a different kind of trade barrier. WTO (the later name for GATT) is another story. It has pushed the world toward lower tariffs all around. This ought to stimulate the world's economic health. Americans should be able to generate new jobs through entrepreneurship and imagination. That they haven't isn't the fault of reducing trade barriers; it is the fault of a fascist economy that inhibits creativity and entrepreneurship. If Buchanan is in favor of dismantling the blockages: the income tax, the Fed, government regulation and the like then I am with him. But I don't agree that trade is the source of our problems.  Creating trade barriers is just another way to subsidize sclerotic industries and unproductive work.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Sleeping Prophet Krauthammer Bemoans O'Donnell Win

I don't watch TV news or read newspapers so I depend on friends for interesting points. Glenda McGee mentioned that Charles Krauthammer has fumed about Christie O'Donnell's victory (O'Donnell is a Tea Party social conservative) and other Tea Party victors this week.  See the video excerpt below.

In a Washington Post article Krauthammer quotes what he calls  the "Buckley Rule":  vote for the most conservative candidate who is electable. This year's polls though have been inaccurate. New York pollsters were predicting a one point Lazio victory the day before the election and virtually all of the GOP and Conservative Party hacks were supporting Lazio on the basis of the Krauthammer/Buckley rule, yet Paladino defeated Lazio by 65-35%.  This outcome does not influence Krauthammer's analysis because he has a different, unspoken motivation (greed), as did many of Lazio's supporters.

But Krauthammer is smarter than any polling company, and he is better at predicting election outcomes than was Edgar Cayce, remembered as "the sleeping prophet." He can predict election outcomes so well that he can apply the self-destructive Buckley rule every time.  It doesn't occur to Krauthammer that if conservatives are right then the big government policies will eventually implode.  At that point, the conservative alternative will be preferable.

 The "Buckley rule" led directly to the bailout and directly to the failure of post 1980 Republicans to limit the size of government.  Government expands because both parties favor expansive policies. The Democrats do so because they don't care about the Republicans and elect candidates who believe in big government and the Republicans do so because they believe in the absurd principle that you should adopt the beliefs of your political opponents because doing so makes you more likely to win.

Krauthammer is a great adviser to people who like big government.  That said, there is a reason why I don't bother reading newspapers or watching television news.  Their ideas are out of date, just like the Krauthammer/Buckley rule.  The policies of the big government establishment have become evidently harmful.  The cat is out of the bag.  People are being made poorer by those who claim to act in their interests.  For instance, Krauthammer/Buckley favored George W. Bush.  Would it have made any difference if Kerry had won? I doubt it. There probably would have been less expansion of government under Kerry. I say that as someone who voted for Bush and started to feel like a fool soon thereafter.

I very much doubt that Krauthammer and his allies have ever supported any candidate who has not supported the bailout or inflation.  They are very much part of the same establishment that the Democrats are.  They have no intention of stopping Obama in principle, just in practice.  Krauthammer dislikes Obama because he would like his cronies to be doing the same things that Obama is doing except that his cronies be the ones doing them.  Was Dick Cheney really that much better than Rahm Emanuel?  Why would anyone vote for a fat fascist rather than a thin one?  Why would I care if the candidates whom Krauthammer supports are elected over the candidates whom the Democrats offer?  They are equally garbage.


Chris Christie on NJ Teacher Unions' Greed: "This is the crap I have to hear."

The New Jersey teachers union has said that the requirement that they pay 1.5 percent of their pay toward health benefits is the biggest assault on education in New Jersey's history.  Christie responds with a Tea Party cheer. H/t AAA. 

In this video Christie says that the New Jersey pension plan is underfunded by $46 billion.  He notes that if the state starts making its full actuarial payment to the plan the underfunding will grow to $85 billion. "We can't afford to continue down that path...The system is broke..."

It's Official: Yess Now Heads Ulster County GOP

Robin Yess just forwarded the first news report of her assumption of the chair of the Ulster GOP. Actually, you heard it here first on September 6.  I was unable to attend last night's meeting for health reasons, but I assume it went smoothly because I told Robin I would come if she needed an extra body.  Congratulations to Robin, who will be an effective and successful chair!

The Mid Hudson News writes:

PORT EWEN – The Ulster County Republican Committee has chosen First Vice Chairwoman Robin Yess as the new leader of the party.  Yess succeeds Mario Catalano, who chose not to seek re-election as chairman.
Yess believes this could be the year for Republican candidates in November, given the discontent by many with the way Democrats have been running the state and federal governments.
“The pendulum is swinging in the other direction now as we know it does in politics, so I think our candidates have a really good chance this November,” she said.
Yess said the Republican committee will further the message of the Grand Old Party and work to get their candidates elected this fall.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

New York's Conservative Party Belongs in Yesterday's Trash

I dislike the label "conservative" when applied to people who believe in freedom and in life. The debate between laissez faire liberals and mercantilists goes back to the 18th century. Advocated by Anthony Ashley Cooper, Earl of Shaftesbury, and David Hume, mercantilism was an earlier doctrine than laissez faire. Adam Smith wrote in response to Shaftesbury just as Locke wrote in response to Filmer, who advocated the divine right of kings.  David Hume was the source of Alexander Hamilton's belief in a central bank and in government intervention in the economy. Hence, state activism with respect to the economy is an older doctrine than laisser faire, which has always been a radical response to the failure of traditional (i.e., conservative) doctrines like monarchy, state intervention in the economy and central banking.

More important with respect to today's Conservative Party in New York is that the purpose for its very existence has been obviated.  The Conservative Party was founded for two conceivable reasons: (1) the dominance of corporatist, big government Republicans, so-called "Rockefeller Republicans," in New York's Republican Party and (2) the pro-choice platform of many Republicans.  Some Republicans are pro-choice and some are pro-life.  The Conservatives were presumably aiming to define themselves as "social" as well as economic "conservatives" and so offer a position consistent with the Catholic Church's and the various Protestant denominations' that are pro-life.

In 2010 the Conservative Party, led by Mike Long, chose to nominate Rick Lazio over at least two superior alternatives (there were likely more; virtually anyone I know would have been a superior alternative to Rick Lazio): Steve Levy and Carl Paladino.  The Conservatives' and GOP's backing of Lazio removed Levy, who lacked the resources for an independent bid.  The Conservative Party and the Republican Party memberships had the opportunity yesterday to redeem their parties from, respectively, the Rockefeller Conservatives and the Rockefeller Republicans, who are eager for jobs and corrupt bonuses from big government.  The GOP membership showed that it is fundamentally "conservative" in the sense that I don't like using the word.  The Conservative Party members showed that it is less "conservative" than the GOP.

Although much press has been given to "Rockefeller Republicans" much less has been given to "Rockefeller Conservatives."  Yet, it is clear that under Mike Long's leadership the Conservatives have veered to the left and are now more "liberal" (another inappropriate term) than the GOP.   So who needs a Conservative Party?

The Conservative Party is creating a serious problem.  The "conservative" candidate, who is pro-life and for small government, is running on the GOP line but not on the conservative line.  The Conservative Party has reserved their line for a pro-choice, big government advocate, Rick Lazio.  The Conservatives are proving that corrupt motivations rather than an interest in liberty or in life is are enough to determine their nominations.   Conservative Party members might consider that by belonging to it they are harming the cause of "conservatism."

Yesterday's election proved that the GOP is more conservative than the Conservative Party.  It was enough to consign Mike Long and the Conservative Party to the trash bin of history.

Salve on Heller's Attack

This week the Olive Press, our local penny saver, carried a story  about the newsletter I mailed concerning the Town of Olive Republican Committee's meeting at the Shokan American Legion Hall on September 23 at 7:00.  Also, there were two letters about me again, one defending me from Gus Murphy's (I assume humorous) threat to punch me in the nose (or something like that) and another from a guy named Murray Heller calling me a simpleton.  I wrote a response to Mr. Heller's letter. Hopefully this will stir up the pot a little more.  Also, note the reference to Leo Strauss at the end.

Dear Editor:

In 2007 The Business Council rated economic growth in the New York counties.  Growth that matched the nation's average growth in five categories: jobs, average wages, total personal income, per-capita personal income and population received an A+. Those that lagged the nation's average in all five areas received an F.   About half of New York's county's, including Ulster and Warren, received an F.  There are many people satisfied with poverty. They vote for Democrats. Others are Democratic activists eager to accrue benefits to themselves but to impoverish others.  Congressman Maurice Hinchey is in this latter category.  He has produced "pork" for himself and his political cronies but given trichinosis to Ulster County's economy. Nationally, employment growth has been about 20 percent since Hinchey's election.  Here in trichinosis-, or should I write Hincheynosis-, afflicted Ulster County, job growth since 1990 has been about zero.  The same is true of Warrensburg, Murray Heller's Hinchitopia where on any winter morning the unemployed congregate in the local diner.    

I appreciate Murray Heller's candor.  Congressman Hinchey has generally attempted to paint himself as a moderate. Heller makes clear that he would like to see Hinchey do here what he has done to the Adirondacks.  Heller also seems to imply that regulations on your eating habits are fair game for the Democratic Party's "moderates."  Here in Ulster County Hinchey has broken up extended families because children cannot find jobs.  Heller, writing from one of his two residences, makes clear that Hincheynosis has been good to him because he can enjoy beautiful views, free of pesky, lower class peasants who disagree with his progressive, Democratic Party religion and might run power saws that disturb him. As well, Heller considers me a simplistic "true believer" because I disagree.  For Hinchey and Heller, politics is a religion and all who disagree must be damned.  

In Natural Right and History (p. 184) Leo Strauss adumbrates the origin of the left's religious commitment to the state.  It arises from the foundation of liberalism. Hobbes built on Machiavelli and converted the biblical notion of a state of pure nature and the fall with a possibility of grace to the Enlightenment notion of a state of nature characterized by natural right and the liberal equivalent of grace, a natural rights-based civil society.  Building on Strauss's interpretation of Hobbes, the left's religious faith in the state travels through Hegel's providential laws of history to Marx's teleological messianism. The Bismarckian welfare state that was based on the socialization of Christianity and preceded Nazism by 40 years came to America through institutionalists (today called progressives) like Richard T. Ely and John R. Commons.  Progressivism integrated the social Gospel with German historicism and American Populism, and when combined with Marx's atheism produced a new religion of state worship. This religion that Mr. Heller advocates suggests that any human activity is immoral and that nature must be preserved for the elite, of which he considers himself a member. Heller adduces proof of his elite status: his friendship with the publisher of the Adirondack Daily Enterprise.

The eviction of the average person from his home in order to provide aesthetically pleasing environments for the affluent and the super-rich has been part of the left's catechsim ever since the residents of Olive were evicted from the Ashokan and then the New York Times supported Robert Moses's eviction of one sixteenth of New York City residents. Today New York City reflects the flowering of this value system.  Only the super rich, of whom Mr. Heller approves because they agree with him about Hinchey, can afford to live in Manhattan after eleven decades of taking advice from the Ochs Sulzbergers, who undoubtedly would also call my views simplistic. 

Mitchell Langbert, Ph.D.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Rockefeller Conservatives

Rick Lazio is a progressive Republican in the Rockefeller tradition.  There is little conservative about him.  Hence it is a puzzle why Mike Long and the Conservative Party, chose to support him.   I raised this question at the Tea Party meeting where I gave a pro-Paladino talk last night, and one of the CP people in the audience said that the rank-and-file and leadership in Ulster County, NY opposed Lazio.  But this was also true of the Ulster County GOP, for the Catskills and Hudson Valley still have a living libertarian tradition.  As I said to the Conservative Party guy at our meeting, I always knew that Rockefeller Republicans were prominent in the GOP, but I never knew that Rockefeller Conservatives were  prominent in the CP.

Does the Conservative Party serve any purpose?  Might conservatives find better representation in a Paladino-led GOP?

Paladino Routs Lazio

New York One reports that with 69% of the precincts reporting Carl Paladino has defeated Rick Lazio in the GOP by 64% to 36%. Now, Paladino says, he aims to defeat the "status Cuomo".

This is the message that I hoped the voters would send to the dysfunctional GOP.  But it is not enough.  To truly redirect New York's corrupt, New York Times dominated "progressive" decline, Paladino will need to similarly cream Cuomo.

Pretty much the only people supporting Lazio were pseudo libertarians and corrupt party hacks.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Republican Decision 2010

The interesting primary this September 14 is the GOP's race between Rick Lazio and Carl Paladino even though Democratic candidate-designate Andrew Cuomo leads both.  A September 11 Siena poll finds that Lazio leads Paladino by one percent, 43 to 42. Paladino leads with 53 percent among Upstate New Yorkers while Lazio leads with a similar margin downstate.  Paladino leads among Tea Partiers 47 to 42 percent.  This slim margin suggests that the appellation Tea Party is amorphous. The Tea Party is neither small government- nor Rockefeller- Republican.  For while Paladino advocates a twenty percent cut in New York's budget, Lazio's record does not put him in the small government camp.
Carl Paladino

 Paladino is a Buffalo-based real estate developer who attended St. Bonaventure University and Syracuse Law.  He is a tough, inspiring speaker who befriends but challenges his audience.

Paladino built a real estate empire from scratch. His current net worth is about $150 million.  While overseeing 15 office buildings is not an executive responsibility with as much latitude as the governor's, Paladino has had more at risk personally than any governor. As a result, he has developed management skills that would be more likely to benefit the public than those of a lifelong politician.

Paladino is accused of forwarding racist and sexist e-mails to friends. The New York Times has endorsed Rick Lazio over Paladino saying that the e-mails alone are grounds for rejecting Paladino. However, writing of Jesse Jackson's having called New York City "Hymietown", Times reporter Jodi Kantor implied on May 22, 2008 that Jews should not hold the epithet against Jackson because he has apologized.  Although Paladino has similarly apologized for forwarding e-mails the Times applies a different standard to him. 

Like Lazio, Paladino opposes construction of the Ground Zero mosque.  He has run advertisements saying that as governor he would use eminent domain to foreclose the mosque.  I questioned him on this point because many conservatives oppose eminent domain.  At an Ulster County Republican appearance in late August Paladino insisted that he is opposed to private use eminent domain and that he would like to see less use of eminent domain more generally.

Paladino is running on a specific platform of 20 percent budget cuts.  Although Lazio also states that he would like to reduce government, his promises are not so specific.  The chief targets for Paladino's cuts are welfare and Medicaid, whose per capita costs in New York are double those in California.  There are in fact many areas where Medicaid and other aspects of New York's budget could be cut without loss in public welfare.
Rick Lazio 

Lazio grew up in West Islip on Long Island.  He attended Vassar College and American University Law School.  He worked as a Suffolk County prosecutor. He was elected to the Suffolk County legislature in 1989 and to Congress in 1992. He resigned his congressional post to oppose Hillary Clinton for Senate in 2000.  His website states that he expanded public housing for seniors and the disabled.  He also boasts of having increased the number of welfare-related Section 8 housing vouchers. In other words, Lazio's track record includes winning votes by expanding welfare benefits. He also has endorsements from the Sierra Club.

According to his Website Lazio favors three chief positions. The first, "getting our financial house in order," involves a property tax cap of 2.5% and instituting regional control of Medicaid. Also, Lazio aims to reduce public sector pension benefits for new employees and to reform Medicaid.  Second, Lazio aims at job creation. He favors lower taxes, but unlike Paladino does not offer a specific target for tax or budget relief. Nor does he offer targets for Medicaid cuts. Lazio's third position is improvement of ethics in government.

This last position is puzzling given evidence that the Village Voice has uncovered about Lazio's dealings at JPMorgan, for whom Lazio has worked as a lobbyist. During his eight-year congressional tenure Lazio collected more in contributions from financial service firms than any other Congressman. He was chair of the House housing subcommittee and through Louis Ranieri, his campaign manager, linked to the real estate bubble of the Bush administration.  On March, 18 2008, six months prior to the financial crisis of 2008, the New York Times reported that JPMorgan’s stock had increased ten percent, roughly equal to a $12 billion handout it had received in part from the Federal Reserve Bank. JP Morgan also received $25 billion in TARP funds during the crisis, which it repaid in 2009.   The Albany Times Union reported that Lazio's 2008 JPMorgan Chase salary was $325,000, with a bonus of $1.3 million.

According to the Village Voice, both Congressman Lazio and Democrat Andrew Cuomo as head of HUD worked on rules that legalized bonuses paid to real estate brokers who steered customers to more expensive real estate and higher-end mortgages.  This marked the inception of the sub-prime crisis.  The Voice also reports that in 2007 Lazio used his influence with Charles Millard, head of the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation, to secure a $900 million PBGC investment in JPMorgan's real estate management division.  The PBGC insures private pension plans. The untimely 2008 investment led to significant losses.  Moreover, in dealing with Millard, Lazio violated laws concerning communication during the bid process.  The PBGC's Inspector General has investigated the case and has referred it to a prosecutor.

Liberals dislike Paladino's style, which I would describe as Jacksonian.  Andrew Jackson was a people's candidate who infuriated upper class Whigs, the 1820s' and 1830s' equivalent of today's Rockefeller Republicans and Soros Democrats.  Jackson, like today's libertarians, advocated elimination of the biggest government program of then and now: the central bank. Like Lazio, Jackson's opponent, Henry Clay, supported big government and was friendly to banking interests.  Jackson was an unabashed racist who was responsible for the Trail of Tears and whose Supreme Court appointee, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, wrote the Dred Scott decision.  But unlike the Jackson of 1828 and like the Jackson of 1984, Paladino has apologized for forwarding the e-mails.

Paladino's opponent, Rick Lazio, has been involved in marginally illegal activity in his role as JPMorgan lobbyist, and was very much associated with the bailout. Yet, he aims to get the state's fiscal house in order and clean up the state ethically.  Paladino appeals to non-racist Jacksonians in the Tea Party who are righteously indignant about the Bush and Obama administrations' massive transfer of wealth to Wall Street.  What is most puzzling about Lazio is his appeal to self-described Tea Party activists.

Mitchell Langbert is associate professor, Brooklyn College and is a member of the Ulster County Republican Committee. This essay was presented to the Kingston-Rhinebeck Tea Party on September 12, 2010.