1.29.2004

CHRIS COX TO THE RESCUE


WSJ Editorial

GOP Wake-Up Call

House Republicans are meeting today in Philadelphia for their annual retreat, and the news is that the leadership is facing a revolt from conservatives over runaway spending. Speaker Dennis Hastert and Majority Leader Tom DeLay would do well to listen lest they start losing votes, not to mention credibility with voters.

Elected as the party of limited government 10 years ago, the Republican imperium is starting to show signs of ideological dry rot. Creative gerrymandering, especially in Texas, has made it likely the GOP will keep control of the House for the rest of this decade. But the paradox of this political ascendancy is that it has encouraged too many Members to trade in the principles that propelled them to power for pork-barrel spending and poll-driven incumbent protection.

The most egregious example of this spend-and-elect strategy was last year's $400 billion (or, as leaked yesterday, $540 billion) Medicare prescription drug plan that began as reform but ended as a huge entitlement expansion. In recent years we've also witnessed a $190 billion farm bill, enormous new education and transportation spending, and most recently an $820 billion "omnibus" spending bill that ladles out lard to every district in the nation. Republicans took a rare whack at spending in 1995, but ever since they have been hard to distinguish from Democrats.

Word is that this fact is finally being noticed back home, and that more than a few Members heard complaints from constituents over the recent holiday break. So while Messrs. Hastert and DeLay may have thought to use this retreat to plot to pass their $72 billion energy bonanza, a group of fiscal conservatives, including California veteran Christopher Cox, has arrived to demand that the party return to its roots and start slowing the growth of government.

Mr. Cox is clearly looking for something more than hollow promises to "do better." So he's resurrecting the idea of a Constitutional amendment, modeled on California's during the 1980s, that would limit spending to inflation and population growth. Such limits have done wonders for states like Colorado, which weathered the recent economic downturn without a huge budget "crisis." A federal version of such an amendment probably won't work given the needs of national security, but give Mr. Cox credit for thinking big.

He might have better luck with a plan for legislation to put real teeth into the budget process. Congress and the President would be required to decide overall budget levels early in the budget year, and they would be binding in a way they aren't today. If Members can't agree by the deadline, an automatic continuing resolution would keep the government running at previous levels. Congress could only go over the spending limits with a two-thirds supermajority, and the President could make line-item reductions.

These are bold ideas, and reminiscent of the vision that resonated so strongly with voters back in 1994 and the Contract With America. But the fiscal stalwarts are also considering tactical political moves to stop the spending binge. Some are considering forming a "suicide squad" that would block or vote against their own party if any more huge spending bills arrive. Others have suggested that it's time for term limits for seats on the Appropriations Committee, which is the soul of the spending machine.

In short, the GOP leadership is getting a trumpet blast from within; the question is whether the leadership will listen. One consequence of a party becoming the majority is that it attracts a new breed of candidate. The crafters of the 1994 platform were a political minority that had nothing to lose. Many of those Members have retired or moved on, only to be replaced by career politicians -- former state senators, lieutenant governors -- attracted to the bigger stage of Washington.

While these folks bring experience, they also bring an aversion to political risk and avoid controversial votes or reform. That helps explain why House Republicans have shown the most opposition to personal Social Security accounts, even as they push for a gas-tax increase to finance more highway projects. But if voters want highways, they can elect Democrats. The danger for Republicans is that voters will start to see them the same way they did the Jim Wright Democrats of the 1980s -- concerned only with keeping power for power's sake.

What would certainly help is a President who chose to lead. The Bush Administration seems to think that voters care more about tax cuts than they do spending. This is true enough when times are good. But spending represents a claim on taxes, and Republicans will end up having to raise them down the road if they don't slow the growth of spending now.

Which is why Mr. Cox is again asking President Bush to join him and GOP backbenchers in a veto strategy to control spending, if that's what it takes. The Californian plans to gather the signatures of at least one-third of House Members who'll promise to sustain any spending veto the President sends their way. Go for it, Mr. Cox.

1.28.2004

Hillary Clinton, move aside!


Over and over again, the woman I generally refer to simply as “bitch” has tried to say that she tries not to take it personally that President Bush is trying to undue the works of the previous administration.

Well, tough shit bitch! The person who should be taking all this personally is Newt Gingrich. Newt, as leader, found a great way to boil down the argument over federal spending to a referendum on the National Endowment for the Arts. Newt brought forward examples of giving tens of thousands of dollars to funding urine and feces being used as representations of Christ. Not exactly something Middle America, the South – or well, anyone outside of Manhattan, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington DC – would particularly like.

Well, apparently people in Crawford, Texas like the NEA. At least the President does. After spending “like a drunken sailor” for the first three years of this term, and proposing sending a man to Mars, the President has proposed not cutting, BUT INCREASING the NEA’s budget. As my friend the Angry Clam has said, “Fuck You, Mister President!

BUSH SUICIDE


From Lyn Nofziger's Musings

Word is out that President Bush will not support or campaign for any congressional candidates who oppose his proposal to legitimize illegal aliens living and working in the United States.

If this is true it’s a big mistake.

Presidents need support on many issues, not just one. It makes no sense for him to pick a fight with members of his own party merely because they differ with him on a single issue.

And it makes even less sense to risk losing Republican control of either house of congress over an issue as controversial as this one.

Perhaps, before serious campaigning begins he’ll rethink his position.

WITH FRIENDS LIKE THESE...


The 1994 Republican congressional takeover came, at least in part, to a line in the sand drawn by the general public about runaway spending. At the time, some 2,000 pork additions were added to the Appropriations bill, the “omnibus” spending bill passed by Congress. Republicans were OUTRAGED. 2,000 individual wastes of the public’s money. Citizens Against Government Waste screamed bloody murder at some of the pointless allocations of the public’s money.

That was 1994, and there were 2,000 appropriations earmarks. Welcome to 2004, with the Republican trifecta in the House, Senate, and White House. As they say, “be careful what you wish for,” and we should’ve. This years “omnibus” bill contains some 7,931 earmarks. YIKES!

When the President talks about keeping down spending, he deserves nothing but hisses from the crowd. Forget defense and homeland security spending. Forget even for a moment entitlement spending (social security, medicare, welfare). In terms of just pure DISCRETIONARY spending, this President – our “Conservative” leader has been spending TWICE as fast as Bill Clinton. Double Yikes.

Below is a piece from the WSJ regarding some of the great things we taxpayers will be footing the bill for…


Riding the Omnibus

The Senate finally passed that $820 billion "omnibus" spending bill last week, and omnibus is certainly the word for it. According to an analysis by Taxpayers for Common Sense, this bill to finance much of the government for Fiscal Year 2004 contains an unprecedented 7,931 "earmarks" at a cost of $10.7 billion. Put another way, that's 15 sweetheart projects per Member.

There's $500,000 for a water taxi in Pittsburgh, $225,000 for the Wheels Museum in New Mexico, and $100,000 for "streetscaping" a tony Salt Lake City neighborhood. In the cholesterol-subsidy category is $2 million to market specialty Wisconsin cheeses and goods. Alaska alone, home of Senate Appropriations Kingpin Ted Stevens, got 296 earmarked expenditures.

Among cutting-edge research grants are $450,000 to study "Sudden Oak Disease Syndrome" and $90,00 for an olive fruitfly study. . . in France. Some lucky folks at the University of Hawaii bagged $200,000 to produce "Primal Quest," a film about Kalahari Bushmen who pursue their prey until either man or animal drops from exhaustion. Which sounds a lot like the appropriations process.

Congress is now entering a brave new budget year, with President Bush promising to restrain spending, for a change. Word is that his budget proposal, due next week, will cap domestic non-defense discretionary spending growth at 1%, except for homeland security, which will grow by 10%. Congressional veterans know what that means: All of those earmarks will have to be stuffed into the homeland security basket.

Unless, of course, Mr. Bush breaks type and exercises his veto power. Failing that, we see that this year's omnibus bill contained $500,000 for the University of Akron to finance its "Exercise in Hard Choices" program -- a simulation of the federal budget process. Maybe Congress should enroll.


SIDE NOTE: The best line I’ve heard about the McCain-Feingold laws was recently uttered by Paul Weyrich. He called it the “First Amendment, amendment Act” – Go Paul Go!!!

1.27.2004

IF IM EVER GONNA STEP FOOT IN A CLASSROOM...


Teacher Liberation
A WSJ Editorial

President Bush's No Child Left Behind Act calls for bringing all children to academic proficiency by 2014. But a no less daunting requirement of the law is that every classroom have a "highly qualified" teacher by 2006.

The latter is the impetus behind a new study by the Teaching Commission, a 19-member panel of business and education leaders set up last year to improve the public teaching corps. Their report, "Teaching at Risk: A Call to Action," makes a persuasive case for linking teacher pay to student performance and overhauling teacher certification.

These aren't new ideas, but it's progress when members of the establishment start stumping for reform. The Teaching Commission includes former IBM CEO Lou Gerstner, Clinton Education Secretary Richard Riley, as well as Sandra Feldman of the American Federation of Teachers, a union historically allergic to any and all accountability.

Retirements and rising student enrollments mean that U.S. schools will need some two million new teachers over the next decade, says the report. But the best college students are less likely to major in "education," which is too often a requirement to teach. The best education majors are in turn less likely to go into teaching. And the best teachers are most likely to leave the profession within four years.

Merit pay would be a big step toward reversing this trend. Currently, good teachers make no more money than bad ones. This one-size-fits-all compensation model, which is based on seniority and degrees rather than performance, also prevents districts from paying teachers more to work in hard-to-staff schools or to teach high-demand subjects such as math and science. The authors point out that market incentives work in nearly every profession -- except teaching.

Unions flourish in any monopoly, and they are the biggest obstacle to change. No sooner had "Teaching at Risk" been released than Ms. Feldman complained that it gave too much weight to basing pay on student achievement. Tom Blanford of the National Education Association, the nation's largest teachers union, refused even to consider merit pay.

Another solution, also opposed by unions, is more open teacher certification. Numerous studies have found no clear link between how well students perform and whether or not they are taught by a "certified" teacher. But today nearly all school districts require the completion of an accredited teacher education program -- which typically involves costly and lengthy (often 18-month) courses on teaching. This rules out retired CEOs or anyone else with expertise outside of the "education" field who'd like to teach.

Yet, says the report, under the current rules 38% of urban secondary-school students are taught "by teachers who lack either a college major or certification in the subject that they teach." And 56% of all public high school students learn physical science from an "out-of-field" teacher.

Contrast this with how universities operate. There is a long tradition of professional journalists, authors, poets and others teaching college writing. But today Langston Hughes would be banned from instructing a Harlem high school English class until he obtained the proper New York licensing.

Streamlining the process to qualify to teach, and reducing the emphasis on pedagogy for its own sake, would make teaching more attractive. The commission suggests, among other things, giving new teachers "intensive on-the-job mentoring," including a month spent observing someone more experienced. "Teaching at Risk" can be discouraging about the magnitude of the teacher problem, but there is hope. In the past decade, Dallas, New York, Denver and other cities have tried some form of merit pay. Since 1985, 200,000 people have also become teachers through alternative certification programs.

The largest problem is that unions and the politicians who carry their water have successfully kept these reforms from taking hold on anything but the most modest scale. But if the types of improvements imagined in No Child Left Behind are ever to become reality, we'll have to think bigger. Much bigger.

1.14.2004

WISDOM FROM THE DERB


Charles Murray has said somewhere that government support of marriage will do for the institution what government support of religion has done for religion in European countries -- i.e. kill it stone dead.

I agree with this. If marriage needs active government support, the game is up.


Update from Ramesh Ponnuru
My view on this is the same as my view of governmental efforts to help people with children: Maybe it's worthwhile in some circumstances, but it's not nearly as good as ending the government policies that weaken marriage and punish childbearing. Not only that, but the ameliorative proposals are nowhere near the destructive ones in magnitude.

1.08.2004

GOP RULES HOUSE FOR YEARS TO COME


Majority Party
The Texas redistricting decision is going to make it tough sledding for the Democrats to take back the House.
by Hugh Hewitt

NANCY PELOSI was upset after the federal appeals court upheld the new congressional districting map for the Lone Star State Tuesday: "This is just the latest attempt by President Bush, Tom Delay, and other Republicans to dismantle the Voting Rights Act. The Texas redistricting plan shows once again that when Republicans cannot win elections fair and square, they rig the rules."


Then Pelosi went Alamo: "We will fight to the finish for Texas."


That's a wonderful image: The hyper-lefty from San Francisco leading a crusade to turn Texas into a Democratic state. I hope someone brings a video camera. Sore loser rhetoric, of course, but amusing in the extreme considering that the redistricting battle has always been about undoing a deeply unfair incumbent protection plan cooked up by judges that saddled overwhelmingly Republican Texas with a Democratic majority in its Congressional delegation. What's lovely to watch is the attempt by the suddenly soon-to-be-retired Texas Democrats to hang their outrage on the Voting Rights Act.


Martin Frost, a now very endangered Texas Democrat, hit the highest note: "The real victims are some 3.6 million Hispanics and African-Americans in Texas, and minority Americans across the nation whose fundamental voting rights will no longer be protected by federal law if the U.S. Supreme Court allows this radical, dangerous, and far-reaching decision to stand."


The immediate political consequences of the new Texas map aren't getting enough study because of their inside-baseball nature. (It is an essay for another day how such self-serving rhetoric encourages minority communities to indulge in
victim-think.)


The new map locks the current Republican domination of the House into place at least until 2012 and probably until 2022. It is hard to see where Democrats can find a population trend sufficiently large to undo the 30 to 40 seat margin the GOP should have after the dust clears in November.


K Street has done the math by now, and expect the checks to continue flowing to the victors and to increase in velocity and size. Republicans remember well what it was like to be the distinct minority in the House without a prayer of majority status. The lean years are coming to the House Democrats, and they won't be limited to seven. As a result, expect more retirements from the aging warriors of the left. The absolute best part of dynamic is the reduction of Henry Waxman to the status of third-tier cable guest.


Combine this breakthrough to enduring majority status in the House with the retirement of Democratic Senate incumbents in Florida, Georgia, both Carolinas, and Louisiana, the Thune challenge to Daschle in South Dakota, and the embarrassing candidacies of Murray and Boxer on the West Coast, and it would be amazing if Terry McAuliffe slept a wink last night. He already owns the title of worst national party chairman in history, and he's obliged to stay on through the fall.


It is funny listening to Wesley Clark talk about his tax plans. He wants to raise the top bracket to 45 percent, an idea which would be DOA in the next Congress. The same goes for all the sweeping plans of Dean, Kerry, et al. When will the media ask these statesmen-in-the-cocoon how, as president, they would deal with Tom DeLay after attempting to demonize him all these months?


The only threat to the GOP this year is George Soros and the shadowy 527 Committees he, Hollywood, and a few others are funding. But not even Soros has enough money to buy back Texas or a Democratic Senate majority. Which guarantees that the only downside for the GOP from Tuesday's decision is desperation on the left when it comes to the presidential campaign.

DON'T COUNT OUT HOWARD


Howard Kalogian’s candidacy for the Republican nomination to the US Senate up until now really has been little more than an easy source of jokes for politicos. After all, here’s a guy who’s only elected office was the State Assembly, from which he fell victim to term limits in 2000. Since then, his only real political involvements have been

a)Chairman of the RecallGrayDavis.com Committee – The committee which despite raising the second most amount of money (only behind Darrell Issa’s Rescue California), turned in the fewest signatures (most of the money presumably going into consultant Sal Russo and Howard’s pockets).

b)Chairman of DefendReagan.org – a website that took credit for beating down CBS’ attempt to smear Ronaldus Magnus.

Now, in the age of Dean-mania, you might think that someone with an interest such as Howard’s in the Internet could lead to some dramatic results. Not so. Howard’s website, www.howardforsenate.com is terrible.

However, Howard’s hopes – though thin – were still there because of a conservative thirst to stand on principle, post-Arnold. Working with the same consulting firm (Russo, Marsh, Rogers) that guided Matt Fong and Bill Simon through contested primaries, there were some who thought Howard might stand a chance.

That chance was given a big boost today.

The four sacred cows of California Republican politics are 1)taxes, Prop 13 2)abortion, 3)ammo, ie guns, and 4)aliens, ie illegal immigration. Rosario Marin is no doubt going to puppet whatever the President says. Bill Jones, though one who will be looking for ways to differentiate himself from Rosario, will probably succumb to the wishes of his Fresno farmer buddies, and support the amnesty bill too. That leaves Howard as the sole major candidate opposing the measure – something sure to inspire good will in California Republican circles.

Howard peels off lifers from Rosario, taxers from Jones, and immigration-reform folks from them both. In speeches, in mail, in ads, and in debates, look for this to be Howard #1 issue.

All of the polling I have seen tells me that Prop 187 would pass overwhelmingly again today – especially among Republican voters. Being the only candidate who’s taking a strong position on immigration, Howard Kaloogian today finds himself a serious candidate. Lets see if Sal Russo can pull off three in a row…

AMNESTY BY ANY OTHER NAME…


President Bush yesterday took out his pencil and erased the border between the US and Mexico. Giving between 8-14 million ILLEGAL immigrants legal “documented worker” status, the President more or less has offered amnesty to a group of known felons.

The policy ramifications are obvious, any deterrent that was there to prevent people from skipping across the border into San Diego is now gone. We’ve incentivied law breaking.

The political ramifications are a little different. Bush is obviously using this to bolster his claims of having “compassion.” The President is banking on this to boost Hispanic turnout for him nationally.

But in the fun-filled world of electoral math, there are also certain things we can draw from this. First and foremost is that any talk of Bush capturing California – Karl Rove’s unicorn – is just that, talk. Alienating (pun intended) the entire conservative base on one of THE most hot-button issues in the state is certainly not a way to turn the Golden State into a Red State. California WILL BE a donor state, and nothing more.

But more dangerously, this opens the door for the Democrat nominee to “TRIANGULATE” Bush. Dick Morris, Clinton’s former politico, believed in finding an issue or two with which you can out flank your opponent with. It frightens me to think that immigration may be used against us. In battleground states of Arizona, New Mexico, and Florida, the issue of immigration sits #1 among many conservative voters. Bush’s weakness, combined with a strong stance on immigration by a Democrat will lead to many cross-over votes, and heavy suppression.

But the damage doesn’t end there. In states where illegal immigration itself isn’t an issue, the economic ramifications of Bush’s amnesty will become an issue. In West Virginia, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania for instance, this amnesty bill will become one piece of the protectionist/isolationist battle cry.

This cop out just is another instance of President Bush’s refusal to stand for anything. I can’t wait for Owens in ’08!