2.29.2004

Looking to be a sad day for freedom…


This Tuesday, about 40% of the state’s registered voters will make it to the polls to vote in Primary Election Day 2004. Kevin Shelley, California’s Secretary of State has predicted a 43% turnout. CalPeek – a political trade publication – has guessed 47%-51%. I’m guessing even lower. My guess is about 40-42% statewide, at around 32% for Republicans. I just don’t see the energy for anything to cause even a decent turnout.

But, whoever goes and votes this “Super Tuesday,” many, many people are appearing as if they’re readying to vote incorrectly. Now, I don’t mean incorrectly in a Florida sense. I mean that Republicans are planning on consciously waking up in the morning and nominating people who don’t share their values, and in many cases are just bad people. Though my boss is looking to cruise to victory this Tuesday (thank you very much!), many other good guys around the state aren’t appearing likely to be so lucky…

Super Tuesday is shaping up to be a sad, sad day for freedom!

Initiatives

55 – The Prop 13 Gutting Act

This is one of my least favorite initiatives in some time. A cleverly disguised attack on Proposition 13, this pays for school repairs by jacking up commercial property taxes…YAY! I hope this falls short, but it’s appearing that the idiotic voters in this state are wanting to make the business climate just that much worse. OH, and by the way – Arnold support this…

Averaging the three latest polls, Prop 55 is looking like it will pass easily – as 49.6% currently are in favor, 39% opposed, with 11.3% still undecided.

Freedom – 0, Tyranny - 1

56 – Let’s Raise Taxes – Ya, that’s the ticket Act

Opponents have done a pretty good job of getting the message out that 56 is the “raise my taxes” initiative. However, the Yes on 56 people have proven very clever. Masking 56’s true intentions to lower the legislative threshold to raise taxes from 2/3 to 55%, proponents have been pushing words like “accountability” and tossed in a nice little provision that legislators don’t get paid until a budget is passed.

Somehow, by the grace of God, 56 is looking like it will fail. Averaging the three most recent polls, 56 is down. 37.6 in favor, 45.6 opposed, with 16.6 still undecided.

Freedom – 1, Tyranny - 1

57 – Arnold Sucks Bond Act

57 is perhaps the biggest sham of them all. It was looking doomed for failure until Arnold put his star power behind it. Somehow it was a bad idea for Gray Davis to paper over our gaping budget hole with borrowing, but it’s a good idea for Arnold to do the same thing. I just don’t get it. No one disagrees that we have a spending problem, but somehow there’s disagreement over how to fix a spending problem. Call me crazy, but I thought the way to fix overspending was to cut back on spending. Apparently not. Apparently, you’re supposed to borrow money for a few years until it’s someone else’s problem. Ahh – balancing the budget on the backs of future generations…YAY ARNOLD!

Unfortunately, 57 seems that it will pass easily. Polls just days into Arnold media blitz showed 57 hovering near 40%. Since then, it’s skyrocketed into the 50’s. Arnold and his merry band of spineless, soulless operatives have even conned the California Republican Party into endorsing 57.

You see, I’m confused. In years past moderates in the Party have screamed and cried that we conservatives should keep quiet about social issues – focusing instead on the fiscal issues we all agree on – for the sake of Party unity. Now, has that all gone out the window, and we’re free to start bashing moderates’ horrid stances on social values again? Or, is the only difference between Republicans and Democrats now that we support bonds and they support taxes?

I like to say that you can judge someone by the quality of their enemies. And if the enemies to my NO stance on 57 are Barbara Boxer, DiFi, Art Torres, Steve Westley, and Arnold – I think I’m doing a pretty good job.

Freedom – 1, Tyranny – 2

58 – The ‘I Wish I Were A Spending Cap’ Cap

One of the few good things I’ll say about John Campbell is that he puts forth pretty good fiscal solutions. The spending cap initiative he co-sponsored with the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association was actually quite good. Unfortunately Arnold slapped it down, realizing it wouldn’t be a slam dunk to pass – and instead went for the weenie version – Prop 58. If he won’t fight for the one thing he said he would fight for – WHAT GOOD IS THAT MONKEY IN THE CORNER OFFICE???

Freedom – 1, Tyranny – 2, Draw - 1

Senate
The Senate Primary is nothing more than a useless exercise in Democracy. Whoever wins will get trounced by Boxer – short of Boxer being caught with a live girl or a dead boy – and in California, not even that would be sure to sink her…

Right now, I’m voting for Howard Kaloogian, but only begrudgingly. Any man who’s only claim to fame in the past four years is running a website isn’t much of a candidate. Plus, I promised myself I wouldn’t vote for any more clients of consulting firm Russo, Marsh, Rogers after they get Simon and Fong sliced and diced. But when my other options are the kinda-sorta moderate Rosario Marin – or Bill Jones (ie, Judas) – Howard is my only option. Well, I still might write in Tom McClintock…not sure yet…

Unfortunately, it looks as if Jones will win by 10+, ensuring Boxer wins reelection.

But this much I know – they all suck!

Freedom – 1, Tyranny – 3, Draw - 1

Congressional

There is only one big Republican Congressional Primary – though I will talk about three. The 3rd CD is all that really matters. But the 20th will be important in November – and I work in the 29th, so that matters too (of course)…

3rd CD – A major win for the good guys would be for State Senator Rico Oller to win this Primary. Congressman Doug Ose, a major squish, is retiring at the end of this term, freeing up his safe Republican seat. Initially, Rico was the only real candidate in the race, but shortly thereafter jumped Dan Lungren – the failed Gubernatorial candidate. Dan’s a law and order guy most of the time, and Rico is a “shrink government” guy. It really would’ve been who ran the better campaign. But at the last second jumped in Mary Ose, Doug’s sister, creating a true ideological battle.

Club for Growth has run some great ads helping Rico. While the Main Street liberal folks have been helping out Ose. At this point Lungren is almost an also-ran, and each vote for him is really a vote against Rico.

Polls show Rico doing quite well. He’s run a very disciplined campaign, as he is not only a great candidate, but has a great staff behind him. Steve Presson is his consultant, with Joe Giardiello working with him. Steve Davey is doing the day to day. Great team. Great candidate. Great message. Plenty of money. Hopefully that spells victory on election day.

Mary Ose is self-financing, hitting the airwaves hard in these last days, but with Rico’s popularity, I think he’ll take this.

Prediction: Rico by 5+
Freedom – 2, Tyranny – 3, Draw – 1

20th CD – The Dems are having a Primary fight, as Congressman Cal Dooley (D – Visalia) is retiring. Former State Senator Jim Costa is running against Dooley’s Chief of Staff Lisa Quigley. Costa is the likely winner.

What makes this seat interesting is that the winner will take on State Senator Roy Ashburn in November. Roy is a battle-tested politician, and is very popular. It’s a slightly Dem seat, but depending on how the political landscape looks, Roy could potentially steal this. The Cook Political Index says the seat is Demo +5, but with no incumbent Democrat, could be a tossup.

29th CD – This race is one of those longshots, that if everything breaks right could become interesting. Adam Schiff, who campaigned and still pretends to be a moderate Democrat has been feeling out the possibility of running for higher office in the near future. He will be up against (more than likely) Harry Scolinos, a local business owner/attorney.

Schiff has the following disadvantages: 1)with his pro-war stance and a Green Party candidate on the ticket, he should lose a couple of points, 2)Schiff campaigned against Prop 22, 3)Schiff has maintained a voting record in the past year more liberal than Hillary Clinton’s!

A race to watch…

State Senate

35th SD


Moving over to the State Senate, we have a race down in Orange County where all around good guy Ken Maddox goes up against Arnold’s caddy John Campbell. Ken’s a great vote on social issues, on law and order issues, etc. He’s also a really cool guy. Where he’s not so good is on labor issues. Being how much I dislike unions, it really made it hard for me to support him. However, I like John Campbell even less. Not only is he the least genuine guy I may have ever met, but he’s also Arnold’s errand boy.

John is quite conservative, and John’s conservatism actually matches up better with mine than Maddox’s does. But I really like people who stick to their convictions, and Maddox is that kind of guy. Best evidenced, once Arnold started pushing Prop 57, Campbell immediately jumped on board (despite having voted against it on the floor!). He also supports Arnold’s new driver’s licenses for illegals program…Not the kind of conservative we need. Maddox is the good guy, and if his grassroots can pull off a victory, it’d be a great upset.

Campbell’s self-financing this race, as his family owns a bunch of car dealerships in the area. Maddox, on the other hand, has been doing a pretty good job of raising money. He also has been the beneficiary of huge Independent Expenditure campaigns. In the end, though I wish Maddox could pull this off, I don’t think it’ll be enough…

Prediction: Campbell by 3-5%
Freedom – 2, Tyranny – 4, Draw – 1

State Assembly

AD29
– With Steve “Where’s the Farm Bureau” Samuelian not running for re-election, there is a 3-man race for this open, safe-Republican seat. Former Assemblyman Mike Briggs has the most name id in the district, though that may not be a good thing, as he’s most remembered for being the deciding Republican vote on three straight budgets, going to work for Herb Wesson, and having a mailer sent out against him alerting voters to his statutory rape arrest years back.

Chris Mathys is a Fresno Councilman, who’s done a very impressive job fundraising. He may be the surprise winner in this race. The other candidate of note, Mike Villines, is the good guy in the race. Mike was a very active volunteer in the Simon for Governor campaign, and has garnered the support of the “establishment.” In using Steve Presson and Joe Giardiello, Mike’s also done a great job of picking a great team. All things equal, I think Villines takes it.

Prediction: Villines by 5-7%
Freedom – 3, Tyranny – 4, Draw - 1

33rd – This is one of those races, where the winner will be a net improvement over his predecessor. With Abel Maldanado termed out, the open seat was up for grabs. From beginning to end, conservative Sam Blakeslee was the favorite. Matt Kokkonen won some over as a hardline conservative, but Blakeslee’s polish and ability to get his message out (ie, money) will put him over the top.

Prediction: Blakeslee by 7+
Freedom – 4, Tyranny – 4, Draw - 1

37th AD – HOUSE OF SPOUSES, Part 1

Assemblyman Tony Strickland is a hero to many conservatives, despite being less than always loyal, and having a few REALLY BAD votes on his record. Tony, keep in mind, voted for AB60 – the bill to give driver’s licenses to illegals – in its first draft. He also has some really bad endorsements of late – Mike Briggs, Gayle Pacheco, etc. But Tony’s not running for reelection, his WIFE is running in his place.

The only thing that qualifies Audra for public office is that her last name is Strickland. She’s a dues paying member of the California Teacher’s Association, and generally is just a status quo type. Her opponent is not only a great conservative, but a great guy. Mike Robinson heads up the Ventura County chapter of the CRA, was Ventura County Chairman of the Recall, and headed up most of Southern California for Senator McClintock’s Committee to cut the Car Tax.

Audra’s campaign has had the audacity to say that Mike is unqualified for office because he inherited his money. Well, if Audra had been running based on her maiden name, she wouldn’t even be a serious candidate, so that argument is full of crap.

However, though it pains me to say it – it looks like Audra may win.

Prediction: Audra – close.
Freedom – 4, Tyranny – 5, Draw - 1

44th – Good vs. Evil

The 44th is a pure suicide seat. No matter who wins, Carol Liu is going to clean their clocks in November. Nonetheless, the pragmatists think they have a shot at her. They’re running local liberal Lynn Gabriel, a nice woman, who’s let this campaign bring out the real bitch in her.

Her opponent is local conservative grassroots guru Dave Wilcox. If politics were rocket science, Dave would kick all our butts – as that’s literally what he does. With a Bachelor’s from MIT and his PhD from CalTech, Dave is probably the best educated candidate in the state.

Dave has the local grassroots support and Lynn has the money – the age-old fight! Even helping Dave more is the fact that Lynn’s mail has SUCKED. I mean, its been awful. But, be that as it may – I still think Lynn pulls it off – though barely. I’m sure hoping Dave gets it though.

Prediction – Lynn by 5%.
Freedom – 4, Tyranny – 6, Draw - 1

60th AD – House of Spouses, Part 2

Gayle Pacheco is one of those candidates who literally will tell you EXACTLY what you want to hear. The husband of liberal Assemblyman Bob Pacheco, Gayle came to the CRA endorsing convention and with a straight face said she is SO INCREDIBLY pro-life that a few weeks prior she went to put her cat down, and when she found out it was pregnant, she couldn’t go thru with it. PLEASE! She really thinks we’re all stupid.

Thankfully, Cal-YAF PAC decided to tell some of the voters about Gayle’s liberalness. Both of Gayle’s competitors are good people. Bob Huff is a strong Prop 13 activist, and a Diamond Bar councilman. He should get a good chunk of the LA vote, and a good chunk of the Asian vote, as his wife Mei Mei is big in the Asian Republican community.

Bill MacAloney owns a chain of independent grocery stores in Orange County. He’s got the endorsement of Tom McClintock (do any other endorsements really matter?). As Orange County people are almost cultish about being from Orange County, I think he’s got the upper hand – but don’t count any of the three out.

Prediction: MacAloney by 3-5%.
Freedom – 5, Tyranny – 6, Draw - 1

63rd AD – PAC Money Galore

Bill Emmerson was the President of the CA Dentist PAC. That might explain why he’s been the beneficiary of hundreds of thousands of dollars of Dentist IE money. Emmerson is one of Jim Nygren’s 800 or so clients, and has Josh Cook working for him too. In the other corner is Elia Pirrozi, perennial candidate and all around good conservative guy. Elia has had a couple of good IE hits go Emmerson’s way, thanks to the CRA. There IS a third candidate, though he’s not that serious – Mike Morrell. Mike just recently got Senator McClintock’s endorsement, and that has to be good for a few votes – probably stealing them from Elia.

Prediction: Emmerson – close.
Freedom – 5, Tyranny – 7, Draw - 1

68th – Just How Racist Is Orange County?

On the surface, this race doesn’t seem too complicated. Van Tran, a former YAFer who can raise tons of money because of his ethnicity. He’s up against Mark Leyes – a recent Democrat convert who works for liberal Assemblyman Bob Pacheco. But Leyes is running a two-fold campaign. First to establish himself as a conservative Councilman, then to attack Van’s ethnicity itself.

Leyes is running a disgusting, racist campaign. His latest mailer is a mock letter from Van (who in mailings, Leyes always calls Van Thai Tran to play up the ethnic thing) in broken English, pushing Van as a sleazy trial lawyer.

If Van can get enough people to see Leyes as a racist and a bigot, and mobilize enough Vietnamese votes, he could still win this. However, I’m guessing he falls short.

Prediction: Leyes by 5%.
Freedom – 5, Tyranny – 8, Draw – 1

70th AD – Umm, Wrong Party Missy

The 70th AD is one on EVERYONE’S radar. It pits the forces of righteousness versus the forces of evil. Luke Skywalker versus Darth Vader. Al Bundy versus Marcy Darcy.

Chuck Devore is a good conservative activist. He was a Reagan appointee to the Pentagon. He was a staffer for Chris Cox. He’s been an Orange County activist for years, sitting on the OC Central Committee. He’s a rock solid conservative in the traditionalist mold. He’s also running a pretty solid campaign, if not a little whiney in attacking others. He’s generally pretty well liked throughout the county.

On the other side of the equation is Christy Cristich. To describe her best, think of words that rhyme with her last name. All you really need to know about Christy is that she was Chair of REPUBLICANS FOR CLINTON in 1996. She claims to be sorry for that, that she was new to politics and would never make a mistake like that again. Too bad lady.

She also is a liar. She has sent out three mailers this cycle that just scream BULL$#!*. She sent out two mailers purposely misleading voters into thinking popular Congressman Chris Cox had endorsed her. What in reality she was quoting was a letter Cox had sent her saying he was staying neutral. However, in conveying that message to voters, Cristich put on the cover of her mailer “IMPORTANT MESSAGE FROM CONGRESSMAN CHRIS COX” and proceeded to quote selected passages from the letter. Even after Cox’s legal counsel sent her a letter demanding she take action to remedy the situation, she sent out ANOTHER mailer to the same effect.

Then if that weren’t enough, she sent out a mailer quoting passages from Jack Kemp, Vice-Presidential nominee from the 1996 GOP ticket, the same year she headed Republicans for Clinton.

Cristich is also known for saying, “Republicans should fear Republicans like me.” Umm, ya. And that’s why I’m glad it’s looking like you’re going to lose!

This should be De Vore’s to win. However, there is another person in the race. Conservative Don Wagner, being led by Scott Taylor, has come on strong in recent days. Wagner has had arguably the best absentee effort, and consultant Dave Gilliard called one of Wagner’s recent mailers the “best of the cycle.” A Wagner vote is definitely one out of DeVore’s column. But despite the charge from Wagner, DeVore should still take this pretty easily.

Prediction: DeVore by 7%
Freedom – 6, Tyranny – 8, Draw – 1

73rd – Missed Opportunity

Jim Gibson is one of the best candidates statewide this cycle. An unflinching, unapologetic conservative, Gibson – a Marine – currently is a School Board member from Vista. He’s done a decent job raising money, and has had a pretty decent clip of IE’s come his way. They way the district is broken up, conventional logic was if he could carry a supermajority of San Diego, plus take some of the conservative votes from Orange County, where a majority of the district lies, he should be able to win.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t look as if that will transpire.

Mimi Walters and Tom Wilson are the other two in the race. Neither is particularly conservative, and again this will mark a missed opportunity in the district – as Jim Lacy lost last time around to Pat Bates.

Wilson is being pretty well sliced and diced, and so it looks as if Mimi will take this seat, but don’t count out a late Gibson charge. Eyes statewide will be glued to the results from the 73rd.

Prediction: Walters by 3-5%
Freedom – 6, Tyranny – 9, Draw – 1


It says something about where the Party is right now when guys like Mike Robinson and Jim Gibson are passed over by people who we are nearly certain to be collectively pissed at in just a matter of months. When those nominated on Tuesday take office and start voting for Democrat budgets, we’re going to collectively scream our heads off, but will have nobody but ourselves to blame. Who elected these bozos in the first place?

I hope I’m wrong on some of these. I hope Mike, Bob Huff, Elia, Jim Gibson, Van Tran, and Ken Maddox pull off upset victories. I’d be elated if Howard could pull of a win, or if 55, 57, or 58 failed…but I’m not holding my breath. I really think Tuesday is shaping up to be a sad day for freedom.

Israel Gets a Taste of Friedman


By KIMBERLEY A. STRASSEL

Addressing foreign journalists in a Knesset conference room last fall, Ehud Rassabi began his talk with the following statement: "I am a fan of Milton Friedman." As the parliamentarian went on to detail his plans to cut Israel's public sector, slash taxes, draw down entitlements and privatize state assets, several reporters looked around in confusion, wondering if they were still in the land of the kibbutz.

But it definitely was Israel, and even as the world has focused more attention on the Palestinian issue, it has overlooked a significant story. The land once labeled the "last remaining socialist state in Eastern Europe," has seen its governing coalition embark on what could be the most important economic reform in the country's history. The impetus for change has come via a popular mandate that helped propel reformers like Mr. Rassabi to the Knesset in the last elections. The will to see it through comes via Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu, the firebrand former prime minister who surprised everyone a year ago in agreeing to become finance minister. The next few months will decide whether he and his fellow free-marketers have the political wherewithal to succeed.

This stab at transformation couldn't have come too soon. When Mr. Netanyahu took over, Israel was years into a steep recession. Tax revenues were in a free-fall even as the country handed over more money to welfare programs (with some 30% of its $70 billion budget going to transfer payments). The Bank of Israel, worried about inflation, had kept interest rates high, strangling an economy that the financial community was worried could collapse.

Even a year into Mr. Netanyahu's emergency economic reforms, GDP growth has remained anemic -- just 1.3% in 2003. Some 10% of the work force is unemployed, despite the government employing one out of every three workers. And Israel's government expenditures total a startling 55% of GDP. U.S. expenditures, both federal and state, are less than one-third.

Economic turmoil isn't exactly new in Israel, but what has changed is the public's toleration of it. The country has seen a growing divide between private workers, who continue to float Israeli society on their overtaxed backs, and public-sector employees who earn many times the average Israeli salary. A fed-up middle class, weary of the inflation, layoffs, and a growing tax burden, has flowered into a movement that bears more than passing resemblance to the American tax revolt that preceded and carried through the Reagan era.

That movement found its feet in Israel's January 2003 elections. The party to which Mr. Rassabi belongs, Shinui (which stands for "Change"), had muddled along for years, a small player in Israeli politics. But this time Shinui's platforms of secularization (a reference to growing discontent with the country's ultra-Orthodox Jews who refuse to work, and live on entitlements) as well as a freer economy, hit home. Shinui went from seven Knesset seats to 15, making it the third largest party after Likud (40 seats) and Labor (19). It became part of Likud's governing coalition, where it has since been doggedly pushing its economic reform agenda.

And it found a powerful ally in Mr. Netanyahu. Bibi's appointment was originally met with skepticism; financial watchers worried he'd simply mind the economic store until he could launch another bid for prime minister. Instead, Mr. Netanyahu has tackled economic reform with the zeal and single-mindedness that has marked his career, drawing comparisons to New Zealand's Roger Douglas, the finance minister who liberated his own nation's economy in the 1980s.

Mr. Netanyahu's emergency economic plan spared no holy cows: It included cuts in government expenditures, welfare entitlements and public-sector jobs. It also sought to lower taxes and jump-start a stalled privatization program. While he's levered through a fair amount of reform already, now comes the hard question of whether he can break the backs of the country's most entrenched institutions.

In one corner, he's wrapped in a showdown with Israel's labor organization, Histadrut, and the leader of that massive body, Amir Peretz, makes U.S union bosses look cuddly. Histadrut's response to possible layoffs or wage cuts has been to do what it always does in the face of threats to its protected fiefdom: strike. While Histadrut strikes have not materialized to the huge degree promised, they have damaged Israel's fragile economy and already forced certain reform concessions.

Similarly, Mr. Netanyahu is facing off against monopolies that have dominated the economy for decades. The Israeli government owns almost all of the country's land, along with water, energy, telecommunications and natural resources. It also holds stakes in major banking institutions, a handful of which control financial markets and distort the allocation of credit. Private industry is also besieged by monopolies, raising consumer prices by an average of 30%. Many of these organizations (run, again, by organized labor) have been pushing hard to delay Mr. Netanyahu's privatization plans.

There are positive signs that reforms are working. Mr. Netanyahu has managed to bring the top marginal tax rate in Israel down to below 50%. He's cut two consecutive budgets and is set to restrain spending increases to 1% a year in real terms in 2005 to 2010. He's also managed reductions in the public work-force and salaries. The Bank of Israel has in turn brought interest rates down, unleashing needed capital, and the economy is predicted to grow by 2.8% this year.

But there are also worrying signs that Mr. Netanyahu is losing momentum. He recently agreed to let the Knesset meddle with his budget, and bowed to a freeze in planned public-sector layoffs. His loud calls for privatization of key parts of the Israeli economy, such as the ports, have faded. Part of the problem is that his own party, under fire on the peace issue, has been increasingly reluctant to court criticism on the economy and has failed to give Mr. Netanyahu the backing he needs.

It might consider that a strong Israeli economy is vital not only to the country's security needs now, but also to underpin any future peace deal with economically disadvantaged Palestinians. Should Mr. Netanyahu gain his government's backing and see this fight through, he'll have arguably done as much for Israel as he did, or could do, as prime minister.

Ms. Strassel is a senior editorial writer at The Wall Street Journal.

2.25.2004

Educational Terrorism

From the WSJ Editorial Page

Paige's Point

A fact of political life today is that if you favor meaningful educational reform, you can automatically count yourself a political enemy of two groups: the teachers unions that prefer the status quo and too many politicians who depend on them for financial support.

This doesn't excuse Education Secretary Rod Paige's reference Monday to the National Education Association as a "terrorist group," a comment for which he immediately apologized. But it does explain why the people who claim to be so outraged want to dwell on the Secretary's off-the-cuff rhetorical gaffe rather than the behavior of his target.

In his apology, Secretary Paige said he makes a distinction between rank-and-file teachers and the NEA's "high-priced Washington lobbyists [who] have made no secret that they will fight against bringing real, rock-solid improvements in the way we educate all our children regardless of skin color, accent or where they live." Now, there's a truly disturbing accusation, and it happens to be spot-on.

Teachers unions are among the most powerful lobbies in American public life. In political influence they rank alongside the Teamsters, the AARP and the NRA. And they use the exact same hardball tactics to try to get what they want, which in their case is to preserve their monopoly on public education.

The NEA has 2.7 million members from whom it collects hundreds of millions dollars in involuntary dues and spends tens of millions on political activities, some 95% of which goes to Democrats. Its 1,800 designated political directors use an integrated command structure -- referred to internally as UniServ -- to coordinate national, state and local activities for Democratic candidates. Affiliates have a strong financial incentive to toe the line.

It's easy to forget that all but 8% of education spending occurs at the state and local level, and that's where the teachers unions wield most of their power by pressuring legislatures, defeating state ballot initiatives, supporting campaigns and even getting their own members elected and appointed to education committees. In state capitals, it's not unusual to find NEA headquarters within a stone's throw of the statehouse steps.

Back in Washington, NEA President Reg Weaver stands ready to describe any criticism of the union as an attack on public school teachers. "We are the teachers; there is no distinction," he told a reporter this week. The typical teacher, who earns a fraction of the $334,000 Mr. Weaver reportedly took home last year, may beg to differ.

So far as the NEA is concerned, the real outrage is the Bush Administration's attempt to introduce accountability in public education through the No Child Left Behind Act. The unions want to make it an issue in November and as usual the Democrats will try to accommodate them. "There are two big interesting education reform ideas in America today," says Chester Finn, a former Education Department official. "One involves standards and tests and accountability; the other involves competition and choice. The NEA is against both, and they will unflaggingly work to defeat both kinds of reforms."

We don't have to tell that to Rod Paige.

2.24.2004

WSJ ED PAGE DOES IT AGAIN!

To say I've been busy these past few days would be a gross understatement. With elections in just one week from today, I've been losing my mind. But today's WSJ Editorial Page caught my attention. Well, not so much the editorials from the Journal itself, but some of their op-eds...

First is a basic lesson on economics from famed Prof, Thomas Sowell.

Usually just one ed or op-ed in a day is fantastic for any paper, but the Journal accompanies Sowell's piece with a great one on the future of Voice Over IP from Senator John Sunnunu. Now, readers of this log know that I am certainly not any fan of Senator Sunnunu's - not because of his strong stances on trade, on that we agree, but because of his weenie nature towards fighting terrorism. During that 2002 Primary, I was one of those calling him Johnny Jihad and Osama bin Sunnunu. But Senator Sunnunu has always been a strong advocate of lower taxes and free trade. He's a CATO guy, like myself - and is a very strong fighter on domestic issues. His support of VOIP especially warms my heart, as I am still a nerd at heart!

Low Taxes Do What?


By THOMAS SOWELL

Some years ago, the distinguished international-trade economist Jagdish Bhagwati was visiting Cornell University, giving a lecture to graduate students during the day and debating Ralph Nader on free trade that evening. During his lecture, Prof. Bhagwati asked how many of the graduate students would be attending that evening's debate. Not one hand went up.

Amazed, he asked why. The answer was that the economics students considered it to be a waste of time. The kind of silly stuff that Ralph Nader was saying had been refuted by economists ages ago. The net result was that the audience for the debate consisted of people largely illiterate in economics and they cheered for Mr. Nader.

Prof. Bhagwati was exceptional among leading economists in understanding the need to confront gross misconceptions of economics in the general public, including the so-called educated public. Nobel Laureates Milton Friedman and Gary Becker are other such exceptions in addressing a wider general audience, rather than confining what they say to technical analysis addressed to fellow economists and their students. By and large, the economics profession fails to educate the public on the basics, while devoting much time and effort to narrower and even esoteric research.

The net result is that fallacies flourish in discussions of economic policy issues, while the refutations of those fallacies lie dormant in old books and academic journals gathering dust on library shelves. As former House Majority Leader Dick Armey -- an economist by trade -- put it: "Demagoguery beats data in making public policy."

Sometimes the fallacies are based on something as simple as a failure to define terms accurately. Everyone has heard the claim that a high-wage country like the U.S. loses jobs to low-wage countries when there is free trade. When the North American Free Trade Agreement went into effect a decade ago, there were dire predictions of "a giant sucking sound" as American jobs were drawn away, to Mexico especially.

In reality, the number of jobs in the U.S. increased by millions after Nafta went into effect and the unemployment rate fell to low levels not seen in years. Behind the radically wrong predictions was a simple confusion between wage rates and labor costs.

Wage rates per unit of time are not the same as labor costs per unit of output. When workers are paid twice as much per hour and produce three times as much per hour, the labor costs per unit of output are lower. That is why high-wage countries have been exporting to low-wage countries for centuries. An international study found the average productivity of workers in the modern sector of the Indian economy to be 15% of that of American workers. In other words, if you paid the average Indian worker one-fifth of what you paid the average American worker, it would cost you more to get the job done in India.

In particular industries, such as computer software, Indian workers are more comparable, which is why there is so much outsourcing of computer work to India. But virtually every country has a comparative advantage in something, whether it is a high-wage country or a low-wage country.

Those who complain loudly about how many jobs have been "exported" to other countries because of international free trade totally ignore all the jobs that have been imported to the American economy because of that same free trade. Siemens alone employs tens of thousands of American workers and Toyota has already produced its ten millionth car in the U.S. Management guru Peter Drucker has said that this country imports far more jobs than it exports and no one has contradicted him. Indeed, those who are loudest in denouncing the exporting of jobs totally ignore the importing of jobs.

Free international trade produces both the benefits of increased productivity and the adjustment problems that all other forms of increased productivity produce -- namely, job losses in the less competitive firms and industries. The typewriter industry was devastated by the rise of the computer, as the horse and buggy industry was devastated by the rise of the automobile. Histories of the industrial revolution lament the plight of the handloom weavers when power looms were introduced.

* * *
International trade has no monopoly on economic illiteracy. One of the apparently invincible fallacies of our times is the belief that President Ronald Reagan's tax cuts caused the federal budget deficits of the 1980s. In reality, the federal government collected more tax revenue in every year of the Reagan administration than had ever been collected in any year of any previous administration. But there is no amount of money that Congress cannot outspend. Here again, the confusion is due to a simple failure to define terms.

What Mr. Reagan's "tax cuts for the rich" actually cut were the tax rates per dollar of income. Out of rising incomes, the country as a whole -- including the rich -- paid more total taxes than ever before.

At the state and local levels, this confusion of tax rates and tax revenues has led some local politicians to see higher tax rates as the answer to budget problems, even though higher tax rates can drive businesses out of the city or state, with adverse effects on the total amount of tax revenues collected.

Price controls are another area where very elementary economics is all that is needed to show what the consequences are: shortages, quality deterioration and black markets. It has happened repeatedly in countries around the world, over a period of centuries. Yet politicians keep selling the idea of price controls and voters keeping buying it.

Many economic issues are complex, but sometimes a single fact will tell you all you need to know. When you know that central planners in the Soviet Union had to set 24 million prices -- and keep adjusting them, relative to one another, as conditions changed -- you realize that central planning did not just happen to fail. It had no chance of succeeding from the outset. It is a wholly different ball game when hundreds of millions of people individually keep track of the relatively few prices they need to know for their own decision-making in a market economy.

Simple stuff like this is not very exciting for economists and there is no payoff in one's professional career for clarifying such things for the general public. The only reason to do it is that it very much needs to be done -- especially during an election year.



VOIP of the People


By JOHN SUNUNU

Should local governments have an inherent right to regulate and tax any communication between two individuals that utilizes a human voice? Should we discourage the use of broadband networks for fast, reliable and cheap communications simply because a new technology doesn't fit neatly into an existing regulatory slot? Should regulations discriminate between two data files simply because one carries instant messaging and the other someone's voice?

Until quite recently, these questions were relegated to circles of academics, techies or regulation junkies (yes, they do exist) speculating about how the Internet might affect entrenched telephony providers. Today, these issues have become practical, substantive questions that will make or break the implementation of Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) -- a new technology that utilizes the packet-based method of Internet communications and, in some instances, the architecture of the Internet to bring new voice applications to consumers. VOIP generates significant network efficiencies, reduces capital expenditures and produces considerable cost savings. Moreover, the innovative features and robust functions underscore that VOIP is not just a fancy phone network and must not be treated as such.

The debate has just begun, but the wagons are already being circled by those determined to protect a regulatory scheme based on the copper wire telephone system invented by Alexander Graham Bell. Our goal should be to allow this new technology to evolve, which will dramatically reduce the cost of voice communication to a level commensurate with that of any other bit of data transmitted over the Internet. To ensure that a misguided approach does not develop and to provide certainty to the marketplace, I will introduce VOIP legislation in the coming weeks to establish several key protections for this new technology.

• First, my legislation will treat VOIP as an information service. The broadband cable, DSL or high-speed line you are using does not care whether data packaged using the Internet Protocol is a spread sheet, e-mail, instant message or voice traffic. Recognizing this simple fact helps establish a level playing field for all forms of data in order to fit a regulatory system designed five, 10, 20, 30, 50 or 100 years ago. Conversely, there exists no sound basis for discriminating among different types of data. Would anyone argue that taxes for e-mail should be different from those imposed for transmitting financial spreadsheets or power point presentations? The same principle should extend to an Internet voice call as well.

• Second, we should establish federal jurisdiction over VOIP applications. Internet packet switching routes data across a global network requiring a national framework and treatment. Allowing thousands of state and local regulators to wrap their tentacles around VOIP will place costly and unnecessary burdens on a growing interstate communications network. What would happen to e-mail or instant messaging if states imposed regulations on those applications? The role of the federal government should be to establish a clear and efficient regulatory structure that will not discourage investment in the development of these new systems.

• Third, my bill will protect this data service from taxation. The Internet-access tax-moratorium debate has highlighted the need to prevent tax commissioners from imposing oppressive tax treatment for telecommunication on VOIP. Those who believe that e-mail should be taxed will disagree on principle. All others place themselves in the awkward position of trying to differentiate different sets of ones and zeros in binary code in order to protect tax collections or corporate revenues. Both attempts are signs of short-sightedness -- one on the part of big government, the other on the part of big business.


Since our nation's founding, legislators have justified regulations on the basis that they serve the public interest. A regulatory framework may be advanced to improve public safety, inform consumers or protect public health. In fact, public-interest concerns such as enhanced 911, disability access, and interaction with law enforcement will be among those considered by comprehensive legislation. But extending these obligations must be done with an understanding of the unique architecture and technical aspects of this new application. Unfortunately, within the developing VOIP debate, this governing principle of public interest has been turned on its head. The defenders of the existing regulatory scheme seek to protect the existing tax, distribution of revenues, or other vested interests, at the expense of sound public policy.

If there is one thing we have learned about the information economy, it is that innovation circumvents a flawed regulatory regime. Let's get this one right from the start.



2.06.2004

HAPPY BIRTHDAY GIPPER!!!


Reagan is 93 today!

2.03.2004

THAT'S STARTING TO ADD UP TO REAL MONEY!!!


This from my good buddy Steve Moore, in today's National Review Online.

Uncle Sam, Inc.
We're the most expensive government in history.

By Stephen Moore

Today President Bush releases his fourth budget to Congress, requesting $2.34 trillion in spending for fiscal year 2005. That's trillion.

I have often maintained that one of the biggest problems with Washington is that no one can tell the difference between $1 million and $1 billion. But when Congress starts counting our tax dollars in the trillions of dollars it's like taking a trip to Michael Jackson's Neverland. One trillion dollars is a million million dollars. That's a lot of money no matter how you stack it.

The president will predictably boast that this is a lean budget that spends money judiciously on top national priorities like homeland security and not a penny more. He will try to assure conservatives that this budget limits the growth of federal non-defense, non-security spending (social programs) to less than 2 percent. His Democratic rivals will complain that this is a penny-pinching budget that under-funds education, health care, the environment, and on down the line.

They are both wrong. A federal budget that will spend more money in a single year than the entire GDP of France and three times what it cost to fight World War II can hardly be disparaged as inadequate or celebrated as tight-fisted. Uncle Sam, Inc., will spend more money in just this year than it spent combined between 1787 and 1900 — even after adjusting for inflation. Ironically enough, we are now celebrating the ten-year anniversary of Newt Gingrich's bold declaration that "we Republicans will make government smaller and smarter." It didn't exactly turn out that way, given that the budget is now nearly $1 trillion larger than it was when the Republican revolution was launched.

But the truth is that, in recent decades, neither political party has been a particularly good steward of taxpayer resources. Government ingests about four-to-five-times more of America's national output today than in 1900. The government's share of everything we produce and earn has about doubled since the end of World War II.

Here's another way to think about it: If you took all our government spend divided it evenly among all families of four in America, each family would be more than $50,000 richer. This is double the level of spending in 1960 and fourteen times the amount government spent in 1900, even after adjusting for inflation. The question American taxpayers need to ask is this: Does my family really get anywhere near $50,000 worth of services every year from city hall, state government, and Uncle Sam, Inc.?

The composition of government spending has changed, too. Even with the recent increases in the military budget in the new age of terrorism, a smaller share of federal spending is devoted to national defense — ironically, the one area of the budget where Congress has a clear constitutional authority to spend money — than at just about any other time in U.S. history. Traditionally, about one-third to one-half of all federal expenditures were for national security. Now that percentage is down to less than one-fifth.

Almost all of the growth of government in this past fifty years has been a result of increased civilian social-program spending.

In 1940 there were 4 million Americans working for government and 11 million working in manufacturing. Today, there are 7 million more Americans working for government (21.5 million) than in all manufacturing industries (14.5 million). We have shifted from an economy of people who make things, to an economy of people who tax, regulate, subsidize, and outlaw things. We certainly have more rule-makers and red-tape dispensers than ever before.

In 1935 there were 4,000 pages of federal regulations in the Federal Register. Now there are 68,000 pages. That's a 17-fold increase in sixty-five years. Since 1970 the number of federal regulators nearly doubled from 69,000 to 130,000. We work almost half our lives now complying with government rules, edicts, levies, paperwork requirements, taxes, and fees.

The odds seem a lot higher, at least in the short term, that government will continue to rapidly expand than the federal spending orgy will subside. (After all, the ink isn't even dry on the Medicare drug bill and the cost is already up by $100 billion.)

President Bush has allowed the budget to grow by 8 percent per year after inflation in his first three budgets. What's worse, many in Washington want government to grow a lot more in a hurry. Most of the Democrats running for president, and even some Republicans in Congress, yearn for the day when government entirely takes over the health-care industry — so we can have a socialized system more like France and Canada. (This would put about 5 to 10 percent more of the economy under direct government control.) Many in Congress also want government to fully take over the financing and control of the education of pre-school children (ages 3 to 5) and to provide free universal college to all 18-to-22 year olds. This, too, could add another 5 to 10 percent to the government's total take.

In his bloated budget for 2005, the president seeks funds to keep marriages intact, to prevent overeating, to encourage teenagers not to have sex, and to help give Americans the willpower to stop smoking. Should it bother us that both parties have bought into the belief that government now needs a federal program, bureau, agency, or grant contract to deal with every conceivable human need? An indoor rainforest in Iowa? Arts festivals in Alaska? Swimming pools in New York? What's next, my teenager's right cheek gets a relief from acne?

More government, for one thing, makes us poorer. Just a few months ago the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal issued an economic-freedom index in which the U.S. ranked only number 10 worldwide. The study discovered a strong and not surprising statistical relationship between economic freedom (of which one component is limited government) and economic growth and prosperity.

Our out-of-control budget also erodes personal freedom. When government grows, as Thomas Jefferson once famously put it, "liberty yields." Dollar by trillion dollar we are voluntarily giving up our liberties for a government that promises us, in return, a blanket of protection from cradle to coffin. Republicans are steering us in the direction of the "workers' paradise" of a European socialist welfare state. The reply from the Democrats is faster, faster.

2.02.2004

WHO’S TO JOIN THE FRENCH LOOKING JOHN KERRY ON THE STUMP?


From today’s “Opinion Journal Political Diary”

"We have a tough dogfight going on in South Carolina," John Edwards told voters at a rally on Sunday. Well, yeah, the race is close, but a dogfight it ain't. Messrs. Edwards and John Kerry, who's running a few points behind in the latest polls, have been conspicuously uncritical of each other in the run-up to Tuesday's important vote. Mr. Kerry obviously has chosen to ignore the advice of a multitude pf pundits and isn't pouring in time and money in an effort to knock his putative rival out of the race. While Mr. Edwards talked himself hoarse on Sunday as he went around South Carolina, Mr. Kerry kicked back and watched the Super Bowl in.... North Dakota?

It all goes to reinforce an impression that the deal is done and Mr. Edwards will be Mr. Kerry's VP pick. The two were already trading notes on stopping Howard Dean as far back as Iowa, and their near-canoodling backstage at recent debates was widely noticed. Mr. Kerry, of course, will make an effort in South Carolina that's more than token but less than all-out, conveniently avoiding a clear test of his power to draw black votes, which will be crucial to any Democratic nominee's chances in the fall. Perhaps that's a problem he's now counting on Mr. Edwards to fix once he's on the ticket. True, Mr. Kerry expects to do well in Missouri on Tuesday too, and Missouri has a large black vote. But he'll owe his victory there to pure media bounce, since the state was all but written off by his campaign and others until Dick Gephardt dropped out less than two weeks ago.
--Holman W. Jenkins Jr

My take: You heard it here first – Kerry’s VEEP is not going to be John Edwards as many think. It’s not going to be Wes Clark, that’s for sure. Despite quietly campaigning for the job, its not even going to be New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson. Nope, Kerry’s pick – should he fortunate enough to have to make one – is going to be former Senator Max Cleland.

Think about it – there could be no better pick. First of all, the media immediately announces to the world that the South is back in play. They’d fall in love with this triple amputee with a sharp wit.

Also, assuming that in many ways this election is going to be a referendum on whether President Bush has made us safer or not, what would make a better running mate for this Vietnam hero – turned anti-war protestor, than another Vietnam hero, this one in a wheelchair? Talk about instant credibility!

Granted, I still think they’re going to get their butts handed to them (unless someone challenges Bush from the Right), but a Kerry/Cleland ticket would be as strong a pair as the Dems could muster this election.

2.01.2004

CLOSE THE BORDERS ALREADY


Global HMO
INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY

Immigration: For those who think that illegal aliens are a good deal because they will work for such low wages, consider this figure — $9 billion.

That rather large sum is Rep. Dana Rohrabacher's low-end estimate of how much is spent each year on health care for illegal immigrants, not by themselves but by others.

So while illegal alien labor might be cheap for businesses that employ undocumented workers, it isn't, as Rohrabacher points out, for taxpayers.

Rohrabacher arrives at the $9 billion figure by multiplying $21 billion, the amount of uncompensated health care services provided last year by the American Hospital Association's member facilities, by 43%, the estimated portion of the uninsured in the U.S. that are illegal immigrants.

The real number is likely higher than $9 billion. The American Hospital Association represents most — roughly 70% — but not all, of the country's health care providers.

Rohrabacher isn't going after the entire amount yet, though. He's starting out with legislation that would "mitigate the damage" Congress caused by including $1 billion in the Medicare reform bill to pay for emergency health care services for illegal immigrants.

In a budget that exceeds $2 trillion, a billion dollars is a relative pittance. But it will grow faster than a metastasizing tumor.

"I will tell you now," Rohrabacher said last week from the House, "there is no one in this body that does not know and understand that a $1 billion program like this starting off, just opening the door, is going to end up being a $50 billion program 10 years down the line."

Unbelievers should be reminded of the Medicare reform bill that provided $400 billion over 10 years for a prescription drug benefit.

Passed last fall, the law has hardly had time to take shape. Yet the administration is already projecting the cost of the prescription benefit to be $540 billion over 10 years, more than a one-third increase less than two months after it was signed.

Rohrabacher's bill, should it become law, will have, at best, a modest impact on illegal immigration and the costs taxpayers bear for them. But if it stirs people to their senses and leads to an eventual — and rational — denial of health care and other government services to illegal immigrants, it would have a much larger effect.

Too bad the effect would be diminished, because the message of the president's de facto amnesty plan will still provide a strong incentive for more illegals to enter and wait until the next amnesty comes. As long as that's the case, the U.S. will continue to serve as HMO to Mexico, if not the world.

IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN IT


SADDAMM 3000

Perhaps the funniest shit I've ever seen!!!