more reservations

There’s now a possibility that our Congress may pass a slightly modified version of Bush’s socialist bailout.  I guess we should be grateful that the House Republicans were allowed some input in the current draft, because it could be much worse than it is.  However, it’s not clear that the House Republicans got enough of what they wanted in this bill.  Mike Pence is still opposed to it, which prompts serious doubt in my mind that this is the best compromise we can come up with to “save” the economy.  Minority Leader Boehner calls this plan a “crap sandwich” but still plans to vote for it.  What awesome leadership by our minority leader.   Really inspires confidence in the folks we put in charge of the Washington Republicans.

Freedom Works has also weighed in with their opposition to the current bailout legislation (h/t: Michelle Malkin).  Here’s what they had to say:

Ten Reasons to Oppose the Wall Street Bailout

1. NO REFORM: The plan attempts to mask, rather than reform, imbalances in credit markets and in U.S. economic public policy. The plan props up reckless and failed banks by buying “troubled assets” instead of focusing on real reforms that go after government sponsored culprits Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and sustainable policies that will increase the availability of private capital and expanded economic growth.

2. TREASURY POWER GRAB: The plan raises Constitutional concerns by dramatically expanding the power of the current and future Treasury Secretaries, giving the government agency power to directly purchase assets from for-profit financial and non-financial firms.

3. STUNNING PRICE TAG: The $700 billion bailout figure is as much money as the combined annual budgets of the Departments of Defense, Education and Health and Human Services. It amounts to $2,300 for every man, woman, and child in America.

4. INCREASES NATIONAL DEBT: Instead of cutting spending elsewhere, Congress will borrow all $700 billion on global capital markets, and the bill raises the national debt ceiling to a staggering $11.3 trillion.

5. GLOBAL BAILOUT: The plan includes taxpayer purchases of distressed assets from foreign banks.

6. HURTS RESPONSIBLE AMERICAN BANKS: The plan punishes responsible U.S. banks by keeping reckless, insolvent investment banks in business. As BB&T CEO John Allison wrote in a letter to Congress on Sept. 23rd, “….this is primarily a bailout of poorly run financial institutions…. Corrections are not all bad. The market correction process eliminates irrational competitors.”

7. FLAWED PROCESS: Members of Congress and the public will have less than 24 hours and no hearings to discuss and understand the impact of this sweeping plan. This rush to pass a wildly unpopular plan without benefit of significant public debate and input will also undermine its legitimacy and effectiveness.

8. BY WALL STREET, FOR WALL STREET: Treasury Secretary Paulson, the architect of the plan, was formerly the head of Goldman Sachs, one of the firms responsible for the mess and a direct beneficiary of the bailout. Further, the advisers managing the bailout auctions and assets will be Wall Street firms and will likely receive billions of tax dollars in fees.

9. OTHER OPTIONS NOT EXHAUSTED: The idea that taxpayers will make money on the bailout is not credible. There are ready buyers for these “troubled assets” — Merrill Lynch sold its entire portfolio of mortgage backed securities in July– provided the price is low enough. If a profit was possible, private speculators would readily buy these troubled assets.

10. MORALLY OFFENSIVE: The plan violates basic principles of American capitalism and honest governance by creating a system of “private profits, socialized losses” that transfers money from taxpayers directly to Wall Street investment banks. Free market capitalism only functions if individuals and firms are held accountable and are allowed to both succeed and profit, and also to sustain losses and even fail.

I echo these sentiments.  This current bailout bill (pdf here) isn’t good enough.  Go back to the drawing board and fix some of these flaws before the vote if we absolutely must have a government intervention of this type.  I’m not convinced that we need something this massive.  We can do better than this, and we must.   Like the Freedom Works quote says, “Free market capitalism only functions if individuals and firms are held accountable and are allowed to both succeed and profit, and also to sustain losses and fail.”   The solutions we are seeing from this Congress don’t solve the problem and could add trillions to the national debt.  There’s nothing fiscally conservative about that.

If we don’t come up with a more responsible solution to our economic problems, then President Bush becomes the new FDR.  Well-intentioned socialism is still socialism.  In the beginning, our president seemed to be supportive of free markets and capitalism, as well as those popular tax cuts, but we didn’t elect him because we thought he had a strong fiscally conservative record.  It was because of national security and judges.  That doesn’t keep me from being disappointed that he feels he needs to support something like this.  While I realize that many of the root causes of this current crisis lie with our friends on the other side of the aisle, a large chunk of the blame for the current mismanagement of it should be with Paulson and the Bush administration.

I’m not sure if there is anything we can do to stop the worst from happening if Minority Leader Boehner has already caved and is trying to convince others to go along with the Democrats on this bailout plan.  I just hope that when this process is over, there will have been enough Republicans with the guts to say —  if this is what we must do,  let’s get this right before voting on it.

worthy of note

I was going to give my in depth analysis of Sarah Palin’s acceptance speech Wednesday night, but wouldn’t you all rather read what Michael Barone had to say about it?  She had a very strong debut, but she does have more work to do.  The McCain campaign is doing a smart thing by keeping her away from the Sunday shows for now, but eventually she’s going to have to do some interviews and finish off Joe Biden to show that she can handle herself without a script.  I feel more confident about this than I did before her speech on Wednesday, and I am cautiously optimistic that she can survive whatever the media decides to throw at her. The McCain campaign should be wary of casting Palin as a victim, because it’s quite clear that she can take the punches.

About McCain’s acceptance speech — he got through it ok, no thanks to the Code Pink morons who interrupted him at the beginning.  Obama will always have the edge in speechmaking ability, but John McCain’s life story is compelling, and McCain told that story as well as he could.  The McCain campaign does need to be more judicious with the use of McCain’s military service and former POW status in speeches and rallies, because he runs the risk of trivializing that service.  Take John Kerry for example — the running gag is that, by the way, did you know he served in Vietnam?  McCain’s military service is a wonderful example of service to our country above and beyond the call of duty.  I respect it, but he can’t win an election without talking about kitchen table issues in addition to his bio.

rnc: random thoughts from red meat day

Before I get to Governor Palin’s wonderful speech,  there are several other things that struck me as the RNC proceeds forward to the acceptance speech by McCain tonight.  The first is that there aren’t many conservative women in the GOP pipeline contesting Senate races or any higher state offices.  What does it say about this party that the “qualified” women suggested for McCain’s VP pick aren’t conservatives?  Olympia Snowe, Elizabeth Dole, and Kay Hutchison, while they may be conservative enough for some people, don’t bring much to the table for McCain, and it wouldn’t bring in those independent and moderates, or even the Hillary voters.  They would have done even less for the social conservative base than any other candidate on McCain’s shortlist.

There is more work that needs to be done on the grassroots level to recruit more women and minorities.   While it’s a myth that the Republican party doesn’t have anything to offer those two groups and working people,  we have continued to allow the media to push this narrative — and we don’t have much ammo to use even if we fought back against it.  This needs to change.  We do have ideas that work for these groups — at least conservatives do — but the failures of current Congressional Republicans have damaged the Republican brand, and it’s hard for the American people to trust us to deal with everyday problems.

This is why Mitt Romney’s message fell flat last night.  Republicans are part of the problem in Washington.  Many of them have surrendered to Democratic rule, and they have allowed too many earmarks to go through.  They compromised on pieces of bad legislation with the Democrats.  It fires up Republican crowds to talk about all those bad “liberals”, but what resonance would it have with the rest of the American voters?  Mitt isn’t comfortable in the role of the attack dog.  The speech he gave last night was fiery, and full of stuff conservatives like to hear, but I thought that his delivery was slightly over-the-top.  Just a minor style point in an otherwise effective speech.

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no choice

The continuing discussion over the wisdom of Senator McCain choosing a pro-choice VP should be about more than whether conservatives would actually sit the election out.  I don’t think we can afford to make that threat.  Senator McCain has a long pro-life Senate record, and we have a clear indication of where he stands on abortion.  We also can be assured that Senator Obama could do far more damage as a pro-choice President than Tom Ridge or Joe Lieberman could do as a pro-choice Vice President.  There is one important responsibility the President has that would have an impact on abortion  — the Supreme Court nominations.  Of the two men, which one would be more likely to nominate judges who strictly interpret the Constitution?  I would argue that it would be McCain.  Now, it’s hard to imagine that he could get a Scalia or Alito through a Democratic Congress, but the precedent has always been to confirm judges who have all the right qualifications for the job as long as they don’t show all their cards during the confirmation process.  We are guaranteed not to get someone we like if Senator Obama wins the election.

The argument against Lieberman, Ridge, Giuliani or any other pro-choicer should be this — what else do they bring to the table?  Can you steal any Democrat or independent votes from Barack by picking this person?  What in their resume shows that the potential nominee is a strong leader and would be ready to lead on day one if anything should happen to McCain?  Is the person someone that conservatives can support when examining their entire political record, in spite of their pro-choice views?  All of these names have one common theme — none of them adds much to the McCain ticket.  There’s more risk than benefit here for McCain, and the numbers are showing that he has been gaining evangelical support recently, with some of that due to his strong performance at Saddleback on Saturday.

There has been an attempt by the media to change the focus of evangelicals from abortion and gay marriage to more popular causes like global poverty, HIV/AIDS, and global warming. A shift like that would make it possible for evangelicals to accept a pro-choice candidate like Barack Obama.  For now, their campaign is a massive failure.  Of course we care about global poverty and some of those other issues, but the primary concern of evangelicals has always been protecting the unborn and opposing abortion.  There is a clear difference between Senator Obama and Senator McCain on this issue, and choosing a pro-choice VP would not allow McCain to emphasize that difference as much as he could if he picked someone who shared his pro-life views.

trust no one

We can now take offshore drilling off of the table as an issue Republicans and John McCain can use to hammer the Democrats in the general election.  Any serious attempt to address our energy costs by adding offshore drilling to the mix has been sabotaged by five Republicans, including my other senator Lindsey Graham.  Hope they are proud of themselves for their bipartisan compromise with the Democrats, because it came at a huge price.  The base will be angry about this, and it will hurt McCain.  My guess is that we will still fall in line behind McCain, because that’s the only way to stop Barack Obama.

Here’s how this happened:

And so, last Friday, in stumbled Sens. Lindsey Graham, John Thune, Saxby Chambliss, Bob Corker and Johnny Isakson — alongside five Senate Democrats. This “Gang of 10” announced a “sweeping” and “bipartisan” energy plan to break Washington’s energy “stalemate.” What they did was throw every vulnerable Democrat, and Mr. Obama, a life preserver.

That’s because the plan is a Democratic giveaway. New production on offshore federal lands is left to state legislatures, and then in only four coastal states. The regulatory hurdles are huge. And the bill bars drilling within 50 miles of the coast — putting off limits some of the most productive areas. Alaska’s oil-rich Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is still a no-go.

The highlight is instead $84 billion in tax credits, subsidies and federal handouts for alternative fuels and renewables. The Gang of 10 intends to pay for all this in part by raising taxes on . . . oil companies! The Sierra Club couldn’t have penned it better. And so the Republican Five has potentially given antidrilling Democrats the political cover they need to neutralize energy through November.

Heck of a job, Senators.  Keep up the good work.  Don’t think we will forget this after November.

frum’s unconventional idea

David Frum wrote an article last week for Opinion Journal that is worthy of discussion regarding the party conventions of the Democrats and Republicans  — he suggests that they would be more useful and interesting if we got rid of the media circus and the two major presidential candidates.

He says:

But what if the journalists were absent? Not because they were banned, but because they did not bother to show up?

Party conventions could then discover a new purpose as showcases for emerging talent. With the candidate speaking in front of Mount Rushmore or wherever, the party’s next generation and second-tier figures could regain the convention microphones that have been progressively removed from them over the past three decades.

Sitting governors could be given platforms to detail their records in their states. Promising younger officials could participate in panel discussions and debates — and take questions from party members across the country. Right now, the parties are too busy staging a show for the whole country to tolerate any risk that some second-tier political figure might bore the audience or stumble into some off-message mistake. But with the press voluntarily absent and the voting public’s attention fixed elsewhere, mistakes would become less disastrous.

There is one main reason why I believe this could be a good idea.  I can’t speak for the Democratic side of things, but the Republican farm team has been stuck in Single A ball.  We haven’t done enough development of promising local talent, and rising regional stars like Governors Jindal and Palin need more exposure to the rest of the party as well as bulking up their resumes / achievements for future stardom.  That’s why we are stuck with the presidential / vice presidential prospects we have.   There aren’t many quality conservative prospects out there who are willing to take on the challenge of running for president. If we start now with our recruiting and training process, maybe in 4-8 years we will have someone that conservatives AND the rest of the party can support. It’s alarming how much better the Democrats have become at recruiting good young talent in local races to take seats from the Republican incumbents.  We need to match and exceed their efforts to keep our party competitive for the long term.

It’s a shame this would never happen, because the media loves having something big to talk about, and the two political parties don’t have much of an incentive to avoid all the free publicity gained by these televised events.  It would be too much of a risk for the parties and the media to take, and we know how risk-adverse they both are — but maybe we can find alternative ways to achieve the same objectives.

go right not left

Believe it or not, there is a Republican left with some credibility on fighting wasteful spending by our Congress — Senator Tom Coburn.  Senator Coburn has been consistent in this area, but unfortunately many of his colleagues have refused to follow his lead, and that of other senators like SC’s Jim DeMint.  There aren’t enough fiscal conservatives in Congress, and we have seen the negative results when  Democrats and Republicans agree to waste our money.  Now there are many so-called wise men, telling the Republicans that we are losing because we aren’t compassionate enough, or that we need to abandon the ideal of limited government completely to gain the favor of those independents and moderates.  Even people who started out believing that government is the problem have changed their minds to be more tolerant of activist government — including Newt Gingrich.   It is an almost irresistible proposal — that there can be a way to merge the activist government policies of the left with the free-market impulses of the right.   I’m not convinced that this is the case, or if it is possible, that Newt has come up with the right balance.

Here’s a sample of what Senator Coburn had to say:

As congressional Republicans contemplate the prospect of an electoral disaster this November, much is being written about the supposed soul-searching in the Republican Party. A more accurate description of our state is paralysis and denial.

Many Republicans are waiting for a consultant or party elder to come down from the mountain and, in Moses-like fashion, deliver an agenda and talking points on stone tablets. But the burning bush, so to speak, is delivering a blindingly simple message: Behave like Republicans.

Unfortunately, too many in our party are not yet ready to return to the path of limited government. Instead, we are being told our message must be deficient because, after all, we should be winning in certain areas just by being Republicans. Yet being a Republican isn’t good enough anymore. Voters are tired of buying a GOP package and finding a big-government liberal agenda inside. What we need is not new advertising, but truth in advertising.

Truth in advertising.  That “compassionate conservatism” is a euphemism for wasting our money on more worthy causes than the stuff the Democrats want to waste our money on.  That we need to get back to what Republicans said we believed about reducing earmarks and government bloat.  That we should be principled enough to hold our fellow Republicans accountable when they forget what kind of message got them where they are today.  Like Senator Coburn said, “spending other people’s money isn’t compassionate”.  There’s nothing wrong with heartless conservatism when it eliminates excuses for out of control spending and massive pork projects.

This is where Republicans have gone wrong. The voters didn’t reject conservatism, they rejected dishonesty.  Republicans promoted one agenda and delivered something different.  The scandals sure didn’t help us, but at the end of the day those who stayed home in 2006 and those who voted for Democrats sent the same message.  Republicans didn’t deliver what they promised, and they deserved to lose.  Congressional Republicans still haven’t gotten the message.  They are blaming their losses on the stubborn conservatives who refuse to abandon principle to win elections.  Some of our “leaders” have suggested that we need to expand our coalition to include independents and moderates, and that we should do this by watering down our governing philosophy so that those people agree with us. As long they keep following that dimwitted advice, Republicans will keep losing elections.

democrats attempt to punish big oil

They might want to remember what happened last time we imposed a windfall profits tax.

Interesting findings from a 2006 Congressional Research Service Report (quoted here). Full PDF here.

This is the most interesting part:

Reinstating the windfall profit tax would reduce recent oil industry windfalls due to high crude and petroleum prices but could have several adverse economic effects. If imposed as an excise tax, the WPT would increase marginal production costs and be expected to reduce domestic oil production and increase the level of oil imports, which today is at nearly 60% of demand. Crude prices would not tend to increase. Some have proposed an excise tax on both domestically produced and imported oil as a way of mitigating the negative effects on petroleum import dependence. Such a broad-based WPT would tend to reduce import dependence, but it would lead to higher crude oil prices and likely to oil industry profits, potentially undermining its original goals.

Because the pure corporate profits tax is relatively neutral in the short run — few, if any, price and output effects occur because marginal production costs are unchanged in the short run — a possible option would be a corporate income surtax on the upstream operations of crude oil producers. Such a tax that would recoup any recent windfalls with less adverse economic effects; imports would not increase because domestic production would remain unchanged. In the long run, such a tax is a tax on capital; it reduces the rate of return, thus reducing the supply of capital to the oil industry.

So US oil companies would have reduced profits if a windfall profits tax was ever enacted, but according to this study, production costs would go up and the level of imports would also increase.  In other words, it would cost more to produce domestic oil, and we would end up importing even more oil than we do now.  Great solution.

If we tax both our own oil production as well as the imports, it might level the playing field (and by that, I mean punishing everyone equally).  It also could lead to higher crude oil prices and keep those oil company profits high.  These aren’t the best solutions to high gas prices.  Congress needs to figure out that high taxes discourage production, and if they really want to increase domestic oil production,  they should allow domestic drilling and let the oil companies build more refineries.

The Democrats are just saying what they think people want to hear.  That’s common enough for politicians.  What annoys me more than anything is that I don’t see much fight in Republicans to challenge the Democrats on any of their stupid proposals.

this is not good

House Republicans are voting in favor of entitlements and earmarks, and not even trying to resist all these new spending proposals by Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats.  So says Bob Novak.  Maybe it’s fair to blame the Republican leadership for this, although I’m not sure how much they can do, because it’s clear that the fiscal conservatives are outnumbered.  That’s one reason why the Republican brand will remain damaged through the November election.  We are acting no different from the Democrats on this, although I suppose that the few Republicans opposing all this new spending should be given some credit.  Of course they never had a fiscal conservative in the White House to begin with, so that makes the fight against spending even more difficult.

mccain is wrong

I’m not sure why John McCain is overreacting so much to the North Carolina GOP ad.   It is an ad that mentions Obama’s association with Jeremiah Wright and pointing out that Democratic candidates for governor Bev Perdue and Richard Moore support Obama.  Oh yeah, and the ad might have said a little something about Rev. Wright being too extreme for North Carolina.  There’s nothing racist about that.  There’s nothing controversial about that.  In fact, I’m not entirely sure this would be an effective ad.  The only thing that’s keeping this story going is that Rev. Wright feels obligated to defend himself against the injustice of bloggers and media people reporting on what he actually said.  If he didn’t,  I honestly believe this issue would go away.  John McCain won’t run ads on it, based on what we have seen this week from him.

I don’t think the ad is going to work because this is similar to the argument Republicans were trying to make in 2006 — beware Nancy Pelosi and the EVIL Democrats, because they will do all sorts of horrible things to make your life miserable.  Or something like that.    Did that work in ’06?  Did we gin up enough reasonable fear of scary Democrats to drive the vote for Republicans?  Umm…no.  Republicans were unmotivated and the undecided were willing to take a chance on the Democrats because the ruling party failed.  The Republican brand has been damaged, and it’s still damaged.  John McCain is doing nothing to help the Republican party rebuild that brand, and he doesn’t seem to have an interest in making that attempt.

This is why I believe John McCain overreacted to the ad.  He’s more concerned about losing those Democrats and independents than he is in keeping the Republicans he has won by default from deserting him in the general election.  It’s one thing to say that this isn’t the ad he would have chosen to run,  and another to say that the NCGOP is “out of touch”.  McCain still doesn’t get it.  He’s the one who doesn’t understand conservatives, and it’s clear that he doesn’t respect us.  Could the NCGOP have created a different ad based on pointing out differences between Democrats and Republicans on issues?  Yes, and I would have preferred that.  But McCain doesn’t have the right to demand that they pull the Wright ad.