Monday, January 31, 2005

Boxer in 2008?!

You know just when you think that the Left can't do anything worse in 2008 than they did in 2004 this idea rolls around. I for one have been an ardent supporter of the Democratic Party's need to move further to the Left to redefine (or rather define) a vision and goal for their party but this is ridiculous. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) in 2008 would be an act of sheer lunacy, for lack of a better phrase and would not represent any sort of new cohesive vision but rather just extremism for the sake of extremism. I won't tackle everything said on the independent website supporting her candidacy (linked above) but here are a few snipets for your enjoyment:

"When the numbers looked odd in the 2004 presidential vote in Ohio, Barbara Boxer was the only member of the U.S. Senate who stood up and demanded that the American people be allowed to learn the truth about what really happened there."

"While other Democrats in the Senate and House of Representatives have rolled over in surrender to the extremist agenda of George W. Bush and the Republican political elites, Barbara Boxer has consistently stood up for what's right."

"We can trust Barbara Boxer to stand up for the traditional progressive values of freedom, fairness, compassion and truth - even when it isn't the politically easy thing to do."

Okay, I can't stomach anymore. If anyone actually wants to take up the merits of a Boxer candidacy for president I'm sure there'd be plenty of people here to argue with. But in the mean time I hope the media and the general public dismisses this as just plain bad idea.

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Some Words on Iraq...

On November 3rd, the United States of America went through the routine. Voters stood in-line at voting locations, ballots were cast, and (after a little hem-hawing) a victor was certified. This took place nationally, for the Presidential election, and locally for races all across the country. From city councilors and school board members, through sheriffs and judges, and ultimately to Congressional and Presidential offices, representative democracy is ingrained in our society, and our ideological mindset.

It is therefore very exciting to see the reaction of those who do not take democracy for granted, when they are voting for the first time. Is Iraqi democracy a far cry from the peaceful power transitions that we so frequently enjoy? Certainly. But is there something redeeming about it just the same? Without a doubt.

The Iraqi Interim Prime Minister Allawi stated: "The terrorists have been defeated."

And indeed if the goal of terrorists is to curb the spread of Western Liberal Democracy, then January 30 will forever be remembered as one of the greatest victories over global terrorism. But regardless of the historic significance of this moment in world politics, I believe there is much that can be learned from the election.

We, as Americans, are truly blessed to live under a system of limited representative government. As we see the bravery of Iraqis standing in polling lines even as suicide bombers detonate near them, we must remember that our capitalist economy and our democratic government are the blessings brought us by brave revolutionaries. Our liberties must not be taken for granted, and whether with the pen, the sword, or the ballot box, we must always be vigorous in our defense of them.

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Friday, January 28, 2005

Photo of the Day

"The vice president...was dressed in the kind of attire one typically wears to operate a snow blower." - Robin Givhan (Washington Post)

Unfortunately, the greater issue here is not Cheney's "snow bloweresque attire" but the media's continued onslaught of a vice president who seems to be above the fray of every day politics. A picture like this is refreshing to me, as it reminds me that Cheney is not sticking his head in every camera to get his own press to further his own presidential aspirations. But instead he is a faithful advisor and servant of President Bush and America is lucky to have him.

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some delays on the blog

We apologize for not posting here as often as we should. Since our last post, we have been to and from Washington, DC to witness President Bush's inauguration and caught up with the first week of classes. Surprisingly, there has not been much 'new' to blog about, but we'll try our best. We anticipate much more to write about in the near future once Congress gets in the full swing of things.

A few interesting things to note:

Secretary of State Rice's notorious committee hearing and confirmation vote on the floor. 12 Senators, including the "independent" Sen. James Jeffords of Vermont voted against her, airing out their opposition to the war in Iraq (and our current operations there as well) and exploiting their opportunity to 'impugne' upon Rice to rally their troops and raise funds. I'm particularly ashamed (again) to have Sen. Barbara Boxer leading the charge of fools. A wise sage from a classic movie once asked, 'Who's the fool? The fool? Or the fool (fools in this case) who follows?
Charles Krauthammer, as always, has an excellent article about the debacle.

Sen. Hillary Rodham-Clinton came out with an interesting stance on abortion. While I can't say that I don't hear the bells of the Presidency in 2008 tolling in the distance, I believe it is a very smart tactic to move away from the far Left/pro-abortion fervor that has plagued the Democratic party. While the Senator from New York still supports a woman's right to choose, she has at least echoed sentiments that are much more appealing to the center and carry some degree of realistic reasoning and rationale. Nobody wants to have an abortion. Nobody wants to be put in the situation. These type of words are much better than the chest-thumping, fist-pumping and raising chants of the "March for Women's Lives" (maybe it is a march for 'women's lives', but with so much emphasis on the right to choose, it sure does come across as a march for abortion).

Social Security reform is still out for debate. It looks like it is going to be one hell of a battle on the Hill. Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas (R-CA) has come out with some rather surprising remarks about using race/gender to calculate benefits. Whether he' s just being the acerbic Congressman that he is or actually serious, it's worth noting the level of resistance and reluctance put by a lot of Republicans (we all know the Democrats aren't even going to bother since there is no 'problem'). Thomas has also proposed possibly creating a value-added tax just for Social Security. At this point, I cannot support a plan that creates a new method of taxation on top of an income tax.

President Bush has said that he will withdraw the troops from Iraq if the newly-elected Iraqi government requests him to do so. While the Lefties are constantly poo-poohing about how this war is bad, they can't seem to make up their mind about whether or not our troops should stay....or whether or not we need to have more troops there. After all, this is another "Vietnam" according to Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.)....well, Senator Kennedy, the only way to avoid this becoming another Vietnam (you should know given your experience with your older brother) is to make sure Iraq is stabilized as a functioning sovereign nation. Don't you remember what happened to South Vietnam when we left them on their own for their "elections"?

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Tuesday, January 18, 2005

We're Outta Here

First off, I wanted to let everyone know that the blog will be out of commission for a couple days as nearly all our writers are going out to DC to attend the Inauguration of President Bush. We'll be back in a couple of days and will undoubtedly have a great deal of issues and events to discuss.

Secondly, after an exhausting discussion of the facts with my friends and neighbors and a thorough reading of "Rabbit's" reply to my last post I've decided to tackle a bit of the rationale for Social Security reform here. Please forgive me if my facts/opinions do not sway you, as I fundamentally believe that a great deal of this debate will be based on principles and not overwhelming evidence. That having been said let me try to tackle those issues raised by "Rabbit" and some answers to those questions provided from numerous sources, including the Cato Institute and Newt Gingrich's new book Winning the Future: A 21st Century Contract With America (you can e-mail us at the RWC if you're interested in specific links to some of the info):

"I'm going to use Bush administration claims about social security's impending crisis, and hopefully, and this is a big hopefully, convince you that social security is not in a crisis..."

This type of thinking and statement is unfortunately wrong. You're right "Rabbit" in acknowledging that the GOP, in an effort to hype up the need for Social Security reform, has mislabeled 2018 as Judgment Day where the world ends and Social Security consumes the country. This is in fact false. But 13 years from now does have a significance that many forget about: this is the date that Social Security begins to run in the red. For the Democrats, allegedly the party that cares about deficits right now, to turn a blind eye to this landmark year is ludicrous. The most recent annual report of the Social Security Board of Trustees claims that the program will run short of funds to pay promised benefits in 2042. If this were the only year that matters we'd be okay, for now, but the cost between 2018 and 2042 will be enormous to finance the growing deficits in the program (estimated at approximately $8 trillion of today's dollars). So before we hit the wall in approx. 40 years we'll be paying an enormous amount (about 4x the amount that the alleged Bush program is thought to cost). How can we afford to do this though? Well that's simple, an incremental increase in payroll taxes will accomplish it right? Absolutely not. Right now, the payroll tax that is diverted to pay for Social Security stands at an average of 12.4% but to pay for benefits currently owed we'd have to raise that figure to about 18% (close to a 50% increase) and upwards of 20% by 2080. This is a never ending process as taxes would continue to have to be hiked every year to keep paying. This is a reasonable crisis if you ask me.

"[Social Security is] Not really [like borrowing on a credit card], considering since its inception the Social Security trust fund has run in the red 11 times, and it's emerged just fine in each of those cases."

"Rabbit," you talk a lot about Social Security past resiliency and ability to overcome hardships. You are also right that the baby boom will weigh on the system. You speak of trust fund surpluses, helped by the increase in payroll taxes, but unfortunately those surpluses as we all know have been considerably raided. Like it or not, the Republicans and Democrats are both to blame for raiding these funds and instead of being there for the system we now have a problem that is magnified by years of reckless spending. So the issue of course returns to the baby boomers and the baby bust generation that immediately succeeds them. Quoting Newt's book here, "the U.S. fertility rate declined from 3.8 in 1957, to 2.43 in 1970, to 1.77 in 1975." This alone spells disaster for a system that has had raided surpluses and a generation following the baby boomers that is hard-pressed to make up their shortcoming in sheer numbers. Finally, any argument for Social Security reform must necessarily include sheer self-interest. Whether or not you believe that Social Security can be rescued, or should be rescued, is irrelevant. Unless you are willing to consciously trade all hopes of profiting off your money invested into the system for a bit of "safety," which seems now like a tenuous assumption at best, there should be no reason for continuing with the system as it presently exists. Taken over a long-term (similar to Social Security), the rate of return on corporate stocks is around 7% - 7.5% and corporate bonds rake in about 3.5%. Compare this to Social Security where Cato has estimated that middle aged and younger workers will see at best around a 1% - 1.5% return and that's assuming the system is able to pay them.

Okay, rant is over for now, though I'm sure the debate on Social Security is just beginning. We'll see you all in a few days.

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The Deserters

Today in the WSJ Opinion section an excellent case for why Social Security reform will pass was made by Brendan Miniter. Miniter raises the question that many in the media have seemed to forget, if the common notion is that the Republicans will splinter over this issue, who is it exactly that you have in mind. He hypothesizes that only those Republicans with districts that went heavily for Kerry will think twice before touching the third rail but those districts are certainly few and far between. With the exception of a handful across the country the Republicans, at least I hope, will be unified in their push to fix this impending crisis. After all, the dialogue amongst Republicans, such as Senator Graham (a deficit hawk) and others, is not whether or not the system is broken but how to go about enacting meaningful change. I hope for the country's sake that Mr. Miniter is right.

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Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Thank Goodness for Principle

It is not politically correct, but President Bush unabashedly stands by his principles.

Drudge reports: "President Bush's policy on women in ground combat takes just four words to articulate: 'No women in combat.' " In the same news "flash, " Drudge sites President Bush: "I don't see how you can be president without a relationship with the Lord."

Regardless of whether or not one agrees with either of these points (2 that I am sure can be debated on this site in the future), there is much to be said for President Bush's willingness to voice his opinion. Neither position is that foreign, or even that rare. Women have not officially served in active combat under any administration, and almost every president has acknowledged the role of faith in shaping his ability to be President. The novelty of these two lines for Bush is that he is willing to say them. In the 90's it seems that "political correctness" had everyone walking on eggshells. The potential for it to worsen into an oppressive societal censorship stood at the doorway of the 21st century, but the current administration is leading the rhetorical battle by simply using honest rhetoric. It should be commended.

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Nope, WA Still Does Not Have a Governor

While Christine Gregoire (D) is sure to be sworn in as WA's next Governor it's important to point out some of the legal hurdles she'll have to overcome in court to make her "election" stand. By the way, for those that are unfamiliar with my take on the courts in elections, I'm shocked and awed at how much the U.S. court system has interjected itself into the election process. Starting with Bush v. Gore, no matter how much I loved the outcome, America has been on a downward slope where all our elections are litigated (even the ones that aren't even close). So I must reluctantly support WA Republicans in their quest to seek a WA Supreme Court ruling ordering a re-vote. Normally, I don't like courts handing elections to one candidate or another and that's why I respect Mr. Rossi's pledge that he doesn't want the Court to rule the election in his favor, all he seeks is a re-vote to restore voter confidence in the electoral process. After winning the first two counts of the ballots, Mr. Rossi is now losing by 129 votes. State law allows the chance for a re-vote if the amount of disputed ballots exceed the margin for victory. Here are a few examples of things that the Republicans have going for them in their suit:

- Approx. 20 dead people voted in WA State (not necessarily just for one candidate or another)
- King County (the county that holds Seattle) records a discrepancy of approx. 1,800 votes between their official roster of people who voted and the number of votes actually recorded. Thus, 1,800 votes don't have an actual person associated with them.
- Provisional Ballot error, thought to be approx. 350 votes, where the voter's name/signature was not verified before the vote was counted.
- Many late ballots coming in from our men and women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan were not counted.

...The horrifying list goes on and I can't stand to discuss it anymore.

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Monday, January 10, 2005

Republican Reservations?

MSNBC is reporting that many Republicans are "concerned about the political wisdom" of the President's plan to reform social security. Wow, what a shock!

Social Security has not been called the "third rail of American politics" because politicians love to tinker around with it. No, it has been the untouchable, the very suggestion of Social Security reform has cost candidates in either party elections in primaries or general elections for more than half of a century. It is a well-embedded entitlement, and indeed conventional wisdom has been that politicians should stay away from it.

So is the big story that some Republicans are questioning their president? Surely not. It is that Mr. Bush actually is putting aside the conventional mores that have halted a respectable deliberation on the effectiveness of Social Security. Indeed there has been a collective dilemma that has prevented Congress from doing its job: if you are the one that suggests reform, you will quickly be targeted by your opposition and the other 534 members of Congress who do not want targeted themselves.

The question that pundits surely will ask is what will the consequences be for the Republicans taking on this big measure? For some Republicans, surely playing it safe is a good bet. The Democrats have all but self-destructed, why give them an issue to campaign on? For others, and perhaps for the President the question is: what is the right thing to do? Indicative of the desires of the American people, it seems that thus far for President Bush asking that question has also won him favor with the population.

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feminists losing their stride?

We know many self-proclaimed feminists. In fact, many of them are our dear friends, even if we do not exactly agree with their positions. I thought this article that I've linked above was particularly interesting, especially this quotation, which summarizes the shortcomings of the modern chest-thumping feminist movement:

"They see government as the answer to all problems — as the national health care provider and day care provider," Lukas said. "And they have made unfettered access to abortion the absolute centerpiece of their movement... Their 'March for Women's Lives' last year seemed like a celebration of abortion."

The article does a good job of pointing out the deficiencies in the feminist outcry against the contemporary times and our President:

Bush, of course, can make a strong case that he respects women — his new Cabinet will likely have four, including Condoleezza Rice (news - web sites) as secretary of state, and women for years have been among his closest political and legal advisers.

Beyond Washington, meanwhile, women are making impressive professional gains — as big-city police chiefs and university presidents, for example. They now comprise roughly half the enrollment in U.S. medical schools. And though a wage gap persists, woman now earn 80 percent of what men do, compared to 62 percent in 1980.

"Feminist leaders have failed to keep up with the times," said Christina Hoff Sommers, a resident scholar with the American Enterprise Institute, whose writings are often critical of groups like NOW.

"Women have achieved parity with men in most fields," she said. "You'd think the feminists and women's studies professors would be celebrating, but in many ways they've never been more despondent."

I've always found the feminist movement to be an enigma. So much of the movement is centered around reproductive rights, which is tenuously given by a haphazardly assembled Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade that it blinds feminist proponents from the bigger issues at hand. Maybe it's because I'm a male (that's what they'll tell me) but reproductive rights probably isn't as important of an issue to most voters as say....oh i don't know, national security or the economy.

I doubt anybody actually wants to have an abortion. It's not something that people pump their fists up in the air about and say, "yes, i'd like an abortion please!" So maybe the movement is more about, "I want to have an abortion whenever I choose to, or if i need an abortion, I can get one..." Yeah, it's something like that. That's open up to debate about when abortions are permissible (if they even are, which I am sure is a point of contention even on this blog), but the bigger point that separates the feminists from the rest of America is the very fact that they elevate abortion so highly. And if they continue to do so (by all means, let them), they will run the Democratic party and the Left deeper down their spiraling abyss.

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Enough With the "Interest Groups"

Ah, America...The vast melting pot.

It is a shame that such a sentiment quit being true by the mid-90's. No, instead we have the ACLU and government and societal mandated protection for various interest groups. We have Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans, African Americans, Homosexual Americans, Female Americans... the list continues ad nauseam.

Fortunately, there is beginning to be a conservative backlash. I hope that people are truly beginning to recognize that to be a free society, and to be a society without discrimination, we cannot have these politically correct forms of discrimination. While Barbara Boxer led her quixotic assault on the Presidential election results, Jessie Jackson led his "Orange Revolt"-- attempting to emulate the freedom seeking opposition party in Ukraine. I assume that all readers of this blog are well-aware of the keen differences between the situation of Ukraine, and our own 2004 election. Alas, Rev. Jackson has defined himself over the years by controversy and fear. Indeed the Democratic Party strategy for the Black vote has had very little to do with making changes that would widely help African American communities, much rather they have depended upon manufacturing enough resentment of Republicans or fear of authority to keep strong turnout from Blacks.

The past 4 years have proven that the modern Black leadership is not interested in helping or representing blacks, but rather pandering to the Democratic agenda. When members of the NAACP suggested that the organization work with President Bush to improve low income neighborhoods, and to construct a positive agenda for African Americans throughout the country, they were instantly removed. 2004 even saw the non for profit tax status of the organization called into question as a result of their partisan affiliations.

The feminist movement is even more dead. There is nothing wrong with traditional liberal feminism. In fact, I must give strong accolade to those women (and men) who first pioneered for women's suffrage, and societal acceptance. Unfortunately, those organizations that now claim to represent women, have little to do with that goal, and far more to do with upholding a radical liberal, and strongly pro-abortion (yes, even further than pro-choice) ideological platform.

Fortunately, the ideologies of these organizations are not representative of their members, or the people they claim to represent. Senator Kerry saw less female support than Democratic candidates had grown accustomed to receiving in the latter part of the 20th century.

Perhaps, an era of change is before us. If only we can convince those reporting the news, and those teaching our students, our nation would be a far freer place for citizens of all forms.

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Sunday, January 09, 2005

A Short Note on Hypocrisy

When more than 150,000 people have lost their lives in an unpreventable natural disaster, I am loathe to bring up politics. I have delayed any commentary on such in hopes of giving time for things to calm down in the region. I realize that yet another earthquake struck this very day off the coast of Indonesia.

So I will not speak in terms of the tragedy in the region, but rather the rhetoric of the world political figures, and the media that covers world events. What was the story that was all over the news when we woke up the day after Christmas? Yes, there was coverage of the devestating event that took place on the previous evening, but there was also the footnote: "UN official calls Bush/U.S. stingy".

Leaving alone the fact that when foreign policy has been criticized over the past 4 years it has been a criticism of the President while in the proceeding 8 it was a criticism of the United States, it is ironic that President Bush would be singled out at this hour. Koffi Annan, the scandal ridden Secretary General of the United Nations, an organization that has no greater duty than to provide stability in times of natural disaster, spent the week skying in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Meanwhile, our President, who by virtue of his job alone has no obligation to any country but the United States was condemned for spending the week of Christmas with his family.

Make note of the media coverage, and make note of the manner in which international opinion has become so biased against our country and our President. What does the future hold?

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The Democratic Party

Howard Dean as Chairman of the Democratic Party? I think not.

While I acknowledge that the party aficionados who ordain the DNC chairman are a sizeable amount more liberal than your average Joe (Lieberman), well more than 50 million Americans voted for the Democratic Presidential candidate, and even more have voted for members of the Democratic Party for other offices. Although the faces on television, the actors in Hollywood, and the Professors at college campuses around the nation all beat to the radical left, and although they are currently the only visible icons of the current Democratic Party, the core roots of the Democratic Party are a different breed.

If we trace back the history of the Party we see the struggles of a Progressive movement trying to pick up steam through the first part of the 1900's. But the true definition of the pre-Civil Rights Era 20th century Democratic Party? It came from Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his New Deal Coalition. Indeed, the rhetorical underpinnings were good ones. The nation faced what looked like unrelenting stagflation, and the Depression endured throughout the United States and in fact the world shook the ideological foundation of so many Americans. In a time when a man could just walk into the White House to meet with the President, FDR reflected upon the commonality that all men shared. It was a philosophy that was wrapped-up in Christian idealism, and played to great and truly American values.

Howard Dean is not that kind of Democrat. John Kerry was not that kind of Democrat. Clinton at very least understood that type of Democrat. Clinton had electoral success (though never a popular majority), John Kerry did not. Howard Dean cannot. A Democratic Party led by the "Deaniacs" would be a well-organized, well-funded "interest group," but it would instantly fail to be a political party.

My pick: Former Representative Martin Frost. A wise Democratic Party would be well-advised to pick him.

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Saturday, January 08, 2005

I Hate Charlie Rangel

The following are excerpts from a January 8th AP story:

There is no looming crisis in Social Security, and Congress should not rush to create private accounts, Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y. said Saturday.

"The facts prove that there is no imminent crisis with Social Security. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says Social Security can pay full benefits for nearly 50 years," Rangel said in the Democratic weekly radio address.

While Rep. Rangel is technically correct I can't help but get enraged at thinking like this. Social Security is headed for a cliff and to me it doesn't matter if how fast we're moving there. It's sheer idiocy to put off the problems we see today until further in the future in the name of political expediency. President Bush has done something daring here, just as he did in 2000 with his tax cuts, he's taken a non-issue and raised the level of public awareness and debate on the topic. For that I commend the President, as Social Security, like it or not, is headed toward an impasse of immeasurable proportions. I understand that we have 40 or 50 years (depending on who is doing the estimating) until the system absolutely collapses but there's only 14 years left until our country has to begin paying for shortfalls in revenues. To me that doesn't sound like a problem we can afford to address later.

Again, here the Democrats prove what Tim, Byron, and I have often blogged on, a lack of vision. The Democratic Party, if it is to ever come back from this current downturn , must develop a forward-looking agenda. Without an agenda how can the party ever create a viable opposition to Bush and the Republicans. Please pardon the simplistic comparison but I can't help but draw parallels between this thinking and driving a car by only using the rear-view mirror. No matter how you look at it, the move is surely a recipe for catastrophe.

I can't help but feel a quote from "The West Wing" is appropriate here:
"If we're going to walk into walls, I want us running into 'em full speed. We're going to lose some of these battles. We might even lose the White House. But we're not going to be threatened by issues. We're going to put them front and center. We're going to raise the level of public debate in this country. And let that be our legacy."
-Leo McGarry (from the episode "Let Bartlet Be Bartlet")

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Newt for President?

With the release of former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich's book on Monday, there has been speculation that he might run for President in 2008. Although we here ar the RWC love Newt, we hardly think this is viable, much less possible. His past is too much of a liability for him to even run for public office again, especially for the Presidency. Newt is doing well on the sidelines; his policy prescriptions keep the Republican Party honest. Speaker Gingrich's book is going to be interesting and you can be sure that we'll let you know how it is once we get to read it.

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Friday, January 07, 2005

Photo of the Day

Yeah, I guess I'd be pretty sad too given the outcome of the election and the fact that Senator Boxer (pictured here in this AP photo) still tried to contest the electoral vote certification. For the first time since 1877 the Congress had to separate and consider the validity of the votes for Bush and Kerry. I know Boxer and Rep. Tubbs Jones were just making a symbolic protest but how about we find a better way to make the point (e.g., at least John Kerry is proposing actual legislation) and we don't hold up the Congress when there are so many pressing items to be dealt with. I don't know, call me crazy, but I think confirming our nation's "top cop" (Attorney General) might be a bit more important than making a stand against an election that was nothing like 2000.

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2004 jobs report

The U.S. added 157,000 jobs for December, bringing the 2004 total to 2.2 million jobs, which is the highest annual amount since 1999. With an expected consistent upswing in employment numbers for 2005, expect the Federal Reserve to continue to raise interest rates to temper inflationary concerns. Overall, it's been a good year for the economy and I think this erases any doubt about a 'jobless recovery'.

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Thursday, January 06, 2005

another case for Social Security reform

Mort Kondracke: 'Private accounts should earn you more.'

"Bush is surely right about this: Money invested in private markets will almost certainly earn more than money invested in government bonds, making more for workers and shoring up the system.

Specifically, the average annual return on funds invested in the Social Security system right now is 1.8 percent after inflation. The average return for stocks is 7.4 percent per year. That's over the period from 1926 to the present, including the Great Depression. In the past 200 years, in fact, stocks have averaged a 10.4 percent annual return before inflation."

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Electoral College certification sham

As the Electoral College votes are officially certified today in a joint session of Congress, an objection over the validity of the 20 electoral votes from Ohio is expected to be filed. Not only does this force a recess of the joint session of Congress, but it requires at minimum two hours of debate in each chamber.

I think it is safe to say that this year's election is nothing like 2000. Ohio is not like Florida. The expected objections are the typical race-baiting tactics of "leaders" such as Sen. Barbara Boxer (shamefully she is my senator), the Congressional Black Caucus, and the members of the Democratic Party. I suspect that there will always be a challenge to any result if a Republican wins the Presidency.

This sort of behavior denigrates the institution and role of Congress. It undermines the delicate fabric of trust (that supposedly we are still recovering from in 2000) and the foundation of democracy, which is the guarantee that election results (which is beyond doubt here) are considered valid and accepted. The winner acknowledges the loser's concession. That's exactly what happened when John Kerry conceded in a very gracious speech the day after the election. I can't believe this is even an issue. This protest embarrasses our own elections, Congress and its members, and American democracy.

Nevertheless, the votes will be certified. And we can get on with more urgent issues at hand.

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rallying cry for Social Security reform

from the WSJ

Memo on Social Security
January 5, 2005 7:24 p.m.

This is the full text of the memo from Peter Wehner, President Bush's director of strategic initiatives, on the White House's plans for Social Security reform:

From: Wehner, Peter H.

Subject: Some Thoughts on Social Security

I wanted to provide to you our latest thinking (not for attribution) on Social Security reform.

I don't need to tell you that this will be one of the most important conservative undertakings of modern times. If we succeed in reforming Social Security, it will rank as one of the most significant conservative governing achievements ever. The scope and scale of this endeavor are hard to overestimate.

Let me tell you first what our plans are in terms of sequencing and political strategy. We will focus on Social Security immediately in this new year. Our strategy will probably include speeches early this month to establish an important premise: the current system is heading for an iceberg. The notion that younger workers will receive anything like the benefits they have been promised is fiction, unless significant reforms are undertaken. We need to establish in the public mind a key fiscal fact: right now we are on an unsustainable course. That reality needs to be seared into the public consciousness; it is the pre-condition to authentic reform.

Given that, our aim is to introduce market reforms in Social Security and make the system permanently solvent and sustainable.

We intend to pursue the first goal by using our will and energy toward the creation of Personal Retirement Accounts. As you know, our advocacy for personal accounts is tied to our commitment to an Ownership Society -- one in which more people will own their health care plans and have the confidence of owning a piece of their retirement. Our goal is to provide a path to greater opportunity, more freedom, and more control for individuals over their own lives. That is what the personal account debate is fundamentally about -- and it is clearly the crucial new conservative idea in the history of the Social Security debate.

Second, we're going to take a very close look at changing the way benefits are calculated. As you probably know, under current law benefits are calculated by a "wage index" -- but because wages grow faster than inflation, so do Social Security benefits. If we don't address this aspect of the current system, we'll face serious economic risks.

It's worth noting that wage indexation was not part of the original design of Social Security. The current method of wage indexation was created in 1977, under (you guessed it) the Carter Administration. Wage indexation makes it impossible to "grow our way" out of the Social Security problem. If the economy grows faster and wages rise, this produces more tax revenue. But the faster wage growth also means that we owe more in Social Security benefits. This has produced a never-ending cycle of higher tax burdens, even during periods of robust economic growth. It is the classic case of the dog chasing his tail around the tree; he can run faster and faster, and never make any progress.

You may know that there is a small number of conservatives who prefer to push only for investment accounts and make no effort to adjust benefits -- therefore making no effort to address this fundamental structural problem. In my judgment, that's a bad idea. We simply cannot solve the Social Security problem with Personal Retirement Accounts alone. If the goal is permanent solvency and sustainability -- as we believe it should be --then Personal Retirements Accounts, for all their virtues, are insufficient to that task. And playing "kick the can" is simply not the credo of this President. He wants to do what needs to be done for genuine repair of Social Security.

If we duck our duty, it can have serious short-term economic consequences. Here's why. If we borrow $1-2 trillion to cover transition costs for personal savings accounts and make no changes to wage indexing, we will have borrowed trillions and will still confront more than $10 trillion in unfunded liabilities. This could easily cause an economic chain-reaction: the markets go south, interest rates go up, and the economy stalls out. To ignore the structural fiscal issues -- to wholly ignore the matter of the current system's benefit formula -- would be irresponsible.

Here's a startling fact: under current law, an average retiree in 2050 would be scheduled to receive close to 40 percent more (in real terms) in benefits than an average retiree today -- and yet there are no mechanisms in place to produce the revenue to pay out those benefits. No one on this planet can tell you why a 25-year-old person today is entitled to a 40 percent increase in Social Security benefits (in real terms) compared to what a person retiring today receives.

To meet those benefit levels, one option would be to raise the age at which people receive benefits. If we followed the formula used when Social Security was first created -- make the age at which you receive Social Security benefits above the average age of mortality -- we'd be looking at raising the benefit age to around 80. That ain't gonna happen.

Another way to meet those benefit levels is through the traditional Democrat/liberal way: higher taxation. According to the latest report of the Social Security Trustees, the current system's benefit formula would require some $10 trillion in tax increases over the long term. We'd therefore need to raise the payroll tax almost 20 percent simply to provide wage-indexed benefit levels to those born this year.

This will all sound familiar. In the past, the way Congress usually addressed the built-in funding problem was by raising payroll taxes (from 2 percent in 1937 to 12.4 percent today). In fact, Congress has raised Social Security taxes more than 30 times -- but it has never addressed the underlying problem. Avoiding the core issue by raising taxes is not the modus operandi of this President.

The other key point, as you know, is that personal accounts, through the miracle of compound interest, will provide workers with higher retirement benefits than they are currently receiving from Social Security.

At the end of the day, we want to promote both an ownership society and advance the idea of limited government. It seems to me our plan will do so; the plan of some others won't.

Let me add one other important point: we consider our Social Security reform not simply an economic challenge, but a moral goal and a moral good. We have a responsibility to fulfill the promise of Social Security, not undermine it. And we have a duty to ensure that we do not create an inter-generational conflict -- which is precisely what will happen if the Social Security system is not reformed. We need to retain strong ties between the generations, which is of course a deeply conservative belief.

The debate about Social Security is going to be a monumental clash of ideas -- and it's important for the conservative movement that we win both the battle of ideas and the legislation that will give those ideas life. The Democrat Party leadership, the AARP, and many others will go after Social Security reform hammer and tongs. See today's silly New York Times editorial (its only one for the day) as one example. But Democrats and liberals are in a precarious position; they are attempting to block reform to a system that almost every serious-minded person concedes needs it. They are in a position of arguing against modernizing a system created almost four generations ago. Increasingly the Democrat Party is the party of obstruction and opposition. It is the Party of the Past.

For the first time in six decades, the Social Security battle is one we can win -- and in doing so, we can help transform the political and philosophical landscape of the country. We have it within our grasp to move away from dependency on government and toward giving greater power and responsibility to individuals.

There are of course other important issues dealing with Social Security; for now, though, I've covered quite enough ground. I wanted to let you know where things stand. If you have any questions, or if we can send you anything to clarify our plans and respond to critics, just let me know. The President remains flexible on tactics -- and rock-solid on the principles. But there's nothing new there.

In one of his last public acts of an extraordinary public life, the late Democratic Senator from New York, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, co-chaired the President's Commission to Strengthen Social Security. In the introduction of its report, Senator Moynihan (along with Richard Parsons, his co-chair) wrote, "the time to include personal accounts in such action [reforming Social Security] has, indeed, arrived. The details of such accounts are negotiable, but their need is clear.... Carpe diem!"

And so we shall.

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Wednesday, January 05, 2005

The Best Thing I've Seen All Year

We all remember Sen. Reid's comments regarding Justice Thomas and his being an embarassment to the Court, right? I just came across this WSJ article and thought that it's worth everyone's attention. Ed Henry, who was guest hosting CNN's Inside Politics not too long ago, had the following exchange with Reid regarding his disapproval of Thomas:

Henry: When you were asked on NBC's "Meet the Press" whether or not you could support Justice Thomas to be chief justice you said quote, "I think that he has been an embarrassment to the Supreme Court. I think that his opinions are poorly written." Could you name one of those opinions that you think is poorly written?
Reid: Oh sure, that's easy to do. You take the Hillside Dairy case. In that case you had a dissent written by Scalia and a dissent written by Thomas. There--it's like looking at an eighth-grade dissertation compared to somebody who just graduated from Harvard.
Scalia's is well reasoned. He doesn't want to turn stare decisis precedent on its head. That's what Thomas wants to do. So yes, I think he has written a very poor opinion there and he's written other opinions that are not very good.

An excellent response Senator; one that I wouldn't have thought up. The Hillside Dairy case is an inconspicuous and little known case regarding California milk regulations. A topic this hot must reveal a great deal about Scalia (an apparent favorite of Reid) and Thomas (the blundering eighth grader). But when the author of the above article did some research the following panned out:

To be honest, we'd never even heard of Hillside Dairy until we read the CNN transcript, so we went and looked it up. It turns out to be a 2003 case about California milk regulation. Here is Thomas's opinion in full:
I join Parts I and III of the Court's opinion and respectfully dissent from Part II, which holds that §144 of the Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform Act of 1996, 7 U.S.C. §7254, "does not clearly express an intent to insulate California's pricing and pooling laws from a Commerce Clause challenge." Ante, at 6-7. Although I agree that the Court of Appeals erred in its statutory analysis, I nevertheless would affirm its judgment on this claim because "[t]he negative Commerce Clause has no basis in the text of the Constitution, makes little sense, and has proved virtually unworkable in application," Camps Newfound/Owatonna, Inc. v. Town of Harrison, 520 U.S. 564, 610 (1997) (Thomas, J., dissenting), and, consequently, cannot serve as a basis for striking down a state statute.

Is that written at an eighth-grade level? We report, you decide.
What about that Scalia dissent Reid found so impressive that he thought it worthy of a recent Harvard undergrad (rather a backhanded compliment, since Scalia actually graduated from Harvard Law School 45 years ago)? Here it is, quoted also in its entirety: ""

That's right, there was no Scalia dissent. Scalia joined the court's majority opinion, written by Justice John Paul Stevens, as did every other justice except Thomas, and he dissented only from Part II.

Reid's substantive criticism of Thomas--if it can be dignified with such a description--turns out to be equally empty. According to Reid, Scalia "doesn't want to turn stare decisis precedent on its head," while Thomas does. Presumably this refers to Thomas's rejection of the court's "negative Commerce Clause" jurisprudence. In his Hillside Dairy opinion, as we've seen, Thomas does not elaborate on this, instead pointing the reader to his lengthy dissent in the earlier
Newfound/Owatonna case--a dissent Scalia joined. In other words, Thomas and Scalia both would overturn Supreme Court precedent in this area; the only point of disagreement in Hillside Dairy was whether to address the question in this particular case.

Okay that's enough quoting and ranting from me. All I'm saying is Sen. Reid better find some new aides or perhaps some new material why Justice Thomas shouldn't be at the bench's top spot.

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See...It's Not All Bad

Recently, a gentleman named David Banach was arrested for temporarily blinding a pilot and copilot of a jet with a laser. While he certainly was not connected to any terror cells, the Patriot Act and its provisions relating to interference with operators of mass transportation and giving false statements to the FBI were used to charge Mr. Banach with a crime. The Patriot Act is everyone's favorite thing to criticize; for most, it represents all that is wrong with Attorney General Ashcroft's Justice Dept. To them I say that crimes such as these are real world problems we face in the ongoing efforts to secure our homeland and should not be weakened or disrupted.

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Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Bush proposal for Social Security reform?

from the Washington Post:

"The Bush administration has signaled that it will propose changing the formula that sets initial Social Security benefit levels, cutting promised benefits by nearly a third in the coming decades, according to several Republicans close to the White House.

Under the proposal, the first-year benefits for retirees would be calculated using inflation rates rather than the rise in wages over a worker's lifetime. Because wages tend to rise considerably faster than inflation, the new formula would stunt the growth of benefits, slowly at first but more quickly by the middle of the century. The White House hopes that some, if not all, of those benefit cuts would be made up by gains in newly created personal investment accounts that would harness returns on stocks and bonds."

This proposal makes sense, but as you can read, it involves significant change to how Social Security payments are calculated. Opponents will sell this as slashing benefits and cheating those out of what they deserve. But what they fail to tell you is that those reduced benefits in the future are for those who will have personal savings accounts in place. It may mollify centrists/fiscal hawks' concerns, but it will not fly well with the Democrats.

With the start of the 109th Congress today, this is the opening draw in what is most likely going to be a protracted struggle. I'm sure we'll have more to elaborate here in the coming days.

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Monday, January 03, 2005

tsunami aid/relief debacle

President Bush enlists former Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton to raise funds for relief

It's disappointing and disturbing that certain individuals would turn this entire incident into a political dispute (looking at the editorial board of the NY Times and members of the UN) about the 'stinginess' of the United States. Comparing it to Iraq is like comparing apples to oranges. But that's beside the point.

In the end, total U.S. contribution (including individual, corporate, and official government aid) will surpass every one else in the world. That's the difference between the U.S. and many developed European nations: our citizens are able to choose to donate how much they want to disaster relief. The amount of relief is not limited to how much the government is able to scrape from its taxation coffers like it is in Europe; it is only limited by the magnamity and compassion of the American people.

I'd like to end this post with this line from Charles Krauthammer:

We are six percent or less of the world's population, yet we give almost half. We are a very small number of people, relatively speaking, and we carry the weight of a dozen countries. Secondly, we maintain a military structure that keeps the peace of the world.....Who is in the Indian Ocean with the aircraft carriers, helicopters, skilled personal? No one has the infrastructure in the world, we spend almost half a trillion dollars a year on our military structure, which is essentially the fire department of the planet and it is always at the disposal of people hit in a national disaster.....Incidentally on food aid, we give 60% of all the food aid in the world. It is simply irresponsible to talk about the U.S. as anything other than the most generous nation on the planet.

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Sunday, January 02, 2005

Newt Gingrich's new book

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich's new book comes out January 10th, 2005.

From the Inside Flap

In the twenty-first century, America could be destroyed. The dangers are manifold: Terrorism. Judges who think they’re God (and who are anti-God). Rising economic challenges from China and India. Immigrants and young Americans who know little about American history and values. Can America survive? Yes, says Newt Gingrich, and we as Americans can do more: We can create a safer, more prosperous, and healthier America for our children and grandchildren. How? By enacting a 21st Century Contract with America. When he was Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich issued his first Contract with America. What was the result? Sweeping reform that shocked Washington and spurred an economic recovery for the nation, including: the first major tax cut in sixteen years; real, lasting welfare reform; and four years of balanced budgets. But the challenges now are even starker, and Newt is back with a plan for American greatness that includes: · How to win the War on Terror – how Ronald Reagan’s winning strategy in the Cold War can be adapted and modified to win this new global struggle · How to reestablish God in American public life – without God, America ceases to be American, which is why leftists are so keen on banishing our Creator · How to reform Social Security – and improve your retirement earnings – before Social Security bankrupts the nation and the next generation of taxpayers · How to restore patriotism to American schools – and insist on patriotic learning for new immigrants · How to make American health care the global standard for excellence and accessibility – while reducing health care costs · And much more The challenges of the 21st Century are great, says Newt Gingrich, but so are the opportunities. The decisions we make over the next four years will determine our future. And no book can be more important for making the right choices than Newt Gingrich’s Winning the Future: A 21st Century Contract with America.

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RIP Rep. Bob Matsui (D-CA)

Condolences to the family of the Honorable Bob Matsui (D-CA). Congressman Matsui passed away Saturday night from a rare form of bone-marrow cancer. I have always found Congressman Matsui to be an amiable and pleasant person (watch some of his conferences that he held as DCCC chair along with NRCC chair Tom Reynolds this past year). Despite political differences, I respect Mr. Matsui and the "trail-blazing" work he did as an Asian-American in politics.

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