Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Goodbye Atlantic Relationship

Throughout the election season President Bush was criticized for his "cowboy-like" approach to foreign policy. Indeed, during the War on Terrorism, relations between the United States and "Old Europe" have faded quickly. In some ways, this is understandable. The United States is interested in protecting its own interests, chiefly security, and ultimately Democracy. France and Germany have no real disincentives in trying to prevent this spread of American influence. In fact it is an ideological divide on the way the post- Cold international world should look.

All of this aside, let us look to the comments of today from Chirac and Schroeder. There is no place for NATO? The EU is the new alliance? Ok, France and Germany, have you considered the consequences you face if the United States were to pull out its military support and leave the EU to full fend for itself in an anarchical world order?

It seems that one by one the assumptions perpetuated throughout the election season are fading. Today we see, if we previously had any doubt from the power play at the UN before the Iraq War, that the European discontent had less to do with a rogue American President than obnoxious French and German leadership.

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Sunday, February 20, 2005

Hillary Clinton in 2008

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton said that much of Iraq was "functioning quite well" and that the rash of suicide attacks was a sign that the insurgency was failing.
- From an AP Story

I'm glad to see that Senator Clinton is doing all she can to appear moderate for the 2008 election. Unfortunately, no matter what she does to moderate her image, she'll be just as polarizing of a candidate. What Senator Clinton fails to realize is that it's not so much that her politics are hated by conservatives, though they probably are, but she herself has always rubbed the party the wrong way ever since the attempted medical socialization in the early 1990's. I'm looking forward to Senator Clinton running, especially if she manages to win the Democratic Primary, because any Republican challenger besides Senator Rick Santorum and the Repubs are guaranteed a win in '08.

By the way, isn't this the worst picture you've seen of her? Surprisingly, I didn't grab it from Drudge; it was in an AP Article from February 20, 2005.

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Wednesday, February 16, 2005

A Stinging Critique

Former Governor du Pont has an op-ed in the WSJ today on Social Security Reform and the response to those that oppose it: (excerpt below)

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid says market Social Security accounts are playing "roulette"; House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi calls them a "guaranteed gamble"; Sen. John Kerry that the market account idea is "a rip-off." Sen. Olympia Snowe (R., Maine) is opposed, having "serious concerns" about individually owned accounts; Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R., Mo.) opposes allowing individuals to invest their Social Security payments in "risky investments."

And yet each of these individuals owns just such marketplace investments, either through the Thrift Savings Plan or other accounts. The question is, why won't they let you do the same in your retirement plan, the one called Social Security?

Ultimately the argument isn't about investment accounts, or stocks or bonds or "gambling" or "insecurity." It is about socialism versus individualism, about Attlee's social justice and Hillary's common good and Chomsky's economic solidarity. AARP CEO William Novelli is in favor of allowing the government to invest Social Security surplus funds in the stock market, but against allowing individuals to do so--exactly the socialist argument, that government should control the distribution of the nation's wealth.

At least he doesn't spend any time nuancing his views...Take a look it's worth five minutes of your time.

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Monday, February 14, 2005

Dean for Democratic America

This weekend Governor Howard Dean was elected Chairman of the DNC. Many on the Right saw this as a huge victory heading in to the mid-terms, with the Democrats undeniably rallying behind another "Northeastern Liberal." It's true Howard Dean, if making policy for the Democrats, could prove to be a liability but I don't believe Governor Dean will be doing much of that. If given the chance he has the ability to rally youth voters and mobilize the grassroots like no other candidate could have. While I would have picked another DNC Chair, I think the Democrats could have done much worse than Governor Dean. As long as they keep him and his screams off the camera and allow him to do what he does best the party is better off with him than without him. Congratulations Gov. Dean; I'm looking forward to another spirited election season in 2006.

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Saturday, February 12, 2005

Fight Despotism at Home Before Going Abroad

I think perhaps that it is time for Bush to quit talking Social Security reform, and start talking flat tax. Congress will not budge on SS. It is too costly right now, especially with the combination of thw War in Iraq and his bloated budget. With a flat tax, the government would take in more money than it currently does under the Marxist tax schedule we live under in the US. It is time for a Just Deal. Our current tax system is oppressive and unfair. The federal government should not have the ability to discriminate against people based on any information including their income. Fight the oppression.


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Thursday, February 10, 2005

a random walk....

The "Democratic Republic of North Korea" announced that it possesses nuclear weapons yesterday. It also rejected restarting disarmament talks with the U.S., China, Russia, Japan, and South Korea. How this plays out is going to be interesting....

In other news:

The Appropriations Committee in both chambers of the Capitol have agreed to reduce the number of subcommittees from thirteen to ten in an effort to hopefully streamline the budget process and diminish the possibility of an ominbus appropriations bill (remember when a legislative aide inserted a provision allowing certain committee chairmen access to citzens' tax returns?). This may be the first step for Chairman Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) to demonstrate that he is serious about meeting the budget requirements set out by the President and preventing the process from spiraling out of control as it has consistently in the past.

As a follow-up to Kris's post yesterday, I suggest reading this excellent article by Larry Kudlow, titled "Reagan's Heir". You can call it whatever you want (fine, call it voodoo economics or the even more derogratory "trickle-down economics"), but the truth is, the so-called "rich" are shouldering even more of the tax burden even with a reduction in marginal tax rates and capital gains/dividends.

And out here in California, our governor "Ahnnhold" is preparing to engage in what probably will be his biggest battle. He has no less than four initiatives he wants to take to the California people: merit pay for public school teachers, privatizing the public employee retirement system, mandating across-the-board cuts in spending if the Legislature cannot produce a balanced budget, and finally (which may be the biggest of all), independent redistricting. Talk of redistricting has many House Republicans squeamish. George Will evaluates the national ramifications of Gov. Schwarzeneggar's plans.

Finally, it seems Chairman Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) of the Ways and Means Committee seems pretty settled on following his own path and marching to his own beat. Robert Novak examines
the chairman's view on Social Security and tax reform and how it might just endanger the entire process.

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Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Tax Burden

The House Joint Economic Committee in conjunction with the IRS delivered figures today that affirmed what President Bush and Republicans on the Hill have said all along: the income tax cuts initiated by President Bush were not just a "boost for the wealthy." In fact, under the current tax model those making over $126,000/yr are shouldering approximately 54% of the tax burden. If you extend that down to those making approximately $93,000/yr the percent increases to about 66%. Those citizens making less than $26,000/yr make up only 3.5%. Anyone who argues that the current income tax code isn't progressive enough should take another look.

For the JEC press release check out their homepage at
http://www.house.gov/jec or click here (PDF capabilities required).

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Monday, February 07, 2005

Happy Birthday President Reagan

For all of you that know me you were probably wondering where I was yesterday. Well truth be told I had friends visiting from out of town but that didn't stop me from thinking about President Reagan's birthday. During a moment of quiet reflection yesterday I was reminded of one of the passages from An American Life (Reagan's autobiography), which I love so much:

And yet as I reflected on what we had accomplished, I had a sense of incompleteness - that there was still work to be done...Just then there was a quiet knock on the door of our cabin and I was reminded that we were taking our last ride aboard what had been Air Force One. we were told there was a gathering of all those on board - staff, press, and Secret Service - a chance to say good-bye before we landed. There were warm handshakes, tearful embraces, and lots of picture-taking. Finally champagne was poured and glasses were raised. "Mission accomplished, Mr. President," someone called out, "mission accomplished."

Not yet, I thought to myself, not yet.

And with that I say happy birthday President Reagan; may your legacy continue and grow with each passing day.

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Sunday, February 06, 2005

happy birthday to Ronald Reagan

and a Happy Reagan Day to all of you (today would have been President Reagan's 94th birthday).

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to the father of modern economics

this is a great article (here's an excerpt):

Greenspan, who this month began his final year as Fed chairman, delivered the Adam Smith Memorial Lecture at Fife College in Kirkcaldy, Fife, Scotland, where the early proponent of free-market capitalism was born in 1723.

"In his `Wealth of Nations,' Smith reached far beyond the insights of his predecessors to frame a global view of how market economies, just then emerging, worked," Greenspan said in a text of his remarks that was released in Washington.

"In so doing, he supported changes in societal organization that were to measurably enhance world standards of living," Greenspan said.

Smith, who died in 1790, argued that while free markets might appear chaotic, they actually were guided to produce the right amount and variety of goods by what he called the "invisible hand" of supply and demand. If a product were in short supply, its price would rise, prompting more producers to enter the market, Smith argued.

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Wednesday, February 02, 2005

The State of the Union

President Bush's State of the Union was perhaps one of his better speeches in recent memory. Social Security dominated the speech and we thought President Bush made a pretty darn good case for why we need to at least establish a national dialogue and debate between citizens and members of Congress. For now, the President has proposed allowing workers to save up to 2/3 of their payroll tax (that's roughly 4% of the 6.2% that each employee pays). We've debated the issue vigorously already, but I am sure we can expect to have many more discussions as the debate broadens.

I am sure that every one else shares my enthusiasm for the near-freeze on discretionary spending (which actually with inflation is going to result in spending cuts).

We were somewhat surprised to see the President make a declaration to continue to push for the constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. Regarding foreign policy, we take particular interest in Bush's emphasis on Syria and his claim to standing with the Iranians in their movement for freedom. At this point, the US is hard-pressed to spread freedom pro-actively into Iran. And I was most amused to hear the President say, " we will continue to build the coalitions that will defeat the dangers of our time."

Overall, this State of the Union seemed to be about reform: Social Security reform, tax reform, health-care reform, tort reform, and educational reform. It is an ambitious agenda, but I believe I speak for most of us here that we are eager to see it enacted. At the least, we welcome the political discourse that will result and continue to write.

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The Sweet Sound of Silence

Excerpts from a Washington Times article that I found to be particularly interesting:

"I personally do not believe they're [Iraq] going to be ready for the election in January . . . because there's no security there," he said.
- Former President Jimmy Carter on NBC's "Today Show" in September of 2004
Asked whether the Carter Center had a comment on the election, spokeswoman Kay Torrance said: "We wouldn't have any 'yea' or 'nay' statement on Iraq."

Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown, who has consistently opposed Mr. Bush and the war in Iraq, wrote for yesterday's edition that "it's hard to swallow," but "what if it turns out Bush was right, and we were wrong?"
"If it turns out Bush was right all along, this is going to require some serious penance," Mr. Brown wrote.

I don't believe the verdict is in on certain aspects of the Iraqi election, such as Sunni participation, but I find it difficult to believe that anyone (for or against the war) could dispute the historic sight of thousands of Iraqis risking their lives to vote. Democracy is a fabulous thing when exercised in a prudent and respectful manner and the Iraqi people on Sunday stood as a testament to all those brave men that have died for this noble cause.

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Senator Kerrey for Social Security Reform

Senator Kerrey (former Democratic Senator from Nebraska to be exact) has come out advising Democrats against their "hell no, we won't go" attitude toward Social Security reform. He wisely points out that many reasonable accomplishments can be achieved through Social Security reform and if the Left abandons it all together they'll miss out on infusing any semblance of a progressive agenda into the process. Kerrey is right but I don't think that'll change the course of the Dems in Congress who are adamantly against touching this "third rail." Maybe the outspoken former Senator will successfully change some opinions. But even if his message falls on deaf ears it's an excellent op-ed that both the Right and Left could learn a thing or two from (as much as it pains me to say).

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