We Have Met The Enemy …

Syracuse University has joined the NFL and then some.  The NFL in this case is the No Fun League.  They have also opposed free speech.  Gregory Germain, a member of the Orange law faculty has the scoop:

A diverse group of 15 students (white, African American, Hispanic, Jewish, Muslim, Christian) who were pledging an engineering fraternity were asked to do a roast of the fraternity members for their joint amusement. The skits were crude: masturbation jokes; a politically conservative member was made to be an alt-right bigot who formed a competing fraternity to spread racism; a skit about sexually assaulting a fraternity member who was so controlled by his girlfriend that he could not move (patterned after a viral Brandon Rogers YouTube video). They were making fun of themselves and each other in outlandish ways using very crude language.

It is important that Gregory lets us know Syracuse has a free speech policy, because the Orange is a private university:

Syracuse University has a broad free speech policy that promises protection for offensive speech.

Despite that free speech policy the administration reacted as crudely we have grown to expect:

The university quickly expelled the fraternity, and the chancellor issued videotaped messages to the community promising swift student prosecutions, seeking suspensions or expulsions.

Expelling a student for cheating or violently disrupting a presentation is almost impossible but acting privately in bad taste is a hanging offense.

Sidebar: You do understand that we don’t literally mean hanging, right?  We mean that it is an offense that brings an extreme sanction like expelling the fraternity from the university.  End Sidebar.

The only good news here is that a member of the faculty has spoken up for the students who have had their lives ruined by overzealous administrators.  Here’s hoping that the students and the fraternity take the the university and the administrators individually for all that they are worth.  Good luck Gregory and the fraternity as they seek retribution!

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Still Never Trump

We are finishing up Jonah Goldberg’s new book.  We recommend it and will give a fuller review later but the book is diminished by him continuing to fight the Never Trump battle.  On p. 315 after he paints The Donald as a nationalist he says:

The traditional American conservative vision of limited governments and free markets has passed it sell-buy [sic] date.  The choice is now progressivism or nationalism. [Emphasis added]

We will limit ourselves to two observations.  First, if you don’t think The Donald is doing anything for limited government then Google “Trump reducing regulations” or some variant of it.  Jonah is absolutely right that the Donald isn’t a conservative but he has been very effective at advancing some conservative ideas.

Second, the choice in 2016 general election was Hillary or The Donald.  Jonah seems to have recognized that many of us are reluctant supporters of The Donald.  The next open election will provide some other choice.  We wish one of them wasn’t progressive but we are not optimistic.

Jonah needs to recognize that conservative can’t always agree and conservatives are a non-trivial part of the GOP but if the GOP only attracts conservatives it will almost always lose national elections.  Jonah supported eight years of Hillary because it would damage the brand and we might do better in 2024.  The evidence might change in the next six years but so far he is way wrong.

Democrat Strategy For 2018

We don’t follow the Democrats much because they rarely have much to offer us.  Lily Geismer and Matthew D. Lassiter, two history professors, are in the NYT suggesting that they are going too far to the center.  Really.  We are not making this up.  You should really read the whole thing before you vote.  Clearly, Lily and Matt are not speaking for their party but they are speaking for their block in the NYT.

We think the most interesting part of Lily and Matt’s article is what they want and don’t want for Democrat priorities.  This seems to be their list and rationale:

Democrats cannot cater to white swing voters in affluent suburbs and also promote policies that fundamentally challenge income inequality, exclusionary zoning, housing segregation, school inequality, police brutality and mass incarceration.

The political culture of upscale suburbs revolves around resource hoarding of children’s educational advantages, pervasive opposition to economic integration and affordable housing, and the consistent defense of homeowner privileges and taxpayer rights.

In their first paragraph they identify what they want to challenge.  We are not sure what kind of policies would provide the challenge and we don’t know why they would appeal to racial groups and folks without a college education that they want to attract.  Their opposition to “homeowner privilege” and “taxpayer rights” seems like a loser when two-thirds of Americans own their own home and, if we include FICA (payroll taxes), we have another substantial majority.  Here is evidence that paying federal income taxes is still a majority.

We would love to see the Democrat Party come back to the center.  Lily and Matt are telling us that it is unlikely to happen even if they happen to nominate some less extreme folks for a few Congressional seats.  It is a scary thing because eventually they are going to win.

More Entitlement News

We were discussing entitlements recently and said many conservatives and progressives want to ignore the problem.  Jim Geraghty’s Jolt that we missed originally was all over that.  Read it all and it won’t copy but Jim concludes that the folks with the evidence always lose and so politicians are rational to conclude that they are enacting the wishes of the electorate by continuing to drive over the fiscal cliff that almost all of them can see.

Sidebar: Jim also discusses Sex and the City and cites some opinion. We only watched it a few times but we have a theory why it was popular with women.  Our explanation is that the series was populated with beautiful women who were foolish and unhappy. The beautiful characters unhappiness makes ordinary mortals happier by reducing their envy. End Sidebar.

Jim’s take on entitlements might be right and it is seriously depressing.  We need to buy the Washington Post.  Kevin Williamson’s screed is brilliant but it suggests even more pessimism.  Some days it is hard to post because we share Jim and Kevin’s level of depression about politics.

 

 

A Little News On Entitlements

Charles Blahous, a former public trustee for Social Security and Medicare, has a WSJ update on the financial position of these entitlements.  The title is The Social Security Trust Fund Goes Bust.  He says:

The downward spirals have accelerated. The combined Social Security trust funds—one for disability, one for retirement—as well as Medicare’s hospital-insurance trust fund, will begin eating into their reserves this year, according to reports released this week by the programs’ trustees.

It seems to us like an attempt to use the most recent data to galvanize the people to spur the Congress and the President into action.  It really should not be necessary and if the data was slightly more favorable it should not change the situation.  Charles gives us the important message near the end:

The annual press focus on the projected insolvency dates has always been somewhat misplaced. What’s really important is the magnitude of the shortfalls and the difficulty of correcting them, which grows every year.

We agree.  What is amazing is when you Google “Social Security Trustee Report 2018” is how little news it generated.  It mostly shows up on opinion sites.  The one in a news publication, US News And World Report is by Mark Miller and entitled, Repeat After Me: Social Security And Medicare Are Not Insolvent.  And why is an insolvent program not insolvent?

In other words, retirees – and future retirees – would lose nearly a quarter of their benefits. But that is not insolvency, and solutions are readily available to avoid that unacceptable outcome.

Here is an experiment.  Try paying 77% of your bills.  Are you insolvent?  Affirmative.  The outcome of insolvency depends on your creditors.  And if you have no chance, as with entitlements, of ever paying more than 77% then you are absolutely insolvent.  The only question is whether it will be solved before or after bankruptcy court.  Then Mark gives us a summary of the options:

Conservatives favor benefit cuts via higher retirement ages, more means-testing and a less generous annual cost-of-living adjustment. Progressives advocate gradually increasing payroll taxes and lifting the cap on taxable benefits. Considering that middle-class households depend mainly on Social Security for support in retirement, it would be wiser to follow the progressive agenda.

The first and second sentences need a close reading to reveal the bias.  We might convert Mark’s first two sentences into:

Conservatives favor solutions like means testing, more accurate cost-of-living adjustments, higher payments to lower classes, and higher retirement ages.  Progressive advocate higher taxes through increasing tax rates and the amounts subject to Social Security taxation.  Many conservatives and progressives seem to support ignoring the problem.

The last sentence in our quote of Mark is very curious.  Does it mean that the lower class doesn’t depend on Social Security (SS) for retirement?  We would like to see that data.  Our priors are that lower classes rely most heavily on SS of any class.  We, along with many conservatives, would support an increase in SS payments to them.  Middle class depends  on SS between the upper and lower, and the upper class depends the least on SS.  As we see it, the wiser course is the conservative agenda of means testing because it will reduce the payments to the upper class that is less likely to need it.

Fixing Social Security today is relatively easy because there are many politically viable solutions.  None of these solutions have happened because of the political opportunity in opposing any changes.  Fixing Medicare is going to be much harder because of the difficulty in creating a market for medical services.  We know we are not going to start today but let’s start soon for the kids and grandkids because, as Charles says, it gets harder to fix every day.  Start with SS.

 

 

Good News On Venezuela

What happens in Venezuela is largely up to its citizens.  But the WSJ editors report that the Organization of American States (OAS) and The Donald are trying to make it easier for those folks.  First the OAS:

The Organization of American States voted 19-4 on Tuesday for a resolution to suspend Venezuela as a member for its violations of democracy and human rights. The vote reflects shared horror over Venezuelan atrocities against its own people, fear of an exploding migration crisis and a notable shift in the region toward center-right governments willing to defend liberty.

And then The Donald:

The U.S. is also playing an important role in building regional consensus on Venezuela after eight years of abdication under Barack Obama. Venezuela bullies its neighbors, and many countries haven’t been willing to oppose Caracas and its handlers in Havana without assurances that the U.S. would back them up.

We agree that the previous administration harmed Venezuela but no US administration can fix Venezuela.  What it can do is increase the probability that Venezuela can fix itself.

It doesn’t mean that the hell that is Venezuela is going to end soon.  It doesn’t mean that it will be easy.  It doesn’t mean that Venezuela will ever recover its freedom.  But it does mean that Venezuela has a chance to escape socialism.  We hope it does.

 

 

 

Tough Choices

The WSJ Editors are taking Rick Perry and The Donald to task for proposing grid operators to buy coal and nuclear power.  Their recommendation is:

A better way to make coal and nuclear more competitive is to keep chipping away at renewable subsidies and cutting regulation.

We are in 100% agreement that we should reduce or eliminate renewable subsidies and cut regulation.  The Donald, Rick, and the rest of the administration are making admirable progress on the latter but the former need legislation and the probability of that seems extraordinarily remote.

We are not entirely convinced that the regulators cited by the WSJ are unbiased and having relatives in New England we are sure that the gas pipeline will face tough sledding even though there has been a positive court decision.  Heaven help them if they try to go through our aunt’s back yard as one proposal has it.  At best, the gas pipeline will be a long time coming.  We are unconvinced that the market will solve the problem shortly because folks are choking the market with both hands.

The first best solution is not available.  We are willing to support a short-term solution that is not market based because of existing subsidies.  We are not excited about it but it might be the best option.  The problem with being in charge is that you must make tough calls like this one.