The Donald And Jimmy Carter

David French has an article at NRO (motto: we are still Never Trump) trying to blame the lack of success of the Democratic Party during the 80s entirely on Jimmy Carter.  It has the subheadline:

If the present trajectory doesn’t change, Republicans will learn what Democrats learned after their 1980 landslide defeat.

Does this mean that the GOP will learn to nominate unelectable folks?  Certainly, the Democrats were unhappy with Jimmy because he was too far right on domestic policy.  He was a deregulator.  After Carter lost to Reagan then the Democrats nominated Mondale, Dukakis, and Clinton.  David says (and might think):

Democrats, stung by defeat after defeat, kept tacking right in national politics — culminating in a Clinton presidency that in many respects was to the right of both national parties today.

The Democrat actions say the opposite.  They tacked left from Jimmy with all their nominations.  Bill campaigned and initially tried to govern from the left.  Does David remember Hillarycare?  The eruption of 1994 left him a choice: have a couple of years to make appointments or try to shape the times.  He took the latter.

Shame on David for making such a dishonest argument.  We are glad we have The Donald rather than Herself.  We hope the GOP does better in the future but that is up to the GOP.  What we really wish is that the Democrats could do better but that seems extraordinarily unlikely.  We will try to explain why soon.

Math Depends Upon Assumptions

Glenn Reynolds, Instapundit, discusses aging in his USA Today column.  He is in favor of extending lifespans. One of the arguments he gives is:

If we could extend healthspan by 20 years — so that 85 is the new 65 and 90 is the new 70 — people could retire that much later, and those pension obligations would pose a much less pressing problem. [emphasis added]

Agreed.  If folks worked longer and kept roughly the same retirement span then personal, corporate, and governmental finances would brighten considerably.  Unfortunately, that is not what has happened historically.  Here is a chart we used to help students understand the changes in retirement over generations:

Retirement Age versus Life Expectancy

Year Average Male Retirement Age Average Male Life Expectancy Years in Retirement
1950 66.9 65.5 0
1960 65.2 66.8 1.6
1970 64.0 67.0 3.0
1980 63.0 70.1 7.1
1990 62.6 71.8 9.2
2000 62.3 74.1 11.8
2005 61.7 75.2 13.5

We are not positive where this comes from as it was just class information but we think at least part of it comes from Mark Perry at Carpe Diem so a general h/t to him.  Over 55 years the life expectance went up by almost 10 years but the retirement age went DOWN by over five.  It seems unlikely that increasing the life expectancy by 20 will increase the retirement age much if at all.  Increasing our lifespan seems more likely to darken finances, especially public finances.

We would support increasing our useful lifespan too.  You can’t play too much handball.  But increasing our lifespan is more likely to exacerbate the entitlement problem than solve it.  What do you think is the probability of Congress increasing the age for receiving Social Security to 85?


Sorry But No

Mary Anastasia O’Grady discusses the Venezuela-Cuba connection at the WSJ.  We like her columns but we love her name.  She starts off with three assertions:

The civilized world wants to end the carnage in Venezuela, but Cuba is the author of the barbarism. Restoring Venezuelan peace will require taking a hard line with Havana.

We think the first one, “The civilized world want to end the carnage in Venezuela,” is false because the second, “Cuba is the author,” and the third, “Restoring Venezuelan peace will require taking a hard line with Havana,” are true.

There is no evidence that the civilized world wants to end the carnage in Venezuela.  Certainly Obama did not want to end it.  The Donald has only shown interest in humanitarian aid. No country outside of the Americas wants to confront Cuba or become enmeshed in American, and particularly South American, politics.  The Canadians, under Trudeau are not interested in defending civilization as this indicates.  No other country in the hemisphere dares to intervene because of either fear of or support for Venezuela-Cuba.

We are not sure that we want to end the carnage in Venezuela.  We certainly want to make folks aware of it but it is not casus belli.  On the other hand, if Maduro asks for transport to a safe haven we should provide it.  In addition, we hope that The Donald continues to support the Cuban people rather than the Cuban government. There is much between war and weak support that is the business of politics.  We hope that progress starts.

Speaking Of Pro-Market

As we said recently, we are pro-market and the left is anti-market.  The Boston Globe has an example, Jeffrey D. Sachs:

Our current political travails can be traced to Reagan. In his jovial way, Reagan would quip, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’” With his sneering disrespect for government, Reagan ushered in nearly four decades of tax cuts, deregulation, and rising inequality that now threaten to devour our future. Trump, Ryan, and McConnell are the scheming and vacuous politicians at the end of a long process of decline.

It would be hard to be jovial and at the same time have a sneering disrespect for government.  He did make some progress on tax cuts and deregulation (Jimmy Carter helped on deregulation) but much has been undone since he left.  Here is a recent example of the undoing.  We’re not sure about Trump but certainly Ryan and McConnell have been complicit in the regulating and taxing of the USA.

What is the left worried about an economic irrelevancy like income inequality?  Perhaps they see it as a path to power?  Envy is a common disease.  We need to fight for economic freedom and remind folks that absolute economic success is what we should pursue.  Eating the rich is not a useful way to accomplish that.

For example, in year one A earns $50,000 and B earns $50,000 and have no income inequality.  In year two A earns $100,000 and B earns $150,000 so there is income inequality as B has 60% of the income.  Both A and B should prefer year 2.

Economic freedom and the related economic growth are the solutions to our economic problems.  We need to use the effective tools like markets and see that the growth fairy lives.



Markets Versus Business

Veronique De Rugy returns to one of her favorite topics on The Corner at NRO: The difference between being pro-business and pro-markets:

It is unfortunate that so many Republicans, conservatives lawmakers, and pundits conflate being pro-market with being pro-business. These are two separate things. Unfortunately, this confusion has produced thousands of government handouts and privileges to companies in the name of being pro-business — and these companies have developed a sense of entitlement. Worst of all, for many of them, government-granted privileges are an inherent part of their business models.

Our view is that the confusion on the right is limited.  Most of the decisions to abandon economic freedom by the right are made with full knowledge.  Folks see the political advantage in giving up economic freedom.  It is too bad, for example, that Marco Rubio supports sugar subsidies but we believe he understands what he is doing even if he does not admit it.

Where the real problems come is in the debates between left and right.  It is in that comparison that we need to make the distinction between pro-markets and pro-business.  The left is usually pro-business for a limited set of business but are never (can anyone think of a counter example?) pro-markets.  The right always starts out as pro-markets but sometimes some of them ends up as pro-business based on status quo arguments.

We need to understand that the left is anti-markets and the right is pro-markets.  The pro-business stuff comes from different directions too.  The left wants to determine economic winners.  The right, sadly, wants to pick political winners.  Pro-freedom except for sugar (we exaggerate slightly) makes you a senator.  We can’t be content about that but we need to accept that it is currently true.  Economic conservatives, as with the health care bill, need to decide if they can accept some small portion of a loaf as an improvement.  The health care bill will be one of many difficult choices for economic conservatives in the near future.

Barone’s Assertions

Recently on NRO, Michael Barone was talking about The Donald and his critics and especially the critics of his Warsaw speech.  Michael said:

But Trump’s text included praise of Poland’s and Western civilization’s resistance to Nazi and Communist totalitarianism, empowering women, striving for excellence, valuing the dignity of human life, debating and challenging “everything.” Presumably, Trump’s critics embrace each of these products of Western civilization.

The Donald has lots of critics but we are talking about critics on the left here.  Critics on the right would embrace all seven of these products of Western civilization even if they would not agree with the left on how to challenge.

Sidebar: We could debate that conservatives don’t want to challenge everything.  When someone at a concert, play, or movie says something politically insensitive, conservatives are reluctant to challenge it.  Another difference between the groups is that conservatives like freedom from politics more than liberals.

We recognize that critics on the left vary but here is our take for critics on the left.

Resistance to Nazis: Embrace.
Resistance to Commies: Don’t Embrace.
Empowering women: Mixed – see support of Islam.
Striving for excellence: No – quotas are the solution.
Valuing the dignity of human life: No, abortions and euthanasia.
Debating everything: No- see Evergreen State et al.
Challenging everything: mixed – again see Evergreen State et al.

It is the problem of Red versus Blue and conservatives versus liberals.  The former sees Western civilization as worth embracing and the later sees it as something with lots of warts.


Not Satire From Salon

We saw this on Facebook:

“It’s pretty much inevitable” that Trump will try to stage a coup and overthrow democracy

We were gobsmacked to find out that it was an interview of Timothy Snyder, a Yale professor, on Salon.  We had thought that Salon was a fairly normal leftist site but the first question is:

The election of Donald Trump is a crisis for American democracy. How did this happen?

We are not fans of The Donald but we like some of the things he has done.  How would it be possible to converse with such folks?

Tenure Battles

TaxProf Blog has the story from Inside Higher Ed of Carolyn Brown, an assistant professor of journalism at American University, who was denied tenure and promotion.  For those of you who are not academics, this means Ms. Brown was given a one-year contract for next year but she must leave after that.  Academic firing, like almost every other academic thing, is slow.

There is one really important piece of information and two important issues.  The important piece of information is that the Provost’s letter to Ms. Brown is available online.  You can click on at the link above.  One issue is that Ms. Brown identifies as Latina and has been very active in promoting diversity.  The second issue is that the Provost’s letter

Sidebar: It seems odd that the director of the division and others are appealing to the provost.  The letter makes clear that the Committee on Faculty Actions (CFA) voted unanimously against tenure and promotion for Ms Brown.  The beef is with the CFA as it is unlikely that a provost or dean would overturn a unanimous faculty rejection.  End Sidebar.

We will consider the contents of the letter today.  The letter is entirely about what we call student evaluation of instruction scores or SEI scores.  The letter focuses on the number of poor SEI scores rather than the mean score.  For example: 83.3% of the class gave you a rank of 1, 2, or 3, classifying you on the form as “one of the worst.”

We believe that SEI scores are useful but imperfect information.  What is undeniable is that we live in an assessment age.  What will the outside accreditation reviewers think when they see this letter that fires a faculty member over teaching concerns without mentioning assessment?  This document is a smoking gun.  American University could lose accreditation over these four pages.  At best, they have dug themselves a deep hole.  We can’t imagine how the CFA and the provost did this the way they did.  Ms. Brown may not have deserved tenure but the CFA must include assessment in the evaluation.  Ms. Brown is appealing the decision.

It Will Be A Binary Choice Chris

Senator Chris Coons (D, DE) is fighting to keep at least a single Obamacare insurer in his state.  He said this about the failing enactment:

“I’ve never said (Obamacare) was perfect,” Coons said. “I wasn’t a member of Congress when it was passed. It was passed by only one party [his], and it was passed with the expectation that the ACA would be amended, would be fixed, would be improved over time, as experience showed some of its limitations.”

It will soon come to a binary choice Chris.  He says he won’t work with the GOP but will party be more important than constituents?  The Democrats have been able to create amazing party loyalty recently.  It is a major reason why their numbers have dwindled in the Obama era.  Here is the Washington Post trying to put some lipstick on the deceased.


Healthcare And Binary Choices

In our last post we were sucked in to the healthcare maelstrom.  Soon we will be down to a binary choice: The GOP proposal or the status quo.  But we are not there yet.  We would like to discuss George Will’s support of the Pat Toomey amendment.

First George talks about the critical need to rein in entitlements:

It required tenacity by Toomey to insert into the bill a gradually arriving, but meaningful, cap on the rate of growth of per-beneficiary Medicaid spending. It is requiring of Toomey and kindred spirits strenuous efforts to keep it there, which reveals the Republican party’s itch to slouch away from its uncomfortable but indispensable role as custodian of realism about arithmetic.

We agree 100% that entitlements including Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security need to be brought under control.  We have no choice and it is easier to do it early rather than to wait.  Then he tells us what Pat did:

In the Senate draft, for eight years the growth of Medicaid spending would equal inflation in the health-care sector (somewhat more spending for the elderly and disabled). After eight years, Toomey’s measure would lower the growth rate of per-beneficiary spending to meet the normal measure of inflation — the basic consumer price index.

Color us much, much less excited.  It doesn’t say how this rate of growth reduction will happen.  It sounds to us like this is or will lead to price controls and revives George’s question of why do we need Republicans if this is the best they can do?

Still, it will eventually come down to a binary choice: GOP or the status quo on healthcare.  This attempt to reform healthcare might be better than the status quo and we might support it but we would prefer a process to limit entitlements.  An optimist might say that the process will follow the restriction.  George is being much more optimistic than usual.