Stuck In (The Middle?) With You?

Well, Stealers Wheel’s lyrics often come to mind when surveying the political scene.  The first two lines of the chorus are often apropos but the we have never before felt like the last two lines apply to us.  In case you forgot:

Clowns to the left of me
Jokers to the right

Here I am
Stuck in the middle with you

What has got us in a tizzy is Kevin Drum at Mother Jones is reminding us that National Health Care Is Free.  It is silly but we have read it so you don’t have to.  What is worrisome is the jokers on the right.  Paul Mirengoff at PowerLine reports that:

At the recent National Conservatism Conference in Washington, the crowd voted overwhelmingly in favor of a resolution calling for the United States to adopt an “industrial policy.” In so doing, the conservative crowd agreed with Sen. Elizabeth Warren who, as John [Hinderaker at PowerLine] has noted, also wants the U.S. to adopt such a policy.

The idea is for the government, through a set of policies — taxes, spending subsidies, regulation, and tariffs — to protect factory jobs against the forces of globalization and technological change.

Paul links to James Pethokoukis at AEI for an evaluation.  The headline is “GOP’s Stupid Swoon For Big Government.”  We are entirely on board on “Stupid” but this was the National Conservatism Conference rather than just Marco Rubio.  As the link shows, serious people were there.

As we are trying to deal with the level of disagreement on the right, we come across this from Rosie Gray in Buzz Feed News:

It’s an odd feature of American politics today that while the Republican party as an institution has never been more unified, the right has never been more ideologically fluid. Intellectual subgroups have had their moments in the sun: neoconservatives, libertarians. But they, and the Reaganites who have decided conservative dogma since the 1980s, have all diminished as Donald Trump has occupied all of the available breathing room on the right.

We can help Rosie with her confusion.  The GOP is as fractious as ever.  Just like the Democrat party.  The right has always had intellectual subgroups.  Each candidate brings a number of those subgroups together.  The Donald created a new one: NeverTrump.

Oh, back to Kevin and our concerns on the left.  Kevin is trying to convince us that national health care is free and he says:

You see, the vast bulk of health care spending goes to providers. This means that the only way to reduce spending is to pay doctors less, pay nurses less, pay drug companies less, and pay device manufacturers less. This will not happen, and anyone who’s serious about national health care would be insane to try. Why put up an enormous barrier to success, after all? [Emphasis added]

We agree with Kevin on the part we have put in bold.  The only problem is that the part above it is a description of national health care.  It is certain

Sidebar: We often envy writers for their certainty about a variety of things.  The outcome of very few events is certain.  End Sidebar.

that national healthcare will pay doctors less, nurses less, drug companies less, and manufacturers less.  As a small example from the left, there is the Obamacare tax (#10) on medical devices.  The Donald, like many politicians, is upset with drug prices.

Then Kevin explains how it is free:

The one thing we probably could do is get rid of insurance companies, which would save a bit of money—probably about enough to make up for the cost of adding the remaining uninsured to the system. So in the end it comes out even after all.

We did not make that up.  Kevin is saying that moving administration largely from the insurance companies to the government is going to save us money.  Not just a few dollars but enough to add all of the uninsured into insured.  What do you think the probability that the government is more efficient that private enterprise?  To be fair, given the government regulations in health care, the chance is very close to but not exactly zero.

The clowns and jokers seem to be more numerous than ever.  Did MWG really end up in the middle?  How many adjectives or prefix will there need to be to make MWG a conservative? Are you with us?  We have received but not read the other Kevin’s new book.  Perhaps reading that we relieve our funk.  We hope to get around to explaining why George Will’s new book is great but we still feel lonely.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Binary Situations

It happens that we are reading Jonah Goldberg’s email and Kevin D. Williamson in the print version of the National Review on the same day.  You should always read all of both of them for the joy of their prose if nothing else.  We don’t have links for either because Jonah’s comes as an email (it is the Goldberg File: Mob Ascendant) and Kevin is, as Jonah says, on dead tree (ODT).  Make sure you read Kevin’s footnotes.

Sidebar One: Yes there is a digital version of the National Review and we do subscribe but there is a paywall.  You should subscribe so you can look.  Frankly, we prefer to read stuff ODT.  End Sidebar One.

We are generally with Jonah that mob-like actions are a big problem in politics and society.  Then he reports (we’ve pasted the tweet):

Sohrab Ahmari tweeted amidst the Trump rally the other night: Every political situation like the one we’re living through is a binary. Would that it weren’t so. But it’s as ironclad as the laws of thermodynamics.

We expected a response like nonsense on stilts or some such Jonahism.  Instead we get the weakest gruel possible from him:

I think this is axiomatically true—if enough people believe it to be true. Then, it becomes true. It’s just not obvious to me that Sohrab doesn’t want it to be true.

Jonah’s first sentence seems to contradict itself.  The tweet is much closer to being axiomatically false.  There are many factions: Trumpers, NeverTrumers, libertarians, social conservatives, crunchy conservatives, and economic conservatives to take a few of the factions from one side of the aisle.  Some folks might be in more than one faction.  Political situations like tabling the impeachment of The Donald, and the steps in their resolutions have a variety of wins, loses, and no impact.

Votes are different than political situations.  Votes by citizens are often binary.  In the general election you generally pick between two choices and hope for the best.  If you were a member of Congress voting on legislation then you can try to game the system.  You might have voted to table the impeachment of The Donald now because you think that chances will improve later.  The spin doctors will work on declaring victory and try to influence future outcomes.  So, for citizens the NeverTrump argument fails because we can’t influence the 2024 GOP nominee.  People arguing that things are binary don’t make it so.

Kevin has a better argument on a similar topic that he puts in the title: A Herd Has No Mind.  Or put another way: Only an individual can think.  He agrees with Jonah that the mob is ascendant but has a better analysis of the challenges we face.  The problems with the mob leads him into a wide ranging discussion of discourse and antidiscourse.  Language is the instrument of discourse while antidiscourse is mob rule.  Kevin didn’t use a hyphen so we will not either no matter what the word processor does.  It is a wonderful rambling, acerbic, and thoughtful piece.

Sidebar Two: Kevin’s footnote eight asks in part who could read the sentences of Moby-Dick?  It is part of his test of the intellectual skills of the electorate to conduct discourse.  We don’t think that is a good test for understanding an argument, political or otherwise.  Before we retired from teaching we used to use a passage from another Melville book, Pierre, to make a point about the difference between types of writing.  We can’t find the passage but our recollection was that it included a 125 word sentence with lots of punctuation.  Our point was that emulating Melville was not an effective way to convince others.  End Sidebar Two.

Kevin comes to a related but different conclusion.  He says that our INSTANT CULTURE that leads to antidiscourse has become neatly binate.  Binate?  Binate: Growing in pairs or couples.  Kevin uses the example of Proud Boys and Antifa as such a pair.  We are not entirely convinced but agree that binate is much closer to our current political reality than binary.

 

 

 

Conan Versus Mick And Keith

In the movie Conan The Barbarian, the title character is asked: What is best in life?  Arnold replies:

To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women!

It is true it is great to win big but it almost never happens in sports, politics, or bridge. And it is also true that there will be another Super Bowl or election in short order.  Thus, we hope for Conan but realize that Mick and Keith are more likely:

You can’t always get what you want,
But if you try sometime,
You’ll find you get what you need!

And both quotes end with an exclamation point.  We all want what Conan wants but don’t realize the wisdom of Mick and Keith.  As examples we have The Donald, Josh, Sohrab Ahmari, the greens, and both sides on abortion .  The Donald on tariffs and the abortion parts are so obvious that we are only going to look at the other three.

Ramesh Ponnuru at NRO tries to defend Josh on attacking the prospective judge, Michael Bogren. We are not convinced but read it all. He identifies three arguments against Josh.   We are on the first one:

[Michael] was merely representing a client and, if we reject his nomination because he faithfully advocated their position, we are traducing the core American right to fair legal representation. That’s the view of the editors of the Wall Street Journal, [and MWG] for example.

Part of Ramesh’s counter-argument to the first argument is:

Perhaps more important, Sullivan was punished for the mere fact of representation, whereas Hawley has criticized Bogren for the way he represented East Lansing. For these controversies to be analogous, Sullivan would have to have been criticized for smearing and bullying [Harvey] Weinstein’s accusers.

It is a forgone conclusion that Sullivan will be criticized.  Of course Harvey’s defender(s) are going to be criticized for smearing and bullying his accusers.  They are going to advocate for Harvey in the same way that Michael made the best case for his client.  In Harvey’s case it would mean casting doubt on the accusers in some manner.

Sohrab does his best Conan in attacking, of all people, that noted never-Trump stalwart David French from NRO.  Sohrab, at First Things says:

I added, “The only way is through”—that is to say, to fight the culture war with the aim of defeating the enemy and enjoying the spoils in the form of a public square re-ordered to the common good and ultimately the Highest Good.

Conan would be impressed although it might help to mention salting the earth too.  Sohrab makes this guy look reasonable and nuanced.  We understand that in politics we need coalition with folks with different priorities.  Conservatives will never be a majority.  Any group of conservatives with an adjective will be a tiny minority.  To have a majority coalition we need David and Sohrab.

Sidebar: We have never found a modifier for our conservatism.  The closest we came is when Rod Dreher coined Crunchy Cons.  We are really close to the opposite of that but there don’t seem to be enough of us to warrant an adjective.  End Sidebar.

Jeremy Carl at NRO tells us:

Last week BP and Shell both pledged support for the Climate Leadership Council’s (CLC) proposal for a revenue-neutral “carbon fee and dividend” plan, under which extractors of carbon-based fuels would be charged a fee, and all of the money collected would be distributed to the public as a dividend. While conservatives have a wide variety of views on how, or even whether, to address climate policy, this initiative is perhaps the most genuinely bipartisan attempt so far to move forward on a famously contentious issue.

We are not at all sure we want to support this deal but much depends on the details.  Our first choice would be a lower tax without a dividend.  Holman W. Jenkins, jr at the WSJ has great article on how environmental regulations lead to conflicts. If we undo these as part of the deal we might be in.  Do read it all.  But the greens are not in.  They are not in because they love Conan:

But  instead of expressing happiness that some of the biggest oil producers were willing to accept a major concession to help lower emissions under a plan with almost unprecedented bipartisan support, many on the left have complained because the plan also limits climate-change-related litigation.

Jeremy notes that none of this litigation has ever succeeded so far.  But the greens still want to hear the lamentaions of the oil companies’ stockholders.

It is hard to compromise, especially when principles are involved.  It is a tough decision but sometimes you just got to play Mick and Keith.  As an example, we hope that David and Soharb will join us in voting for The Donald in 2020.  Strange things can happen over the next year when we find out the Democrat nominee but right now it looks close to certain that The Donald is our best option in 2020.

Generational Awareness

Recently The Donald called Pete Alfred E. Neuman.  We thought Pete feigned knowledge of the What – Me Worry kid when he said he had to look it up.  As the cite says, Alfred has shown up in various places in public view.  We have, however, changed our mind about generational awareness.

One of our alumni magazines recently had a cover story on a young woman with the title Fearless Leader.  To us that term only mean one thing, this guy, the dictator of Pottsylvania and employer of Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale.  The cartoon series about Rocky and Bullwinkle (it had several names) led to several movies.  Fearless Leader was once played by Robert De Niro.  It (now The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle) is even an Amazon Video series.

Sidebar One: We know we are going to go to Amazon tonight to see the new version.  It will be easy to be disappointed because the old version was so great.  Our expectations relate to our cultural awareness.  The original reflected our culture.  It is unlikely that the new one will.  End Sidebar One.

The publication lists lots of alums on the editorial masthead with graduation dates.

Sidebar Two: We were going to say we needed an editor but were  pretty sure that the phase had mast in it.  When we tried editorial mast we got a result.  So we will do without an editor for a little longer.  End Sidebar Two.

Only one person on the masthead (1997) is from the last century.  We have come to the conclusion that cultural memory doesn’t last because culture is so fractured and changes so fast that old stuff goes down the memory hole increasingly quickly.  It is no surprise that recent graduates would make such a faux pas.  We can’t keep up with the current culture.  It is not surprising that Pete and the rest have such little recollection of ours.  We should be understanding of each other’s lack of knowledge.

Opinions On Josh Hawley

Josh Hawley has received some interesting commentary from the right.  For background, Wikipedia tell us Josh:

is an American lawyer and Republican politician, currently serving as the junior United States Senator from Missouri. Hawley previously served as the 42ndAttorney General of Missouri from 2017 to 2019, before defeating two-term Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill in the 2018 Senate election. He is currently the youngest member of the Senate at age 39.

Michael Brendan Dougherty at NRO is having a bromance with Josh in Josh Hawley versus the Aristocracy.  Michael concludes his article with

[Josh] staked out new territory for Republican politicians, based on some of the bleeding-edge conservative thinking on issues of tech and labor policy. For the first time in a long while, I’m excited for what’s coming next.

David Bernstein writing at the Volokh Conspiracy has a very different outlook.  David is the University Professor and Executive Director of the Liberty & Law Center at Antonin Scalia Law School, George Mason University.  Both writers have impressive conservative credentials but they couldn’t disagree more.  David’s title is, “Senator Josh Hawley is becoming a first-class demagogue.”  How can two people with such great conservative credentials disagree so completely?

First question: are Michael and David talking about the same thing? The answer is in part.  David limits his discussion to Josh’s questioning of The Donald’s federal judge nominee.  Michael’s brief is more wide ranging but he approves of Josh’s questions:

Hawley also got some conservatives’ attention by blasting Michael Bogren, a Trump judicial nominee to the U.S. District Court in western Michigan. Hawley hammered him for his legal work defending East Lansing’s ban against a Catholic farmer’s participation in a public farmers’ market because the farmer announced his intention on Facebook to continue renting his orchard for weddings, but not same-sex ceremonies. As part of his legal arguments, Bogren had said there was no distinction between the Catholic family running their orchard in accordance with their faith and the Ku Klux Klan persecuting non-whites. Hawley grilled the nominee, saying that his unflattering comparison failed the test that Justice Anthony Kennedy had outlined in the Masterpiece Cakeshopcase, in which anti-religious animus was deemed to be at work in Colorado’s application of non-discrimination law.

Second question: Who wins the argument from a conservative perspective?  David.  Don’t forget that Josh is a lawyer and former Missouri Attorney General.  David doesn’t address Michael Brendan directly but you can see that Michael Brendan has made an enormous error.  Michael, the prospective judge, was working for East Lansing.  His job was to advocate for his employer.  The legal system doesn’t work if one side throws in the towel.  Josh knows that.

Third question: What are the implications?  It is clear to us that Josh wants to replicate The Donald in one of the upcoming presidential elections.  He will be the progressive Republican who will support some conservative positions.

Sidebar One: What makes a person a conservative?  Who gets to decide?  MWG, of course! Seriously, labels can be a problem.  We see conservatives as being more concerned with process than outcomes.  That is why conservatives often disagree more often than the left.  The latter even has a name for it, BAMN.  Thus, conservatives support the Constitution and rule of law.  We see personal and economic freedom as part of that but, unlike libertarians, we don’t see freedom as the only good.  End Sidebar One.

Elections are always about choices and those choices depend on the opposition but it is highly unlikely that we would vote for Josh in the Republican presidential primary.

Sidebar Two: Marco versus Josh would be a tough primary call.  They are two young and pretty Republicans but not reliable conservatives.  End Sidebar Two.

We voted for The Donald in the general and it is highly likely we would vote for Josh in in the general given the folks we see running for the Democrat nomination now.

Socialism Is Economic Foolishness

David French is off The Donald beat and writing about Bernie Sanders and school choice at NRO.  It makes David sound much better.  He seems almost surprised that Act Naturally would favor public schools.  It is not a misguided attack by the candidate.  Act Naturally is a socialist and he supports lack of choice for deodorants, schools, and everything else.  He, Bernie, always thinks he knows better than the consumer.  David has an almost beautiful conclusion:

Sanders makes his intentions crystal clear. In his plan, he writes, “We do not need two schools systems; we need to invest in our public schools system.” This is exactly wrong. One size does not fit all. Sanders looks at parents and declares that he knows best. Parents should look back at him and respond, quite simply: I know my child, and I want to shape his destiny. Your collective solutions cannot meet my family’s [educational] needs.

It is almost beautiful because it needs one more sentence after we have inserted education above.  The sentence might go like this: Your collective solutions cannot meet my or my family’s needs in any area.

Economic Foolishness Sweepstakes

The economic foolishness sweepstakes is on.  The Donald has planted his flag by raising taxes (tariffs) on Americans to punish China and other countries.  He also failed to allow exceptions to the Jones Act for LNG.

Speaking of natural gas, Andrew Cuomo has stopped a natural gas pipeline so New Yorkers can’t get natural gas by sea (because of the Jones Act) or land.  The WSJ reminds us that it is part of a pattern for Andrew:

He has also banned drilling for natural gas in the rich Utica and Marcellus Shale that lie under the state, and he has blocked another natural gas pipeline upstate. Due to pipeline constraints, the utility Con Edison in March suspended natural-gas hookups in Westchester County north of New York City.

Kamala Harris want to fine companies that don’t achieve [“]pay equality[“].  We can’t have that term without quotes.  Really, we are not making this up.  CNN says:

In an interview with CNN on Sunday, shortly before Harris headlined a town hall in Los Angeles, the California Democrat called pay equity a “really big issue” where “if you lift up the economic status of women, you lift up the economic status of families and communities and all of society benefits.”

We need to give you a long quote to show you what she is saying:

“This will radically change the way we enforce equal pay in America,” reads the plan. “Our current equal pay laws rely exclusively on proving instances of individual discrimination and place the burden entirely on employees to hold big corporations accountable. … Under our plan, for the first time in American history, companies will be held responsible for demonstrating they are not engaging in pay discrimination.”
Under the plan, companies with 100 or more employees will be required to obtain a certification from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission within three years of the plan’s passage by handing over employment data to the government. Companies with more than 500 employees will have two years to receive the certification. And each company will be required to display whether they met the certification on their company’s website.
Those companies that do not receive the certification will be met with a stiff penalty: For every 1% gap in pay between men and women that persists after the EEOC accounts for experience and job titles, a Harris administration would fine companies 1% of their daily profits during that fiscal year. [Emphasis added]

With Kamala companies will be guilty until they can prove themselves innocent.

Meanwhile the Morning Jolt tells us that  Pete has called for four tax increases:

A “fairer, which means higher” marginal income tax, a “reasonable” wealth tax “or something like that,” a financial transactions tax, and closing “corporate tax loopholes.”

We have no idea why higher taxes are fairer.  It would have been a good question as would have been why would any wealth tax be reasonable.  We would also like to know what he thinks a loophole is.  If fairer is higher then we would expect him to find many loopholes.

Sidebar: We have not used the word crazy to describe any of these proposals.  We thinks this speaks well for our restraint.  End Sidebar.

We are not sure who will win the economic foolishness sweepstakes.  We are only sure that America will lose.