Come November, will it be Sauron vs. SpongeBob?
With Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling’s announcement this week that he will not make an independent bid for governor, residents of Virginia are left to choose between Republican Ken Cuccinelli and Democrat Terry McAuliffe. Save for some tea party stalwarts and yellow-dog Democrats, few will cast their ballots with unbridled joy. By campaign’s end, a lot of voters may think they are choosing between Sauron and SpongeBob Squarepants.
Both candidates have written a book. And while you can’t judge a book by its cover, you can tell a lot about a pol by his tome.
Cuccinelli’s just came out. “The Last Line of Defense: The New Fight for American Liberty” contains no surprises. It calls the EPA “an agency of mass destruction” and declares the Obama administration “the biggest set of lawbreakers in America.” As Cuccinelli told The Times-Dispatch earlier this month, its central theme is all about “first principles” — federalism, the Constitution, the proper limits on government power.
Cuccinelli — who just gave the kickoff address at the Conservative Political Action Conference — has made himself a lightning rod in the Old Dominion by, among other things, attacking two of liberalism’s most sacred cows, climate science and abortion rights; by warning that Social Security Numbers are “how they track you”; and by declaring homosexual behavior “intrinsically wrong.” His book steers clear of some of those issues, but Democrats won’t. (Those positions also overshadow his deviations from right-wing orthodoxy: He is wary of expanding the death penalty, and recently slammed Dominion for exploiting green-energy mandates to the detriment of utility customers.)
McAuliffe’s book came out in 2007. “What a Party! My Life Among Democrats” regales the reader with tales of the former DNC chairman’s derring-do: raising funds that seemed impossible to raise; rescuing the 2000 Democratic Convention (“the convention had been in trouble and I was brought in to save it”); and, of course, schmoozing with celebs and golfing with his good friend Bill Clinton. The narrative voice is authentically inauthentic, conveying a salesman’s bombastic credulity. McAuliffe writes, for instance, that Clinton “got out of bed every morning thinking about how he could give the average Joe a shot at the American Dream.”
Cuccinelli’s record will give McAuliffe plenty of fodder for negative ads. McAuliffe, by contrast, has little record — because he never has held public office. (When he parachuted into the Democratic gubernatorial primary four years ago, he came in a distant second out of three.) And his antic ebullience may partially disarm critics posing tough questions — some of which McAuliffe does a poor job of answering.
Most of those questions have to do with the way “The Macker” has mingled business and politics to his own great personal gain. E.g., he once made a mint off a Florida development deal in which he invested a measly hundred bucks. A union pension fund invested $40 million — and eventually drew Labor Department disapproval for having done so.
At present McAuliffe is the chairman of GreenTech Automotive, a maker of electric vehicles that is building production facilities in Mississippi. Why not in Virginia — where, McAuliffe says, he wants to create jobs? McAuliffe claims Virginia wasn’t interested while Mississippi was willing to pony up. And “I have to go where, obviously, they’re going to put incentives.”
About that, two points. First, Virginia claims otherwise. Officials at the Virginia Economic Development Partnership tried several times to get straight answers from GreenTech and never could. “We did not receive enough information to respond to GreenTech’s business proposal,” says a VEDP rep.
Second: Why “obviously”? Virginia consistently ranks as the best or second-best state in the nation to do business, whereas Forbes ranks Mississippi 46th. But McAuliffe is friends with former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a Republican, who “put the most aggressive [incentive] package on the table for us.” Besides, as McAuliffe once told The Washington Post, “Who do you do business with? People you meet in life.”
Such wheeling and dealing represents the sort of crony capitalism so many people on both the left and the right have come to abhor. Conservatives deplore the way it facilitates the political allocation of economic goods, to the detriment of fair and open competition in the free market. Progressives despise the privileging of powerful elites who leverage insider connections to get rich through avenues unavailable to working stiffs. Bill Clinton might have wanted to give the average Joe a shot at the American Dream, but Terry McAuliffe seems more keen to wrangle a better-than-average shot.
At one point in his book, McAuliffe says raising money for gubernatorial candidates is easy because “they have all kinds of business to hand out, road contracts, construction jobs, you name it.” As governor, whom would McAuliffe hand that business out to — the most qualified, or the most connected? The fear about a Cuccinelli administration is that it would, like Savonarola’s, yield a reign of far too many principles far too stridently enforced. The fear about a McAuliffe administration is that it would yield a reign of far too few.
Damning the GOP With Faint Praise
“Outside of Washington, D.C., the Republican Party has never been in better shape,” writes Al Cardenas of the American Conservative Union.He means it as a compliment!
But given that the GOP is a political party, and D.C. is ground zero for everything political in America, that’s an awfully lame defense, isn’t it? I mean, consider some parallel constructions:
“Outside of the PGA Tour, Tiger Woods has never been golfing better.”
“Outside of Hollywood, Steven Baldwin’s film career is going gangbusters.”
“Outside of the Oval Office, Jimmy Carter’s leadership has been exemplary.”
If your best case is that X is great except in the principal realm in which X is supposed to excel, you’ve got a pretty lousy case. Sorry.
At Obama’s Halfway Point, How Full Is the U.S. Glass?
Nothing in the cosmic laws of the universe makes the halfway mark sacred. Nevertheless, we often treat that dividing line as more important than others: Victory in a democracy usually requires crossing the 50-percent threshold. All other things being equal, a 50-50 split is considered fair. The question dividing optimists and pessimists asks whether the glass is half-full or half-empty. We encourage others by saying, “You’re halfway there already.” Et cetera.
So with the Obama administration now at its halfway point, perhaps it is worth noting the many ways the United States is approaching, or already has crossed, the halfway mark in fiscal and economic matters.
For the first time, a majority of Americans now say the federal government is a threat to their rights and freedom. That’s according to a Pew survey released Friday.
Some of the other metrics you probably already know: e.g., nearly half of Americans pay no federal income taxes. There are reasons for this, including federal tax cuts so fiercely sought by Republicans, but those reasons do not change the fact. Nor do they change the fact that the share of Americans paying no federal income tax has been growing. According to the Tax Foundation: “In 1990, only about 21 percent of (federal) returns had no tax liability.”
On the other hand, roughly 165 million Americans — more than half — depend on the government for income or support. The figure includes welfare and Medicare recipients, members of the armed forces, judges and so on.
That figure helps explain why another halfway mark is disappearing in the rearview mirror. “In 1960, according to the Office of Management and Budget, social-welfare spending accounted for less than a third of the federal budget,” writes Nicholas Eberstadt in The Wall Street Journal. Today it accounts for nearly two-thirds of the (now vastly larger) budget.
In a recent piece for National Review, William Voegeli — author of the excellent “Never Enough: America’s Limitless Welfare State” — draws attention to another unsettling trend. In 2010, he notes, “all government spending in Sweden equaled 53 percent of GDP. The same figure was 55 percent in Finland, 56 percent in France, and 58 percent in Denmark.” In the U.S., government now consumes 42 percent of GDP — up from 34 percent just 12 years ago.
Despite President Obama’s rhetoric — in his inaugural speech two weeks ago he said, presumably with a straight face, that “we must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of the deficit” — U.S. debt has grown like fungus in a high school locker room. In 2008, the national debt as a percentage of GDP stood at 40.5 percent. Within three years, it had grown to almost 68 percent. (Those figures include only debt held by the public; add intragovernmental debt, such as the IOUs for the money Congress borrowed from the Social Security trust fund, and total government debt exceeds 100 percent of GDP.)
This trend is not irreversible. But it is growing harder to reverse because of another trend, noted in a paper by Daniel L. Thornton in the November/December 2012 Review of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
From 1979 to 2011, Thornton writes, discretionary spending — outlays for things such as defense and education — fell from just under half of all federal appropriations to 37 percent. Mandatory spending — driven chiefly by Medicare and Medicaid — has crossed the halfway mark going the other way, by growing from 44 percent of the budget to 56 percent.
Mandatory spending is not truly mandatory, since Congress can change the rules at any time. But unless Congress intervenes in such a manner, mandatory spending largely flies on autopilot. And Congress is not free to change the rules without the president’s assent.
In his inaugural address, President Obama immediately followed his comment about “hard choices” with a “but” — as in: “But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future. … The commitments we make to each other through Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security, these things do not sap our initiative, they strengthen us.”
This sets up a false choice, but never mind: The president has made it clear any effort to reduce mandatory spending will face a steep uphill fight.
In light of those facts, all of the above lead to an overwhelming question: At the halfway mark of the Obama presidency, is America’s glass half-full — or half-empty?
Slander, Based in Ignorance
Via Truth Has a Liberal Bias, reblogging we get this tired old trope:
It would be nice if Republicans were “pro-life” after birth.
“Who Really Cares” by Arthur C. Brooks examines the actual behavior of liberals and conservatives when it comes to donating their own time, money, or blood for the benefit of others. It is remarkable that beliefs on this subject should have become conventional, if not set in concrete, for decades before anyone bothered to check these beliefs against facts.
What are those facts?
People who identify themselves as conservatives donate money to charity more often than people who identify themselves as liberals. They donate more money and a higher percentage of their incomes.
It is not that conservatives have more money. Liberal families average 6 percent higher incomes than conservative families…
Conservatives not only donate more money to charity than liberals do, conservatives volunteer more time as well. More conservatives than liberals also donate blood.
According to Professor Brooks: “If liberals and moderates gave blood at the same rate as conservatives, the blood supply of the United States would jump about 45 percent.”
Professor Brooks admits that the facts he uncovered were the opposite of what he expected to find — so much so that he went back and checked these facts again, to make sure there was no mistake.
P.S. - Also, this:
The Catholic Church—perhaps the single most influential pro-life institution in the United States—makes the largest financial, institutional and personnel commitments to charitable causes of any private source in the United States. These include AIDS ministry, health care, education, housing services, and care for the elderly, disabled, and immigrants. In 2004 alone, 562 Catholic hospitals treated over 85 million patients; Catholic elementary and high schools educated over 2 million students; Catholic colleges educated nearly 800,000 students; Catholic Charities served over eight-and-a-half million different individuals. In 2007, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development awarded nine million dollars in grants to reduce poverty. And in 2009, the Catholic Legal Immigration Network spent nearly five million dollars in services for impoverished immigrants.
The Catholic Church is far from the only pro-life religious group that assists the needy. At the Manhattan Bible Church, a pro-life church in New York since 1973, Pastor Bill Devlin and his congregation run a soup kitchen that has served over a million people and a K-8 school that has educated 90,000 needy students. Pastor Devlin and other church families have adopted scores of babies, and taken in scores of pregnant women, including some who were both drug-addicted and HIV positive. The church runs a one-hundred-and-fifty bed residential drug rehabilitation center and a prison ministry at Rikers Island. All told, the church runs some forty ministries, and all without a government dime…
Rick Warren devoted this year’s Saddleback Civil Forum to orphans and adoption, joining popular conferences like Together for Adoption, the Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit (which will be posted next week), and Moore’s own Adopting for Life.
The trend goes beyond dedicated gatherings, however: Nearly every conference we’ve attended recently devoted attention to orphans, adoption, the fatherless, and so on. Church leadership conference Catalyst gave a major push to adoption at its main gathering in October and continues to highlight it at regional meetings. The keynote presentation at Q (a conference for Christian culture leaders) focused on fatherlessness, with calls to establish foster-care ministries, support adoptive families, and build orphanages abroad…
And — ah, never mind. Confirmation bias is immune to facts.