That’s like “big oil”. Where’s “little oil” ? Or “little labor”? Massive corporations with thousands of organized employees couldn’t have anything but “big labor”. And if it’s a possibility that the supposed intransigence of “big labor”, like the UAW, will cause the extinction of the Big 3, wouldn’t that be a good thing, since the sinking of the auto makers’ fleet would include the UAW as well? Then a completely unorganized workforce at new companies could make U.S. autos for, well, ideally at minimum wage with no benefits. Isn’t that the real goal of private sector business?
The UAW controversy is the consummate straw man. All car companies, union or not, have recorded plunging sales figures. There is an overcapacity in the auto industry. If there is a union problem, it’s not with the UAW. No one is forced to purchase an automobile produced by union labor. The problem is public sector labor, which every taxpayer is forced to finance at all times. Public sector labor enjoys union representation at a rate 5 times that of private industry. Almost 36% of government employees at all levels work under union contracts. Only 7.5% of private employees do. The most unionized people in the country are teachers, cops and firemen, employees whose wages, benefits and retirement are by paid by the citizen no matter what kind of car he drives. If there is a “big labor” problem, it begins at the capitol and city hall, not at an auto plant.
Posts For: December 22, 2008
Well, let’s give Alice Rivlin credit. The former head of the Congressional Budget Office confesses that the Obama stimulus package is really about keeping up appearances:
President-elect Barack Obama, asked how voters will be able to judge whether his economic package is helping, said it would create at least some jobs immediately by funding “shovel ready” construction projects. The Democrats could also get credit if they produce concrete results in areas such as providing mortgage relief or extending unemployment benefits.
Still, the political challenge is daunting, given that economists expect this recession to last for years. “The stimulus package will keep it from getting as bad as it would otherwise be, but that is very hard to measure,” said Alice Rivlin, former director of the Congressional Budget Office, who addressed House Democrats recently. “All you can say is, ‘It’s probably not as bad as it would have been.’ But that is very hard to prove.”
. . .
One aspect of the Democrats’ strategy is to stress that the recession was the Bush administration’s fault, not theirs. “President Bush will leave behind a legacy of debt, transforming the biggest surpluses in history into the biggest deficits and affecting our ability to confront the current economic crisis,” Rep. Hoyer’s office said recently.
Democrats also have begun speaking of the long term, emphasizing that their goal isn’t merely to end the downturn but also to change society and strengthen the economy for generations.
That may be a difficult point to make politically. But Democrats hope that voters understand the severity of this recession and don’t expect them to work miracles immediately.
They take some hope in that regard from the performance of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, to whom they are increasingly looking as a role model. Mr. Roosevelt didn’t rapidly end the Great Depression, but voters supported him because he seemed to care so deeply, taking aggressive action and trying everything at his disposal.
“I think people know this is a serious recession, and they don’t expect it to turn it around quickly,” Ms. Rivlin said. The Democrats “don’t have to produce a turnaround. But they have to produce action.”
So to be clear: this near-trillion dollar stimulus is more about pretending to do something than about doing it. The goal is to make sure it’s not the Democrats fault when the economy is insufficiently improved in two years. And they’re banking that George Bush will remain the perpetual fall guy if things don’t get better.
Maybe this will work. Perhaps the economy will get better on its own, while the stimulus package provides a political sideshow to keep the media occupied and impressed. And it is possible Bush will remain the bogey man for years to come. But I wouldn’t bank on it. Voters really expect President-elect Obama, after two years of high-flying rhetoric, to deliver. And Democrats may be overestimating their ability to redirect the public’s anger to the Bush era. Voters, I sense, are done with the Bush years, and won’t acceptthe invitation to return for another round of Bush-bashing. They want to move on, and they want improvement.
One wonders why, both as a political and economic matter, tax cuts don’t figure more prominently in the Democrats’ plans. A wide array of middle-class and business tax cuts would certainly take the wind out of the Republicans’ sails. And they might just work better than an $800 billion boondoggle of public works spending. For now, however, the Democrats seems wedded to a course that has no historical precedent for success (e.g. The New Deal, Japan in the 1990′s). And if, once again, we “discover” that government spending can’t create prosperity, there’s always George Bush to kick around. Quite a game plan.
Barney Frank is deeply offended by Rick Warren, and he wants to the world to know it. On CNN’s Late Edition yesterday, Representative Frank criticized President-elect Obama for inviting Warren to deliver the invocation at his inauguration. According to Frank,
Mr. Warren compared same-sex couples to incest. I found that deeply offensive and unfair. If [Obama] was inviting the Reverend Warren to participate in a forum and to make a speech, that would be a good thing. But being singled out to give the prayer at the inauguration is a high honor. It has traditionally been given as a mark of great respect. And, yes, I think it was wrong to single him out for this mark of respect.
What has Frank and other gay rights advocates riled up is that Warren backed a California ballot initiative banning same-sex marriage (the measure was approved by voters last month). In the course of defending his stand, Warren has made the point that there are lots of arrangements one could envision consenting adults wanting–from polygamy to incest–that we would not want to label “marriage.” In making that comparison, gay rights advocates have decided to try to turn the Reverend Warren into a reviled figure. Let’s therefore try to examine the argument Warren is making.
The core of this case, which is articulated in William Bennett’s 2001 book The Broken Hearth: Reversing the Moral Collapse of the American Family (full disclosure: I assisted Bennett in writing the book), is that marriage is not an arbitrary social arrangement; it is, rather, based on teleology and the different, complementary nature of men and women. It is also an institution that cannot be understood apart from its cultural, biological, and religious underpinnings. It cannot be redefined by fiat.
Suppose, for example, that a man and three women, all adults, wanted to marry. They insist they love one another and that marriage would strengthen their bond. As consenting adults, they should be allowed to enter any arrangement they desire. Or assume that a man and his 22-year-old daughter decide that they, too, love one another and want to spend the rest of their lives together. They, too, insist that they love each other and that allowing them to marry would represent the best of America: tolerant, respectful of the desires of individuals, and part of the expansion of individual rights that we witnessed during the Civil Rights era. Now ask advocates of same-sex marriage to make an argument against these arrangements.
They will say that marriage isn’t about marrying as many people as you love; it’s about marrying one other person you love. It should therefore be restricted to two people. But why is this? Who are gay-rights advocates to insist that we limit the number of people in marriage to two? Polygamy, after all, has been much more prevalent in history than gay marriage, a movement that was essentially unheard of until a few years ago. But homosexuality is “morally and psychologically” superior to polygamy, others insist. And how do they know? As Charles Krauthammer has pointed out, many Americans believe heterosexuality to be “morally and psychologically” superior to homosexuality, which is why they deny the validity of homosexual marriage.
Same-sex marriage advocates, in dismissing the time-honored definition of marriage and de-linking it from its cultural, religious, and traditional understanding, have lost the ability to draw boundaries against a slew of other arrangements. Once people decide that their own human longings give them license to lay claim to marriage, the definition of the institution is arguably up for grabs. Everyone who wants to redefine marriage will invoke the arguments made by same-sex marriage advocates–from insisting that society should not set up roadblocks to their happiness and their desire to enter into loving, faithful relationships; to arguing that their lives would be incomplete without marriage; to claiming that government is wrong to deny them equal protection.
In the words of Mr. Bennett:
Having just rewritten the central rule of the marriage bond, proponents of same-sex marriage are hardly qualified to dictate to others what constitutes its central meaning, or why it can be felt only between two human beings, and not more than two. What arguments would they invoke? Tradition? Religion? The time-honored definition of the family? These are the very pillars they have already destroyed. No, once marriage has been detached from the natural, complementary teleology of the sexes, it becomes nothing more than what each of us makes of it.
That, I think, is what Rick Warren was getting at, rather than comparing homosexual behavior to incest. Now one may disagree with Warren’s position and believe that gay marriage is simply part of the centuries-long evolution of marriage that has occurred and that it would not harm, and may even marginally help, the institution of marriage. I disagree, but I understand such a case can be made–and, in fact, that case has been made by intelligent and sober advocates for same-sex marriage (like Jonathan Rauch). But to say that the arguments put forth by Warren are “deeply offensive and unfair” is itself, I think, unfair. And the effort to portray Warren as a bigoted and benighted figure is both unfair and wrong.
By all accounts, Rick Warren is a man of enormous integrity who oversees a wonderful, life-saving ministry. He also gives voice to the views of millions and millions of Americans–including presumably Barack Obama, who also opposes same-sex marriage–and Warren does so in a civil manner. Beyond defending the traditional view of heterosexual marriage, Warren has done several other things, including broadening the vision of evangelical social ethics to issues such as AIDS and helping the continent of Africa. He has also shown a generosity of spirit by having Obama speak at his church (and has been criticized from the right for doing so).
President-elect Obama deserves credit for asking Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at his inauguration. It is a symbolic gesture for sure–but symbolism matters, and this reciprocal generosity of spirit is good for the country. It is Barney Frank and his allies who are determined to turn the Obama inauguration into yet one more battlefield in America’s “culture war.”
The outrage directed at Warren is an effort by some to intimidate those who oppose same-sex marriage into silence and de-legitimize their arguments rather than answer them. This effort needs to be resisted, especially by those who claim to care so much about “tolerance” and the free and open exchange of ideas. It would be nice if, from time to time, those who claim to represent modern liberalism would reacquaint themselves with the classical version.
Buried nearly at the end of the Washington Post story on Blago-gate is this nugget: “Fitzgerald’s team has scrambled to interview Jackson, as well as members of the Obama transition team who talked with Blagojevich about the appointment.” So we now have more than one? And who, exactly, has been interviewed by the U.S. Attorney? If we had an independent and aggressive media they would be asking.
From the New York Times, no less: “By January, Congress will probably be asked to approve an outlay of more than $700 billion. Spent in one year on construction, research or equipment, it might well offset the contraction at first. But unless it also revived general confidence, the economy could collapse again, once the money was gone. ‘If that spending can’t get the private sector going, then it is just a make-work maintenance operation,’ said Stanley Moses, an economist at Hunter College in New York.” Yet the Obama administration sees “no choice” but to go down that road. Why? Because they fundamentally have no faith in or appreciation of the private sector — and lack any top advisors with a private sector track record to explain it to them.
Vice President Dick Cheney gives some shots to Joe Biden, who didn’t quite have his Constitutional articles quite right. Hey, Biden can be a bit player if he likes — not like me! Heh. Well, we should give the President-elect credit for figuring out Biden is not a person to be taken seriously.
And Biden muffed the “unitary executive” attack as well. Although it has become a buzz-word meant to critique the Bush administration’s expansion of executive wartime powers (which might have been an interesting discussion, if someone had pointed Biden in the right direction and given him some talking points), it really isn’t that at all. Too bad the interviewer didn’t ask whether President Obama would be giving up “signing statements.”
How many conversations did Rahm Emanuel and Blago (or his advisors) have? Not clear yet. But Patrick Fitzgerald has the tapes, so the Obama team better not be counting with fuzzy math. And how many between the SEIU and Emanuel on the topic? That may be the most intriguing part of this tale.
You gotta love the sycophants in the media who, based on nothing more than a leak of the Obama team’s own internal review, proclaim Rahn Emanuel is “in the clear.” No need to ask Emanuel questions or hear the Blago tapes. Just move along.
It really is getting hard to keep up with all the scandals — a Blago-related shake-down of a movie producer? I must have missed that. The movie — I kid you not — is called ”Million Dollar Baby.” Golden, just golden.
A good point: the bailout money to Chrysler is only likely to “soften its inevitable fall into bankruptcy.” But for whom – Cerberus? As misguided as the bailout to GM was, there’s no possible purpose in giving billions (even just a few) of taxpayer money to an equity investment fund to lessen their losses as they close down a car company the have no interest in funding any longer.
Candid analysis from Willie Brown on the Democrats nixing a special election in Illinois: “Publicly, they may say that’s because a special election would cost the state millions. But the truth is, the Democrats are deathly afraid that with all these corruption stories swirling around, a do-gooder Republican could win the seat and damage the Democrats’ chances of holding a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. And you know what? They’re probably right to be afraid. If there was a fight, the only way the Democrats could hold onto the seat would be to have Obama himself come in and campaign. That, however, would make it a referendum on him – and Obama would not want to put himself in that position so early in his presidency, even in his home state.”
Mara Liasson on the New York Senate race: “I would not want to be David Paterson. I mean, this is — first of all, he’s an unintended governor. He wants to run. He could have gotten this entire problem of who’s going to primary — who’s going to mount a primary challenge off the table by appointing Andrew Cuomo, and then along comes Caroline Kennedy.You’ve got six female members of the House who could lay claim to being the senator. So no matter who he picks, he’s going to get very angry — pissed off — he’s going to — he’s going to — this is not a decision that is going to make anybody happy. ” Well, Paterson could pull a Biden: stick Maggie Williams in there for two years until Chelsea is old enough to run. What? The “appoint the princess with no experience” idea is saner?
Another liberal voice tries to warn the Democrats: “Just when Democrats have succeeded in decoupling intellectual elitism from social elitism–just when they have succeeded in suggesting that you can be advocates of intelligence and expertise without being advocates of unearned privilege and crude snobbery–along comes the ultimate symbol of social elitism to stake her claim to a powerful place in the Democratic Party. ”
Meanwhile, an unidentified Jewish leader in New York isn’t satisfied with a one-liner from Kennedy on the status of Jerusalem: “When Hillary Clinton sought to succeed Sen. Moynihan, she engaged in detailed discussions with Jewish New Yorkers about such critical issues such as the future of Jerusalem, her thoughts on the peace process, Arab incitement against Israel and more.” The nerve of some folks wanting answering on detailed policy issues!
But Rep. Tom Reynolds has the theme nailed: “”We’re seeing a seat-warmer in Delaware, a seat-seller in Illinois, and we’re making seat-cushions in New York for, kind of, an aristocrat royalty of entitlement coming in here.”
David Gregory has a couple of challenges: finding interesting guests who don’t repeat the MSM patter and losing a very annoying verbal tic (“Right”). He failed on both counts this Sunday, but perhaps he’ll improve.
Where did the first half of the $700B bailout go and how was it used? The banks don’t know or aren’t telling. Lesson: Be wary the next time a Treasury Secretary says it’s an emergency.
I’m not buying the notion that there will be no political will next year for more car bailouts. We know there will be more Democrats and higher unemployment — the perfect combination for insisting on more money. Besides another $17B or so will look like chump change — give ‘em just one more chance, just one!
I have a little boy who, whenever he does something he knows is wrong, immediately looks around him to see how other people, especially big people, will react. It is almost as though the act of looking around betrays the misdeed itself. It is very cute.
What is not cute is when Jews do this in light of the Madoff affair. The internet seems to be full of talk about whether and how the affair will affect anti-Semitism in America and elsewhere. Abe Foxman, director of the Anti-Defamation League, has described the scandal as “a perfect storm for the anti-Semites.” Bradley Burston, writing at Haaretz.com, has referred to Madoff as “the anti-Semites’ new Santa” and “the answer to every Jew-hater’s wish list.”
With all due respect, this is the wrong direction to be looking. True, there is a difference in perspective between how America should view Madoff and how American Jews should see him. For America, we’re talking about one of the biggest swindles in human history, and there need to be many, many hard questions about oversight, reporting, regulation, and law enforcement. For American Jews, the question is different: Madoff and the money he managed were a central part of the Jewish financial ecosystem. Tragedy has struck in the form of countless charitable organizations suddenly left out on a limb, whole foundations wiped out, and literally billions of dollars that will not reach Jews in need. The hard questions have to do with how the disaster was allowed to happen, what could have prevented it, and how to cope with the devastation. The last question American Jews should be asking themselves right now is “what will the goyim think?”
The New York Post’s Fred Dicker finds that not everyone is enthralled with a Camelot revival:
A Democratic congressman, meanwhile, told The Post that he received a call from a [Caroline] Kennedy representative last week seeking his endorsement, a move he called “pathetic.”
“It’s pathetic that Caroline doesn’t even make the call herself,” said the congressman, who refused the requested endorsement.
Other New York Democrats privately expressed amazement that Kennedy has yet to give interviews to journalists.
“How can the press, how can the public, even stand for that when Sarah Palin was roasted for doing the same thing?” declared a prominent elected Democrat.
Also, Rep. José Serrano, of The Bronx, a far-left Democrat and native of Puerto Rico, blasted Democrats, including some of Paterson’s own advisers, for saying Kennedy should be picked because she can raise campaign cash.
“The whole notion of everyone suggesting she can raise more money than anyone else and that’s her strength wipes everyone else off the table because others can’t raise that kind of money,” Serrano said.
“If the governor makes a decision solely based on who can raise the most money, then some communities – the poor and minority communities – will never be able to have a member of their community represented,” continued Serrano.
The common thread here (aside from resentment) is that Kennedy lacks the will or ability to mix it up with other pols and with the media. Hillary Clinton had eight years as First Lady and was perfectly at ease wading into crowds, sparring with the press, and duking it out with Republicans. Other celebrity candidates (e.g. Arnold Schwarzenegger) have no qualms about media exposure, displaying every confidence that their ability to charm will get them by. But Caroline has never shown any inclination toward, let alone enjoyment of, the rough and tumble life of politics. To the contrary, her life has been a choreographed effort to avoid getting caught up in the fray.
Everyone is entitled to a second career. But if a senatorial aspirant lacks political experience and experience with the public, it behooves her to get out there and show she’s capable of taking and giving a punch, that she has more to offer than a retread of Obama campaign talking points, and that she’s not going to become a punchline for late night comics. Maybe a Katie Couric interview?
Whether Vice President Cheney served the President well is a matter of public dispute. But the current “debate” over the proper role of the VP is a bit ridiculous. And, as often happens with such debates, it mixes different topics into one murky cloud:
Mr. Biden said he believed that the advice and recommendations Mr. Cheney had given President Bush “has been not healthy for our foreign policy, not healthy for our national security, and it has not been consistent with our constitution, in my view.”
Well, if the advice was not good, then Cheney was a bad advisor. There’s nothing inconsistent “with our constitution” about bad advice.
While saying, of vice presidential powers, that “I think we should restore the balance here,” he [Biden] also declined to endorse a comment, attributed to an aide of his, that the office should be returned “to its historical role.”
And this is where Biden exposes his true feelings about Cheney and the Vice Presidency: he wants to benefit from the unpopularity of Cheney, pleasing the unhappy voters by promising more “balance.” But Biden is also a healthy politician, who likes power (nothing wrong with that). That’s why the “historical role”–namely, no power to Biden–is not an appealing prospect for him. So Biden is distancing himself from Cheney, while keeping open the possibility that he will wield Cheney-like powers.
And, of course, you never hear Biden–or any other Democrat–complain about Al Gore having had “too much power” in the Clinton administration. Gore, for those with memories incapable or unwilling to go eight short years back, was the most powerful VP in the history of the U.S., until Cheney came along. The portfolio he was handling, and his personal manner, were not as controversial as Cheney’s. But that doesn’t make Gore any less of a proto-Cheney, at least insofar as expanding the scope of vice-presidential power is concerned, after the fact.
Cheney, being Cheney, could hardly resist the temptation to take a swing at this Biden position:
“If he [Biden] wants to diminish the office of the vice president, that’s obviously his call,” Cheney said of Biden. “President-elect Obama will decide what he wants in a vice president and apparently, from the way they’re talking about it, he does not expect him to have as consequential a role as I have had during my time.”
Ignoring for a moment one’s personal feelings about Cheney–or the many disagreements one might have with him over policy matters-ask yourself this question: if Biden were to be offered by Obama the same powerful role that Cheney occupied in the Bush administration, do you really think he’d say no?
The Wall Street Journal takes a look at President-elect Obama’s pick for Labor Secretary:
There is joy in Unionville this Christmas. Barack Obama’s pick for Secretary of Labor — Hilda Solis — brings impeccable big labor credentials. The California Congresswoman first rode to power with labor backing against a fellow Democrat, has voted with the AFL-CIO 97% of the time, and got three-quarters of her campaign contributions from unions.
Ms. Solis says her goal is to expand the reach and power of unions in America, and she supports such union priorities as the Employee Free Choice Act, which would do the opposite of its name and end secret balloting to unionize a workplace. Look for a showdown on that legislation in 2009. Meanwhile, the other drama to watch is whether Ms. Solis will turn a blind eye to union corruption by weakening federal oversight.
But card check legislation is not the only issue. There is a plan afoot to end recent enforcement efforts, which require labor unions to disclose key financial information. It is an odd time to lift rules providing greater transparency:
In the Illinois pay-to-play scandal, Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s chief of staff approached the two-million strong Service Employees International Union about a possible job for the Governor. The SEIU was Mr. Blagojevich’s biggest campaign donor. No one at the union has been charged with any wrongdoing and the SEIU says it is cooperating with the federal investigation.
In Puerto Rico, meanwhile, the SEIU supported Gov. Aníbal Acevedo Vilá, who was indicted this year for corruption. The biggest fraud case of the year involved the SEIU’s home-care workers local in Los Angeles. Its boss, the 39-year-old Tyrone Freeman, was a protégé of SEIU chief Andy Stern. Both Mr. Freeman and his former chief of staff were ousted; a third senior SEIU official is on leave pending an internal investigation, while a federal probe is also under way.
As some labor officials privately admit, Ms. Chao’s financial disclosure rules helped to expose Mr. Freeman. Hundreds of thousands of misspent dollars — including a $13,000 tab Mr. Freeman had rung up at the Grand Havana Room cigar club in Beverly Hills and $650,000 for his wife’s video company — were pulled from the same revised LM-2 forms that unions had so vociferously opposed in 2004.
The Obama administration’s subservience to the whims of Big Labor should come as no surprise. After hundreds of millions of dollars flowed from labor unions into the coffers of Democratic politicians this election cycle, Big Labor naturally expects something for its investment. And that’s the rub: in the age of New Politics (when special interests were supposed to be banished) we will have organized labor calling the tune on a range of issues.
Will the Obama administration capitulate to the howls of the UAW that they not be forced to adjust their wage and benefit structure at GM and Chrysler to match that of U.S. workers at foreign-owned car companies? Will President Obama junk bipartisanship in favor of a bloody battle over card check — which will inflame Republicans and put Blue Dog Democrats on the hot seat? These and other issues will test how far the Obama administration is willing–or is forced–to go to repay its debt to its Big Labor patrons.
In opposition to all this, Republicans, good government types, free marketers, and civil libertarians will have many causes in common: rooting out corruption and defending secret ballots in union elections, to name two. We will see in 2009 if Big Labor finally gets its reward, or if it proves to be the undoing of the Agent of Change. For Republicans looking for a way to regain their reputation for clean government and fiscal sanity, battles over Big Labor’s dominance in our economy and government might be just what they need.
Last week Hamas announced that it considered the “truce” it had with Israel was over. And in doing so, they reminded the world that they have their own language, one that has very little to do with how the rest of the world sees things.
To most people, a “truce” is when two (or more) fighting parties agree to stop fighting and seek a way to permanently end the conflict. With Hamas, though, a “truce” is a little different: to them, it means “we’ll slow down our attacks on you, and you don’t hit back at all.” All throughout the so-called “truce,” rockets rained down on Israel on an almost-daily basis from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. And the world let Hamas get away with this perversion of language.
And that’s not all.
To most people, when a “truce” is declared to be over, it means one of two things: either a lasting peace has been reached, or fighting has resumed. But what does it mean that Hamas has declared the truce over? Nobody knows. Because Hamas won’t tell us what they mean. It might mean a new push for a new agreement, or it might mean another all-out war.
Here’s how it should have played out: Hamas declares that the truce is over. Israel politely asks “are you sure you want to declare the truce over?” And when Hamas issues the inevitable reaffirmation of their dedication to the destruction of Israel, as enshrined in their charter, Israel shrugs and softly says “OK, if that’s how it has to be.” And then levels a dozen Hamas buildings at the same time.
Hamas is many things. It is an avowed terrorist organization, dedicated to the destruction of Israel. And it is also the duly-elected, legal government of the Palestinian Authority in the Gaza Strip. When it declares the end of a truce, then that is the same as a declaration of war. And when someone declares war on you, it’s considered rude to not recognize that.
Hamas wants to play with the big boys, to be a sovereign state with all the privileges thereof. They need a reminder that those privileges come with obligations and responsibilities — and the words and deeds of such bodies have tremendous consequences.
They keep talking of war. It’s long past due for Israel to call their bluff.