Commentary Magazine


Topic: North Carolina

Stopping Voter ID Is Not Civil Rights

The upcoming 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington is a fortuitous coincidence for groups determined to stop Voter ID laws such as the one just signed into law in North Carolina. To listen to Rev. Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton, the memory of that seminal moment in history when the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. asked Americans to judge each other by “the content of their character” rather than by the “color of their skin” is an opportunity to relive the civil-rights struggle in which voter integrity laws will stand in for Jim Crow and segregation. But like the fake outrage expressed by Democrats and liberals over the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision upholding the Voting Rights Act while mandating that the Justice Department acknowledge that it is 2013 rather than 1965, Americans should not be fooled by this scam.

The North Carolina legislation goes further than other voter ID laws in that it rolls back both efforts to make it easier to vote early as well as early registration for those under 18. But whatever one may think of those measures, the idea that any of this has anything to do with racial discrimination or efforts to re-impose the racism that once characterized America’s political system is absurd. No one is attempting to repeal the right to vote or to restrict the franchise. Those who are making this argument in an era when African Americans are voting in numbers similar to those of whites and when we have just reelected the first African American president of the United States are making a mockery of the legacy of the civil-rights struggle.

Read More

The upcoming 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington is a fortuitous coincidence for groups determined to stop Voter ID laws such as the one just signed into law in North Carolina. To listen to Rev. Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton, the memory of that seminal moment in history when the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. asked Americans to judge each other by “the content of their character” rather than by the “color of their skin” is an opportunity to relive the civil-rights struggle in which voter integrity laws will stand in for Jim Crow and segregation. But like the fake outrage expressed by Democrats and liberals over the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision upholding the Voting Rights Act while mandating that the Justice Department acknowledge that it is 2013 rather than 1965, Americans should not be fooled by this scam.

The North Carolina legislation goes further than other voter ID laws in that it rolls back both efforts to make it easier to vote early as well as early registration for those under 18. But whatever one may think of those measures, the idea that any of this has anything to do with racial discrimination or efforts to re-impose the racism that once characterized America’s political system is absurd. No one is attempting to repeal the right to vote or to restrict the franchise. Those who are making this argument in an era when African Americans are voting in numbers similar to those of whites and when we have just reelected the first African American president of the United States are making a mockery of the legacy of the civil-rights struggle.

The gap between the purple rhetoric of opponents of voter ID laws and reality remains great. It should be remembered that the overwhelming majority of Americans, including African Americans, support commonsense laws that require citizens to identify themselves when voting with a picture ID just as they must when they travel by air or train, conduct even the most minor bank transaction, or buy alcohol or even cold medicine. They also know that the claims that there is no such as thing as voter fraud in the United States require us to forget everything we know about American political history and human nature.

But somehow all that is forgotten when Democrats and their racial huckster allies begin sounding off about voter ID laws. While claiming that they are defending the right to vote, what they are really doing is trying to create a false issue with which they can attempt to claim that nothing has changed since 1963.

The point of the recent Supreme Court decision is that the pre-clearance feature of the Civil Rights Act which requires states and localities that were guilty of discrimination in 1965 to be under federal supervision as far as voting laws was rooted in a past that had nothing to do with current conditions. In doing so, it did not take back the right to vote but merely said the Department of Justice must prove that discrimination exists before intervening. But there is a clear distinction between alleging discrimination and actually enforcing laws that prevent blacks or any other group from voting. Blacks are no less capable of obtaining a photo ID—which can be gotten from the state free of charge—than any other group.

To minimize the enormous and positive changes that have occurred since 1963 is to diminish the evil that Jim Crow represented. The racism that the March on Washington helped to reverse was not a metaphor or false argument. Nor was that protest merely a political tactic aimed at inflaming part of the electorate as the current furor over voter ID has been. Any comparison of Jim Crow to voter ID undermines the hard-fought progress that this country has made.

Read Less

Swing States are Neck-and-Neck

Today’s NBC News/Marist poll has President Obama and Mitt Romney virtually tied in New Hampshire, North Carolina and — most troubling for the president — Michigan. With little more than four months to go, the close race in the key Rust Belt state is the latest sign of turmoil in Obama’s reelection strategy.

A new round of NBC News-Marist polls shows President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney running almost neck-and-neck in three key battleground states, with Obama holding a slight advantage in Michigan and North Carolina, and the two candidates tied in New Hampshire.

In Michigan, Obama is ahead by four percentage points among registered voters, including those who are undecided but are still leaning toward a candidate, 47 to 43 percent.

In North Carolina, the president gets 46 percent to Romney’s 44 percent, which is within the survey’s margin of error.

And in New Hampshire, the two men are tied at 45 percent each.

Read More

Today’s NBC News/Marist poll has President Obama and Mitt Romney virtually tied in New Hampshire, North Carolina and — most troubling for the president — Michigan. With little more than four months to go, the close race in the key Rust Belt state is the latest sign of turmoil in Obama’s reelection strategy.

A new round of NBC News-Marist polls shows President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney running almost neck-and-neck in three key battleground states, with Obama holding a slight advantage in Michigan and North Carolina, and the two candidates tied in New Hampshire.

In Michigan, Obama is ahead by four percentage points among registered voters, including those who are undecided but are still leaning toward a candidate, 47 to 43 percent.

In North Carolina, the president gets 46 percent to Romney’s 44 percent, which is within the survey’s margin of error.

And in New Hampshire, the two men are tied at 45 percent each.

In New Hampshire, the race has narrowed in Romney’s favor since mid-May. In 2008, Obama won the state by 10 points, but it was expected to be in play this year. The president’s go-negative strategy may be less effective in New Hampshire, as voters there are familiar with Romney and many already hold an opinion about him. Romney’s favorability ratings are also higher in New Hampshire than in the two other states in the survey.

Democrats hoped to hold onto North Carolina by holding the convention there, but so far that has seemed to be a colossal misstep. Rather than helping Obama, the attention on the scandal-ridden state Democratic Party has mainly resulted in negative publicity. The president’s gay marriage decision, which appeared to be a direct rebuke of North Carolina voters, didn’t help either. Obama beat John McCain by just .4 percent there in 2008, so he has a steep hill to climb.

But Obama’s failure to open a lead in Michigan is by far the worst news for his campaign, and a sign he’ll have to fight just for a chance to hold onto the Rust Belt. Since the beginning of June, the race has been tightening in the state (as well as Pennsylvania and Ohio), likely in response to the gloomy jobs numbers and stagnant recovery. The last NBC/Marist poll in February showed Obama up by 18 points in Michigan, but that was back when the unemployment situation appeared to be improving. A lot has changed since then–much of it for the worst for the president.

Read Less

North Carolina Slipping Away From Obama

In 2008, Barack Obama not only won the expected key battleground states but swiped some that were assumed to be Republican strongholds such as Indiana, North Carolina and Virginia as he racked up a huge Electoral College win. While not even Democratic insiders think the president can win Indiana this year, they have held onto hope about North Carolina and are feeling very confident about Virginia. Their confidence about the president’s prospects in these two key southern states whose combined 28 electoral votes could make the difference in November stems in large measure because they believe changing demographics have permanently altered the GOP’s traditional edge in both.

But while polls show that the Democrats are continuing to nurse a small yet significant lead in Virginia, North Carolina seems to be slipping away. A PPP poll there published this week makes it unanimous, as all of the surveys of the state now show Mitt Romney in the lead. The four outfits that have polled the state differ on the margin that ranges from one percent to eight, but for the first time Romney leads in each of them. North Carolina may not be the same state that repeatedly sent Jesse Helms to the Senate a generation ago, but it appears that it is not ready to vote for Barack Obama again.

Read More

In 2008, Barack Obama not only won the expected key battleground states but swiped some that were assumed to be Republican strongholds such as Indiana, North Carolina and Virginia as he racked up a huge Electoral College win. While not even Democratic insiders think the president can win Indiana this year, they have held onto hope about North Carolina and are feeling very confident about Virginia. Their confidence about the president’s prospects in these two key southern states whose combined 28 electoral votes could make the difference in November stems in large measure because they believe changing demographics have permanently altered the GOP’s traditional edge in both.

But while polls show that the Democrats are continuing to nurse a small yet significant lead in Virginia, North Carolina seems to be slipping away. A PPP poll there published this week makes it unanimous, as all of the surveys of the state now show Mitt Romney in the lead. The four outfits that have polled the state differ on the margin that ranges from one percent to eight, but for the first time Romney leads in each of them. North Carolina may not be the same state that repeatedly sent Jesse Helms to the Senate a generation ago, but it appears that it is not ready to vote for Barack Obama again.

Like Virginia, North Carolina has become more urban and diverse since the days when it was one of the cornerstones of Richard Nixon’s “Southern strategy.” The influx of northerners into the technology centers of the Tar Heel state made it more competitive and led to Obama’s 2008 win.

What ought to trouble Democrats most is that the president’s problems there this year are reflective of national trends, not a reversion to the politics of the old south. North Carolinians have as much reason as Americans in the rust belt states in the north to worry that the economy has not recovered on the president’s watch and may get worse. If North Carolina, a state where the Democrats’ hold on the voters’ affections is shakier than in true blue states is slipping away, then the chances of the president holding other battlegrounds may also be declining. Though Romney’s advantage is slight, if by the fall North Carolina reverts to being a pink “leaning Republican” state rather than one that is up for grabs, it will be an ominous portent for the president.

Read Less

North Carolina No Longer a Swing State?

Just last month, Mitt Romney and President Obama were tied in Rasmussen’s North Carolina poll. Now, Romney has an 8-point lead, according to Rasmussen. That’s a fairly significant shift, and the most likely culprit is obviously Obama’s endorsement of gay marriage:

Mitt Romney has moved out to an eight-point lead over President Obama in North Carolina after the two men were virtually tied a month ago.

The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in the Tar Heel State shows the putative Republican nominee earning 51% of the vote to Obama’s 43%. Two percent (2%) like some other candidate, and four percent (4%) are undecided. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

That’s a big change from last month when Romney posted a narrow 46% to 44% lead over the president in Rasmussen Reports’ first survey of the race in North Carolina.

Democrats have signaled North Carolina’s importance as a key swing state by deciding to hold their national convention in Charlotte this summer.

Read More

Just last month, Mitt Romney and President Obama were tied in Rasmussen’s North Carolina poll. Now, Romney has an 8-point lead, according to Rasmussen. That’s a fairly significant shift, and the most likely culprit is obviously Obama’s endorsement of gay marriage:

Mitt Romney has moved out to an eight-point lead over President Obama in North Carolina after the two men were virtually tied a month ago.

The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in the Tar Heel State shows the putative Republican nominee earning 51% of the vote to Obama’s 43%. Two percent (2%) like some other candidate, and four percent (4%) are undecided. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

That’s a big change from last month when Romney posted a narrow 46% to 44% lead over the president in Rasmussen Reports’ first survey of the race in North Carolina.

Democrats have signaled North Carolina’s importance as a key swing state by deciding to hold their national convention in Charlotte this summer.

The Democrats have put themselves in something of a bind by deciding to hold the convention in North Carolina and consequently emphasizing its importance as a swing state. Even though North Carolina went for Obama by a miniscule margin in 2008, some political observers had already put it in the Romney column months ago. Jeff Zeleny at the New York Times excluded North Carolina from its swing state list back in March (he characterized it as “leans Republican,” but also added that it was the “most competitive [of the lean-Republican states] and could become a tossup as the campaign develops.”).

Ed Morrissey looks at the internals, which show Romney picking up a remarkable portion of Democrats in the state. Pay close attention to the women’s vote as well:

Independents break narrowly for Romney, 49/45, but Romney also gets 18% of Democrats while losing only 6% of Republicans.  That 18% of Democrats looks awfully close to the 20.3% that voted “no preference” in last week’s primary rather than cast a vote for Obama, too, for a little independent corroboration of that number.

Romney leads among men 50/44, but does even better among women, 53/41.  That will send a shiver up spines at Team Obama.  Rasmussen uses three age demos, and Obama wins the youngest, but only 50/39, another red flag. Romney wins wide majorities in the other two, including a whopping 68/30 split among seniors.

Jonathan wrote yesterday on the CBS News/New York Times poll, which showed Romney leading with women nationally. Like Obama’s gay marriage endorsement, the Democratic Party’s “war on women” rhetoric may have worked to energize the base and donors, but it’s not helping with swing voters.

Read Less

Poll Shows Traditional Marriage Amendment Poised for NC Win

Public Policy Polling finds wide support for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and civil unions in North Carolina, the last poll before voting opened today.

A final poll of likely North Carolina voters conducted over the weekend continues to give a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and civil unions an easy margin of victory in Tuesday’s election while the Democratic contest for governor is tightening.

The referendum holds a 16-point advantage, 55 percent in favor and 39 percent against, according to the Public Policy Polling survey, a left-leaning Raleigh-based firm. The numbers shifted little in the final week as big-names on either side of the debate – Rev. Billy Graham for and former President Bill Clinton against – made final pleas to persuade voters.

Read More

Public Policy Polling finds wide support for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and civil unions in North Carolina, the last poll before voting opened today.

A final poll of likely North Carolina voters conducted over the weekend continues to give a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and civil unions an easy margin of victory in Tuesday’s election while the Democratic contest for governor is tightening.

The referendum holds a 16-point advantage, 55 percent in favor and 39 percent against, according to the Public Policy Polling survey, a left-leaning Raleigh-based firm. The numbers shifted little in the final week as big-names on either side of the debate – Rev. Billy Graham for and former President Bill Clinton against – made final pleas to persuade voters.

As I wrote earlier today, there are benefits for Obama coming out in favor of gay marriage. The PPP poll today gives the flip side of that. Obama barely eked out a win in North Carolina in 2008, and he can’t afford to lose much support there. But as the PPP crosstabs show, 35 percent of Democrats and 34 percent of independents oppose gay marriage. That number jumps to 63 percent among African American voters.

Earlier today I also questioned whether the gay marriage issue would actually have much of an influence on how these groups vote. But support for the amendment really does seem to be energizing voters. The Charlotte Observer reports that voter turnout broke records today, even surpassing the contested primary between then-Sen. Obama and Hillary Clinton in 2008. That shows a strong commitment to the issue, which is likely behind Obama’s reluctance to take a clear stance.

Read Less

Oh, Man, Not Another Sputnik Moment …

I keep a list of historical analogies — derived from years of grading papers — that tell me that the individual using them is (to be polite) more interested in rhetorical impact than historical accuracy. Before last night, the list began with “we need a Marshall Plan for X,” where X usually equals Africa or the Middle East, and ended with “the United States is a young country.” Both are fallacies: the Marshall Plan was a pump-priming program, not an effort to rebuild the infrastructure and remake the culture of half a continent; and while European settlement of North America is fairly recent, the U.S.’s political institutions have a longer continuous existence than those of any other country except, arguably, the United Kingdom.

Now, thanks to President Obama, I’ve got a third analogy to add to the list: “Sputnik moment.” To be fair, I should have added it years ago. The phrase, according to Google, has popped in and out of the news regularly over the past decade, with the president himself beginning to use it last June, in a speech in North Carolina. The analogy has the advantage of being an example of government spending — we now call it “investment,” I am told — that has not been utterly discredited by succeeding events. But that doesn’t make it correct.

First, as my colleague Jim Carafano pointed out back in September, Ike’s response to Sputnik’s launch wasn’t to pull out the checkbook. That was what the Gaither Report called for, but Eisenhower balked: as I noted recently, Ike was no softie on Communism, but he was also concerned by the threat to American liberties “posed not so much by big government as such, but by top-down direction of all kinds. Much of this originated in the federal government, but not at all it: there was also a risk of becoming ‘the captive of a scientific-technological elite.’ ” A striking phrase, especially in light of President Obama’s desire to expand government for the benefit of that elite.

Second, the launch of Sputnik marked a significant new national-security threat posed by a state with a hostile ideology, which we were already confronting around the world. If the USSR could orbit a satellite, it could launch a nuclear missile and vaporize an American city. If Sputnik had been orbited by, say, Britain, it would not have occasioned nearly as much angst. In other words, you can’t have a Sputnik moment absent a hostile superpower to provide the impetus for concern. I would not categorize the U.S.’s relationship with China or, certainly, India, as particularly similar to the one we had with the USSR — and the president went out of his way last night not to criticize foreign regimes (even ones like Iran, which are hostile and have, in fact, orbited a satellite). So where is the drive that will be necessary to sustain this “moment” going to come from? Certainly not from the White House. Read More

I keep a list of historical analogies — derived from years of grading papers — that tell me that the individual using them is (to be polite) more interested in rhetorical impact than historical accuracy. Before last night, the list began with “we need a Marshall Plan for X,” where X usually equals Africa or the Middle East, and ended with “the United States is a young country.” Both are fallacies: the Marshall Plan was a pump-priming program, not an effort to rebuild the infrastructure and remake the culture of half a continent; and while European settlement of North America is fairly recent, the U.S.’s political institutions have a longer continuous existence than those of any other country except, arguably, the United Kingdom.

Now, thanks to President Obama, I’ve got a third analogy to add to the list: “Sputnik moment.” To be fair, I should have added it years ago. The phrase, according to Google, has popped in and out of the news regularly over the past decade, with the president himself beginning to use it last June, in a speech in North Carolina. The analogy has the advantage of being an example of government spending — we now call it “investment,” I am told — that has not been utterly discredited by succeeding events. But that doesn’t make it correct.

First, as my colleague Jim Carafano pointed out back in September, Ike’s response to Sputnik’s launch wasn’t to pull out the checkbook. That was what the Gaither Report called for, but Eisenhower balked: as I noted recently, Ike was no softie on Communism, but he was also concerned by the threat to American liberties “posed not so much by big government as such, but by top-down direction of all kinds. Much of this originated in the federal government, but not at all it: there was also a risk of becoming ‘the captive of a scientific-technological elite.’ ” A striking phrase, especially in light of President Obama’s desire to expand government for the benefit of that elite.

Second, the launch of Sputnik marked a significant new national-security threat posed by a state with a hostile ideology, which we were already confronting around the world. If the USSR could orbit a satellite, it could launch a nuclear missile and vaporize an American city. If Sputnik had been orbited by, say, Britain, it would not have occasioned nearly as much angst. In other words, you can’t have a Sputnik moment absent a hostile superpower to provide the impetus for concern. I would not categorize the U.S.’s relationship with China or, certainly, India, as particularly similar to the one we had with the USSR — and the president went out of his way last night not to criticize foreign regimes (even ones like Iran, which are hostile and have, in fact, orbited a satellite). So where is the drive that will be necessary to sustain this “moment” going to come from? Certainly not from the White House.

Third, and most basically, I sometimes get the sense that the left doesn’t realize that 1890-2010 has already happened. A rule of life is that you can only do things for the first time once. We’ve tried the Progressive, administrative state, and have been trying it for years: its deficiencies are not going to be fixed by pretending in an “Ah ha!” moment that what we need is more administration. We’ve been trying Keynesianism almost continuously since the 1940s and even before the recession were at levels of government spending that Keynes experienced only during World War II: the idea that Keynes offers some sort of untried miracle cure is, to be nice about it, a fantasy. Since 1970, as Andrew Coulson points out, federal spending adjusted for inflation has increased by 190 percent, with no gains in reading, math, or science scores to show for it. None of these ideas are new. On the contrary: they are very, very old.

Leaving all this aside, I have to ask — does the proclamation of a new “Sputnik moment” work even as rhetoric? It certainly leaves me cold. The reason for that is, partly, because it’s not great history. But, more fundamentally, it’s because it’s so obviously instrumental. The president wants to look like he’s cutting the budget but also wants to spend more money. So he grabs at the NASA argument, the Sputnik analogy, the Internet analogy, and anything else that comes to hand. Rhetoric that’s shaped by this kind of desperation comes across as insincere. It might be more effective for the president to simply state his belief that we need to spend more money on education. He’d be wrong on the merits, but at least he wouldn’t be compounding the error with dubious grab-bag analogies.

Read Less

Pelosi and the GOP Win

As a Republican reader e-mails, “The Dems want Pelosi as their leader, and so do we!” Well, that’s the Obama era for you. The vote and the post-vote grousing by dismayed Blue Dog Democrats tell us a few things.

Most important, Pelosi has a lot of disgruntled moderates who are very nervous that in 2012 they will join their defeated 2010 colleagues, among them more than 30 Blue Dogs. As the New York Times reported, there are a number of Democrats who weren’t about to go along with the “everything is fine, perfectly fine” narrative:

“It’s time for new leadership after the worst electoral defeat since 1948,” said Representative Jim Cooper, Democrat of Tennessee.

Some of the Democrats defeated this month counseled strongly against keeping Ms. Pelosi, and one did not mince words. “Have they lost their minds?” asked Representative Allen Boyd, a defeated Democrat, as he passed by the Cannon Caucus Room, where the election was occurring.

The dissenters didn’t go quietly:

Appearing with Reps. Mike Ross (D-Ark.), Larry Kissell (D-N.C.) and Jim Matheson (D-Utah), who formally nominated Shuler for the post, Shuler said “there was a lot of unrest in the room” surrounding the votes. …

“I consider myself one of Nancy Pelosi’s closest friends in Congress. I think we missed an opportunity today to send a signal to America that we understand what happened in this past election,” said Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.), who wanted the elections pushed back.

But the purposefully oblivious, like Rep. Barney Frank, weren’t giving any ground:

Asked if Pelosi’s abysmal approval ratings among independents pose a problem for the party looking ahead to 2012, Frank said they don’t, “because she’s not running for president.”

“You people are focused on this; the voters aren’t,” he said, referring to the media. “The general public is much more focused on substance.”

Frank asserted that Pelosi had “virtually nothing” to do with the poor election outcome for Democrats.

“Going forward,” he said, “we will be judged on what the public policies are.”

The question remains: does Pelosi now become a useful foil for the Republicans or for the president? If Obama is cagey enough, he’ll pick some fights with her, get serious about spending reduction, and ignore her advice on national security. Should he go that route, he’ll regain some lost ground. But if Pelosi entices the president to stay the course, gives no ground on spending, and remains the poster girl for the left wing of the left wing, then Republicans in 2012 will run once again at the Obama-Pelosi-Reid agenda.

The problem with the liberals’ insistence that they need Pelosi to remain a resolute defender of the left is that Obama needs to run roughshod over her and the rump liberal caucus in order to survive. For all the talk of a GOP “civil war,” the real action won’t be on that side of the aisle; from what we’ve seen so far, the Tea Partiers and establishment Republicans are working things out with a minimum of acrimony. The same, I suspect, won’t be true for the Democrats.

As a Republican reader e-mails, “The Dems want Pelosi as their leader, and so do we!” Well, that’s the Obama era for you. The vote and the post-vote grousing by dismayed Blue Dog Democrats tell us a few things.

Most important, Pelosi has a lot of disgruntled moderates who are very nervous that in 2012 they will join their defeated 2010 colleagues, among them more than 30 Blue Dogs. As the New York Times reported, there are a number of Democrats who weren’t about to go along with the “everything is fine, perfectly fine” narrative:

“It’s time for new leadership after the worst electoral defeat since 1948,” said Representative Jim Cooper, Democrat of Tennessee.

Some of the Democrats defeated this month counseled strongly against keeping Ms. Pelosi, and one did not mince words. “Have they lost their minds?” asked Representative Allen Boyd, a defeated Democrat, as he passed by the Cannon Caucus Room, where the election was occurring.

The dissenters didn’t go quietly:

Appearing with Reps. Mike Ross (D-Ark.), Larry Kissell (D-N.C.) and Jim Matheson (D-Utah), who formally nominated Shuler for the post, Shuler said “there was a lot of unrest in the room” surrounding the votes. …

“I consider myself one of Nancy Pelosi’s closest friends in Congress. I think we missed an opportunity today to send a signal to America that we understand what happened in this past election,” said Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.), who wanted the elections pushed back.

But the purposefully oblivious, like Rep. Barney Frank, weren’t giving any ground:

Asked if Pelosi’s abysmal approval ratings among independents pose a problem for the party looking ahead to 2012, Frank said they don’t, “because she’s not running for president.”

“You people are focused on this; the voters aren’t,” he said, referring to the media. “The general public is much more focused on substance.”

Frank asserted that Pelosi had “virtually nothing” to do with the poor election outcome for Democrats.

“Going forward,” he said, “we will be judged on what the public policies are.”

The question remains: does Pelosi now become a useful foil for the Republicans or for the president? If Obama is cagey enough, he’ll pick some fights with her, get serious about spending reduction, and ignore her advice on national security. Should he go that route, he’ll regain some lost ground. But if Pelosi entices the president to stay the course, gives no ground on spending, and remains the poster girl for the left wing of the left wing, then Republicans in 2012 will run once again at the Obama-Pelosi-Reid agenda.

The problem with the liberals’ insistence that they need Pelosi to remain a resolute defender of the left is that Obama needs to run roughshod over her and the rump liberal caucus in order to survive. For all the talk of a GOP “civil war,” the real action won’t be on that side of the aisle; from what we’ve seen so far, the Tea Partiers and establishment Republicans are working things out with a minimum of acrimony. The same, I suspect, won’t be true for the Democrats.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Hooray for Newton, Massachusetts!: “Temple Beth Avodah, a Reform Jewish synagogue in Newton, has abruptly canceled an event with the president of J Street, a lobbying group that supports liberal positions on Israel, because of vociferous objections from some members of the congregation about J Street’s politics.” Bravo — why should Jews, even liberal ones, keep up the facade that the Soros-funded group is a legitimate, pro-Israel organization.

Three cheers for hope and change: “The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi of California, was re-elected on Wednesday to lead the Democrats in the next Congress, despite her party’s loss of more than 60 seats and its majority control of the House in the midterm elections. Officials said that Ms. Pelosi defeated Representative Heath Shuler of North Carolina in an internal party vote, 150 to 43.” We now know that there are 43 Dems who have sense enough to perhaps join their Republican colleagues on key votes.

Bingo! “The whole TSA procedure is hugely frustrating to travelers because not only is it needlessly invasive, but it is also a complete waste of time. Other countries facing similar threats respond in much less irritating and much more intelligent and effective ways. Israel, for example, does not do body scans and invasive pat-downs. If the Republicans want to cut government spending, a good place to start would be to abolish TSA. I say this as a very frequent traveler who regularly flies 150,000 miles per year.”

Wow-wee. Look what $1.5B in aid and Muslim Outreach got us: “Financial ties between Egypt and Iran have recently improved as a result of the Misr Iran Development Bank (MIDB), jointly owned by the two countries, according to a report by the Atlantic Monthly on Monday. According to the report, the MIDB, founded in 1975, has become a potential route for Teheran to bypass imposed economic sanctions with Egypt. The bank serves as evidence of the complex challenge faced by the US in enforcing international sanctions against Iran.”

Bravo, Just Journalism, for documenting 10 years of the London Review of Books‘s noxious anti-Israel screeds. “The LRB consistently portrayed Israel as a bloodthirsty and genocidal regime out of all proportion to reality, while sympathetic portraits abounded of groups designated as terrorist organisations by the British government such as Hamas and Hezbollah. While the Palestinian narrative was fully represented, Israel’s narrative on its legitimate security concerns, Arab rejectionism and terrorism was near absent.” Do you think they could do the New York Review of Books next?

Kudos to Lela Gilbert, who highlights this: “Recent terrorist attacks against Christians in Iraq have spotlighted their desperate circumstances in the Middle East, characterized by threats of terror and bloodshed, and culminating in a silent exodus from their ancient homelands—an exodus that mirrors that of the Jews half a century before. Murders, rapes, beatings, extortions, the burning and desecration of houses of worship and mob violence are abuses are all too familiar to surviving Jews who remember their own perilous journeys.” Where’s our Islam-Explainer-in-Chief, and why doesn’t he ever talk about this topic?

Way to go! First an earmark ban and now this: “House Republicans announced Wednesday they plan to force a floor vote on defunding NPR in response to the firing of analyst Juan Williams last month. House GOP Whip Eric Cantor (Va.) and Rep. Doug Lamborn (Colo.) said that cutting funds to the publicly subsidized news organization was the winner of the conference’s weekly ‘YouCut’ contest, in which the public votes online on spending items they want eliminated.”

Whew. No candidates like Mary Robinson for the Medal of Freedom this year. But Stan “the Man” Musial, Yo-Yo Ma, and Angela Merkel will get their awards. Also Bush 41. Bush 43 will have to wait to get his — maybe in Marco Rubio’s first term. (Yeah, yeah — Maya Angelou is an awful poet, but harmless enough.)

Better late than never. A gathering of 100 CEOs delivered the administration some long overdue pushback: “The CEOs, in a vote, said the government’s top priority should be to foster global trade and create a more business-friendly environment. But CEOs also said uncertainty about government policy on taxes and regulation remained a barrier to unlocking $2 trillion in capital sitting in the treasuries of U.S. non-financial businesses.”

Hooray for Newton, Massachusetts!: “Temple Beth Avodah, a Reform Jewish synagogue in Newton, has abruptly canceled an event with the president of J Street, a lobbying group that supports liberal positions on Israel, because of vociferous objections from some members of the congregation about J Street’s politics.” Bravo — why should Jews, even liberal ones, keep up the facade that the Soros-funded group is a legitimate, pro-Israel organization.

Three cheers for hope and change: “The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi of California, was re-elected on Wednesday to lead the Democrats in the next Congress, despite her party’s loss of more than 60 seats and its majority control of the House in the midterm elections. Officials said that Ms. Pelosi defeated Representative Heath Shuler of North Carolina in an internal party vote, 150 to 43.” We now know that there are 43 Dems who have sense enough to perhaps join their Republican colleagues on key votes.

Bingo! “The whole TSA procedure is hugely frustrating to travelers because not only is it needlessly invasive, but it is also a complete waste of time. Other countries facing similar threats respond in much less irritating and much more intelligent and effective ways. Israel, for example, does not do body scans and invasive pat-downs. If the Republicans want to cut government spending, a good place to start would be to abolish TSA. I say this as a very frequent traveler who regularly flies 150,000 miles per year.”

Wow-wee. Look what $1.5B in aid and Muslim Outreach got us: “Financial ties between Egypt and Iran have recently improved as a result of the Misr Iran Development Bank (MIDB), jointly owned by the two countries, according to a report by the Atlantic Monthly on Monday. According to the report, the MIDB, founded in 1975, has become a potential route for Teheran to bypass imposed economic sanctions with Egypt. The bank serves as evidence of the complex challenge faced by the US in enforcing international sanctions against Iran.”

Bravo, Just Journalism, for documenting 10 years of the London Review of Books‘s noxious anti-Israel screeds. “The LRB consistently portrayed Israel as a bloodthirsty and genocidal regime out of all proportion to reality, while sympathetic portraits abounded of groups designated as terrorist organisations by the British government such as Hamas and Hezbollah. While the Palestinian narrative was fully represented, Israel’s narrative on its legitimate security concerns, Arab rejectionism and terrorism was near absent.” Do you think they could do the New York Review of Books next?

Kudos to Lela Gilbert, who highlights this: “Recent terrorist attacks against Christians in Iraq have spotlighted their desperate circumstances in the Middle East, characterized by threats of terror and bloodshed, and culminating in a silent exodus from their ancient homelands—an exodus that mirrors that of the Jews half a century before. Murders, rapes, beatings, extortions, the burning and desecration of houses of worship and mob violence are abuses are all too familiar to surviving Jews who remember their own perilous journeys.” Where’s our Islam-Explainer-in-Chief, and why doesn’t he ever talk about this topic?

Way to go! First an earmark ban and now this: “House Republicans announced Wednesday they plan to force a floor vote on defunding NPR in response to the firing of analyst Juan Williams last month. House GOP Whip Eric Cantor (Va.) and Rep. Doug Lamborn (Colo.) said that cutting funds to the publicly subsidized news organization was the winner of the conference’s weekly ‘YouCut’ contest, in which the public votes online on spending items they want eliminated.”

Whew. No candidates like Mary Robinson for the Medal of Freedom this year. But Stan “the Man” Musial, Yo-Yo Ma, and Angela Merkel will get their awards. Also Bush 41. Bush 43 will have to wait to get his — maybe in Marco Rubio’s first term. (Yeah, yeah — Maya Angelou is an awful poet, but harmless enough.)

Better late than never. A gathering of 100 CEOs delivered the administration some long overdue pushback: “The CEOs, in a vote, said the government’s top priority should be to foster global trade and create a more business-friendly environment. But CEOs also said uncertainty about government policy on taxes and regulation remained a barrier to unlocking $2 trillion in capital sitting in the treasuries of U.S. non-financial businesses.”

Read Less

Thanks, but I’d Rather Not

Not surprisingly, they aren’t lining up around the block to take the job — as head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, that is:

There don’t appear to be any real good options to replace Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) as chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. In fact, a whole slate of potential chairmen have already said no, while not one senator has publicly expressed interest.

Joining the list of senators saying no this weekend was Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), the former two-term chairman of the DSCC who guided his party to a 13-seat gain and a (temporarily) filibuster-proof majority in 2009. Schumer’s name had been floated in the week since the 2010 election, but he told the New York Observer on Sunday that he’s not doing it.

“I have been asked by Leader Reid and many of my colleagues, and I’ve said I think I can better serve our country, our state, and our party by focusing on issues and getting us to refocus on the middle class,” Schumer said.

Schumer, of course, might still benefit personally from some more Democratic losses in 2012, which could push the Democrats into the minority and finally dislodge Harry Reid. There certainly will be opportunities, with Senate seats in West Virginia, Virginia, Florida, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and even Wisconsin up for grabs.

That leaves such luminaries as “Sens. Patty Murray (Wash.), Michael Bennet (Colo.), Barbara Mikulski (Md.), Ron Wyden (Ore.), Kay Hagan (N.C.), Frank Lautenberg (N.J.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Jack Reed (R.I.) and freshman Chris Coons (Del.)” available for the job. Do any of these seem formidable? Some are barely presentable as the face of the Democratic Party.

But we shouldn’t get too hung up on who gets the white elephant on this one. It wasn’t Bob Menendez who lost the Democrats six seats. It was Obama and Harry Reid — plus an unemployment rate of over 9 percent. The GOP shouldn’t be faulted for calculating that those same factors — and the luck of the draw (only 10 GOP seats are up in 2012) — give them a very good shot at winning the Senate in a couple of years. So who can blame Democratic senators for ducking the call of duty on this one?

Not surprisingly, they aren’t lining up around the block to take the job — as head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, that is:

There don’t appear to be any real good options to replace Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) as chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. In fact, a whole slate of potential chairmen have already said no, while not one senator has publicly expressed interest.

Joining the list of senators saying no this weekend was Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), the former two-term chairman of the DSCC who guided his party to a 13-seat gain and a (temporarily) filibuster-proof majority in 2009. Schumer’s name had been floated in the week since the 2010 election, but he told the New York Observer on Sunday that he’s not doing it.

“I have been asked by Leader Reid and many of my colleagues, and I’ve said I think I can better serve our country, our state, and our party by focusing on issues and getting us to refocus on the middle class,” Schumer said.

Schumer, of course, might still benefit personally from some more Democratic losses in 2012, which could push the Democrats into the minority and finally dislodge Harry Reid. There certainly will be opportunities, with Senate seats in West Virginia, Virginia, Florida, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and even Wisconsin up for grabs.

That leaves such luminaries as “Sens. Patty Murray (Wash.), Michael Bennet (Colo.), Barbara Mikulski (Md.), Ron Wyden (Ore.), Kay Hagan (N.C.), Frank Lautenberg (N.J.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Jack Reed (R.I.) and freshman Chris Coons (Del.)” available for the job. Do any of these seem formidable? Some are barely presentable as the face of the Democratic Party.

But we shouldn’t get too hung up on who gets the white elephant on this one. It wasn’t Bob Menendez who lost the Democrats six seats. It was Obama and Harry Reid — plus an unemployment rate of over 9 percent. The GOP shouldn’t be faulted for calculating that those same factors — and the luck of the draw (only 10 GOP seats are up in 2012) — give them a very good shot at winning the Senate in a couple of years. So who can blame Democratic senators for ducking the call of duty on this one?

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

A nightmare for Mitt Romney. “Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a possible presidential candidate in 2012, called for repeal of healthcare legislation during a television interview Sunday morning. ‘I think Obamacare is one of the worst pieces of legislation passed in the modern history of the country,’ Pawlenty said on CNN’s State of the Union.”

A smart position for Republicans on the Fed buying up $600B in bonds. Rep. Paul Ryan: “It’s a big mistake, in my opinion. Look, we have Congress doing tax and spend, borrow and spend. Now we have the Federal Reserve doing print and spend. If this quantitative easing, which is basically monetizing your debt — I think the upsides are very low. We already have very loose monetary policy, very, very low interest rates. This is going to give us an inflation problem in the future. It’s going to give us an interest rate problem in the future. It is destabilizing investment horizons. The Federal Reserve should be focused on sound and honest money, not on trying to micromanage the economy.” (You can see why a lot of conservatives hope he runs in 2012.)

A succinct analysis of Nancy Pelosi’s staying on as minority leader. “It doesn’t matter whether she’ll be good or merely bad or spectacularly bad. What matters is, you lose 65 seats, you resign. Period. There should not be a question.”

A nervous Democrat: Al Hunt on Pelosi’s decision to stick around: “What that seems to ignore are the millions of voters in places like South Bend, Indiana, or Charlotte, North Carolina, who supported President Barack Obama, are disappointed and anxious today and hope for constructive change. The congressional Democrats’ response: It’s business as usual. The message is ‘we’re going to keep doing exactly what we were doing’ before the party ‘got crushed,’ said Representative Jason Altmire, a Pennsylvania Democrat who won his re-election contest 51 percent to 49 percent.” Yes, Republicans are “delighted.”

A rising star. “A young, charismatic Cuban-American with an appealing personal story, [Marco] Rubio took 49 percent of the vote Tuesday, a remarkable total in a three-way race. Exit polls showed he captured 55 percent of the Hispanic vote. As a vice presidential candidate, Rubio could make the nation’s largest swing state even more of a tossup and force Obama’s political team to consider a road map back to the White House without it. National Democrats were watching him long before Tuesday, hoping in vain that he would lose and his potential would be stifled.”

Already a conservative star. ” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie irked NBC’s David Gregory — and probably won over more conservatives weary of the media in the process — by suggesting on “Meet the Press” that the host was acting as an advocate for Democrats in the way he spoke about taxes. Christie, a Republican known for his tell-it-like-it-is attitude, disagreed with Gregory’s characterization of the looming battle in Congress over the Bush years tax rate as ‘tax cuts.’”

A liberal dilettante. That’s the gist of the New York Times‘s assessment of Obama’s Gandhi fetish. “‘The impression on the Indian side is every time you meet him, he talks about Gandhi,’ said Shekhar Gupta, editor of The Indian Express, a leading English-language newspaper, adding that the repeated references struck some officials as platitudinous.” Moreover, India has moved on. “If anything, India’s rise as a global power seems likely to distance it even further from Gandhi. India is inching toward a tighter military relationship with the United States, once distrusted as an imperialist power, even as the Americans are fighting a war in nearby Afghanistan. India also has an urbanizing consumer-driven economy and a growing middle class that indulges itself in cars, apartments and other goods. It is this economic progress that underpins India’s rising geopolitical clout and its attractiveness to the United States as a global partner.”

A nightmare for Mitt Romney. “Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a possible presidential candidate in 2012, called for repeal of healthcare legislation during a television interview Sunday morning. ‘I think Obamacare is one of the worst pieces of legislation passed in the modern history of the country,’ Pawlenty said on CNN’s State of the Union.”

A smart position for Republicans on the Fed buying up $600B in bonds. Rep. Paul Ryan: “It’s a big mistake, in my opinion. Look, we have Congress doing tax and spend, borrow and spend. Now we have the Federal Reserve doing print and spend. If this quantitative easing, which is basically monetizing your debt — I think the upsides are very low. We already have very loose monetary policy, very, very low interest rates. This is going to give us an inflation problem in the future. It’s going to give us an interest rate problem in the future. It is destabilizing investment horizons. The Federal Reserve should be focused on sound and honest money, not on trying to micromanage the economy.” (You can see why a lot of conservatives hope he runs in 2012.)

A succinct analysis of Nancy Pelosi’s staying on as minority leader. “It doesn’t matter whether she’ll be good or merely bad or spectacularly bad. What matters is, you lose 65 seats, you resign. Period. There should not be a question.”

A nervous Democrat: Al Hunt on Pelosi’s decision to stick around: “What that seems to ignore are the millions of voters in places like South Bend, Indiana, or Charlotte, North Carolina, who supported President Barack Obama, are disappointed and anxious today and hope for constructive change. The congressional Democrats’ response: It’s business as usual. The message is ‘we’re going to keep doing exactly what we were doing’ before the party ‘got crushed,’ said Representative Jason Altmire, a Pennsylvania Democrat who won his re-election contest 51 percent to 49 percent.” Yes, Republicans are “delighted.”

A rising star. “A young, charismatic Cuban-American with an appealing personal story, [Marco] Rubio took 49 percent of the vote Tuesday, a remarkable total in a three-way race. Exit polls showed he captured 55 percent of the Hispanic vote. As a vice presidential candidate, Rubio could make the nation’s largest swing state even more of a tossup and force Obama’s political team to consider a road map back to the White House without it. National Democrats were watching him long before Tuesday, hoping in vain that he would lose and his potential would be stifled.”

Already a conservative star. ” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie irked NBC’s David Gregory — and probably won over more conservatives weary of the media in the process — by suggesting on “Meet the Press” that the host was acting as an advocate for Democrats in the way he spoke about taxes. Christie, a Republican known for his tell-it-like-it-is attitude, disagreed with Gregory’s characterization of the looming battle in Congress over the Bush years tax rate as ‘tax cuts.’”

A liberal dilettante. That’s the gist of the New York Times‘s assessment of Obama’s Gandhi fetish. “‘The impression on the Indian side is every time you meet him, he talks about Gandhi,’ said Shekhar Gupta, editor of The Indian Express, a leading English-language newspaper, adding that the repeated references struck some officials as platitudinous.” Moreover, India has moved on. “If anything, India’s rise as a global power seems likely to distance it even further from Gandhi. India is inching toward a tighter military relationship with the United States, once distrusted as an imperialist power, even as the Americans are fighting a war in nearby Afghanistan. India also has an urbanizing consumer-driven economy and a growing middle class that indulges itself in cars, apartments and other goods. It is this economic progress that underpins India’s rising geopolitical clout and its attractiveness to the United States as a global partner.”

Read Less

LIVE BLOG: Will There Be Any Surprises?

In past “wave” elections, weird things happen in Senate races no one expects. In ’80, it was the victory of Jeremiah Denton in Alabama. In ’94, it was Fred Thompson winning in a landslide in a race everyone thought would be close. In 2008, it was the bouncing of Elizabeth Dole in North Carolina. What about this year? There may not be one, because everything has been so closely watched. It may be that the presumed victory of Ron Johnson in Wisconsin over Russ Feingold would have been the surprise in an earlier election cycle, before the news cycle became constant and political news sources became so incredibly numerous.

In past “wave” elections, weird things happen in Senate races no one expects. In ’80, it was the victory of Jeremiah Denton in Alabama. In ’94, it was Fred Thompson winning in a landslide in a race everyone thought would be close. In 2008, it was the bouncing of Elizabeth Dole in North Carolina. What about this year? There may not be one, because everything has been so closely watched. It may be that the presumed victory of Ron Johnson in Wisconsin over Russ Feingold would have been the surprise in an earlier election cycle, before the news cycle became constant and political news sources became so incredibly numerous.

Read Less

A Safe Bet on the Future of the House Leadership

There is a certain sense of unreality about this piece:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has become a punching bag for struggling Democratic House colleagues this fall, but some mouthy members have hit below the belt, raising questions about whether they’ll face a Pelosi punishment after the elections.

Pelosi has blown off the public slights from the likes of Texas Rep. Chet Edwards, who recently said he would not commit to backing Pelosi for another term as speaker, and Alabama Rep. Bobby Bright, who recently predicted Pelosi could “get sick and die” before the next Congress. Rep. Heath Shuler of North Carolina even suggested that he might run for the position of speaker himself.

But will Pelosi be yanking committee seats or chairmanships after the election?

OK, how many of you think the Democrats are going to keep the majority? Umm. How many think that after the deluge, the Democrats are going to elect Pelosi their minority leader? No, I don’t suppose they will. You see, in the real world, the Democrats sprinting away from Pelosi are unlikely to survive, and if they do, she won’t. In other words, the entire story is daft.

There is an explanation for a story as bizarrely out-of-touch as this: it’s a heavy-handed leaked/suggested piece by the Democratic leadership. The hint comes on the last page (my comment in brackets):

Democratic insiders have already warned members [in silly stories like this one!] that incumbents should keep attacks against Pelosi to policy points, rather than attacking her individually. No specific instructions have been doled out to Democratic incumbents about how to treat attacks on the speaker’s record, according to the DCCC.

And when you’re going to push a nonsensical story that can only benefit political insiders, what better place to do it than in D.C.’s equivalent of Variety?

There is a certain sense of unreality about this piece:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has become a punching bag for struggling Democratic House colleagues this fall, but some mouthy members have hit below the belt, raising questions about whether they’ll face a Pelosi punishment after the elections.

Pelosi has blown off the public slights from the likes of Texas Rep. Chet Edwards, who recently said he would not commit to backing Pelosi for another term as speaker, and Alabama Rep. Bobby Bright, who recently predicted Pelosi could “get sick and die” before the next Congress. Rep. Heath Shuler of North Carolina even suggested that he might run for the position of speaker himself.

But will Pelosi be yanking committee seats or chairmanships after the election?

OK, how many of you think the Democrats are going to keep the majority? Umm. How many think that after the deluge, the Democrats are going to elect Pelosi their minority leader? No, I don’t suppose they will. You see, in the real world, the Democrats sprinting away from Pelosi are unlikely to survive, and if they do, she won’t. In other words, the entire story is daft.

There is an explanation for a story as bizarrely out-of-touch as this: it’s a heavy-handed leaked/suggested piece by the Democratic leadership. The hint comes on the last page (my comment in brackets):

Democratic insiders have already warned members [in silly stories like this one!] that incumbents should keep attacks against Pelosi to policy points, rather than attacking her individually. No specific instructions have been doled out to Democratic incumbents about how to treat attacks on the speaker’s record, according to the DCCC.

And when you’re going to push a nonsensical story that can only benefit political insiders, what better place to do it than in D.C.’s equivalent of Variety?

Read Less

Immigration and the Golden State

I am delighted that my friend Peter Robinson has spent time pondering my latest piece for COMMENTARY, “California, There It Went.” I am immensely gratified by his kind words. He poses a series of questions on immigration and asks whether immigration, illegal immigration more specifically, isn’t a significant factor in California’s woeful condition.

I’ll start by summarizing where I stand on the more general topic: I am unabashedly pro-immigration. As Peter eloquently argued, the spiritual and economic life of America and its reputation as a beacon of freedom and opportunity depend on an influx of new immigrants to revitalize and replenish ourselves. (As Dan Senor and Saul Singer observe in Start Up Nation, immigrants are risk takers, entrepreneurial by their nature. A dynamic, modern society wants such people.)

Tamar Jacoby wrote during the height of the immigration-reform debate that “immigrants don’t just keep the economy going, they grow it, making us all richer and more productive.” She explained that “if there’d been no immigrants in the past decade, the U.S. economy would have grown by less than half as much as it did. Think about it: half as many new houses built, half as many businesses opened, half as many new jobs created, half as much new tax revenue collected—and much less economic vitality.”

In “Higher Immigration, Lower Crime” from the December 2009 issue of COMMENTARY, CATO’s Daniel Griswold wrote that immigrants are looking for a good job, not a drug deal. That said, the problem of illegal immigration and the burden it imposes on states like California is real. In Griswold’s earlier work on the subject, he explained that anti-immigration activists have exaggerated and distorted the burdens immigrants place on state governments:

The 1997 National Research Council study found that, although the fiscal impact of a typical immigrant and his or her descendants is strongly positive at the federal level, it is negative at the state and local level.

State and local fiscal costs, while real, must be weighed against the equally real and positive effect of immigration on the overall economy. Low-skilled immigrants allow important sectors of the U.S. economy, such as retail, cleaning, food preparation, construction, and other services, to expand to meet the needs of their customers. They help the economy produce a wider array of more affordably priced goods and services, raising the real wages of most Americans. By filling gaps in the U.S. labor market, such immigrants create investment opportunities and employment for native-born Americans. Immigrants are also consumers, increasing demand for American-made goods and services.

Griswold cites two studies, which “found that the increased economic activity created by lower-skilled, mostly Hispanic immigrants far exceeds the costs to state and local governments.” A 2006 study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found Hispanics “many of them undocumented immigrants, had indeed imposed a net cost on the state government of $61 million, but… had increased the state’s economy by $9 billion.” A Texas study concluded its 1.4 million undocumented immigrants imposed $504 million in costs to state and local governments in 2005 but “was dwarfed by the estimated positive impact on the state’s economy of $17.7 billion.”

Although I start, therefore, from the premise that immigrants are a net positive, that doesn’t mean there are not serious issues, especially for California. Peter smartly zeroes in on them. I’ll address the first here and the next two in a subsequent post. Peter asks:

No less a figure than  Harvard professor Samuel Huntington suggested that the Southwestern United  States, including, of course, southern California, runs the danger of  becoming culturally and linguistically more Mexican than American.   With Mexicans moving into the state while whites leave California for the interior of the country, is Huntington’s fear being borne out?

California isn’t there yet. California has the highest number of illegal immigrants in the country. But that still amounts to just 6.9 percent of the population. We are a very, very long way from seeing the culture become “more Mexican than American.” The schools, as rotten as they are, teach some facsimile of American history, American literature, etc., as the mainstays of their curriculum. (And to its credit, California was among the first to take a stab at doing away with bilingual education.) Pop culture, much of which emanates from California, is “American.” With 93 percent of the population made up of legal immigrants and citizens by birth, we’re not in any danger of getting “swamped” culturally.

This does, however, touch on a pet peeve of mine. Some of the concern that is referenced by Huntington relates to the impact of legal immigrants and those Hispanics born here. And that raises the question: what does “American” culture mean? Many anti-immigration activists assume American culture is fixed and that new immigrants will make us into something we aren’t. But that has never been what America is about. America wasn’t “fixed” in 1776, nor after the surge of immigration in the mid-1800s. It wasn’t set in stone after the huge influx of immigrants from Europe at the turn of the century. We evolve, we absorb, and we grow richer with each wave of immigrants.

However – and it’s a big “however” – we need to get real about assimilation. The reason immigration has been a positive factor is that each generation of immigrants learned English and learned to operate within, not apart, from American society. Tamar Jacoby, again: “We need more English classes. We need to guide newcomers toward becoming citizens. We need to help them help themselves – navigating the system, putting down roots, getting their kids to college, getting ahead.” (She also points to statistics indicating we’re doing better by objective measures of assimilation than many think.)

To answer Huntington, then, I’d rather improve our assimilation efforts than exclude and/or remove immigrants. That means not letting the leftist elites and professional ethnic-grievance mongers (both of whom encourage ethnic separatism) run the show. It means rejecting the argument that efforts to maintain our common language are “racist.”

But that’s only part of my answer. In Part 2, I’ll argue that the real answer to this and other concerns is comprehensive immigration reform.

I am delighted that my friend Peter Robinson has spent time pondering my latest piece for COMMENTARY, “California, There It Went.” I am immensely gratified by his kind words. He poses a series of questions on immigration and asks whether immigration, illegal immigration more specifically, isn’t a significant factor in California’s woeful condition.

I’ll start by summarizing where I stand on the more general topic: I am unabashedly pro-immigration. As Peter eloquently argued, the spiritual and economic life of America and its reputation as a beacon of freedom and opportunity depend on an influx of new immigrants to revitalize and replenish ourselves. (As Dan Senor and Saul Singer observe in Start Up Nation, immigrants are risk takers, entrepreneurial by their nature. A dynamic, modern society wants such people.)

Tamar Jacoby wrote during the height of the immigration-reform debate that “immigrants don’t just keep the economy going, they grow it, making us all richer and more productive.” She explained that “if there’d been no immigrants in the past decade, the U.S. economy would have grown by less than half as much as it did. Think about it: half as many new houses built, half as many businesses opened, half as many new jobs created, half as much new tax revenue collected—and much less economic vitality.”

In “Higher Immigration, Lower Crime” from the December 2009 issue of COMMENTARY, CATO’s Daniel Griswold wrote that immigrants are looking for a good job, not a drug deal. That said, the problem of illegal immigration and the burden it imposes on states like California is real. In Griswold’s earlier work on the subject, he explained that anti-immigration activists have exaggerated and distorted the burdens immigrants place on state governments:

The 1997 National Research Council study found that, although the fiscal impact of a typical immigrant and his or her descendants is strongly positive at the federal level, it is negative at the state and local level.

State and local fiscal costs, while real, must be weighed against the equally real and positive effect of immigration on the overall economy. Low-skilled immigrants allow important sectors of the U.S. economy, such as retail, cleaning, food preparation, construction, and other services, to expand to meet the needs of their customers. They help the economy produce a wider array of more affordably priced goods and services, raising the real wages of most Americans. By filling gaps in the U.S. labor market, such immigrants create investment opportunities and employment for native-born Americans. Immigrants are also consumers, increasing demand for American-made goods and services.

Griswold cites two studies, which “found that the increased economic activity created by lower-skilled, mostly Hispanic immigrants far exceeds the costs to state and local governments.” A 2006 study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found Hispanics “many of them undocumented immigrants, had indeed imposed a net cost on the state government of $61 million, but… had increased the state’s economy by $9 billion.” A Texas study concluded its 1.4 million undocumented immigrants imposed $504 million in costs to state and local governments in 2005 but “was dwarfed by the estimated positive impact on the state’s economy of $17.7 billion.”

Although I start, therefore, from the premise that immigrants are a net positive, that doesn’t mean there are not serious issues, especially for California. Peter smartly zeroes in on them. I’ll address the first here and the next two in a subsequent post. Peter asks:

No less a figure than  Harvard professor Samuel Huntington suggested that the Southwestern United  States, including, of course, southern California, runs the danger of  becoming culturally and linguistically more Mexican than American.   With Mexicans moving into the state while whites leave California for the interior of the country, is Huntington’s fear being borne out?

California isn’t there yet. California has the highest number of illegal immigrants in the country. But that still amounts to just 6.9 percent of the population. We are a very, very long way from seeing the culture become “more Mexican than American.” The schools, as rotten as they are, teach some facsimile of American history, American literature, etc., as the mainstays of their curriculum. (And to its credit, California was among the first to take a stab at doing away with bilingual education.) Pop culture, much of which emanates from California, is “American.” With 93 percent of the population made up of legal immigrants and citizens by birth, we’re not in any danger of getting “swamped” culturally.

This does, however, touch on a pet peeve of mine. Some of the concern that is referenced by Huntington relates to the impact of legal immigrants and those Hispanics born here. And that raises the question: what does “American” culture mean? Many anti-immigration activists assume American culture is fixed and that new immigrants will make us into something we aren’t. But that has never been what America is about. America wasn’t “fixed” in 1776, nor after the surge of immigration in the mid-1800s. It wasn’t set in stone after the huge influx of immigrants from Europe at the turn of the century. We evolve, we absorb, and we grow richer with each wave of immigrants.

However – and it’s a big “however” – we need to get real about assimilation. The reason immigration has been a positive factor is that each generation of immigrants learned English and learned to operate within, not apart, from American society. Tamar Jacoby, again: “We need more English classes. We need to guide newcomers toward becoming citizens. We need to help them help themselves – navigating the system, putting down roots, getting their kids to college, getting ahead.” (She also points to statistics indicating we’re doing better by objective measures of assimilation than many think.)

To answer Huntington, then, I’d rather improve our assimilation efforts than exclude and/or remove immigrants. That means not letting the leftist elites and professional ethnic-grievance mongers (both of whom encourage ethnic separatism) run the show. It means rejecting the argument that efforts to maintain our common language are “racist.”

But that’s only part of my answer. In Part 2, I’ll argue that the real answer to this and other concerns is comprehensive immigration reform.

Read Less

False Hope

It happens about a month out before a wave election. The party about to be washed out sees a glimmer of hope — or thinks it does. The base gets a bit more engaged, but it really doesn’t amount to much. Hotline notes:

Democratic strategists have recently started experiencing a new feeling of optimism. There are indications, they say, that the party is showing the smallest signs of a turnaround, and that rumors of their electoral demise have been premature.

But instead of a comeback, Democrats are only experiencing the benefits of a base that is finally engaging. That base will help some Democratic candidates, but in total, the party still faces serious rehabilitation work with independent voters. The party’s major problems are most evident in three prominent races that are slowly, but inexorably, sliding toward Republicans.

As Stuart Rothenberg points out, trouble abounds for the Dems:

Delaware’s Republican primary may well have lulled Democrats into a sense of complacency about their ability to hold the Senate after November’s elections. They would be wise to wake up if they want to avoid a nasty surprise on election night.

Tea party activists did indeed do Democrats a huge favor in selecting Christine O’Donnell (R) to oppose New Castle County Executive Chris Coons (D) in the fall. …

O’Donnell’s primary victory notwithstanding, Republicans are still headed for major Senate gains, and a 10-seat gain isn’t impossible. With a month to go until Nov. 2, Republicans have a clear advantage in five seats held by Democrats, with another five seats still in play. Unless things change, Republicans will likely hold all 18 of their seats up this cycle. No GOP incumbent is in any trouble — even Sens. Richard M. Burr (N.C.) and David Vitter (La.), who seemed at some risk early on, look headed for comfortable victories — and Republican open seats appear to be at limited risk.

Rothenberg reels off the same list of at-risk Democratic seats that we and others have noted — West Virginia, Indiana, Illinois, Arkansas, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Nevada, etc.

Part of the “Dems’ comeback” meme is pushed by the media, which are anxious to give their Democratic friends a boost and to keep some suspense going. At Conventional Wisdom Central, Dan Balz of the Washington Post, the “comeback” storyline is supported by such concrete evidence as an e-mail from a Democratic strategist. (“I definitely have seen Democrats starting to come home and feel more strongly about the importance of preventing a Republican takeover of the Congress.”) But even his heart isn’t in it. He’s compelled to acknowledge for every pollyanaish Democratic strategist, there is a realist. (“One strategist who was in the thick of the battle in 1994 said nothing the Democrats tried that fall had an impact on the voters.”) And he confesses the false optimism reminds him of 2006. (“What’s eerie is that Republicans then were saying some of the same things Democrats are saying now.”)

Until we see real signs of movement in generic polling and key Democratic races, it’s safe to say that the Dems are in for a shellacking.

It happens about a month out before a wave election. The party about to be washed out sees a glimmer of hope — or thinks it does. The base gets a bit more engaged, but it really doesn’t amount to much. Hotline notes:

Democratic strategists have recently started experiencing a new feeling of optimism. There are indications, they say, that the party is showing the smallest signs of a turnaround, and that rumors of their electoral demise have been premature.

But instead of a comeback, Democrats are only experiencing the benefits of a base that is finally engaging. That base will help some Democratic candidates, but in total, the party still faces serious rehabilitation work with independent voters. The party’s major problems are most evident in three prominent races that are slowly, but inexorably, sliding toward Republicans.

As Stuart Rothenberg points out, trouble abounds for the Dems:

Delaware’s Republican primary may well have lulled Democrats into a sense of complacency about their ability to hold the Senate after November’s elections. They would be wise to wake up if they want to avoid a nasty surprise on election night.

Tea party activists did indeed do Democrats a huge favor in selecting Christine O’Donnell (R) to oppose New Castle County Executive Chris Coons (D) in the fall. …

O’Donnell’s primary victory notwithstanding, Republicans are still headed for major Senate gains, and a 10-seat gain isn’t impossible. With a month to go until Nov. 2, Republicans have a clear advantage in five seats held by Democrats, with another five seats still in play. Unless things change, Republicans will likely hold all 18 of their seats up this cycle. No GOP incumbent is in any trouble — even Sens. Richard M. Burr (N.C.) and David Vitter (La.), who seemed at some risk early on, look headed for comfortable victories — and Republican open seats appear to be at limited risk.

Rothenberg reels off the same list of at-risk Democratic seats that we and others have noted — West Virginia, Indiana, Illinois, Arkansas, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Nevada, etc.

Part of the “Dems’ comeback” meme is pushed by the media, which are anxious to give their Democratic friends a boost and to keep some suspense going. At Conventional Wisdom Central, Dan Balz of the Washington Post, the “comeback” storyline is supported by such concrete evidence as an e-mail from a Democratic strategist. (“I definitely have seen Democrats starting to come home and feel more strongly about the importance of preventing a Republican takeover of the Congress.”) But even his heart isn’t in it. He’s compelled to acknowledge for every pollyanaish Democratic strategist, there is a realist. (“One strategist who was in the thick of the battle in 1994 said nothing the Democrats tried that fall had an impact on the voters.”) And he confesses the false optimism reminds him of 2006. (“What’s eerie is that Republicans then were saying some of the same things Democrats are saying now.”)

Until we see real signs of movement in generic polling and key Democratic races, it’s safe to say that the Dems are in for a shellacking.

Read Less

The Party of “No” Looks Darn Smart

As their political lives flash before their eyes, House Democrats who marched in lockstep with the president and Speaker Nancy Pelosi are now running from the sinking ship. The Washington Post reports:

Democrats from a number of states, including Texas, Ohio and North Carolina, are running away from Pelosi in a harsh political climate. Distancing one’s self from the speaker is nothing new for many Democrats. … but the number of incumbents and the volume of their criticism of the party House leader is larger than it has been in past election cycles — and the volume of their criticism is louder.

More than a few Democrats have said they are wavering on supporting Pelosi as their leader next year. At least four House Democrats are running ads stating their opposition to the speaker’s agenda, and one Democrat running in Tennessee called for her resignation.

This, of course, emphasizes the message behind the Republicans’ anti-Pelosi ads: she’s a menace to the Congress and the country. (“Republicans have decided to double down on their anti-Pelosi campaign, making her a central figure in their campaign this fall.”)

Moreover, it’s more than a little disingenuous for House members who supported all or a great deal of the Obama-Pelosi agenda to now be running from their collective record. Rep. Chet Edwards (D-Texas) may have voted against ObamaCare and cap-and-trade, but what about the other vulnerable House Democrats who voted for those measures plus the stimulus, the financial “reform” bill, and the rest of the Obama agenda? Only 34 Democrats voted against ObamaCare, 44 against cap-and-trade, and 11 against the original stimulus bill. By some estimates, there are now 80 vulnerable House Democrats. What’s the excuse for those who voted for all three of these measures?

Recall that in the Senate, every Democrat is the 60th vote (the minimum needed for cloture on ObamaCare) and not a single Democratic senator voted against the stimulus bill. How are they supposed to run from their leadership?

The public is unlikely to buy the election-eve confessions and conversions. By being the Party of No, the GOP quite adeptly shifted the responsibility — and then the anger — to the Democratic majority in both houses. Now the Party of No looks pretty smart, and many Democrats who will lose in November can only ruminate about what might have been if only they, too, had stood up to Pelosi before Labor Day 2010.

As their political lives flash before their eyes, House Democrats who marched in lockstep with the president and Speaker Nancy Pelosi are now running from the sinking ship. The Washington Post reports:

Democrats from a number of states, including Texas, Ohio and North Carolina, are running away from Pelosi in a harsh political climate. Distancing one’s self from the speaker is nothing new for many Democrats. … but the number of incumbents and the volume of their criticism of the party House leader is larger than it has been in past election cycles — and the volume of their criticism is louder.

More than a few Democrats have said they are wavering on supporting Pelosi as their leader next year. At least four House Democrats are running ads stating their opposition to the speaker’s agenda, and one Democrat running in Tennessee called for her resignation.

This, of course, emphasizes the message behind the Republicans’ anti-Pelosi ads: she’s a menace to the Congress and the country. (“Republicans have decided to double down on their anti-Pelosi campaign, making her a central figure in their campaign this fall.”)

Moreover, it’s more than a little disingenuous for House members who supported all or a great deal of the Obama-Pelosi agenda to now be running from their collective record. Rep. Chet Edwards (D-Texas) may have voted against ObamaCare and cap-and-trade, but what about the other vulnerable House Democrats who voted for those measures plus the stimulus, the financial “reform” bill, and the rest of the Obama agenda? Only 34 Democrats voted against ObamaCare, 44 against cap-and-trade, and 11 against the original stimulus bill. By some estimates, there are now 80 vulnerable House Democrats. What’s the excuse for those who voted for all three of these measures?

Recall that in the Senate, every Democrat is the 60th vote (the minimum needed for cloture on ObamaCare) and not a single Democratic senator voted against the stimulus bill. How are they supposed to run from their leadership?

The public is unlikely to buy the election-eve confessions and conversions. By being the Party of No, the GOP quite adeptly shifted the responsibility — and then the anger — to the Democratic majority in both houses. Now the Party of No looks pretty smart, and many Democrats who will lose in November can only ruminate about what might have been if only they, too, had stood up to Pelosi before Labor Day 2010.

Read Less

Who Knew Employers Would Stop Hiring?

To all but the Democrats and the class-warfare mongers (I repeat myself), this comes as no surprise:

The uncertainty over looming tax increases is starting to affect both investing and corporate decision-making.

The economy remains the biggest factor in many investors’ and businesses’ decisions. But worries over whether Congress will extend some of the expiring Bush-era tax breaks are emerging as another important one. … Small-business owners say unease about tax policy, along with the economy, has led them to hold off on hiring and investment. And many advisers are encouraging well-to-do clients to sell appreciated assets to avoid higher capital-gains taxes.

Until Obama offered a round of business tax cuts, the Democrats had operated as if tax policy had a negligible impact on employment and investment. So they were “stumped” when jobs didn’t materialize. Lo and behold — who knew? — businesses are getting ready for the tax hit by hiring fewer workers:

The prospect of higher taxes in 2011 and beyond also could be weighing on business owners’ operational decision-making. In its July survey of small-business owners, the National Federation of Independent Business found that 22% of small businesses said the most important problem they faced was taxes, up from 19% a year earlier. More businesses—29%—identified poor sales as their No. 1 problem, but that was down from 34% a year earlier. …

“It’s like deer in the headlights. Nobody is doing much of anything about expanding or hiring or investing in new equipment,” said Ken Keith, owner of Kasbar Inc., a Winston-Salem, N.C., accounting firm that works with small businesses.

Target Plastics Inc., a Salem, Ore., maker of custom plastic products, used to have seven employees, but now it has only two full-time workers, with an additional person working half-time, said owner Melissa Hescock.

“I’ve basically cut back because of the amount of taxes,” Ms. Hescock said, including recent state increases and anticipated future federal boosts. “I have fewer people doing more work.”

If the administration had an entrepreneur or two in its ranks, if there were not merely pols and academicians populating the White House, someone might have seen this coming. But we have a president and a vice president who have never run anything, let alone a profitmaking enterprise, not to mention political hacks like David Axelrod who froth with contempt for “Wall Street” (i.e., those who supply and manage capital). So they are amazed that all their handiwork has indeed paralyzed employers.

It’s exactly what you figured would happen if a leftist law professor wound up in the Oval Office.

To all but the Democrats and the class-warfare mongers (I repeat myself), this comes as no surprise:

The uncertainty over looming tax increases is starting to affect both investing and corporate decision-making.

The economy remains the biggest factor in many investors’ and businesses’ decisions. But worries over whether Congress will extend some of the expiring Bush-era tax breaks are emerging as another important one. … Small-business owners say unease about tax policy, along with the economy, has led them to hold off on hiring and investment. And many advisers are encouraging well-to-do clients to sell appreciated assets to avoid higher capital-gains taxes.

Until Obama offered a round of business tax cuts, the Democrats had operated as if tax policy had a negligible impact on employment and investment. So they were “stumped” when jobs didn’t materialize. Lo and behold — who knew? — businesses are getting ready for the tax hit by hiring fewer workers:

The prospect of higher taxes in 2011 and beyond also could be weighing on business owners’ operational decision-making. In its July survey of small-business owners, the National Federation of Independent Business found that 22% of small businesses said the most important problem they faced was taxes, up from 19% a year earlier. More businesses—29%—identified poor sales as their No. 1 problem, but that was down from 34% a year earlier. …

“It’s like deer in the headlights. Nobody is doing much of anything about expanding or hiring or investing in new equipment,” said Ken Keith, owner of Kasbar Inc., a Winston-Salem, N.C., accounting firm that works with small businesses.

Target Plastics Inc., a Salem, Ore., maker of custom plastic products, used to have seven employees, but now it has only two full-time workers, with an additional person working half-time, said owner Melissa Hescock.

“I’ve basically cut back because of the amount of taxes,” Ms. Hescock said, including recent state increases and anticipated future federal boosts. “I have fewer people doing more work.”

If the administration had an entrepreneur or two in its ranks, if there were not merely pols and academicians populating the White House, someone might have seen this coming. But we have a president and a vice president who have never run anything, let alone a profitmaking enterprise, not to mention political hacks like David Axelrod who froth with contempt for “Wall Street” (i.e., those who supply and manage capital). So they are amazed that all their handiwork has indeed paralyzed employers.

It’s exactly what you figured would happen if a leftist law professor wound up in the Oval Office.

Read Less

Have We Got a Bridge for You!

Rep. Tom Perriello, Democrat of Virginia, is in deep political trouble. He was elected in 2008 in his central Virginia district that runs from Charlottesville down to the North Carolina border, thanks to President Obama’s coattails. He is now running as many as 26 points behind his Republican opponent in what is basically a Republican district. But as Barbara Hollingsworth points out in the Washington Examiner, last spring he made a remarkable admission.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned up here (in Washington) and I didn’t really need to come up here to learn it, is the only way to get Congress to balance the budget is to give them no choice, and the only way to keep them out of the cookie jar is to give them no choice, which is why — whether it’s balanced-budget acts or pay-as-you-go legislation or any of that — is the only thing. If you don’t tie our hands, we will keep stealing.

He is exactly right and we have forty years of sometimes grotesquely unbalanced budgets to prove it. And the stealing will go on — and in splendidly bipartisan fashion — unless it becomes impossible. But balanced-budget acts will not work (they haven’t in the past) and neither will pay-as-you-go (which likewise hasn’t worked). Whenever Congress feels enough public pressure, it passes something with a fancy now-we’re-serious-about-spending title but carefully inserts loopholes that allow billions to be spent outside the rules. The Washington press corps, with its totally inside-the-beltway mentality and priorities, pays little or no attention. Most of the Iraq war, for instance, was “emergency spending.” What, every year Congress looked out the window and perceived, much to its surprise, that there was a war raging on?

How do we change this? How do we force Congress to balance the budget or make a deliberate public decision not to?

There is only one way: the federal government must be subject to the same discipline

that every corporation in the country is subject to: an independent accounting authority that sets the rules for how the government’s books are kept and determines if those rules are being followed. In other words, it should be an independent, politically insulated, accounting board that decides what is “emergency spending,” not Congress or the President.

There is an excellent example of how such a system works in practice. When New York City went broke after decades of phony accounting to hide the gathering disaster, New York State wouldn’t help until the city agreed to be subjected to a Financial Control Board and to adopt Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. Today, New York City — which has a larger population than all but 11 states — is in good financial shape. New York State, which, needless to say, did not impose such restraints on itself, is a financial basket case, second only to California among the states for the depth of its financial crisis.

So pay no attention to all the blather about balancing the budget and “lock boxes” and pay-as-you-go schemes and all the rest of that nonsense you’ll be hearing in the next two months from Democrats and Republicans alike. When you hear them talk about giving up the power to cook the books, you’ll know they’re perhaps getting serious. Until then, they’re just blowing smoke. The Washington press corps will buy it (they always do — there’s apparently no limit to the number of times you can sell Washington journalists the Brooklyn Bridge) but the electorate shouldn’t be fooled. Just ask Tom Perriello.

Rep. Tom Perriello, Democrat of Virginia, is in deep political trouble. He was elected in 2008 in his central Virginia district that runs from Charlottesville down to the North Carolina border, thanks to President Obama’s coattails. He is now running as many as 26 points behind his Republican opponent in what is basically a Republican district. But as Barbara Hollingsworth points out in the Washington Examiner, last spring he made a remarkable admission.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned up here (in Washington) and I didn’t really need to come up here to learn it, is the only way to get Congress to balance the budget is to give them no choice, and the only way to keep them out of the cookie jar is to give them no choice, which is why — whether it’s balanced-budget acts or pay-as-you-go legislation or any of that — is the only thing. If you don’t tie our hands, we will keep stealing.

He is exactly right and we have forty years of sometimes grotesquely unbalanced budgets to prove it. And the stealing will go on — and in splendidly bipartisan fashion — unless it becomes impossible. But balanced-budget acts will not work (they haven’t in the past) and neither will pay-as-you-go (which likewise hasn’t worked). Whenever Congress feels enough public pressure, it passes something with a fancy now-we’re-serious-about-spending title but carefully inserts loopholes that allow billions to be spent outside the rules. The Washington press corps, with its totally inside-the-beltway mentality and priorities, pays little or no attention. Most of the Iraq war, for instance, was “emergency spending.” What, every year Congress looked out the window and perceived, much to its surprise, that there was a war raging on?

How do we change this? How do we force Congress to balance the budget or make a deliberate public decision not to?

There is only one way: the federal government must be subject to the same discipline

that every corporation in the country is subject to: an independent accounting authority that sets the rules for how the government’s books are kept and determines if those rules are being followed. In other words, it should be an independent, politically insulated, accounting board that decides what is “emergency spending,” not Congress or the President.

There is an excellent example of how such a system works in practice. When New York City went broke after decades of phony accounting to hide the gathering disaster, New York State wouldn’t help until the city agreed to be subjected to a Financial Control Board and to adopt Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. Today, New York City — which has a larger population than all but 11 states — is in good financial shape. New York State, which, needless to say, did not impose such restraints on itself, is a financial basket case, second only to California among the states for the depth of its financial crisis.

So pay no attention to all the blather about balancing the budget and “lock boxes” and pay-as-you-go schemes and all the rest of that nonsense you’ll be hearing in the next two months from Democrats and Republicans alike. When you hear them talk about giving up the power to cook the books, you’ll know they’re perhaps getting serious. Until then, they’re just blowing smoke. The Washington press corps will buy it (they always do — there’s apparently no limit to the number of times you can sell Washington journalists the Brooklyn Bridge) but the electorate shouldn’t be fooled. Just ask Tom Perriello.

Read Less

Stacking the Deck, Providing Cover

Face the Nation hosted a discussion on Sunday of the New Black Panther case. It was yet another obvious instance of shilling for the administration and covering for the media’s own abysmal delinquency in reporting on the case. The only guest who was remotely critical of the administration and who made any effort to argue that the case was serious and that the administration was stonewalling was John Fund. But his time was severely limited, and all he really offered was this:

JOHN FUND (Wall Street Journal): I know we don’t have all the facts because this Justice Department is stonewalling subpoenas issued by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. They even–

BOB SCHIEFFER: Big surprise.

JOHN FUND: –transferred one of the officials to South Carolina so he’s outside the jurisdiction of the Civil Rights Commission subpoenas. Look, two African-American poll watchers testified they were intimidated by these people. And this is part of a pattern –

BOB SCHIEFFER: But– but– no voter, John.

JOHN FUND: Well, we– we– we saw– we saw testimony that the voters said that they turned around and said they would came back. We don’t know if they ever came back. We do know that this is a pattern with the Justice Department. Kinston, North Carolina is a predominantly African-American city and voted to have non-partisan elections. The Justice Department said no, you can’t do that. You have to continue to give black voters the cue of Democrat versus Republican, so they’ll know who to vote for. And you go through it. Georgia. Georgia wanted to take social security data and verify the U.S. citizenship of people who were registering to vote. Justice Department said you couldn’t do that. There is a consistent politicization of the Justice Department. We just had a report clearing the Bush administration of illegality in the U.S. attorney’s case. I think that the Justice Department is clearly stonewalling these subpoenas because they have something to hide. Do I know exactly what they’re hiding? I don’t. And I just
want to say something about Mister West’s comments. I agree we’ve made great progress in race in this country.

Even that is incomplete and misleading. Poll workers, also protected under the Voting Rights Act, were intimidated and supplied affidavits attesting to the illegal behavior of the two Black Panthers at the polling place. Apparently, the U.S. Civil Rights commissioner who insists there was no evidence of intimidation wasn’t paying attention at the hearings. Had a more informed guest been allowed on the show, he or she might have explained:

For anyone who bothers to actually look at the record, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights received direct evidence on that very issue. Those critics also miss the point that it is a crime to attempt to intimidate voters and anyone assisting voters, which would include poll watchers, and no one watching the videotape could come to any conclusion other than the New Black Panthers were trying to intimidate people at that poll in Philadelphia.

On the issue of poll watchers, one of the witnesses at the first hearing of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Chris Hill, testified on that specific point and what happened when he got to the polling place. He was responding to a desperate phone call for help from one of the two black poll watchers who were stationed at the polling place. …

So there is witness testimony that both Black Panthers, including the one who was dismissed by the Justice Department, were physically threatening a poll watcher. And the witnesses made it clear that the two Black Panthers acted as a team, in concert, at the polling place. … Of course, no one knows if those voters ever came back – but we know for sure that they left without voting when Hill was there rather than try to get by the New Black Panthers. What is so odd about this is that Hill was then questioned about that testimony by Commissioner Abby Thernstrom, who has been one of the persons claiming there is no evidence that voters were kept from voting.

None of that was revealed on the show, and no one alluded to the multiple witnesses who claim that the Justice Department has shunned cases that don’t match the historical civil rights model (white bigots vs. minority victims). No one noted that the head of the Civil Rights Division has been accused of providing untruthful testimony on this point. Moreover, there was no discussion of Bob Schieffer’s own pathetic ignorance of the story for a year, nor any mention of how bizarre was his excuse that he missed the scandal: he was on vacation when a key witness testified.

This sort of display reinforces the impression that the media is biased and now dedicated to covering not only the Obami’s tracks but also its own.

Face the Nation hosted a discussion on Sunday of the New Black Panther case. It was yet another obvious instance of shilling for the administration and covering for the media’s own abysmal delinquency in reporting on the case. The only guest who was remotely critical of the administration and who made any effort to argue that the case was serious and that the administration was stonewalling was John Fund. But his time was severely limited, and all he really offered was this:

JOHN FUND (Wall Street Journal): I know we don’t have all the facts because this Justice Department is stonewalling subpoenas issued by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. They even–

BOB SCHIEFFER: Big surprise.

JOHN FUND: –transferred one of the officials to South Carolina so he’s outside the jurisdiction of the Civil Rights Commission subpoenas. Look, two African-American poll watchers testified they were intimidated by these people. And this is part of a pattern –

BOB SCHIEFFER: But– but– no voter, John.

JOHN FUND: Well, we– we– we saw– we saw testimony that the voters said that they turned around and said they would came back. We don’t know if they ever came back. We do know that this is a pattern with the Justice Department. Kinston, North Carolina is a predominantly African-American city and voted to have non-partisan elections. The Justice Department said no, you can’t do that. You have to continue to give black voters the cue of Democrat versus Republican, so they’ll know who to vote for. And you go through it. Georgia. Georgia wanted to take social security data and verify the U.S. citizenship of people who were registering to vote. Justice Department said you couldn’t do that. There is a consistent politicization of the Justice Department. We just had a report clearing the Bush administration of illegality in the U.S. attorney’s case. I think that the Justice Department is clearly stonewalling these subpoenas because they have something to hide. Do I know exactly what they’re hiding? I don’t. And I just
want to say something about Mister West’s comments. I agree we’ve made great progress in race in this country.

Even that is incomplete and misleading. Poll workers, also protected under the Voting Rights Act, were intimidated and supplied affidavits attesting to the illegal behavior of the two Black Panthers at the polling place. Apparently, the U.S. Civil Rights commissioner who insists there was no evidence of intimidation wasn’t paying attention at the hearings. Had a more informed guest been allowed on the show, he or she might have explained:

For anyone who bothers to actually look at the record, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights received direct evidence on that very issue. Those critics also miss the point that it is a crime to attempt to intimidate voters and anyone assisting voters, which would include poll watchers, and no one watching the videotape could come to any conclusion other than the New Black Panthers were trying to intimidate people at that poll in Philadelphia.

On the issue of poll watchers, one of the witnesses at the first hearing of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Chris Hill, testified on that specific point and what happened when he got to the polling place. He was responding to a desperate phone call for help from one of the two black poll watchers who were stationed at the polling place. …

So there is witness testimony that both Black Panthers, including the one who was dismissed by the Justice Department, were physically threatening a poll watcher. And the witnesses made it clear that the two Black Panthers acted as a team, in concert, at the polling place. … Of course, no one knows if those voters ever came back – but we know for sure that they left without voting when Hill was there rather than try to get by the New Black Panthers. What is so odd about this is that Hill was then questioned about that testimony by Commissioner Abby Thernstrom, who has been one of the persons claiming there is no evidence that voters were kept from voting.

None of that was revealed on the show, and no one alluded to the multiple witnesses who claim that the Justice Department has shunned cases that don’t match the historical civil rights model (white bigots vs. minority victims). No one noted that the head of the Civil Rights Division has been accused of providing untruthful testimony on this point. Moreover, there was no discussion of Bob Schieffer’s own pathetic ignorance of the story for a year, nor any mention of how bizarre was his excuse that he missed the scandal: he was on vacation when a key witness testified.

This sort of display reinforces the impression that the media is biased and now dedicated to covering not only the Obami’s tracks but also its own.

Read Less

Ambush Journalism — the 19th-Century Version

The Hill is reporting that members of Congress are getting increasingly fed up with “ambush interviews” by “guerrilla-style reporters, bloggers, and campaign operatives who ambush them on video to provoke an aggressive or outraged response.” Rep. Bob Etheridge, D-N.C., is the latest to run afoul of this tactic and had to apologize after he lost his temper when journalists (or whoever they were) confronted him on the street in Washington but refused to identify themselves.

With most cell phones now capable of recording videos, and with actual video cameras getting smaller, cheaper, and more ubiquitous every year, politicians and other people in the public eye should probably operate on the assumption that there is always a video camera recording what they say and do.

But it didn’t take a technological revolution to bring ambush journalism into existence. Indeed, one of the most famous quotes of the 19th century was the result of an ambush.

William Henry Vanderbilt, who controlled the New York Central Railroad, was a vastly rich (“I would not cross the street to make another million.”) and vastly competent business executive. In 1882, he was traveling in his private railroad car on an inspection trip. He was in the middle of dinner when a young journalist named Clarence Dresser demanded an interview. According to the head of the Associated Press, Dresser “was one of the offensively aggressive types — one of those wrens who make prey where eagles dare not tread. Always importunate and usually impudent.”

There are several versions of what happened next (none likely to be wholly accurate), but according to Samuel Barton, who was Vanderbilt’s favorite nephew and who undoubtedly wanted to put his uncle in the best possible light, the conversation went as follows. “Why are you going to stop this fast mail-train?” Dresser asked.

“Because it doesn’t pay. I can’t run a train as far as this permanently at a loss.”

“But the public find it very convenient and useful. You ought to accommodate them.”

“The public? How do you know they find it useful? How do you know, or how can I know, that they want it? If they want it, why don’t they patronize it and make it pay? That’s the only test I have of whether a thing is wanted — does it pay? If it doesn’t pay, I suppose it isn’t wanted.”

“Mr. Vanderbilt, are you working for the public or for your stockholders?”

“The public be damned! I am working for my stockholders! If the public want the train, why don’t they support it?”

Vanderbilt, however impolitic his phrasing, was only telling an inescapable economic truth — one that the left didn’t grasp in 1882 and doesn’t in 2010 — about how capitalism works: the public good is served by the pursuit of private advantage.

But, of course, it was the impolitic phrasing that carried the day. “The public be damned!” was on the front page of every newspaper in the country within 24 hours. And William Henry Vanderbilt, who had not the slightest pretensions to literary talent, ended up in Bartlett’s.

The Hill is reporting that members of Congress are getting increasingly fed up with “ambush interviews” by “guerrilla-style reporters, bloggers, and campaign operatives who ambush them on video to provoke an aggressive or outraged response.” Rep. Bob Etheridge, D-N.C., is the latest to run afoul of this tactic and had to apologize after he lost his temper when journalists (or whoever they were) confronted him on the street in Washington but refused to identify themselves.

With most cell phones now capable of recording videos, and with actual video cameras getting smaller, cheaper, and more ubiquitous every year, politicians and other people in the public eye should probably operate on the assumption that there is always a video camera recording what they say and do.

But it didn’t take a technological revolution to bring ambush journalism into existence. Indeed, one of the most famous quotes of the 19th century was the result of an ambush.

William Henry Vanderbilt, who controlled the New York Central Railroad, was a vastly rich (“I would not cross the street to make another million.”) and vastly competent business executive. In 1882, he was traveling in his private railroad car on an inspection trip. He was in the middle of dinner when a young journalist named Clarence Dresser demanded an interview. According to the head of the Associated Press, Dresser “was one of the offensively aggressive types — one of those wrens who make prey where eagles dare not tread. Always importunate and usually impudent.”

There are several versions of what happened next (none likely to be wholly accurate), but according to Samuel Barton, who was Vanderbilt’s favorite nephew and who undoubtedly wanted to put his uncle in the best possible light, the conversation went as follows. “Why are you going to stop this fast mail-train?” Dresser asked.

“Because it doesn’t pay. I can’t run a train as far as this permanently at a loss.”

“But the public find it very convenient and useful. You ought to accommodate them.”

“The public? How do you know they find it useful? How do you know, or how can I know, that they want it? If they want it, why don’t they patronize it and make it pay? That’s the only test I have of whether a thing is wanted — does it pay? If it doesn’t pay, I suppose it isn’t wanted.”

“Mr. Vanderbilt, are you working for the public or for your stockholders?”

“The public be damned! I am working for my stockholders! If the public want the train, why don’t they support it?”

Vanderbilt, however impolitic his phrasing, was only telling an inescapable economic truth — one that the left didn’t grasp in 1882 and doesn’t in 2010 — about how capitalism works: the public good is served by the pursuit of private advantage.

But, of course, it was the impolitic phrasing that carried the day. “The public be damned!” was on the front page of every newspaper in the country within 24 hours. And William Henry Vanderbilt, who had not the slightest pretensions to literary talent, ended up in Bartlett’s.

Read Less

Turnout Blues for Democrats

Hotline has some more bad news for the Democrats:

Turnout among Dem voters dropped precipitously in 3 statewide primaries on Tuesday, giving the party more evidence that their voters lack enthusiasm ahead of midterm elections.In primaries in NC, IN and OH, Dems turned out at far lower rates than they have in previous comparable elections.

How bad?

Just 663K OH voters cast ballots in the competitive primary between LG Lee Fisher (D) and Sec/State Jennifer Brunner (D). That number is lower than the 872K voters who turned out in ’06, when neither Gov. Ted Strickland (D) nor Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) faced primary opponents. Only 425K voters turned out to pick a nominee against Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC). The 14.4% turnout was smaller than the 444K voters — or 18% of all registered Dem voters — who turned out in ’04, when Gov. Mike Easley (D) faced only a gadfly candidate in his bid to be renominated for a second term. And in IN, just 204K Hoosiers voted for Dem House candidates, far fewer than the 357K who turned out in ’02 and the 304K who turned out in ’06.

It looks like ObamaCare didn’t do much to rev up the base. Well, maybe people are just turned off politics, cynical, and disgusted with all politicians. Uh — no. The GOP is fired up and ready to go:

By contrast, GOP turnout was up almost across the board. 373K people voted in Burr’s uncompetitive primary, nearly 9% higher than the 343K who voted in the equally non-competitive primary in ’04. Turnout in House races in IN rose 14.6% from ’06, fueled by the competitive Senate primary, which attracted 550K voters. And 728K voters cast ballots for a GOP Sec/State nominee in Ohio, the highest-ranking statewide election with a primary; in ’06, just 444K voters cast ballots in that race.

It is reminiscent of the 2008 race. Then, too, Obama drove hordes of voters to the polls. This time, it just happens to be hordes of voters for the other party who want to check the radical agenda Obama hid in 2008.

Hotline has some more bad news for the Democrats:

Turnout among Dem voters dropped precipitously in 3 statewide primaries on Tuesday, giving the party more evidence that their voters lack enthusiasm ahead of midterm elections.In primaries in NC, IN and OH, Dems turned out at far lower rates than they have in previous comparable elections.

How bad?

Just 663K OH voters cast ballots in the competitive primary between LG Lee Fisher (D) and Sec/State Jennifer Brunner (D). That number is lower than the 872K voters who turned out in ’06, when neither Gov. Ted Strickland (D) nor Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) faced primary opponents. Only 425K voters turned out to pick a nominee against Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC). The 14.4% turnout was smaller than the 444K voters — or 18% of all registered Dem voters — who turned out in ’04, when Gov. Mike Easley (D) faced only a gadfly candidate in his bid to be renominated for a second term. And in IN, just 204K Hoosiers voted for Dem House candidates, far fewer than the 357K who turned out in ’02 and the 304K who turned out in ’06.

It looks like ObamaCare didn’t do much to rev up the base. Well, maybe people are just turned off politics, cynical, and disgusted with all politicians. Uh — no. The GOP is fired up and ready to go:

By contrast, GOP turnout was up almost across the board. 373K people voted in Burr’s uncompetitive primary, nearly 9% higher than the 343K who voted in the equally non-competitive primary in ’04. Turnout in House races in IN rose 14.6% from ’06, fueled by the competitive Senate primary, which attracted 550K voters. And 728K voters cast ballots for a GOP Sec/State nominee in Ohio, the highest-ranking statewide election with a primary; in ’06, just 444K voters cast ballots in that race.

It is reminiscent of the 2008 race. Then, too, Obama drove hordes of voters to the polls. This time, it just happens to be hordes of voters for the other party who want to check the radical agenda Obama hid in 2008.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.