Commentary Magazine


Flotsam and Jetsam

Unlike 99% of reporters who write on the subject, Scot Lehigh actually understands card check legislation and current labor law. He has a useful compromise: make the penalties more onerous for employers who violate current labor law during union campaigns. An additional element would be to provide quick injunctive powers for the NLRB so misbehavior can be halted and elections continued in good order.

Obama Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said this about the Republicans and the stimulus plan: “We look forward to continuing to seek their ideas, to seek their input and have a process where their ideas can be debated and voted on.” You get the sense they have no intention of incorporating any Republican ideas — after all the Democrats have the numbers to vote them down. If that’s the case — and the definition of “bipartisan” is synonymous with “humoring” — he can expect to get virtually no Republican votes.

And from the other side of the aisle, Mitch McConnell talks bipartisanship as well — but I didn’t hear him saying he would vote for the stimulus or support the far-left agenda of his Senate opponents. I’m thinking he’s thinking triangulation. He and his conference run against Democrats in the Senate not the one in the White House.

But insulting the Republicans at the White House with  a Rush Limbaugh jibe isn’t the way to win adherents. It is noteworthy that the insult  leaked, suggesting the Republicans are getting ready to burst the bipartisan façade. For a fellow who is supposed to respect his opponents Barack Obama sure has a habit of demeaning their legitimate policy concerns. (“What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them — that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply.”)

Megan McArdle considers what happens when all the debt from the stimulus needs to be rolled over. Well, you can raise taxes or raise interest rates to keep borrowers in the game. But don’t bank on “growing” our way out of it. She writes that “the actual empirical evidence that massive government spending can shock an economy the size of ours into a permanently higher level of output is . . . well, it’s sort of hard to find a wittily apt description of something that doesn’t really exist.  There’s a lot of solid Keynesian theory that says it will be so.  But not that long ago we had a lot of pretty good theories from very smart economists about how this sort of financial crisis couldn’t really happen again in the first place.” But Tim Geithner is a genius, so he’s got the whole thing wired.

John McCain is “disappointed” that the new ethics rules are being waived in the first week.

Is Tim Geithner talking down the dollar (or up the yuan)? Some fret: “This would seem to be an especially crazy time to undermine the dollar, given that the Treasury will have to issue some $2 trillion to $3 trillion in new dollar debt in the next couple of years. A stronger yuan would also contribute to Chinese deflation and slower growth, which would only mean a deeper world recession. Even the Bush Treasury never formally declared China to be a currency “manipulator” in its periodic reports to Congress. If the Obama Treasury is now going to take that step, hold on to those gold bars. We’re in for an even scarier ride than the Fun Slide of the last few months.” You wish the Obama team would stop talking in slogans (“jump start the economy!”) and provide a unified explanation of what they are doing, including how they are going to manage an ever-greater debt held by the Chinese. (And why use the confirmation hearing to make threats –ones they have no ability to carry out?)

With Pat Toomey declining to challenge Arlen Specter in the primary will Specter veer left on card check and other hot-button issues? He could still draw other GOP opponents — and he still has to turn out the base in the general election.

One of the more succinct critiques of the huge stimulus plan comes from Gary Bauer: “It was sadly necessary to strengthen our banking systems which are a foundational structure in our economy, but the shopping spree now being proposed has little to do with shoring up the economy. It is much more about growing government and giving political payouts to favored industries, all the while laying unimaginable amounts of debt on our children.”

Republicans may be delaying confirmation on some of the cabinet nominees, but they have yet to demonstrate the unified resolve to reject any of them — even for tax or credibility issues which used to be considered disqualifying factors for high office. I understand Democrats voting for Obama nominees even when their behavior is “unacceptable,” but what’s the excuse for Republicans?

In the midst of Bush-bashing Nick Gillespie brings up  what should be a bipartisan target for reform: “Think for a moment about the thousands of Transportation Security Administration screeners — newly minted government employees all — who continue to confiscate contact-lens solution and nail clippers while, according to nearly every field test, somehow failing to notice simulated bombs in passenger luggage.” It seems the smart politicians who propose junking all the current nonsense would receive the undying gratitude of the airlines and every person who flies.

Governor Paterson didn’t win any style points in the Senate selection process: “In the aftermath, many top Democrats and even friends of Mr. Paterson see his governorship as reeling and troublingly disorganized. They believed that this was to be his defining year, one in which he could move beyond the unusual circumstances of his ascension to high office and prove he could lead the state through a perilous fiscal crisis. Some were unusually open in questioning the approach — and judgment — of the governor and the people around him.” Not an entirely bad result for the Republicans, even if Kirsten Gillibrand may be a formidable senate pick when her House seat opens up, a Democratic Senate primary race is likely and Paterson is wounded.

The New York Post details the mud slinging between the Paterson and Kennedy camps. If it weren’t for Blago and Roland Burris this would be the most bizarre Senate selection process ever.

And in the Princess Caroline aftermath, the Washington Post reminds us of the stunt in Delaware: “The governor of the First State chose Edward E. ‘Ted’ Kaufman to fill the vacancy created by the election of Joseph R. Biden Jr. as vice president. Mr. Kaufman worked for Mr. Biden for 21 years, 19 as chief of staff. When he was selected, there were whispers that Mr. Kaufman would step aside in 2010 to allow Mr. Biden’s son, who is Delaware’s attorney general and serving in Iraq as a member of the Delaware Army National Guard, to run for the seat. Those whispers became audible talk when Mr. Kaufman announced that he would not seek a full term. While this is not the most egregious example of treating a Senate seat like a family heirloom, it comes close.”

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