August 10, 2015

Rational Filters Make Jeb The Right Choice

  11:37 am

Study epistemology and you learn that we ultimately make choices through a process of elimination. Anyone who saw the debate knows that aside from Donald Trump everyone on the stage in prime time is knowledgeable, accomplished, and highly intelligent. Alex Castellanos reviewing the debate wrote an article about it entitled:  “Trump lost the debate:  Everyone else won.”  Deciding between all these good people requires discernment and a value-driven methodology.  It requires the use of rational filters to sift the wheat from the chaff.

The state has been growing more rapidly than the economy since the 90s, which reduced its growth only because of the end of the Cold War and the fact that Republicans gained control of Congress in 1994, allowing them to enact welfare reform and curb spending enough to balance the budget.  Kudos to John Kasich as a partial contributor to that.

Obama has approximately doubled the size of the national debt in just 8 years to $19 Trillion, something that can’t be financed if interest rates ever go back to historical norms.  So, the first filter is that our nominee needs to roll back the size of government.  If we don’t nominate someone who gets government out of the way of the economy and the American people, then we will continue to go downhill  and wait for the inevitable next economic crash.

Who survives the first filter?  In addition to Jeb and Bobby Jindal we can give the benefit of the doubt to Senators such as Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz.  We can maybe extend that to Carly and Carson.  It’s a lot harder to assume that governors who have increased the size of governments in their states would reduce the size of The Federal Government if we just turn it over to them.  Kasich and Walker have each been very good Governors in various ways, one of which has been reducing taxes.  Reducing the size of their state governments, however, is not one of them. Spending has gone up in both states.

Wisconsin’s Government has grown even faster than the national average under Walker, which is one of the reasons he’s had the budget deficits he’s facing.   Christie has reduced the size of the bureaucracy, but hasn’t had any success reducing taxes.  Chrisie gets an incomplete because we can only speculate about how he might have governed had he had a Republican legislature.  He can almost be included with the non-Governors:  we simply don’t know if he would cut the size of Government in a major way.

Huckabee was a very good Governor in most ways, and has, easily, the best tax reform plan on the table, but government expanded by every metric during his tenure in Arkansas.  Many on the Right has labeled him a big-government conservative.  That’s unfair, since he was also saddled with a legislature largely controlled by Democrats.  But since we have candidates who have cut the size of Government in their states dramatically, and since that is what is imperative to save the country it makes sense to nominate one of them.  One thing Trump is very right about is that America is in serious trouble.

The Governors that have significantly reduced government in their states pretty much leaves Jeb and Jindal.   Jeb cut taxes every year he was in office, for a total of $19 Billion of cuts in his 8 years.  He vetoed some 2500 line items, saving the state another $2 1/2 Billion.  He lowered the government’s payroll by more than 1300 employees.  Moreover, during a time when 2 1/2 million people moved into the state, government performed better than ever; the true test of top quality management.  And Bobby reduced the size of government, proportionately, as much or more.

As for the non-Governors that we assume will reduce the size of Government spending, lower taxes, eliminate the most burdensome regulations, and right our financial ship of state, the reason for the doubt in the first place is that they lack chief executive experience, and it’s unwise to bank on the possibility that they might be quick studies.  Management involves skills that have to be acquired,  either by training or by experience.  If it didn’t, there wouldn’t be MBA graduate-level programs.

Why guess?  Why not nominate someone who has a demonstrated track record of success managing massive bureaucracies over an extensive period of time?  So there needs to be another filter to decide between Jeb and Bobby.  The filter that suggests itself is a) the ability to get nominated, and b) the ability to get elected IF nominated.

Glenn Thrush and Alex Isenstatt in an article in Politico recently, said that “In fact, Bush is still the best-funded candidate with the best organization and a focused, center-right message that seems best suited for a general election fight.”  Jindal, very much unlike Jeb, has low approval ratings in his state.  He’s created a vastly improved business climate that will produce great things in the future, but it will be difficult to demonstrate in a campaign.  More significantly, he’s had a distinct lack of success raising money and building organization.  We can do much better.

It’s been revealed by those who know her that Jeb is the candidate on our side that Hillary is most concerned about, and for 2 reasons:

1.  Not only has he raised more than twice as much money than anyone else, he has the ability to raise a lot more than anyone else from here on out.

2.  They are very worried about his fluency in Spanish and his ability to leverage it in the Hispanic community through funds raised.  It’s not just that he’s received a higher percentage of the Hispanic vote than anyone else in the Party, although he has.  It’s that his message of establishing a path to legal status and his love for the Hispanic culture, conflated with his determination to fight for the community’s votes makes him a legitimate threat to Democrat control of the fastest growing demographic in the electorate.

Laura Ingraham said on Fox Sunday that Jeb won the debate, and she’s not a Jeb fan.  He exceeded the expectations of more people than the number of those who expected more, according to a Gravis flash poll.  Some of the others did better, but it was off of a smaller base.  It will be interesting to watch his poll numbers in light of the debate.

Larry Kudlow said that the 3 winners of the debate were Jeb, Kasich, and Marco because they did the best on the number-one issue of the American public; to wit, the economy.  He observed that the most optimistic candidate will win, as the most optimistic candidate always does.  These were the 3 on the debate stage who crushed it in terms of presenting an optimistic vision for the future. And these were sound on the economy as well.

But among them, only Jeb survived the earlier filters, all of which is why I support him.   What  are YOUR filters, and who do YOU support as a result of them?

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August 8, 2015

The Fair Tax: Making America Great Again

  1:54 pm

Yesterday we established that the Fair Tax advocated by Mike Huckabee would prohibit all Income Taxes forevermore. Also gone would be Payroll taxes and taxes on capital gains, and all other federal taxes, be they corporate, self-employment, gift and estate, or alternative minimum. Gone would be personal tax forms and filling, payroll withholding, personal or business income tax record keeping, and taxes on social security or pensions. All to be replaced by a national, one-time tax on first time purchases. There would be no taxes on buying used cars or homes, e.g.

And gone forever would be the IRS.

Today we will look at how this makes America great again.

In the comments we took up the fact that imported goods would no longer receive preferential treatment over domestically produced goods at the check out counter. Economists estimate that embedded taxes, on average, constitute 22% of the cost, and price, of goods produced in our country. Under the Fair Tax, our exported goods, then, would be 22% cheaper on average. But prices of imported goods would have the cost of embedded taxes from their country of origin built into them, and then, when people buy them here, they would also pay the national sales tax on them.

The net result is that we would export a lot more, and one of every 6 workers in America are already involved in the export industry. Concomitantly, we would import a lot less. That would do a lot more than just give us a positive balance of payments for the first time in any of our lifetimes. It would bring a lot more capital into the country, stimulating accelerated economic growth, and it would create a lot, and by that I mean millions, of additional jobs.

This principle extends to companies from other nations who manufacture here. There wouldn’t be any embedded taxes in the cost of what they make in the United States, and if they then exported from their factories and plants in the states, those trade advantages would accrue to them as well.

Former Secretary of The Treasury John Snow called The Fair Tax “the biggest magnet for capital and jobs in history.” Enact The Fair Tax and companies will rush to our shores to build manufacturing facilities so that they, too, can sell into a global economy with no tax component in their price.

I became interested in The Fair Tax quite a few years ago when I was watching C-Span and saw a group of 3 economists testifying on it. One of them was from Stanford and he said that the major negative of The Fair Tax is that if we adopt it, within 4 or 5 years we won’t be able to find enough workers to fill all the jobs it will create.

In fact, there are economists who have closely examined the proposed tax system who estimate that we could double the size of our economy in less than 15 years.

The Fair Tax will make America great again.

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August 7, 2015

Friday Open Thread (Debate-about-Debate Edition)

  5:00 am

Open Thread (why do I always type that? It’s in the headline).

I expect this to probably be a continuation of last night’s debate threads, so I’ll save myself the bother of suggesting any other topics. Go at it!

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August 5, 2015

The Planned Parenthood Advantage

  12:35 pm

We have the graphic images of Planned Parenthood executives pricing the cost of baby organs for sale, And we have feisty videos of Hillary defending Planned Parenthood. What we DON’T have much of is the ‘mainstream media’ making any kind of issue out of it.

If Planned Parenthood were to become a more prominent issue in the campaign, most Americans would side with defunding the organization. Poll after poll has shown that Americans have become increasingly anti-abortion since Roe came down in the 1970s.

But most Americans have been misinformed as to the extent of late-term abortions in the country. Then, along comes the videos of PP shopping the sale of baby organs that result from the practice. Some of our candidates are on record as opposing the practice and Congress has tried to defund PP in response to the videos. But almost every Democrat has voted to keep this from happening, and are backed by Obama’s willingness to override the will of Congress on the matter with vetoes.

Then along comes Jeb:

“You could take dollar for dollar–although I’m not sure we need half a billlion dollars for women’s health issues–but if you took , dollar for dollar, there are many extraordinary fine organizations, community health organizations, that exist, federally sponsored organizations, to provide quality care 4 women on a variety of health issues.”

Note that half a billion dollars is the amount of taxpayer money that the federal government ‘donates’ to Planned Parenthood. In essence, any attacks on Bush for opposing spending five hundred million dollars for “women’s health” can, and will, be translated into statements and ads attacking defenders of dismembering babies and selling their organs and tissue on the open market for profit.

Democrats have to defend the practice, and the organization that does it, or risk losing a lot of its own funding and necessary support from PP, Emily’s List, NOW, and the rest of what’s left of the feminist movement. Republicans in the campaign can point out that PP only really performs abortions. They refer women to community health centers, rural clinics, and other women’s health organizations for actual medical services.

All that is necessary in the general campaign to turn PP into an albatross around the neck of the Left is money and a professional ad making operation. That needn’t have to be any kind of a problem.  It works a lot better if the Democrat nominee first tries to make an issue of it by attacking Jeb’s statement.

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July 31, 2015

The Frontrunners

  11:25 am

“The two presidential candidates rated as least favorable, most untrustworthy, and least likely to care about the needs and problems of regular folks are Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, and they are leading their respective party primaries.”
Matthew Dowd

According to the most recent Quinnipiac Poll, the qualities voters most want a candidate for a president to have are:
1. Being Honest and Trustworthy
2. Caring about their needs
3. Being a strong leader.

Clinton and Trump both score on being a strong leader, but on the others, not so much.

What we have here is a situation in which the frontrunners in each major party are the worst candidates in their respective parties on the 2 qualities voters want more than any other. This doesn’t mean that almost all Democrats won’t vote for Democrats, or that virtually all Republicans won’t vote for Republicans. They will. What it means is that the presidential election will be decided by Independents who think differently than either Democrats OR Republicans.

Polling suggests, at the moment, that most Independents are more inclined to vote Republican than Democrat, but whether that happens depends on non-ideological factors, such as the 3 above-listed perceptions.

Among independents, according to Quinnipiac, Hillary has a net negative of -18 approval, and Donald has a net negative approval of -32. The percentage of independents who find Hillary to be untrustworthy is 62%. For Trump the number is 58%.

And 52% of them say that Hillary doesn’t care about the problems and needs of average people. For us, the bad news is that 63% of them say The Donald doesn’t.

So those are the values people care about. What about the issues? The number one issue people are concerned about is the economy and jobs. There is no current evidence that either frontrunner has a solid plan to deal with it.

Our serious candidates do. Maybe the debates will discuss a lot of that. Or, they might just be a circus. Megyn Kelly said that preparing for the Republican debate for most our candidates is like a NASCAR driver preparing for a race, knowing that one of the other drivers will be drunk.

Look for a car wreck.

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July 24, 2015

Why Trump Is Going Nowhere

  1:29 pm

Trump has exploited the reservoir of frustration and angst of many Republicans fostered by immigration over the last couple of decades, both illegal and, frankly, legal.

Maybe it was even earlier than that. Nativism was a major part of Pat Buchanan’s appeal the year he won the New Hampshire Primary. Even before that it was a key facet of the George Wallace campaign, and he actually carried states in the national election.

So it’s always been with us. What makes it especially powerful this year is that Obama has trashed the economy so massively that the standard of living is significantly lower for the average American than it was when he took office, particularly for the lowest 90%.

Jobs are scarce. Many of the lowest paid occupations have been taken by illegal immigrants, and many of the higher paid jobs have been taken by better qualified legal immigrants. And not all of them are immigrants at all, at least not first-generation immigrants. Look at the success and sterling example of Asian Americans.

Against this Trump excoriates entire ethnic groups, as in the case of his constant trashing of Mexican American immigrants. He even asserted that Jeb’s wife being a native Mexican MADE him favor a path to legal status, something most Americans favor, and something that’s nigh unto inevitable.

So Donald, who doesn’t confine his diatribes to immigrants and ethnic groups, has joined Obama in dividing the nation and setting class against class in the best traditions of identity politics.

His problem is that Obama’s version of identity politics won’t work as well among Republicans as it does among Democrats.   When Trump was at his peak and the media was all Trump all the time,  54% of Republicans told pollsters that Donald does not reflect the values of their party.

In a recent Pew Poll, fully 66% of Republicans said illegal Mexican immigrants are “mostly honest.”  Only 19% said they are “mainly undesirable.”  If that 19% number sounds familiar it might be because that’s the percentage Trump received in the last poll of the party that came out.

As Mona Charen in National Review poignantly pointed out:  “The only answer to the division and hatred on the left is inclusion and unity on the right.”

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October 12, 2011

Debate Frustration & Exhaustion

  6:35 pm

Reading Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death has been an eye opening experience for me, and the recent string of GOP non-debates has only made the point of this book clearer. Postman’s premise is that television precludes serious thought or discussion because the medium itself sets the agenda. That agenda is always…always, entertainment.

Take the recent debates for example. Due to the fact that there are 8 (or 9) people on the stage, and due to the fact that the moderators must keep the show moving, the candidates rarely have enough time for a well structured sentence, never mind a cogent  argument.

Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 plan was the main topic of the most recent event, yet does anyone feel like they know the ramifications or implications of this plan? Of course not, and the fault is not entirely Cain’s. How can he explain the intricate details of a complete restructuring of the tax code in a one minute sound bite. Even given the fact that he had 4 or 5 opportunities to do so, the expectation of a reasoned response is ludicrous.

One moderator brought up the fact that one analysis of the plan found it seriously lacking. His response? The analysis contained inaccurate assumptions. OK, fine, then what are the right assumptions? We were never able to get to that because the moderator, and in truth the audience, wanted to move on to the next point, the next one liner, the next zinger.

And what about Romney’s health care law? Instead of an actual argument either for or against it we simply get more talking points about mandates, as if the very fact that the federal government mandates something makes it wrong. But the government mandates things all the time (driver’s licenses, car insurance, pasteurized milk, education). The real argument isn’t about a mandate, it is about whether or not health care is best run by a bureaucracy or by a free market company. I’d love to really see that argument played out in full, but it will never happen.

Here is my dream for a real debate. Limit the participants to 4 candidates. Let each one spend 15 minutes detailing a plan on health care, tax structure or job growth. Then spend the following 15 minutes with the opponents questioning the speaker. This would give each candidate a full half hour to really get into a topic.

It won’t happen. We are sure to hear Cain chant 9-9-9, and Perry make empty promises about energy independence at least another half a dozen times, and we will be non the wiser for it.

Steve blogs regularly here.

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September 28, 2011

Open Letter to 2012 Candidates

  9:30 am

-An economic/energy plan that is pro-growth, pro-small business, pro-big oil and green-

I know, the subtitle seems like an oxymoron right? But stay with me. This idea could save our nation, making the 21st century just as America-dominant as the 20th. Or, it could be an opportunity to poke holes in this and make me look like an amateur- that could be fun too, right?

First, let me admit right up front that I am not an economist; I do not have an MBA from Harvard; I have never been an elected official. However, I am a reasonably intelligent guy who enjoys reading and writing about politics and policy. After spending a few days researching I have stumbled across an idea that I think could be a unifying one for any of the 2012 candidates for the Republican nomination. We could bring together all conservatives and pick off a generous portion of pro-climate change greens as well.

But I need your help.

I know here at Race42012 there are a number of people with more experience in this area than me, and I am counting on you guys to vet this idea. Tell me where it goes wrong. Why won’t it work. Who knows, we may be able to create a grassroots conservative movement that deals with specifics, not just angry rants and platitudes.

The first component of this plan comes from something I found on NPR of all places. I had heard about the oil boom in the American West before, but it was this article that really opened my eyes to the possibilities it presents. Turns out the United States has a very real chance to become the leading source of oil for the foreseeable future:

Two years ago, America was importing about two thirds of its oil. Today, according to the Energy Information Administration, it imports less than half. And by 2017, investment bank Goldman Sachs predicts the US could be poised to pass Saudi Arabia and overtake Russia as the world’s largest oil producer.

More:

Amy Myers Jaffe of Rice University says in the next decade, new oil in the US, Canada and South America could change the center of gravity of the entire global energy supply…

 

The US, Jaffe says, could have 2 trillion barrels of oil waiting to be drilled. South America could hold another 2 trillion. And Canada? 2.4 trillion. That’s compared to just 1.2 trillion in the Middle East and north Africa.

 

Jaffe says those new oil reserves, combined with growing turmoil in the Middle East, will “absolutely propel more and more investment into the energy resources in the Americas.”
The United States should actively promote this drilling by any means available. With the growing demand in countries like China and India, this could become an enormous opportunity for economic growth. Trade deficits could vanish virtually overnight. Someone is going to feed developing economies oil- why not us? This part of the plan is obviously beneficial to big oil and large business. But the snowball effect could lead to benefits for others as well.

Spur on small business growth with a radical change to the tax policy that even the greens will like.

The second part of this plan comes from Walter Russell Mead– no neo-con to be sure, but an intelligent thinker nonetheless. Here is his idea (emphasis mine):

It has long seemed to me that replacing the payroll tax (the employer and employee taxes for Social Security and Medicare) with a revenue neutral carbon tax would shift the tax burden from job creation and wages to carbon consumption. This would be good social policy in the United States whether or not you are worried about global warming. It would encourage employment and accelerate the development of a high tech and service economy in the US.

This tax shift, not hike, would free up companies to hire without bringing on new tax expenses. It would also encourage the development of green technologies in a much more free market manner. The recent Solyndra affair highlights why government subsidies for selected technologies will not work. It makes the government the decider on which ideas are profitable  and not the free market. If companies want to lower their tax bills they will develop innovative ideas on their own. This is how to use capitalism for good social policy and profit.

The (nearly) immediate benefits of this plan seem solid:

  • Safe oil leads to national security and huge oil profits
  • Tax relief for companies wanting to hire new employees
  • Incentive for newer green technologies

However, there is a long term benefit as well. Eventually a peak oil event will occur- oil is not limitless after all. Countries like China and India will eventually desire greener alternatives as well. With America leading the way in green innovation, developed not through government intervention, but through free market competition, our economic security would seem to be assured for a long time to come.

OK, now it is your turn. Where is my reasoning off? From this layman’s view this plan seems like a winner. If a 2012 candidate took it on- someone with the business acumen and real-world experience to really sell it- it could unite conservatives, independents and even a few greens. This would surely be a winning combination.

Wouldn’t it?

Steve writes regularly at his own site.

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August 21, 2011

Weekend Miscellany

  8:13 am

US Attorney Says Murdered Border Agent’s Family Aren’t Crime Victims
Giving the family of murder victims status as victims themselves is pretty much standard practice – allowing them to participate in the trial and to speak at the sentencing. These rights are granted under the federal Crime Victims Rights Act. Usually, it is the defense that tries to block such participation.

In the case of the murder of Brian Terry, however, it is the US Attorney for Arizona, Dennis Burke, who is objecting. Brian Terry was killed with one of the 2000 weapons that the feds’ ‘Fast & Furious’ fiasco put into the hands of the Sinaloa Cartel.

And guess who was in charge of Fast & Furious: Dennis Burke.

No wonder he doesn’t want the family to testify. He wants this whole thing swept under the rug as much as possible (a task in which the Obama Administration and the mainstream media are assisting him).

I shouldn’t need to add, but I will – Burke is a loyal acolyte of Janet Napolitano, having been her chief of staff when she was governor.

Coming Out
It’s time for me to admit it – I’m cisgendered.

Among my many weirdnesses is that I’m fascinated by words, and a recent newsletter on words alerted me to a relatively new one – cisgendered. The prefix ‘cis-‘ means ‘on this side’, which is the opposite of ‘trans-‘. As you might guess, the need to create a word to describe people who are not transgendered is driven by political correctness – we could not, of course, call them ‘normal’. Such a judgmental word.

The term ‘cisgendered’ is used [instead of the more popular ‘gender normative’] to refer to people who do not identify with a gender diverse experience, without enforcing existence of a ‘normative’ gender expression.

Have You Had Sex with Rick Perry?
Continuing the sexual theme, a Ron Paul supporter in Texas is running the following full page ad in a popular Austin weekly:

As if our politics had not gone deeply enough into the gutter.

You can read a little about the wacko who placed the ad here.

Although the Perry campaign responded by pointing out the guy’s record of nuttiness, I preferred Ad Age’s response (in part):

  • I have never acceded to Mitt Romney’s demands for an erotic scalp massage.
  • I have never spanked or been spanked by Herman Cain while wearing a Godfather’s Pizza delivery-boy uniform.
  • I have never been in a Newt Gingrich-Buddy Roemer sandwich.
  • I have never Googled Rick Santorum.

Quickly Noted
The Imperial Presidency: If you don’t think the pomp of the presidency has gotten out of hand, take a look at the motorcade film here.
Which Republican candidates despise each other?: A handy guide to who hates and fears whom.
Latino Approval of Obama Plunges to 49%: Which may explain why he decided to effectively grant amnesty by executive fiat.

Posting will be irregular (and at odd hours) for the next several weeks, since I’m out of the country on a business project. But, as always, please feel free to add your own Miscellany in the comments.

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August 2, 2011

A Democracy in Decline

  9:16 pm

One of my favorite movies is the 1995 film, Rob Roy, a story about, among other things, the danger of concentrating too much power in too few hands. In the film, the character Rob Roy is a hard-working man of high ethics who is enjoying a prosperous life via the sweat of his brow. But the protagonist soon finds his life torn asunder, with his wife raped, his wealth confiscated, and his village burnt to the ground, and a death sentence on his head to boot. The protagonist’s misfortune, however, came not from his own doing. Nor did it constitute collateral damage from some sort of messy military conflict that, while unfortunate, turned out to be necessary in the grand scheme of things. Quite to the contrary, Rob Roy found his entire life taken from him due solely to a petty, personal squabble between two men of nobility who were constantly trying to humiliate, embarrass, and trump one another’s actions, for no other reason than personal amusement.

This sort of abuse of power, of course, was supposed to disappear upon the advent of democracy, when the concept of one-person, one-vote would prevent the few from dominating the many. Indeed, the great concern of small-d democrats was that the many may end up dominating the few once democracy was instituted. Interestingly, it has taken just two and a half centuries for the world’s greatest democracy to seemingly revert back to the model of the Everyman twisting in the wind as his supposed betters toy with destroying his life and livelihood in order to do nothing more than get under their opponents’ skin. And everything comes full circle.

The recent battle over the debt ceiling was a low point for democracy in America, as the nation’s two major political parties acted not as statesmen, but as showmen, holding the country hostage in a perverse game of “chicken” in order to see which side would give in to the relatively meaningless demands of the other. And the demands were indeed meaningless. No amount of fiddling around the edges of taxes and spending are going to solve the country’s debt crisis. The only solution is structural reform in a number of areas where government interacts with American life. But the politicians in Washington don’t want to hear about that. They simply want to use this and every other crisis to continue their half-century battle over the cultural and economic revolutions of the late 20th Century, with Republicans’ convinced that the biggest problem in America is NPR, and Democrats certain that all of our problems will go away if marginal income tax rates are raised by 4 percentage points for upper income Americans.

But these issues are petty indeed, and the fact that both parties essentially held the American economy hostage in order to obtain “bragging rights” is evidence that our democracy may be nearer to its end than its beginning. Again, our debt problem is a structural problem, and a structural problem requires a structural solution. But structural solutions tend to create seismic change, and seismic change creates winners and losers, the latter of whom are inclined to vote against those public officials at the ballot box who enacted such change in the first place. If Washington were filled with statesmen, though, we’d see grand compromises in order to enact those structural changes that are necessary to save the nation from decline, and from drowning in debt.

The structural changes that are needed are well known to most policy wonks, and third rails to most politicians. The tax code needs to be restructured to reward savings and investment, to close loopholes, and to allocate capital more efficiently. The way that government interacts with health care needs to be restructured to lower costs. Anyone who’s looked at the long-term Medicare and Medicaid projections knows that. Social Security needs to be restructured to provide a greater rate of return to an aging population. Education needs to be restructured to direct money away from public employee benefits and security and towards students, and to slowly deflate the student loan bubble that has transformed colleges and universities into the equivalent of subprime mortgages. Defense needs to be restructured in a way that re-evaluates America’s commitments around the world.

But all of these things are hard. And politicians don’t come to Washington to do hard things. They come to Washington to fight about whether we’re going to be Red Americans or Blue Americans, fueled by the desires of scores of aging Baby Boomers who have nothing better to do than get hot and bothered while watching Fox News and listening to talk radio, enjoying their Social Security and Medicare benefits while calling and emailing their Republican elected officials and informing them that they’d better vote to destroy the country, or else. The Boomers, still on a quest for personal validation, would rather take the country down with them than admit that the cultural revolution of the 1960s might be a settled issue.

Even more pathetic though were the cowering candidates for president, so terrified of the news-entertainment complex that constitutes the right-wing media that many of them all but hid in their respective offices until a deal was reached. Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman remains a notable exception, showing that he is neither a coward nor crazy by endorsing a deal to raise the debt ceiling, and possibly providing himself a path to the presidency in 2016 should a president with a 40 percent approval rating be re-elected over a Republican field that has failed to earn the respect of the nation. Jon Huntsman is a statesmen. The rest are barely men at all.

It is indeed ironic for a democracy to become a “tyranny of the minority,” but such a dynamic is the logical consequence of the collapse of a national sense of civic duty. When the broader population is content to be placated by bread and circuses, the substantive decisions about the direction of our nation will be left to public officials disproportionately influenced by collections of interests, and by those voters who are so ideologically wedded to a particular point of view that they demand fealty to their articles of faith and not to matters of fact. It is the latter, of course, that those who we elect to public office must address in order for the nation to survive, as a democracy or otherwise.

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