Token Dissonance

Black & gay, young & conservative. A Southern gentleman writes about life and politics after Yale


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Fear and Consequence

Update: This post was adapted by The Huffington Post. You can find that article here.

“They remain in the same place: They expect taxes to go up on the wealthy and to protect Medicare and Medicaid benefits. They feel confident that they don’t have to compromise.” –White House meeting attendee

“We have to make sure that people who vote for socialism feel the consequences of voting for socialism.” –Bill Whittle

“Elections have consequences, America, and at the end of the cliff, I won!”

In the flurry of ideas about the future of the Republican Party and the contentious talks over the Sequester of Damocles, I decided to humor my Facebook friends by posting a conservative post-election take on A Modest Proposal:

“Also, if the GOP agrees to tax hikes in exchange for something else – like entitlement reform, but only the promise of reform which we know will never come to fruition – they will predictably get slaughtered for “caving” instead of compromising, which is actually what they’d be doing. Again, the GOP doesn’t have the skill or a complicit media to explain how they compromised while Obama and Democrats didn’t…

So what do they do? They’re stuck in a no-win situation. The answer is simple: Give Obama what he wants. All of it. Don’t negotiate. Just say, “Put your plan up for a vote and we’ll pass it. You will own everything that happens moving forward. We’ll do it your way.””

Presumably, there are a good many liberals who would love this approach, as it would allow them to get everything they want with some appearance of bipartisanship. As terrifying as it seems to conservatives, many do sincerely believe that fealty to obsolescing Great Society politics is part of a robust model for a better world. But the response I received was more interesting than any of that. To quote a Democrat-voting friend:

“Well yes, Obama did win, so I want Republicans to give up on Grover Norquist and accept tax hikes on the rich, but stay true to their other principles at the negotiation table. That is what a moderate Republican would do in my eyes. And that’s what ‘negotiation’ is.”

Curiously, it’s not enough for this friend to have his policy preferences enacted over Republican objections. He wants conservatives to be complicit in the act of raising taxes for nothing more than the hot air of hope for real change later. If this were accomplished, a caricature of conservatism would share equally in any blame for economic pain to come, and future politicians could pretend that nobody “serious” foresaw the calamity. My friend aside, the crux of nearly every argument from the Left for “moderation” and “balance” on the conservative commitment to limited government and free enterprise is this implicit desire for an ostensibly substantive—but actually empty—Republican stamp of involvement in a policy agenda that comes light in the arena of serious long-term proposals for averting disaster.

There is nothing “moderate” about Obama imperiously doubling his demand for more taxes or refusing to discuss cuts he will pursue for “balance”. Even as the President campaigned today against the dangers of tax hikes on small businesses, he has already reneged on his campaign promise to support a once bipartisan effort to lower corporate taxes and make American enterprise more competitive. This “balanced approach” denudes any leverage for securing necessary cuts that Democrats are already fighting. Necessary reforms will not be popular, and they will certainly not be more readily achieved when the incentive to produce them—expanded revenue—is already conceded and enacted.

So if Democrats are so eager to avenge the myth of Robin Hood against the dastardly “rich”, independent of all else, what does the “balanced” end game look like? What are the reforms that will secure Medicare beyond the next decade? Where is the talk of addressing the appreciating regulatory burden on businesses and energy policy? If we disapprove of offshore accounts, where is the attendant discussion about why American investors find it more profitable to send capital overseas than maintain it domestically? If Clinton-era tax rates are so preferable, where is the talk of reducing state taxes to 90s levels and restoring Clinton-era spending?

The right answers to these and other questions will do a lot more good for a lot more people than all the rate hikes in the world. Republicans are not out defending the rich against all reason. We are trying to ensure an actual balanced approach is accomplished in a matter broadly agreeable and efficacious in the face of ongoing intransigence from a storm of special interests with stakes in the status quo.

But while we’re on the subject, “the rich”—however defined—are neither the enemy nor wanting for patriotism. They just want to be industrious and successful like anybody else, and they find their fortunes where our policies encourage them to do so. If our current economic climate is not sufficiently geared towards growth and broad prosperity, then we’ll be in for a long, dark ride through the next four years.

Elections have consequences, America. I hope we’re ready for them all.

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Do Not Ask What Good He Does

“Or do we embrace a new economic patriotism that says, America does best when the middle class does best?” –Barack Obama

What recession? I’m too cool to be unpopular.

It’s been a great weekend for those of us who want to see the kind of change in Washington that will finally move this country forward. Governor Romney, in good gentlemanly fashion, indicted the failures of a petty incumbent in debate, earned a double-digit boost in the polls, and delivered a major foreign policy address that solidifies his foreign and domestic image as compellingly presidential. As a delectable bit of dessert, President Obama was caught shamelessly lying dealing in mistruths about Romney’s tax reform plan; it turns out Obama’s cited source reached exactly the opposite conclusion Obama imputed to him. Well that’s awkward.

There are four weeks to go before the final tally of the next four years, and the president’s people are already well invested in an aggressive campaign to paint the governor as a plutocratic, extremist, flip-flopper incapable of serious conviction. (If that sounds incoherent to you, it’s probably a combination of jet lag and altitude sickness from raising your brow too quickly.) Now, the Obama campaign has produced a nifty tool on its website to demonstrate all the ways the president’s policies have allegedly helped the American people. It’s broken down by state, so I’ll focus on the two that relate to me: my native Florida and my adoptive Virginia.

Health Care

This entire section touts the purported benefits of a costly new entitlement that presumes “young adults” (aged 23-26) are better served by prolonged dependence on their parents than by a functioning economy that allows them to get good jobs—which would provide healthcare beyond age 26. Speaking of costs, Obama brags that 3.9 million women in Virginia and Florida will no longer have to expend $9 to $33 per month because of a bill that cuts $716 billion from Medicare, leaving it bankrupt in twelve years. But lest you think all benefits will disappear under Romney, Republicans have put forth ideas to replace ObamaCare with law that increases the affordability and quality of health care while shoring up Medicare for the foreseeable future. A better and more honest approach, reached with the understanding that everything has a cost, will be better for everyone, including women, now and for generations to come.

Energy

Glaring by curious omission are any numbers on increased solar power. It’s almost like the administration wants to pretend Solyndra didn’t happen, or maybe they’re wondering whether the government makes for a good venture capitalist, after all. They do talk a big game on natural gas and crude oil production—409.4% and 3.4% increase in each in Florida; 14.6% and 42.9% in Virginia. But the devil is always in the highly-selective details, as the president plays fast and loose with numbers and intentions:

“In classic fashion, he’s using a technicality to skirt the facts and keep the myth of energy scarcity alive,” the IER email said.  “The reality is that the U.S. has enough recoverable oil for the next 200 years, despite only having 2 percent of the world’s current proven oil reserves.” (Emphasis added.) … What the president leaves out, said the IER, is technically recoverable oil, oil we know about but cannot access due to government regulations…oil production on federal lands declined in fiscal year 2011 from fiscal year 2010 by 11 percent, and natural gas production on federal lands dropped by 6 percent during the same timeframe. In contrast, oil production on private and state lands accounted for the entire increase

You would be forgiven for wondering whether the president is trying to have his cake and eat it, too. Is he committed to a full slate of American energy production to help secure our independence from foreign oil, or does he intend to limit domestic oil and national gas capabilities to boost alternative fuels? I would imagine the latter plan is conceivably defensible but for the administration’s not defending it.

Jobs

Obama is thrilled to inform you that over 333,000 private-sector jobs have been created in Virginia and Florida alone in the last two years. What he would like you to ignore is that job-creation is perilously slow, most of the recent new jobs are in government, and the purchasing power of the middle class is declining. He also neglects to mention that the unemployment rate in Florida is unchanged at 8.8%, and the defense cuts in sequestration would devastate Virginia. But if you ignore all that pesky reality, which has a well-known conservative bias, Obama has probably done some good on the job front.

Taxes & Small Business

I wonder why the campaign omits the time frame over which these tax savings purportedly occurred, or any details whatsoever about them. I can understand why they don’t want to talk about their proposed recession tax increases on the small businesses that employ millions of people. I can also understand why they would avoid the entire discussion of how Obama’s own advisers favor a tax reform plan inconveniently similar to Mitt “Inverse Robin Hood” Romney’s much maligned proposal. But I cannot understand why an administration so indignant over imagined perceived lacks of specificity wouldn’t offer any clarity of its own.

So where do your tax numbers come from, Mr. President, and why do you keep lying about misunderstanding Mitt Romney’s tax proposal?

Education

I gather we’re supposed to be thrilled that 800,000 Floridians and Virginians received nearly $4K in Pell Grants—an increase of well over 60% in each state. In all our jubilation over all these students purportedly affording college, we might almost overlook the fact that Pell Grant receipt is based on economic need. More people are receiving them because more families are going under. It’s certainly good that American students still have opportunities despite the government’s economic failures, but this situation is hardly a credit to the administration. It would be akin to your doctor demanding praise for treating an infection you only contracted because he botched an operation in the first place.

As for the question of student loans, let it suffice to say that the issue won’t affect the vast majority of student debt by terribly much. There’s also the inconvenient matter of how to pay for it. But don’t expect the Obama campaign to clarify that point.

Recovery

At the risk of restating the obvious, this latest ploy by the Obama campaign amounts to little more than a tendentious fit of hope not worth the faded Obama poster you could print it on. The president can’t run on his record, so he’s resorting to the tried and true legerdemain of pretending his rhetoric counts for truth. If he were a magician, I’d remind him that we discovered that trick ages ago. As he is the president, I’ll instead suggest that his campaign start assuming the American people have better discernment than a drug-addled hate-child of Lindsay Lohan and Charlie Sheen.

You may not think you built this bed, Mr. President, but you will lie in it. The American people will see to that.


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Regulations are your friends (except when they’re not)

“A government that is big enough to give you all you want is big enough to take it all away.” -Barry Goldwater

“Republicans are going to feed y’all to the Minotaur!”

I like regulations. In theory, they do great things like protect the environment and keep people from dying. They can also keep lead out of our children’s toys and prevent disastrously precarious housing bubbles. But when you realize that given regulations could cost as much as $1.2 million per job created, you start to wonder how serious the cost-benefit analysis on these proposals are and whether they’re all really worth it. Then again, given that President Obama’s stimulus, by the administration’s own numbers, cost $317,000 per job, I guess things could be worse. But if we’re throwing yet another party of low expectations, I’d rather just head to the bar.

Speaking of costs, Boston officials recently shut down Uber, a smartphone-accessible on-demand car service, because the company uses GPS to better serve its customers. That’s right, government officials actually shuttered a successful startup—and all the jobs it created—because its technology was too advanced for the Massachusetts Division of Standards. I can’t imagine why that region is losing people.

Lest you think this madness isolated to New England, Uber has also had a rocky relationship with Washington, D.C. Apparently, the startup’s innovative business model threatens to compete with the district’s dysfunctional taxi establishment. Rather than applaud this development like reasonable people, D.C. lawmakers want to protect the antiquated system by forcing Uber to be five times more expensive than regular taxis. How any of this is supposed to save lives or protect consumers is beyond me. But it would definitely be good for the taxi industry that helped elect D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray. You know, the guy whose administration is a cesspool of corruption.

We can all agree that common-sense regulations have their value. But the conversation has gotten far beyond questions of flammable tap water and polluted air. Government control is creeping ever deeper into the everyday operations of the private sphere, not for the good of society, but to repay the political support of special interests. Strangely, all this nepotistic protectionism is proving detrimental to the economy. It’s almost like feudalism failed or something.

You don’t have to be a free-market libertarian to notice that even the strongest arguments for robust regulations still must contend with very human—and often irrational—actors. At the end of the day, people in power will usually do what’s best for the people who support them, the public good be damned. The fairest approach is to limit the ability of the state to interfere with the success of small business that can’t afford the bribes political contributions to buy special treatment. Only then can we get the full range of innovation and economic growth that will benefit everybody.

Now is not the time to put y’all the economy back in chains. Successful, innovative businesses toiled long days and hot nights to build this country. It’s time to set them free.


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Young America: Obama That I Used To Know

While President Obama’s overall lead among young voters is likely insurmountable, that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of room for conservatives to make inroads. After all, general unemployment is still above 8%, with the youth rate as high as 16%. And of course, neither number takes into account the dispiriting circumstances of underemployment, which has been rising these past few months. (But hey, at least we’re doing better than Europe! Well, except Germany.)

As a sign of the changing (and perhaps hopeless) times, some young voters have put out this spectacular anthem of the youth assessment of the Obama presidency to date. Republican Party, take note; there are a lot of grievances here with which to gain ground:

Disclaimer: I regrettably had no part in this. Lyrics below.

Now and then I think of that election day, November
When you won I felt so happy I could die
Chugged a fifth, paraded in the street
And I thanked God that Palin wasn’t Veep
It felt like change and it’s a hope I still remember

You can get addicted to a certain kind of message
Like this is change we can believe in, yes we can
But college ended, had to pay my rent
At least you’re the first gay president
But the change I got was that I moved in with my mother

Because you won and then you cut me off
Now your speeches never soar as high as unemployment
You took Obamacare so far
But you left me like a dog strapped on Romney’s car
Even the shirt that was on my back
Is owned by China or being arbitraged by Goldman Sachs
Just send in a Predator Drone
‘Cause now you’re not Obama that I used to know

Now you’re not Obama that I used to know
Now I need Obama that I used to know

Sometimes I think that Peace Prize winners shouldn’t have a kill list
But you dumped Bin Laden in the sea so maybe it’s all good
Said you’d rouse my economy
Your big package didn’t stimulate me
Still my American Idol, though
When you sang, “I’m so in love with you”…Obama that I used to know

But you won and then you cut me off
Made out like you’d close Guantanamo and we got nothing
Relocation shouldn’t be that hard
Just strap the prisoners in on top of Romney’s car
No, I don’t need you to legalize
Just keep the feds away from folks like you when you were younger
There’s nothing that you didn’t toke
But now that’s just Obama that I used to know

Obama
That I used to know
Obama
That I used to know
Obama
That I used to know

In 2012 I need Obama that I used to know
[He’s a jackass]


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The Ballad of Hope & Change

“I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I’ll fix it…I’m concerned about the very heart of the America, the 90, 95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling.” –Mitt Romney

“I’m poor, and I’m going to stay poor,” Tunnicliffe continued while staring at his $320 weekly unemployment check. “It’s been very liberating.” –The Onion

In case you missed it, The Onion issued a scathing, if “satirical”, indictment of the social and economic situation in the United States. It’s all too real conclusion? The American poor, having abandoned every hope, now pity those who still believe in upward mobility and the American Dream. A few of my liberal friends promulgated this link, presumably as an Occupy-Wall-Street-esque salvo against the rapacious 1% and their invidious Republican enablers. But Barack Obama has sat in power for well over three years now, and all moves on the horizon are gimmicks.

And the world languishes.

But lest you fear the satire overstates the point, let us belabor it. The unemployment rate, still hovering north of 8%, is buffered by 34,000 Americans leaving the labor force between May and June, 2012, and over 1.9 million who have quit looking for jobs since June 2011. As The Onion put it, “The unrealistic expectations and false hope they experience must be unbearable.” Nearly two million Americans in the last year, alone, seem to agree. Even now into August, the economy keeps growing too slowly to lower the unemployment rate.

The lasting problem is both economic and psychological, going to the spiritual core of Americana. Voters don’t feel the country is on the right track. Parents don’t believe their kids will have a brighter future. Americans are terrified that our own government is unworthy of trust. For all the hype around universal healthcare, most people expect premiums to increase this year.

The afflicted hilarity of that Onion article, and the irony of its liberal favor, is the ribald shadow cast by regime of Hope and Change™. Our president glided into glory, promising a brave new world, and nobody—not even his fans—believes him now. Nearly four years later, liberals still castigate Republicans for trying to burn the world to spite Obama. Conservatives have taken up the fight to “Take Our Country Back” from the leftists who called George W. Bush a fascist. Everybody fears we’re all going to hell in a welfare line, and what have we to show for it beyond bitterness?

I can be bitter on my own dime, thank you very much; but perhaps the government will tax me for that, too.

Whether either side is right or off the rocker is beside the point; the president has failed to even make us believe the world can get better. This is what that Onion author understood and why the Left clings to the boogeyman of W and relentless attacks on Romney’s business record. The administration has nothing better to offer. So for reelection, they’ll burn a path through Middle America to the sea.

And after all this, some leftists still believe Obama is the only adult in the room. Mr. President, if your leadership is The Example of Adulthood, ‘tis no small wonder that Americans opt for perpetual adolescence.