Tuesday, November 30, 2010

You Can Stop Paying for Al Gore's Mistake

From Debra Saunders at RealClearPolitics:

In Greece earlier this month, Al Gore made a startling admission: "First-generation ethanol, I think, was a mistake." Unfortunately, Americans have Gore to thank for ethanol subsidies. In 1994, then-Vice President Gore ended a 50-50 tie in the Senate by voting in favor of an ethanol tax credit that added almost $5 billion to the federal deficit last year. And that number doesn't factor the many ways in which corn-based ethanol mandates drive up the price of food and livestock feed.
Sure, he meant well, but as Reuters reported, Gore also said, "One of the reasons I made that mistake is that I paid particular attention to the farmers in my home state of Tennessee and I had a certain fondness for the farmers in the state of Iowa because I was about to run for president."
Gore also showed that most D.C. politicians can't be trusted to put America's interests before those of Iowa farmers. But there is one pursuit in which homo electus excels: spending other people's money.In sum, Gore demonstrated that politicians are lousy at figuring out which alternative fuels make the most sense. Now even enviros like Friends of the Earth have come to believe that "large-scale agro-fuels" are "ecologically unsustainable and inefficient." That's a polite way of saying that producers need to burn through a boatload of fossil fuels to make ethanol.
Beware politicians when they promise you "the jobs of the future." Last week, the Washington Post ran a story about a federal grant program in Florida designed to retrain the unemployed for jobs in the growing clean-energy sector. Except clean tech isn't growing as promised. Officials told the Post that three-quarters of their first 100 graduates haven't had a single job offer.
In May, President Obama came to a Fremont, Calif., solar plant where he announced, "The true engine of economic growth will always be companies like Solyndra." This month, Solyndra announced it was canceling its expansion plans. The announcement came after voters rewarded the green lobby by defeating Proposition 23 -- which would have postponed California's landmark greenhouse gas reduction law AB32 -- because voters bought the green-jobs promise.
Back to Gore. There is a movement in Washington to end Gore's mistake. Republican Sens. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Jim DeMint of South Carolina have proposed ending the 45-cent-per-gallon subsidy on corn ethanol, which is set to expire on Dec. 31 unless Congress extends it.
As DeMint explained in an e-mail to the Washington Post's Greg Sargent, "Government mandates and tax subsidies for ethanol have led to decreased gas mileage, adversely effected the environment and increased food prices. Washington must stop picking winners and losers in the market, and instead allow Americans to make choices for themselves."
That's what free-market types who oppose corporate welfare -- like me -- have been saying for years.
So the question is: Will this new batch of Republicans have the intestinal fortitude to buck the farm lobby and agribusiness by weaning them from the public teat? Or are they no better than the farm-lobby-pandering Al Gore?

GOP Rep. Buyer Blasts Acting Dem Speaker: "This is why the People have Thrown You Out"


POLITICAL HACKS VOTE AGAINST BAN ON HACKDOM: “Republican Sens. Bob Bennett (UT), Thad Cochran (MS), Susan Collins (ME), Jim Inhofe (OK), Lisa Murkowski (AK), Richard Shelby (AL), and George Voinovich (OH) all just voted against an amendment in the Senate that would have banned Congressional earmarks.”

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader James Hicks writes that Richard Lugar voted against the earmark ban, too: “I’ll certainly donate to his opponent. His no vote is an act of contempt for the voters. Time for him to go.” (emphasis mine-SP)

Tea party movement might spur challenge for Lugar

At The Indy Star:

The tea party movement may force Sen. Richard Lugar to dust off his gloves for the first time in more than 30 years
By Mary Beth Schneider
Four years ago, Republican Sen. Richard Lugar was considered so unbeatable that Democrats didn't bother to field a candidate against him.

Now, he's facing the likelihood of a challenge from within his own party.

Tea party activists and other social conservatives are actively searching for a candidate around whom they can unite to beat Lugar in the 2012 primary election.

How remarkable is that? Lugar hasn't had a primary opponent since "Happy Days" ruled the TV ratings and "(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty" topped the charts. That was 1976 -- the year Lugar first went to the Senate.

But dissatisfaction -- and even downright anger -- has been building among some conservatives. They watched in dismay earlier this year when Lugar voted to confirm liberal Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan. This month, they were at odds with Lugar when he defended congressional earmarks; backed a bill to help some illegal immigrants who came here as children earn a path to citizenship; and stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to push for a new nuclear treaty with Russia.

"He's bombarded us" in the past couple of weeks with reasons to oust him, said Diane Hubbard, an Indianapolis Tea Party organizer who was among 65 people who protested Lugar's co-sponsorship of the immigration bill -- called the DREAM Act -- outside his Indianapolis office Saturday.

The same day, a smaller group of tea party activists and conservatives from across the state calling themselves Hoosiers for Conservative Senate, met in Fishers to begin organizing a challenge. They plan to meet again Jan. 22 in a much larger public forum to discuss how to coalesce around one alternative to Lugar.

Monica Boyer, the 35-year-old organizer of the Kosciusko Silent No More tea party group, was among those at Saturday's meeting. She wasn't even born when Lugar first went to the Senate. And he already was a veteran there when she began casting her ballots for him.

No more, she said.

"I'm a die-hard Republican," Boyer said, "and I will never pull the lever for Richard Lugar again."

Lugar said in an interview that he is doing what he always has: Standing up for what he thinks is right, whether it's arguing that eliminating earmarks wouldn't save a dime but simply hand over spending decisions to the White House, or whether it's joining a Democratic president to get a nuclear arms treaty he considers vital to national defense.

"I really couldn't care less whether the tea party or whoever else it is, is interested. Somebody has got to be," Lugar said of his support for the START treaty. "It's a basic reason I am running for re-election."

And, he added in an e-mailed statement Monday, he's pleased that Hoosiers for Conservative Senate will meet in January -- and hopes they'll realize he's the conservative they're looking for.

"I will warmly welcome the support of all Hoosiers who have encouraged my conservative idealism as I have tried to exemplify it through word and deed, and who are now eager for me to carry on the good fight," Lugar said.
Even that vote for Kagan, his office stressed, is proof of his conservatism.

"He's being a strict constitutionalist" in voting based on qualifications, and not ideology or party politics, said spokesman Mark Helmke.

And the DREAM Act? That, Helmke said, would help those who came to the U.S. as children and have proved their merit in college or in the military.

"To deny them," he said, "is just un-American."

Lugar is taking the threat of a challenge seriously. In late October, he commissioned a poll of 800 registered Indiana voters to gauge their view of him, as well as 15 other politicians. There were big names, such as Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich. And there were names that even most Hoosiers can't identify, such as State Treasurer Richard Mourdock and state Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel.

Mourdock and Delph made the list for one reason: Both have been mentioned as challengers to Lugar.
The poll, taken by American Viewpoint and with a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points, found that Lugar is viewed favorably by 66 percent of Hoosiers, with only 19 percent having an unfavorable view. Mourdock -- whose name was recognized by only 49 percent of those polled -- was viewed favorably by 14 percent and unfavorably by 9 percent. Delph, a familiar name to only 30 percent, was viewed favorably by 7 percent and unfavorably by 2 percent.

Lugar suggested those numbers should be a dose of cold political reality to anyone considering a challenge.
"I'm not diminishing the thought that someone may want to conduct a race," Lugar said, "but at the same time, the realities of it are that we have strength, and if I'm well-organized, well-financed and we are doing all the right things in terms of our appearances and our work on behalf of Hoosiers, that we have a very good chance of being re-nominated and re-elected."

Delph found it flattering.

He couldn't believe, he said, that Lugar would include him in a poll.

Although Delph has been critical of Lugar's positions on earmarks and the arms treaty in his blog, he said he's focused on the upcoming legislative session, not the 2012 election.

Mourdock, a particular favorite of tea party activists, said a lot of the talk of a potential Senate run by him is "irrational exuberance" after an election in which he earned more votes than any other Republican on the November ballot and coasted to re-election as treasurer.

Still, Mourdock said that "the door is open" to a potential run against Lugar.

Those considering a challenge are encouraged by other tea party-backed candidates who won in this year's elections, such as Marco Rubio in Florida, and not dissuaded by those candidates such as Joe Miller in Alaska and Christine O'Donnell in Delaware who lost in the general election.

Still, Boyer said, "we want a George Washington. We want somebody who, No. 1, can win."

That means, she said, finding one candidate to rally around.

"Our fears," Boyer said, "is we'd have another Dan Coats situation."

Coats won only 39 percent of the vote in the May primary, as tea party supporters split their votes among him and four other Republicans in the U.S. Senate race.

"We did not speak with one voice," Boyer said, "and so we know deep down in our gut a caucus will be necessary this time."

Unity, though, doesn't ensure victory.

Micah Clark, executive director of the conservative American Family Association of Indiana, pointed to Arizona, where the tea party united behind former U.S. Rep. J.D. Hayworth, now a radio talk-show host, over Sen. John McCain in that state's primary.

McCain won.

Establishment Republicans anticipate Lugar will as well.

Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman said she expects Lugar "to be our U.S. senator as long as he wants to be our U.S. senator."

And Indiana GOP Chairman Murray Clark -- not related to Micah Clark -- said he isn't convinced that a primary challenge to Lugar is "a fait accompli."

"There may be some conservatives who are unhappy with him. But on the whole, he's been a great statesman and a great spokesperson and advocate for Indiana. I'd like to see them all sit down in the same room (with Lugar) and walk through these issues before mounting what could be a divisive primary challenge."

Democrats are hoping for just that. Indiana Democratic Party Chairman Dan Parker said that Democrats won't give the race a pass like they did in 2006. And if Lugar is defeated or wounded in the primary, they'd have an opening to win back the seat they lost this election.

"The moment Democrats see Dick Lugar could have a fight on his hands and be wounded and damaged, that's going to spark some interest," said former House Speaker John Gregg, D-Sandborn.

Boyer and other tea party activists said they know what they are up against.

"It's going to be a David and Goliath battle," Boyer said. "But we believe that we can take on anything. You can't tell us, 'You can't do that.' "

Monday, November 29, 2010

Obama administration is weak in the face of WikiLeaks

From Marc Thiessen at The Washington Post:

Is the United States of America really powerless to stop a nomadic cyber-hacker - who sleeps on people's couches and changes his hair color to avoid surveillance- from causing enormous damage to our national security?

Apparently, in the age of Obama, we are.

Four months ago, the criminal enterprise WikiLeaksreleased more than 75,000 stolen classified documents that, among other things, revealed the identities of more than 100 Afghans who were cooperating with America against the Taliban. The Obama administration condemned WikiLeaks' actions. The Justice Department said it was weighing criminal charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. The Pentagon warned that if WikiLeaks did not stand down and return other stolen documents it possessed, the government would "make them do the right thing."

And then nothing happened.

Last month, WikiLeaks struck again - this time posting more than 390,000 classified documents on the war in Iraq. Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, responded with a Twitter post: "Another irresponsible posting of stolen classified documents by WikiLeaks puts lives at risk and gives adversaries valuable information." Mullen was right - but, with all respect to the chairman, a tweet was not exactly the cyber-response the WikiLeaks disclosures warranted.

Now, WikiLeaks has struck a third time with what may prove to be its most damaging disclosures yet - a cache of more than 251,287 American diplomatic cables and directives, including more than 117,000 that are classified. According to the New York Times, which was given advance copies of the documents, many cables "name diplomats' confidential sources, from foreign legislators and military officers to human rights activists and journalists, often with a warning to Washington: 'Please protect' or 'Strictly protect.' " Other documents detail confidential conversations with foreign leaders, including Arab leaders urging the U.S. to attack Iran's nuclear facilities. Still others could hamper U.S. counterterrorism efforts - such as a cable in which Yemeni leaders say they lied to their own parliament by claiming that Yemeni forces, not Americans, had carried out missile attacks against al-Qaeda. If Yemen responds to this revelation by restricting U.S. efforts to hunt down al-Qaeda, the results could be devastating.
What action did the Obama administration take to prevent the impending release of such volatile information? State Department legal adviser Harold Koh sent a strongly worded letter urging WikiLeaks to cease publishing classified materials. I'm sure that made Assange think twice.

Is the Obama administration going to do anything - anything at all - to stop these serial disclosures of our nation's most closely guarded secrets? Just this past week, the federal government took decisive action to shut down more than 70 Web sites that were disseminating pirated music and movies. Hollywood is safe, but WikiLeaks is free to disseminate classified documents without consequence.
With this latest release, Assange may now have illegally disclosed more classified information than anyone in American history. He is in likely violation of the Espionage Actand arguably is providing material support for terrorism. But unlike leakers who came before him, Assange has done more than release information; he has created a virtual system for the ongoing collection and dissemination of America's secrets. The very existence of WikiLeaks is a threat to national security. Unless something is done, WikiLeaks will only grow more brazen - and our unwillingness to stop it will embolden others to reveal classified information using the unlawful medium Assange has built.

WikiLeaks' first disclosures caught the Obama administration by surprise. But how does the administration explain its inaction in the face of WikiLeaks' two subsequent, and increasingly dangerous, releases? In both cases, it had fair warning: Assange announced what kinds of documents he possessed, and he made clear his intention to release them.

The Obama administration has the ability to bring Assange to justice and to put WikiLeaks out of business. The new U.S. Cyber Command could shut down WilkiLeaks' servers and prevent them from releasing more classified information on President Obama's orders. But,as The Post reported this month, the Obama administration has been paralyzed by infighting over how, and when, it might use these new offensive capabilities in cyberspace. One objection: "The State Department is concerned about diplomatic backlash" from any offensive actions in cyberspace, The Post reported. Well, now the State Department can deal with the "diplomatic backlash" that comes from standing by helplessly, while WikiLeaks releases hundreds of thousands of its most sensitive diplomatic cables.
Because of its failure to act, responsibility for the damage done by these most recent disclosures now rests with the Obama administration. Perhaps this latest release crosses a line that will finally spur the administration to action. After all, the previous disclosures harmed only our war efforts. But this latest disclosure is a blow to a cause Democrats really care about - our diplomatic efforts. Maybe now, finally, the gloves will come off. Or is posting mournful tweets about the damage done to our national security the best this administration can do?

Marc Thiessen is a visiting fellow with the American Enterprise Institute and writes a weekly column for The Post.

First priority? Control federal spending

From Illinois' new Senator Mark Kirk:

Today is my first day in the U.S. Senate. With this honor comes a tremendous responsibility to accomplish much for our nation.
My top priority is turning our economy around. In Congress, we had a vigorous debate about the trillion-dollar stimulus. Most Americans agree this policy has failed. Unemployment in Illinois is stuck above 9 percent with more than 640,000 of our citizens out of work. Policies of the past caused our state to fall behind. Ten years ago, Illinois had at least 150,000 more jobs than today.
Many in Washington want to continue the spend/borrow policy of the past. They ignore the warning signs of more debt, taxes and inflation. Americans already pay some of the highest corporate taxes in the world. We cannot attract new jobs if employers are moving abroad to avoid higher taxes. By taxing more to fuel spending, we threaten a double-dip recession, pushing millions of Americans out of work.
Our mounting debts pose a clear and present danger to our future. Among bad "sovereign debtors" (i.e., governments), the Illinois ranks in the top 12, sharing infamy with the likes ofVenezuela's Hugo Chavez. Under the respected Forbes Debt Scorecard, Illinois ranks 50 out of 50 in bad debts.
The picture for the federal government is not better. As a nation we hold incredibly valuable assets — a 200-year-old constitutional democracy with continuous rule, the largest economy and the dollar's status as the world's reserve currency. These strengths can add to our growth or delay a debt crisis. Consider this—Morgan Stanley reports the Greek government is now in crisis having descended to a debt-to-revenue ratio of 312 percent. Meanwhile, the U.S. government suffers no such immediate crisis even though our debt-to-revenue ratio is worse than Greece—at 358 percent.
How do we get out of this mess? First, we cast aside the partisan differences and work across the aisle to solve this problem. Second, Congress sets an example by ending earmarks and cutting its budget. Third, we build bipartisan majorities for President Barack Obama's hoped-for line-item veto and the late Sen. Paul Simon's Balanced Budget Amendment.
Then the hard work begins. While the chairmen of the president's bipartisan deficit reduction commission put forward a serious proposal, the commission's final report appears likely to be far less impressive. Spending controls are not enough. We need procedures to ensure spending reductions actually happen.
The first Senate bill I will introduce will be the Spending Control Act. This bill builds on two recent successful examples of our democracy making the right decisions for our long-term future. First, in the 1980s, the bipartisan Grace Commission set the standard for serious oversight by identifying federal spending that would add little to our nation's growth, but much to its debt. Second, the three military base closing commissions showed that bipartisan dignitaries, once given the authority to submit a proposal to Congress for a straight up or down vote, actually cut spending where others failed.
The Spending Control Act will marry these two proposals — a new Grace Commission with a mandate to realign federal spending against its actual income, and "base closing" procedural powers to submit its proposals for simple "yes" or "no" votes in Congress. Given the successful record of all three base closing commissions to implement their reductions, despite a great hue and cry, prospects would be good under this proposal for our greatest of all democracies to depart its current course toward national bankruptcy and crushing future debt.
Harvard economic historian Niall Ferguson warned that the decline of a great power is clear when it pays its money lenders more than its army. We may face that year when interest payments on our debt top our defense budget as soon as 2016. Ferguson goes on to warn that China's current economic trajectory will make it the world's largest economy by 2027 — a status America has held since the 1870s.
Ferguson's China projection is not set in stone. He highlights our great strengths of competition, science, law, medicine, consumers and the work ethic that built American incomes by the 1960s to a level 33 times per capita better than China. To recover, we must re-emphasize those core strengths. If we correct our economic policy by focusing on growth and spending discipline, the sky will once again be the limit for young Americans.
It's time to go to work.
Mark Kirk will be sworn in today as the junior U.S. senator from Illinois.

Dick Lugar … The Untouchable?

At Hot Air:

The New York Times seems to have found itself a new favorite Republican.  Yesterday the newspaper profiled Senator Dick Lugar, whose seat comes up for voter review in 2012, by noting that Lugar has been a “reliable conservative for decades” and that “mavericks are not in vogue these days on Capitol Hill,” two contradictory statements separated by — I kid you not — one single sentence in Jennifer Steinhauer’s profile of Lugar.  As Glenn Reynolds notes, it’s not the only point that screams out for a copy editor, but that’s not the biggest problem in this profile by far:
Now, in the heat of the post-primary lame-duck Congressional session, he is defying his party on an earmark ban, a bill that would create a path to citizenship for some illegal immigrants, a military spending authorization bill and an arms control treaty with Russia.
He even declined to sign a brief supporting state lawsuits against President Obama’s health care law because he saw it as political posturing.
Now Mr. Lugar’s willingness to buck his party is leading to talk that he will face a primary challenge from a Tea Party candidate when he runs for re-election in 2012. It is a possibility that Mr. Lugar, who said the current environment in Washington was “disappointing” and “without a doubt” the most polarized he had seen since joining the Senate in 1977, understands clearly even as he declines to modify his positions. …
Even after the midterm rout that will remove many long-serving members from Congress, the idea that Mr. Lugar would be vulnerable to a primary challenge is a chilling notion to many Republicans, a symbol of symbolism gone too far.
“If Dick Lugar,” said John C. Danforth, a former Republican senator from Missouri, “having served five terms in the U.S. Senate and being the most respected person in the Senate and the leading authority on foreign policy, is seriously challenged by anybody in the Republican Party, we have gone so far overboard that we are beyond redemption.”
Let’s move past the “symbol of symbolism” and the urge to start sentences with “Now,” for a moment.  Since when is Dick Lugar the canary in the coal mine for Republicanism?  I’m not a Lugar hater by any stretch; he’s a six-term Senator and has done some good work on Capitol Hill for the GOP.  However, Republicans around the country have made clear that they want ObamaCare challenged by every legal means at hand — and a large number of independents feel the same way.  If Lugar doesn’t represent the will of the electorate, then he doesn’t belong in office.
And that is exactly what primaries and elections tell us.  When did it suddenly become unacceptable to test that in a primary?  Do elections put us “beyond redemption,” or does Danforth really want to suggest that Lugar and others similarly ensconced in power should be placed beyond accountability?  Danforth and the Times seem to forget that we have a representative government, not a ruling class, and that voters get to decide who those representatives will be.
This republic managed to stand before Dick Lugar came along.  If Lugar loses an election, it will manage to stand as the sun rises in the east.  Also, one personal word of advice for Senator Lugar: beware of being the NYT’s favorite Republican “maverick.”  That was John McCain’s position until early 2008, when the Times began a months-long smear campaign against him.  Being the NYT’s favorite Republican is somewhat akin to being a snake’s favorite mouse.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thursday, November 25, 2010

George Washington's 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation

http://wilstar.com/holidays/washington.jpgGeorge Washington's 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation
Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me to "recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:"
Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.
And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.
Given under my hand, at the city of New York, the 3d day of October, A.D. 1789.
                                                                             G. Washington (his actual signature)
Thanks to Lisa Deaton at We The People Indiana for this!-SP

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tea Parties Turn to Local Issues

At The Wall Street Journal:

[TEALOCAL1]Jennifer Levitz / The Wall Street Journal
After this month's national elections, founder Kathy Ropte says the Harris County Tea Party in Georgia is now focusing on the local school board.
HAMILTON, Ga.—The Harris County Tea Party near the Alabama border campaigned far and wide in this month's midterm elections. Donations were mailed to tea-party candidates in Nevada and Alaska. There were multiple overnight bus trips to rallies in Washington, D.C.
The next stop, however, is closer to home: the local school board.
"Don't get me wrong, we're still going to engage in Washington, but now we're going after what is here locally. Our focus is turning to our community," said Kathy Ropte, the group's founder, over cola at a Blimpie sub shop, a popular local tea-party meeting spot off the town square. Aware that education consumes a big chunk of local property taxes, group members are combing through the salaries of every county school employee from the superintendent down.
After fighting for several months on the highest level of American politics, the leaders of many local tea-party activist groups now plan to take their agendas of limited government and penny pinching to their hometown governments.
Most say they'll stay involved in watching Congress, and dozens attended a recent Washington summit organized by national umbrella group Tea Party Patriots for newly elected members of Congress. But the local leaders say that to truly stem spending, they also must stage what Steven Vernon, vice president of the Tea Party Manatee on Florida's Gulf Coast, calls "a ground-level attack."
"We have to start at the lowest level and take our country back," Mr. Vernon said.

Read it all! - and remember "all politics is local". -SP

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

A Lost Thanksgiving Lesson

From John Stossel at RealClearPolitics:

Had today's political class been in power in 1623, tomorrow's holiday would have been called "Starvation Day" instead of Thanksgiving. Of course, most of us wouldn't be alive to celebrate it.

Every year around this time, schoolchildren are taught about that wonderful day when Pilgrims and Native Americans shared the fruits of the harvest. But the first Thanksgiving in 1623 almost didn't happen.
Long before the failure of modern socialism, the earliest European settlers gave us a dramatic demonstration of the fatal flaws of collectivism. Unfortunately, few Americans today know it.

The Pilgrims at Plymouth Colony organized their farm economy along communal lines. The goal was to share the work and produce equally.

That's why they nearly all starved.

When people can get the same return with less effort, most people make less effort. Plymouth settlers faked illness rather than working the common property. Some even stole, despite their Puritan convictions. Total production was too meager to support the population, and famine resulted. This went on for two years.

"So as it well appeared that famine must still ensue the next year also, if not some way prevented," wrote Gov. William Bradford in his diary. The colonists, he said, "began to think how they might raise as much corn as they could, and obtain a better crop than they had done, that they might not still thus languish in misery. At length after much debate of things, (I) (with the advice of the chiefest among them) gave way that they should set corn every man for his own particular, and in that regard trust to themselves. And so assigned to every family a parcel of land."

In other words, the people of Plymouth moved from socialism to private farming. The results were dramatic.

"This had very good success," Bradford wrote, "for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been. By this time harvest was come, and instead of famine, now God gave them plenty, and the face of things was changed, to the rejoicing of the hearts of many."
Because of the change, the first Thanksgiving could be held in November 1623.

What Plymouth suffered under communalism was what economists today call the tragedy of the commons. The problem has been known since ancient Greece. As Aristotle noted, "That which is common to the greatest number has the least care bestowed upon it."

If individuals can take from a common pot regardless of how much they put in it, each person has an incentive to be a free-rider, to do as little as possible and take as much as possible because what one fails to take will be taken by someone else. Soon, the pot is empty.

What private property does -- as the Pilgrims discovered -- is connect effort to reward, creating an incentive for people to produce far more. Then, if there's a free market, people will trade their surpluses to others for the things they lack. Mutual exchange for mutual benefit makes the community richer.

Here's the biggest irony of all: The U.S. government has yet to apply the lesson to its first conquest, Native Americans. The U.S. government has held most Indian land in trust since the 19th century. This discourages initiative and risk-taking because, among other reasons, it can't be used as collateral for loans. On Indian reservations, "private land is 40 to 90 percent more productive than land owned through the Bureau of Indian Affairs," says economist Terry Anderson, executive director of PERC. "If you drive through western reservations, you will see on one side cultivated fields, irrigation, and on the other side, overgrazed pasture, run-down pastures and homes. One is a simple commons; the other side is private property. You have Indians on both sides. The important thing is someone owns one side."

Secure property rights are the key. When producers know their future products are safe from confiscation, they take risks and invest. But when they fear they will be deprived of the fruits of their labor, they will do as little as possible.

That's the lost lesson of Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pence for President?

From Katrina Trinko at NRO:

No one has gone straight from the House to the White House since James Garfield. Mike Pence might be the one.

He hasn’t held executive office. He isn’t a paid Fox News contributor. He hasn’t written a best-seller or starred in a reality show.

So is there any reason Rep. Mike Pence (R., Ind.) should be considered a viable 2012 presidential contender?

According to supporters, there’s a huge one: authenticity. Pence identifies himself as a fiscal and social conservative and has the voting record to prove it. Elected in 2000, when compassionate conservatism was trendy, he has never been afraid to play the Grinch, voting against big-spending initiatives such as No Child Left Behind, Medicare Part D, and TARP. Pence has displayed the same kind of consistency on social issues, establishing a solidly pro-life record over the last decade.

Pence’s advocacy hasn’t gone unnoticed. He spoke at the Tea Party’s 9/12 rally in Washington, D.C., last year and again this year, and won the straw poll of 2012 presidential candidates at the Family Research Council’s Value Voters Summit this year, beating out notables like Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, and Sarah Palin. When Pence resigned from his leadership position as chairman of the House Republican Conference following the election, there was immediate buzz that he might be considering a presidential run. Others speculated that he might run for governor of Indiana, where term limits mandate that current governor Mitch Daniels step down in 2012.

“The congressman hasn’t made a decision at this point,” says Pence spokesman Matt Lloyd. “He’s humbled by the encouragement he’s received back in Indiana and around the country, and he’s going to take the coming weeks to seek counsel and prayerfully consider it.”

If Pence decides to run for president, he faces steep obstacles. The last president elected directly from the House of Representatives was James Garfield in 1880. And while President Obama’s rapid ascent may signal that voters don’t demand much political experience from their presidents, even Obama had been a senator for two years before launching his campaign.

On the flip side, Pence may benefit from being a new candidate, which could appeal to GOP voters who don’t want the 2012 presidential field to be 2008 redux. “When I travel around the country,” says Gary Bauer, president of the social-conservative organization American Values, “conservative audiences seem to feel that they would love to see someone new emerge who had the sort of Reaganesque qualities that are so effective in American politics. I can imagine easily a scenario where Mike Pence could get traction and end up emerging as the candidate.”

Pence, however, has also shown signs of interest in running for governor. “He did a lot of Lincoln Day dinners that weren’t exactly in his congressional district, so that tells you he’s maybe at least thinking hard about the governorship,” says Mike McDaniel, former chairman of the Indiana GOP, referring to the dinners held annually by each of Indiana’s 92 counties.

If Pence does opt to run for governor, he will most likely face a competitive primary, with Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman having already said she’s “seriously considering” running. If Pence wins the primary, his opponent may well be Sen. Evan Bayh, who was Indiana’s governor for two terms before serving in the U.S. Senate for twelve years. Bayh is not currently Indiana’s favorite Democrat, thanks to his last-minute decision not to run for re-election, a decision that many Democrats believe ensured that a Republican would win, as Dan Coats in fact did. But if Bayh decides to try to patch up his relations with state Democrats and run, he’ll be likely to mount a formidable campaign, although his more liberal Senate votes may prove to be an Achilles’ heel.

If Pence chooses to run for either governor or president, the intense competition will be a change for him. Running in a district rated R+10 by The Cook Political Report, Pence has trumped opponents by 20 to 35 points every time he has run for re-election. Another potentially tricky matter, if he goes national, will be appealing to non-conservative voters. In Indiana, many Democrats are somewhat conservative. “We’re not to be confused with Chicago, for example,” says Robert Dion, a political-science professor at the University of Evansville. “It’s a different animal.” McDaniel agrees, saying that Indiana Democrats are “Reagan Democrats.”

On the other hand, Pence, a former radio-show host, is noted for his communication skills. “He’s not as brusque or rough around the edges as some really hard-charging conservatives,” says Dion. “He might say the exact same thing, but it goes over better than some.” Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, talks about Pence’s ability to appeal to the grassroots and communicate “a vision that is really compelling, that gets people out of their seats and going door to door.”

Among some Pence partisans, there’s a sense that the conventional wisdom is wrong about the requirements for a presidential candidate. “High name ID and deep pockets are not all that they once were,” argues Kellyanne Conway, president of the polling company, inc./WomanTrend and a pollster for Pence. “Meg Whitman [the California gubernatorial candidate] spent $150 million and got about the same percentage of the vote as [Delaware Senate candidate] Christine O’Donnell.” Conway also points out that the new media landscape offers underdog candidates more opportunities to spread their message to the public rapidly and inexpensively.

Another undervalued asset is Pence’s Midwestern background. “In 2008, President Obama carried Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, and Ohio, gaining a total of 86 electoral votes,” Conway observes. “He is far less popular in all of them now, and Republicans just won statewide in each of them.” Ohio and Indiana are both considered battleground states, while Wisconsin’s recent election of Republican Ron Johnson for Senate could signal a shift to the right. However, Pence is not the only potential candidate who has this Midwestern edge. The speculative list of 2012 contenders also includes Indiana governor Mitch Daniels, Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, and South Dakota senator John Thune.

Ultimately, Pence’s strongest advantage may be his ability to build bridges within the GOP. “The Republican party is going through its own little growth pains here,” remarks Bauer, “and we see all the continued speculation about whether the party establishment can meld successfully with the new Tea Party activists and so forth. I think whoever we nominate in 2012 has to be somebody that can deal with, work with both of those impulses in the coalition, somebody who is respected by both of those groups.” Bauer believes that Pence is one of a “handful of people” who meet those qualifications.

So what will Pence do? He has said he will not make a decision until after January 1. “For now, we [the Pence family] will continue our duties serving the people of Indiana and do what we have always done in such times; we will wait on the Lord and follow where He leads,” he wrote in the letter announcing his resignation from the House leadership.

Bauer offers a less religious take on what Pence should do next. “Selfishly,” he says, “I would hate to surrender him back to Indiana at a time when the Republican party is desperately in need of competitive leadership.”

Lugar not too worried about a possible Tea Party challenge emerging in 2012

At The Hill:

Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) appears to be daring the Tea Party to challenge him in the 2012 Senate primary.

While most of his GOP colleagues are heeding the advice of their Senate campaign chiefs and preparing for conservative primary challengers, Lugar is bucking his party on several high-profile issues.

Last week, he split with Senate Republicans, rejecting a voluntary, two-year ban on congressional earmarks.

He posed for pictures with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) as part of a photo-op on the START arms-control treaty between the U.S. and Russia, which is expected to come up for a vote next month. Lugar, in contrast to most of his GOP colleagues, supports the treaty.

He’s also said he would vote to take up the defense authorization bill, which contains a repeal of the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, as long as Democrats allow a fair amendment process.

And he’s one of nine Republican senators who did not sign onto a legal brief challenging the healthcare reform law. Aside from Sen. Scott Brown (Mass.), Lugar is the only Republican up for reelection in 2012 who didn’t lend his name.

In an interview with The Hill, Lugar said he is well-aware of his differences with other Republicans, but denied the party has become too conservative for him or that he is considering retirement.

“These are just areas where I’ve had stances for a long time,” Lugar said. “I didn’t adopt them to be contrary. I think what’s occurring is, the Democrats are trying to get passage for things in the last stages of their majority, so a number of these issues have arisen because of that. I have no other explanation.”

In a political atmosphere that has seen successful Tea Party primary challenges to incumbent GOP senators such as Bob Bennett of Utah and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, some analysts say Lugar’s independent streak could spell trouble.

Stuart Rothenberg, editor and publisher of The Rothenberg Political Report, says Republican centrists such as Bob Corker (Tenn.), Olympia Snowe (Maine) and Lugar will be probable targets.

“If I was Dick Lugar, I would certainly expect a challenge,” he said. “Any Republican up in 2012 shouldn’t discount the possibility of a Tea Party challenge. Those voters have proven they are interested in forcing a certain discipline in the party, and anybody who veers away from that shouldn’t be surprised.”

But Lugar has several reasons to be confident. He recently released an internal poll that showed him as the most popular Republican in Indiana, and he has some $2.4 million in the bank.

Also, he saw Republican Dan Coats beat Tea Party favorites Marlin Stutzman and banker Don Bates Jr. in the 2010 Indiana GOP Senate primary. Coats went on to win the general election.

And Lugar hasn’t faced a tough election since 1982. 

But Tea Party groups are already batting around names for the 2012 primary, including Bates, conservative state Sen. Mike Delph and state Treasurer Richard Mourdock.

Another one to watch is Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels, whose term expires in 2012. He’s a Tea Party favorite, though there has been speculation Daniels will make a presidential bid. 

Lugar, 78, a native of Indianapolis, has already announced plans to seek reelection. He has served in the Senate since 1977, after eight years as Indianapolis mayor, and has twice chaired the Senate’s Agriculture and Foreign Relations committees. A frequent overseas traveler, he is widely respected in the GOP conference for his views on foreign policy, which Democrats are using to try to persuade other Republicans to support the START Treaty.

Lugar’s independent streak is well-known — a friend of the president’s, he voted for Obama’s two Supreme Court nominees, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor. He also co-sponsored the DREAM Act with Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), to provide a path to legal residency for children of illegal immigrants.

Citing that background, Jennifer Duffy, a senior editor and Senate analyst for The Cook Political Report, said Lugar is simply being himself. Like Rothenberg, she expects he will draw a primary challenge.

“His vote ratings on defense and foreign policy have always been a little more moderate,” Duffy said. “He’s also been very clear on his position on Supreme Court nominees — as long as they are qualified, then he would support them. These long-held views are very likely to earn Lugar a primary in 2012. But he remains popular and would be favored to win the nomination. This is not to say that he won’t have a lot of work to do to avoid suffering the fates of Sens. Bennett and Murkowski.”