Monday, June 13, 2011

America's Fading Exceptionalism

Only serious leadership on immigration, the national debt, and unemployment will make America great once again

From Mort Zuckerman:

Our 21st century does not seem to be on course to be described as the "American century," the title indubitably merited for the 20th century. For most of the last 100 years, America was fairly characterized by the Economist as "the lord of all it surveyed . . . convinced of its supreme benevolence, and the engine of a productivity miracle that left Europeans in awe." Of all the great nations that have left their mark on modern civilization, none has matched the United States in both economic and cultural sway over life on the planet.
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The rise of America was meteoric. Early in the 19th century, it produced less than 2 percent of global output. Britain's Queen Victoria reigned over a fifth of the Earth's surface and Britain dominated world trade; one third of all seagoing ships were British; of 1,000 tons of cargo passing through the Suez Canal, 700 tons were British, 95 were German, and only 2 were American. Not much more than 50 years later, the United States produced 36 percent of global economic output. Mark Twain captured the mood of this ascendant America: It enjoyed "the serene confidence which a Christian feels in four aces."
Today the aces represent a core competency in creating a populist and upwardly mobile society: We remain first in total R&D expenditures, the first in university rankings and in Nobel prizes, the first on all indices of entrepreneurship.
America is indebted to the philosophers of the Enlightenment and to English law, but American exceptionalism is founded on a freer, more individualistic, more democratic, more open, and more dynamic society than any other. We learned from the past and then we forgot it, as we sought to forge an even better future.
The legal basis is a written Constitution that means what it says. It has prevailed longer than any on Earth and has provided us with the solid rule of law for a republic that evolved into a model of ordered liberty and self-government, with respect for property rights, enshrining equality before the law, and freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and religion. The result is a free market and a clear sense not just of what the government should do, but what the government should not do. We have no five- or 10-year plans formulated by a central power. We are not subservient to some outdated theory or ideology. As Alexis de Tocqueville wrote, America—after independence—has been able to enjoy the fruits of revolution without really having one.
Culturally, the phenomenon that Henry Luce noted in 1941 became even truer in the 21st century: that the only things every community from Hamburg to Zanzibar recognizes are American music, Hollywood movies and TV shows, electronic games, Google, and consumer brands, which is why U.S. multinationals from McDonald's to Apple book large portions of their revenues overseas.
Our common conviction that America was different—an exception to the rise and fall of nations—was rudely interrupted in 1957 when Sputnik's beeps from 560 miles above the Earth told the world that the Soviets had beaten America into space. President Kennedy famously committed to top that by putting a man on the moon. And we did.
In those days, three quarters of the American public told pollsters they trusted our government to do the right thing most of the time. That confidence inspired generation after generation to make the difficult decisions and, yes, the occasional sacrifices required by their times. Now the confidence has collapsed. Only 19 percent of us are basically content with our government.
There is apprehension that something elemental is changing and eroding the notion of exceptionalism, even perhaps in the national character. The fiscal danger we have imposed upon ourselves is but one symptom of the profligacy of our society reflected in an incompetent and dysfunctional government, no matter which party is in power. [Check out political cartoons about the budget and deficit.]
Americans worry more than ever that their children will not enjoy the opportunities long taken for granted. The declining American leadership role in the world over the last couple of decades may have been obscured by the collapse of the Soviet Union and an early American lead in information technology, but those days are past. Countries that once looked to the United States for guidance on major international issues are now ignoring Washington's counsel and deriding its leadership.
The economic rise in the Asian heartland may well be the central geopolitical fact of our era. News stories increasingly compare America to China and its advantage, but it is not just the shifting of economic power away from the United States. It is a sense we have mismanaged our leadership, unaware of Earth tremors. Our response to the upheaval in the Arab world was muddled, so that now there is the prospect that Egypt might well be dominated by radical Islamists hostile to our ideals and our interests while our longtime ally Saudi Arabia is deeply alienated from the United States. We may yet see what has happened in the Middle East as one of the great strategic defeats in the history of U.S. foreign policy, comparable to the conversion of China to communism. [See editorial cartoons about the Middle East uprisings.]
At home, we face an unprecedented decline in family cohesion, with about one third of American children being raised by a single parent, a condition that often has deleterious effects on their academic achievements, social skills, and even character formation. Nationally, our public education system struggles to overcome the consequences—and fails. We have too many teachers who are unable to meet the challenges.
Here is one reason why we have to reconceptualize immigration: We need the talent. Immigrants have famously contributed to our stock of human capital, a resource that is now even more important in the high-tech, knowledge-based global economy. We exhibit big "Keep Out!" and "Go Home!" signs. We restrict entry of the highly skilled, and immigrants who succeed in coming here are forced out of the country. Roughly one third of all doctoral students are foreigners, yet once they earn their advanced degrees in our top universities, we escort many of them to the border and wish them goodbye as they go on to join our biggest competitors. They should be offered a clearer path to citizenship because they are job creators, not job destroyers, and we should avoid taxing their foreign income until they become citizens.
As to the benefits of immigrant talent, look at Silicon Valley, where over half the science and engineering workforce is foreign-born and where one in four engineering and technology companies have at least one immigrant founder. These companies have generated hundreds of thousands of jobs. [Check out political cartoons about immigration.]
We need them. The American people are enduring the highest unemployment rate since the Great Depression, stagnating living standards, an economy slow to create jobs, a government saddled by gigantic deficits, and a sense that our politicians, including our president, are not loading the bases for a great recovery. Our politicians remind us of what the Peanuts cartoon character Linus said to Lucy after she asked him why he polished only the fronts of his shoes: "I'm interested only in what people think of me as I enter the room."
It's no surprise that virtually every poll says that America is on the wrong track, in numbers that sometimes exceed 70 percent.
We waste vast amounts of money on subsidies for housing, agriculture, and health, many of which distort the economy and do little for long-term growth, while we spend too little on science, technology, innovation, infrastructure, and education. Who would have imagined that the credit rating of the United States would be put on financial watch by Standard & Poor's? Or that a country of pioneers and self-made men would evolve into a culture of entitlement, where special interest groups take bite after bite out of the total national wealth through special appropriations, earmarks, tax breaks, and other favors that are all easier to initiate than to end?
A new generation is coming of age that looks over its shoulder and sees a government in disarray, unable to make the wise and tough decisions to get things done and instead passing them off to some other body or future generation. Too many of us see a political leadership that lacks the character or capacity to build a consensus for the kind of constructive bipartisan compromise we have known even in fractious political times. We look for someone who fits Harry Truman's definition of a leader: "a man who has the ability to get other people to do what they don't want to do and like it."
The public knows that we must find a way to live within our means. Shuffle the numbers as you may, the level of debt we carry is unsustainable. It brings to mind the character in an Ernest Hemingway novel who was asked, "How did you go bankrupt?" "Two ways," he answered, "gradually and then suddenly." That is the course our country is on today. It is no use if our political leaders say they are doing their best. They have to do what is necessary. We understand that politicians and diapers have one thing in common—they should be changed regularly and for the same reason.
These are grave anxieties, and yet it would be un-American to lose hope entirely. Of all Alexis de Tocqueville's judgments, none was truer than this one: "The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults." To which I would add: Make haste with the repairs.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Conservatives Insuperable If Inseparable

From Tony Blankley at RealClearPolitics:

 had the honor of speaking last weekend at the Faith and Freedom Conference, at which most of the candidates for the Republican presidential nomination were the star attractions. The conference, led by Ralph Reed, brought together the nation's leading (what is called) social conservatives.

Politico's reporting of the two-day event typified the tone. "The day after Haley Barbour implored the crowd not to put ideological purity over pragmatism for the general election as they pick a 2012 GOP candidate, Rick Santorum took to the podium at the Faith and Freedom Coalition conference in Washington to make a different case. In a strong pitch to the mostly evangelical crowd on Saturday morning, the former Pennsylvania senator cast social conservative issues as the defining ones for the country -- and for the Republican Party."

It is true that many conservative commentators and some candidates see social conservatism and economic conservatism as in both conceptual and electoral competition with each other. Certainly, Democratic Party strategists hope that is how the two main components of modern conservatism see each other.

And because America has been a right-of-center country since our founding, conservatives tend to lose national elections when we are the victims, often self-inflicted, of the liberal strategy against us of Divide et Impera (Divide and Rule) -- what James Madison called "the reprobated axiom of tyranny." Once again this season, well-intentioned conservatives and Republicans see an ideological conflict that need not exist.
My understanding of conservatism and my experience in presidential campaigns (starting in Barry Goldwater's 1964 primary campaign in California against Nelson Rockefeller) is to the contrary. Strong support for tradition, custom, moral behavior and religious faith (so-called social conservatism) is the equal handmaiden of free-market capitalism advocacy. They are the two parts that make up the one, whole concept of political conservatism.

This conceptual unity of principle was established at the very founding of capitalism. The efficacy of free markets was most famously articulated by Adam Smith in 1776 when he published "Wealth of Nations." But Smith had first described the moral context in which capitalism could be successful in his earlier book, "The Theory of Moral Sentiments" published in 1759. It is only the force of moral sentiment that bridles capitalism from straying toward pure materialism. And unbridled pure materialism -- whether of the left or right --ends up in reigns of terror, gulags and holocausts.

These principles were very well represented in Goldwater's 1964 presidential campaign, although recently, it has become fashionable to mischaracterize Goldwater -- the political father of modern American conservatism -- as libertarian on religious and social issues. In his book "Conscience of a Conservative" and in the 1964 campaign, he was anything but libertarian on social issues. It was my first campaign, and I remember it pretty well.(Andrew Busch's 2006 article "The Goldwater Myth" in the Claremont Review of Books is excellent on this topic, and from which I have refreshed my recollection of Goldwater's precise words from half a century ago).

Consider how Goldwater asserted his religious "social conservative" principles to re-enforce his conservative economic principles. In his acceptance speech, he argued for "freedom under a government limited by the laws of nature and of nature's God ... Those who elevate the state and downgrade the citizen must see ultimately a world in which earthly power can be substituted for Divine Will, and this nation was founded upon the rejection of that notion and upon the acceptance of God as the author of freedom."
That is the foundation of an argument that could be used effectively today against the hubristic government powers installed under Obamacare -- making both an "economic" and "social" conservative case.
Consider how the vital conservative case for free-market capitalism is made more powerful -- is made complete -- in the first chapter of Goldwater's book:

"The root difference between the conservatives and the liberals of today is that conservatives take account of the whole man, while liberals tend to look only at the material side of man's nature. The conservative believes that man is, in part, an economic, an animal creature; but that he is also a spiritual creature with spiritual needs and spiritual desires. What is more, those needs and desires reflect the superior side of man's nature, and thus take precedence over his economic wants. Conservatism therefore looks upon the enhancement of man's spiritual nature as the primary concern of political philosophy. Man's most sacred possession is his individual soul."

Republican primary voters should be looking for the candidate who best articulates the balanced case for conservative governing principles. We should be looking for the candidate who unites us into a national majority, not the ones who divide us into our mere component parts.

Sir Edward Coke -- the great 17th-century English common law jurist --implored parliament to work together and avoid being the victims of the tactic of Divide et Impera: "Eritis insuperabiles, si fueritis inseparabiles. (You would be insuperable if you were inseparable.)

So, if we better understand the wholeness of our political principles, we will unite in winning the election for conservatism ----rather than divide in our dissent from a re-elected Obama.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Jobs Slump — It's The Policy, Stupid

At Investors Business Daily:

Recession: Two years into a "recovery," the unemployment rate leaps to 9.1% and just 54,000 new jobs are created. Is this just "bumps on the road to recovery," as the White House insists, or something more dangerous?
This has been the most miserable recovery in modern history. Not only are there not enough jobs being created, but also the economy itself looks to be stalling.
Gross domestic product grew a paltry 1.8% during the first quarter, and most economists expect something similar for the second quarter. Double dip? It's possible.
As we noted earlier last week before the new jobs data came out, the U.S. is already in a growth recession — defined as an economy that's growing too slowly to keep unemployment from rising.
Yet the Obama administration is crowing about its accomplishments as if slowing growth and rising joblessness have nothing to do with its bad policies.
"The initiatives put in place by this administration — such as the payroll tax cut and business incentives for investment — have contributed to solid employment growth overall this year, but this report is a reminder of the challenges that remain," said Austan Goolsbee, Obama's top economic adviser.
"Solid employment growth"? Since the end of last year, job growth has averaged 130,500 a month — about the number of people who enter the workforce each month. That's not "solid" enough.
By the way, the unemployment rate has been below 9% for just five months since Obama took office — and three of those months were in the first 12 weeks of his presidency, before his policies took effect.
Even so, President Obama on Friday visited Chrysler workers, lauding the government's bailout for the re-emergence of the auto industry, which has added 113,000 jobs over the last two years.
What he didn't say was that GM, the bailout's poster boy, lost taxpayers $14 billion, and the total cost of his stimulus and bailout plan has now risen to $830 billion.
Obama was unflappable. "This economy took a big hit — it's taking a while to mend," he told Chrysler workers, reciting high gas prices, Japan's earthquake and the Mideast as the "head winds" facing the economy.
How about the head wind of bad government policies that, based on Congressional Budget Office data, have cost the economy over $760 billion in lost economic output in the past two years — and millions of jobs?
This lost output is the Obamanomics growth tax. Too much tinkering, too much debt, too much spending.
"By failing to alleviate the uncertainty businesses are feeling, Washington continues to stifle hiring," said Chamber of Commerce economist Martin Regalia.
This "uncertainty," by the way, is why businesses, with their $2 trillion in cash, stay on the sidelines. At this point in a recovery, they should be adding hundreds of thousands of workers each month.
That they aren't is a damning indictment of Obama's big-spending, high-debt, Keynesian strategy that has emerged as one of the great failures of economic policy-making in modern times.

Obama and the Debt Crisis

To lead us out of it, he will need to learn some new political skills.

The debate in Washington is serious as a heart attack: whether the United States should raise its debt ceiling so it can borrow more money to stay afloat. The statutory ceiling on our national debt—our legal borrowing limit—is $14.3 trillion. That limit was reached, according to the Treasury Department, on May 16. Treasury says it can make do until early August, when the ceiling must be raised by $2.4 trillion.
Congressional Republicans have made their stand clear: They will agree to raise the limit only if it is accompanied by spending cuts or reforms.
The Democrats want to raise the ceiling, period.
The Republicans are being hard-line because of the base, and the base is hard-line for two reasons. First, we are in an unprecedented debt crisis. Second, the past 40 years have taught them that if dramatic action is not taken to stanch spending, Congress will spend more. Something is needed to shock the system.
If Republicans can get the White House to cut where the money is—Medicare—then Medicare, and all controversy over the Ryan plan, will be taken off the table as an issue in the 2012 election. This would not be good for Democrats. Democrats in turn would likely make some cuts in spending if Republicans agree to some tax increases. But that would take a great Republican issue off the table.
This week the House voted 318-97 against raising the ceiling without cutting. The president and a group of House Republicans met this week to talk about the apparent impasse. There is a chance they won't come to any agreement by August.
If no agreement is reached, what happens? Nobody knows, because it's never happened before. But economists warn: The dollar could crash, interest rates spike, equity markets melt. Foreign investors would lose confidence that America is worth risking their money and that Washington is able to face and handle a crisis.
Princeton economist Alan Blinder has noted in these pages that the bills for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, defense and interest on the national debt amount to about two-thirds of all federal outlays. "At some point [Treasury Secretary Timothy] Geithner could wind up brooding over horrible questions like these: Do we stop issuing checks for Social Security benefits, or for soldiers' pay, or for interest payments to the Chinese government?"
All of this sounds fairly catastrophic, especially considering this week's evidence that America's economic recovery is stalled. Housing prices are down, job creation weak, manufacturing growth slowed, factory activity down. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 280 points on Wednesday.
So this would seem to be a bad time to be playing chicken.
Democrats think if push comes to shove and an agreement is not reached, public opinion will go against the Republicans. This may be true. Republicans think if agreement is not reached, responsibility will redound on the president. They may be true too.
But again, this isn't a good time to play Let's Find Out.
Democrats are right that the debt ceiling must be raised. Republicans are right that the decision to raise the debt ceiling must be accompanied by reforms or cuts to spending that equal or exceed the amount of the raise, $2.4 trillion. Here's why.
Default is unthinkable. We are the United States of America, and we pay our bills.
Raising the ceiling without attempting to control spending is a depressing and wearying thought. It will avert crisis, yes, but there would be no gain in it beyond that. It would demonstrate to the world that we are not capable of taking necessary steps to dig our way out of the spending mess. It would mean things just continue as they are.
But cutting and reforming—showing we can make tough decisions in a crisis—will reassure the world, and our creditors. It will increase faith in the United States, and increase an American sense of well being: "We can do this, we can make it better." It would be very good to leave the world saying, "My God, the Americans are still competent."
Washington should forget taxes for now—fight that out later. The polls are all over the place, and no feasible amount of new revenue is going to make a difference. Cutting is what matters. And the president could play it so that he doesn't lose. A crisis would have been averted—on his watch. He could claim to have been conciliatory, looking out for the national interest. The left won't like it, but the center will. And he will have shown he can work closely and in good faith with Republicans, who control the House.
On that, a word. Talks on the debt ceiling will no doubt continue, but there is an Obama problem there, and it's always gotten in the way. He really dislikes the other side, and can't fake it. This is peculiar in a politician, the not faking it. But he doesn't bother to show warmth and high regard. And so appeals to patriotism—"Come on guys, we have to save this thing"—ring hollow from him. In this he is the un-Clinton. Bill Clinton understood why conservatives think what they think because he was raised in the South. He was surrounded by them, and he wasn't by nature an ideologue.
He absorbed not the biases of his region but of his generation and his education (Ivy League). He had ambition: Liberalism was rising and he'd rise with it. And on the signal issues of his youth, Vietnam and race, he thought the Democrats of the 1970s were right. But that didn't mean he didn't understand and feel some sympathy for conservatives, and as a political practitioner he had a certain sympathy for the predicaments of his fellow pols. That's why he could play ball with Newt Gingrich and the class of 1994: because he didn't quite hate everything they stood for. He had a saving ambivalence.
Barack Obama is different, not a political practitioner, really, but something else, and not a warm-blooded animal but a cool, chill character, a fish who sits deep in the tank and stares, stilly, at the other fish.
He doesn't know how to confuse his foes with "outreach," with phone calls, jokes, affection. He doesn't leave them saying, as Reagan did, "I just can't help it, I like the guy." And because he can't confuse them or reach them they more readily coalesce around their own explanation of him: socialist, destroyer.
This isn't good, and has had an impact on the president's contacts with Republicans. And it's added an edge to an emerging campaign theme among them. Two years ago I wrote of Clare Booth Luce's observation that all presidents have a sentence: "He fought to hold the union together and end slavery." "He brought America through economic collapse and a world war." You didn't have to be told it was Lincoln, or FDR. I said that Mr. Obama didn't understand his sentence. But Republicans now think they know it.
Four words: He made it worse.
Obama inherited financial collapse, deficits and debt. He inherited a broken political culture. These things weren't his fault. But through his decisions, he made them all worse.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Economic Stagnation Explained, at 30,000 Feet

Steven Carter at

The man in the aisle seat is trying to tell me why he refuses to hire anybody. His business is successful, he says, as the 737 cruises smoothly eastward. Demand for his product is up. But he still won’t hire.
“Why not?”
“Because I don’t know how much it will cost,” he explains. “How can I hire new workers today, when I don’t know how much they will cost me tomorrow?”
He’s referring not to wages, but to regulation: He has no way of telling what new rules will go into effect when. His business, although it covers several states, operates on low margins. He can’t afford to take the chance of losing what little profit there is to the next round of regulatory changes. And so he’s hiring nobody until he has some certainty about cost.
It’s a little odd to be having this conversation as the news media keep insisting that private employment is picking up. But as economists have pointed out to all who will listen, the only real change is that the rate of layoffs has slowed. Fewer than one of six small businesses added jobs last year, and not many more expect to do so this year. The private sector is creating no more new jobs than it was a year ago; the man in the aisle seat is trying to tell me why.
He is trim and white-haired and bursting with energy. He’s proud of the business he has built: not large by the way things are measured these days, but certainly successful. He shows me sales figures, award citations, stories from trade magazines. I congratulate him, then turn to the window and enjoy the view for a bit. We are flying over the Midwest, away from the setting sun and toward the darkness. America stretches beneath us in every direction, flat and broad and beautiful. My seat-mate has just discovered that I am a law professor: That is the reason for his discourse.

Party Doesn’t Matter

“I don’t understand why Washington does this to us," he resumes. By "us," he means people who run businesses of less- than-Fortune-500 size. He tells me that it doesn’t much matter which party is in office. Every change of power means a whole new set of rules to which he and those like him must respond. ‘‘I don’t understand,” he continues, “why Washington won’t just get out of our way and let us hire.”
There are a lot of responses I could offer at this point. But I am interested now; I prefer to let him talk.
It isn’t just hiring that is too unpredictable, he says. He feels the same way about investing. He has never liked stock markets; he prefers to put cash directly into businesses he likes in return for a small stake, acting, in short, as a small- time venture capitalist.
“Can’t do that now,” he says. For people like him -- people who aren’t filthy rich -- it has become too hard to pick winners. But he doesn’t blame the great information advantages enjoyed by insiders. He blames Washington, once more, for creating a climate of uncertainty.

Thinking of Selling

Growing bold -- or maybe rude -- I ask why, if the climate is so terrible, he doesn’t just sell his company. This brings a smile.
“I think about retirement a lot,” he says. “But I can’t.” I wait to hear about how much he loves the business he founded, or about his responsibilities to his employees, or perhaps to the town, somewhere in the Dakotas, where his factory is located. Instead, he tells me that it’s impossible to make a sensible decision about winding down his firm when he doesn’t even know from one year to the next what the capital gains rate is going to be.
I argue a bit. Surely government isn’t all bad. It protects property, the environment, civil rights . . .

No `Installed Base'

My seat-mate seems to think that I’m missing the point. He’s not anti-government. He’s not anti-regulation. He just needs to know as he makes his plans that the rules aren’t going to change radically. Big businesses don’t face the same problem, he says. They have lots of customers to spread costs over. They have “installed base.”
For medium-sized firms like his, however, there is little wiggle room to absorb the costs of regulatory change. Because he possesses neither lobbyists nor clout, he says, Washington doesn’t care whether he hires more workers or closes up shop.
We will be landing shortly in Minneapolis. I ask him what, precisely, he thinks is the proper role of government as it relates to business.


“Invisible,” he says. “I know there are things the government has to do. But they need to find a way to do them without people like me having to bump into a new regulation every time we turn a corner.” He reflects for a moment, then finds the analogy he seeks. “Government should act like my assistant, not my boss.”
We are at the gate. We exchange business cards.
On the way to my connection, I ponder. As an academic with an interest in policy, I tend to see businesses as abstractions, fitting into a theory or a data set. Most policy makers do the same. We rarely encounter the simple human face of the less- than-giant businesses we constantly extol. And when they refuse to hire, we would often rather go on television and call them greedy than sit and talk to them about their challenges.
Recessions have complex causes, but, as the man on the aisle reminded me, we do nothing to make things better when the companies on which we rely see Washington as adversary rather than partner.
(Stephen L. Carter, a Bloomberg View columnist, is a professor of law at Yale University. The opinions expressed are his own.)

Holding the Hoosier State Hostage


If consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, the Obama administration must be thronged with elves. For the second time this year, the Obama health-plex is staking an entire government funding stream on the retention of full subsidies for Planned Parenthood.
In April it was the fate of a continuing resolution to fund the entire federal government for the rest of this fiscal year. President Obama personally threatened to veto the cut of a single federal dollar for the abortion-industry giant when it was one of only two issues stymieing agreement with congressional Republicans. Now, thanks to a letter from the Center for Medicaid Services and its recess-appointed chief, Donald Berwick, Indiana’s entire $4 billion federal allotment for Medicaid is at risk — all because the Indiana legislature had the temerity to disallow Planned Parenthood’s participation in its state Medicaid plan.
Indiana is hardly alone in its sentiment that the house that Margaret Sanger built doesn’t help the neighborhood. Its decision to deny Planned Parenthood participation in programs that provide STD testing, family planning, and other services mirrors the House of Representatives’ decision to defundthe agency entirely and the preferences of several other states as well. A series of Supreme Court rulings decades ago ratified the constitutionality of municipal hospitals deciding to defund abortion and favor childbirth services over abortion; it is no less sensible for a state to disfavor subsidies of any kind for agencies that clearly favor abortion over childbirth.
Hoosier officials point out that the women’s health services the federal Medicaid program underwrites – encompassing all of Planned Parenthood’s non-abortion repertoire — are amply covered by other outfits. Indiana has some 800 qualified providers who manage to deliver care without controversy. Federal officials insist that states can’t curtail funding for agencies based on their “scope of services,” but only on grounds of fraud or other malfeasance. Planned Parenthood’srecord on the financial-responsibility front, however, is less than stellar.
Indiana’s attorney general says that the state will continue to contest a Planned Parenthood lawsuit insisting it is entitled to taxpayer support. The pressure from Washington may become irresistible if Berwick and company follow through on their implicit threat to withhold every dollar of federal medical aid to the poor unless Indiana relents. That fact is a sober reminder that more is at stake in this battle than the fungibility of abortion revenue. The federal health-care bureaucracy is an unelected piper calling an increasingly aggressive tune. When 2013 rolls around and Obamacare takes full effect, that tune will rise to a symphonic roar.
— Charles A. Donovan is senior research fellow in the DeVos Center on Religion and Civil Society at the Heritage Foundation.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Some Immigrants Turn to Tea Party

From Roll Call:

Lolita Mancheno-Smoak, an immigrant from Ecuador who once dreamed of becoming her country’s president, has found an unlikely home in the tea party movement.
When she launched her campaign for county school board last week at Brion’s Grille in Fairfax, Va., she was not alone — flanked by immigrants from Europe, Asia and Latin America who have joined tea party groups in the face of unrelenting criticism that the movement is isolationist and anti-immigrant.
Mancheno-Smoak, who started attending tea party meetings in February, is one of several immigrants running for local office in Virginia under the tea party banner.
Tito Muñoz, a Colombian immigrant who owns a construction company and won the nickname “Tito the Builder” as a vocal supporter of Sen.John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2008, is running for Virginia Senate. Jo-Ann Chase, a Puerto Rican, says she is the first Latina candidate for a state House seat.
In Northern Virginia, many of the immigrants who have gravitated to the tea party have roots in socialist countries and are intensely afraid that the U.S. is headed down the same path. They embrace the tea party’s small government, socially conservative messages and say the only immigration they are for is the legal kind. They don’t bat an eye when it comes to the movement’s tough anti-illegal-immigrant rhetoric.
Muñoz hosts a one-hour Spanish language radio show called “America Eres Tu” broadcast Saturday afternoons on WURA 920 AM out of a trailer in Dumfries, Va.  He prints copies of the Constitution in Spanish and answers questions about U.S. politics from those who are new to the country.
“If the immigrants understood what was happening in America there would be a revolt against those politicians,” said Muñoz, who became a citizen in 2008. “Obama’s talking one way and doing another and the Hispanics do not know about that hanky-panky.”
He has launched a state political action committee, TitoPAC, and a federal 527 called the Conservative Hispanic Coalition, to fund his run for state Senate.
“Why do immigrants leave their country? Because they don’t have opportunity and they don’t have freedom, because politicians control everything,” he said. “We come to America and we are going to have the same crap? Then we might as well go back there.”
Genaro Pedroarias, the national committeeman of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly of Virginia, said the tea party is a natural fit for many of northern Virginia’s immigrants from countries like Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua.
“Most Hispanics who come to this country come here to flee socialistic and oppressive regimes,” said Pedroarias, who is Cuban. “They are some of the most vibrant members of the tea party.”
Lin Dai Kendall, who left Honduras when she was 33, blames the U.S. immigration system for persistent unemployment among those who are here legally. She’s part Chinese, part Spanish and part Hispanic and doesn’t hesitate to call President Barack Obama a Marxist.
“These people want to call themselves progressive; I call them regressive,” Kendall said. “What is immoral to me is standing there with my hand out waiting for the government to support me.”
Vera Martin moved to the U.S. from what is now the Czech Republic when she was 5 years old. Now, she is hitting the campaign trail for her husband, who is running for state Senate, and Mancheno-Smoak.
“I come from a socialist country,” said Martin, who worked for a consulting firm that helped her country’s transition to capitalism after the fall of the Communist Soviet Union. “I know what socialism means. I know what socialized health care is like and I know what you pay to support that system.”
Latinos voted for Obama over McCain by a margin of more than 2-to-1 in 2008, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. But his failure to deliver on his promise for comprehensive immigration reform has many feeling disheartened.
Muñoz and tea party-affiliated immigrants said the news media are just as complicit as the politicians, casting the tea party as anti-immigrant and racist – which he calls lies and propaganda.
The push to diversify the tea party movement comes from national umbrella organizations like FreedomWorks as well as from the community groups themselves. Roll Call reported last month about a national effort, beginning in Texas, to help tea party groups reach out to minorities using organizing tactics developed by liberal organizations.
“There is no way to deny it; the majority of them are white men,” said Kim Jossfolk, an organizer with a tea party group in Alexandria, Va. “We have a lot of minorities who I think are afraid to come to our meetings, not because we would do anything to them but because their communities look at them as some kind of traitor.”
Jossfolk, who is white, has invited Herman Cain, the black Republican presidential candidate, to address her group and works frequently with the offices of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who is Hispanic, and Reps.Allen West (R-Fla.) and David Scott (D-Ga.), who are black.
The tea party, much like the Republican Party, needs to focus on refining its tone on immigration issues or else it runs the risk of alienating Hispanics, noted David Cardenas, who partnered with Jeb Bush Jr. to found SunPac, a Florida-based group dedicated to engaging Hispanics in the political process.
“Even when there is a different political perspective, the tone is almost as important,” said Cardenas whose father, Alberto, was recently named head of the American Conservative Union. “They need to make inroads in the Hispanic community or they are going to be in trouble.”
If Democrats and Republicans both struggle with reaching immigrants, then the tea party may very well be the answer.
“To me, anyone that left their country to come to this country is a tea partyer,” said Marta Saltus, one of Smoak’s supporters whose family is Argentinean.