Weekly Musing 2-9-14

Weekly Musing 2-9-14

Saul Anuzis

We bid a farewell to Jay Leno…

“I was going to start off tonight with an Obama joke, but I don’t want to get audited by the IRS.”

On NSA surveillance: “We wanted a president who listens to all Americans – now we have one.”

On a new IRS commissioner: “He’s called ‘acting commissioner’ because he has to act like the scandal doesn’t involve the White House.”

On closing the Guantanamo prison for terrorists: “If he really wants to close it, turn it into a government-funded solar power company. The doors will be shut in a month.”

Concerning the Benghazi, Associated Press, and IRS scandals: “Remember the old days when President Obama’s biggest embarrassment was Joe Biden?”

On Obama saying he didn’t know about the IRS scandal: “He was too busy not knowing anything about Benghazi to not know anything about the IRS.”

“The White House has a new slogan about Benghazi: Hope and change the subject.”

“It’s casual Friday, which means that at the White House, they’re casually going through everybody’s phone calls and records.”

“It is not looking good for President Obama. Today his teleprompter took the fifth.”

“Fox News has changed its slogan from ‘Fair and Balanced’ to ‘See, I told you so!'”

On Obama’s commencement address: “He told the young graduates their future is bright unless, of course, they want jobs.”

On a Chicago man who set a record for riding a Ferris wheel: “The only other way to go around and around in a circle that many times is to read the official report on Benghazi .”

On White House claims of ignorance on the scandals: “They took ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ out of the Pentagon and moved it into the White House.”


“These White House scandals are not going away anytime soon. It’s gotten so bad that People in Kenya are now saying he’s 100 percent American.”


Rick Snyder: Michigan’s Comeback Kid

Snyder for Governor Super Bowl commercial.


The Fix’s top 10 Senate races of 2014

Republicans need to pick up six seats to win the majority in November. Montana is one of three open seats, along with West Virginia and South Dakota, that are viewed as must-wins for the GOP.

Another factor to keep in mind: Appointed senators who run for their seats have only been elected about half the time, a University of Minnesota Smart Politics analysis shows. Being appointed and having a full term under your belt are very different things in the eyes of voters.


The Six Most Overrated Races of 2014

With the midterm election three-quarters of a year away, the political press is understandably focusing on the races with the biggest personalities and most dramatic storylines. But just because a race makes for great copy in February doesn’t mean it’s going to be all that compelling in November.

Take, for instance, this observation from ABC News: “No doubt about it: The Kentucky Senate race will be the most watched 2014 contest of them all, and the stakes could not be higher.”

Almost everyone appears to agree, to judge by the coverage so far. There’s been a sizable amount of ink spilled on the Kentucky contest because of its seemingly titanic implications: Could Mitch McConnell, in a year when he might otherwise become majority leader, actually be toppled in the Republican primary by an upstart Tea Party type, Matt Bevin? Or lose to the Democrat, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, in the general election?


Republicans face 2016 turmoil

As Republicans look ahead to the 2016 presidential race, they are hoping to avoid the kind of chaotic and protracted nominating battle that dismayed party elders and damaged the eventual candidacy of Mitt Romney.

That, however, could be a hard thing to prevent.

The party is divided and in turmoil, with a civil war raging between its establishment and insurgent factions. For the first time in memory, there is no obvious early favorite — no candidate with wide appeal who has run before, no incumbent president or vice president, no clear establishment pick.

Meanwhile, an enormous number of potential contenders are looking at the race, including, perhaps, a return of virtually everyone who ran in 2012. Come this time next year, 15 or more of them could be traveling the early primary states, jockeying for attention and money.


The Democrats Have Cash in All the Wrong Places

It’s no secret that the Democrats’ goal of winning the House back was always extremely difficult and does not appear to be getting any easier. In December, political scientist John Sides at George Washington University estimated that Democrats had a “just over 1 percent” chance of getting a majority in November. How anyone can say “just over 1 percent” or “just 2 percent” or even “just over 3 percent” is a bit beyond me. Most of us who watch congressional races for a living do put the odds at very long; we just don’t assign a percentage point of likelihood to it. David Wasserman, the House editor at The Cook Political Report, estimates that if the election were held today, Republicans would most likely gain a handful of seats. Put more conservatively, Democrats might gain two or three seats—far short of the 17 needed to flip control—while the GOP could gain eight or nine. Obviously, we have eight months to go before the election, and there is still time for things to get better, or worse, for Democrats.

The premise of the triage narrative, and the context of many recent conversations among Democrats, has been that their party’s hold on their Senate majority is growing increasingly tenuous, while their hopes of winning the House are increasingly unrealistic (barring a Republican effort to default on the national debt or something equally foolish and highly unlikely). Nevertheless, the DCCC has been raising money hand over fist, with the help of a tireless and determined Pelosi, along with DCCC Chairman Steve Israel and other leadership members. Even more important, the House Democrats’ campaign committee has been enormously successful in building, over the years, a massive pool of small donors. It initially did so through direct mail, then telemarketing, and most recently online outreach. The DCCC is arguably the most successful party campaign committee in terms of mass fundraising. The combination of Pelosi, the best non-presidential fundraiser in Democratic Party history, and a mass donor base has created a juggernaut that is largely independent of the Democrats’ actual chances of winning a majority.


Seeing villainy on the right – Many on the left have visceral hostility toward those with different opinions

One of the things that attracted me to the political left as a young man was a belief that leftists were for “the people.” Fortunately, I was also very interested in the history of ideas — and years of research in that field repeatedly brought out the inescapable fact that many leading thinkers on the left had only contempt for “the people.”

That has been true from the 18th century to the present moment. Even more surprising , I discovered over the years that leading thinkers on the opposite side of the ideological spectrum had more respect for ordinary people than people on the left who spoke in their name.
.. From the 18th century to today, many leading thinkers on the left have regarded those who disagree with them as being not merely factually wrong but morally repugnant. Again, this pattern is far less often found among those on the opposite side of the ideological spectrum.

The visceral hostility toward Sarah Palin by present-day liberals, and the gutter level to which some descend in expressing it, is just one sign of a mindset on the left that goes back more than two centuries….
The vision of the left is not just a vision of the world. For many, it is also a vision of themselves — a very flattering vision of people trying to save the planet, rescue the exploited, create “social justice” and otherwise be on the side of the angels. This is an exalting vision that few are ready to give up, or to risk on a roll of the dice, which is what submitting it to the test of factual evidence amounts to. Maybe that is why there are so many fact-free arguments on the left, whether on gun control, minimum wages or innumerable other issues — and why they react so viscerally to those who challenge their vision.


The Obamacare bailout battle

The latest Republican attack on Obamacare is powerful and simple: “no insurer bailouts.”

But never fear, Democrats are ready with a response: “Well, that’s not really what it is. The provision in question is actually called ‘risk corridors,’ which is a mechanism for compensating health insurers in case their actual costs are at least 3 percent higher than their projected costs. But it’s only temporary, until they get better data on who their customers are. And if their costs are lower than they expected, they actually pay the government. And besides … ”

You see the problem.

The last thing Democrats want to do, with a law as complicated and full of moving parts as the Affordable Care Act, is explain what the law actually does.

The Economist Who Exposed ObamaCare

One major risk is slower economic growth over time as people leave the workforce and contribute less to national prosperity. Another is that social programs with high marginal rates end up perpetuating the problems they’re supposed to be alleviating.

So amid the current wave of liberal ObamaCare denial about these realities, how did Mr. Mulligan end up conducting such “unconventional” research?

“Unconventional?” he asks with more than a little disbelief. “It’s not unconventional at all. The critique I get is that it’s not complicated enough.”

Well, then how come the CBO’s adoption of his insights is causing such a ruckus?

“I would phrase the question a little differently,” Mr. Mulligan responds, “which is: Why didn’t conventional economic analysis make its way to Washington? Why was I the only delivery boy? Why wasn’t there a laundry list?” The charitable explanation, he says, is that there was “a general lack of awareness” and economists simply didn’t realize everything that government was doing to undermine incentives for work. “You have to dig into it and see it,” he explains. “The Affordable Care Act’s not going to come and shake you out of your bed and say, ‘Look what’s in me.’ ”

Judging by their reaction to the CBO report, the less charitable explanation is that liberals would have preferred that the public never found out.


Republicans Are Wooing the Wired

After the 2012 elections, when Republicans and conservatives spent more than $1 billion trying and failing to unseat President Obama and win back the Senate, they concluded that they had fallen dangerously behind Democrats in the realm of technology. Now, with midterm elections just nine months away, the right is investing tens of millions of dollars to match the interactive platforms, grass-roots databases and sophisticated data analytics that allowed Democrats to identify voters, reach them with precision and persuade them to vote.

But first, the Republicans need the talent. In an industry where partisan politics has little cachet, and where prominent Republicans — like Meg Whitman of Hewlett-Packard — are relatively rare, the task of finding skilled programmers and engineers has fallen to scouts like Mr. Ginn.


A Real Equality Agenda  Let’s redistribute power, not income.

Putting aside the Democratic party’s situational ethics, what can we say about Obama’s agenda? In his State of the Union, he called for tax reform, more money for infrastructure spending, subsidies for tech companies and scientific research, more job training, universal pre-K education, promoting “equal pay for equal work” for women, and raising the minimum wage. These are fairly stale policy prescriptions, but from a political standpoint there is something to be said for wrapping them up in a call to end inequality. After all, who is opposed to that? How can anybody oppose giving the poorest workers a raise, or guaranteeing universal pre-K, without coming across like Ebenezer Scrooge? More broadly, how can conservatives hope to build a broad-based political coalition against a left making these sorts of populist appeals?

One thing they should certainly do is highlight the deep problems with Obama’s agenda. The first, and most obvious, is that the government has demonstrated a knack for being a perpetrator of the very ailments Obama promises to ameliorate. Just as the economic marketplace creates winners and losers, so also does the political marketplace. In important respects, the political marketplace is worse, for political winners get to embed their privileges into the law itself. It is fair to ask: How can one trust a government to solve the very problem it has helped create?


Candidates and capitalism

Those who advocate for market capitalism and limited government must be able to explain that those who gain the most from this system are the poor. In 1927 Ludwig von Mises wrote a book, Liberalism in the Classical Tradition, in which he details why only market capitalism can create wealth for the masses. One of his major points was that if one makes an argument for capitalism over government planning many people will say that you are simply making a case for a system that benefits primarily the wealthy. The truth is that it is the poor who benefit from the system of social cooperation known as capitalism.

Candidates for political office must be able to explain in a clear and concise manner that their concern is for the poor and that the only way to help the poor is to allow markets to work and limit government to the protection of life, liberty, and property. Empirically this should be obvious.


Demographics and the GOP

I cobbled together some data that underscore my concern–data based on previously published works, including an essay in COMMENTARY I co-authored with Michael Gerson, articles by Jeffrey Bell in the Weekly Standard and Ron Brownstein in National Journal, an essay by my Ethics and Public Policy Center colleague Henry Olsen in National Affairs, and portions of the book Double Down by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann. Below are the data points along with links to the sources (note: the paragraphs are taken from the original sources, in some cases with very minor changes for the purposes of clarification). Readers might find this of interest.

My purpose with this post is to present the empirical data, not to interpret it, except to say this: Republican problems are not superficial, transient, or cyclical. The trends speak for themselves. The GOP therefore needs to articulate a governing vision and develop a governing agenda that can reach groups that have not traditionally been supportive of it. Republicans, at least when it comes to presidential elections, have a winning message for an electorate that no longer exists.

For the GOP to revivify itself and enlarge its appeal, Republicans at every level will have to think creatively even as they remain within the boundaries of their core principles. It isn’t an easy task, but it’s certainly not an impossible one. (Bill Clinton did this for the Democratic Party in 1992 and Tony Blair did this for the Labour Party in 1997.) It would of course help if those speaking for the party were themselves irenic rather than angry, inviting rather than off-putting, individuals of conviction who also possess the gift of persuasion and a certain grace. “You know what charm is,” Albert Camus wrote in The Fall, “a way of getting the answer yes without having asked any clear question.”

Whether Republicans understand the nature of the challenges they face–and if they do how they intend to deal with them and who will emerge from their ranks to lead them–will go a long way toward determining the future of their party and their country.


Where did Everybody go? Census Data. – A Cool Tool.

You can plow through spreadsheets available for downloading here and learn, for example, that Hennepin County had a bigger net out-migration than any other Minnesota county, although it’s not what you’d expect.

Outside the state, the biggest net recipient of Hennepin County residents was not Maricopa County, Arizona (Phoenix), not Harris County, Texas (Houston), not Broward County, Florida. It was Cass County, N.D., home of Fargo.

But you can have more fun using the Census Flows Mapper. Click on any county in the country and see where everybody’s going.


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