Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Democrat lurch Leftwards

The New Democrats were born in the 1980s, in response to Ronald Reagan's triumphs. Prominent Democrats worried the party was out of touch, and created the Democratic Leadership Council. Its members were foreign-policy hawks, unafraid of cultural conservatism, and preached economic centrism. Their poster boy: Bill Clinton. The 1990s were their midlife heyday, though even then the New Dems struggled. Party liberals despised Mr. Clinton's embrace of free trade, hated his accommodation of welfare reform, cringed when he pronounced "the era of big government" over. But no one could deny his success at giving the party its first two full terms in the White House since FDR. So they shut up and went along.

When Mr. Clinton left, so did the most prominent New Democratic voice. Party liberals have been reasserting control ever since. Howard Dean's 2004 consolation prize was the Democratic National Committee. Nancy Pelosi became House Speaker in 2006, and gave back committee chairs to the old 1960s liberal bulls. And now comes Mr. Obama, the party's most liberal nominee since Hubert Humphrey.

What's left of the New Democratic agenda? On foreign policy, Bill Clinton engaged in Bosnia, and as recently as 2004 John Kerry saw the wisdom of running as at least a moderate hawk. But today's unpopular war has only emboldened the party to revert to its antiwar comfort zone. Mr. Obama calls for an immediate pullout of troops from Iraq, no matter what the consequences. His foreign policy, to the extent it is one, flows not from strength, but from greater American accommodation in the name of diplomacy. Mrs. Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have together held some 72 votes on Iraq, most devoted to cutting off troop money, blocking the surge, or forcing a pullout. Last year, all but 10 House Democrats voted for a withdrawal timeline.

Economic centrism? What's that? Even Mr. Clinton's wife disavowed his New Democratic legacy by trashing free trade and Nafta. Mr. Obama raised her bet, aligning himself with leftist trade populists. The Democratic leadership has held up deals with Colombia, Peru and South Korea. Big Labor is calling the shots, and Big Labor will suffer no new trade.

Mr. Obama is hawking a tax policy that would take the nation back to the effective marginal tax rates of the Carter days. He wants to further tax income, payroll, capital gains, dividends and death. His philosophy is pure redistribution. Congressional Democrats voted for a budget that includes the largest tax hike in American history.

About all that remains of the New Democratic economic agenda is the mantra of "fiscal discipline." But since taking power, Democrats have passed spending bills far beyond President Bush's limits, and broken their own "pay-as-you-go" rules. The party's Blue Dogs have fought its leaders on some spending, though not when it risks derailing, say, farm bills. Mr. Obama recently revealed that his plan for economic recovery was to spend the nation out of its doldrums.

The one place where New Democrats have made a more lasting mark is on the culture. The party leadership has seen the wisdom of relaxing litmus tests on guns and abortion, a change that in 2006 let them field candidates who won conservative districts. But even here, Mr. Obama is a skeptic. He's said he'd repeal the Defense of Marriage Act - which Bill Clinton signed. He's criticized the Supreme Court for upholding the partial-birth abortion ban.

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Tax dangers

Robert Mundell isn't in the habit of making fruitless policy recommendations, though some take a long time ripening. Nearly four decades passed between his early work on optimal currency areas and the birth of the euro in 1999 - the same year he received the Nobel Prize for economics....

Democratic nominee Barack Obama regularly professes disdain for the Bush tax cuts, suggesting that those growth-spurring measures may be scrapped. "If that happens," Mr. Mundell predicts, "the U.S. will go into a big recession, a nosedive." One of the original "supply-side" economists, he has long preached the link between tax rates and economic growth. "It's a lethal thing to suddenly raise taxes," he explains. "This would be devastating to the world economy, to the United States, and it would be, I think, political suicide" in a general election.

Should taxes instead be cut again, I ask him, to stimulate the sluggish economy? Mr. Mundell replies that he favors a ceiling of 30% on marginal rates (the current top rate is 35%). He recounts how the past century experienced a titanic struggle over whether tax rates are too high or too low: from a 3% income tax in 1913; up to 60% during World War I; down to 25% before Congress and President Herbert Hoover raised taxes back to 60% in 1932 and "sealed the fate of our economy for a long, long time"; all the way up to 92.5% during World War II before falling in three steps, reaching 28% under President Ronald Reagan; and back to nearly 40% under Bill Clinton before George W. Bush lowered them to their current level.

In light of this fiscal roller coaster, Mr. Mundell says, "the most important thing that could be done with respect to tax rates now is to make the Bush tax cuts permanent. Eliminating that uncertainty would be more important than pushing for a further cut - in the income tax rates, anyway." One tax that he would cut, to 25%, is the corporate tax rate. "It could be even lower," he says, "but I think it would be a big step to lower it to 25% . . . I made that proposal back in the 1970s."

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Peace activist finally encounters reality: "Somali gunmen shot dead a peace activist and kidnapped a senior UN official, while a roadside bomb killed three policemen in the anarchic Horn of Africa country today, witnesses said. In Beledweyne, central Somalia, assailants assassinated the regional head of respected local non-governmental organisation Centre for Research and Dialogue. "Men armed with pistols killed Mohamed Hassan Kulmiye in front of a cafeteria," said resident Ismail Farah. "They shot several bullets in the head. He died on the spot. The men ran away and we do not know who they were."

The networks unilateral withdrawal from Iraq : "According to data compiled by Andrew Tyndall, a television consultant who monitors the three network evening newscasts, coverage of Iraq has been "massively scaled back this year." Almost halfway into 2008, the three newscasts have shown 181 weekday minutes of Iraq coverage, compared with 1,157 minutes for all of 2007. The "CBS Evening News" has devoted the fewest minutes to Iraq, 51, versus 55 minutes on ABC's "World News" and 74 minutes on "NBC Nightly News." (The average evening newscast is 22 minutes long.) CBS News no longer stations a single full-time correspondent in Iraq, where some 150,000 United States troops are deployed. Paul Friedman, a senior vice president at CBS News, said the news division does not get reports from Iraq on television "with enough frequency to justify keeping a very, very large bureau in Baghdad.".... Interviews with executives and correspondents at television news networks suggested that while the CBS cutbacks are the most extensive to date in Baghdad, many journalists shared varying levels of frustration about placing war stories onto newscasts. "I've never met a journalist who hasn't been frustrated about getting his or her stories on the air," said Terry McCarthy, an ABC News correspondent in Baghdad."

What the left does not know about warfare : "Working out last Monday, I heard a campaign flunky on TV insist that progress in Iraq is an illusion. "The war isn't over until all of the troops come home!" she grumped. Guess we're still at war with Germany. And Japan. Even Italy. Oh, and let's not forget all of our military bases occupying the Confederacy. The poor woman knew nothing about warfare, history - or Iraq. She just wanted to see her candidate win in November and wasn't going to let reality get in the way. And one look told you she didn't even know any "troops."


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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


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