Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Poll on entitlements

Not surprisingly, people agree that undefined "cuts" to Medicare and Social Security are "unacceptable." But specific, meaningful changes to these programs are broadly supported — so much for truth in labeling.

In fact, reducing Medicare and Social Security benefits for wealthier retirees was supported by 62 percent of those asked. Raising the Social Security retirement age to 69 was backed by a 56-42 margin. Taken together, these two adjustments, supported by the president’s deficit reduction commission, would cover roughly 60 percent of the long-term shortfall in Social Security.

Most voters do not consider these changes to be "significant" cuts because the ideas strike them as common sense: the wealthy should pay a larger share of their Medicare costs; retirement age should reflect long-term changes in life expectancy. The challenge is to read far enough into a story to find the truth. Significance is in the eye of the beholder.

And what constitutes "significant" in the debate over this year’s discretionary spending levels? Extending the current spending resolution through the end of the fiscal year would cost $1.08 trillion. House Republicans passed a bill that would reduce this level by about $57 billion, while the president proposed $6 billion in cuts. The White House argues that its recommended reductions — about one-half of 1 percent — are "significant." Republicans disagree.

Strip away the rhetoric, and the difference between the two is about 5 percent of federal discretionary spending. Controlling a budget is never easy, but families and businesses rein in their spending by 4 or 5 percent all the time. More important, given that the United States just posted the largest monthly budget deficit in world history — $223 billion — one might hope we could do better than a half-percent reduction.

In fact, the NBC/WSJ poll showed that majorities support budget cuts to state government assistance, the Environmental Protection Agency, and transportation projects as well. Interestingly, after all the poll questions about program cuts had been asked, preference for "cutting important programs" actually increased from 35 to 37 percent, while support for raising taxes declined from 33 to 29 percent.

Polls shouldn’t determine budget policy; they simply show the degree to which the public recognizes that tough choices are at hand. Today’s fiscal crisis is bigger than any one government program, but if budget negotiators were to embrace public sentiment on retirement age and means-testing and find 3 or 4 percent in discretionary savings this year, they just might be on to something "significant."



Rules for Wisconsin Radicals

Hint: Lose the whole '60s thing

Just before the package of labor reforms favored by Gov. Scott Walker made it through the Wisconsin legislature, students demonstrating inside the Capitol mobilized to show their resistance. On the floor of the rotunda, they linked their bodies to offer a little protest art for the photographers: a human peace sign.

Two days later, upwards of 100,000 people, some bussed in from elsewhere, converged on Madison to say that this is only the beginning. The idea, of course, is that the Republican governor and his Republican majorities in the Wisconsin legislature have thwarted democracy. By "overreaching," they are said to have done for Democrats what ObamaCare did for the Republicans: galvanize a demoralized base.

That's what the president of the AFL-CIO, Richard Trumka, meant when he told an audience last Thursday at the National Press Club, "Thank you, Scott Walker. We should have invited him here today to receive the Mobilizer of the Year Award."

Certainly the Badger Revolution has provoked protests on a level few anticipated. It's true too that many Americans are not yet sold on the need to roll back collective bargaining, even for public employees. Whether Wisconsin represents the emergence of a broad-based, national campaign against reform-minded Republican leaders, however, depends on something far less clear: the ability of the protest movement to reach beyond its own echo chamber to the nonunion middle class.

Saul Alinsky, the father of community organizing, would have relished the challenge. In the last chapter of his classic "Rules for Radicals," he put it this way. "Tactics must begin with the experience of the middle class, accepting their aversion to rudeness, vulgarity, and conflict. Start them easy, don't scare them off." The aim was to make the other guy look heavy-handed, and thus gain sympathy for your side.

In that spirit, here's an updated list of 10 rules for Wisconsin protesters:

1) No more Jesse Jackson . This man is a national symbol of agitation for agitation's sake, and he suggests to people who have not yet made up their minds that the protesters may be more radical than they claim.

2) Ditto for Michael Moore, Susan Sarandon and Tony Shaloub. Outsiders like these may excite the crowds, but they'll alienate people you need.

3) Lose the peace signs. It suggests a hankering for the anti-middle class 1960s, rather than a 21st-century struggle for a middle-class standard of living.

4) Put out more flags. Many of the farmers who drove past the Wisconsin Capitol on Saturday featured American flags. It wouldn't hurt to add a few verses of "God Bless America"—which demonstrators sang to good effect during last month's protest in Michigan's capital.

5) Respect the law. The broken doors and windows that resulted when protesters overwhelmed police trying to keep mobs out and allow legislators in did not help. By contrast, Gov. Walker was noticeably restrained in his use of force (perhaps because he feared the police, themselves members of a public-employees union, wouldn't obey him).

If you absolutely have to have people carted off by the cops, make sure they are moms and grandmoms—not bearded University of Wisconsin grad students.

6) If you are teachers, don't call in sick as a group so you can all protest. It suggests a certain insincerity about putting students first, especially when classes are cancelled.

7) No more Hitler mustaches on Gov. Walker. Not because is it unfair, but because Hitler analogies are tired. Ridicule would be far more effective.

8) Make local workers your public face: real teachers, real cops, real firemen. Even unpolished, they make a much more sympathetic case than the professional union leaders.

9) Don't call for grand actions likely only to end up confirming your weakness. Instead of going after all GOP state senators—a losing proposition—better to target one and make an example of him. The guy whose own wife signed a petition for his recall would be a good candidate.

10) Show some sympathy for the taxpayers. Show them you know they are paying your salaries—and that you know they are hurting.

Rallying those who share your outlook is easy. But Alinsky succeeded in neighborhoods such as Back of the Yards, Chicago in good part because of his ability to work with people and institutions with whom he had little in common. Accordingly, the first thing he often told would-be organizers was to get a haircut and a decent suit.

In "Rules for Radicals," Alinsky urged his successors to "return to the suburban scene of your middle class with its PTAs to League of Women Voters, consumer groups, churches, and clubs" and find "common ground." Especially for protesters hoping to come back from a resounding political defeat in Wisconsin, that's still good advice.

In fact, there's already one group following it—taking to the streets, demanding radical change, and upending the political status quo. It's called the tea party



Why We Don't Agree

The writer below calls himself a "bleeding heart libertarian" but his views are essentially conservative. Conservatives have always accepted the need for some welfare measures and what we now call welfare was the invention of two notable 19th century conservative leaders: Otto von Bismarck and Benjamin Disraeli

The remarkable truth of this conversation between bleeding heart libertarians and progressives is that our disagreement is exclusively empirical. If we all agree that political institutions should be arranged to alleviate poverty, then the only remaining question is which policies actually do this. Why is it then that we cannot agree, or at least converge, by just looking at reliable data, studies, and empirical theories?

I suggest an answer: in the political arena, a person often supports a policy, not because of the effects he thinks that policy will have, but because his supporting it has symbolic value for himself or others. Supporting the minimum wage is an act that stands for a value such as concern for the poor. The person who is concerned for the poor wants to express that concern, and there are acts that socially symbolize that concern: praising the New Deal, announcing that you voted for a Democrat, supporting public schools, criticizing Bush.

Symbolic behavior, I hasten to say, is not exclusive of progressives. In libertarian circles someone may oppose environmental regulation for symbolic reasons. That position evinces a hostile attitude toward government regulation in general which he wants to express. In his haste to send the right signals he overlooks (say) the problems of externalities and market failure.

The speaker in these cases might not simply want to express himself. He may be anxious to be accepted in certain groups who associate the verbal act with other beliefs that the speaker presumably has and that make him a desirable candidate for admission.

I have found that this problem, self-defeating political symbolism, is extraordinarily hard to eradicate and fatally gets in the way of agreement between these two audiences. Progressives feel compelled to stand by their positions even in the face of evidence that the policies they advocate frustrate the goal they profess. They stick to those views because the views strongly symbolize and give unity to a vision of the world associated with social justice. Libertarians, on the other hand, have a hard time convincing progressives that they care for the poor because they endorse policies that do not socially symbolize concern for social justice.

I do not know how to get around this problem, but, for whatever is worth, I find symbolic behavior morally objectionable, because the speaker cares about the values he expresses more than about those persons he says he wants to help.



"Death Panels" sneak back in

Sarah Palin was right

IBD has received a letter from Republicans on the Energy and Commerce Committee to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius requesting information on “the improper inclusion of a proposal to encourage end-of-life planning in a Medicare regulation in the fall of 2010.”

Late last year, a controversy erupted when in November a set of final regulations for Medicare contained a provision enabling Medicare to pay for “end-of-life” counseling. A furor ensued over the fact that (1) this raised the entire “death panel” specter again; and (2) the provision was not in the proposed regulations released in August, thereby shielding the provision from the lengthy public comment period that is supposed to follow proposed regulations.

No one was sure who was responsible for slipping the provision into the 692-page final regulation. Until eleven days ago. Here is Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., asking Sebelius about the matter. In short, Sebelius admits that she was the one who slipped it in without allowing for public comment.

This has prompted Republicans on the Energy and Commerce Committee to send a letter Monday to Sebelius demanding more information. The letter says that the “inclusion of this regulation was clearly an attempt to subvert the democratic process.” Further, the Republicans state:

"We are very disturbed by your actions. It is clear that end-of-life regulations would not make it through Congress or survive a public debate during the rulemaking process, and were thus dropped into the final rule without allowing the public any opportunity to comment. The secrecy surrounding their inclusion in the final rule indicates that this was a political maneuver designed to avoid public scrutiny and comment."

The letter further asks Sebelius to make a “designee” available to committee staffers next week so they can learn more about the “internal discussions” at HHS regarding “how the proposal was surreptitiously inserted.”

SOURCE. (See the original for links)


Dems at radicalization hearings recite Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated group’s talking points

The Daily Caller has acquired the talking points that the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), a group with deep ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, supplied to its supporters as an aid in attacking the Muslim radicalization hearing New York Republican Rep. Peter King held Thursday. Save for Texas Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee’s incoherent ramblings on Thursday, Democrats’ statements and testimony against King’s hearing, whether intentionally or unintentionally, largely mirrored MPAC’s talking points.

MPAC recommended that its supporters accuse King of “pure political posturing,” and told them to say, “these hearings appear little more than a political circus with Rep. King as the ringleader.” MPAC also recommended supporters say that the “hearings hurt our national security” because of their “narrow scope.” Finally, it said supporters should say that the hearings were unnecessary because “active” partnerships between law enforcement and the American Muslim community already exist.

California Democratic Rep. Laura Richardson hit on the “pure political posturing” point in the MPAC memo. She compared King’s hearings to those of the McCarthy era.

Rep. Al Green, Texas Democrat, asked why King wasn’t investigating the Ku Klux Klan, something that plays right into the MPAC “suggested message” that the “hearings hurt our national security” because of a “narrow scope.”

Minnesota Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison regurgitated all the MPAC talking points in his testimony at the beginning of the hearing.

“Ascribing the evil acts of a few individuals to an entire community is wrong; it is ineffective; and it risks making our country less secure,” Ellison said. “Targeting the Muslim American community for the actions of a few is unjust. Actually all of us–all communities–are responsible for combating violent extremism. Singling out one community focuses our analysis in the wrong direction.”

A spokesman for Ellison told TheDC that the congressman didn’t receive the MPAC talking points and “wrote his testimony himself.” A spokesman for Green did not immediately respond to TheDC’s request for comment.


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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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