Sunday, October 02, 2011

Debunking the Big Lie that American Conservatives are Like Fascists

This post is from a few months back but is worth re-posting here, I think

A popular narrative being promulgated in the left-wing blogosphere is that the terrorist who killed many innocent civilians in Norway is a “right-winger” who describes himself as a “Christian” and a “conservative” and thus shares many common characteristics with American conservatives.

This type of big lie has been a Stalinist smear of American conservatives since the end of World War II.It erects a false opposition between socialism and fascism that excludes the middle ground of Constitutional republican government and individual rights. Let’s debunk a few myths that drive this comparison.

1. American conservatives are for individual rights, not statism.

2. They believe individuals are ends in themselves, and not a means to an end.

3. They are for liberty, not totalitarianism.

4. They are for free markets, not corporatism or state capitalism.

5. They are for private property, not state property.

6. They are for a color-blind, legally equal society based on individual rights, not group rights.

7. They are for freedom of religion, not theocracy.

8. They are suspicious of government authority, not obeisant.

9. They tend not to deify political leaders, though they revere leaders like Ronald Reagan.

10. They are for less government intervention, not control over every aspect of life.

11. They are patriotic, not nationalist.

12. They are for federalism, not centralized government.

13. They are for checks and balances, not unification.

14. They support gun rights not because the seek to harm others, but to protect and defend themselves.

15. They display judgment in the context of moral and cultural relativism.

Not much “fascistic” about that, is there?



Liberal Myths

Did you know that Paul Krugman is more compassionate than you are? Or so he says. In fact, just about everybody who is left of center is more compassionate than everybody who is right of center, Krugman explained in a recent New York Times editorial.

“American politics is fundamentally about different moral visions,” he wrote. If you identify with Milton Friedman’s “Free to Choose” vision you are today part of the “free to die” crowd.

That last bit is a reference to Republican presidential candidates foolishly stumbling over a Wolf Blitzer question about what should be done with a man who willfully chooses to be uninsured and then discovers needs lifesaving medical care. No, in case you are wondering, none of them said “let him die.” But Krugman would like you to believe that is the position of the entire Republican Party.

[Democrats, by the way, would also have trouble with that question. In fact there is nothing in Obama Care that guarantees health care for someone who ignores the government mandate and remains uninsured.]

Krugman is not alone. Writing at Health Affairs the other day, Princeton University economist Uwe E. Reinhardt described the current budget impasse in Washington by declaring that this country has been in:
…a long ideological war fought over the distribution of economic privilege in this country, a war that has been raging unabated for over three decades now.

One side in this war believes that the current distribution of income and wealth in this country is fair, as it rewards generously those who contribute commensurately to the economy and properly gives short shrift for those who do not — e.g., unskilled workers…

The opposing faction believes that the current distribution of income and wealth no longer is the product of a genuine meritocracy, and even if it were, that health care, education and legal care are so-called social goods to which rich and poor should have access on roughly equal terms, regardless of their own ability to pay.

Although Reinhardt doesn’t engage in the kind of ad hominem personal character attacks that are Krugman’s stock in trade, the message is still the same: one side cares about the unfortunate and the other side doesn’t.

Before going further, there is something you should know. There is no evidence whatsoever – zero evidence – that liberals are more compassionate than conservatives. In fact all the evidence points in the other direction. More about that in a moment.

Since Krugman is a Nobel Prize winning economist, I would like to turn first to the science of economics, just as Adam Smith did more than 200 years ago. What Smith realized was that it’s not compassion, or any other feeling that is going to eliminate most deprivation and suffering around the world. It’s sound economic policies, produced by rational thought.

Several years ago, I was at a conference at the Vatican and I heard another Nobel laureate, University of Chicago economist Gary Becker, make a remarkable statement. Becker said, “I believe in capitalism. The reason: capitalism confers its greatest benefits on those at the bottom of the income ladder. If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t be a capitalist. And Milton Friedman thinks the same way.”

Non-economists are generally unaware of how much evidence there is in support of the Becker/Friedman position. If you look around the world, you will find that the bottom 10% of the income distribution gets about the same percent of national income in countries with the least economic freedom (2.5%) as they do in the countries with the most economic freedom (2.6%). Whether a country is capitalist or socialist doesn’t seem to matter. But there is a huge difference in the absolute level of income. In fact, the bottom 10% gets almost ten times more income ($8,474 per persons per year vs. $910) in capitalist countries than in non-capitalist countries.

Given that disparity, what is the most compassionate economic system? It is the system advocated by the University of Chicago economists and other classical liberals: a system that leaves people free to use their intelligence, their creativity and their innovative ability to pursue their own interests. In other words, it is a system in which people are “free to choose.”

That freedom and free enterprise are good for poor people is a fact of economic science. It has nothing in particular to do with compassion. But since the issue has been raised, who are the most compassionate people? It turns out, they are not liberals. In an exhaustive study of this issue American Enterprise institute president Arthur Brooks discovered that:
In 2000, households headed by a conservative gave, on average, 30 percent more money to charity than households headed by a liberal ($1,600 to $1,227). This discrepancy is not simply an artifact of income differences; on the contrary, liberal families earned an average of 6 percent more per year than conservative families, and conservative families gave more than liberal families within every income class, from poor to middle class to rich…

The differences go beyond money and time. Take blood donations, for example. In 2002, conservative Americans were more likely to donate blood each year, and did so more often, than liberals. If liberals and moderates gave blood at the same rate as conservative, the blood supply in the United States would jump by about 45 percent.

What about Krugman, personally? I don’t know him. But the next time he is on television, mute the sound and focus on the image on the screen. Is there anything about Paul Krugman that seems to be the least bit compassionate? Not to me.



Unions: The Cause of Michigan's Malaise

The Great Lakes state's burgeoning right-to-work movement is a backlash against aggressive union demands

The Detroit Free Press’ front page a week ago was a rich display of irony. It featured two stories, one celebrating the quadrennial contract deal that GM and the United Auto Workers had reached, declaring that the “Deal Is a Victory for All.” And the other reported: “Right-to-Work Debate Fires Up in State.” That about sums up the state of the labor movement nationwide: Still a player, but no longer sacrosanct.

A right-to-work law, which would allow workers to join unionized companies without having to pay mandatory union dues, is far from a done deal in Michigan. But 22 states already have such laws, and that it is even on the table in the union capital of the country shows the new political reality confronting unions.

Union membership has dropped from 36 percent of the work force in 1945 to 11.9 percent now. To reverse this slump, unions pumped $400 million into President Obama’s campaign, hoping he would pass the so-called card check bill. This would allow labor bosses to avoid secret elections and unionize companies by getting a majority of workers to sign a card.

But Obama has proved a union dud, not a union dude: Far from pushing grand initiatives, his labor agenda has consisted of—in the words of AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka—“little, nibbly things.”

This is not surprising. Aggressively pursuing a pro-union agenda with unemployment stubbornly stuck at 9.1 percent would work if Obama wanted to be a kamikaze president, hell-bent on self-destructing. Unions protect wages at the cost of jobs—the main reason they are in trouble in Michigan.

Michigan’s unemployment rate, consistently higher than the national average, soared above 15 percent between 2009 and 2010. No state, not even Katrina-stricken Louisiana, had seen this kind of unemployment in 25 years. Not all of this is Big Labor’s fault—but much of it is.

Grand Valley State University economist Hari Singh found that if Michigan had been a right-to-work state, the auto industry would have seen a 25 percent gain in jobs since 1965. Instead, it lost 56.6 percent just between 2002 and 2009, shrinking its work force by 165,777. In a functioning market, high unemployment would lead to lower wages. But in Michigan’s auto industry, Singh found, wages actually rose 18.1 percent during that time.

Unions congratulate themselves for protecting workers’ wages, but they have imposed a heavy price on everyone else. Not a single foreign automaker has ever taken advantage of Michigan’s legions of out-of-work but highly trained employees, preferring to train novices in right-to-work states.

The upshot is that the economies of these states grew on average 18.1 percent between 2001 and 2006, according to Paul Kersey of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan’s? It grew too—a grand total of 3.4 percent over the same five years.

Since jobs can’t come to Michigan, Michigan residents have followed the jobs. Michigan lost 11.7 percent of its 25-34 age group between 1993 and 2003—while right-to-work states gained 3.8 percent. Indeed, the 2009 Census revealed that Michigan had experienced the third-highest emigration in the country. Otherwise, Michigan’s unemployment situation would be even grimmer.

But the hidden costs of labor unions have become impossible to ignore, partly because Michigan’s collapsing real estate market has made it hard for homeowners to sell and relocate. There is a new desperation to do something to jumpstart job growth, which is why unions are in the cross hairs.

Various polls have found that 50 to 60 percent of likely Michigan voters support a right-to-work law. Several Republican gubernatorial candidates in the last election openly discussed making Michigan a right-to-work state, something previously unimaginable. Tea party rallies increasingly tout right-to-work among the top items on their agenda. The Michigan Senate and House, both of which are under Republican control along with the Supreme Court and the governorship, have sponsored right-to-work bills.

The only weak link is Gov. Rick Snyder, who has declared that he won’t push such a divisive bill, but will sign it if it comes to his desk. But even Snyder, emboldened by Indiana and Wisconsin, wants a right-to-work bill for teachers unions (whose demands have made it difficult for him to balance the state budget). If this goes through, however, it will become hard to force private companies to operate under different labor rules than the public sector, opening the floodgates to wider reform.

Either way, Michigan’s efforts will encourage other Rust Belt states, all of which are grappling with moribund economies and high unemployment. Unions could stop the trend by radically scaling back their wages to spur job growth. But the new auto contract, which pretends to be all about creating “jobs, jobs, jobs,” doesn’t hold much hope for that. The UAW gave up mandatory raises and cost-of-living adjustments, but got hefty bonuses. More to the point, the compensation packages of older workers—95 percent of the work force—remain higher than competitors and almost certainly too high for another economic dip.

The Great Depression launched the labor movement, which promised prosperity and jobs. But the Great Recession might spell its end because it can’t deliver, the jubilation about the new contract notwithstanding.



Obama's Double Down on Stupid

Solyndra, the California energy company gone bust, was so cash strapped in December, 2010 that they defaulted on a loan payment to the government. That didn't bother the Obama Administration, though. In fact, DOE officials amended the loan agreement, allowing Solyndra to draw another $67 million, and subordinated the taxpayer's credit position to that of private investors.

There was an abundance of information and reasons why the Solyndra loan should never have been approved in 2009. But, the Obama White House rejected all the obvious warning signs preferring to pass out half a trillion dollars like party favors and to create campaign photo-ops.

The White House says this wasn't stupid. "That's just the way business works," according to the President's spokesman, Jay Carney. The next time Obama shows he understands how ANYTHING in business works, it will be the first time.

The White House still defends the $535 billion loan guarantee to Solyndra as an investment in "cutting edge technology." A less varnished assessment would conclude that it was a government investment in opulence designed to failed from the beginning.

The glitzy made-for-Hollywood 300,000 square foot plant, characterized by workers as the "Taj Mahal," had vastly greater manufacturing capacity than Solyndra ever commanded in market share and came with "robots that whistled Disney tunes, spa-like showers with liquid-crystal displays of the water temperature, and glass-walled conference rooms."

The Administration doubled down on stupid by not recognizing that failure was imminent by the end of 2010. In addition, the Energy Act of 2005 specifically prohibits subordination of the taxpayer's credit position – an apparently violation of federal law.

The DOE says it renegotiated the loan agreement and allowed Solyndra to draw down the additional $67 million because the government officials "thought it gave Solyndra a fighting chance to survive and the taxpayers their best chance to recover their loan."

What the DOE doesn't say is that the subordination of the taxpayer's position and the additional $67 million created an illusion of better financial condition than was reality. In other words, the DOE helped put a better-than-actual appearance on Solyndra, who then went to the private markets to raise additional investment capital. That prompted allegations that government officials may be guilty of fraud according to Andrew McCarthy, a former Assistant U.S. Attorney.

The Solyndra scandal has already prompted five high level investigations. What Obama thought would be government funded campaign props is likely to turn into a re-election season nightmare.



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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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