Friday, July 19, 2013
A Modest Agenda for the GOP
Republicans should focus on serious tax reform and insist on real border control
By Charles Krauthammer
The conventional wisdom evolves. Yesterday, Washington was merely broken, gridlocked, dysfunctional. The passive voice spread the blame evenly. Today it’s agreed that Republican obstructionism is the root of all evil — GOP resistance having now escalated to nihilism and indeed sabotage.
Sabotage carries a fine whiff of extralegal, anti-constitutional vandalism. This from media mandarins who barely bat an eyelash when President Obama unilaterally suspends parts of his own health-care law — just as he unilaterally stopped enforcing current immigration laws for 1.7 million young illegal immigrants, thereby enacting by executive order legislation that had failed in Congress. So much for faithfully executing the laws (Article II).
The new conventional wisdom knowingly deplores the 113th Congress for having passed the fewest pieces of legislation in at least four decades. Why, they were sneering, it couldn’t even pass the farm bill, the essence of bipartisanship for oh-so-many years.
Which is the perfect example of the fatuousness of measuring legislative success by volume, as if every new law represents an advance of civilization. The farm bill is the quintessence of congressional log-rolling, trade-offs, and kickbacks — in which the public interest is systematically trumped by some moneyed and entrenched special interest. Its death (lamentably temporary — it was partly resurrected on Thursday) was well-deserved.
Opposition to Obama’s entitlement-state agenda — beginning with Obamacare, long before it began falling apart before our eyes — should be a source of pride for Republicans. Nevertheless, they shouldn’t stop there. They should advance a reform agenda of their own.
The major thrust should be tax reform. The time could not be more ripe. The public is understandably agitated by an IRS scandal that showed not just the agency’s usual arrogance and highhandedness but also its talent for waste, abuse, corruption, and an overt favoritism that even Obama called outrageous.
Support for tax reform is already bipartisan. Its chief advocates are Democrat Max Baucus and Republican Dave Camp, respectively Senate and House chairs of the tax-writing committees. Their objective is the replication of President Reagan’s 1986 bipartisan tax-reform triumph: closing loopholes and using that revenue to lower rates across the board, which helped propel two decades of near-uninterrupted economic growth.
Tax reform is the ultimate win-win. It levels the playing field by removing the advantage of lawyered, lobbied interests. It eliminates myriad distortions in capital allocation and lowers marginal rates — both of which spur economic growth. And it simplifies the code, thereby reducing the arbitrary and unaccountable discretion of IRS bureaucrats.
The House Republicans are preparing a 25 percent cut in the IRS budget. This is silly and small. It will change nothing. Radical simplification of the tax code will change everything.
Second, the GOP should take a clear position on immigration reform. “Comprehensive” or piecemeal matters not. What matters is to stick to the essential principle: legalization in return for real border control — so that this is the last amnesty we will have to grant.
Any law containing both deserves support. The current Senate bill does not. Setting soft goals for border enforcement is an invitation to this and future administrations to fudge and fake.
Be clear. Be principled. Be unafraid. The country wants legalization and border control. Show that only the GOP is fighting for both.
Third, on the policy front, demand from the president a clear policy on Afghanistan. After highly acrimonious exchanges with President Hamid Karzai, Obama is openly considering a complete pullout next year.
U.S. national interests cannot hinge on personal piques. Karzai is both deeply unreliable and terminally ungrateful. But he will be gone one day, as will Obama. The terrorist breeding grounds of Afghanistan and Pakistan will remain.
For four years, the president argued that our strategic interests require a residual presence in Afghanistan in order to prevent a reestablishment of terrorist safe havens in the region.
Does he still believe this? Enough with the agonized ambivalence. Obama must be made to argue the case one way or the other.
It’s a modest agenda, although true tax reform would be an achievement of historic dimensions. But it should by no means diminish rigorous GOP efforts to stop an Obama program that aggrandizes government in every sphere (education, health care, energy, finance) and passes monstrous thousand-page bills that not only effectively delegate unlimited power to the unelected bureaucracy but, like Obamacare, are so unworkable that the administration itself has to jettison one piece after another.
Oppose further expansion of the entitlement state, reform the tax code, secure the border, demand clarity on Afghanistan. A modest, doable, responsible agenda for 2013.
Leftist hatred of Wal Mart still simmering
The Left hate success
DC has just become the latest battleground over Walmart’s business practices. The retailer recently announced plans to open a number of stores in the city, but the District government has been throwing obstacles in its path. On Wednesday, the city council approved the Large Retailer Accountability Act by an 8 to 5 vote. The bill would force any non-unionized retailer with more than $1 billion in revenue and more than 75,000 square feet of retail space (read: Walmart) to pay employees at least $12.50 an hour. Minimum wage in DC is $8.25.
Washington Mayor Vincent Gray now has ten days to veto the bill. On the eve of the vote, Walmart executive Alex Barron wrote in a Washington Post op-ed that the retailer would cancel its current plans to build three locations in the District if the law passed.
If the bill stands—or if the Walmart opponents manage to override a Mayoral veto—it’s the city’s residents who will ultimately suffer. Democratic Councilman-at-Large Vincent Orange, a key backer of the legislation, argued that, “The question here is a living wage; it’s not whether Wal-Mart comes or stays….We’re at a point where we don’t need retailers. Retailers need us.”
Mr. Orange is dead wrong. The three stores Walmart is threatening to cancel are all badly needed retail and grocery options in underserved and poorer areas of DC that don’t have many options. As Ezra Klein, no lover of Walmart, writes:
[S]everal of the locations where Wal-Mart has committed to open have very little in the way of retail around them, and Office of Planning Director Harriet Tregoning has emphasized that small businesses in the vicinity should be able to prepare for it. Currently, many District residents are skipping over those small stores anyway on their way out to suburban Wal-Marts; keeping them in the neighborhood might open up opportunities for complementary businesses – such as restaurants or auto-repair shops — to open around them. Finally, many of the developments had been searching for anchor tenants for years; it’s unclear that Wal-Mart could be easily replaced, leaving the sites fallow.
DC is already an incredibly expensive place to live, and a lack of outlets for affordable basic commodities makes scrimping that much harder for middle class and poor residents. Cheaper prices at Walmart mean that in terms of purchasing power everybody in DC gets an immediate pay boost.
Blue politicians who oppose Walmart in DC—and in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles before it—do so with good intentions to help low-paid hourly workers afford life in their overpriced metropolises. Blue-model economic governance has often looked for ways to increase prices for certain producers through things like farm subsidies, taxes, regulation and construction controls. For those that can’t pay, they provide offset subsidies like food stamps.
So one of the main reasons there’s a case for living wage laws at all is that a combination of bad urban policy, overstuffed bureaucracies, excessive regulation and government-endorsed economic cartels have all driven up the cost of living so much that people can’t afford to live on the national minimum wage.
Instead of raising the minimum wage or fighting discount retailers—steps sure to make everything more expensive and create further problems—cities like DC should be working aggressively to bring down the cost of living so that more people can live on the wages they earn.
Prosperity through higher costs (?)
Here’s another letter to the Washington Post on Prof. Massengill’s piece on Wal-Mart. Letter by economist Donald J. Boudreaux
Rebekah Peeples Massengill argues that low-income families are harmed by Wal-Mart’s “relentless cost-cutting” (“Five myths about Wal-Mart,” July 12). But because retailers from the earliest times have competed for customers by cutting costs (a result of what Prof. Massengill calls “prioritizing consumption”), her complaint isn’t with Wal-Mart so much as it is with retailing itself. Therefore, the only real solution to this scourge of ever-less-costly access to consumer goods is a strict prohibition on retailing.
Only by outlawing retailing can we ensure that no retailer will ever again weaken the economy by cutting costs. Only by outlawing retailing can we finally maximize the amount of resources used to bring consumer goods from farms and factories to individual homes. (Think of the countless hours that every one of us will spend driving from farm to farm and from factory to factory to buy food, clothing, and other consumer goods!) With retailing outlawed, the costs that we’ll incur – that is, the amount of resources that households will be obliged to spend – to bring each consumer good from farm or factory into a home will be multiple times greater than the puny amount of resources spent today to make each consumer good accessible for purchase.
And when the Commerce Dep’t. calculates the enormous monetary value of the resources that households spend to acquire consumer goods in this retailer-less world, we’ll discover just how prosperous we are without the likes of Wal-Mart and other greedy cost-cutting corporations.
The Nation’s Librarians Are All In to Support Obamacare
Wounded by the lukewarm reception the administration got from the National Football League and Major League Baseball when it asked them to help sell the public on all things wonderful about “Obamacare,” President Obama has announced that America’s librarians will step into the void.
Let me add, they will do so enthusiastically.
On June 26, I flew to Chicago for the annual American Library Association conference, a seemingly innocent gathering of thousands of library professionals.
As a veteran of many rousing political conferences, I expected a relatively quiet four days, showcasing Independent Institute books, such as John C. Goodman’s recently published “Priceless: Curing the Healthcare Crisis.” I was unprepared for the floundering health care law to become central to the agenda.
On the third day of conference, however, it was announced that the American Library Association planned to partner with the White House to tout the benefits of Obamacare. As Fox News reported on July 1, “Up to 17,000 U.S. libraries will be part of the effort to spread the word about the health care law, while giving the public access to their computers. The government-librarian team-up is one of a number of partnerships—some more controversial than others—that the administration is trying to build in order to promote the law ahead of an Oct. 1 kick-off.”
The library association announcement came as a surprise to many of the conference attendees, but for many if not most, it must have been a pleasant surprise.
For example, several panel discussions included intense, uninformed diatribes against the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the Heritage Foundation, and libraries’ responsibility to counter their influence. One of the conference’s keynote speakers angrily called on libraries to lead the charge against the NRA’s evil agenda. The following day, a group of librarians from both public and private institutions brainstormed about how library computers could be rigged to censor or possibly omit information. As one librarian irritably recounted, she was directed by Google to a “horrendous” Heritage Foundation study challenging global warming theory. “We know [such studies] to be complete junk and need to figure out how to keep people from reading such despicable material,” she resolved.
These statements, not surprisingly, came after the same group spent the first half of the session lamenting that Ward Churchill—the former University of Colorado ethnic-studies professor who claimed that the United States deserved the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 because of “ongoing genocidal American imperialism”—was not asked to return to the classroom. It seems the principle of academic freedom is only laudable when everyone agrees that the left is right. Now, the left is right on Obamacare and America’s librarians are in lockstep with the mission to resuscitate public support for the limping legislation.
Indeed, Obamacare has become increasingly unpopular across the country, even causing some within Mr. Obama’s own ranks to suggest that Obamacare is plagued with problems.
Senior Democratic Sen. Max Baucus of Montana, who, as Senate Finance Committee chairman helped the president craft the health care law, said that the reforms are “a huge train wreck coming down.”
Several recent polls, including a new Rasmussen Reports national survey—which found that just 41 percent of likely voters favor their governor supporting implementation of the law—have shown clearly that Obamacare is just as unpopular today as it was when it was passed. The president and his allies understand that they need to turn public opinion around or they could suffer the consequences in the 2014 midterm elections. That’s why they recently took evasive action on the health care law’s employer mandate, giving companies with 50 or more employees until 2015 rather than 2014 to provide insurance to their employees.
With both Mr. Obama and Obamacare slipping in public opinion, the White House is looking for help. They found it at the American Library Association.
Librarians seem to be “all in” with the White House agenda: a dangerous marriage.
If librarians are advocates, what assurance do we have that they won’t block access to information—such as another “despicable” study from the Heritage Foundation, American Enterprise Institute or my own institution—critical of the health care act?
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Posted by JR at 12:49 AM