Friday, October 9, 2015

Opposing Ryan as Speaker

Power Line's Paul Mirengoff blogs about the movement to draft Paul Ryan as Speaker. Bottom line: Paul M. is opposed to Paul R. as the next Speaker.

Why, you might reasonably ask.
It’s sometimes difficult to distinguish Ryan from a bleeding-heart liberal. Immigration is an excellent example.

Ryan is also a proponent of the kind of sentencing reform now being pressed in both the House and Senate.

To the extent that House conservatives remain committed to fighting against amnesty and to sustaining the sentencing rules that helped produce a 50 percent reduction in the national rate of serious crime in the past two decades, they should be more opposed to Ryan than they are to the current leaders.
Everybody admits Ryan is a budgetary whiz; however his conservatism is too "compassionate," no longer "flavor of the month," if indeed it ever was.

Black Swans and Pink Flamingos

Daniel Goure' writes for RealClearDefense about two concepts much bruited about in geopolitics: black swans and pink flamingos. First, definitions for each, a black swan event:
• It is a surprise to governments, experts and outside observers.
• The event has a major impact.
• After the first instance of the event, it is rationalized by hindsight (which also is why a Black Swan event never happens the same way twice).
Then Goure' quotes Frank Hoffman who defines a pink flamingo as “a predictable event that is ignored due to cognitive biases of a senior leader or a group of leaders trapped by powerful institutional forces.” Our President, and his advisors, display such cognitive biases.

Goure' lists ten Russian military provocations which have happened recently, and adds:
Not one of these events was anticipated by defense or intelligence agencies. Classic Black Swans. Except, when you line up all these Black Swans they turn into a Pink Flamingo.

The events listed above point to a single conclusion, a reality that our senior leaders wish mightily to ignore. This conclusion is that Vladimir Putin is out to directly challenge the power and unity of the Western Alliance, generally, and the United States specifically. Moreover he is willing to use military force and defy the West to counter his actions.
Famously no fan of Churchill, Obama seemingly has picked the anti-Churchill - Neville Chamberlain - as his role model. His choice emboldens Putin much as Chamberlain emboldened Hitler.

The Ryan Boomlet

Reuters reports via Yahoo News that Republicans in the House of Representatives are focusing on former vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan as a desired replacement for resigned Speaker John Boehner. Ryan has expressed extreme reluctance to accept the post.

Them wanting him more than he wants the job gives him bargaining power, which he should use to assure cooperation of a majority of the House. If Ryan is as smart as he is widely believed to be, he will only allow them to elect him Speaker after he extracts pledges of cooperation from a large enough majority of his party's members to pass legislation with no Democratic cooperation.

Failing that, Ryan should decline and let some other poor sap take the job.

The real issue is that the GOP Freedom Caucus, a very conservative group of some 40 Reps., come from districts where shutting down the government to frustrate Obama is good politics, just what a majority of their constituents crave. Boehner, and likely McCarthy, believe doing so is political "poison" resulting in a perception that Republicans can't govern.

Clearly, McCarthy believed he couldn't get the cooperation necessary to govern, where "govern" means passing legislation Obama will sign. Likely he was correct. Does Ryan have enough leverage to get such cooperation? Doubtful, but possible.

Tax-Avoidance Migrants

We have written before about the phenomenon of tax payers migrating to low-tax states. Now Instapundit Glenn Reynolds writes about this migration in his USA Today column.
IRS data show that taxpayers are migrating from high-tax states like New York, Illinois, and California to low-tax states like Texas and Florida. And it’s not just sports stars or star scientists, doing that, but fairly ordinary people — though, of course, people who earn enough money to pay taxes. If you’re living on welfare benefits and don't plan to change that, you won’t move to a low-tax state to escape taxes; if you move anywhere, it’ll probably be to a state that offers better benefits than the one you live in now.

High-tax, high-benefit states will eventually go bankrupt because they won’t retain enough taxpayers to support their welfare spending. And, in fact, that’s the direction that California, New York, and especially Illinois seem to be heading, even as places like Texas and Florida flourish.
Reynolds worries that blue-state taxpayers who move to red states will take their voting proclivities with them, thereby polluting the politics of the red states. I, however, believe it has already been shown that most migrants adopt the zeitgeist of their new state. Migrants to the Sun Belt vote more conservatively than they did before the move.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

You Can't Tax the Rich

Concerning the post immediately below, and Williamson's allegation that the wealthy don't so much pay taxes as extract them from those with less leverage. I am reminded of stuff that went on before the Reagan tax cuts, ancient history for some of our younger readers.

In those days it was common to see a really glossy farming operation, or orchard, and be told "It is some doctor's tax shelter." That was shorthand for "he runs it at a loss, to counteract his earnings as a surgeon."

In the process of running a farm or orchard at a loss, he did maintenance that could have been deferred, kept everything painted, repaired, and shiny, and used too much fertilizer and boutique seeds or livestock. His desire to make no profit, while increasing the value of his investment, made him murderous competition for those individuals trying to make a living from their farms.

One of the best tax dodges was planting an orchard, which generates nothing but expenses for several years until the trees begin to produce. However, the whole while you are pruning, watering, spraying, and cultivating as the trees grow, the value of the property is increasing.

You build equity while experiencing several years of negative income. When the trees are ready to produce you sell the orchard to a farmer who wants to actually produce and sell crops, buy another piece of undeveloped land with part of the proceeds, and start another orchard. On the difference in land prices, presumably a profit, you pay only long term capital gains taxes, at half or less the rate for actual earned income.

So you made a profit as a doctor, a loss as a farmer, and paid taxes on the net, which was perhaps a middle class salary. You were, however, accumulating a valuable asset that, when sold, produced long term capital gains. This could be, and was, done repeatedly.

Economics 101

National Review's Kevin D. Williamson, quoting Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman, who said of trying to collect taxes from corporations:
Corporations aren’t taxpayers; corporations are tax-collectors.
Meaning, of course, they don't pay taxes out of profits, they treat them as operating costs to extract from others who have less market power - employees, suppliers, landlords, customers. Williamson notes the irony:
You know who doesn’t have a lot of market power? Poor people. People who make the minimum wage. Small businesses. Which is to say, all the people politicians always say they’re trying to help with regulations or a higher minimum wage or taxes on rich bastards and corporations — who don’t pay ’em.

Poor people bear these costs in obvious ways, such as higher prices or lower wages, but also in non-obvious ways, such as improvements in their standard of living that would have happened under different conditions but just never materialize. Low-income people have low incomes because people don’t value their labor very much and so aren’t willing to pay very much for it.
Williamson's conclusion is, let's say, pungent:
Who pays for all of that? Everybody. It’s a kind of inverted Marxism. It isn’t “From each according to his means,” it’s “From each according to how little power he has to pass the cost on to some other poor bastard.” There’s no such thing as “raising taxes, but only on the rich” or “passing regulations that only cost Big Business.” Everybody is always and forever on the same hook.
Those of us fortunate or talented or determined enough to have market power slough off our share onto the poor SOBs who have little or none. It was ever thus.

Gun Laws and Homicide Rates Unrelated

Eugene Volokh writes the Volokh Conspiracy column for The Washington Post. Today he looks at the relationship, if any, between state gun laws and murders plus gun accidental deaths.

Volokh finds none. There are states with tough gun laws and low murders plus GADs and states with weak-as-water gun laws which also have low murders plus GADs, including my home state of Wyoming.

Wyoming, by the way, has some of the highest gun ownership on the planet. Many adult males own several guns and not a few women do too. Young people become gun owners and hunters in their teens. The standard greeting during autumn, asked of men and many women, "Got your elk yet?"

Likewise, Volokh finds states with both weak and tough gun laws with high murder plus GAD rates. As he notes,
The correlation between the homicide rate and Brady score in all 51 jurisdictions is +.032 (on a scale of -1 to +1), which means that states with more gun restrictions on average have very slightly higher homicide rates, though the tendency is so small as to be essentially zero.

The Godmother

Writing at The Daily Beast, Ben Domenech notes Hillary Clinton's current rejection of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal which she worked hard to negotiate and claimed as a signature accomplishment of her tenure as SecState. His view, Clinton's flip-flop matters not one whit.
Do Republican operatives think it is news to the American people after the decades of knowledge we have about Clinton that she is shifty? No one cares. That she will obfuscate to the point of congressional inquiry? No one is surprised. That she will flip-flop according to poll numbers? No one thinks otherwise! What matters is whether people think she’ll fight for them, and in this economically backward way, that’s what she’s promising.
Domenech predicts that, should she be elected, she will feel totally free to change her mind again on this and other issues. It is all campaign bafflegab.

The bottom line: many who support her understand her to be untrustworthy and don't care. They prefer a crook who is on their side to anyone on the opposite side. Perhaps they are right to do so.

A Rabid Goat Rodeo

Heather Wilhelm writes a column for RealClearPolitics and her topic today is whether having a woman president is important. Spoiler: She thinks it's no biggie, either way. I much enjoy her over-the-top comment:
Here we are in 2015, with the world increasingly resembling a rabid goat rodeo hosted over a flaming pit of spikes and giant rattlesnakes, and yet, amazingly, the gender police soldier on.
Carefully polishing brass on the sinking Titanic comes to mind, too.

McCarthy Out of Speaker Race

CNBC reports House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has dropped out of the race for House Speaker. He was thought to be the front-runner for the post, although questions had arisen in recent days about whether he could get a majority on the first ballot.

McCarthy, though solidly conservative, is seen as too willing to compromise by some of the more hard-line members of his caucus, a couple of whom had indicated they planned to run against him.

McCarthy didn't help his cause by inferring a political motive to the committee investigating the role of Secretary Clinton in murders by Islamic radicals of a U.S. ambassador and three aides in Benghazi, Libya. Democrats have used his misstatement to discredit the committee's important work.

American Inaction

Writing in The Wall Street Journal, Michael Auslin takes the Obama administration to task for not responding forcefully to Russian provocations in Syria and Chinese adventurism in the international waters off China..
Aggressive opportunists scent weakness, and they understand that when there is no price to be paid for their provocations, they can move to bigger and riskier actions. The Obama administration would undoubtedly argue that its sanctions against Russia and its rebalance to the Asia-Pacific are hampering Messrs. Xi and Putin. The evidence argues otherwise, and the trend is moving clearly away from cooperation and the resolution of problems.

In 1939, on the eve of World War II, the British historian Arnold Toynbee lamented that for years the Western powers had “held, between them, the destinies of the world in suspense.” Their inaction and miscalculations destroyed faith in the global order from which they benefited so much and correspondingly emboldened their enemies. America’s adversaries are counting on similar hesitation and indecision, and they show through their actions that they won’t stop until persuaded that the United States will rise to their challenge.
It is certain the U.S. will do nothing before early 2017, when a new president will be inaugurated. Moscow and Beijing understand this 15 month window of opportunity.

The First Wife Syndrome

National Journal's Josh Kraushaar writes that Hillary Clinton is viewed positively by only 27% of men. He speculates at length about why.

Surprisingly, Kraushaar fails to stumble across the answer. Hillary reminds men of their first wife, a lying know-it-all shrew who never shut up and was never, according to her, wrong about anything.

Many women get the same hit from her, she reminds them of their husband's first wife. Not good imagery.

Gallup Takes a Pass

Politico reports the Gallup polling organization has decided to not conduct so-called "horserace" style polling in the primary season leading up to the 2016 general election. They may not, in fact, even do so for the election itself, after the two major parties have officailly annointed their nominees at the summer conventions.

This reflects a concern by serious polling operations that there is something fundamentally wrong with the conventional wisdom of polling. As the article notes, we are now in an era
When fewer people are reachable or willing to talk to pollsters.
Polling has been decreasingly accurate in recent elections. The extent to which this inacccuracy reflects "tribal" voting - surges of non-whites showing up to vote for a non-white presidential candidate - is also unclear. Perhaps the 2016 voting cycle will be more predictable; apparently Gallup wasn't sufficiently convinced to proceed.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Putin Doctrine

Professor Angelo M. Codevilla is a mensch, to borrow a term from the Yiddish. Here he writes for The Federalist admiringly about Russian military doctrine in the Middle East.
Putin knows that force discredits itself if it is not used decisively. Like Napoleon, he knows you can do anything with bayonets except sit on them. Russia’s expeditionary force in the Middle East, unlike America’s, is not there to drive around replenished minefields, getting legs blown off by IEDs. Their artillery will devastate ISIS’ strongholds as it did Chechnya. Their tank and plane combination will open the way for murderous militias.

Russia’s military orthodoxy is the decisive difference between its expedition in former Syria and Iraq and America’s recent ventures. Russian forces seem to be prioritizing objectives, weakening the rear with strategic air strikes, then moving the front forward with coordinated combined arms and little if any concern for collateral damage. Historically, this sort of behavior tends to engender respect rather than additional enmity.
Putin seeks only his own ends in the region, Codevilla believes. He has no lasting commitment to other actors, including those factions with which he may temporarily cooperate.


For Commentary, Noah Rothman writes that Hillary Clinton has gone from spokesperson for white Democrats in 2008 to viewing them with distain in 2016. Decreasing numbers of whites are voting Democratic, and many of those who remain - leftist ideologues to a person - are supporting Sanders.

U.S. political parties are becoming increasingly "tribal" or racial in nature, not a new trend but one that continues to grow. Had Obama governed inclusively, he might have reversed the trend. He did not, and has not.

A Bad Omen?

The Wall Street Journal reports China (and several other central banks) are selling U.S. Treasury bonds, after long being major buyers thereof. WSJ attributes this behavior to economic factors, and of course they may be correct.

Another possible interpretation of this behavior is an anticipation of military confrontations in the South and East China Seas. Should the U.S. and China get eyeball-to-eyeball over the Spratleys or Senkakus, or wherever, the U.S. could repudiate those portions of its debt held by China, stop making payments on or redeeming them.

Suppose China sees military confrontation as a realistic possibility. They could lose a substantial fraction of the wealth they have acquired as the world's premier manufacturing nation, wealth they have "parked" in U.S. Treasuries.

Under those circumstances China might well attempt to hold less U.S. debt. They would thereby lessen their risk and our economic leverage upon them.

Michelle's Disincentive

The Associated Press reports via Yahoo News the Obama administration is urging schools to do things to counteract chronic pupil absenteeism. Oh, the irony of it all.

Most chronic truants are kids who qualify for free lunch. A fascinating study would be the extent to which these kids skip school because they no longer find the free lunch something they enjoy and look forward to.

The kids loved the pizza, hot dogs, tacos, burgers, and other good-tasting stuff they once got, and it was free. Now they get free brussels sprouts, cauliflower and eggplant - ugh. When they bother to come to school much of this food is being left on the plate and ends up in the garbage.

How is that an incentive to come to school? Call it what it is - the Michelle Obama-inspired school attendance disincentive.

Loving Funemployment

I really enjoy word-play, neologisms, new made-up words. The Los Angeles Times has one you may like: funemployment. They report:
Here's Urban Dictionary's definition: "The condition of a person who takes advantage of being out of a job to have the time of their life. I spent all day Tuesday at the pool; funemployment rocks!"
An acquaintance of mine was laid off with a nice severance package and a big bonus for training the foreign programmer who would take over his job when it was moved to India. He took the resultant pot of money and treated himself to a several-months-long cross-country motorcycle trip.

When funds ran low, he came home, filed for unemployment, and eventually found work. He called it a "sabbatical." Perhaps "funemploymemt" is a better descriptor as he did not use the time off to improve work skills. In truth he took a prolonged vacation, what British colonial officials called "long service leave."

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Cancelling America Day

The New York Post runs a short article about Jackson Hole High School canceling the homecoming tradition of America Day. To their credit, the students celebrated it anyway.
School officials wouldn’t say so outright, but it’s obvious the kids they feared offending were from the district’s large Latino population.
Wyoming is perhaps the most Republican state in the nation; you probably wonder why this sort of PC nonsense would happen here. The explanation is that Teton County, of which Jackson is the county seat, is the only one of the state's 23 counties which routinely votes Democratic.

Jackson has a sizable Latino population working in support of the resort industry - various food service and hospitality jobs. The Kmart parking lot on a Sunday afternoon looks like Jalisco or Oaxaca.

Oddly, Kmart's checkers are mostly Eastern European kids from Romania or Moldova, on work-study visas. Jackson is a strange place - very un-Wyoming - having more in common with Sun Valley, Palm Springs or Vail. Our neighbors who don't work in Jackson rarely go there, preferring to shop in nearby Idaho.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Mass Incarceration Not "the New Jim Crow"

Kay Hymowitz writes in The Atlantic about the challenges facing the black family in the U.S. and the shortcomings of Ta-Nehisi Coates' book The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration.
Even in the unlikely event that Washington and state legislatures successfully adapt the nation’s crime policies to a safer, more racially sensitive era, the nation will still look around to find more black men in prison than it might expect or want. There’s a simple reason for that, one that Coates himself notes: Relative to other groups, blacks commit more crimes.

Coates is right that tough-on-crime laws will have a disproportionate effect on blacks since they are more likely to be offenders (and victims for that matter). Still, whites and Hispanics were hardly immune to their effects. Incarceration rates for white and Hispanic men almost tripled between 1960 and 2010. Today, 63 percent of inmates are white and Hispanic. If mass incarceration is the new Jim Crow, it somehow manages to get an awful lot—a strong majority, actually—of non-blacks into its clutches.