Alex's Outlook

Friday, February 28, 2003

Liberal GOP Senator Arlen Specter is finally getting a major challenge from conservative Representative Patrick Toomey.

Toomey hails from a union- and senior-heavy district that went for Al Gore in 2000 but which Toomey has easily carried. Toomey is very conservative; he never met a tax cut he didn't like and openly favors Social Security reform. He is also pro-life, and has a very strong record against government spending, which is something the Senate desperately needs right now.

Toomey will have a hard time, but he will have help from two quarters: Stephen Moore, master fundraiser and president of the Club for Growth, and the fact that if he can carry such a normally Democratic district, he can carry anything. For the opponents he's had, Specter has never made a very good showing in the party primaries, and conservatives have ample reason to be unhappy with him. Also, Specter has been a thorn in the Republicans' side for as long as I can remember up until Toomey's primary challenge geared up. That means that, although Bush will probably stump for Specter for decorum's sake, he won't support him enthusiastically. The same goes for Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania's other, more conservative senator.

If Toomey wins, the Republicans will have two very electable, very conservative Republican senators entrenched in a northeastern battleground state. It will be a huge win for the Republicans if they can pull this off, which is why the establishment will probaby offer Specter tepid support at best.

Bush's tax cut, first valued at $300 billion, then $674 billion, and then $697 billion, is now pushing $1 trillion in the House of Representatives, where a 12-vote conservative majority means total control of the chamber by Tom DeLay, the House Majority Leader. If only the Senate were so conservative!

DeLay's strategy is to pass a turbo tax cut to make Bush's proposal seem more moderate. Among the goodies of the bill is 100% first-year expensing of capital investment (ie if you make $1 million in income and buy a $500,000 piece of machinery, you only pay taxes on $500,000 of your income that year.) Not to mention accelerating Bush's 2001 tax cuts and making them permanent, as well as abolishing the double taxation of dividends. Yum.

Unfortunately, the Senate will eviscerate the package. I think Bush will be lucky if he gets complete acceleration of the 01 cuts, a 50% cut in dividend taxes and accelerated expensing for capital investment. A bunch of Republicans - the Maine Twins, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, as well as Voinovich, Chafee and McCain - are already whetting their blades. Not to mention most of the Democrats, who would like nothing better than to kill any tax cut so the economy tanks between now and 2004 and GW gets the boot just like his father did.

According to the Guardian, some anti-US countries are beginning to go wobbly. Pakistan softened its "anti-war stance" (very expected, considering how much money they get from the US). Mexico and Angola also buckled.

Russia is threatening to veto again, one day after supposedly softening its opposition. Russia has been all over the map about this. But Russia has to be kidding itself if it thinks it can "preserve international stability" by vetoing the resolution. The leaders of France, Germany and Russia just want to score populist points with this. That's fine. They're destroying the UN's legitimacy with every passing day.

Even if a lot of Americans will have initial misgivings if Bush goes in without the UN, nobody will care once Bush wins, and the UN's credibility will be gone anyway. Why does the UN think Bush needs him?

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

A Danish pizzeria just banned French and Germans because of their attitudes about the US.

Monday, February 24, 2003

The US, UK and Spain have introduced a resolution that declares Saddam in material breach. Along with these three, Chile and Bulgaria will vote with the US; Pakistani support is almost certain. For a clear majority the US needs two of the following four countries: Angola, Guinea, Mexico, and Cameroon.

I think Russia and China will abstain. Nine votes are needed for a war resolution, and Mexico will probably go with France and Germany. That leaves 6-3 with three undecideds.

Oh well. Bush isn't about to extract 200,00 troops because of the French. Rumor has spread through the Kurdish villages that war will start on March 10, which makes sense. Bush has the guns he needs, and frankly it doesn't matter whether the UN votes itself into irrelevance or not as far as Bush and Saddam are concerned. The best thing about Powell's taking the case to the UN is that it's exposing how pathetic the UN (and particularly Chirac) are. (Is seventeen violated resolutions not enough, Monsieur le President?)

Dum de dum...Saddam has challenged GW to a debate.

That was almost as funny as when Saddam challenged Bush to a duel (with Aziz and Cheney being the seconds and Kofi Annan as umpire).

Monday, February 17, 2003

I was reading Jeffrey Goldberg's very long article here. Near the bottom it talks about how Saddam had a training camp where terrorists trained to hijack an airplane in groups of four and five with knives. I never knew about that. Why isn't Bush using this information? Could there be any better way to stir up pro-war enthusiasm than this?

I was talking to a liberal the other day who was nostalgic about Bill Clinton. I don't understand why liberals love Clinton so much; as a liberal Clinton was an awful president. He had huge majorities from 1992-4, and his overreaching on taxation, socialized medicine and gays in the military blew up in his face in 1994. Thanks to Clinton the Republicans controlled Congress for the first time in 42 years. After 2002 the Democrats are almost exactly where they were post-1994, and they are heading into trouble for 2004.

Clinton screwed the Democrats in 1994. Nothing he ever did will change that. We have Clinton's amateurishness to thank for controlling both houses of Congress and a majority of governors' mansions eight years after 94.

I also don't understand why conservatives loathe Clinton so much. Granted, he vetoed the Republicans' welfare reform and dodged the Lewinsky bullet...I think Clinton's incompetence was partially responsible for 9-11, but I get the sense that that's not why conservatives hate him. Clinton signed semi-conservative welfare reform legislation and cap-gains tax cut legislation...that's more than can be said for most Democratic presidents, even if it did take a Republican Congress to horsewhip him into doing so. (His pre-1994 tax hike was very offensive, but that cost him control of Congress and a majority of governorships.)

Friday, February 07, 2003

The Georgia GOP was jubilant after electing Sonny Perdue to the governorship and breaking the Democrats' 130-year lock on the statehouse. They won on returning the Confederate flag to Georgia and slashing taxes. After his victory, Perdue did a 180 on taxes and demanded that the Georgia legislature approve a $762 million tax hike. Besides spitting on his anti-tax campaign pledge, Perdue's treachery contrasts sharply with the policy of the Democrat he defeated, Roy Barnes of Georgia. Barnes was one of the three most tax-cutting governors in America (along with Jeb Bush and Bill Owens), and he made an enemy of the GA teachers' union by blaming them for the state's public-schooling shortcomings (which wasn't far from the truth...while Perdue took the union's side to keep the union on the sidelines) Barnes was also unapologetically pro-gun. In short, Barnes was one of the most conservative governors in the United States, and he has been replaced by a big-spending Perdue masquerading as a conservative Republican.

Sadly, Perdue's conduct is typical of today's Republican governors. Dirk Kempthorne of Idaho, Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn (who said that rejecting a billion-dollar tax hike would be "cowardice"), Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, John Rowland of Connecticut, Bob Taft of Ohio...and more. All Republicans, all tax-hikers during a recession. I count a paltry seven Republican governors (Romney, Owens, Bush, Sanford, Martz, McCallum, Ehrlich) who are actually trying to cut spending and/or cut taxes. That makes 19 Republicans who refuse to follow the party platform!
What is most sad is that the Democrats are almost leading the way on tax-cutting. Bill Richardson, a former Clinton apparatchik who now runs New Mexico, plans to slash New Mexico's capital gains rate in half and income tax by about a third, making him perhaps the most supply-side governor in the country. Democratic Governors Granholm, Sebelius, Locke, Kulongoski and Richardson have all promised to cut spending and/or taxes. So has Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (blah-GOY-uh-vich), but he essentially promised everything to everybody in the 2002 elections, so he will prolly have a hard time cutting taxes. Almost as many Democrats are officially tax-cutters as Republicans. As I said, that's sad.

On the national level, too, one can see the same big-government-GOP. It is woefully apparent that the Republicans, who will celebrate ten years' control of Congress in 2004 (except for the 01-02 Jeffords hiccup), have been corrupted by ten years' power in DC. Gingrich rode to power on a wave of Republican enthusiasm coupled with the Democrats' discontent, vowing to balance the budget by cutting government programs. Eight years later, government expenditures are up 50% despite Bush's little "tax cut for the rich". The deficit is exploding. Bush has hiked government spending 18% since he took office, and no more than a third of that has anything to do with the war on terror. When looked at from a small-government perspective, the Republican earthquake of 1994 was a miserable failure.

What I have to wonder is this: the Republicans seized power in 1994 because of the Democrats' disillusionment with their own party and an enthusiastic turnout among the Republican base. Barring military or economic catastrophe, it seems that the Republican grip on power will remain until at least 2010 (the next census, when Congressional districts get sliced and diced again). But what happens when the Democrats get a charismatic leader who energizes their base? Republicans will have a couple of tax cuts to point at, but that's it. No progress on abortion or trimming government OR the deficit. On almost every possible occasion, Republicans have voted for bigger government and bigger deficits instead of smaller government. A conservative is defined by his opposition to more government programs, not tax-cutting zeal; anybody can cut taxes. Why should the Republican base turn out in favor of a party that is not conservative? What happens when the Democrats have something to rally around, and the Republicans have years of mostly failed promises? A Democrats' 1994? Probably.

In any case, a good first step would be kicking out Guinn, Taft and Perdue, because they're the most shameless Republican tax-hikers. Maybe the Georgia GOP could use another 130 years' irrelevance to learn its lesson.

Wednesday, February 05, 2003

I've been thinking about affirmative action in light of Trent Lott and the U-Mich case. Why is affirmative action so bad? Bush and the GOP are being hypocritical by opposing affirmative action. Everybody knows the Republicans would die for more black candidates, and they do absolutely everything they can to get black Republicans to run for House seats, gubernatorial tickets, etc. Republicans recruit blacks and Hispanics like crazy. There are other factors for using race besides prejudice. Diversity has practical benefits, too, like attracting minority voters, or maybe getting more minorities to buy your product if you have a reputation as a diverse corporation (by, say, diversifying your board of directors). Regardless, the Republicans acknowledge the practical value in affirmative action by practicing it so much in defiance of their platform. If affirmative action has practical benefits, why include it in the platform? Why continue the hypocrisy?

Sunday, February 02, 2003

Oh boy. Bush proposes a $470 million hike in NASA's budget.

It's nice to see Bush slashing taxes, hiking defense spending, pushing Medicare reform, etc. But where has Bush been on the explosion of the government budget?? MIA? No, he's on the front lines - of the other side! One would have thought the Columbia disaster was the final nail in the coffin of a space program that serves no purpose. Shuttles exist merely to supply astronauts on space stations; space stations exist merely to hold astronauts until shuttles pick them up. Very little scientific work is accomplished, and if it's worth the cost then the private sector can judge much better than the government. Bush could have used this to stealthily eviscerate the NASA budget, but he apparently prefers to pose as a Compassionate Conservative and throw away a few more taxpayer millions. Let's see...Reagan slashed taxes, but he also slashed domestic programs (government spending even went down for one year); Roosevelt slashed domestic programs 40 percent during WW2. Even if you accept the argument that tax-cutting boosts revenues in the short run, Bush is still fighting a worldwide war, beginning to overhaul Social Security and Medicare ($29 trillion total unpaid liability), weathering the devastating effects of the corporate scandals, and porking out domestically. Government spending rose some 15 percent from 2001-2, and will rise another 4 percent in 2002-3. While Bush managed to significantly slow spending growth this year (he had Congress hold off more than $200 billion in proposed Democratic spending), Clinton never raised government spending by 4% in one year, let alone 15%. Bush whines that 9/11 accounted for the explosion in spending, but defense only accounted for 21 percent of the spending growth from 2001-2. Discretionary spending went way out of control and Bush knows it.

Bush has been a great President, but he's spending way too much money. If Clinton had hiked spending 15 percent in one year and 4 percent the next, the Republicans would have probably shot him on the spot. Sometimes it seems like Nelson Rockefeller's big-government GOP ghost never died after all.