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A Uniquely American Problem

Once a government program is established to provide benefits to a prescribed group, there is soon to follow a movement to expand the definition of that group to include more people (voters).  Lobbyists will form to expand the new institutionalized benefits.  A portion of the benefits will be drained to the administration and their proxies.

Every expansion of the benefit happens with quiet approval; every attempt to reverse or curtail them is met with outrage.

The growth of the administrative state is further advanced by the principle of dispersed costs and focused benefits.  It pays to spend millions on lobbying because the benefit to the client is enormous, but it does not pay to spend much to stop them because the marginal cost per taxpayer is minimal.  The accumulation of these accommodations is substantial, especially when you include the administrative markup and the ultimate cost to consumers.

Our government was set up to run in a decentralized manner and the growing centralization bring us into a conflict between a desire for centralized solutions and a decentralized structure. This is the inherent problem of American progressivism.

Lobbying seems to be a uniquely American problem.  Our progressive experiment sought to neuter the influence of large commercial interests, but it seems we only institutionalized and registered them. The corrupting influence remains.

The preferred solution is a simplified government that relies less on social engineering.  Lobbyists exist due to complexities and preferences.  You can measure the problem by the spread between the statutory tax rate and the actual tax rate paid.  The difference is the benefit bestowed on special interests by the government.

The more complex the laws and regulations the greater the influence of lobbyists and proxies.  We will not likely eliminate the influence of money in politics, but we should at least try to make the opportunity for government influence less attractive than serving consumers and their marketplace.

HKO Thoughts 2017 10 17

None of us can escape our own hypocrisy, but how can Hillary blame misogyny for her loss when she was married to a serial abuser (whom she enabled), her assistant’s husband was convicted of predatory behavior, and one of her largest donors is being drawn and quartered for behavior few in the corporate world would ever tolerate.

Trump is accused of pushing too much, losing focus, and overloading Congress. I do not disagree but it probably fits his style. Some leaders (and writers) carefully plan and proceed, and some push multiple inchoate objectives, accept what sticks, and circle back to the ones that failed or move on. They feel they accomplish more by hitting 30% of ten objectives than 50% of four objectives.  It is the runs that are remembered, not the outs.

One morning I bounced between Morning Joe on MSNBC and Fox.  I realize that these have often provided opposing ends of the spectrum but the difference now is striking.  The mood on Morning Joe was depressing and somber, filled with the dread of a president with no redeeming value, motivated by nothing more than ego, ignorance, and destruction.  Fox was, not surprisingly, affirmative on many of the President’s recent initiatives, yet critical of others- particularly his attacks on the press. The difference is more acute than ever in both tone and substance.

One should be most cautious about creating a source of power unless you can imagine that power in the hands of your worst nightmare.  Harry Reid eliminated the filibuster on lower court judges and now Trump is loading the lower courts with Scalias.  Obama expressed disdain for the obstructionism of Congress and usurped legislative powers that are now being used to unravel his accomplishments.  The left’s focus on the courts made it a target for the right and one of the reasons marginal independents avoided Hillary. Their attack on gerrymandering could also come to bite them.

The right thought Obama was a fluke, fortunate in his timing in ’08 of running in the middle of a recession. His legitimacy, however, was confirmed in 2012.  The left may be making this same mistake by focusing more on Trump legitimacy and psychological fitness than their own flaws.  Joan Williams in White Working Class and Mark Lilla in The Once And Future Liberal are challenging the perception of their fellow Democrats but failing to address their policy failures.  Their party is not listening… yet.

 

Reading 2017 10 17

Jeff Sessions Restores the Rule of Law 

It must be confusing for an authoritarian like Trump to be so criticized for moving authority back to Congress.

Trump Was Right to End Unconstitutional Obamacare Subsidies

Technocrats of all ideological stripes consistently find the Constitution frustrating. If it weren’t for that pesky document, our benevolent dictators could all pen and phone their way to utopia. But there are good reasons for leaving appropriations to Congress.

America’s Worst Governor

The left loves to isolate the problems with tax cuts to Kansas.  They need to look at Connecticut.

The Citizens United Disaster That Wasn’t

The data suggest two conclusions. The first was summarized by Brooklyn Law School Professor Joel Gora after the 2012 election: “The predicted wave of corporate financial political intervention never materialized. Of all of the super PAC independent expenditure spending that escalated in the 2012 election, very little of it came from corporate contributions.” That remained true in 2016 and probably will into the foreseeable future.

Scalias All Thee Way Down

Mr. Trump has now nominated nearly 60 judges, filling more vacancies than Barack Obama did in his entire first year. There are another 160 court openings, allowing Mr. Trump to flip or further consolidate conservative majorities on the circuit courts that have the final say on 99% of federal legal disputes.

And we have Harry Reid to thank for paving this path.

Why Democrats Should Think Twice Before Seeking To End Gerrymandering

The process of ensuring minority representation creates situations like that of South Carolina. To create the seat held by Rep. James Clyburn, the assistant Democratic leader in the House and a senior member of the Congressional Black Caucus, African-Americans are gerrymandered into a district that makes Gerry’s original salamander-shaped scheme look like a geometric design. As applied throughout the South, this has been devastating to Democrats while largely transforming the party into one where, ironically, black politicians have a disproportionate amount of influence.

Justice Holmes’s Free-Speech Lesson

Holmes’s radical idea was that we are too often wrong. When we are wrong, the consequences can be dire. When we are not only absolutely certain but also right, what is the harm in allowing other views to be heard?

You Can’t Buy the Presidency for $100,000

Russia didn’t win Trump the White House any more than China re-elected Bill Clinton in 1996.

Discuss Among Yourselves

from Matthew Continetti at National Review, Pop Goes the Liberal Media Bubble

What passes for news today is speculation and advocacy, wishful thinking and self-fashioning, mindless jabber and affirmations of virtue, removed from objective reality and common sense. The content is intended not for the public but for other media. In a recent interview with Peter J. Boyer about her institution’s study of press coverage of Trump, Amy Mitchell said, “One of the things that was interesting to see was that, while the topic of the news media was not a huge percentage of overall coverage, journalists were both the second most common source type as well as the second most common ‘trigger’ of the stories.” The CNN anchors aren’t talking to you. They are talking to one another.

The conversations that journalists in New York and D.C. and L.A. trigger among themselves have very little to do with the conversations between most people, in most places, at most times. The conversations are self-referential, self-sustaining, self-validating, and selfishly concern one topic: the president of the United States. That may be why his critics in the press are so fixated on his tweets. Twitter is his way of talking back. It’s how he pops the liberal media bubble.

HKO

Media bias is partially how they cover, but largely what they choose to cover, and not choose.  The media lost credibility long before Trump.  Every lefty who has demonized Fox News has engaged in the same disrespect for the press that they accuse Trump of.

Quietly Getting Better

from Victor Davis Hanson at National Review, It’s 1968 All Over Again:

The smears “racist,” “fascist,” “white privilege,” and “Nazi” — like “Commie” of the 1950s — are so overused as to become meaningless. There is now less free speech on campus than during the McCarthy era of the early 1950s.

Is the chaos of 2017 a catharsis — a necessary and long overdue purge of dangerous and neglected pathologies? Will the bedlam within the United States descend into more nihilism or offer a remedy to the status quo that had divided and nearly bankrupted the country?

Is the problem too much democracy, as the volatile and fickle mob runs roughshod over establishment experts and experienced bureaucrats? Or is the crisis too little democracy, as populists strive to dethrone a scandal-plagued, anti-democratic, incompetent, and overrated entrenched elite?

Neither traditional political party has any answers. Democrats are being overwhelmed by the identity politics and socialism of progressives. Republicans are torn asunder between upstart populist nationalists and the calcified establishment status quo.

Yet for all the social instability and media hysteria, life in the United States quietly seems to be getting better.

HKO

We have a priority. Existential security comes first, economic stability second, and social justice third.  Perhaps the tragic flaw of the Democrats is that their priority mismatches the voters.  the social unrest of the 1960′s was largely a by product of national security (Viet Nam was not the threat of WWII), and  solid growing economy in a world still recovering from WW II. Perhaps the voters are not feeling as secure and stable as they need to feel to make social justice the priority they want it to be.