Thursday, February 28, 2008

Bloomberg's Withdrawal Bad News for Spitzer

So Mike Bloomberg has recognized that with both parties set to nominate candidates with broad appeal to independent voters, it doesn't make sense to throw his money away on a doomed presidential bid. He writes in the New York Times today about what the voters want in 2008:

Over the past year, I have been working to raise issues that are important to New Yorkers and all Americans — and to speak plainly about common sense solutions. Some of these solutions have traditionally been seen as Republican, while others have been seen as Democratic. As a businessman, I never believed that either party had all the answers and, as mayor, I have seen just how true that is...

More of the same won’t do, on the economy or any other issue. We need innovative ideas, bold action and courageous leadership. That’s not just empty rhetoric, and the idea that we have the ability to solve our toughest problems isn’t some pie-in-the-sky dream. In New York, working with leaders from both parties and mayors and governors from across the country, we’ve demonstrated that an independent approach really can produce progress on the most critical issues, including the economy, education, the environment, energy, infrastructure and crime.

Ed Morrissey sees Bloomberg's lament as an attempt to set himself up as a kingmaker for the 2008 presidential race -- and it certainly could be that. But I can't help but notice how much it resembles the language that Republicans use when they run statewide in heavily Democratic states. Could a gubernatorial bid be on Bloomberg's radar?

Largely unnoticed by the national media, Governor Eliot Spitzer's poll rankings continue to plummet. The Siena poll is conducted monthly, and if the election were today (instead of in 2010), Spitzer would be in serious trouble against a serious, well-funded opponent:


The number of New Yorkers that would vote to re-elect Spitzer today is just 25 percent. That sets up an attractive opportunity for Spitzer -- and potentially for another former New York Mayor whose presidential bid ended prematurely.

Note: Fausta suggests that Bloomberg may be aiming for an acting career.

Democrats: Tuna is an Economic Stimulus

Faced with falling approval ratings over their failure to accomplish anything significant, Congressional leaders have developed a new plan to prove just how effective they are: label everything they do an economic stimulus:

With a bipartisan compromise on their first economic stimulus package behind them, the second, third and fourth waves of Democratic legislative endeavors likely are to be partisan if this week’s debate on the Democrats’ second “stimulus” bill is any guide...

The housing bill has little in common with the $156 billion economic stimulus of tax rebates, but that hasn’t stopped Democrats from dubbing it their “second stimulus” bill. It’s a branding approach that Democrats said will be a common sight this year.

“They don’t call ‘horse mackerel’ horse mackerel anymore. They call it tuna so they can sell it,” said Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.). “Labeling becomes extremely important. ... Sometimes it’s a bigger stretch than others...”

Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) said Wednesday that the budget blueprint he intends to consider in committee next week probably would make room for a $35 billion economic stimulus package. The proposal is likely to include extended unemployment benefits as well as additional funding for food stamps and low-income home-heating assistance, he said...

According to the Democratic Senators quoted by Roll Call, home heating oil subsidies, food stamps, unemployment benefits, pork-barrel projects, mortgage assistance -- it's all an economic stimulus! By this logic, there's no government spending that isn't. Here's a suggestion: perhaps Congress can boost the economy by funding the war on terror, or not raising taxes on oil and gas. Either would be more effective than the lipstick-on-a-pig approach advocated by Democratic leaders.

Michelle looks at the inefficiency of the housing bill congressional omnibus residential infrastructure and fiscal stimulus package.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Pawlenty Burnishes His VP Credentials

I've not seen any overt indication from Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty as to whether he welcomes the speculation that makes him a leading contender for John McCain's vice presidential nominee. If he's interested though, stories like this can only help:

The Minnesota Legislature voted to override Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty's veto of the $6.7 billion transportation bill Monday...

Six House and two Senate Republicans broke party lines to support the override and send the bill into law.

The transportation bill includes a gas tax increase which will be the state's first in 20 years.

The initial two cents go into effect in 30 days, and another three cents will be added Oct. 1...

Despite bipartisan support for the bill in the House, Rep. Dan Severson, R-Sauk Rapids, disputed its helpfulness to the majority of the state's population.

"This is probably one of the most important bills we can pass, but this bill is not that bill," he said. "There is a bunch of pork in this bill."

Standing in front of a gas-tax-increasing pork bill is not a bad way to earn the attention of the national media. The only unfortunate thing for Governor Pawlenty is that it has not attracted a lot of national attention -- at least not so far.

I suspect that most fiscal conservatives will cheer the Governor for his action, and hope that Senator McCain picks someone like him for the ticket.

Hat Tip: ATR

Obama the Liberal: More Bricks in the Wall

By now it's abundantly clear that to judge him solely on the issues, Barack Obama is as liberal as any candidate the Democrats have nominated for president in the modern era. George McGovern, Walter Mondale, and Michael Dukakis would be proud. As the campaign unfolds, we are likely to see more evidence of this. Today brings several items to bolster the claim.

Scott Mirengoff unearthed this video, which by itself would have ended Obama's campaign in the Cold War era:

Greg Mankiw points to this analysis of Obama's Patriot Employer Act, which has earned strong criticisms from economists and fiscal conservatives:

Barack Obama, the likely Democratic presidential candidate, has proposed tax breaks for US corporations that invest at home rather than abroad. This column argues that his proposal is protectionist, reactionary, and economically unsound.

That puts it firmly in line with the modern liberal tradition. Dorothy Coleman also comments on the problems with the proposal.

John Hinderaker considers whether, in light of Obama's liberalism, we are taking him too lightly. He argues that Reagan won because American voters saw how liberalism failed as a governing philosophy. He finds that times may have changed:

Today, the benefit of that experience has largely been lost. A generation of American voters has not experienced the failures of the Great Society, the near-collapse of American cities, double-digit inflation and unemployment, seventy percent tax brackets, or the disaster of Jimmy Carter's foreign policy. In the absence of historical memory, and with a powerful assist from the ever-forgetful press, liberalism is once again emerging as the philosophy that sounds good...

This is true. But it's also worth considering that no one on the national stage is willing to embrace the label 'liberal.' Obama avoids it, and Democrats are still trying hard to rebrand themselves as 'progressive.' If McCain can convince the people that Obama really is an old line liberal, that label alone may still be powerful enough to win him the election.

On Universal Health Care & Health Care Rationing

Greg Mankiw offers a compelling story and an astute observation:

...Technological advance is making state-of-the-art health care increasingly expensive. In any kind of national health system, some treatments will, by simple cost-benefit calculation, be deemed too expensive to provide to all citizens. But does that mean those of above-average income should be excluded as well? Should they lose basic benefits if they choose to pay for these marginal services with their own money?

If you say yes to this last question, as the U.K. health service has, here is a related one: Should a parent who hires an after-school tutor for his child be barred from sending the child to the public schools?

Some people like to think of health care and education of basic human rights. Maybe they are. But they are also normal goods. That is, the income elasticity of demand is positive. It is hard to escape the conclusion that the right cost-benefit calculation for providing the good depends on the income of the consumer.

It's virtually inevitable that there will be some sort of rationing for expensive and complex health care procedures. No system of delivering health care -- either market-based or single-payer -- is likely to cover the vast expense required to extend the same, state-of-the-art care to all consumers.

Yet that rationing seems to be at the heart of many liberal complaints regarding our existing employer-based health care. If it will not be overcome -- or cannot be overcome except by denying such treatments to all -- then much of the impetus for universal health care is lost.

And while we're on the topic, go check out Mankiw's story. It involves an English cancer patient who's denied treatment that she can afford, and which the private market will offer. In such a case, where is the incentive to continue development of cutting-edge therapies and cures for a range of maladies? After all, if there's little chance of making a profit at it, why develop it?

Mariachis for Obama

Hat Tip... someone. Sorry -- I forget how I found this:

So much for Barack having trouble among latino voters? It's good to see that Ted Kennedy isn't the only hispanohablante backing Barack.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Your Invitation to John Murtha's Big Fundraiser

A little while ago, Bob Novak wrote about John Murtha's 'annual payback dinner' for defense contractors who've benefited from the chairman's largesse:

Murtha, a close adviser of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, is one of the leading earmarkers in Congress. The earmark recipients will be paying the $1,500 a person admission to "An Evening with Jack and Joyce Murtha."

Although the dinner is timed to coincide with the anniversary of Murtha's first special election to Congress in 1974, invitations for it were mailed just before the annual deadline for earmark applications.

Oddly enough, this fundraiser isn't listed on Murtha's campaign website. Wonder why he'd want to keep such an event secret?

But while it may cost you $1,500 to get into the party (if you find an invite), it doesn't cost you anything to spend the evening outside with conservative opponents of Congressman Murtha. The food isn't likely to be as good, but the company should be excellent.

No doubt Chairman Murtha will be gratified to by the show of support, but probably not surprised. That's because in recent years, every entity graced by him donates to his campaign. I wonder what he'll do with the money if he winds up running unopposed?

SEIU: A House Divided Against Itself

McQ points out that the Service Employees International Union is pulling out all the stops to help Barack Obama. At the same time, the SEIU is facing an internal rebellion against charges that union boss Andy Stern has put his own power and reputation ahead of the goal of improving work conditions for SEIU members. The basic complaint among the union rank and file is that Stern has negotiated agreements to unionize with employers, guaranteeing them labor peace by conceding worker conditions. That way the SEIU member rolls and contributions expand, even if members don't actually see any benefits:

According to an inside source, this “strategy” would gain for the union 300,000 members, but under the condition of template contracts, and in exchange for continued support of a bad-for-workers national health care bill that could provide a windfall for the hospitals. Plus, though the members would receive representation form the locals, they would be directly signed up to the International to avoid future jurisdictional problems.

This is the direction that the SEIU is headed: a streamlined, top-down, lobbying machine with many members with few rights.

The fight culminated in the recent resignation of Sal Rosselli, the leader of a 150,000-member local in California -- who formerly headed the more than 600,000-member SEIU California State Council:

Rosselli's basic complaint is that Stern and top SEIU officials have sidestepped local union leaders to make critical decisions and have merged locals without giving members a voice.

"Over the past two years, a stark difference has evolved between SEIU's projected image and its real world practices," he wrote to Stern. "An overly zealous focus on growth, growth at any cost, apparently has eclipsed SEIU's commitment to its members."

The anti-Stern dissidents have established a website to build support for (excuse the expression) 'change. The fight may be worth watching as the 2008 campaign unfolds, and we see just how effective SEIU is in delivering the votes of its members.

Hat Tip: Freedom's Watch

(Josh) Romney for Congress?

The Deseret Morning News reported yesterday that the GOP may be able to line up a blue-chip prospect to run against Utah Democrat Jim Matheson:

Josh Romney told the Deseret Morning News that after a year of campaigning across country for his father, he's been approached to run as a Republican against 2nd Congressional District Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah.

"I haven't ruled it out," Josh Romney, 32, of Millcreek, said of becoming a candidate himself. "I'm pretty young, but I've had good experience on the campaign trail." Plus, he said, he likely could count on his father's supporters here in Utah.

Matheson's district has a PVI of +17 Republican (the average Republican beats the average Democrat by 17 points). It's a tribute to him as a campaigner that he does so well in such a difficult district. After close races in 2002 and 2004, he prevailed by a healthier margin in 2006 -- when all Democrats benefited from the national tide.

That said, an opponent like a Romney would instantly move his 2008 race from a snoozer to a competitive race.

So Much for the 'Rush to War' in Iraq

CNBC notes that the review of the Sirius-XM merger is taking longer than the debate over whether to invade Iraq:

It’s now been over a year that the XM merger has been held up by regulators. Congress has spent more time examining this deal between two companies that, together, make up less than 5% of the radio market, than it did examining the Exxon-Mobil deal. Or Chevron-Texaco. Or even the decision to invade Iraq.

The Iraq invasion began in March, 20003. The debate had begun by the Summer of 2002. And if you believe the liberal critics, the administration had essentially decided to take out Saddam either before taking office, or on September 12, 2001.

Was there really a rush to judgment?

Monday, February 25, 2008

How Big Will the Democratic Tax Increase Be?

USA Today does the math, and concludes that Barack and Hillary are promising an awful lot of new spending -- given the level of the federal deficit:

As detailed below, both candidates have major new health care initiatives and other spending proposals; Obama tacks on a major tax cut for working Americans to offset Social Security tax payments...

A rollback of Bush's tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans could generate perhaps $75 billion next year. The Iraq war savings are much harder to figure. The war has been costing about $100 billion per year. But a Democratic president, once in office, might decide that national security demands a gradual withdrawal, or a redeployment to Afghanistan. Health care for Iraq war veterans will run into the billions for decades. It's unlikely that winding down the war will produce a large, quick peace dividend capable of supporting a host of new programs...

None of this seems to trouble the candidates. Clinton — who also promises to bring back the fiscal responsibility of her husband's administration, when the budget moved into surplus — and Obama present their ideas with a mix of inspirational rhetoric and populist anger.

As Allah would say, Exit Question: how much longer can the Democrats' complain about the increased deficit under President Bush, while simultaneously promising huge spending increases of their own? And can Democrats win an election in which John McCain points out that simple math dictates their tax increases must be much higher than they are willing to admit?

Update: Ed Morrissey has a post worth reading as well.

The Future of Video Games

This looks very cool: