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A Mixed Bag of Policy, Politics, and that Tax Bill

President Donald Trump at long last got a major piece of legislation to sign into law Wednesday, after the Republicans in congress rammed through a massive tax cut bill, but it remains to be seen if it will eventually count as a win. Trump and all those congressional Republicans are expecting the public will come to love the law, but for now it’s polling horribly and the Democrats are scoring the political points.
The bill runs more than 500 pages, and from our on-the-side-lines perspective it’s a rather mixed bag. Our guess is that the overall effect on the economy will be salutary, although not to the extent that the Republicans are hoping for, and that as usual the benefits won’t be equably distributed across the country, although not so inequitably as the Democrats are urging people to fear. Both parties should probably be hoping that it’s all largely forgotten by the time the next votes are cast in the mid-term elections.
The main feature of the bill is a slashing of the corporate tax rate from a world’s highest 35 percent to a more-typical-by-world-standards 21 percent, as  frankly and ill-advisedly admitted during a celebratory meeting with the congressional Republicans at the White House. Until then Trump had peddled the obvious fiction that the bill’s main feature is a big beautiful Christmas gift to America’s middle class, and he might come to wish he’d told the truth from the outset.
Although the Democrats were quite right to argue that few corporations pay that highest-in-the-world rate, it’s still true that all those deductions merely whittled that rate down and still left American corporations at a disadvantage in the competitive world market, and although it’s not likely to benefit the overall economy to the extent Republicans are hoping it won’t hurt and bit and will surely do some good. The stock markets had a slight downturn on Wednesday, but that’s because investors had already added in the anticipated passage of the bill during its recent record-setting runs, and we’ve no doubt there would have been a bloodbath of red if the bill hadn’t passed.
There’s a certain segment of the Democratic party and the more general left that resent anything that benefits corporations, but even such Democrats as President Barack Obama recognized that the economy can’t do without them for now and were also on board with a corporate tax cut. If that had been touted as the main feature of the bill, the Republicans might have coaxed a few votes from Democratic representatives and senators in districts and states where corporations are major employers and majors donors, which would have given some bipartisan cover in case things go wrong.
The bill also delivers some tax cuts to the middle class, although not all of it, and even many of the beneficiaries might conclude that it’s not as big and beautiful a Christmas gift as was promised. Despite all the populist rhetoric on both the left and the right the hate top 1 percent pay bear about half the country’s tax burden, the top 20 percent pick up 85 percent of the tab, and a full 60 percent pay either no federal income taxes or so little that any further cuts would only amount to little. If you’re in that 50-to-80 percent segment of the population that is paying you might get a notable if not princely amount each year until the cuts expire, but if you live in a nice house in a high-tax state or haven’t gotten around to having children or are paying rather receiving alimony or have other certain circumstances it might just turn out to be a tax hike.
How that turns out in the overall mid-term voting remains to be seen, but we will hazard a guess that those Republicans holding crucial House seats in such states as California and New York and Illinois are going to regret getting  rid of the state and local property tax deductions. The sorts of Republicans you find in those well-heeled districts with high-priced houses are already inclined to abhor the boorishness of Trump and his burn-it-down populism, and without a stake in a party-line Republican tax bill they won’t have any reason to support the party.
In those less well-heeled and more reliably Democratic districts the law is likely to further enflame the ever-raging fires of class resentment, no matter how salutary the overall economic consequences. All of those congressional Republicans have always denied that the law delivers a far bigger tax cut to the rich than it does the middle class, and Trump has assured his true believers that he’s going to take a huge hit because of it, but these arguments not only verifiably but also obviously untrue. The expert analyses of the bill vary wildly, and you can believe whichever you want based on how they share your ideological leanings until you complete your tax forms, but all of them agree that someone richer than you is going to reap bigger benefits than you.
That doesn’t bother us, as we’re the penurious but Republican sorts who harbor no class resentments, and we still hold out hope of snatching some small benefit from any overall salutary effect on the economy, but we do wish that Trump and all those congressional Republicans hadn’t so brazenly lied about it. The arguments for income inequality are complex and hard to make, but President Ronald Reagan persuasively made it during a longer and more thorough debate for his even bigger tax cut bill, and they always work better than a bald-faced lie. Trump’s lie that all the businesses he scandalously hasn’t divested himself of won’t benefit is particularly galling, and we can’t begrudge the Democrats the political points they’ll score because of that.
The law also repeals the provision of the “Obamacare” law that requires citizens to purchase not only health coverage but health care coverage of a certain type that may or may not be needed, which was the part we most hated about that hated law, but that’s also a mixed bag. Trump brags that he’s kept a campaign promise to repeal Obamacare, which is true enough because eliminating it’s individual mandate will ultimately sink the whole project, but because he hasn’t kept his campaign promise to replace Obamacare with something big and beautiful that will cover everyone at at a far lower cost it’s likely to end up with a lot of people losing coverage and many people more for what they’ve still got.
We do expect the effect on gross domestic product and unemployment numbers will be salutary, though, and hold out hope that some better health care policy will ensue from the coming calamity, so the Grand Old Party might yet survive all the public disapproval of the moment. During their big celebration party at the White House the congressional Republicans took turns lavishing praise on Trump in terms so obsequious they would have embarrassed a North Korean general, on the other, and in the long run the party will suffer consequences for such brazen lies as that.

— Bud Norman

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Another Annus Horribilis

Years always seem to end in the dead of winter, when the trees are bare and the skies are gray and the prairie winds blow bitterly cold, and thus far 2015 is proving no exception to that desultory rule. In this case it seems altogether apt, as 2015 has been a desultory year. Even the most determined optimist would find it hard to identify much good news from the past six months of headlines, in any section of the paper.
The economy sputtered along steadily enough that the Federal Reserve has hiked interest rates a teensy-weensy bit, and the unemployment rate didn’t seem so bad if you just excluded all the underemployed and the huge number of people who’d given up on finding any sort of work, but the working stiff’s wages were still stagnant and even the investor class was having the hardest time making a profit since the legendarily hard times of the Great Depression. The global state of affairs further deteriorated, with the Middle East exploding in an even greater than usual hatred and the deadly repercussions being felt as far away as Paris and San Bernardino, refugees from that troubled region and Central America and elsewhere in the Third World pouring into the west in such numbers that they overwhelmed the resources and generosity of the First World, and elite western opinion blaming it all on capitalism. Academia went utterly mad in 2015, government regulations proliferated at an unprecedented rate, the popular culture offered no compensatory movies or songs or novels or dance crazes that we noticed, and our favorite sports teams suffered frustrating seasons.
The new year that starts tomorrow promises an extra Leap Year day, an inevitable spring, and a long and leafy summer that will lead to an autumnal Election Day that could possibly put some of this right, but the past year doesn’t make us hopeful. So far the Democrats seem more riled up about impoverishing the rich than enriching the poor, and the polls predicts that they’ll nominate a woman who has parlayed political influence into extraordinary wealth to make the point, so there’s little chance for progress there. Meanwhile the Republicans, until recently infuriated by crony capitalism and Russian arrogance and a shallow popular culture, are threatening to nominate a man who brags about buying off politicians and revels in the praise of Vladimir Putin and was the star of a long-running reality television show to make their point. The infuriation of 2015 will make level-headed decision-making difficult in 2016, although we can hope the warmer weather will help.

— Bud Norman

America, Still in the Top 20 For Freedom

It’s a free country, according to an oft-used expression, but we can’t help noticing that America is not nearly so free as used it be. The good folks at the free-market Cato Institute have corroborated this observation in their latest “Human Freedom Index,” which surveys a wide range of indicators of personal and economic liberty, and finds that America is now only the 20th freest nation in the world.
Although we’re surprised to find America ranking behind such countries as Hong Kong and Chile, the rest of the report seems about right. The authors say America has fallen three spots in the rankings since 2012, and that “the decline reflects a long-term drop in every category of economic freedom and in its rule of law indicators,” then note that “the performance is worrisome and shows that the United States can no longer claim to be the leading bastion of liberty in the world.” We’re pleased to know that it’s as worrisome to them as it is to us, but presently an even greater worry is that so much of the public seems not at all concerned. The Democratic candidates seem more concerned with the problem of “income inequality,” which apparently will require ever more rules and regulations and limits on equality, while The Republican Party seems disinclined to put much of a fight against it, and all those independents who will decide the matter tend to vote for free stuff rather than freedom.
We can’t tell if the Cato Institute is taking into account such petty rules as light bulb bans and no smoking in even the seediest honky-tonks and mandatory seat belt use and limits of the size of soda one can purchase, but there are by now so many of these offenses against personal autonomy that even the communist Chinese rules of Hong Kong can’t keep up. More significant freedoms have also been noticeably diminished. The freedom of the press has declined to a point that reporters are being kept in roped enclosures at public events and their investigative reporting is being treated as a criminal conspiracy by the Department of Music. People are still free to attend church on Sunday, but freedom of religion no longer means that you can no longer act according to the beliefs taught there if a same-sex couple wants you to bake a cake for their wedding. Freedom of speech is still largely free of government regulation, unless you make a YouTube video that is critical of Islam and makes a convenient scapegoat for a failed Libyan policy, but the howling mods of the easily offended are doing a good enough job of constricting public debate. As for economic liberty, just ask any businessperson you know about how many permits and inspections and taxes and employment laws and equal opportunity requirements and reams of forms to be filled out they have to deal with.
Once upon a time in America the people would have been boiling tar and plucking feathers to be at least as free as the people of Hong Kong or Chile, and if you re-read the Declaration of Independence you’ll realize that Americans once went to their muskets over far less, but these days few seem to mind. The average citizen of the 20th freest country is now content with that status, so long as some of the income is redistributed his way and the games are playing on cable and there’s an illusion of broader freedom because everyone’s cussing on the comedy shows and everyone’s got a tattoo and those restrictive old notions of sexual morality are being punished by the state.
The economy and illegal immigration and the continuing difficulties with the more belligerent sorts of Muslims and the rest of the issues dominating the presidential debate are all important, but we’d love to see a candidate for the presidency or any other office make it his foremost issue to return to America to its rightful place as the leading bastion of liberty in the world. Such a project would do wonders for the economy, involve the necessary enforcement of America’s immigration laws, and strengthen America’s commitment to the freedom that those more belligerent sorts of Muslims threaten. We suspect would like it, too, just as Americans used to back when this really was a free country.

— Bud Norman

Mom and Inequality

Sunday is Mother’s Day, a yearly chance to reflect on all the bedtime stories dear old Mom told and all the other loving things she did to create America’s appalling levels of income inequality. That’s the view of one British academic, at least, and it seems the illogical conclusion of the entire egalitarian left’s line of reasoning.
The British academic is Adam Swift, a professor of politics and international studies at England’s University of Warwick, who told an Australian radio interviewer that “The evidence shows that the difference between those who get bedtime stories and those who don’t — the difference in their life chances — is greater than the difference between those who get private schooling and those who don’t.” The good professor doesn’t therefore condemn bedtime stories, which he acknowledges are useful in developing family bonds that he considers socially beneficial, but he adds that “I don’t think parents reading their children bedtime stories should constantly have in their minds the way they are unfairly disadvantaging other people’s children, but I think they should have that thought occasionally.” He’s more adamant about banning private schooling, which he does not find useful in fostering those family bonds that he generously finds some social benefit to having, and we infer that he would also ban anything else a loving mother might do to give her child an advantage in life which does not serve some broader public utility that he can readily identify.
Something about the professor’s last name and logic reminded us of Jonathan Swift’s famous essay on “A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People From Being a Burthen to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Publick,” in which he jocularly advocated that the impoverished Irish of the early 1700’s sell their children as food, but apparently the more recent Swift intended his remarks in earnest rather than as satire. We’ve confirmed this from several seemingly reliable sources, including a unsettlingly sympathetic account of the interview on the “Philosopher’s Zone” of the Australian Broadcast Company’s web site, and find it all too believable that Swift should hold such outrageous views. The part about banning or stigmatizing private education is by now a common refrain on the American left, which regards even such half-assed educational reforms as charter schools  as racist, and of course they’re downright apoplectic about those loving mothers who are providing first-rate educations to their children at home, where they’re getting God only knows what sort of idiosyncratic and officially unapproved ideas in the poor little dear’s heads, of course the left is equally adamant that inheritance taxes should prevent a mother from passing along any money or other property to a child or a grandchild, and a similar worry that any one child might turn out to be better or in any other respect different from another child seems to inform a whole host of other issues.
Swift and his fellow egalitarians are obviously quite right that not all mothers are created equal and their disparate motherhoods create unequal life chances for their offspring. Our own mother was a most excellent bedtime story-reader, and made sure that a memorization of the alphabet and a recognition of its symbols and an extensive vocabulary accompanied us to our very first day of school, and sent us off to school on time each day in clean clothes with a bellyful of healthful food, and took us to symphony concerts and art museums and historical sites, and inculcated a love of reading and learning ,and gave us a few necessary swats on the head whenever we’d improperly conjugate a verb, and she shared with us a sense of right and wrong grounded in the ancient faith of our ancestors, and although it hasn’t resulted in any noticeable income equality that we can brag about, which it probably would have if we’d more diligently followed her advice, we cannot deny that it has significantly increased our life chances in other important ways. We still have the love of reading and learning about music and art and history, the faith of our ancestors grows more important to us with each passing day, we’ve written a couple of novels, and we don’t say anything about how  we seen something, as so many people do around here, so we frankly if snobbishly assess that in many ways we are a lot better off than many other mothers’ kids as a result.
We hope that Mom doesn’t feel the least bit guilty about it, though, and we want her to know that we don’t hold her at all responsible for how some of the dullards that we sat with in public school turned out.. Knowing her to be an old-fashioned Okie rather than an up-to-date British academic, however, we trust she has already come to the common sense conclusion that the problem driving all that inequality is not the mothers who read bedtime stories to their children but the ones who don’t. In some elastic senses of the term “equality” can be an admirable goal, we suppose, no matter how unrealistic it might be by any definition, but it’s a most dangerously anti-liberty concept when it means dragging down the best rather than lifting up the worst. Nor can we see how the illogical conclusion of liberal egalitarianism serves any public good.
We’re friends with a fine young sixth-grader whose mother and father are sacrificing to send him to one of those private schools, despite the lack of any apparent racism or class antagonisms on their part, and he was read bedtime stories to boot, and he’s coming along so well that we now expect him to come up with some idiosyncratic and officially unapproved idea that will someday be of great benefit even to the public-schooled dullards with the unlettered mothers. We’d like that that our own idiosyncratic and officially unapproved ideas, so carefully typed out according to the standard English that our mother would smack us for violating, might yet also provide some social benefit that a British academic can’t readily identify. We’d like to think that all the mothers who have read to their children at bedtime and provided any other advantage they could to improve a young  life’s chances have made the world a far better place.
We’d also like to wish our Mom, and all those other mothers who read bedtime stories to their children, a most happy Mother’s Day.

— Bud Norman

The End of Satire

The art of satire, according our well-considered literary theory, should be rendered with a certain subtlety. A burlesque too broad is bound to be vulgar, and it also robs the more sophisticated reader of that smug self-satisfaction that comes with recognizing an inconspicuous joke. Alas, The Daily Mail’s account of President Barack Obama’s remarks before and during a recent high-dollar fund-raiser falls well short of this high standard.
The article is presented as straightforward journalism, in keeping with the Fleet Street mainstay’s usual offerings, but despite the paper’s impeccable reputation for accuracy it seems the work of a rather ham-fisted satirist. It claims that Obama sent one of those poverty-pleading e-mails soliciting donations from the basement-dwelling Democratic hoi polloi, in which he lambasted the Republican opposition as the party of the fabulously wealthy, then flew to Connecticut to headline a $32,400-dollar-per-ticket fund-raiser in the Greenwich home of a real estate mogul named Rich Richman. This is irony cut with a chain saw, rather than the requisite scalpel, and had we been the editors we would have insisted in the interest of verisimilitude on something slightly less gaudy.
Take the small detail of that mogul host’s improbable name, for instance. We’ve dabbled in fiction enough to know the exhilirating sense of omnipotence that comes with naming our creations, and have always looked to the hilariously overstated nomenclature of the great Evelyn Waugh as our model, but calling the rich, rich man “Rich RIchman” is a bit lazy and self-indulgent to our tastes. Not since Arthur Miller named the lowly protagonist of “Death of a Salesman” Willy Loman has a name been so uncomfortably pregnant with ponderous significance. At the very least, we would have insisted it be transliterated into French or some other obscure language. Other reports joshingly indicate that the president’s middle name is “Hussein,” however, so  we commend the authors for omitting that rather over-the-top invention.
A wryer sort of satire can be found at The Weekly Standard, which quotes the president at length during another pricey fund-raiser, this one at a swank Manhattan restaurant. According the this account, the president acknowledged to his well-heeled supporters in the fight against income inequality that “there’s a sense possibly that the world is spinning so fast and nobody is able to control it,” then reassured them by citing his recent successes against the Islamic State terror gang, which continues its territorial gains in a key swath of the Middle East, rallying the North Atlantic Treaty Organization against the Russians, who currently control much of what used to be Ukraine, and mobilizing the entire “world community” against the carbon emissions causing global warming, which hasn’t been happening for the past 18 years. This is all quite droll, especially the implied suggestion that people would really pay $32,400 to hear such apparent balderdash, which should be especially satisfying to the class-envying sorts or who worry about income inequality, and we appreciate the painstaking effort to make it sound like something the president might have actually said.
There’s a disconcerting possibility, though, that both stories by these usually reliable publications are actually true. If so, we fear that the ancient art of satire might be rendered obsolete.

— Bud Norman

Rooting for the Clinton Slump

Our beloved Wichita Wingnuts lost in frustrating 11th-inning fashion to the Grand Prairie Air Hogs at the old Lawrence-Dumont Stadium on Monday, and that convoluted Supreme Court ruling on the Environmental Protection Agency’s insane scheme to regulate your exhalations was at best a split decision, but we found some consolation in Hillary Clinton’s continued losing streak.
The Democratic Party’s presumptive presidential nominee has been in a noteworthy slump the past few weeks, whiffing the softball questions lobbed by a previously friendly press and making bush league errors on the most routine plays, and it’s been a most entertaining spectacle. Her widely-panned book has already been relegated to remainder tables, a carefully choreographed special on the Cable News Network met with low ratings and bad reviews, and the worst of it seems almost deliberately intended to undermine her standing with his most fervent admirers.
At a time when the animating passion of the Democratic Party’s activist base is an opposition to income inequality, even the most polite press are pointing out that Clinton and her immediate family are quite well off, and worse yet mostly from book deals and speaking fees with those nasty old corporations that the Democratic Party’s activist base also despise. Some of the coverage has been so very impolite it has even touched on daughter Chelsea Clinton, who was treated quite gingerly during her awkward years as First Daughter but is apparently considered fair game now that she’s getting $600,000 a year for her infrequent and undistinguished appearances on the National Broadcasting Company’s newscasts. The mother compounded the problem by complaining to a network interviewer that she had left the White House “dead broke” and had struggled to purchase the multi-million dollar “houses” she desired, and the daughter struck the same tone deaf note by telling another interviewer that “I tried to care about money but couldn’t.” It’s the sort of mud that was so effectively hurled at the last Republican presidential nominee, who earned a Clinton-sized fortune by the disreputable method of saving American companies from bankruptcy and dissolution, and could be even more effective in bringing down a Democrat. Already potential rival Joe Biden is touting his relative poverty, and his salary as Vice President of the United States is about a mere two-thirds of what some correspondents make for their infrequent and undistinguished appears on NBC News, and we can imagine that a poor Native American woman from the reservation who’s been getting by on her meager earnings as a Harvard professor and United States Senator, such as the unmistakably Caucasian Elizabeth Warren, should be able to exploit the issue to even greater advantage.
There’s also a problematic 40-year-old rape case that has at last come to light, and just as the feminist wing of the Democratic Party’s activist base is very much concerned with a “culture of rape” that is said to pervade America’s colleges and universities. The concern is such that writers are being shouted down for suggesting that young men accused of sexual assaults should be given a presumption of innocence until proved guilty, the administration is threatening the funding of any school that does not apply a low standard of evidence when dealing with charges of sexual assault, and now is not a good time for Clinton to be explaining why she volunteered to defend a man accused of gang raping a 12-year-old girl from a poor and troubled family. There’s a perfectly respectable argument to be made that even those accused of the heinous crimes are entitled to a vigorous legal defense, and there are probably some Democrats who will still find it convincing even if the accused isn’t a dreadlocked cop-killer such as Mumia Abu Jamal, but an enterprising reporter at the Washington Free Beacon came upon a dusty old tape recording at the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville library that has Clinton sounding just a bit more enthusiastic about the case than one might hope, boasting about the aggressive tactics she used against the victim making a joke that seems to suggest she knew her client was guilty, and generally sounding like someone the feminist wing of the Democratic Party’s activist base would not like. The Washington Free Beacon is considered conservative press, and has been duly banned from the Clinton Library for its impertinent journalism and will be just as duly ignored by respectable opinion, but the impeccably hip and liberal Daily Beast looked up the now 52-year-old victim in the case for a heartbreaking interview about being subjected to the sort of character assassination that would become a favored Clinton family tactic when dealing with sexually exploited young women, and that will be harder to ignore.
All of which is coinciding with the publication and widespread excerpting of Edward Klein’s book “Blood Feud,” which chronicles the uneasy relationship between the Clinton and Obama families and will quickly leap past the presumptive Democratic nominee’s book on the best-seller lists. A well-publicized distance from the Obama administration will likely be a political advantage for Clinton by the time ’16 rolls around, and no one who’s been paying attention the politics the past six years should be at all surprised by its central thesis that the Clinton’s and Obamas don’t like one another, but it’s also full of tantalizing tidbits of her faulty heart and other health problems as well as frequent reminders of the disasters both families colluded on. A hit piece by one of conservatism’s most reliable hit men might not make much of an impression on the activist base of the Democratic Party, but it can’t help Clinton with those who still have stubborn allegiance to the Obamas.
Calling Clinton the presumptive Democratic nominee is starting to sound presumptuous.

— Bud Norman

When Book Tours Go Wrong

How nice to see Hillary Clinton on the defensive about her family’s considerable fortune. We’re not the types to begrudge anyone their honestly-earned wealth, no matter how considerable, but Clinton always has been and it’s only fair that she subjected to the politics of envy.
Clinton’s class conscious controversy began during an interview with the American Broadcasting Company’s Diane Sawyer, of all people, who unaccountably asked about the five-times-the-median-American-income fees that she commands for an hour or so of speaking to her fellow rich people. One can easily understand how the poor woman might not have expected such an impertinent question coming from a television network other than Fox News, but Clinton’s response was surprisingly clumsy given reputation as a seasoned political player. The former big time law firm partner, First Lady, Senator, and Secretary of State pleaded poverty, explaining that she and her even better-paid husband left the White “dead broke” because of legal debts and “we struggled to, you know, piece together the mortgages for houses…” She also mentioned that “we had to make double the money because of obviously taxes,” and defended her high-priced oratory as “a much better thing than getting connected with any one group or company as so many people who leave public life do.”
That conspicuous plural in the houses that the Clintons struggled to buy drew most of the derisive comments, especially when photographs of the rather opulent domiciles started to circulate, but every aspect of her hard-scrabble story merits ridicule. The legal bills that the couple faced were a result of her husband’s serial sexual infidelities and other improprieties that left him without a law license, and were largely paid off by the grateful beneficiaries of his economic policies. Taxes were no doubt severe on a couple that relied on income from speeches to groups hoping to gain their political favors, but her longstanding soak-the-rich stances make it hard to render the requisite sympathy. “Getting connected with any one group or company” sounds very much like getting a real job, and we can well understand why Clinton wouldn’t want to stoop to that, but it does lack the populist touch she probably would have preferred. As far as pulling-one’s-self-up-from-the-bootstraps stories go, Clinton’s account of her grueling work on the lecture circuit isn’t quite up to Horatio Alger standards.
Any stereotypically hard-hearted Republican could have responded to the question by daring Diane Sawyer or any other red-blooded American to lie that they would down 200 grand for an hour’s worth of high-minded hogwash, a riposte most people would find both refreshingly honest and quite understandable, and perhaps even commendable, but Clinton cannot avail herself of such common sense. She came into public view with an angry denunciation of Reagan’s “Decade of Greed,” notwithstanding the fact she’d spent the ’80s making a suspicious fortune in the commodities market and otherwise enriching herself through her husband’s political connections, and she is now seeking the nomination of a party that is lately obsessed with the issue of income inequality and a Jacobin hatred for the dread one percent. Her party spent the last presidential election successfully demonizing a Republican for having acquired a fortune estimated at $250 million by saving companies and their many thousands of employees from bankruptcy, so it is a tricky matter heading into the next presidential election that the Democrats’ presumptive standard bearer and her family has a fortunate estimated at $200 million by giving speeches to rich folks and writing unreadable books and taking purely perfunctory seats on the board of directors of gigantic corporations that are up to God knows what sort of corporate evil.

Such galling hypocrisy is usually overlooked by the American public, as it doesn’t involve sex, so Clinton probably expected to get away with it. Pity the poor Republican who espouses family values before being caught with his finger’s in some young woman’s cookie jar, as he will be pilloried by his own party and the public at large, but Democrats can fly private in a carbon-emitting corporate jet on the way to a global warming conference or fly back on Air Force from a five-star vacation to decry the greedy rich, and she could reasonably expect the same deference That the press has lately been so bad must be jarring to Clinton.
The interview with Sawyer was tied to the recent publication of her latest book, hilariously titled “Hard Choices,” and it contained other pitfalls. The longtime Clinton water-bearers at The Washington Post declared that “Sawyer Destroys Hillary Clinton on Benghazi,” a scandal that should have destroyed her nearly two years ago, and others noted how she struggled to name any accomplishments from her four-year run as Secretary of State. The reviews of the already-discounted book have been brutal, too, and Clinton is no doubt reeling from the unaccustomed bad press. Once upon a time her husband could have State Troopers summon low-wage state employees to a hotel room where he would expose himself and hiss “kiss it” and even Gloria Steinem would rush to his defense, so unless it’s all a vast left-wing conspiracy on behalf of Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s presidential aspirations it must seem downright sexist.
Over at the tonier Salon.com they’ve already decided that any conservatives heaping ridicule on Clinton’s good financial luck are the hypocrites, but we feel blameless in our chuckles. We’re not the types to begrudge anyone their good fortune, but we happy those who are called on their own hypocrisy.

— Bud Norman

Rumblings in California

The fault lines running through California are becoming active, and we don’t mean that in the seismological sense.
For some time we’ve been eagerly anticipating the fissures within the liberal coalition to start cracking, leading to a long-overdue political earthquake. Modern liberalism isn’t so much an ideology as a loose confederation of ethnic and economic interest groups, whose interests are often in conflict, and even the rigid discipline that the Democratic party somehow commands cannot keep it stable forever. The big shake-ups and crack-ups that occasionally roil across America’s cultural and political life often originate in California, and two recent stories out of the Golden State suggest that it might be happening again.
One concerned the California Assembly’s attempts to restore affirmative action at the state’s universities, a cause dear to liberal hearts. Affirmative action is especially dear to the hearts of liberal blacks and Latinos, who are allowed admission to the more desirable universities with inferior qualifications than other applicants, but is not as popular with liberal Asians, who often are the other applicants who are denied admission despite their superior qualifications. The old system that California voted down was so convoluted that whites with lesser academic credentials were favored over harder-working Asians, which endeared the scam to liberal whites even if didn’t quite fit with their rationale that affirmative action is rectifying past injustices, but most of the Democrats in the Assembly were eager to restore it.
The measure now seems unlikely to pass, however, because the Asian-American members of the party are refusing to go along. There are enough of them that when you add their total to the Republican Party’s puny representation it can quash such nonsense, apparently, and if they start to realize how often their economic interests coincide with those mean old white men from Orange County or wherever the last few California Republicans come from it might even thwart a lot of the other bad ideas that become law in California.
The other story concerned the far-left’s ongoing crime spree against the high-tech industry. With “economic inequality” currently the favorite gripe of liberalism the more active liberals in Northern California have lately been vandalizing the opulent buses provided by the Google company to its well-paid employees, and in recent days they’ve become tipping over those tiny “smart cars” favored by the high-tech workers. Silicon Valley has been a reliable source of funds and votes for the Democrats for many years, the Google buses are intended to cut down on traffic congestion and fuel consumption and global warming and all those other things that liberals profess to hate, but for now it’s apparently more progressive to hate anyone making a certain amount of money. Those tipped-over “smart cars” even sported the obligatory Obama for President bumper stickers, but even such displays of righteousness will not spare you the wrath of income inequality mob. Some are claiming those Obama bumper stickers suggest the work of right-wingers, as if mobs of mayhem-minded Romney voters are terrorizing the streets of San Francisco, but it would be hard for even the party-loyal anarchist to find a car in that city without one.
The Google executives who’ve found angry mobs on their front yards are loyal Democrats, but perhaps they’ll reconsider as it becomes apparent that the guillotine is being sharpened for them as well as those rich industrialists. Silicon Valley is as steadfastly capitalist as any Kansas oil field, after all, and it’s hard to see how they’ve benefited from all the regulations and taxations they’ve helped to impose on all their customers. We’ve always suspected their leftist leanings were mostly motivated by a desire to be hip, but as they age into proper industrialist maturity and realize that angry mobs and vandalized buses are now the height of hipness they might even take their natural place in the Republican party.
Or maybe not. The discipline of the Democratic party has proved strong, and they’ve been able to cobble together new confederations out of different ethnic and economic interests as some the old ones prospered just enough to move on, and they might be able to whip up enough race- and class-baiting to keep the current one intact. If so, we’ll need fault lines of the seismological sort to solve the California problem.

— Bud Norman

The News on a Cold and Rainy Day

On a dreary and drizzly Wednesday, with the winds rattling the windows and winter still clinging bitterly to the gray-and-brown landscape, we dipped into the warmth and brightness of the Drudge Report. There was nothing particularly earth-shaking to be found there, unless you’re heavily invested in Twitter stock, but a few items provided the needed distraction.
We noted with some interest that the Democrats are contemplating using marijuana to improve their seemingly poor chances in the mid-term elections. It’s not that they plan to get everyone stoned on the way the polls, although we’ve long suspected a similar plot was involved in the last two presidential elections, but rather that they hope to bring out otherwise unenthused younger voters by putting various sorts of marijuana legalization referenda on the ballots. This seems a plausible plan, as marijuana is polling much better than the president these days, but hardly sure-fire. Even the most addled youngsters showing up to vote for legal weed might be inclined to ignore the Democratic congressional candidates intent on retaining an Obamacare law that redistributes what little wealth the young have acquired to well-to-do baby boomers in need of erectile dysfunction remedies, and a lot of pot-smokers tend to be libertarian types who also insist on gun rights and free speech and low taxes on everything. If the Democrats promise to make medical marijuana available to everyone through Obamacare the ploy would prove very effective, but thus far the Democrats aren’t so desperate.
The big headline of the was that President Barack Obama will be seeking the blessing of Pope Francis. Drudge’s waggish headline writers meant that figuratively, as we read the article, but we suppose an actual blessing from the Pope wouldn’t do any harm and would probably work better than one from the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. The two apparently plan to talk about income inequality, a topic they unfortunately agree upon, but we hope the conversation will eventually get around to why Obama is forcing the Little Sisters of the Poor to pay for contraceptive coverage. For all his misguided liberation theology about economic issues the Pope is steadfastly conservative on abortion and promiscuity and other causes dear to Democratic hearts, so he should be of limited usefulness to the efforts to bring out those pot-smoking hipsters the party is counting on.
In a sort of sports story, we read that Northwestern University’s football will be allowed to form a labor union. The team’s sluggish and inefficient play over the past several decades had led us to believe they’d been unionized all along, but it appears this is a new development. Sports journalists are speculating that the union movement could sweep across college athletics, and of course they tend to be enthusiastic about the possibility, but we have our doubts. The best football schools tend to be in right-to-work states, which is probably not a coincidence, and we expect that the best players there will simply opt to forgo paying union dues and keep taking their pay under-the-table. Time-outs are already long and frequent enough in college football games, too, and we dread the interminable work stoppages that will no doubt occur in unionized games.
That missing Malyasian airliner seems to have gone missing from the news, and without any definitive answers, and there’s yet another round of strange Obamacare delays and the frightening prospect of immigration reform and any number of other looming disasters, but they’re not fit for comment on such a dreary and drizzly day.

— Bud Norman

The State of the Union and Other ‘Shockers

A dear old friend has kindly offered us a ticket to a basketball game pitting the third-ranked and undefeated Wichita State University Wheatshockers against a lightly-regarded Loyola of Illinois Ramblers squad with a losing record, so we’ll have far more important things to do tonight than watch the State of the Union address. We probably would have skipped the speech in any case, however, and expect that most of our countrymen will do the same.
Article II and Section 3 of the constitution require that the president “shall from time give to congress information of the State of the Union and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge the necessary,” and we are far fussier sticklers about the constitution than the current president has been, but the practice of an annual oration to a joint session of Congress is a relatively new custom and one whose time has clearly passed. For all the fuss that the networks and the newspapers make about it the speeches have become a drearily predictable affair, as quickly forgotten as a New Year’s resolution, and there is no reason to believe that this year’s edition will be any different. Even without the benefit of leaked transcripts from highly-placed sources we are certain of what will be said, how the chattering classes will react, and what the political consequences will be.
There will be much somber reflection by the networks’ most familiar faces about the earth-shaking importance of the speech, followed by footage of every Democrat and a few forlorn Republicans from purplish districts jockeying for handshake position as the president proceeds with a royal swagger down the aisle toward the podium, along with all the other pomp and circumcision that attends these events. The president will then begin by declaring that the state of the union is sound, without any of the derisive laughter that such a ridiculous claim would ordinarily provoke, and then launch into an over-written, over-long, obviously self-serving account of the nation’s woes. He will briefly touch on the ongoing debacle of Obamacare, touting the few million who have signed on without mentioning that most of them previously had better plans that they liked and were promised they could keep, and he will spend the rest of it blathering endlessly about income inequality and proposing various fanciful solutions to this ineradicable fact of a free society.
All the talking heads on all the news stations save Fox will love it, and do their own endless blathering about how eloquently it was stated, but nothing will become of it but a bunch of ineffectual executive orders. Even the squishiest Republicans from the most purplish districts will not be persuaded, nor will the voters in any of the contested jurisdictions, and every item on the president’s ponderously explained agenda will be soon be a mere bargaining chip in the next round of debt ceiling negotiations. The only thing the president will talk about that might actually occur is immigration reform, as there seems to be some enthusiasm in both parties for flooding an historically weak labor market with millions more unskilled laborers, but the main interest will be in seeing which Republicans applaud and thereby invite a bruising primary challenge.
There will be the usual inspiring baritone delivery, and the gospel music cadences that have long wowed the pundits, but nothing that amounts to must-see TV. We’ll check a post-speech transcript to see what we missed, and it might be worth commenting on, but we’re confident it won’t be anything worth missing a ‘Shocker game.

— Bud Norman