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Another Multi-Billionaire New Yorker

There’s another multi-billionaire from New York City who’s running for president, with media mogul and former Big Apple mayor Michael Bloomberg running for the Democratic nomination. Our guess is that the Democrats won’t be interested in the services of a multi-billionaire from New York City, but we’ve been surprised before.
There are some significant differences between Bloomberg and President Donald Trump, of course. For one thing, Bloomberg is verifiably a multi-billionaire, worth several times more than Trump claims to be but declines to prove. For another thing, he’s previously served in public office and actually did a pretty good job of it.
Bloomberg became mayor of New York after the two terms of Rudy Giuliani, and although the youngsters would have a hard time believing it Giuliani had lowered the the city’s taxes and increased its revenues and lowered the crime rate and bolstered the employment rolls, and the city was saved from financial ruin and a dystopian state. Bloomberg ran as a Republican and mostly kept the Giuliani policies in place, and although he later switched to independent status and pursued some strict gun control measures and restored some of the city’s welfare system he mostly remained a low-tax and tough-on-crime mayor through his two terms.
None of this, of course, will endear Bloomberg to the modern Democratic party. Even Trump and most of the Republicans went along with a soft-on-crime criminal justice reform bill earlier this year, and by now a significant number of the Democrats equate law enforcement with racism. That will likely change with the next big crime wave, which inevitably will have an inordinate number of black victims, but for now law and order isn’t a winning issue in a Democratic primary.
Nor are low taxes likely to win any Democrats, who currently seem hell-bent on punitively taxing multi-billionaires such as Bloomberg. Lowering New York City’s top tax rates stopped the exodus of rich people from the city and thus increased the city’s revenues, and raising the top national tax rates would probably start an exodus of rich people’s money from the country if not the rich people themselves, thus lowering federal revenues, but today’s Democrats are more interested in social justice than such arcane economic theories.
Yet another way that Bloomberg differs from Trump is that’s he been hugely successful in building his media empire without suffering any conspicuous failures, but Democrats also don’t care much about managerial expertise, and even suspect it proves a bottom-line indifference to the working class. At this point, they’re also quite right to question if success in the private sector can be easily transferred to success in government.
Even so, Bloomberg apparently figures that a majority of Democrats doesn’t want to go so far left as a very big chunk of the party is clearly intent on, and that the moderate candidates remaining in the field are vulnerable. The Democrats are also very eager to beat Trump, and Bloomberg has a plausible argument that with his bigger fortune and record of sound governance and polite and well-spoken persona he’d be the more appealing multi-billionaire New Yorker.
It’s worth a shot, we suppose, and Bloomberg can well afford to place a bet on it, but we won’t wager any of our more meager money. He’s already announced he’ll be skipping the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire and wait until the big states, but that’s the same strategy Giuliani used to dodge farm folks and factories when he ran as “America’s mayor,” still flush from the rave reviews by even the mainstream press and so far away from his current dilapidated and disgraced self, and he was out of the race by South Carolina.
Bloomberg’s path won’t be any easier. The class warriors on the left will cast him as the party’s plutocratic enemy, the moderate candidates have been earning the loyalty of moderate Democratic voters while Bloomberg was earning money, and so far we don’t see a groundswell of support for a candidate little known outside of New York City, no matter how well known and regarded he might be there.
Still, we wish him well. There should be someone on the Democratic debate stage that has a more sophisticated tax policy than ripping up that goose and getting all the golden eggs, and understands that a trillion is a whole lot of dollars, and that’s there’s still something to be said for law and order. Bloomberg’s a gun-grabber with a lot of touchy-feely welfare state ideas and other Democratic party flaws, as far as we’re concerned, but as far as multi-billionaire New Yorkers go we could do worse.

— Bud Norman

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Trade Wars on an Otherwise Delightful Summer Day in Kansas

Tuesday was another sunny yet unusually temperate top-down summer day here in Kansas, and we had a nice meal with our California brother and his delightful longtime partner and our excellent parents, and then dropped in on Mort’s Cigar Bar in Wichita’s Old Town district to enjoy some swinging standards from the Great American Songbook performed by a crack quartet that included our favorite local chanteuse and a brilliant young musician we’ve happily known since the day he was born. After that we came home to check in on the news, though, and wound up grousing about the ongoing trade wars.
The latest development is that President Donald Trump is proposing $12 billion in subsidies to all the farmers whose bottom lines have lately been hit hard by the rest of the world’s expected retaliation to Trump’s tariffs, which offends our Kansas Republican sensibilities. Kansas grows more wheat and corn and alfalfa and all those other crops we can’t quite identify on our drives through the country than even America’s obese consumers can eat, so the state’s all-important agricultural sector has long been reliant on hungry foreign markets to buy up the excess production, and no one around here seems at all pleased that Trump has chosen to demolish such a mutually beneficial world trading order.
That $12 billion in subsidies is a nice gesture, especially if it actually happens, but it’s going to be distributed around a large number of far more populous agricultural states and amounts to a rounding error in the trillion-dollar deficit that America is predicted to incur, and around here it’s not playing well. Both of the state’s stalwart-as-usual Republican Senators are defiantly not on board with Trump’s trade war policies, and we hear the same sentiment on the ag stations we tune into on our drives around the state’s big city. The farmers and the politicians they’ve elected around here have long advocated the food stamp and subsequent welfare programs that buy up a lot of their excess production, and they’ve long relied on crop insurance and other federal subsidy programs, but with stubborn Kansas pride they’d rather make a living by selling their excellent crops on a free international market than get by on welfare.
Our own family here in the state’s big city is far more invested in the second-most-important aviation sector of the state’s economy, which is also dependent on a world market to buy up its but up its excess production of excellent aircraft, and it’s going to take a whole lot more than mere $12 billion in deficit spending to make up the difference if the rest of the world cancels all its American airplane contracts.
Here in Kansas we have our squabbles but mostly try to get along with everybody, a lesson we learned back in the “Bleeding Kansas” days, and we’re pleased to notice that Trump’s trade wars are not popular. The strategy might prove popular in the steelmaking and aluminum-produceing states that are being protected by Trump’s tariffs, but they’re probably unpopular in all the steel- and aluminum-bying states, and we don’t see it working out well for the country at large. Which might not make any difference in the coming mid-term elections at all, and given the local Democrats’ crazy turn to the far left it  probably won’t flip any seats in Kansas, except maybe in that educated and upper-crust district up in the Kansas City suburbs.
No matter how it shakes it out, we have family and friends and good music here in the state, and we  trust we’ll eventually get by.

— Bud Norman

On the Importance of Making Welfare More Fun

On those frequent occasions when the elite eastern press wants to explain the benighted nature of those unwashed rubes in that vast electoral red splotch in the middle of the country, they usually come here to Kansas. The state almost always has a Republican legislature, and these days it even has a governor who obligingly conforms to all the nastiest stereotypes of middle American Republicanism, which allows the likes of The Washington Post to frighten its more sophisticated readership with such headlines as “Kansas wants to ban welfare recipients from seeing movies, going swimming on government’s dime.
Underneath a file photo of some presumably welfare-dependent people happily plunging into an enticingly blue swimming pool on a presumably  hot Kansas summer day, the ensuing article leads with unmistakeable outrage that “There’s nothing fun about being on welfare, and a new Kansas bill aims to keep it that way. If House Bill 2258 is signed into law by Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) this week, Kansas families receiving government assistance will no longer be able to use those funds to visit swimming pools, see movies, go gambling or get tattoos on the state’s dime.” To add the horrors that are being visited upon the Kansas poor, the article further notes that the bill “means limiting spending on body piercings, massages, spas, tobacco, nail salons, lingerie, arcades, cruise ships or visits to psychics.” Worse yet, according to the increasingly outraged article, the bill also “forbids recipients from from spending money at a theme park, dog or horse racing facility, parimutuel facility, or sexually oriented establishment which provides adult-oriented entertainment in which performers disrobe or perform in an unclothed state for entertainment, or in any business or retail establishment where minors under age 18 are not permitted.”
Lest you think that The Washington Post and its sophisticated readership regard swimming in the rare Kansas swimming pool that charges an entrance fee, watching the latest Hollywood offerings upon their immediate release, gambling, tattoos, body piercings, massages, spas, tobacco, nail salons, lingerie, arcades, cruise ships, psychics, theme parks, gambling on horses and dogs, and adult-oriented entertainment in which performers disrobe are all fundamental human rights a respectable state is obligated to subsidize, and that being on welfare should be fun, be assured that they offer a more nuanced argument against the bill. Even in Kansas they were able to find a Democrat in the legislature who groused that “I just think that we are simply to saying to people, ‘If you are asking for assistance in this state, you’re sort of less than other people and we’re going to tell you how and where to spend your money.'”
Maybe we’ve been living in Kansas too long, but it seems to us that the bill merely restricts how welfare recipients can spend the taxpayer’s money. Should any welfare recipient choose to take a job or swing a lucrative meth deal he would still be able to swim, watch movies, get pierced or tattooed, enjoy a spa or smoke, get his nails done, dress up in lingerie, listen to the dubious predictions of psychics, visit an arcade, gamble on the dogs or ponies, swill cocktails on a cruise ship, ride roller coasters, gamble on the dogs and ponies, or ogle naked entertainers to his or her heart’s content. The article also scoffs at the idea that Kansas’ poor are spending their meager alms on cruise ships and such luxuries, in which case the bill will not affect them at all, and it links to yet another  article arguing that it’s blatant hypocrisy to limit what welfare recipients might spend the taxpayer’s money on when property tax-paying home owners aren’t obliged to prove that they’re not running brothels out of their homes in order to qualify for federal tax exemptions, which is a bit too nuanced for us to wrap our Kansas minds around, but we’ll add our own link and let the reader make up his own mind.
Being on welfare in Kansas might not be as much fun as The Washington Post and its sophisticated readership think it should be, but with the price of wheat being what is and the aircraft industry still struggling under the current administration’s opprobrium the Kansas taxpayer who is expected to pay the tab surely deserves some consideration.

— Bud Norman

A Short Cut to the Invasion

Let us suppose, quite hypothetically, that your country has lately been invaded by many tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors who have hopped a train through Mexico from Central America. Further suppose, hypothetically again, that your country is $17 trillion in debt and another $100 trillion or so short of what it has promised the citizens that are already here, that your social service agencies are already straining under the burden of a moribund economy, and that the country’s inability to cope with the influx of adorable youngsters with adorable gang tattoos that has piled up in makeshift detention centers or been transported through angry protest barricades to a town near you has resulted in what everyone agrees is a humanitarian crisis. What would you do in such in an unlikely scenario?
If some vestige of common sense inclines to you to suggest sending the youngsters back home to their families as quickly as possible, and making it clear to any potential future invaders that no matter what nonsense they’ve heard about imminent amnesty and the welcoming arms of a generous welfare state they are not going to get in, then you are clearly unfit for public service. The more enlightened savants of the federal government have suggested that we allow the youngsters to skip the unpleasant train-hopping through Mexico and come directly and at our expense to the imminent amnesty and the welcoming arms of a generous welfare state.
Our source is The New York Times, and we hope that all the “Dr. Strangelove” aficionados will recognize the allusion to a line from that absurdist masterpiece about the “doomsday machine.” “Hoping to stem the recent surge of migrants at the southwest border,” the plucky Timesmen hopefully report, “the Obama administration is considering whether to allow hundreds of minors and young adults from Honduras into the United States without making the dangerous trek through Mexico…” How such generosity would stem the recent surge of migrants at the southwest border is never explained, no doubt an oversight due to deadline pressures, but we are assured of its good intentions. The children are fleeing gang violence in their native lands, we are told by the Times’ administration and activist group sources, and thus are entitled to refugee status.
Some 70,000 or so gang members are believed by the always-reliable United Nations to be active in the Central American countries that have lately been shipping their children northward to the United States, the Times helpfully adds, but that seems a dangerously low standard of peril to be granting refugee status to their compatriots. The world is ringed by slums from Calcutta to Johannesburg to Rio de Janeiro to Shanghai to Belgrade that are menaced by similar numbers of gangsters, and such communities as the one on the south side of Chicago that our current president once organized have similarly dangerous streets, so housing and feeding and educating all of them and imprisoning the predictable portion of them will likely prove more costly than America can afford. The same people who scoff at the notion of American exceptionalism are apparently convinced that America is exceptional enough to care for all of the world’s needy people, but they are willing to share the costs of the attempt.
Public opinion and its cussed common sense might yet scuttle the plan, which is so far just another one of the proposals that the savants of the federal government routinely come up with, but the Times warns that “the plan would be similar to a recent bill proposed by Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake of Arizona, who proposed increasing the number of refugee visas to the three Central American countries by 5,000 each,” so there’s still the chance of a bipartisan nonsensical solution. Some Republican opposition is already rearing itself, and could effectively prevent the proposal from becoming policy, but hat option of sending the youngsters back home to their families as soon as possible and issuing a meaningful warning to the rest to stay home also seems unlikely. Whatever compromise is eventually adopted, America might as well get ready to start housing and educating and feeding a few billion new arrivals.

— Bud Norman

What’s Old in New York City

Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it, according to one of those indisputable old maxims, and after Tuesday’s mayoral election it is likely that the people of New York City are doomed to repeat the bad old days of the ‘70s and ‘80s.
Any New Yorker of a certain age should surely well remember that dark era, when taxes skyrocketed and city services went into the clogged and alligator-infested sewers, welfare flourished and crime was rampant, unemployment was high and spirits were low. Although we spent those days in the safe embrace of the peaceable prairie, so far away from New York City that if we were any farther we’d just be that much closer to Los Angeles, we still recall a chilling phone conversation with an old college chum who had moved to the Big Apple and described a daily hell of muggers, panhandlers, passed-out junkies that had to be stepped over on the way through trash-strewn streets to a rare job that didn’t come close to covering the exorbitant cost of living, and tales of political corruption and incompetence awaiting him on the evening news when he finally made his way back to a tiny and astoundingly over-priced apartment. Other friends made the big move to the big city, too, and most soon came back with similar horror stories.
Even the younger New Yorkers should have been reminded by any of the era’s cinematic depictions of the city that still show up on the late show, from “Taxi Driver” to “Death Wish” to “The French Connection,” or even the “Odd Couple” episodes still in re-runs that make light of the ubiquitous street crime and general shabbiness of the city, all of which confirmed an impression of a thoroughly unlivable city. Between all those movies and the vacations that people still spent in New York, as well as the official statistics on crime and tax rates and economic performance, the city had a horrible reputation with that great unwashed swath of the country beyond the Hudson River that was frequently expected to pick up the tab for its profligacy.
It all started in the ‘60s, naturally enough, when the handsome and charismatic Mayor John Lindsey began to fundamentally transform the city with hope and change and every cockamamie scheme that liberalism had ever concocted. It took nearly a decade for the city sink fully into the abyss, but by then the bureaucracy and the dependent vote and the prevailing political climate were so firmly entrenched that it was taken for granted by voters who continued to re-elect the people ruining their city. The reign of Mayor Ed Koch restored some semblance of fiscal sanity to the city’s finances, at least to the point that his famously arrogant city didn’t have to go begging those hicks out in flyover country for bail-outs, but the subsequent brief administration of David Dinkins at long last forced New Yorkers to consider the unthinkable. Dinkins had combined the worst of New York’s utopian liberalism with the mau-mau racialist sensibilities of other city’s black political machines, and the results were so horrible that New Yorkers actually elected a Republican.
The city had been known to elect “progressive” Republicans such as the legendary Fiorello LaGuardia, and even the wildly liberal Lindsey won on a GOP ticket before bolting to his natural home in the Democratic party for a failed presidential bid, but Rudy Giuliani’s win was notable because an actual Republican. The party’s primary voters in flyover country would later reject Giuliani’s presidential ambitions because of his rather northeastern views on guns and abortions and such, but when it came to taxes and regulations and welfare and the coddling of criminals and other governmental impediments to a successful society he was downright Reaganesque.
Our aforementioned college chum who moved to New York City was a die-hard Democrat, despite being a pleasant enough fellow from a small Kansas town, and we still recall the disappointment in his voice as he conceded that the city’s problems were too severe for his brand of liberalism to solve. He noted that the city’s generous welfare state had done nothing to diminish the city’s crime, and that further generosity would require raising taxes to a point that would surely drive away all the taxpayers, so he couldn’t imagine what possible solution there might be. When Giuliani raised taxes and increased revenue with his slightly smaller share of a much larger economy, then spent the money on aggressively policing the streets and drastically reducing the crime rate, even such die-hard Democrats as our friend felt compelled to vote for the Republican’s re-election. New Yorkers continued to elected Senators and Presidents who would happily inflict liberalism on the rest of the country, but in their own backyard they picked a mayor successor was also a Republican, even he quickly switched to independent rather than be embarrassed by the association with those flyover country types, and although his totalitarian instincts led him to such laughed-at initiatives as banning oversized soda cups and salt shakers they also compelled him to continue the successful policies that Giuliani had wrought. Things went well enough that New Yorkers apparently forgot the lessons they had been taught.
The newly-elected mayor, Bill DeBlasio, seems to have never learned those lessons in the first place. Famous for his past support of Nicaragua’s communist Sandinistas and other far-left causes, DeBlasio became New York City’s first Democratic mayor in 20 years by railing against the fact that some New Yorkers are richer than others and by promising to end the “stop and frisk” policy of the police department. He’s not so handsome or charismatic as John Lindsey, but he does have all the hope and change and cockamamie schemes. His jeremiad against the top one percent, currently picking up 43 percent of the city’s tab, is certain to leave the city’s economy and finances in shambles. The “stop and frisk” policy does indeed bump against the Fourth Amendment and is no doubt a burden to many of the law-abiding dark-skinned New Yorkers who are disproportionately stopped and frisked, but it has also played a crucial role in reducing the city’s murder date from six a day to less than one and it will not be the only effective police tactic that DeBlasio halts.
Our guess is that it will be less than a decade before New Yorkers are willing to try another Republican mayor, but more than a decade before they stop trying to impose liberalism on the rest of us.

— Bud Norman

Unlucky Number

One year always leads to another, and we shudder to think where a year such as 2012 might lead.
Journalistic tradition dictates that an end-of-the year column either look back at the past 12 months or prognosticate about the upcoming dozen, and at this particular point in history neither task is appealing. The past year saw the United States go yet another trillion dollars and more into debt, with slow economic growth and fewer gainfully employed workers to show for it, the citizenry’s increased dependence on a government that is increasingly bossy about every aspect of life, various scandals from the cover-up of a botched gun-running operation to the “sloppy” foreign policy that resulted in the death of an ambassador and three other brave Americans in Libya and a body blow to free speech rights here, the ascendance of a belligerent and supremacist Islamism in key countries of the Middle East with American support, and an ever stupider popular culture. By far the biggest story of the year was an electoral majority of the country’s decision to vote for more of the same — lest those evil Republicans kill off Big Bird, continue their dastardly if entirely fictional war on women’s private parts, and generally harsh everyone’s buzz — so it’s hard to envision a reversal of this bad fortune.
All indications are that America will begin the new year by barreling over the “fiscal cliff,” that dire-sounding name given the across-the-board tax hikes and arbitrary spending cuts that almost everyone agrees will lead to a recession. Some sort of patchwork agreement remains a possibility, but although it will surely be hailed as further proof of Obama’s transcendent genius it will still involve job-killing taxes that won’t raise sufficient revenue to make a dent in the deficits. Indeed, the deficits are likely to swell when more workers sign up for the never-ending unemployment benefits and a slew of new entitlement programs are deemed necessary to deal with economic downturn. This might even be the year that America’s looming debt crisis finally arrives, and even if the country’s economy continues to crawl along the prospects for the rest of the world remain unpromising. The prospect of a Secretary of State John Kerry and a Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel certainly do not bode well.
None of this is any reason, of course, not to celebrate heartily tonight as the clock turns over to a brand new year. Nor is it any reason not to make the most of the next 365 days, whatever they might bring, and perhaps even prosper and be happy. Keep clinging bitterly to God and your guns, at least for so long as both are still legal, and give this whole 2013 idea a good shot.

— Bud Norman