Thursday, July 14, 2016

Book Review: George P. Shultz (ed), Blueprint for America

On July 8, 2016, the Hoover Press (Stanford University) released a free, online volume edited by George P. Shultz entitled Blueprint for America.  The book consists of 12 chapters on domestic and foreign policy, including an Introduction, Conclusion, and three commentaries written by Shultz interspersed among the chapters.  The authors include 5 economists, 1 MD, two retired four-star generals, 1 diplomat, and 1 foreign policy specialist.

Like Gaul, book reviews are divided into three parts:  (1) purpose, (2) content, and (3) strengths and weaknesses.

The title conveys the purpose—to offer accessible policy ideas for civic, economic, and security architecture that would shore up the long-term foundations of American strengths, and address the basic policy priorities facing an incoming president and Congress.

The content consists of 12 chapters that address questions of entitlement reform, deficits, monetary reform, national debt, regulatory reform, tax reform, health care reform, K-12 education reform, a realistic and proactive agenda setting for national security, and the practice of diplomacy in turbulent times.

The book’s strength is that all the contributors are recognized experts in their fields.  The policies they propound are based on sound economic and military reasoning.  The majority has combined academic with political experience, having served in the administrations of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush.  The four-star general officers have served with distinction from their entrance into, and their retirement from, the military.

The book’s weakness can be expressed in four words:  “same old, same old. “ I mean old in two respects.

First, I mean old in that there are few new ideas presented in the book.  The policy recommendations are, by and large, the same as those presented to Ronald Reagan on his accession to the presidency in 1981.

Second, I mean old as in the age of the authors.  In the order in which their names appear in the table of contents, the authors are 95, 70, 68, 60, 69, 58, 73, 68, 65, 58, and 87 (average age of 70.1).  Elderly professionals are prone to justify long-held views and tend to restate them in speeches, articles, books, op-eds, etc.  Rarely will anyone reject his or her long-held views and replace them with new ideas in the latter stage of their careers.    I think the book would carry more weight with the current academic, political, and media generations if it included younger contributors in their 30s, 40s and 50s.

Let’s go back 26 years, when the Hoover Institution Press published The United States in the 1980s.  George P. Shultz, then 59, played an important role serving on the book’s advisory board.

The United States in the 1980s

In 1980, the Hoover Institution published, The United States in the 1980s, which is acknowledged to be its most influential book addressing issues of domestic and international policy.  The book consisted of 28 essays, 14 written by experts in fields of U.S. domestic policy and 14 in international policy.  Many of the authors served, or advised, on policy in the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

The opening paragraph of the “Introduction,” written by the co-editors Peter Duignan and Alvin Rabushka, describes conditions (except for the absence of inflation) in the United States in 2016.

“Two centuries ago, Thomas Jefferson is reputed to have wisely proclaimed:  “That government is best which governs least.”  As we enter the 1980s, we in the United States would do well to remember his maxim.  The 1960s and 1970s were decades of dramatic growth in legislation, government regulation, public sector spending, and bold policy initiatives in a host of social areas.  We have learned by now that we cannot solve social problems by throwing money at them.  Too, we have reaped a harvest of rising inflation, waste, and inefficiency in government, and of declining productivity among workers.  All this is vividly reflected in ever-increasing disenchantment with and distrust of government.

The authors proposed a number of measures to remedy these problems.  They included business tax policy (fleshed out in the Hall-Rabushka fully integrated, business cash-flow expenditure tax—the Flat Tax), tax and spending limits for state and local governments, welfare reform, insuring the solvency of Social Security, reducing costly business regulation, deregulating energy markets, market alternatives to government intervention in health care, and other measures designed to minimize government distortions in achieving a cleaner environment, safer urban areas, and more access to higher education.

I was responsible for editing the domestic half of the book.  After an introductory essay by Milton and Rose Friedman, the ages of the contributors, in the order in which their essays appeared in the first half of the book, were 55, 40, 57, 73, 43, 34, 53, 48, 49, 59, 53, 40, and 55 (average of 50.6).   The 20-year difference is half the lifetime of most productive professional careers.  The policy proposals set forth in The United States in the 1980s were refreshingly new, an antidote to the prevailing big government orthodoxy of the prior years.  It is all too easy for the academic-political-media world to dismiss policy ideas proposed in 2016 that are similar to those recommended, and in many cases adopted,  based on a book published 36 years ago.

Perhaps I’m wrong.  Maybe the ideas in Blueprint for America will provide a basis for action in the coming 4-8 years.  But, it hardly seems likely if Hillary Clinton is elected president.  As for Trump, most of the contributors have expressed their concern and doubt about the future if Donald Trump is elected.  This brief volume would have been an appropriate handbook for Jeb Bush or some other mainstream Republican.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

With Hillary Cleared, Here’s What’s On Tap For July 2016

This post is your brief guide for the remaining 10 days before, and the two weeks of, the Republican (July 18-21) and Democrat (July 25-28) conventions.  Put aside the FBI’s exoneration of Hillary Clinton.  Ten million words of analyses and complaints will not reverse the outcome.  Focus on what’s ahead.

In the days before the convention, the media will publish numerous stories and videos about prominent Republicans who oppose Donald Trump and why they plan to vote for Hillary Clinton.  A typical article appeared in Politico on June 6, 2010.  There will be few, if any, stories of Democrats, including Bernie Sanders’ supporters, who will abandon the Democrat Party and vote for Trump.

Both conventions will be crawling (infested) with media.  They will be interviewing delegates inside the convention centers, at their hotels, and pundits around the world.

At the Republican convention, most the media will be interviewing delegates who disapprove of Trump as their nominee and who supported Cruz, Rubio, and other candidates.  They will also feature Republicans who intend to sit out the election or vote for Hillary, or who chose not to attend the convention to avoid being seen in the company of Trump.  Viewers who watch gavel-to-gavel coverage will think they are watching a Democrat Party-sponsored Republican convention.

In sharp contrast, coverage of the Democrat convention will highlight speakers, interviews with delegates and political commentators singing Hillary’s praises, and the media will join in chorus.  The Democrat convention will be a Hillary Clinton progressive love fest.

There is literally nothing Trump can do or say in the next three weeks that will change this plot.  It will be up to him, and him alone, in September and October to rally the American people to his cause.  I have said that I am for Trump and that he will win.  The anti-Trump media and NEVER TRUMP Republicans have been wrong since he launched his candidacy on June 16, 2015.  They will be wrong on Election Day.  Count on it!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Morning Sickness

No.  Your friendly proprietor is not pregnant,  or sympathizing with someone who is pregnant.  Nor is he suffering from an intestinal tract disorder.

My morning sickness arises from waking up to several articles or blog posts a week from stalwart Republicans, including some of my colleagues, explaining why they will vote for Hillary Clinton instead of Donald Trump.

Each has his or her reason, but they all boil down to waiting for a Republican better suited to their fancy in 2020.

Who are these "Yes Clinton, No Trump people?"  Most have served in or advised one or both of the two Bush administrations, and/or advised the McCain and Romney campaigns.  If Trump becomes president, they will be out in the cold for four, maybe eight, years. What a dreadful prospect for those who work in a purportedly "conservative" think tank.


Sunday, July 3, 2016

Robert Frost, "Fire and Ice"

"Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice."

Honestly, what difference does it make?

Whichever ends the world, the cause will be man-made, global-warming climate change.

Global-warming climate-change deniers should be banned from working in academia, government, and the media.

In addition, anyone caught denying global-warming climate change will be charged with a misdemeanor on the first offense and a felony on the second, with no statute of limitations.

Think it can't happen?  Read the Democrat Party 2016 Platform.

Here is the exact sentence:

"Another joint proposal calling on the Department of Justice to investigate alleged corporate fraud on the part of fossil fuel companies who have reportedly misled shareholders and the public on the scientific reality of climate change was also adopted by unanimous consent."

It's just a hop, skip, and a jump to investigate fraud on the part of anyone who has reportedly misled the public on the scientific reality of climate change.

Your friendly proprietor would like to caution those of you in the "Never Trump" camp planning to vote for Hillary Clinton, that once you lose any part of what remains of the First Amendment, you are likely to lose the rest.  Sweet dreams people!

Friday, July 1, 2016

Chicken Little: “The Sky Is NOT Falling.” “Say It Ain’t So Joe, Say It Ain’t So.”

Both the British and American Academic Political Media Industrial Complexes (APMICs) warned Britons that a vote to LEAVE (exit) the European Union would cause great financial losses.

Here are the numbers.  June 23 was the day of the referendum.  June 27, 2016, was the bottom of the decline.   July 1, 2016, is 8 days after the vote.

                              DJIA              S&P 500        FTSE 100        FTSE 250
June 23, 2016       18,011              2,113             6,338            16,271
June 27, 2016       17,140              2,001             5,982            14,968
July 1, 2016          17,949              2,103             6,578            16,465

The DJIA and S&P 500 have almost recovered to their pre-Brexit levels.  The FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 have surpassed theirs (although the decline in the value of the pound sterling against the US dollar offsets the nominal gains in the FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 when converted into dollars at the post-Brexit exchange rate).

The decline in the DJIA amounts to 0.34% and that of the S&P 500 0.49%.

Prices fluctuate.  Market indices will go up and down.  But the predicted crash did not occur.

The little boy in the crowd shouted out, “APMICs have no clothes.”

Do you suppose that prominent members of the British and America APMICs will issue a mea culpa?

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

We The People

To all my colleagues at Stanford's Hoover Institution, and those employed in other think tanks and universities that opposed Donald Trump and BREXIT, please read and reread the first three words of the U.S. constitution:


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Schadenfreude Is Wonderful

Schadenfreude—your misfortune is my joy—is wunderbar!

Your friendly proprietor has several dozen extremely smart, brilliant colleagues at Stanford’s Hoover Institution.  They encompass historians, economists, political scientists, lawyers, and other fields.  The overwhelming majority of them opposed the nomination of Donald Trump as the Republican presidential nominee.  They did everything in their power to help stop him.  They lost.

Of those who weighed in on BREXIT, all but two (me and one other who supported LEAVE) were in the REMAIN camp.  They warned of the economic, political, and social catastrophes awaiting Britain and Europe if LEAVE prevailed.  They lost.

These same intellectuals are intensifying their attack on Trump, some declaring as Republicans that they will vote for Hillary Clinton.  Those interested in BREXIT will turn their guns against Boris Johnson (BTW, an American citizen—an ironic twist on American colonial history) to stop him from becoming leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

Look forward to months of these losers whining, moaning, threatening, caterwauling, and denouncing the ignorant moronic voters for Trump and BREXIT.  These intellectuals love democracy except when they lose.

“The fault, dear Colleagues, is not in the stars, but in yourselves, that you are no longer overlings.”

All that “remains” to complete Schadenfreude is for Donald Trump to become President and Boris Johnson to become Prime Minister.  Your friendly proprietor is looking forward to referenda on Netherlexit, Frexit, Finnexit, Hungarexit, Catalanexit, Italinexit, Grexit, and perhaps other exits from the European unit.  It’s important that the APMICs (Academic Political Media Industrial Establishments) in each country learn once and for all that the people are sovereign, not the elites who loathe them except when seeking their votes.