Thursday, November 29, 2012

Learning From The Election: An Alternate View

In his Works and Days column of November 27, 2012, Hoover fellow Victor Davis Hanson listed ten reasons why President Obama won re-election, and what the Republican Party should do to prevent a steady stream of Democrats winning the White House every four years.

Hoover fellows do not march to the beat of a single drummer.  Hanson’s observations may be good inferences, but they are either irrelevant or downright harmful as guideposts for future Republican campaigns.  Several of his lessons-driven recommendations are just plain wrong.  Let’s go through them in sequence.

1.  Republican presidential candidates have to be more like the folks.

Thoughtful Ideas (TI): Agree.  So why do Republicans nominate White elitists or old guard politicians?

2.  Republicans are strong in the House of Representatives and Statehouses, which implies that Barack Obama was a special case at the presidential level.  The next liberal candidate will not have the same appeal.

TI: TI wishes he could be as sure of the political landscape in 2016 as is Hanson.  If 24 hours is a lifetime in politics, four years is an eternity.

3.  Republicans should charge Democrats with racism.  It’s better to deplore tribalism and warn the country that rival groups with conflicting agendas with too many claims against a shrinking majority is unsustainable.

TI: Wrong.  Members of “tribal groups” will treat such warnings emanating from Republicans as racism, homophobia, bigotry, and sexism.  Castigating members of “tribal groups” will further reduce their support of Republican candidates.  TI urges Hanson to read my book, Politics in Plural Societies, first published in 1972 and reissued in 2009 with an epilogue that includes Latino politics in America.

4.  Republican candidates will have to campaign in barrios, inner cities, and blue-collar communities explaining that free markets work better for the poor than government.

TI: Agree.  Jack Kemp is dead.  TI is waiting for Kemp’s successor.
5.  Don’t obsess over Latino voters; instead, close the border, stop illegal immigration, and allow the melting pot to “fracture” Hispanics into class groups, away from ethnic identity.

TI: Completely wrong.  Hanson is in denial about identity politics.  If applied, his recommendations will raise the 71% vote Latinos gave to Obama to even higher percentages for subsequent Democrat presidential candidates.
6.  Liberals predominate in the media, a bias that conservative talk radio and cable television have not yet overcome.

TI: Agree.  Universities and schools in the U.S. will continue to turn out left-leaning graduates that occupy leadership positions of American institutions, especially the media.  Reducing liberal bias in the media requires such drastic measures as shutting down the entire K-12 public school system and starting over from scratch, as did China in the aftermath of the decade-long Cultural Revolution.

7.  Republican candidates must use attack ads to counter Democrat attack ads.

TI: Agree.  Fight fire with fire.
8.  Stuff happens (e.g., Hurricane Sandy).

TI: So?

9.  Watch liberal media (e.g., Chris Matthews) to get out of the Republican self-reinforcing bubble of hope against electoral reality.

TI: Agree.  Does this admonition also apply to researchers in conservative think tanks that feed policy prescriptions to Republican presidential candidates?  Perhaps Hanson might spend some time at the Center for American Progress, Economic Policy Institute, Progressive Policy Institute, and others to get out of the self-reinforcing conservative think tank bubble.

10.  There is 47% of takers that must be reduced.  Republicans should make deals with Democrats to reduce spending.

TI:  Republican are a large part of the spending problem, not the solution.  President George W. Bush transformed several years of Clinton budget surpluses into eight years of deficits.  Bush signed into law a new unfunded entitlement, Medicare Part D.  Bush presided over the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.  And Hanson thinks that Republicans can make deals to reduce spending?  Maybe TI will find buried treasure in his back yard?

Factions within the Republican Party fight with each other to control the direction of the party.  It should come as no surprise, then, that thinkers in conservative policy institutes debate with each other alternate trajectories for conservative policy politics.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Comprehensive Immigration Reform: A Model of Forgiveness

Let’s be honest.  Everyone knows that comprehensive immigration reform entails amnesty, and ultimately citizenship, for more than 10 million Latino/a illegal immigrants residing in the U.S.  Amnesty means that these individuals would be pardoned of the crime of entering the U.S. illegally.

In the holiday spirit, amnesty (temporary or complete forgiveness of a lawful obligation) could usefully be applied in some or all of the following ways:

Forgiveness of sufficient principal on outstanding home mortgages to lift all homeowners above water, i.e., their homes would be worth at least as much or slightly more than their mortgages.

One year moratorium (or forgiveness), renewable if poor economic conditions persist, on payments of principal and interest on student loan debt.

Ditto on credit card debt.

Ditto on back federal taxes.

[Fill in other debts.]

Why single out only one group of people for amnesty?  Fair is fair.  Let’s give others the same break.  Reducing debt obligations on millions of Americans would put more money in the pockets of individuals and households with which to buy goods and services.  The increase in aggregate demand would boost the economy.  Why force foreclosures and debt collectors on debt-lade  households when moratoria and debt forgiveness are both more humane and economically beneficial?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Who Should Pay To Maintain The Flow Of Oil Through The Strait Of Hormuz?

For all intents and purposes, U.S. military forces provide the security that insures the uninterrupted flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz.

An important new development in oil and gas production, hydraulic fracking, will soon put the U.S. on the cusp of energy independence.

Near-term U.S. energy independence makes this the perfect time to transfer the burden of keeping the Strait of Hormuz open.  Let that fall upon the chief consumers of Middle East oil.

Japan imports about 4.4 million barrels of oil a day (mb/d), 89% from the Middle East
China 5.3 mb/day, 40% ME
India 3.1 mb/day, 63% ME
South Korea 2.5 mb/d, largely from the ME.

The U.S. should transfer the protection of the Strait of Hormuz to these countries.  Let them assemble a joint naval force and pay for it themselves.

The benefits are numerous.  The U.S. Navy will have more resources to facilitate President Obama’s pivot to Asia, especially if Congress reduces overall defense spending.  U.S. taxpayers will stop subsidizing a portion of the total cost of oil consumption by Asian countries.  The U.S. will not be caught between rival Arab factions and countries.  In the absence of large forces stationed in the region, the U.S. is less likely to be drawn into another Middle East conflict.

Monday, November 26, 2012

A Modified Mission For Conservative Think Tanks

Demography!  Demography!  Demography!  The 2012 presidential election revealed the following electoral landscape.
Based on exit polls, President Obama’s share of voters in the different ethnic, religious, and gender groups was as follows:

93% African American
85% Muslim American (CAIR survey)
73% Asian American
71% Latino American (most rapidly growing segment of U.S. population)
69% Jewish American
91% Gay American (overlaps with above categories)
55% Women (68% single women)
60% Young (18-29)
60% American Born Cubans in Florida

Governor Romney’s share:

62% White men (gradually declining share of the electorate)
56% White women (majority married, but married women are a declining share of all women)
55% Cuban Born Americans in Florida

E pluribus unum (from many one) is a phrase on the Seal of the United States.  That phrase is steadily giving way to E pluribus pluribus (multi-culturalism), or what I prefer to call a “plural society.”

The growing Hispanic bloc has thrown in its lot with the Democrat Party to gain influence over policy, secure posts in high office, and obtain more public sector rewards.  Astute Hispanic leaders will use identity to mobilize co-ethnics to achieve power, a strategy that will succeed if Hispanics feel unwelcome in the world of conservatives.

In 1972 I published with Kenneth A. Shepsle, Politics in Plural Societies: A Theory of Democratic Instability.  We updated the book 2009, chronicling the events that took place in the 18 ethnically-divided countries analyzed in the 1972 edition.  We also considered trends that were taking place in the United States that were likely to change the character of American elections.

On pages 221-22, we wrote:

    “...a potentially new transformation is gradually taking place in the United States.  It has been revealed in the debate over extremely contentious immigration bills to deal with millions of undocumented immigrants, largely Spanish-speaking from Mexico and Latin America, and millions more who seek legal entry into the United States every year, largely for economic opportunity.  Some analysts are concerned that this large number of Spanish-speaking immigrants may not assimilate into the dominant culture as readily as did previous generations from Europe.  As Spanish-speakers grow in number and are perceived in unified group terms, the quest for the “ethnic” vote could play a larger role in American national politics.  This would generate a greater degree of nationwide ethnicization of American politics than in previous generations, when ethnic differences tended to be localized to individual regions, states, or towns.”

Plural societies, in which ethnic divisions dominate politics, generally fail to sustain high growth.  The U.S. now risks lingering slow growth, unless a way can be found to persuade Hispanics that high growth, not redistributive politics, better serves their long-run interests.

Conservative think tanks have been a key source of ideas for the conservative movement.  They produce, in my opinion, better economic policy proposals than their liberal think tank counterparts.  Good conservative ideas may be a necessary condition for good policy, but they are not sufficient.  Conservative ideas won’t be implemented unless conservative politicians occupy the White House and Congress.

Reestablishing the Reagan-era success of conservative think tanks does not entail the continued (re)production of books, papers, and editorials pushing for smaller government, low taxes, free trade, entitlement reform, school choice, health savings accounts, deregulation, domestic energy expansion, conservative values, property rights, and strong defense–the mainstays of conservative think tanks for decades.  Rather, what is needed is the spread and acceptance of these ideas among the new demographic electorate.  This goal requires repackaging, creative marketing, and perhaps some fresh faces.

Buena suerte!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Memo to CNBC, Fox Business News, Bloomberg

How about a temporary moratorium of several months on guest hosts, economists, and other participants on your shows who served in, advised, or were otherwise involved in the Clinton, Bush, and first-term Obama administrations.

Some new faces might provide fresh commentary on the economic, financial, and political issues of the day.  It would also force the hosts of the various shows to be a bit more adept on their feet, instead of hashing out the familiar Democrat and Republican talking points with their guests.