From the Hill, the ghost of Hawley-Smoot returns
The Senate voted Monday to advance legislation pressuring the Chinese government to stop undervaluing its currency, a practice most economists agree is giving the country an unfair trade advantage and is costing the U.S. jobs.
The Senate voted 79-19 to end debate on a motion to proceed to the bill, the Currency Exchange Rate Oversight Reform Act of 2011. While the vote does not mean the bill has passed, the strong show of support suggests it could well be approved in the upper chamber by the week’s end. Passage through the House is less clear, however, and GOP leaders have given no indication they will move forward with it.
Senate Democratic leadership, responsible for bringing the legislation to the Senate floor, heralded it as a way to create jobs and right a long-standing trade imbalance with China.
“China is by far the biggest exploiter of predatory currency practices,” Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Monday. “[T]hese currency policies artificially raise the price of U.S. exports and suppress the price of imports into the United States, undermining the economic health of American manufacturers and their ability to compete at home and around the globe.”
This is a great example of how a group, in this case the Democratic Party, can say they are against corporate welfare, but in fact be 100% behind it simply by changing the terms used.
Look at the sentence in bold. Another way to write this would be "we want a law to help a few visible and influential manufacturers who most compete with China, but hurts consumers (ie every single American) and every business that uses imported raw materials.
Protectionism like this is corporate welfare for a few large manufacturers. I find it amazing the reporter can say that "most economists agree" an undervalued Chinese currency is costing us jobs. My sense is that most economists don't agree with this statement. All this law will do is unilaterally increase consumer prices and raw material costs, and I know few economists who think this is stimulative.
A cheap yuan is a direct subsidy of American consumers by the Chinese, and I am not sure why we shouldn't let it continue as long as they are dumb enough to keep doing it.
It happens all to seldom, for reasons I understand well. Oil companies and Wal-Mart and other vilified private entities that are the object of populist and cynical political attacks very seldom fight back. The reason is not because they are in the wrong, but because the government has the power to gut them like a fish in a myriad of ways, and are populated by petty little thugs who love to dish it out but can seldom take any criticism.
That is why its great to see Koch Industries telling demagogues in the Democratic Party to take a hike. For some bizarre reason, perhaps because the Left saw how much fun the Right had vilifying George Soros for everything, the Koch brothers are not the source of all imaginable plots and schemes.
Check out this letter, where Koch Industries responds to Democratic fundraising pitch.
Collective bargaining was adopted as a key tactic for labor out of the sense that, by banding together in labor negotiations, workers were able to offset a perceived power imbalance vis a vis employers. But what happens if the management team on the other side of the table in labor negotiations is not actually an adversary?
We have seen in the last week that the Democratic Party is operating, right up to the US President, as a wholly owned subsidiary of the public employee's unions. In such a case, where state governments are historically dominated by Democrats, is it any wonder that compensation packages for unions have skyrocketed? They have been negotiating with themselves!
I hate to cut and paste so much of another blogger's post, but this is just excellent:
Last week Andrei Cherny wrote an Op Ed piece for the Republic in which he decried political labels and announced that he was the leader of Arizona's version of the "No Labels" movement. Here's the creed of the "No Lables" movement.
We can overthrow the tyranny of hyper-partisanship that dominates our political culture today. We can break down the institutions of power that are corroding our system. We can do this because we have the power of numbers. All we have to do is join together.
This week Cherny announced he's running for Chairman of the Arizona Democratic Party.
I will tell you, those who agree with me on the immigration issue in the Democratic Party are trying as hard as they can to turn me against immigration. This same thing happened in the Iraq war. I was against the war, as I thought it a poor use of resources (there are just too many bad governments in the world to take them all down that way). But when my fellow anti-war travelers agreed with me for stupid reasons (we must defer to Europe, Sadam is not a bad guy, etc.) it almost made me change my mind. If the people who agree with me are idiots, is that a bad sign?
TJIC has similar thoughts here, and I watched in amazement as the Mexican President yesterday criticized US immigration policy for being to harsh, despite the fact it is far more open than Mexico's own immigration policy.
I wish I had the book in front of me, but in one of the collections of Ayn Rand's essays (either the Virtue of Selfishness or Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal) she quoted a bit of the 1968 Democratic Party platform, which called for all kinds of fake rights, the most hilarious being the right to vacation or leisure.
Well it turns out that absurd corruptions of the concept of individual liberty are never unthinkable, just ahead of their time:
Brussels has declared that tourism is a human right and pensioners, youths and those too poor to afford it should have their travel subsidised by the taxpayer"¦
"Travelling for tourism today is a right. The way we spend our holidays is a formidable indicator of our quality of life," [European Union commissioner for enterprise and industry Antonio Tajani], said"¦
Tajani's programme will be piloted until 2013 and then put into full operation"¦ it is expected the EU will subsidise about 30% of the cost.
Hollywood delivered for Obama in the last election, and he is ready to pay them back. The world's most open and honest administration is again using closed hearings and executive fiat to force legal changes that likely would create a firestorm of controversy in a normal legislative process.
It's hard to know, then, which is more appalling: the fact that the Obama Administration has conducted the ACTA negotiations in secret, or that it has indicated that it plans to adopt the final Agreement as an "Executive Order," one that does not require submission to or ratification by the Senate (or any Congressional action whatsoever) to become effective. ...
But even this summary makes it clear that, once again (see Clinton Administration) the Democratic Party has caved in to Hollywood's demands regarding intellectual property enforcement. As David Fewer of the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic and the University of Ottawa noted, "if Hollywood could order intellectual property laws for Christmas what would they look like? This is pretty close."
There are a lot of problems with the health care bills in Congress. At the end of the day, I will endure most of them, as I have every other indignity thrown at me by the Feds. If they charge me 8% of my company's payroll as a health care tax, well, we can probably raise prices, particularly in the inflationary spiral the Fed has set us up for. I will be sad to see the most successful in this country punished with high new taxes, but these taxes mostly won't apply to our family. And I will find some way to get my family the health care it needs, even if we have to fly to India to do it.
But my biggest fear is for individual liberties, with the effect I have called "the health care Trojan Horse for fascism." We all know that the government has developed a taste for meddling in the smallest details of our lives. But as more of the nation's health care spending flows though government hands, nearly every decision you make will suddenly affect the government's budget. What you eat, how heavy you are, whether you smoke, whether you play an athletic sport where you can get hurt, whether you pursue dangerous hobbies like rock climbing or skiing, whether you wear a bike or motorcycle helmet, whether you have a seat belt on, whether you drink alcohol, whether you like to use dangerous power tools -- all these become direct inputs into government spending via medical bills the government is paying. And if you think that Congress will avoid legislating on these activities once it inevitably gets in financial trouble with health care, you have not studied much history.
And all this avoids discussion of other powerful individual liberty-related topics, such as the ability to get the end of life care you want or whether the government will even allow you to go "off plan" with your own money if you disagree with its Commissar's rulings on what care you should and should not receive.
It's fascinating for me to watch all these children of the sixties in the Democratic Party, most of whom screamed (rightly) at George Bush continuing to implement new plans where we give up individual liberties for security. But here come those exact same people, with the exact same message - because this is what health care reform is about, at its core - giving up individual liberties in exchange for a (perceived) increase in security.
Barack Obama and most of the Democratic Party (as well as a sizable Lou Dobbs contingent in the Republican Party) fear trade and globalization. But like it or not, much of our economic growth is driven directly or indirectly by trade. In particular, even I found the export growth rates in this chart from Mark Perry surprisingly large:
George McGovern has an editorial in the WSJ urging the Democratic party to abandon the idea of stripping secret balloting from union organizing elections:
The key provision of EFCA is a change in the mechanism
by which unions are formed and recognized. Instead of a private
election with a secret ballot overseen by an impartial federal board,
union organizers would simply need to gather signatures from more than
50% of the employees in a workplace or bargaining unit, a system known
as "card-check." There are many documented cases where workers have
been pressured, harassed, tricked and intimidated into signing cards
that have led to mandatory payment of dues.
Under EFCA, workers could lose the freedom to express
their will in private, the right to make a decision without anyone
peering over their shoulder, free from fear of reprisal.
There's no question that unions have done much good
for this country. Their tenacious efforts have benefited millions of
workers and helped build a strong middle class. They gave workers a new
voice and pushed for laws that protect individuals from unfair
treatment. They have been a friend to the Democratic Party, and so I
oppose this legislation respectfully and with care.
To my friends supporting EFCA I say this: We cannot be
a party that strips working Americans of the right to a secret-ballot
election. We are the party that has always defended the rights of the
working class. To fail to ensure the right to vote free of intimidation
and coercion from all sides would be a betrayal of what we have always
I have always been a bit torn on this issue. I don't in general think the government needs to get involved in how private organizations do their business. However, by force of law, unions are not a normal private organization. They have special rights, including ones that mimic taxation, other groups do not have:
Unfortunately, we don't live in a free society, and the term "union"
comes with a lot of legal baggage. Recognized unions are granted
certain legal powers and rights that an average group of self-organized
folks don't. For example, they are the only private organizations in
this country that I know of that have taxation power, and the power to
demand absolutely that certain monies be withheld from employee
paychecks (even of employees not in the union) and given to them.
Perhaps more importantly, companies can't ignore them - they have
to negotiate with a recognized union. Unions also have informal
powers. For example, the legal system tends to tolerate a lot of
violence and physical intimidation by union members (in strikes and
such) that it does not tolerate in other contexts (seventy-five years
ago, the situation was reversed and the system tolerated a lot of
company violence against workers).
The economy, the Democratic Party, and the Republican Party are all acting more and more like they did in the 1970s. Keep your head down, and expect more of this kind of garbage.
The Democratic party, which so often accuses others of adopting superstition over science, are themselves pursuing Medieval economics:
The Democratic Party's protectionist make-over was completed yesterday,
when Nancy Pelosi decided to kill the Colombia free trade agreement.
Her objections had nothing to do with the evidence and everything to do
with politics, but this was an act of particular bad faith. It will
damage the economic and security interests of the U.S. while trashing
our best ally in Latin America.
The Colombia trade pact was signed in 2006 and renegotiated last year
to accommodate Democratic demands for tougher labor and environmental
standards. Even after more than 250 consultations with Democrats, and
further concessions, including promises to spend more on domestic
unemployment insurance, the deal remained stalled in Congress.
Apparently the problem was that Democrats kept getting their way.
I am sure the Columbians, who for years have been told by the US to export something other than cocaine, are scratching their heads at this rebuff when they actually try to do so. My sense is that the Democrats are reacting to this ugly picture of US manufacturing output post NAFTA:
We can see that since the passage of NAFTA in the mid-1990s that US manufacturing output has, uh, has.... can that be right?
I probably shouldn't, but I must admit that I am being hugely entertained by the calculus of guilt and victimization in the Democratic Party as supporters of the white woman and the black guy vie to claim the title of being the most put down by "the man." I can just see the voter in Berkeley yesterday nearly imploding with stress as she tried to figure out whether it was less PC to vote against a black or a woman. Anyway, MaxedOutMamma is also having fun with the whole thing, and is surprised to find out that "If Hillary doesn't win
tonight it will obviously be proof that the old WASP boys club [of Georgia!] has
conquered using a black guy with the middle name of Hussein." Yes sir, I remember that time when Georgia went so far as to secede from the union to keep women in bondage....
Dave Barry used to joke that whenever he would argue for a free society, the first objection people would have is "but people would all have sex with dogs." ** Now, Barry is just being funny (as usual) but as in all humor, there is a strong core of truth in his observation. For years, when I argued that private property rights should be absolute, folks would argue "but then everyone would trash their land." It in fact became incredibly predictable that someone would ask "how would you stop people from burying nuclear waste on their property?"
Um, why would they? Would you bury nuclear waste in your backyard? Well, No. Why not? Because it would be dangerous to my kids, and it would reduce my resale value. OK, so why would anyone else? No answer.
I call this the "you can't give people freedom because they will do malicious things even if it is against their own self-interest" argument, and George Will observes that it is alive and well in the Democratic Party:
Speaking ill of lenders began when homo sapiens acquired language,
hence it is unsurprising that many people who until recently were
criticizing lenders for not making money available to marginally
qualified borrowers are now caustic about lenders who complied. Clinton
is fluent in the language of liberalism, aka Victimspeak, so,
denouncing "Wall Street," she says families were "lured into risky
mortgages" and "led into bad situations" by those who knew better. So, lenders knew their loans would not be fully repaid?
Jesse Jackson speaks of "victims of aggressive mortgage brokers." But
given that foreclosure is usually a net loss for all parties to the
transaction, what explains the "aggression"? Who thought it was in
their interest to do the luring and leading that Clinton alleges? While
granting that "borrowers share responsibility," her only examples are
those "who paid extra fees to avoid documenting their income" and
"speculators who were busy buying two, three, four houses to sell for a
quick buck." Everyone else has been victimized.
This is exactly the point I made back in April, when I said that the mortgage market was about to become a capitalism Rorschach test, acting a a catalyst to reveal everyone's core beliefs and biases about free markets. Which it certainly has with Hillary. But we already knew where she stands, didn't we?
** You wouldn't believe the Google hits I get since I made this post.
Here is all you need to know to understand the two political parties as they are in 2007: Both parties want to return to the 1950's. The Republican Party wants to return to Leave-it-to-Beaver type social/sexual options and media offerings. The Democratic Party wants to return to the large company / heavily union work models and economy of the 1950's.
Which makes the titles "Conservative" and "Liberal" worse than meaningless, since each vision is inherently small-c conservative. Both fear change, diversity, and risk, though in different sectors of our lives. In some sense this is the real culture war, between dynamism and fear of change.
A while back I lamented that so few people actually strive to maintain a consistent personal philosophy, rather than a hodge-podge of isolated political views. In this context, I thought the profile of "progressive" Markos Moulitsas Zuniga (the Daily Kos) by the sympathetic progressive-liberal Washington Monthly was interesting. For example:
The younger-than-35 liberal professionals who account for most of his
audience seem an ideologically satisfied group, with no fundamental
paradigm"”changing demands to make of the Democratic Party. They don't
believe strongly, as successive generations of progressives have, that
the Democratic Party must develop more government programs to help the
poor, or that racial and ethnic minorities are wildly underrepresented,
or that the party is in need of a fundamental reform towards the
pragmatic center"”or at least they don't believe so in any kind of
consistent or organized manner. As this generation begins to move into
positions of power within the progressive movement and the Democratic
Party, they don't pose much of a challenge on issues or substance. So
the tactical critique takes center stage.
Moulitsas's sensibility suits his generation perfectly. But it also
comes with a built-in cost. Moulitsas is just basically uninterested in
the intellectual and philosophical debates that lie behind the daily
political trench warfare. By his own admission, he just doesn't care
about policy. It's here that the correlation between sports and
politics breaks down. In sports, as Vince Lombardi is said to have put
it, "Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing." When the season is
over, you hang up your cleats and wait for the next season. But in
politics, that's not the case"”you have to govern, and if you don't
govern well, you won't get reelected. So while tactics and message are
crucial, most voters will ultimately demand from politicians ideas that
give them a sense of what a party is going to do once in power. Wanting
to win very badly is an admirable and necessary quality in politics,
and Moulitsas is right that Democrats have needed it in greater
quantity. But it is not really a political philosophy.
This article tends to reinforce a notion I have had of late, that is a trend toward political party as fashion statement. For example, I get the impression that many of Kos's audience call themselves Democrats more because of the statement they think it makes about themselves rather than a thought-out comparison of the various party's positions and how they stack up vs. their own thought-out philosophy. I am starting to sense that people choose parties for their brand-image rather than for the actual positions or people who represent them. Democrat might mean "I am smarter than you", "I am with-it and cool", "I am dynamic" while Republican might mean "I am patriotic", "I am moral", "I am level-headed". By the way, don't send me mail for the wrong reasons -- I am not saying the parties actually consistently meet these images, I am just saying that a large number of people seem to adopt their party to make these kind of statements about themselves.
Postscript: If you think I am exaggerating, then someone needs to explain to me how a Democratic president can send us to war in Bosnia with Republicans opposing and then have a Republican president send us to war in Iraq with Democrats opposing when at the 40,000 foot level they are the same freaking war (US intervention to unseat a genocidal dictator with at best unclear UN mandate and opposition from key European nations). I keep coming back to the simplistic explanation that the default political position is "I got my guy's back no matter what, and you guys suck no matter what", which I admit effectively compares the current political discourse to the chants at a Michigan-Ohio State football game, but I'm going to go with it.
PPS- As a good libertarian, though, I am happy to know that young progressives are not necessarily pushing for more state control.
Readers of this blog will know that every time I have read condemnations of Janice Rogers Brown with quotes from her that are "out of the mainstream", I have become more enamored of her.
JRB is opposed by the left and the Democratic Party because she is a strong supporter of property rights against government intervention. Reason has an interesting article noting that while Democrats in Congress were quick to attack her small government libertarianism, Republicans pointedly did not in turn embrace it. First, a reminder of why Brown makes everyone nervous:
Property and contract are, for her, the lifeblood of liberty; and when, in
the late 1930s, the country and the Supreme Court began treating property
rights cavalierly, they set loose an inexorably advancing leviathan state.
To Brown, moreover, it makes no sense to treat speech and privacy rights as
sacrosanct but property rights as trivial, when the Founders viewed all
those rights as of a piece.
More striking than Brown's philosophy is her tendency to express it in
language reminiscent of Barry Goldwater in his intemperate prime. In a 2000
speech to the Federalist Society in Chicago, she said, "We no longer find
slavery abhorrent. We embrace it. We demand more. Big government is not just
the opiate of the masses. It is the opiate: the drug of choice for
multinational corporations and single moms; for regulated industries and
rugged Midwestern farmers and militant senior citizens." She spoke of the
Supreme Court's belated acquiescence to the New Deal as "the Revolution of
1937," resulting today in "a debased, debauched culture." There is much more
in this vein, and not just in her speeches. In a 2002 dissent involving a
San Francisco housing regulation, she declared that private property "is now
entirely extinct in San Francisco," replaced by "a neo-feudal regime."
And the Republic response?
Otherwise, Republicans ran away from Brown's ideas as fast as their legs
could carry them. Specter listed, approvingly, government regulations she
has upheld. Sessions: "She has ruled on hundreds of cases affirming
government regulations, for heaven's sake." Sen. Jim DeMint, (R-S.C.):
"While she would likely describe herself as a person who believes in small
government and limited regulations ... Justice Brown has voted consistently
to uphold economic, environmental, consumer, and labor regulations." Lott:
"She has consistently voted to uphold regulations in every walk of life."
You would almost think she was Walter Mondale.
It is depressing to me to think the Republican party is returning to its 1970's big-government conservative roots.
Unfortunately, the libertarian "bloc" in the country tends to be a bit too small for either of the two major parties to fight over - kind of like expending energy on wooing left handed Eskimo pipe-welders. However, last year, with many libertarians opposing key parts of the Patriot Act, the growth in government spending, and the war in Iraq, the left and the Democratic Party made a bid to woo libertarians over to the Kerry camp.
I would have found this argument more compelling had the left proven themselves to be a bit more consistent supporters of democracy and individual rights around the world. Many on the left bent themselves into pretzels supporting blatant totalitarians in hopes of seeing George Bush fail. Other leftists continue to be strong Marxists, supporting socialist regimes with a blind eye towards their human rights records.
While the socialists are probably a loss, there is still hope for much of the left to craft a freedom- and individual-rights-based foreign policy that libertarians could find compelling -- I handed out some free advice here. However, before they left can really make progress here, the need to learn how to recognize a dictatorship:
You Know its a Dictatorship When:
- Michael Moore portrays the country as a kite-flying paradise
- Jimmy Carter sanctioned their last election
- The UN certifies that there is no genocide
- They sign friendship pacts with other dictatorships (also here and here and here too)
- They are a member of the UN Human Rights commission (not 100% foolproof but getting closer every year)
- They were once a French colony, and/or France is opposing sanctions against it (also here too)
- Their people are impoverished and they lag the world in economic growth
Update: Welcome Powerline and Instapundit readers.
Forward: The following post contains criticism of the administration's foreign policy, including the war in Iraq. However, I am not one who wishes to see Iraq fail, just to make me feel better about my criticisms. In this critical week for Iraq, I wish the people of that country all the best with their fledgling democracy and I am thrilled that their elections seem to be going well. Writing from here in the US where millions of people don't bother to vote if it's raining, the people of Iraq who are risking their lives to vote have my deep respect.
From time to time, like many libertarians, I tend to isolationism -- but as tempting as isolationism may be, that approach is just not supported by history. As the richest, strongest nation in the world, we run and hide from the rest of the world. In fact, I think the world is well and truly screwed if the US does not actively involve itself in making the world a better place. Since the cold war ended, the US has the luxury of intervening in world affairs and conflicts solely based on its values, such as promotion of democracy or end to genocide, rather than merely to check Soviet power. No longer do we need to support jerks like the Shah of Iran because we feel we must have allies in a particular area. GWB has outlined a fairly clear foreign policy for using American power to unseat dictators using whatever force is necessary. It is fair for us to oppose this policy for being too impatient, too violent, too expensive, too dependent on the military -- but shame on us for ceding the moral high ground of promoting democracy and opposing totalitarianism, as Democrats and many libertarians have. You can't oppose spreading democracy (or set a low priority to it, as Kerry explicitly said he would) and win with the American people. Heck, this is the Democrats' issue "“ how can they give it up to Republicans? When did pragmatic amorality rather than idealism become the hallmark of Democratic foreign policy? Where is the party of Kennedy and Truman and Roosevelt? Democrats have no one to blame but themselves for not clearly outlining a foreign policy alternative to GWB's for using the US's strength to do good in the world.
Continue reading ‘Wanted: Foreign Policy Alternative’ »