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Tuesday, May 1, 2012
Accumulated Thoughts

. . . On the political, economic, and constitutional fronts.

The Big Holiday

It's May 1, International Workers Day. The Occupy-This-and-That crowd has well-publicized plans which, as usual, include relatively few people who don't seem to work much trying to get in the way of lots of people who do. We'll see how it goes. Meanwhile, how many of us remember that this day is the big socialist/communist holiday? (I mean Soviet and Chinese communists, among others, not just anyone to the left of Utah's robust far-right demographic.)

If the self-proclaimed 99%, which so despises the 1%, had any significant awareness of the world at large or its history, they'd realize that in the countries which have celebrated International Workers Day most vigorously, the 1% have been richer in comparative terms, and the 99% have been poorer in absolute terms, than has ever been the case in the modern Western world's free-market economies.

The Eye of the Beholder

The far right (which doesn't like the word "far" used to describe them) keeps telling us that Mitt Romney is no conservative. In fact, a lot of them say he's a liberal or even a socialist. Meanwhile, the Big Media Acronyms and the American left generally are worried that he has a secret agenda. Horror of horrors, he may actually be the most conservative Republican presidential nominee since Ronald Reagan -- which isn't saying much -- and he may actually be planning to do conservative things if elected!

The New York Daily News ran a story Sunday with this headline: "Real Romney: real scary." The subhead said, "Beneath the moderate veneer, a right-wing agenda lurks." It takes the Reagan comparison even further: "Romney has actually become the most far-right major party nominee in generations, eager to make the Reagan and Bush presidencies look almost liberal by comparison." Their expansion on this theme doesn't actually place him to the right of Reagan, but the perception is the point here.

I'm no moderate, and neither is Mitt Romney, but if the ideologically poisoned on both sides are this worried, I'm starting to think Romney may be better than I realized.

What's Next?

I confess: I'm enjoying this.

First we heard about the Romneys strapping their dog kennel (dog included) atop their car and going on vacation. That was supposed to horrify us, I think, but it really only bothered people who won't be voting for Romney anyway. Then we found out that President Obama has actually eaten dog. Oops, on to the next thing.

Guess what? Romney's great-grandfather was a Mormon polygamist. (So was my great-great-grandfather, by the way, but not the same polygamist.) The Republican backlash on this one during the primary debate season was pretty good, something about Romney being the only major Republican candidate to have just one wife. But Obama beats that backlash by a mile. His father was a polygamist. His grandfather was a polygamist. And his great-grandfather had one more wife than Romney's polygamist great-grandfather.

Is it wrong that I'm enjoying this? I can hardly wait to see what distraction comes next, and how it will backfire.

I liked Romney's line the other night: "It's still about the economy, and we're not stupid!"

Limited? Constitutional?

We'll have to see what the US Supreme Court's decision on ObamaCare actually is, but in the meantime, we've had a vivid illustration of a key difference between the right and the left. The right holds that the US Constitution limits the powers of the federal government. The left can't imagine that the Court would overturn ObamaCare, because extending health care to all is so obviously a good thing. Let's leave disputing the goodness of it for another day and focus on the idea of limited government.

Here's another example: the proposed reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. Since we all know that violence against women is a bad thing -- as is violence against men, by the way -- for the left this proposed federal law must be both good and constitutional. Let's stipulate for the sake of argument that the bill will actually have the desired affect of reducing violence against women. Congress should pass it, the President should sign it, and the Court should find it constitutional -- because violence against women is a bad thing, and opposing it is a good thing. Right?

Both my Senators, Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee, voted against reauthorizing VAWA last week. Lee made the argument: The US Supreme Court has already held that Congress has no power to regulate or punish domestic violence. It's not that domestic violence is good, because it's not. It's that the Constitution doesn't grant the federal government the power to legislate in such matters. That is reserved to the states and local governments. So VAWA is unconstitutional -- in addition to being, per the Heritage Foundation, wasteful and redundant, which are separate issues.

Unemployment Numbers

The St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank has some interesting economic graphs at its web site. Among many others, these include the U3 unemployment rate, which is the one we usually see in the news. These are people without jobs, who have actively looked for work in the last four weeks. I think we get a better picture from U6, which also includes adults who need work but have given up looking, those who can and would like to work but haven't looked lately, and the working but underemployed.

That U3 has hovered between 8 and 10 percent for years now, which is appalling. But the U6, which I argue is a better measure of actual conditions, grew from about 8 percent at the beginning of the recession nearly to 17.5 percent in late 2009. Only in the last several months has it begun to decline, dropping last month below 15 percent -- which is still terrible.

A fringe candidate for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in Utah went around saying that the real unemployment rate in Utah is well above 30 percent. Listening to his speech at the state convention the other day, I finally figured out how he got that number. He's counting the retired, the disabled, and stay-at-home parents as unemployed. This is not altogether different from the recent declaration by an Obama surrogate that, as a stay-at-home mother of five, Ann Romney never worked a day in her life. (In case you're curious, this candidate was eliminated on the first ballot, as tends to happen with fringe candidates.)

Here's one more sad but interesting graph: "Average (Mean) Duration of Unemployment." This particular number is twice as high as it has been after other modern recessions, meaning that people are staying unemployed twice as long. Right now, it's just barely below its peak, which is just over 40 weeks.

This President, That President

From time to time President Obama and his dutiful minions have suggested that he is like Ronald Reagan. This is a bit difficult to swallow, for those of us who actually remember and admire Reagan. Obama has invited comparisons to FDR, too, which he thinks is a good thing, conservatives think is a bad thing, and many find much easier to accept. He has resisted comparisons to Jimmy Carter, the presidential poster child for chronic economic malaise.

Now he's channeling President Richard Nixon, and not in a good way. Here's how the Wall Street Journal's Kimberly Strassel began her article last week:

Try this thought experiment: You decide to donate money to Mitt Romney. You want change in the Oval Office, so you engage in your democratic right to send a check.

Several days later, President Barack Obama, the most powerful man on the planet, singles you out by name. His campaign brands you a Romney donor, shames you for "betting against America," and accuses you of having a "less-than-reputable" record. The message from the man who controls the Justice Department (which can indict you), the SEC (which can fine you), and the IRS (which can audit you), is clear: You made a mistake donating that money.

She also wrote:

Richard Nixon's "enemies list" appalled the country for the simple reason that presidents hold a unique trust. Unlike senators or congressmen, presidents alone represent all Americans. Their powers -- to jail, to fine, to bankrupt -- are also so vast as to require restraint. Any president who targets a private citizen for his politics is de facto engaged in government intimidation and threats. This is why presidents since Nixon have carefully avoided the practice.

Save Mr. Obama, who acknowledges no rules.

This enemies list is about money, which is about reelection (or vice versa).

The Heritage Foundation's Rory Cooper wrote, "President Obama’s campaign has managed to make Nixon’s list look quaint, legitimate and even routine," and notes that it's public, at an Obama campaign web site called "Truth Team."

. . . Which brings this collection of accumulated thoughts to a suitably bizarre conclusion.

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