Friday, June 29, 2012

We Are Awake In A Nightmare

Over at RedState, Erik Erickson has a post arguing that John Robert's otherwise unaccountable defection is a blessing in disguise for the Tea Party.  They will arise from their slumber and whoop up on the Democrats in November, leading to the repeal of ObamaCare.  He argues, " A giant woke in 2009. It went back to sleep thinking it had saved the republic in 2010. It’s awake now and I don’t think it is going back to sleep."

I respectfully dissent.  

For starters, even if Erickson is correct about the ObamaCare ruling revving up support for libertarian beliefs and elects enough Tea Party politicians to Washington to overturn ObamaCare, it will take all of one election to undo that and bring back the mandate.  Additionally, more mandates may be coming down the line from our statist foes.  As I argued in March, we had to win that case to keep Pandora's Box from opening.  I erred in believing the Commerce Clause would be the main argument (as did every lower court judge, regardless of their vote on the legality of ObamaCare), but the now solidified "constitutionality" of mandates is a reality.  Every election is now a battle to keep mandates out of our lives, and sadly we will not win them all.  The expansion of the federal government into our lives will accelerate regardless of the outcome in November. 

Nearly every argument conservatives and libertarians make about the damaging impact of Obama's policies on our lives is just too complicated for the average Joe or Jolene to follow.  It's far simpler to believe the grocery store is just jacking up prices to make profit than to understand how low interest borrowing by the federal government increases the money supply, decreasing the value of money down the pipe but not for those initially receiving that spending.  It's pretty damn tempting for people suffering in this economy to take a "free" entitlement of any sort, especially when the real downside won't hit for another few years or even decades (think Social Security, Medicare, ObamaCare, etc.).  It's too damn real out there for most folks not to want some great leader to magically pull us from the morass; they will follow that hope even when their reason tells them our leaders are egotistical, corrupt, and blatantly incompetent.  You can literally point this out to people: ask them if they think Congress is competent and generally not corrupt.  They will tell you no.  Their polling is usually in the low teens.  Ask those same people if Congress should be more involved in "fixing" our problems.  You won't like their response.  It's doublethink; the cognitive dissonance should be deafening, but it isn't.  We should throw more power to the corrupt and incompetent to fix our problems. 

We see it in Europe.  Nobody at all wants to face the fact that most nations over there are bankrupt and need to cut spending immediately.  Our people will be no different. 

Us Tea Party folks may very well awake to find ourselves in a living nightmare from which we cannot escape.  Erickson says they fell asleep after 2010; maybe so, maybe no.  But their impact in 2010 was not particularly great.  We may have slowed down the expansion of government some, but we are not reversing it, and 2010 was very likely our high water mark in terms of support. 

I am becoming increasingly convinced that the only options before us are secession (highly, highly unlikely) and going into the thousand years of darkness Reagan warned us of.  If the Tea Party cannot put government growth into reverse, then that second outcome is inevitable so long as we stay within our current political system. 

If we are serious about our stance on personal liberty and limited government, we will have to start taking a hard look at that first option.  But I don't think most people, even within the Tea Party, are that serious.  When given the choice between fighting for those liberties we supposedly hold sacred, putting our lives, fortune, and sacred honor on the line, or maintaining our admittedly shrinking comfort in the land of soft despotism, you'll find the forces of revolution being mighty small. 

I'll continue struggling against this parental tyranny because it is wrong and I cannot quietly abide what I see as wrong.  But I do not continue this struggle with a belief that it will work, at least within our current political framework.  And I'm pretty certain I'm not alone in that. 

We are awake.  The nightmare isn't a dream.  The monsters are real.  And we are now very, very naked before them. 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Sorry, Mr. Freedland

Reading Jonathan Freedland at The Guardian today is both amusing and painful.  You can tell Freedland is not a conservative/libertarian type, but he keeps skirting with their conclusions before fleeing them once their impact dawns upon him.  His problem, like so many on the Left, is that he takes democracy to be the best form of government by the people, rather than a republic governed by laws and respecting certain rights regardless of what a majority may say.  As Freedland says, democracy is like a car; if the people vote right or left, the country should respond accordingly.  

I'm going to ignore Egypt because it was never a democratic government to begin with.  They had a popular uprising, but no plan of action for establishing control afterwards.  Freedland's comments on Greece are illuminating, however.  

The point is, the answer is not in the Greeks' own hands. They are subject to the decisions of others, over whom they have no democratic control. Fair enough, you might say, since the Greeks are demanding the help of others – in the form of cash to bail out their ailing economy. But the effect is the same. For the Greeks, the ancient, animating promise of democracy – that it allows a people to be the master of their own fate – no longer holds.
But, Mr. Freedland, the Greeks were masters of their fate.  This is their fate.   The is the fate of the welfare state.  

Crudely, it means that governments whose prime task used to be giving things to people now have to take things away from them. 
Government cannot give without first taking away, Mr. Freedland.  Up until now, the welfare state has subsisted on taxing the rich and borrowing the remainder.  Now Europe can't borrow.   Europe has promised so many things to people and couched them in terms of "rights" but now cannot deliver.  They have run out of other people's money.  

Do not be surprised.  Conservatives and libertarians have been predicting this for decades.  So long as politicians can use the money of some people to bribe others, they will, even if it means promising more than there actually is.  A supranational solution does not exist for the same reason: mathematics will rule against you every time.  You cannot give more than there actually is, and how much there is depends on how much people are willing to produce, and how much they will produce depends on how much those people will get to keep.  
Politicians suddenly look small. The big forces that shape our lives – whether the euro or the bond markets – are increasingly beyond the reach of any national government.
For some of us, the abilities of government always looked small; they created a temporary boom with a gigantic bust.  Welcome to the club.  

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

All of the Rules Apply

"Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it."

~Rule 13, Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals

"Never go outside the experience of your people."

~Rule 2, Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals

Scott Walker won a decisive victory over Tom Barrett and the public service unions last night.  Given the raucous protests in 2011 from Madison to the Occupy movement and the supposed retreat of the Tea Party, folks on the Left are wondering how Walker could possibly have own.  The straw they are latching onto is that Walker's spending advantage, bolstered by the Citizens United decision, is weak.  Ask yourself, when was the last time you voted for a candidate because of how much money they spent?  Have those 30 second ads ever swung your vote?  Possessing a large war chest is more often a symptom of popularity rather than its cause. 

So what went wrong for the unions and their OWS prototype protest?  They followed Saul Alinsky's most famous rule to a T.  Scott Walker was their target, they painted him as evil incarnate (often literally), and made it clear that supporting the governor was morally unacceptable to anyone who would listen.  The negative rule 13 tactic has rarely been carried out as ruthlessly as against Walker.  It pumped up union members and liberals to nearly hysterical levels.  They remained focused on portraying collective bargaining as a basic human right to stay within Alinsky's second rule, to not go outside the experience of your people. 

But those folks misread Alinsky and America.  Middle class Wisconsinites were the people to be organized and they play by rules very different from those of the radical Left.  Trashing the Capitol and war monuments, screaming obscenities, drum circles; these are poison to average John Q. Public III.  He is revolted by them.  "The failure of many of our younger activists to understand the art of communication has been disastrous.  Even the most elementary grasp of the fundamental idea...would have ruled out attacks on the American flag."  The OWS types can scream that they are the 99% until they are blue in the face, it just isn't so.  Both the Wisconsin Democrats and OWS made the incredible mistake of assuming Middle America resembles the protesters!

What does Middle America actually see when it comes to Scott Walker?  A challenge to a privileged class.  Note not "the" privileged class, but certainly a class with privilege.  My step-dad would fit in with most middle class Americans.  He is 59 and is a supervisor of a few dozen employees, but started decades ago at the bottom.  Retirement is a fading dream for him; likely as not, he will work until he physically cannot out of financial necessity.  There is no love for Wall Street bankers, that's for damn sure, but they rarely show up in our part of the world.  What burns his ass on a daily basis are "public servants" complaining about not getting a bigger raise, chipping in for their own health care, or the travesty of retirement at 55.  

Again, my step-dad is 59, retirement is a fading dream, his property taxes are skyrocketing to pay for others to retire at 55...and they are ungrateful. 

The wonder isn't so much that Walker won as it is that Middle America has not smashed this machine until now.  "Fairness" should never leave the mouth of anyone retiring before 60 on a public pension, if not for moral reasons than just out of basic tactical considerations.  But the unions and the Democrats pushed this issue.  They were resoundingly defeated and every governor in the nation facing budget troubles (nearly all of them) knows now that public sector unions are not invincible machines.  They can be beaten, and more importantly, there is a huge groundswell that wants to see them beaten that extends far beyond the Koch Brothers. 

If Republicans are smart, they will tie the President to these unpopular public unions and force him to declare where his loyalties really lie.  If the Democrat Party renounces their top financial and organizational support structure, both could find themselves estranged from each other and significantly weakened for years to come.  Their strength lies in reinforcing each other; the unions provide votes and cash for the Democrats, who in turn provide privileges to the unions.  But apart from each other, they both lose.  The unions are unquestionably unpopular and it is easy to point out their privileges to those paying the bill.  Let's make Obama lose his union support or that of those disgusted with union privileges.  I think this is something we absolutely must focus on.  Unemployment and the bad economy hurt Obama for sure, but they are complicated enough for the average American or Harvard economist not to fully understand, which makes assigning responsibility difficult.  Supporting union privileges, on the other hand, is straightforward. 

Perhaps the most important takeaway is that the Left is in a bubble, a point noted by many conservative bloggers.  The Tea Party is extreme, public pensions are popular, Walker was weak, ObamaCare is popular and unquestionably constitutional, Occupy would play a large role within our political system, etc.  It's frustrating to deal with somebody who just cannot see a damn wall in front of their own face, who is adamant that the wall doesn't exist.  But I'm long past done trying to convince those people of their own weaknesses (though I still love creating cognitive dissonance wherever possible).  Keep telling yourself that people who face a lifetime of working for no retirement will support paying higher taxes to hear the recipients of tax money, retiring with color still in their hair, bitch about how hard the public servant's life is.  Don't work within the experience of the very people you need to convince.  When you skip right to Rule 13, it is your own cause you freeze, personalize, and polarize.  We'll make every election a Pickett's Charge in which you assault our fortified positions with actual Middle America.