Monday, December 31, 2012

A Perpetual Resolution of Principled Passion

About five years ago, I received the church bulletin in the mail from the congregation where I grew up. In it, there was a short passage purportedly from a 12th century monk that I have since kept on my refrigerator. Perhaps because it is almost new year and personally that means I will also be exiting my twenties in a few short weeks, that Monk's words have resonated with me even more so than usual. The passage reads:
When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world. I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation. When I found I couldn't change my nation, I began to focus on my town. I couldn't change the town , and as an older man, I tried to change my family. Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realized that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family. My family and I could have made an impact on our town. Their impact could have changed the nation and I could have indeed changed the world.
I've never had any grandiose plans to change the world, but I've always wanted the world to change--to be better. I don't advocate the kind of holier-than-thou collective introspection (a contradiction in terms) that liberal politicians advocate when there is a tragedy, an attempt to implicate those who had nothing to do with whatever horrific event happened. However, I think that introspection can be fruitful in helping us have a better understanding of our vice and our flaws, but also our passions and our strengths. How can we get rid of our vices and mitigate our flaws? How can we grow our strengths?  How can recognize our passion and turn that passion into action? What can we change in ourselves to have an impact on our families leading to that ripple effect that changes the world?

There is more than just acting upon a passion.We have to remain firm in our principles that are the foundation for that passion. If one of your passions is your faith, in a fallen world, you will face adversity if you stand firm. If one of your passions is service to others--the poor, children, the elderly-- you may face distractions from life's busyness. If one of your passions is politics, you may face the temptation of compromising your ideological principles for the sake of politics. Despite adversity, distraction or temptation, remain strong in your conviction to change yourself to in turn, impact the world around you. Susan B. Anthony, no stranger to principled passion nor adversity, once said:
"Cautious, careful people, always casting about to preserve their reputation and social standing, never can bring about a reform. Those who are really in earnest must be willing to be anything or nothing in the world's estimation, and publicly and privately, in season and out, avow their sympathy with despised and persecuted ideas and their advocates, and bear the consequences."
Reputation and social standing are fleeting, but principled passion is long lasting. Which is more important? A fleeting social status in an every changing world or rock solid principled passion that changes the world? My flaws and vices are numerous and my passion is too often hidden by timidity, but they aren't too numerous for a faithful God to overcome in my life.  As 2012 transitions into 2013, I'd like to prayerfully resolve myself to a perpetual resolution (that knows no calendar) of principled passion, eschewing timidity and embracing assertive confidence.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

New Year's Resolutions for the Permanent Political Class

Every year at this time, many of us make resolutions for the upcoming new year. We resolve to lose weight, quit smoking, exercise more, spend money more wisely, spend more time with our families etc. The common thread in all of these resolutions is that we are resolving to reform something about ourselves personally.  Meanwhile,when government sets out to reform something, it is very rarely a resolution to change something about themselves as elected officials. More often than not, their reforms are aimed about changing something about us "ordinary folks", our relationship to government, or how government spends our money. The word--reform--is generally just a euphemism for government expanding, liberty shrinking legislation. We hear of health reform, immigration reform, tax reform, entitlement reform and all kinds of other reforms, all aimed at changing us as individuals, as taxpayers, and/or as business owners. In essence, these reforms are all variations of "constituent reform". To be sure, much of this reform is needed, but most of the time, this is largely because of government mismanagement, (e.g. entitlement reform). Very rarely will government officials resolve to reform anything about themselves as a matter of policy or legislation.

We only need to look to the news of this past week to see the lack of personal reform and the overwhelming projection of "constituent reform" in our governmental officials. Senator Diane Feinstein proposed a gun control bill that would ban many types of guns, including handguns while she works in a building protected by armed security. In other words, her legislation would enable her to remain protected while us "ordinary folks" would be limited in our methods of protection. In the midst of "fiscal cliff" discussions where President Obama urged Congress to act like "ordinary folks" who do their jobs and meet deadlines,  he issued an executive order that gave pay increases to Vice President Biden, Congress, and some federal workers. "Ordinary folks" don't give or receive even small pay increases during times tough fiscal times, but that was what President Obama did for politicians who are not doing their jobs. (Ironically, the details of this pay raise are found on a government people's money) This kind of behavior is commonplace is government. Politicians create a different set of rules for themselves than they do for "ordinary folks"--be it in the right bear arms to protect one's family or in increases in their salaries while simultaneously discussing confiscating more money from our paychecks.

Very rarely are there politicians who seek to engage in political reform and promote a form of populism that views government largess and political privilege as the villain rather than business or the free market. Sarah Palin took a pay cut as mayor, rejected a pay raise as governor, passed ethics reform aimed at the legislature, executive branch and lobbying among a myriad of other policy reforms and personal populist decisions. Retiring Illinois Congressman  Tim Johnson was one of the first sponsors of the STOCK Act in 2006 aimed at making insider trading by Congress illegal, years before the practice was put under the spotlight by writer Peter Schweizer. Senator Rand Paul once returned half a million dollars in unspent funds (taxpayer money) budgeted for his office. These are a few examples and are all important steps indicating a broader vision about government's relationship to its constituents.

As part of that larger vision of government, I'd like to propose a few new year's resolutions for our government. First, reform yourselves. Don't require your constituents to live under regulations that you are exempt from or give yourselves special privileges that your constituents cannot access. Do your "fair share" (as much as I loathe that phrase) by refusing to accept a pay increase while inflation, tax increases, and regulation shrink the incomes of your constituents. Don't propose legislation without competitive bidding that only provides an avenue for cronyism, waste, and bloated contracts.  Stop giving subsidies, loans, grants, and special deals to your political donors. These are the kinds of political practice that have led to 5 of the 10 wealthiest counties being in the Washington DC metropolitan area.  Government can also take a cue from the resolutions set by us "ordinary folks"--lose weight. Our government is fiscally obese. Most proposed spending cuts are not actual cuts. When legislators propose slowing government spending rather than legitimately cutting it, it's essentially the same as if an "ordinary folk" resolved to gain less weight than last year, rather than resolving to actually losing weight. So, politicians, cut the crap, cut the fat, and sing Auld Lang Syne, just like us "ordinary folk" resolving to reform yourselves, not project reform on your constituents.

Crossposted here and here.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Seeds and the Fruit:When Government Becomes God

"At its most basic level conservatism is a respect for history and tradition, including traditional moral principles. I do not believer that I am more moral, certainly no better, than anyone else, and conservatives who act "holier than thou" turn my stomach. So do some elite liberals. But I do believe in a few timeless and unchanging truths, among those is that man is fallen. This world is not perfect, and politicians will never make it so. This, above all, is what informs my pragmatic approach to politics. 
We don't trust utopian promises from politicians. The role of government is not to perfect us, but to protect us--to protect our inalienable rights. The role of government in a civil society is to protect the individual and to establish a social contract so that we can live together in peace." 
--Governor Sarah Palin 
Going Rogue page 385-386 (emphasis added)
Following the horrific and ineffably saddening shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut on Friday, "gun control" advocates have redoubled their calls for stricter "gun control" laws  This is a part of a larger liberal pattern--governmental control leading to "perfection" of a fallen citizenry. As obesity rates rise, liberals call for governmental bans on soda, sugary foods, and salt. When there are above average temperatures, liberals call for government imposed carbon taxes and increased regulations to help curb what they see as anthropogenic global warming. When an individual makes a lot of money, liberals assume greed of the wealthy punishable with increased taxation. In other words, liberals believe government's role is to "perfect" us--to try to mold their constituents into their version of "perfect".

The idea that government can "perfect" us stems from an ideology that looks at problems from the perspective of fruit, rather than the seed. For liberals, the gun is the problem, not the hatred in someone's heart, which is the real seed of violence. The unhealthy food itself is the problem, not the seed of an individual's lack of self-control or poor understanding of healthy living that contributes to obesity. To the liberal, the solution for "global warming" is envirostatism-- essentially a punishment for carbon consumption.  The liberal solution for the problem of the "greed" of the rich is to confiscate and redistribute what they earn, so the wealthy are punished for greed they may or may not have in their heart. In essence, to the liberal, government is god--capable of casting judgment and punishing "wrongdoing".

Conservatives look at problems from the perspective of the seed. A seed of hatred can drive someone to murder regardless of whether their weapon of choice is a gun, a knife, or their own two hands. A seed of a lack of personal responsibility can lead to behaviors that contribute to unhealthy weight.A conservative rejects the arrogance that we have the power to affect the climate, but still recognizes the value of being good stewards of the natural resources to which we have access.The conservative believes that the seed of greed is capable of growing in wealthy or poor soil, and it is up to the individual to plant or not to plant it. Conservatives believe that God is God, and government is not. The government is not responsible for creating their own value system so that they can punish those who reject their system.

When government becomes god, the true God gets pushed to the margin and personal responsibility is cast as an archaic idea. I am not an advocate for using the Bible as a political science manual. Rather, the Bible is God's inspired word intended to tell the story of God's grace and faithfulness, guide Christians how to live their lives, and show churches how to function. However, our society's rejection of those guiding words has enabled our electorate and subsequently our elected officials, to turn government into god, serving as both moral arbiter and provider. The Bible advocates sowing the seeds of love not hatred, personal responsibility not blame casting, stewardship not negligence, and generosity not greed. The recent seeds our society has planted has yielded a bad crop of fruit. Only when our society and our government realizes that we are planting the wrong seeds will our crop improve. This only happens when we let God reign, and government takes its proper place as what Thomas Paine called, "but a necessary evil".

Crossposted here and here.

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Fiscal Cliff--Compromising Our Founding Principles and Holding Hostage Our Future

As Democrats and Republicans discuss the media declared "fiscal cliff", there has been seemingly more rhetoric than ideas and more focus on political expediency than on principle. In other words, it's business as usual in Washington. Words such as "compromise" and "hostage" seem to be part of any press conference or speech surrounding the debate. Each party indicates a need for the other party to "compromise" so that a certain group, such as the middle class, is not held "hostage" by the other party's lack of "compromise". The fiscal cliff and the debate surrounding "compromise" and "hostage" holding are not static in our current political debate. Governor Palin was right when she noted last week that we've already reached the fiscal cliff, but what remains to be seen is how hard we're going to fall at the bottom.  The actual compromise is not a potential one between Republicans and Democrats, but the compromise that decades and decades of politicians of both parties have made with our Founding principles. Those who are held hostage are not solely the constituents of the present, but also future generations who will have to pay for the fiscal failures of the past and the present.

 The  media declared, nebulous "fiscal cliff" includes the potential tax increases that would occur if the Bush tax cuts were to expire and the large across the board cuts that would be enacted if sequestration was to occur. If no "deal" is reached, then the combination of tax increases and budget cuts are anticipated by some to exacerbate an already bad economy. In reality, as Governor Palin noted, our nation has already gone over the cliff because of burgeoning deficits contributing to a massive national debt. This is not because of inadequate taxation, but because of big government and poor monetary policy.

Spending has gone up immensely over the past three decades specifically. Per capita spending has gone from  just over $6,000 a year at the beginning of the Carter administration to nearly $12, 000 a year currently. Per capita spending stayed fairly constant at about $8,000 per person through the second part of President Reagan's tenure through President Clinton's time in office before increasing again during President Bush's tenure, as shown below in this graph posted at Reason. com:

The Bush and Obama administrations consistently have spent more than 20% of GDP, which was a rare occurrence in the previous fifty years. Under President Obama, there have been four straight years of more than a trillion dollar deficits, which has lead to his tenure generating more debt than the tenures of the first 41 president (George Washington through George H.W. Bush) combined. Additionally, President Obama has supported quantitative easing stimuli, which have devalued the dollar and negatively affected  both employment and interest rates. While President George W. Bush may have engaged in some pretty extreme "fiscal cliff" diving, Barack Obama has made Felix Baumgartner  seem like a risk averse wimp with the astronomic levels he has gone to in his"fiscal cliff" diving. All of this has lead to the current situation where leaders are trying to determine if our continued fall will include tax increases, mandatory spending cuts, increased borrowing or any combination of the three.

This spending has brought policymakers to a point where charged rhetoric is uttered more frequently than  actual solutions. The word "compromise" is thrown around frequently, which generally means that one party think the other party should abandon their principles to capitulate to them. However, the real "compromise" is one that leaders of both parties have made with our Founding principles of limited government and Founding documents like the Constitution.They all have sworn to uphold the precious document only to treat it as a disposable paper towel when they get in office. They  have compromised their oath for the sake of political expediency. President Obama has indicated that he wants complete authority to raise the debt ceiling  as part of a  "fiscal cliff" deal, which minority leader Nancy Pelosi supports as well. However, the Constitution clearly states that Congress holds the authority to borrow money, not the President. The power of the purse lies with Congress, be it to spend or borrow, yet our leaders continue to try to twist the branches of government where one branch can assume the role of the other and the balance of power becomes moved from its fulcrum.

Additionally, President Washington noted in his farewell address that borrowing money was to be done sparingly and generally only in times of unavoidable wars (emphasis added):
As a very important source of strength and security, cherish public credit. One method of preserving it is to use it as sparingly as possible: avoiding occasions of expense by cultivating peace, but remembering also that timely disbursements to prepare for danger frequently prevent much greater disbursements to repel it; avoiding likewise the accumulation of debt, not only by shunning occasions of expense, but by vigorous exertions in time of peace to discharge the debts which unavoidable wars may have occasioned, not ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burden which we ourselves ought to bear.
President Washington understood something that our recent and current leadership has ignored--who is really held hostage by the political decisions of today--future generations. Today's politicians act primarily out of political expediency recognizing that if they can make the other party seem like a hostage taker to a certain segment of the population, then it helps them politically. However, the hostage is not solely the current taxpayer, but future generations who will be paying for the fiscal failures and bloated government of past and present politicians. As Margaret Thatcher famously noted eventually you run out of other people's money. If debt continues to accrue and the dollar continues to devalue, future generations will have to pay the ransom for their own pre-determined capture.

G.K Chesterston once noted of political compromise, “[c]ompromise used to mean that half a loaf was better than no bread. Among modern statesmen it really seems to mean that half a loaf is better than a whole loaf.” Whatever compromise (or capitulation) Democrats and Republicans come to (if they do), the check for the half loaf will ultimately be sent to future generations held fiscally hostage by the compromised leadership of our recent past and our present. We can only pray that someday our leaders will look to Thomas Paine's words as they make decisions, as Paine said, "if there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my children may have peace".

Crossposted here and here.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Republican Party's Political and Policy Pyramid Scheme

On Saturday, Tony Lee wrote a piece at Breitbart highlighting a recent speech by Pat Caddell where he discussed the reasons behind the Republican party's defeat in the presidential election. Among the many things that Caddell noted is that the Romney campaign bowed to the "consultant-lobbyist-establishment" complex. However, this is not only the GOP's political modus operandi, it is also their policy approach. This is why, although the Democrats may seem to resonate with voters more on messaging (Caddell also mentioned that voters didn't think Governor Romney "cared about them"), the differences on policy between the two parties appears to be shrinking. Of particular note, Caddell said:
“Why are Republicans not the anti-establishment party?,” Caddell asked.  
Caddell emphasized a “narrative is a story” that comes over a period of time and “not just a single message.” 
He cited Ronald Reagan as someone who knew how to speak to Democrats and “ordinary and common” Americans and bring them over to his side because Reagan had been one of them and came from regular Americans and shared their experiences. 
“That is a quality that has been missing a long time in a search for alternative candidate," Caddell said, in reference to Reagan's ability to resonate with blue collar Americans. 
“As long as the establishment wants to preserve the establishment and their special deals, you will lose,” Caddell said.
Caddell, of course, is correct. The Republican party's political approach has been inept attempt of self-preservation of the Establishment. They have been rudderless, inarticulate, and out-of-touch. I wrote last week about the need for the Republican party to do a better job at messaging and selling the winning product of conservatism, but the keys to victory of course, goes beyond this. One of the Republican party's failures has been that they have seen politics along a single axis--right and left--between the seemingly arbitrary boundaries of political parties. In reality, politics and policy both have a vertical component to them---top to bottom--not in the terms of political party, but of political connection and personal benefit.

As Caddell notes, "why are Republicans not the anti-establishment party?". They are not because they willfully ignore their own devotion to that "consultant-lobbyist-establishment" complex. Caddell also noted:
“No presidential campaign should be run by consultants,” Caddell said. “They should be run by people who are committed to the candidate and not into making big money.”
However, the past two losing presidential campaigns has been run by people who saw they could make money even in losing. Despite running a horrible campaign in 2008, Steve Schmidt saw he could continue to make money as a consultant and later as a political analyst at MSNBC as a "Republican" who trashes Republicans. The same can be said for Nicolle Wallace who works now at ABC and has attempted to capitalized on the notoriety of defeat by writing political fiction (which is the same genre as her political commentary). Through mid October, the Romney campaign had paid  $134+ million to political firms tied to his aides, including funding a  failed GOTV software. Karl Rove's "Crossroads" group brought in and spent more than one hundred million dollars, only to have every candidate they supported lose. The GOP establishment has turned the Republican party into a pyramid scheme--where the few at the top (the Establishment and their consultants) eat well at the expense of their own base. The political game is not simply "right vs. left"; it is a game where the establishment does not care if they win politically (and the country wins on the basis of ideology and principle) so long as they win monetarily.  They eschew their own base and ignore the entire electorate to pad their bank accounts. They do not realize the need for "free market populism", which is the solution for the "vertical" political and policy problems the GOP has.

Policy must be viewed on a vertical plane as well. Cronyism and corporatism must be rejected. Both of these "isms" allow for the politically connected at the top of food chain to benefit at the expense of the taxpayers at the bottom. This goes beyond the infamous problems with Solyndra and the other green energy companies tied to political donors. This also includes political institutions like the ExIm Bank, which provides taxpayer backed loan guarantees for American companies who sell their product overseas. The ExIm bank is supported by many Republicans, and its re-authorization was one of the few things that flew through the House and Senate with ease before being signed by President Obama. The Republican party is not distinguishing themselves from the Democrats when they choose to subsidize business on the backs of ordinary Americans.

Economic ideas must not be the "pro-government" ideas of the Democrats, nor the purported "pro-business" ideas of the Republicans. Rather, they must be "pro-market" ideas. Pro government ideas are founded in expanding government at the expense of the taxpayers' money and liberty. Pro business ideas are founded in expanding government and some businesses at the expense of both other businesses and taxpayers. Both of the ideologies empower either government or specific businesses or industries, but "pro market" ideas empower the consumer as their purchasing power, not government taxation, bailouts, or subsidies, drives the market. Take, for example, ethanol subsidies. The EPA refused to ease ethanol mandates for fuel following a year of drought which negatively affected the corn harvest. What does this do? It makes fuel more expensive, and it has even made livestock farmers resort to feeding candy to their animals because increased corn prices have made livestock feed more expensive, which continues to occur in part because corn is being used for ethanol in fuel rather than in livestock feed. What does this have to do with the Republican party? Again, ethanol subsidies have bipartisan support, and the Republican party has not distinguished themselves from Democrats.

The concept of populism is not often seen as a conservative concept, and to some, free market populism may seem like an oxy moron. However, it is not the populism of liberals who pit Americans against each other through class warfare. It is a populism that desires to wage a war of sorts against the permanent political class (and the "consultant-lobbyist-establishment" complex) through a new brand of policy and politics. It is a brand guided not by the clinched fist of socialism, nor the hand-in-hand relationships of business and government, but of the invisible hand of the free market where the individual is empowered by lower taxes and smaller government.

In order to win elections and subsequently support for policy, the Republican party must realize that the battle lies in their message and the directionality of their focus, not in the hands of establishment consultants. If they ignore the vertical plane of their political and policy battles, they will lose not only their political base, but the electorate as a whole, and their pyramid scheme will come crashing down.

Crossposted here and here.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Under the Maginfying Glass: A Tale of Two Vice Presidential Candidacies

In the weeks following the election, Republicans are assessing what went wrong that led to their defeat. Much to the criticism of some in the party, Governor Romney has hypothesized that President Obama won because of the "gifts" that he offered minorities. Others have speculated that the GOP was not able to effectively reach out to the changing demographics of America or that the party misinterpreted polls and got cocky. Others have pointed to poorly designed and implemented GOTV technology.Compared to the 2008 election, there is one reason for defeat that is conspicuously missing from the "Wednesday morning" political strategizing -- blaming the GOP choice for vice president.

Paul Ryan, of course, was not the reason for Mitt Romney's defeat. His nomination provided a spark for many in the Republican party. He was an articulate voice for the GOP ticket and a seemingly good fit for a Romney campaign nearly singularly focused on the economy. He is an intelligent Congressman who has shown leadership in the House on the budget and making strong stances against Obamacare, particularly the IPAB---the unelected board of bureaucrats tasked with managing how Medicare pays. Ryan has served as a Congressman in Washington DC since 1999 and worked for House members for several years during the early and mid 1990s as well. However, despite his strong stance against the Obama administration's profligate spending, he also supported  the TARP bailout during the Bush administration and the auto bailout set in motion during the Bush administration. He has been a good Republican soldier in Washington D.C. for nearly twenty years, which made him ideal for Romney, especially as someone from the same state (a swing state too) as the current RNC chair.

In 2008, Sarah Palin was quite the opposite in some respects. She was the governor of Alaska--about as far away from Washington D.C. as one can get. She had garnered a reputation for bucking her own party-- calling out the Alaska GOP chair for doing party business on state time, taking on and defeating an incumbent governor in her own party, cleaning up the ethical mess caused by that incumbent she defeated, and even suing a GOP presidential administration to enable energy development in Alaska. During the campaign, she wanted to abandon the micromanaging of her handlers and speak on passion and principles rather than talking points. She was the embodiment of the feminist ideal--a great family, a successful career, not to mention a state basketball championship and the ability to shoot a moose and cook it up for dinner. This proved to be a perfect target for the media, the Democrats, and GOP Establishment to go after Governor Palin, not only for the blamecasting loss, but also the treatment and coverage throughout the campaign, which was much harsher than what was shown Paul Ryan.

The Romney campaign was, of course, smart enough not to hire the likes of Steve Schmidt and Nicolle Wallace (unlike MSNBC and ABC), so the source of much of the redistribution of blame of the 2008 campaign was missing from the 2012 campaign. Ryan was not a threat to the GOP machine, because in many ways, he was already a part of it. There was no need for Romney campaign staffers, some of whom had trashed Governor Palin during the 2008 general election, to send out emails to coordinate a strategy to shield themselves from blame if they lost, as Steve Schmidt had done.So far during the 2012 election fallout, Romney advisers are blaming strategy and messaging, not directly their own candidates.

The media and the Obama campaign, however, did go after Paul Ryan with spurious attacks. Prior to the campaign and during the campaign, they tried to portray his budgetary roadmap as one that would throw grandma over the cliff. The Obama campaign tried to conflate Todd Akin's comments on rape with Paul Ryan's stance on abortion. The media and Democrats both turned a visit by Ryan to a soup kitchen into a ridiculous mini-scandal. However, this was nothing compared to the barrage that Governor Palin received four years ago from within her campaign, the Democrats, and the media. Like Ryan, Palin also had false accusations launched at her regarding who rape--specifically who paid for rape test kits when she was mayor. However, with Governor Palin claims seemed more pointed and numerous. Ridiculous claims were made that she wasn't the mother of Trig, her youngest son. False claims were also made regarding Palin's associations with the Alaska Independence Party (AIP), which has succession as part of its platform. This supposed AIP-Palin connection was also falsely cast onto to Governor Palin by an employee of a Democratic PR firms. Claims were made that she cut funding for special education when she actually increased spending for special education substantially.She even was falsely reported to have banned books like Harry Potter when she was mayor--before the books were even written.

For Governor Palin, it went beyond false claims surrounding policy and into false charges regarding her character-- charges that she abused her power by pressuring a commissioner to fire a state trooper who once was Palin's brother-in-law. State senator, Kim Elton launched a legislative inquiry into the matter, deeming it an “October surprise”(i.e. he intended it be political). During the inquiry process, the Obama camp even made contact with the troopers’ union of Governor Palin’s former brother-in-law.Ultimately, the politically motivated legislative inquiry found her as abusing power, while the personnel board, who were all appointed by Governor Murkowski, no friend of Governor Palin, exonerated her. Following President Obama’s election, Kim Elton was given a cushy job in President Obama's Department of Interior. Elton had also allowed former chief of staff to then Senator Obama and once interim chief of staff to President Obama, Pete Rouse, to use Elton’s Alaskan address so that  Rouse could vote in Alaska even after he hadn’t lived there for more than twenty years. Democrats sought to destroy her character, not solely mislead on her policy.

During the campaign, Governor Palin was criticized for being held back from the press--a poor campaign move by operatives like Schmidt and Wallace. Prior to her becoming the VP pick, emails obtained by the Anchorage Daily News noted that she was to be a McCain surrogate across several networks, yet the campaign held her back when she was picked. When she did talk to media embeds, she was criticized for "going rogue". Meanwhile, Paul Ryan only spoke to the traveling press corps four times during the campaign and never gave formal press availability. Ryan's limited press interaction never became a major story, however, only the subject of a singular tweet from a member of the traveling press corps.

Not only was Governor Palin more harshly covered by the media, her family was as well. Todd Palin's voter registration became a huge news story when he inadvertently checked the box for the Alaska Independence Party (AIP) when he simply intended to note he was an independent (he later corrected this). However, Paul Ryan's wife was not placed under the same intense scrutiny--despite the fact that she had been a congressional staffer and a corporate lobbyist in the past.  During their respective campaigns,  Governor Palin's children was the mother of a four school aged (or younger) children and a son in the military while Congressman Ryan's children were all under the age of 10. The young age of his three children and a busy campaign schedule were never a reason for faux concern from the media, as it was for Governor Palin.  Not to mention how Bristol Palin was put under the spotlight by the media and the Left during her concurrent pregnancy.

Despite claims made by McCain campaign staffers even prior to the campaign's end, Governor Palin was not reason for the McCain-Palin ticket's defeat. In fact, she helped the ticket. Among those who noted Palin's presence on the GOP ticket affected their vote, 56% voted for McCain-Palin compared to 43% for Obama-Biden. John McCain and Sarah Palin received 59,934, 814 votes while  Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan received 59, 142,004 votes--a more than three quarters of a million vote difference in favor of McCain-Palin. This was despite the fact that the Romney campaign made more contacts with voters on a grassroots level than the McCain campaign. These vote differences are in no way an indictment of Paul Ryan's candidacy, nor does an indictment lie in the context of solely a presidential campaign. The indictment lies with the GOP Establishment, Democrats, and the media who all seemed to have the same goal of destroying Governor Palin--a goal they haven't achieved despite continued efforts. Revisiting the 2008 campaign is not an attempt to rehash the past, but to put it in greater perspective. This month's election now provides an even bolder contrast to further reveal how much the media, the Democrats and even her own party wished to smear and discredited Governor Palin--and how much they continue to do so.

During this election cycle, GOP Establishmentarian, Karl Rove disingenuously represented Palin's effect on the ticket by saying McCain was leading prior to picking her as VP and he poo-pooed the effect of her endorsement as "not worth snot". In the end, Rove's endorsement successes were non-existent while Governor Palin had great success. The Democrats still reference Palin, in attempts to diminish her, but their reference to her only shows her influence and their fear. John Kerry referenced Governor Palin  in his speech at the Democratic convention when discussing Mitt Romney's policy on Russia. Obama campaign manager, Stephanie Cutter, referenced Palin in response to Rudy Guliani questioning Joe Biden's mental capacity. This past week, the head of Obama's SuperPAC and former deputy White House press secretary, Bill Burton took a shot at Palin in response to John McCain's criticism of Susan Rice's comments on the attack on the American consulate in Libya.She still remains a target for and a threat to both parties.

A willingness to serve in the capacity of vice presidential nominee means that your record, your family, and your character will be put under a magnifying glass--as it should. With Governor Palin, however, the GOP establishment, Democrats, and the media used (and continue to use) the magnifying glass the same way a mean kid uses it to direct sun's rays to an ant hill--to destroy. A magnifying glass can be revealing for objects on either side of it though, and thankfully, Governor Palin has used the magnifying glass to further reveal the corrupt nature of the very people who seek to destroy her.

Crossposted here and here.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Rejecting "Crystal Pepsi" Conservatism and Embracing People and Principle Centered Conservatism

"It was a tremendous learning experience. I still think it's the best idea I ever had, and the worst executed. A lot of times as a leader you think, "They don't get it; they don't see my vision." People were saying we should stop and address some issues along the way, and they were right. It would have been nice if I'd made sure the product tasted good. Once you have a great idea and you blow it, you don't get a chance to resurrect it."  

Those were the words of Yum Brands CEO, David Novak, . His "great idea" was that  of revamping Pepsi as a clear soda called Crystal Pepsi. Crystal Pepsi was introduced to the market in the early 1990s and proved to be a massive flop. Why did it flop? Because they tried to change a winning product. However, Novak and Yum Brands took Crystal Pepsi off the market because it failed. They knew they could not get customer buy-in on a poor imitation of a solid product. Perhaps the Republican party could learn a lesson from those in marketing. When you match a good product with the right messaging, the product sells.

However, the Republican Establishment and Beltway campaign operatives think that the way to improve conservatism is to change it, rather than to do a better job of marketing conservatism. This kind of "Crystal Pepsi conservatism" is pushed by Establishmentarians like Governor Jeb Bush who wrote a piece at the National Review this past summer indicating that Republicans need to become the "Grand Solutions party" and abandon the "black lines of ideology". However, in Governor Bush's attempt to make the GOP big tent, he has tried to drive the ideological pegs into the swampy ground of moderation, rather than the solid ground of principle. Following the electoral loss last week, Republicans like John Boehner and conservative pundits like Sean Hannity have called for immigration reform. Bill Kristol is encouraging the GOP to give in to tax increases. All of these men are trying to re-package a failing "Crystal Pepsi conservatism" that betrays principles. Instead, the party ought to follow the advice of Governor Sarah Palin that she shared following the 2010 GOP victories, " a winning conservative message must be careful crafted" just as Reagan changed his messaging between his 1976 and 1980 campaigns. The message may need to be re-crafted, but the conservatives principles need to remain. 

The Republican Establishment would be well served to replace their high investment, but low return DC/NYC political strategists and operatives with conservatives who are in the field of marketing. Those in marketing don't change good products; they only seek to provide the product with the right message in the appropriate media so that it sells. Conservatism is a great product. Individual freedom, free men and free markets are marketable to every demographic. It just needs to be messaged appropriately to our diverse American melting pot. Those in marketing and advertising use market segmentation research to reach our diverse popularity by tailor the message by race, income, education, urbanicity and other factors. Just as Pepsi isn't sold to baby boomers using the same commercial advertising and advertising platforms as millennials, so conservatism shouldn't be marketed to white empty nesters in the same manner as it is marketed young Hispanic business owners. Free market conservatism is the product, but the message to empty nesters might be one of reduced capital gains taxes to protect their retirement while the message to young Hispanic business owners might be one of reduced corporate taxes and fewer government regulations that provides a better life for their family. This enables conservative coalition building, and is something that would have served the Romney campaign well. However, Hispanic and black conservatives approached the campaign with coalition building ideas that were turned away.  The campaign did not effectively engage the consumers of conservatism. There is no need for pandering, but there is a place for engaging all segments of the electorate a candidate ultimately aims to represent. 

 Our Republic was founded on "we the people", and that is what conservatism's messaging should be founded upon as well. This is a  messaging concept that Margaret Thatcher understood an ocean away and nearly 40 years ago, when in 1975, the Tory party suffered considerable political defeats. She wrote (emphasis added):

Politicians should not be either professional efficiency experts or amateur industrial consultants. Their concern is with people, and they must look at every problem from the grassroots, not from the top looking down. 
My kind of Tory party would make no secret of its belief in individual freedom and individual prosperity, in the maintenance of law and order, in the wide distribution of private property, in rewards for energy, skill and thrift, in diversity of choice, in the preservation of local rights in local communities. 
Size is not all, any more than economic growth is all. Even efficiency is not enough. People come first—their needs, their hopes, their choice, their values and ideals. We have to understand these first—to be seen to be listening with sympathy and concern. It is important to be able to lead, certainly. But you cannot for long lead people where they do not want to go.

Conservatism must be framed in the context not in the white papers based theory of policy, but in the reality and application of those policies in individual's lives.People must come first, and as Thatcher said, politicians must look at problems not from the top down, but from the grassroots--the people, not the consultants. The message medium has changed as well, and the Republican Establishment must adapt. Texas conservative grassroots activist Michelle McCormick characterizes the current GOP as " Blockbuster in the age of Netflix". Both the brick and mortar Blockbuster and Netflix have the same product of "rentable" movies, but Netflix acts within the framework of the internet while Blockbuster operates in the last century framework of tangible DVDs. Conservatism must operate in a new media, entertainment age. As Andrew Breitbart famously emphasized politics is downstream from culture, and this is something the Republican party must capitalize upon

William F. Buckley famously noted that he'd rather be governed by the first 400 names in the Boston phone book than the faculty of Harvard. In the same way, conservatism would be well served to employ conservative marketing strategists instead of beltway strategists and blue blood politicians who insist on single minded and poor imitations of the winning product of conservatism. 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Obamacare Insurance Exchanges Are Corporatism Disguised as "Competition"

Earlier this week, I noted how Cook County board president and Obama mentor Toni Preckwinkle secured a $100 million Obamacare waiver to implement Medicaid expansion in the county a year early and cover a gap in the county budget. The conflicts of interest in Obamacare adds yet another layer as insurance exchanges are in the process of being implemented before the 2014 deadline. The Hill Healtwatch reports:
The fast-approaching deadline gives the administration little time to scrutinize private-sector partners for conflicts of interest. 
The purchase of one of these contractors, Quality Software Services, Inc. (QSSI), by UnitedHealth Group, a major healthcare conglomerate, has sparked concerns about a potentially uneven playing field. 
QSSI, a Maryland-based contractor, in January won a large contract to build a federal data services hub to help run the complex federal health insurance exchange. 
It will be working with several other contractors, including CGI Federal, Inc., to create the technological architecture for the exchange. 
The quiet nature of the transaction, which was not disclosed to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), has fueled suspicion among industry insiders that UnitedHealth Group may be gaining an advantage for its subsidiary, UnitedHealthcare.
 The article aptly compares these health insurance exchanges to websites like Travelocity or Expedia where consumers can pick and choose the best deals for airline tickets or hotels. With the potential conflict of interest in the health care exchange, it would be akin to Travelocity or Expedia owning American Airlines or Marriot Hotels and thus potentially driving consumers to purchase their product based upon how that company portrays the available options.  As the article goes on to note:
If an insurance company had influence over the information technology architecture used to run the exchange, it could interpret federal standards in a way to exclude competitors or make it more difficult for them to win approval, say some insurance experts. Or it could have an inside track on knowing how to design plans that meet the standards.   
The contractors working on the exchange will also have responsibility over payment calculation for risk adjustment. 
This program is intended to redistribute funding from plans that attract younger and healthier participants, and thus have lower costs, to plans that attract people with more chronic diseases.   
The draft statement of work for the contract shows QSSI will also work on technical requirements to deliver financial management services, such as payment calculation for risk adjustment. 
The prospect that a subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group could have a role in calculating the reallocation of federal funds among rival health plans has unnerved some industry insiders.
In mid October, Senator Orrin Hatch sent a letter to DHHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius asking for a full accounting of who received federal Obamacare contracts and what government officials signed off on those contracts. Sebelius has not responded. Hatch has also asked if Steve Larsen, a former official at HHS played a role in this contract:
Larsen left the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, the office tasked with crafting rules for the national exchange, in July to take a job with Optum. It is not clear how long Optum was in consultation with QSSI prior to purchasing it. 
Shields Britt, the spokeswoman for HHS, said Larsen would have to comply with stringent rules. 
“Former HHS employees are subject to the strict ethics policies put in place at the start of this administration, which are some of the toughest ethics rules ever imposed on executive branch appointees, and those standards certainly apply here,” she said.
Optum, whom Larsen currently works for, is the subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group that bought QSSI, the company who would provide the information infrastructure for the exchanges.How's that for a revolving door between government and industry? What are those strict "ethical" standards? Those words ring hollow from an administration whose first choice for HHS Secretary, Tom Daschle, was a "policy adviser" (newspeak for lobbyist) at the firm that lobbied for United Health.

The rhetoric behind the Obamacare insurance exchanges is one of competition and consumer choice, but the truth behind it is nothing more than continued corporatism and conflicts of interest.

Crossposted here and here

Monday, October 29, 2012

An Obama Crony Lands a $100 million Obamacare Waiver

Today, Crain's Chicago Business reports that yet another one of President Obama's cronies received an Obamacare waiver:
 Cook County hit a $100 million jackpot over the weekend. 
In a little noticed but crucial decision announced Friday night, the federal government signed off on a request by county board President Toni Preckwinkle to enroll 114,000 low-income people a year early in the Medicaid program. 
For the county, the decision is worth as much as $100 million a year, since its network of hospitals and health clinics already is serving most of the patients free of charge. The tab now will be picked up by federal taxpayers under a provision of Obamacare, rather than by Cook County taxpayers alone.
Ms. Preckwinkle isn't only the Cook County board President (and Lady Liberty in the above picture). She is also an Obama mentor who infamously said that President Reagan could "rot in hell" for making "drug use political", as Tony Lee reported at this past summer:
 Preckwinkle was discussing drug policy and how she felt drug treatment should not be a part of the criminal justice system. She was defending the decision by Chicago city officials to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana. And her comments were in reference to Reagan’s “war on drugs,” which President Richard Nixon started. During Reagan’s tenure, First Lady Nancy Reagan started the “Just Say No” campaign against drugs. 
Preckwinkle made those comments in downstate Illinois. Reagan was born in Tampico, Illinois.  
Preckwinkle helped Obama challenge the signatures of his primary opponents to run unopposed in his 1996 state senate race. Obama often reminisces about this race as a heroic, Rudy-esque foray into politics in which he overcame all odds to win.
Preckwinkle also supported Barack Obama in his failed primary run against sitting Congressman Bobby Rush in 2000, his 2004 US Senate run and his 2008 presidential run. As The New Yorker stated in a 2008 article, Preckwinkle was the one who suggested Obama begin attending Jeremiah Wright's church:
On issue after issue, Preckwinkle presented Obama as someone who thrived in the world of Chicago politics. She suggested that Obama joined Jeremiah Wright’s Trinity United Church of Christ for political reasons. “It’s a church that would provide you with lots of social connections and prominent parishioners,” she said. “It’s a good place for a politician to be a member.” Preckwinkle was unsparing on the subject of the Chicago real-estate developer Antoin (Tony) Rezko, a friend of Obama’s and one of his top fund-raisers, who was recently convicted of fraud, bribery, and money laundering: “Who you take money from is a reflection of your knowledge at the time and your principles.” As we talked, it became increasingly clear that loyalty was the issue that drove Preckwinkle’s current view of her onetime protégé. “I don’t think you should forget who your friends are,” she said. 
 Beyond the cronyism, this "waiver" only serves to place the people of the greater Chicago area and Illinois further underwater fiscally. Most businesses, states, and areas who have sought an Obamacare waiver had done so to delay the implementation of Obamacare. Preckwinkle's request for a waiver was to begin Medicaid expansion in Cook County early, and subsequently fill a budget gap for Cook County. This is normal for Illinois politicians who often seek federal dollars to cover their own budgetary failures.With Medicaid's hybrid of federal and state funding, the solicitation of federal dollars has also led to state and local budgetary increases,and, of course, fiscal problems. A recent report on state budgets in crisis notes that one of the things that has put Illinois in such great financial peril is Medicaid:
Illinois' other structural problem is Medicaid. In FY 2010, Medicaid accounted for 23 percent of the state's budget and that figure is going to grow under the Affordable Care Act. Under the best case scenario Obamacare will only raise spending 3.3 percent above the current baseline by 2019. However other scenarios suggest the increase could be as much as 20 percent by 2020. 
Rather than address these structural problems, Illinois has resorted to heavy borrowing to cover its obligations. As a result, per capita debt in Illinois is the second highest in the nation at nearly $10,000 (NY is number one). And largely because of this high level of debt, Illinois' bond rating is the worst in the nation. Moody's downgraded the state most recently in January of 2012.
In fact, during FY2012, Medicaid was underfunded by $2.1 billion. With the growing pool of patients and a shrinking number of doctors, Obamacare has only proven itself to be nothing more than a politician promising the entire country a new car, but only giving them a set of keys. Real healthcare reform is not expanding insurance while shrinking care and paying back your cronies. Real fiscal reform is not seeking federal dollars as a stopgap measure for a county and state budget drowning in debt.

Crossposted here and here

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Being a Voice for the Silenced: The Courage of Malala Yousafzai

For the all the diversity and uniqueness that we possess as women, there are some things that bind us beyond our shared biology. Among them are freedom and education. Freedom for women have unified former First Lady Laura Bush with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and have brought together actress Angelina Jolie with scores of women throughout the world.

Last week, the Taliban shot Malala Yousafzai and two other girls on a school bus. All three survived, but Yousafzai was critically injured with a bullet lodged her brain. She has since been transported to the UK for treatment, but her condition is critical and her prognosis unknown. Yousafzai is a young activist who has advocated for female education in Pakistan. Her father once ran one of the last schools in Pakistan to defy the rule of Taliban which banned female education. She anonymously authored a  blog for the BBC in 2009. Her first post was eerily prescient when she wrote:
 "I had a terrible dream yesterday with military helicopters and the Taliban. I have had such dreams since the launch of the military operation in Swat. I was afraid going to school because the Taliban had issued an edict banning all girls from attending schools. Only 11 students attended the class out of 27. The number decreased because of Taliban's edict. 
 On my way from school to home I heard a man saying 'I will kill you'. I hastened my pace... to my utter relief he was talking on his mobile and must have been threatening someone else over the phone."
She did not give into the fear that the Taliban tried to instill in her. She continued to blog her thought and  later became the subject of a documentaries. She did not allow herself to be silenced. One author at the UK Guardian noted about Yousafzai:
"Malala doesn't want to play to some western-backed or Taliban-loved stereotype. She shows us that there are voices out there, in Pakistan, that need to be heard, if only to help the country find democracy that is for and from the people, all the people."
Last week, former First Lady Laura Bush wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post (which Congresswoman Pelosi tweeted) noting Yousafzai's courage and our responsibility to speak out for her:
 Speaking out after an atrocious act, however, isn’t enough. Malala inspires us because she had the courage to defy the totalitarian mind-set others would have imposed on her. Her life represents a brighter future for Pakistan and the region. We must speak up before these acts occur, work to ensure that they do not happen again, and keep our courage to continue to resist the ongoing cruelty and barbarism of the Taliban. 
Malala Yousafzai refused to look the other way. We owe it to her courage and sacrifice to do the same. Malala is the same age as another writer, a diarist, who inspired many around the world. From her hiding place in Amsterdam, Anne Frank wrote, “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” Today, for Malala and the many girls like her, we need not and cannot wait. We must improve their world.
Laura Bush has been a strong advocate for women in oppressed nations for over ten years. She gave the first presidential radio address on the treatment of women under the Taliban in November 2001. To the dismay of some so-called "feminists", Mrs. Bush won Alice Paul Award earlier this year for her advocacy for women in oppressed countries and other pro-woman efforts she supported. She has used her voice to be a voice for the voiceless.

Actress Angelina Jolie has done the same in support for Yousafzai in a post at the Daily Beast:
The shots fired on Malala struck the heart of the nation, and as the Taliban refuse to back down, so too do the people of Pakistan. This violent and hateful act seems to have accomplished the opposite of its intent, as Pakistanis rally to embrace Malala’s principles and reject the tyranny of fear. A spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban said “let this be a lesson.” Yes. Let this be a lesson—that an education is a basic human right, a right that Pakistan’s daughters will not be denied. 
As girls across Pakistan stand up to say “I am Malala,” they do not stand alone. Mothers and teachers around the world are telling their children and students about Malala, and encouraging them to be a part of her movement for girls’ education. Across Pakistan, a national movement has emerged to rebuild the schools and recommit to educate all children, including girls. This terrible event marks the beginning of a necessary revolution in girls’ education.
Buzzfeed shared a very powerful slideshow of dozens of photos of Pakistani women rallying support for Yousafzai, just as Angelina Jolie mentioned. Arguably the most moving image is the one below of the religious political party of Sunni Tehreek:

These women are among the many throughout the world who are using their voice to be a light in the face of evil. CBS journalist Lara Logan, who was raped when covering the "Arab Spring" in Tahir Square in Egypt in February 2011, not only returned to work shortly after being attacked, but has spoken out against the evils that are responsible for the attack on both Yousafzai and herself. Earlier this month, Logan spoke at a Better Government Association event noting that "our way of life is under attack" and warned about being complacent in reacting to the evil of the Taliban that has been purported to moderate, an ideological shift obviously not seen in the attack on Malala Yousafzai.

We may not have the megaphone of Laura Bush, Angelina Jolie, or a Lara Logan, but as Americans we have a constitutionally protected right and opportunity to speak out against an evil that would try to halt the education and silence the voices of young girls in Pakistan or sexually abuse a reporter in Egypt. Pakistani women have spoken out in spite of potential fear that they too would be silenced. American women in politics, entertainment, and journalism have spoken out against both the evil they faced and that Yousafzai faced in Pakistan. Let us too be a voice for the voiceless.

Crossposted from The New Agenda.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Drilling Deeper into Obama's Blockage of the National Petroleum Reserve

Governor Palin re-tweeted two tweets from Jedediah Bila noting the Obama administration's decision to cut off drilling in more half of the over twenty-three million acres in the National Petroleum Reserve (NPR) in Alaska. The entire Alaska delegation and Governor Parnell support development of this area as do the Native groups, contrary to what the Obama administration claims. As Human Events reports:
However, the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation (ASRC) that represents the interests of the Iñupiat in Barrow, Alaska, is opposed to the plan and disputes Salazar’s contention it has local support.  
 Richard Glenn, ASRC executive vice president of lands and natural resources, says “despite the department’s statements of working and collaborating with Alaska Native groups we feel that our efforts are rejected.” 
“Salazar’s choice would lock up large swaths of land with little or no additional benefit to wildlife resources found there and elsewhere throughout the petroleum reserve. Waterfowl, fish and caribou do not recognize boxes on a map,” Glenn said. 
Rex A. Rock, Sr., ARSC president, said the plan essentially locks up the most prospective areas for increased domestic energy supply, while proposing lease sales on tracts of land with low oil potential.
To be sure, the Obama administration is to blame, as is Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, both for lying about local support and for blocking development. However, we have to look at who in the Interior department may be responsible for Alaska related Interior issues. In March of 2009, President Obama appointed Kim Elton to be Interior Director for Alaska Affairs. The name Kim Elton may sound familiar to you. Elton rose to fame (or perhaps better said, infamy) when as an Alaskan state senator in 2008, he launched a legislative investigation of Governor Palin. This was known as "Tasergate" (or "Troopergate" as the media called it) and alleged Governor Palin abused her power to pressure Walt Monegan, a state commissioner, to fire Palin's former brother-in-law. Elton even claimed it could be an "October surprise" for Governor Palin. This legislative inquiry ruled that Governor Palin abused her power, but the personnel committee ruled that she did not. As Governor Palin noted in Going Rogue, Kim Elton also allowed Obama adviser and one time interim chief of staff, Pete Rouse to use his address to vote in Alaska despite not living there for 27 years. Suffice it to say, Elton has been a yet another crony both for the Obama campaign and the Obama administration.

Upon taking this Interior position, Elton said:
“The Department of the Interior’s mission is fundamental to Alaska’s future and I look forward to helping the Secretary and the Administration make progress both on stewardship of Alaska’s resources and on the economy of the state and the nation at this critical juncture in our history.”
However, this does not seem to be what he has down while acting as the Interior Director of Alaska Affairs.

The Obama administration has been extremely deceptive when it comes to their energy development plans in Alaska. In May of 2011, the Obama administration said they would hold annual leases for drilling in the National Petroleum Reserve. The next month, President Obama rejected the Alaska Oil and Gas Development bill that would assist in the permitting process. Extending leases while stymieing the permitting process is like allowing home builders to purchase land, but not allowing them to build a house or sell it to a buyer. The Obama administration admits that there has only been exploratory drilling done in the NPR and that there have only been leases extended for only about 6% of the land. To be sure, leases have only been extended since 1999, but with three presidents who have been in office since then, why haven't any of them pushed for further lease sales or a more streamlined permitting process? Why has Kim Elton continued to be nothing more than an Obama stooge--both politically and policy wise--rather than  aiming  to make process both on stewardship of Alaska's resources" and the state's and nation's economy? Again, the Obama administration and his cronies have proven that President Obama's supposed "all of the above" energy approach most definitely does not include above the Arctic circle.

Related--Governor Palin advocates passionately for development in the NPR following a speech in 2010:


Crossposted here and here.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Refineries--the Unspoken Energy Problem

In the past few days, gasoline prices in California have gone up tremendously, and shortages have even occurred in some areas. Prices twice hit an all time high this weekend with the average price being $4.66 a gallon with some paying upwards of $6.65. There was a thirteen cent jump in prices overnight on Saturday. In August, a similar thing happened here in the Midwest. Gas prices jumped thirty cents per gallon in just one day in Springfield, Illinois. Neither of incidences occurred because of unrest in the Middle East, a hurricane in the Gulf, monetary policies, nor speculator shenanigans. What would have caused such a big jump in price?

In both of these situations, drastic price jumps occurred because problems with oil refineries and regulations applied to refineries.

In California:
 Refinery and pipeline mishaps, along with the state's strict pollution limits are all, in part, to blame. They've sent wholesale prices soaring to all-time highs this week.  
 One of the disruptions involved a power outage on Monday at the Exxon Mobil plant in Torrance, which normally produces 150 millions barrels of gas per day. 
Additionally, Chevron's Richmond plant, the largest refinery in Northern California, has been running at reduced capacity since a fire Aug. 6. 
At the same time, California refineries have dropped production in recent weeks in anticipation of switching over to a "winter blend" of gasoline, which emits more pollutants, next month. 
But California's summer-blend fuel requirements are in effect in Southern California until Oct. 31.
In the Midwest:
 The Midwest has seen a confluence of freak problems during the past few weeks that have tightened supplies and pushed prices. An Enbridge Energy Partners pipeline that transports crude from Superior, Wis., to Chicago-area refineries ruptured July 27, spraying about 50,400 gallons of crude into a southern Wisconsin field.   
It was Enbridge’s second break in the region in just more than two years — an Enbridge pipeline broke in Marshall, Mich., in July 2010, spilling 840,000 gallons — and federal officials have barred the company from re-opening the Wisconsin line until it submits a re-start plan. A company spokeswoman didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking an update on the plan Friday. 
Meanwhile, equipment problems have closed parts of refineries in Whiting, Lemont, Ill., and Wood River, Ill., said Patrick DeHaan, a petroleum analyst at
No refineries have been built in America since 1976. While the refineries still in production have become more and more efficient in recent years, they also have become more and more scarce. Between 1981 and 2006, the number of refineries was more than cut in half from 324 to 149. Part of the reason for this drop is due the impact regulations have caused making it uneconomic for companies to keep refineries open. Refineries in Pennsylvania closed this past spring due in part to the fact that regulations made up roughly fifteen percent of their budget. A March 2011 report from the Department of Energy showed that federal regulations played a significant role in the closing of 66 refineries over the past 20 years. With fewer refineries in production, when a problem occurs with one, such as happened with fires and pipeline problems in California and the Midwest, it has a larger impact on region the refineries service.

With both California and the Midwest, specific regulatory problems occur as well. In California, the mandated use of boutique fuels (fuels for different times of the year) mean that refineries have to shift production which can cause changes to prices in the weeks leading up to that shift, as was mentioned with the cost increase this weekend. In the Midwest, ethanol reformulations mean that fuel has to be blended at the storage facility as the addition of ethanol makes the fuel too corrosive to be added at the refinery. Additionally, the EPA is fining refineries for not producing a certain blend of ethanol that doesn't exist commercially! Whether it's state or local regulations such as in California or national regulation that impact certain regions more directly, regulations have the potential to put a strain on the refineries that have withstood the burden of regulation.

Politicians on both sides of the aisle pay lip service to a "all of the above" approach to energy, but do they mean it?  Domestic energy production is at a 16 year high, in many ways in spite of the President's policies. New drilling technologies in states like North Dakota has lead to massive amounts of production on private lands, but greenies have tried to create non-existent problems with the fracking process (with the backing of oil-rich Middle Eastern countries). Meanwhile, fossil fuel development on public lands is at its lowest point since 2003, and the Obama administration has cut off access to millions of acres in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska. Their supposed "all of the above" approach really is a none-of-the-below (oil, natural gas, and coal) approach and certainly doesn't include above the Arctic circle. At the same time, while many Republicans are more favorable to development of oil, gas, and coal, they often back ethanol fuel mandates  and fuel standards that have burdened refineries. An all-of-the-above approach must include the entire process of development.This is what Governor Palin spoke of  in her speech in Indianola, Iowa in September of 2011 when she mentioned not only the need for energy production leading to jobs and security, but also refinement of that energy. Policies need to be put in place (or removed, as it were) to enable energy to be produced and refined so that regulations are not burdensome on producers, but also aren't subsequently burdensome on consumers and their wallets.

 Crossposted here and here.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Death Panels and the Revenge of Sarah Palin

John O'Sullivan, a former adviser to Margaret Thatcher, has a great, succinct piece up at the National Review  following the presidential debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney:
 Romney’s answer on Obamacare was a model one: crisp, clear, authoritative; the president’s initial statement and reply were not dreadful, just rambling and nervous. And the longer he went on, the less confident (and so persuasive) he was. His attempt to argue away the importance of death panels was the nadir — call it the revenge of Sarah Palin.
Governor Romney never used the phrase "death panel" that Governor Palin famously used, though had he done so, President Obama's reaction would have no doubt been priceless. However, Romney knew well enough that the message that Governor Palin has been hammering on for over three years is one that resonates with voters. People do not want greater government involvement, much less from those whom they can't even elect, at the risk of rationing of care to Medicare patients. Romney referred to what he instead called an" unelected board" five times during the debate. See below from the debate transcript:
 Number three, [Obamacare] puts in place an unelected board that's going to tell people, ultimately, what kind of treatments they can have. I don't like that idea.  
 We didn't raise taxes. You've raised them by a trillion dollars under "Obamacare." We didn't cut Medicare. Of course, we don't have Medicare, but we didn't cut Medicare by $716 billion. We didn't put in place a board that can tell people ultimately what treatments they're going to receive.  
 We didn't — we didn't also do something that I think a number of people across this country recognize, which is put — put people in a position where they're going to lose the insurance they had and they wanted. Right now, the CBO says up to 20 million people will lose their insurance as "Obamacare" goes into effect next year. And likewise, a study by McKinsey & Company of American businesses said 30 percent of them are anticipating dropping people from coverage. So for those reasons, for the tax, for Medicare, for this board and for people losing their insurance, this is why the American people don't want — don't want "Obamacare." It's why Republicans said, do not do this.  
 But let's come back to something the president — I agree on, which is the — the key task we have in health care is to get the costs down so it's more affordable for families, and — and then he has as a model for doing that a board of people at the government, an unelected board, appointed board, who are going to decide what kind of treatment you ought to have. 

 I used to consult to businesses — excuse me, to hospitals and to health care providers. I was astonished at the creativity and innovation that exists in the American people. In order to bring the cost of health care down, we don't need to have a — an — a board of 15 people telling us what kinds of treatments we should have. We instead need to put insurance plans, providers, hospitals, doctors on targets such that they have an incentive, as you say, performance pay, for doing an excellent job, for keeping costs down, and that's happening.
As O'Sullivan noted, when President Obama tried to defend his "death panel", he failed miserably. Obama's attempt at defending his plan is below:
So at — at Cleveland Clinic, one of the best health care systems in the world, they actually provide great care cheaper than average. And the reason they do is because they do some smart things. They — they say, if a patient's coming in, let's get all the doctors together at once, do one test instead of having the patient run around with 10 tests. Let's make sure that we're providing preventive care so we're catching the onset of something like diabetes. Let's — let's pay providers on the basis of performance as opposed to on the basis of how many procedures they've — they've engaged in. Now, so what this board does is basically identifies best practices and says, let's use the purchasing power of Medicare and Medicaid to help to institutionalize all these good things that we do.
Yep, that's right. President Obama tried to defend his "death panel" by referencing something that the private sector to make care better and more innovative. Later, President Obama claims " this board that we're talking about can't make decisions about what treatments are given. " However, the Cato Institute notes the uncontrolled power of the IPAB:
IPAB could deny access to care as it sees fit simply by setting Medicare’s prices for certain treatments and procedures so low that no providers will offer them.
This is rationing plan and simple, and it's doing exactly what President Obama claims the bill cannot do. However, Obamacare wrapped itself in so much rhetoric that it blurred the truth. Truth always wins, however, and as O'Sullivan said, this is the revenge of Sarah Palin. Much like O'Sullivan wrote regarding Sarah Palin following the 2008 election, "snobs are wrong about Sarah Palin". Crossposted here and here.