Tuesday, May 29, 2007

That's Our Hillary

Hillary wants to make life fair!
Presidential hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton outlined a broad economic vision Tuesday, saying it's time to replace an "on your own" society with one based on shared responsibility and prosperity.

The Democratic senator said what the Bush administration touts as an "ownership society" really is an "on your own" society that has widened the gap between rich and poor.

"I prefer a 'we're all in it together' society," she said. "I believe our government can once again work for all Americans. It can promote the great American tradition of opportunity for all and special privileges for none."

That means pairing growth with fairness, she said, to ensure that the middle-class succeeds in the global economy, not just corporate CEOs.

"There is no greater force for economic growth than free markets. But markets work best with rules that promote our values, protect our workers and give all people a chance to succeed," she said. "Fairness doesn't just happen. It requires the right government policies."

One hopes, and expects, that this nakedly socialist rhetoric is to be taken about as seriously as Bush's occasional flirtations with libertarianism. Oh look, the article actually mentions specifics:
Beyond education, Clinton said she would reduce special breaks for corporations, eliminate tax incentives for companies that ship jobs overseas and open up CEO pay to greater public scrutiny.

Clinton also said she would help people save more money by expanding and simplifying the earned income tax credit; create new jobs by pursuing energy independence; and ensure that every American has affordable health insurance.

If that's all the government a blue-team presidency gives us, I'm not exactly going to plan a move to Estonia - though I'm very curious as to how she intends to "expand and simplify" the EATC.

The Democrats are mistaken if they think their current electoral momentum, such as it is, is due to a resurgence of people wanting more massive government "fairness" initiatives. All the people who voted for Bush because they hated Gore and Kerry are still out there, and they haven't changed their opinions about HillaryCare. They've changed their opinions about Bush.

If this kind of rhetoric makes it past the primaries, they're going to wonder where their votes went - even if Bob Shrum isn't running the campaign. Luckily, I'm pretty sure this is typical "race to the base" type stuff; just a primary season tactic, timed to take attention away from Obama's health care plan. To Hillary's credit, she avoids numbers.


Obama's New Math

In this AP story on Obama's proposed national health care plan we find a very curious number, and fail to find one even more so.

In all, Obama said, the typical consumer would save $2,500 a year.

Obama conceded that the overall cost of the program would be high, while not providing a specific number.

Leave aside for a moment all the troubles that can be thought of with respect to the very idea of universal health care. What I want to know here is how -- logically, mathemetically, sensibly -- our favorite senator from Illinois is able to estimate the savings to the "typical consumer" without apparently having any idea what the system itself will cost? Y'know, just asking. Wouldn't want to accidentally elect any Underpants Gnomes as President, would we now.

Also just as an aside, counting only nominal premiums (i.e. ignoring employer cost that would otherwise be a higher salary), medical and dental for myself and my wife costs me less than $2000 per year. And frankly most of the time that seems like a ripoff as neither of us makes much use of it. Is the typical American really spending THAT MUCH on health care? Seriously, what is going on.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Things To Read The Whole

Dale Franks has questions for withdrawal advocates, which fairly well capture the "We broke it, we bought it" stance of the war's remaining supporters; that even though it's bad now, it'll be much worse if we leave.

Jim Henley mocks, then answers. Good reading.

Update: The comment thread in Jim's second post gets heavily derailed by a discussion of people getting banned from qando. A substantive post on the biggest issue of the decade turning into an argument about who got banned from what message board - if that's not the internet in a nutshell, I don't know what is.

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Friday, May 25, 2007

Wisconsin Hypocrisy Trip

The base foolishness of man on display in this CNN story about a Wisconsin gas station owner's "protest" never ceases to amaze me.

The owner of Towne Market Mobil in this suburb north of Milwaukee shut down his pumps for 24 hours, hoping to start a movement aimed at convincing oil companies to lower their prices.

Maria McClory, 38, drove 10 miles out of her way to buy a diet soda from Pollack's station after seeing local television coverage of the protest.

"I just wanted to support them and thank them for making a statement," said McClory, who drives about 100 miles a day for work in her sport utility vehicle.

Read the whole thing, as they say. It's all that juicy.

The mind simply boggles at both the behavior and attitude here. Let's say your SUV has a big ol' 20 gallon tank. A couple of months ago when gas was $2.49/gal it would have cost you $49.80 to fill up. Now at $3.49/gal it costs you $69.80. Now, how do you respond? Perhaps you trade in your SUV for family sedan or even an economy car. Perhaps you talk to your boss about telecommuting. Perhaps you postpone your summer road trip, or cut back on eating out, or make fewer, larger trips to the store and such. But none of that really quite measures up to driving 10 miles out of your way (20, if that figure is one-way), which is to say about $1.75 out of your way at a liberal estimate of 20mpg, to "make a statement". And continue to drive 100 miles ($17.45!) a day in your SUV. Brilliant. (Of course living in the sub-/exurbs, owning a huge house and one or two additional cars are non-negotiable, but that's neither here nor there.)

Better still is the window into the mind of the Great American Moron. We have the heroic gas station owner on record saying he has "virtually no control over the price he charges for gas," which is first of all absolute nonsense. He owns the station, he bought the gas from the wholesaler, he can charge whatever he damn well pleases (idiotic laws against "price gouging" notwithstanding). He can cut his price and lose even more money or he can raise it and watch everyone go down the street, which certainly puts constraints on what he can sustainably set his price at, but certainly doesn't take away his control. I can drive down the street to a corner with 3 gas stations with 3 different prices representing 3 decisions along this spsectrum. But the point is that the wholesaler (and in turn the refiner and in turn the driller) is in the exact same position. At each step in the process some firm owns this asset, has full discretion to price it in any way, yet is constrained by the realities of the market.

There is some serious cognitive dissonance here. Most folks I talk to direct their anger at gas stations themselves, simply because they are our visible point of interface with the oil market. Yet here the station owner has come out to the people and said it isn't his fault, and pointed his finger up the chain. The consumer who is outraged at the rising price of that which he buys has been invited to identify with the producer who is outraged at the slim margins on that which he sells (though he couches himself in the consumer's angle). And yet the connection is not made. The realization that we are all both buyer and seller and have such a small viable range of control, does not occur. How is it possible that we so consistently fail to see this?

This brilliant post over at Econbrowser shows the real reasons gas is getting expensive. Which, of course, boil down to "supply and demand" just like everything else. But Americans are not interested in answers, we just want someone to point the finger at, and for the government to "do something." To paraphrase Mencken, I'd expect to be getting that something good and hard pretty soon here.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Candidate Mockery Roundup, T-Minus 18 months edition

Who says it's not an election year? Let's run down some candidate comedy, as its never too early to experience the dread and despair of trying to choose between a Republican and a Democrat.

First up is McCain. Some shill says,
"We are in the midst of a slow-motion war, and McCain is a warrior. He knows the world, its dangers and wonders; he knows the military, its powers and its limitations."
He's a warrior? Who are you, John Madden? Sometimes it takes a sentence like that to make it clear how detached the press is from reality. "Knows the miliary's limitations." Good one. Let's be clear. Number of prominent candidates not named Ron Paul who have the slightest inkling about the limitations of American military power: zero.

I'm looking at you, Obama:

I reject the notion that the American moment has passed. I dismiss the cynics who say that this new century cannot be another when, in the words of President Franklin Roosevelt, we lead the world in battling immediate evils and promoting the ultimate good.

I still believe that America is the last, best hope of Earth. We just have to show the world why this is so. This President may occupy the White House, but for the last six years the position of leader of the free world has remained open. And it’s time to fill that role once more.

Anyway, back to McCain. Yglesias more or less gets it:

After all, I see no evidence whatsoever that McCain believes the military has any limitations. The only criticism I've ever seen John McCain make of either Bill Clinton's foreign policy or George W. Bush's foreign policy is that he has, at various points, accused both men of being unduly reluctant to start wars and then, once wars have been started, to accuse both men of sending an insufficient level of manpower and firepower to fight in the wars.
He's got more, but it's mostly making fun of said shill; amusing in a fish-barrel sort of way. Anyway, not a heck of a lot more needs to be said about McCain; his Iraq war policy follows Hayek's script to the letter. A policy isn't working? We need more of it!

Let's reiterate that his most prominent opponents are a cross-dresser and a guy from Massachusetts whose favorite book is Dianetics. Oh yeah, and he'll be 72 years old in November 2008.

Anyway, let's move on.

Hillary is picking out her campaign theme song, and she wants the internet to help. Allow me to submit that U2's Beautiful Day is clearly the optimal choice.
  1. U2 peaked over a decade ago, just like Hillary
  2. Bono is pure comedy to conservatives, just like Hillary
  3. That song is soulless and calculated and only is in the public consciousness because of endless marketing money - just like Hillary's campaign
And then there's John Edwards. Hit & Run has this fine story from Bob Shrum, which has nothing to do with lawsuits or hair gel:

Kerry had qualms about Edwards from the start, Shrum writes, but grew "even queasier about Edwards after they met. Edwards had told Kerry he was going to share a story with him that he'd never told anyone else--that after his son Wade had been killed, he climbed onto the slab at the funeral home, laid there and hugged his body, and promised that he'd do all he could to make life better for people, to live up to Wade's ideals of service. Kerry was stunned, not moved, because, as he told me later, Edwards had recounted the exact story to him, almost in the exact same words, a year or two before--and with the same preface, that he'd never shared the memory with anyone else. Kerry said he found it chilling, and he decided he couldn't pick Edwards unless he met with him again."
And of course Kerry chose him as his running mate anyway. Refer to Rule #1.

The charade has only begun. Stay tuned. On second thought, don't.

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Rule #1

A politician's job is to get re-elected. To get to a national level, politicians must work very, very hard at their jobs, which leaves very little spare time for silly hobbies such as what's best for the country.

Exhibit #32140987423.