Congress to Turn Red in 2010

A common theme at this past weekend’s CPAC was the near inevitability of a Republican take-over of Congress in the November elections. There were several credible reasons given for this prediction. Central to all of the arguments was the recognition that over the past year, an unafraid and unabashed conservatism has begun to take hold in the Republican Party, a conservatism that “works every time it’s tried.”

The first argument, simply put, says that the American people want the government off their backs. As Newt Gingrich argued, there is a growing realization that centralized planning leads to dictatorship. The relationship between government power and individual liberty can properly be described as a zero-sum game, such that an increase in government power necessarily entails a decrease in individual liberty. On this point, John Ashcroft made an interesting distinction. He described proper security measures as only those measures that enhance individual liberty and allow an individual to exercise a maximum level of liberty. Properly understood, a government does not grant rights, it only acts as a guarantor of rights. What is unique about this concern regarding the size of government is that it has the ability to unite the various disparate factions within the conservative movement. Social conservatives, fiscal conservatives, the Ron Paul people, etc. all agree that the government needs to be smaller. If the Republican Party can provide small-government candidates (as it is in the process of doing), it can take advantage of this coalition.

Another common theme was concern over the massive levels of spending and the level of intrusion into the private sector by the federal government. Glenn Beck described this concern as part of his argument having the right to fail. The main thrust of his argument on this point was that individuals and businesses have a right to and ought to be allowed to fail. Failure creates an opportunity to learn from one’s mistakes, such that after “hitting bottom” you can pick yourself up and go forward a stronger and smarter person/business. The massive spending and intervention undertaken by the federal government to prop up failed businesses and people only undermines the soundness of the American economy, it also robs people of their right to fail and prevents them from learning from their mistakes. Good examples of this are the zombies that are GM and Chrysler. The bailout mentality of the federal government and its increasingly expensive and wasteful welfare programs is only serving to bankrupt and impoverish future generations of Americans while at the same time robbing them of the ability to improve their situation. A flurry of federal dollars has clogged the economic engine of the United States. The people understand that Washington needs new leadership to slash spending and bring the budget back into balance.

The final major theme of the conference was what several speakers referred to as American Exceptionalism, or the idea that in the face of a world history dominated by tyrants, monarchs, and dictators, the American idea of individual liberty and self-determination stands out as an exception to the historical norm. We are now faced with a situation where those liberties are under assault. We are also faced with the very real possibility that the standard of living and general welfare of the rising generation of Americans will be worse than the generation that preceded it. With every bill that comes out of Congress, the Obama/Pelosi/Reid triumvirate continues its assault on the liberty and prosperity of the American people. However, recent elections in Virginia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts, as well as the emergence of the Tea Party Movement have demonstrated the people’s will to remain the exception to the rule and their will to fight the Democrats’ agenda.

The major themes at CPAC, concern over the size and scope of government coupled with a renewed desire to fight the Democrat agenda of poverty and misery, are also those themes that are best resounding with the American people. With its renewed strength in bearing the mantle of conservatism and renewed courage in fighting the Democrats’ agenda, the Republican Party has demonstrated that it is willing to listen to and heed these concerns. If they stay on the path they are on, the Republicans are poised to win big in the upcoming mid-term elections.

19 thoughts on “Congress to Turn Red in 2010

  1. "…the American idea of individual liberty and self-determination stands out as an exception to the historical norm."

    Only a well-off white person would think this. Plenty of other countries are just as free as we are, if not more so. There's this horrible misconception that everyone else around the world is in varying degrees of catching up to us, and it's way off-base.

    "However, recent elections in Virginia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts, as well as the emergence of the Tea Party Movement have demonstrated the people’s will to remain the exception to the rule and their will to fight the Democrats’ agenda."

    Too bad the Great Red Hope Scott Brown sold out the Tea Party and voted with Olympia Snowe on the jobs bill, proving himself to be, what's the slur? Oh yeah, a R-I-N-O. I don't doubt that the Democrats will lose some seats, some of those 59 rode the biggest coattails in American history and don't have any staying power. The only way this won't be the biggest do-nothing Congress in history is if Republicans win super-majorities in both houses. Don't count on it.

  2. I'm not entirely sure what my race has to do with it, but for what it's worth, the first speaker that I heard at the conference talk about this was a black man. I'm also looking at this with a longer historical view than just the 20th century. Most of humanity has had to live under the oppressive thumb of some tyrant, monarch, etc. There are of course very brief and very rare exceptions, however, looking at the sum total, most people who have lived have not had the opportunity to live in a free society. I'm also not sure that there is a nation that is more free than ours. I can think of one country that is comparable, Japan (but then again Americans wrote their constitution), but I can't think of a country that is more free. There are some significant issues with federal regulation in this country, but I think you're starting to see a push back against that. I think we have the Obama administration to thank for that, as they definitely over-played their hand in that department.

    No one's perfect and Scott Brown's no exception. Though, I think I might give it a little more time before we start calling him a RINO. When he establishes a trend of voting with Collins and Snowe, that might be a good time to consider putting him in that category. Either way, he's better than Martha what's-her-face, as she would have ensured the establishment of a government-run health care system.

    While a super-majority is probably out of the question, I think the more conservatives we can put in Congress, the better. Even if they only take the House (or the Senate), that would be enough to prevent Obama from further harming this country. Government gridlock is not necessarily a bad thing.

  3. Great; a "longer historical view" might have included slavery. You and anyone else that said that is making at least that glaring omission. But before that, we might want to look at mid-century sterilization of women of color in Puerto Rico as a poverty remedy, Gov. George Wallace, red-lining, dismantling of the Community Reinvestment Act, the relationship to race in bank lending, etc. This place has never been as free as you like to imagine it. To say we haven't been as bad as anybody else is to deny this country some credit for its creativity, really.

    What's being slurred as "regulation" (which is unfortunate in itself) is really just an attempt, and a watered-down one at that, to reign in the corporate free-for-all that's been the modus operandi for at least the last ten years.

    As far as Scott Brown, I bet you don't even know why he shouldn't have voted for the jobs bill.

    And Japan, really? If one is looking at the degree to which one has economic opportunity in Japan, it's one of the worst countries to live in. It also denies ethnic Koreans citizenship despite their natural birth for generations on the island.

    1. The founding of the American republic afforded a greater deal of freedom to its citizens than had ever been granted to a citizenry before. That freedom was not originally extended to all Americans, however, it is worth noting that slavery was, in fact, a carry-over from the time when the colonies were ruled by the British monarchy and that there were significant political issues complicating its abolishment. It's not as if the Founders embraced it. It's also worth noting that the Constitution did provide a way of eventually abolishing slavery through the amendment process (which was eventually utilized). So, while the first draft of the Constitution was not perfect (and I did not claim that it was) it was a pretty good first step. Also, the Community Reinvestment Act is one of the primary causes of the current economic recession. I did not claim this nation is perfect. You, however, asserted that there are nations that are better off than we are. You have yet to name any.

      I really don't understand what your second point is, except to serve to blame (yet again) George Bush for something you don't like.

      The jobs bill currently pending in Congress will not create a single job. It will only benefit those employers who were planning to hire anyway. No business is going to pay an employee upwards of $100,000 for a $1000 tax credit. It is absurd. What the bill does do is encourage employers to lay-off the workers they currently have (presumably the most valuable as they have survived several rounds of lay-offs) and hire those who were laid off early-on in the recession (and presumably the least valuable to their former employers-being the first to go). It's a bad bill that won't create jobs and adds to the deficit. Great plan.

      I was not attempting to defend Japan, but merely attempting to understand what you were referring to when you talked about all the countries that have it so much better than us. Their system of government is similar to ours and they have the distinction of being one of only a handful of countries whose GDP and standard of living come anywhere close to ours.

  4. "We are also faced with the very real possibility that the standard of living and general welfare of the rising generation of Americans will be worse than the generation that preceded it."

    Real wages have been falling since the Reagan recession, even as productivity has continued to rise. This represents an ongoing upwards transfer of wealth from the working class to the upper class. The percentage of Americans living in poverty increased almost every year of the Bush administration, after falling almost every year of the Clinton administration. The jobs bill is a joke, I agree – $15 billion is a drop in the bucket. The US has pissed away more than a trillion dollars (and hundreds of thousands of lives) in Bush's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and now an embarrassingly paltry $300 million per state isn't going to put nearly enough of a dent in the greater-than-10% unemployment that we're facing. That level of unemployment should represent a serious, crisis situation, but the ruling class seems barely concerned. On the one hand, to say the bill won't create a single job is dishonest and hardly worth a response, but the bill itself also demonstrates a lack of seriousness in addressing the problem. Tax cuts for employers isn't going to convince anyone to hire when consumer demand is low, jobs are scarce and wages continue to fall.

    "Please name a few countries that offer greater freedom than our own"

    That is a silly game and it depends, of course, on how you define freedom. Have you ever been to another country? Compared to the US, much of Western Europe averages a longer life expectancy, less adult poverty, less child poverty, less infant mortality, less teen pregnancy, a higher standard of living, less religion, less concentration of wealth, better access to health care, better education, less violent crime, greater interest in culture and the arts, better public transportation — each of which represents a little bit of Freedom, to me.

    1. In two days I'm flying out to Germany for the semester. This means two things. One, I will not be pestering the CR crew for the next five months or so. Enjoy the tranquility. Two, I will be observing the mechanics of German social democracy as closely as I can, first hand. If there is tyranny afoot in that hotbed of welfare-state ideologues, a place so left-wing that their "conservatives" are our "liberals" and their "liberals" are our "socialists", and where they even celebrate May Day instead of the much less marxist Labor Day, you can be sure that I will sniff it out. I'm going to get to the bottom of why a place so socialized has such a high-performing economy, and why everyone isn't tyrannized in to wearing Chairman Mao jackets, but rather actually seem to be relatively happy and free and culturally dynamic. Basically, I'm going to see if "freedom" really is so easily defined, and if it really is so inextricably intertwined with "negative liberties," or as I think it is much more accurately styled, "the freedom to go hungry in a society that doesn't care about you because everyone is busy looking out for themselves even though you're willing and capable." In the meantime, good luck to CR.

      1. Sounds great, hope you have a good time in Germany.

        One thing I'd be interested in hearing is this: A friend of mine who traveled to Sweden last summer reported to me that due to their social-democrat welfare state, the Swedes are quite lazy people because they don't have to work so hard to get by. I'd be interested to know what the German work ethic is. I would imagine it's different, because as you point out they have quite a high-performing economy.

      2. Danke schön. Ich werde hoffentlich eine gute Zeit haben, aber bitte, duz mich! Viel Glück mit deinem Semester auch, und mach nicht meine Uni kaputt, während ich fort bin!

    2. "Of course, to achieve some of these aims (although I'd like to see a nation that possesses all these attributes to a greater degree than the US. I mean, Albania has a life expectancy just under ours, while Cuba has a greater life expectancy, as does Israel. Should Obama become our Castro?"

      Are you drunk? This is even more incoherent than usual. Do you really believe that the French live under tyranny, and that their higher life expectancy is due to the tyrannical French government limiting opportunities?

      1. "How is insurance redistribution of wealth?"

        It's very simple. When you buy an insurance policy, you are essentially betting everyone else who uses your insurer that you will get sick and need money (that you don't currently have) for health care, and they are betting that you won't. You, in turn, are betting everyone else that they will not get sick, and they are betting that they will. An insurance company takes your money, then, and redistributes it to the people who actually end up going to the doctor and receiving health care that they couldn't ordinarily afford. You, as a human being, don't want to get sick. I presume that no one likes going to the doctor to get a lump checked out. Most people don't go to the doctor because they want to, they go to the doctor because they need to, regardless of whether they have health insurance or not. That's why insurers prefer to insure people who have a smaller risk of getting sick–insurers properly realize that those people have a smaller chance of needing money that they don't have.

        Let's take someone who graduates from college and immediately lands a job that pays $30,000/yr. Now, for a single person, $30,000/yr is actually a good salary. The problem is, however, that that person also probably has all sorts of hefty loans to pay back, in addition to living expenses. He/she probably doesn't have $20,000 laying around to pay for an unexpected and unlikely surgery that he/she might need in the next few years of his/her life. But he/she can afford to pay $100/month for an insurance policy that would cover such a misfortune. As a result, the graduate pays the $100/month, and, if he/she needs the surgery, he/she reaps the $20,000, even though he/she hasn't paid $20,000 into the system yet. Now, the reason an insurance company can afford to pay that $20,000 is because of all the other 23-year-olds who are also paying $100/month, but who don't end up needing a $20,000 surgery. That's redistribution of wealth, and it's a pretty simple concept.

        Now, the problem with private insurance companies is that they turn a profit. In other words, they are not merely redistributing YOUR wealth, but they are actually taking a piece of your wealth and pocketing it, presumably for their service. That's why, theoretically, a public insurance program would be better–a public insurance company MIGHT not be so profit-oriented, which would essentially lower the cost of health care. Of course, it would take constant oversight and it would require that the re-distributors not earn an inordinately large salary. Now, I'm not sure how much the CEOs of major insurance companies make, but I'd bet that it's a nice sum. A nice sum of your money, and they don't really produce anything for society, except provide a service that basically requires common sense and basic math skills.

        How are you a neoconservative? There, I was actually referring to your perception of America. You clearly buy into the "creedal nation" idea, which is an invention of neoconservatives. That was the purpose of my first post, which quoted a paleoconservative thinker on the neoconservative idea that America is a creedal nation. And the creedal nation idea, by the way, is fundamental to neoconservatism. It provides a key force behind their policies, both domestic and foreign.

      2. My understanding of health insurance is that you pay the health insurer to assume your risk as it relates to your health. So, the premium you pay is the compensation the insurance company receives for bearing your risk. You're not betting against other people. If you're betting against anybody, it's the insurance company. The insurance company isn't redistributing wealth. When they pay a claim, it's because they've "lost" the bet. They agreed to bear your risk in the event that you become ill in return for the premium, so they pay the claim. The service the insurer provides is the removal of risk from an individual, something that requires a bit more than "common sense and basic math skills."

        Also, I'm not sure that insurance companies rake in these huge profit margins for the business they do. According to this report (http://www.wral.com/news/state/story/7047327/), BCBS is making less than 1% in profit on its plan. Their immoral profits seem to have to do more with volume of sales rather than ripping people off.

      3. That’s just stupid, with all due respect. Obviously, an insurance company cannot possibly insure you as an individual without the money of a lot of other (healthier, and therefore less expensive) people. Insurance companies don’t lose money, unless they take poor risks and insure too many people who are likely to take out more than they put in. Which causes them to go out of business. But a successful insurance company ALWAYS takes AT LEAST a little more money in than they pay out. Duh. I’m sorry that you, apparently, are too dull-witted to understand this concept of basic math.

        And you really fail to address my hypothetical example. Not to belabor the point, but an insurance company is like a casino—it’s designed not to lose. As soon as it loses, it goes out of business. An insurance company like BCBS can only stay in business as it has because it consistently comes out on top over the people whom it insures. In other words, it always wins its bets, overall. So, buying insurance is like going to the casino—you might win, but you’ll probably lose, and so most people, by the laws of probability, do lose.

        And as far as BCBS only making a little bit of money, that’s fine. I’m not endorsing nationalized health insurance, as I’ve already said. I’m just trying to make the point that we shouldn’t be reflexively against nationalized health insurance just because it’s the trendy thing to do in “conservative” circles. And you definitely shouldn’t be against it if you don’t understand how insurance works.

        Look, the health insurance crisis is only a crisis because of much more basic problems that neither mainstream conservatives nor liberals want to address. One basic problem is the birthrate. As the population gets progressively older (because of a birthrate below replacement level), the younger generation necessarily becomes progressively smaller. As a result, there are fewer healthier people paying into the system, and more unhealthy people taking money out, thereby driving the cost of health insurance through the roof.

        Imagine a jungle. In a jungle full of 60-year-olds, they will all die very quickly, because 60-year-olds cannot chase down animals to eat. They depend on 25-year-olds to do it for them. If they have a sufficient number of young people, they’ll be fine, but if they don’t, they’ll die. And, if they lived selfishly and “chose” not to have a lot of kids, then they’ll reap what they sow.

        This was why I formed the UNC chapter of Youth for Western Civilization. I and like-minded students were tired of regular, mainstream conservatives completely missing the big picture, and bickering about a poker game on the deck of the sinking Titanic.

        America’s chickens are coming home to roost.

      4. You're coming at this from the wrong angle. Health insurers insure you as an individual, which is why everyone pays different premiums. They look at your health history, your current health, etc. when determining the level of risk that they will take on by insuring you. They don't knowingly take on someone who will be a loss to them, which is why people are denied health insurance or have to pay a lot for it. If they feel that you will likely cost them a lot of money, you will have to pay for that. It's not some giant Ponzi scheme like you're describing. And obviously a company has to take in at least as much as they pay out. I didn't realize I needed to spell that out.

        And you don't really lost by having health insurance. You no longer have to worry about the risks associated with your health. The insurance company does. So, while they get your money, they also get your risk. It's a win for both parties.

        And like I said, private health insurance is not a Ponzi scheme. What you say is true if we're talking about Social Security, Medicare, or a public option. But as it relates to the private market, you're completely off.

      5. I didn't think I needed to address the fact that everyone pays different premiums. But I guess I do need to spell out every tiny detail.

        Obviously, an ostensibly less healthy person pays more for health insurance. An older person pays more for health insurance. But it's still a gamble. You might say that you pay insurance companies "to bear your risk," but that's just a fancy way of saying that you are gambling that you will get sick, and they are gambling that you won't. Again, they're using the money that they gained from the bets which they won against other (healthier and therefore less expensive) people who participate in your insurance pool (e.g., BCBS) to pay for your expensive health care. At the end of the day, it's almost never "a win for both parties." In most poker games, do you end up with the same amount of chips that you started with?

        Now, the only way it can be seen as a win for both parties is if you consider insurance from the beginning of the period of one's life when he/she buys insurance, to the end of that person's life. As a 23-year-old who just starts out, he/she probably pays more into the system than he/she takes out. But at the end of his/her life, that person is probably taking out more than he/she is paying in–much like social security. This system works well, until the average age of the population increases. As the average age of the population increases, the overall health of the population deteriorates. This drives up the demand for health care, which drives up the cost of health care. So, as we can see, our problems are much more fundamental. It would behoove conservatives to shut up about Obamacare and instead focus on our fundamental cultural problems, because, at the current rate, whether insurance is public or private really isn't going to matter. It's going to suck regardless.

        And while I don’t think that insurance is a complete Ponzi scheme, I do think that it thrives on our culture of fear. Americans are some of the biggest worrywarts the world has ever seen. They feel naked and helpless without things like health insurance, and they sacrifice untold billions of dollars every year to “fighting terrorism,” which doesn’t make us even slightly safer. I mean, it wasn’t long ago that rustic people around the U.S. were buying duct tape in the event of a nuclear bomb detonating somewhere. Seriously? (Interestingly enough, neoconservatives were the driving force behind this particular fear.)

      6. It is a win for both parties if they're bearing your risk (so you don't have to worry about health costs- which is why people buy insurance in the first place) and, they make money off your plan. Health insurance is not like poker, that's a false analogy. They are providing a service (bearing your risk and making your life less worrisome) for which you pay.

        And if the average age of the population increases and drives up health care costs, then people may see an increase in their premiums. I don't really see that as bringing about the end of the world. Of course, if the system is set up like Social Security and Medicare are, then that creates a problem, namely driving the federal government into bankruptcy. But lucky for us, health care is still dealt with through the market, so we don't need to worry about that.

        So, you're saying that when it comes to health insurance, most Americans are risk-averse. What's your point?

      7. “It is a win for both parties if they're bearing your risk (so you don't have to worry about health costs- which is why people buy insurance in the first place) and, they make money off your plan. Health insurance is not like poker, that's a false analogy. They are providing a service (bearing your risk and making your life less worrisome) for which you pay.”

        To an extent, you’re correct, but you fail to acknowledge the commonsensical truths that I’ve made perfectly evident. My point is that, theoretically, the government could do the same damned thing and be less expensive. Theoretically. Also theoretically, a private system could be equally as inexpensive as a public system. It depends on the culture, if you ask me. There’s really no right or wrong answer. That’s the point I was trying to make. Conservatives were against Obama’s insurance plan before he was even elected—it’s one of the things they used to show that he was a “socialist.” This approach is not going to work for conservatives, it shows a lack of intelligence, and it’s going to end in disaster for them and for the country.

        “And if the average age of the population increases and drives up health care costs, then people may see an increase in their premiums. I don't really see that as bringing about the end of the world.”

        That’s because you sound like the typical, mainstream conservative. I’m not surprised that you don’t see a problem with negative population growth. Just goes to show what kind of a conservative you are…

        “Of course, if the system is set up like Social Security and Medicare are, then that creates a problem, namely driving the federal government into bankruptcy.”

        http://www.chroniclesmagazine.org/index.php/2010/

      8. “People voluntarily pay into the system to assume each others' risk so if something were to happen, the shared risk would translate into shared expense.”

        Something always is “happening.” The shared risk therefore always translates into shared expense.

        “But note that it is voluntary. It would not be voluntary under a nationalized health care scheme.”

        Maybe not under Obama, but it pretty clearly doesn’t have to be compulsory. And, to be honest, even if it were compulsory, that wouldn’t be the worst thing for this country. After all, most people either buy health insurance, or they’d at least like to have it. It would be like compelling first graders to eat ice cream. Also, nationalized health insurance does not necessarily mean that the government has to regulate doctors any more than it already does—perhaps it could even regulate doctors less.

        As for your other claim about government versus the free market, I think you might be right, but I also think you might be wrong. I’m not going to dispute any of the claims you make because there are too many variables in any given situation that might make you right in one era and wrong in another. I do, however, disagree with your ideological approach. I think that, given a different culture, it’s quite possible that the free market would not work as well as government. After all, politics are everywhere, not just in government. It’s quite naïve to think that politics are only relevant in government. Ever heard the saying: “It’s not what you know, it’s whom you know”? That saying is true whether you’re talking about business or government.

        Finally, perhaps Kirk is fine. But Buckley? Please. He supported the war in Iraq, and for a long time was in bed with neoconservatives. The National Review, Buckley’s publication, often depicted conservatives who were against the war in Iraq as traitors. If this isn’t neoconservatism, I don’t know what is. Also, Buckley often condemned paleoconservatives as “anti-Semites,” which is a common tactic of neoconservatives.

        “And, by the way, I wasn't aware that our founding fathers were neoconservatives as well. Because, clearly, they accepted the idea of America as a coherent set of ideas rather than a homogeneous racial composition.”

        Actually, they were not quite as you describe them. First (and I’m not saying that I endorse this view), America was considered to be for whites (of primarily Western/Northern European descent): The first official immigration policy of 1790 mandated that whites be the only citizens. Up until 1965, there were racial and even ethnic criteria that immigrants had to meet. The Immigration Act of 1924 was specifically designed to keep America as she had been as of 1890. So actually, if you want to cite the founding fathers, they did believe in “a homogeneous racial composition” for America.

        And, yes, to a limited extent, they did have a “creedal nation” idea, but that was mainly because they were trying to found a NEW nation, and they therefore had to get their political, cultural, and social beliefs in order. What excuse do we have?

        By the way, I know that this is your backhanded way of calling me a racist. But here’s the thing: There’s nothing wrong with noticing the root of the word nation: nasci – “to be born.” Also, if you’re calling me a racist, then you’re calling most of the rest of the world racist, too, because most people don’t believe in the creedal nation idea. Knowing you guys, however, you probably don’t have a problem with calling everyone else racist—a perfect example of your neoconservative notion of nation-building and democracy-building. WE are right about government and democracy and therefore the ignorant rest of the world should follow our shining example.

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