- Toward a permanent political class—Wednesday, April 5th, 2017
Literary agent Janet Reid recently wrote complaining that (a) people who are not agents keep trying to fix how writers find agents, and (b) people who are not politicians keep trying to get into political office.
Trump, of course, is exhibit A. His administration is the rest of the alphabet.
This seems wrong to me on multiple levels. Novels are by authors, not by agents. Nor are they purchased by agents.1 Novels are purchased by readers.2 Do I want an agent who knows what she’s doing? Yes. Do I want agents in general to run the system by which I write and find readers, and by which I find authors to read? Do I want agents to create the laws by which books are written and distributed? Not by a long shot.
That’s the comparison being made: politicians make the laws we all live under. I don’t want literary agents taking that role in the world of books. Writing remains, and should remain, the province of amateurs, not the province of a special writing class. From Ray Bradbury3 to Harper Lee4 to Cormac McCarthy5, the field of writing is filled with people who came up by using their time to write rather than to get a degree in writing.
- A tale of two negotiators—Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017
If you want to look at the difference between someone who knows how to negotiate and someone who doesn’t, look at Trump’s proposed budget and look at the House’s proposed “repeal” of Obamacare.
For years, Republicans have been promising repeal of Obamacare and to let people buy insurance again instead of outlawing it. They’ve even passed a few actual repeals—when those repeals had no chance of getting through former President Obama.
So now that they have a chance, what do they propose? A bill that not only doesn’t repeal Obamacare, but that doesn’t even repeal the parts of Obamacare that are causing skyrocketing health care costs. The Republican proposal continues to outlaw real insurance.
Real insurance lets us pay a nominal fee to protect ourselves against expensive medical needs that may or may not happen. But Obamacare—and the Republican “replacement”—still requires that any “insurance” we buy also cover the 100% probability that someone else will ask the insurance company to pay for something expensive that has already occurred.
That’s not insurance, that’s welfare by a fake name. There’s nothing wrong with having safety nets, but hiding the safety net under an Orwellian redefinition like this is guaranteed to make health care costs continue to skyrocket. Which, in turn, means that people will not be able to afford Obamacare plans.
But that’s really beside the point of my writing this. Why are congressional Republicans proposing this boondoggle instead of real reform? Because Democrats won’t let them pass real reform. Rather than propose real reform and let Democrats water it down, they are watering it down ahead of time without seeming to realize that Democrats will still want to make it worse.
Compare this to Trump’s budget proposal. It cuts funding for everything that doesn’t need funding: television stations that are practically self-funding anyway, abortion clinics that get tiny percentages from the federal government, assistance programs that get tiny percentages from the federal government. Research that will be performed by the private firms that stand to benefit anyway. Arts programs favored by the privileged few who can afford to pay for their own art.
It requires bureaucracies to justify their budgets instead of giving them the same budget they had last year plus some automatic increase.
Not only does Trump’s proposal start from a position of strength on reform, it also includes a built-in bargaining point: an increase in military spending. This was the Republicans’ biggest win during the sequester, and they seem to have stumbled blindly into it. The lesson Republicans should have learned from the sequester, which was probably the main reason the economy didn’t remain even more depressed than it did following the Democrats’ health care takeover and their billion-dollar “stimulus” boondoggles, is that Democrats can be tricked into trades if they don’t think Republicans will take the trade.
- Trump outsmarts establishment again?—Wednesday, March 8th, 2017
A few weeks before the election, Greg Gutfeld tweeted:
thought experiment: Hillarys a widow or divorced. would surrogates like Newt still defend trumps behavior without Bill around? answer: yes
Now, I am a big fan of Greg Gutfeld. I don’t have cable but I watch his monologues every day via Fox’s YouTube feed. His jokes are usually more insightful than straight news journalism. But he’s missing a very important point with this question:
If today’s politicians—and the media, for that matter—were the kind of people who would refuse to enable Democrats who act abusively and illegally, voters would have felt no need for someone who talked like Trump.
The problem was not that Hillary was married to Bill. It was that Hillary viciously attacked the people Bill abused. She was more interested in maintaining her fellow politician’s power than in helping her husband get well. We saw the same play out when the press initially tried to cover up for Andrew Weiner. And when the press tried to cover up for Hillary, first when WikiLeaks leaked evidence of her crimes and unfitness for office, and then when Project Veritas did.
The establishment is more interested in protecting their phony baloney colleagues inside the beltway than in speaking the truth. More interested in afflicting those who afflict the comfortable, and in comforting those who afflict the afflicted.
If Hillary Clinton had divorced Bill, if she had been the kind of politician who recognized wrongdoing, there would have been no Trump running against her. If DC hadn’t covered for Weiner and for Filner, there would have been no Trump. If the media hadn’t been in the habit of covering up scandals such as those uncovered by WikiLeaks, there would have been no Trump.
But that’s the kind of place the establishment media have turned DC into. If Bob Filner had never left DC, he would have continued abusing women with no pushback from beltway politicians or the media. That’s why we got Trump.
Trump is, potentially, an existential threat against an insider clique, and they are reacting as if this is some sort of 11/9. But the amazing thing about Trump vs. the media is how utterly incompetent the media’s lies are. I know that I’ve linked to Scott Adams’s praises of Trump as a master persuader, but deep down, I still can’t see it. It doesn’t make sense that someone this blustery keeps coming out on top.
And yet, he does. Trump keeps fighting, where your average Republican would back down, and it works.
Take the latest -gate, about the Obama administration bugging Trump’s communications. It sounds crazy and conspiracy-minded so of course the media jumped on it and called Trump out for being crazy and conspiracy-minded.
- Election lessons: Obamacare and how compromise works—Wednesday, March 1st, 2017
Republicans need to learn how to compromise. Conservatives often complain that Republicans compromise too much, but that’s not really true. The problem is that Republicans pre-compromise. They start negotiations where they should end them. This is how they got Trump.
For example, Rick Perry has already said about the Department of Energy that “I regret recommending its elimination.” That may or may not be good policy. But if he’s going to try to reduce the size of the department’s bureaucracy, it is very bad negotiation.
It’s not compromise if it happens before negotiations start.
Democrats in congress, of course, love it when Republicans don’t know how to negotiate, and hate it when they learn. Just recently I saw a meme going around about how President Trump was putting the two-state solution on the table in order to encourage peace in the region and negotiate “a really great peace deal”.
Oh. My. God. Peace is now a “deal”.
Of course peace is a deal. It’s something you negotiate for. But it’s frightening for the establishment left to see a nominally Republican politician who knows how to negotiate. If the rest of the Republican Party learns, they could be in deep trouble.
The worst-negotiated policy in the United States today is probably the unaffordable care act. You can’t get much more hardline, or more economically illiterate, than one party forcing everyone from every state to not only purchase health care plans if they don’t otherwise have one, but to purchase the same health care plans. Within each level, the ACA forces nearly exact duplicates, allowing for practically no individual customization or even regional customization.
Republicans won two midterm elections on the promise of repealing the ACA, and have passed several repeals that President Obama vetoed. But now, they’re having difficulty repealing the ACA because they don’t know how to compromise. They don’t know how to negotiate. They’re giving up options before negotiations even take place.
The ACA shouldn’t be particularly difficult to repeal. Half the country hates it, and the other half doesn’t have to use it directly. This is partly because congressional Democrats made no attempt to bring Republicans on board. Because the ACA was a purely partisan vote, there is nothing wrong with repealing it on a purely partisan vote. The complete end of the ACA and everything it does should be an option in negotiations.
But Republicans are already signaling that a repeal that mirrors the law’s passage isn’t an option.
- How many legs does the ACA have?—Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017
The news media keeps harping that the Republican congress has no replacement for the ACA. This is untrue, and they know it, or they should. The problem is not that there is no replacement for the ACA. Congress has already voted on several replacements which were vetoed by President Obama, and there are several more that have been proposed.
The superficial problem, such as there is one, is deciding on which replacement to use and which parts of each replacement.1
The real problem is that Republican have a strong tendency to pre-compromise. Even when they say that insurance works better and produces better medical care without the massive regulatory burden placed on it by the ACA, they still accept the premise: that they are talking about insurance. In fact, none of the people who have signed up on the exchanges or through ACA plans have insurance.2
If you can sign up after you get sick, that is not insurance.
Democrats will argue that this is being mean. This is untrue, and they know it, or they should. It’s simply the truth, it’s what insurance is: insurance is a means of insuring against some future calamity. If a calamity has already happened, it is impossible to insure against it. Anything that pretends to allow you to insure against a calamity that has already happened is not insurance, and cannot be insurance.
Anything that claims to insure past calamities is a scam. The ACA is a huge scam imposed by Democrats on the United States.
Our first Republican president once famously and apocryphally asked, “if you call a tail a leg, how many legs does a dog have?” He could as well have been talking about Obamacare. A tail is not a leg, and if you pretend it is you will experience massive failure.
Some Democrats will argue that ACA plans are health plans, and health plans are good. But they’ll quickly revert to saying Republicans want to take away people’s health insurance, because calling them health plans changes the narrative. It changes the negotiations and the nature of the compromises. There are, after all, other ways to deal with people who can’t afford health care than taking away everyone’s insurance.
- Beltway establishment goes full Panem on Trumps—Wednesday, February 15th, 2017
I have not enjoyed becoming a Trump defender. But on Tuesday nights when I choose what to write about for Wednesday, the most important issue that isn’t being (to my mind) addressed well in the establishment press is usually one that favors Trump, because the left and the press are so much in lockstep today that they’re either not thinking about the consequences of what they’re asking for, or they’re actively looking to turn Washington DC into a real-world Capitol of Panem.
So when Donald Trump chose to call out Nordstrom on Twitter for dropping his daughter’s business from their stores, and Kellyanne Conway plugged Ivanka Trump’s brand, I thought this might be a chance to change that. I don’t even agree with many of Ivanka Trump’s influence on her father: she seems to be an advocate of government interference.
But what I immediately noticed is that the establishment media’s articles don’t really talk about the ethics of Trump’s reactions to the left’s attacks on his daughter. The headlines read “ethics violation” but the articles are all about the fine points of legal landmines. Or, worse, just accusations being thrown by the establishment left, but presented as if they were non-partisan.
Ethics are often about situations. What may be unethical in one situation isn’t in response to another. Self-defense, for example, is not unethical, even though killing is. And the media is not examining what led up to these statements by Donald Trump and Kellyanne Conway defending Trump’s daughter.
If the left weren’t dead-set on making everything political and every opponent worth attacking, this would be an easier call to make, and an obvious one. If the left hadn’t been trying to make buying Ivanka Trump’s products a political decision before Trump and Conway made their statements, this would also be an obvious call to make. But they are, through an organized Grab Your Wallet campaign to attack Donald Trump through his family. From harassing his daughter during flight, to harassing stores, such as Nordstrom’s, into dropping her business’s products, the left has chosen to politicize not just the President, but the President’s family.
- The Last Defense against Donald Trump?—Wednesday, February 8th, 2017
America’s institutions weren’t designed to resist a modern strongman.
In fact, America’s institutions were designed to resist a modern strongman. The President doesn’t impeach congressional representatives. Congress impeaches the President. If Donald Trump actually acts like a “modern strongman”, even a Republican congress will vote to impeach him. But of course, that’s not what the left is complaining about. They’re complaining that Trump is acting like President Obama did.
America’s institutions weren’t just designed to resist strongmen; they were designed so that there wouldn’t be any strongmen. The left tore those institutions and barriers apart.
The President doesn’t get to legislate. Neither does anyone else in the executive branch.
Except, of course, that now they do: because that defense has been dismantled by the left, with a lot of help from the beltway class. They wanted plausible deniability when agencies did what congress authorized them to do. And they figured they’d always be in control.
The party in power doesn’t get to install their own judges to interpret legislation. Since 1806, they have needed some form of a supermajority in the Senate1.
Except, of course, that now they don’t: because that defense was dismantled by Democrats under Senator Harry Reid. They figured they’d always be in control. And they figured that even if they did lose, it would be to someone else in the beltway class.
The federal government doesn’t get to legislate people’s personal lives, from who they go to the bathroom with and what insurance they buy to how their communities educate their children. The federal government only has those specific powers granted it in the constitution. Everything else is left to the states to decide, and the people themselves if the states don’t.
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
Except, of course, that now the federal government does have that power: because that defense has been dismantled by the beltway class, with a lot of help from the media calling for federalization of every problem rather than letting fifty solutions bloom.
They figured they’d always be in control.
Acemoglu complains that Trump gets to install some “4,000 high-level posts in the civil service and the judiciary, essentially shaping a bureaucracy ready to do his personal bidding.”
- There is no sanctuary without walls—Wednesday, February 1st, 2017
I was in the dentist’s office last year, and overheard a conversation about a guy up from a South or Central American country whose house had been shot up by police for exposing corruption. He was here under an assumed name, and needed dental work, so the dentist had blocked out time for the patient under an obviously fake name. The dentist was explaining to the dental assistants why a fake name was on their calendar. The patient needed a fake name in the United States because his persecutors might also be here.
Because we have no walls to keep them out.
Without walls, we’re not just letting this person in. We’re letting in the people who want to kill him, too. If we don’t treat sanctuary seriously, we are doing people who need sanctuary a dangerous disservice. Sanctuary isn’t sanctuary if you let everyone in.
Letting in both the people escaping corruption and violence, and the people causing corruption and violence is denying sanctuary. Sanctuary cities are anything but sanctuaries when they let violent criminals walk free, especially when they’re allowed to walk free because they’re here illegally, as sanctuary cities do. Even when it means shielding illegal immigrants from drunk-driving laws.
This is the typical one-dimensional thinking of the anointed. Letting refugees in is a good, without question. But letting people in who merely say they are refugees is to let in the persecutors as well, and provide no refuge at all.
Incidentally, long before Donald Trump, I wrote that the ideal immigration policy would be to let everyone in at the doors—with a vetting process—and then we would know that everyone not coming in at the doors shouldn’t be let in.
The one policy that Trump has been riding successfully is his immigration policy. His opponents argue that we should not deny sanctuary to people escaping corruption and violence. But what they mean is that we should stop anybody from coming in. If they say they’re a refugee, or a 12-year-old, we are not supposed to question that. Even though it puts real refugees (and real 12-year-olds) at risk. It isn’t just If we don’t have borders we don’t have a country, as Trump said. If we don’t have borders we cannot provide sanctuary.