Cheap Shot

Presidential candidate John Delaney vs. the late John Fielder. Who had a long, distinguished acting career, but (for me) mostly memorable as Mr. Peterson on "The Bob Newhart Show".

[Delaney/Peterson]

This is obviously unfair to … one of these guys. Not sure which. Maybe both.

URLs du Jour

2019-08-03

[Amazon Link]

Personal note: my daughter is getting married today to a wonderful young man. So my thoughts are on their likely future. And I'm trying not to be depressed or angry about what current political trends imply for that future. It's not a pretty picture, Emily.

  • At National Review, Kevin D. Williamson has thoughts on Poverty and Capitalism. It is in response to a column by Noah Smith that urges us to "stop blaming America's poor for their poverty." And you know who does that, right? Conservatives, specifically Kevin D. Williamson! Who rebuts:

    The thing about moral truths is that they are truths. Take the example of a problem drinker. We can be reasonably sure that his life will improve if he stops drinking two liters of bourbon a day, or at least that it is much less likely to improve if he does not stop drinking two liters of bourbon a day. Some people see drunkenness and understand it as a character defect; others see alcoholism and understand it as a disease — in either case, the diagnosis is the same: Stop drinking two liters of bourbon a day. Perhaps it is the case that the world has been cruel and unfair to him. What now? Stop drinking. Maybe his parents abused him, he was discriminated against because of his race or sexual orientation, and wrongly convicted of a crime. What now? Stop drinking. It is not that those other factors do not matter — of course they do, especially if they can help us to understand the source of the problem. But the remedy is going to be the same.

    To argue that the problem is “the capitalist system” is to retreat into generality and to refuse to consider the facts of the case, each on its own merits. To insist that the problem is capitalism also is to assert that phenomena such as homelessness are fundamentally economic problems, which does not seem to be the case. In New York, Los Angeles, and other big cities, it is common for people to sleep on the streets even as beds in shelters go unoccupied. There are many reasons for that, but the main one almost certainly is mental illness (and substance abuse as a subset of that). That is the nearly universal opinion of the professionals who work with the urban homeless.

    KDW has been pilloried for his accurate reporting on the various social dysfunctions behind American poverty. And we deal with poverty in the worst possible way: building huge government bureaucracies whose continued existence and funding depend on not solving the problem.


  • Drew Cline, at the Josiah Bartlett Center, has a fever! And the only prescription is… more Milton! To fix health care, look to Milton Friedman, not Bernie Sanders. After a depressing recitation of debating Democrats deriding—eek!—those demonic companies daring to profit from offering health care:

    The Democratic Party is following the wrong Brooklyn-born Jewish immigrant.

    Tooting “The Internationale” on his pipe, Bernie Sanders is leading the Democratic Party down the dark path toward state control of the economy. His anti-capitalism rantings have shifted the party’s base far to the left. He led the health care debate on Tuesday, and on Wednesday Elizabeth Warren and others danced to his seductive tune.

    Wednesday, as it happened, was the birthday of Milton Friedman, “the 20th century’s most prominent advocate of free markets.” Born in Brooklyn 29 years before Bernie Sanders, the Nobel laureate economist became famous for explaining to popular audiences how free markets combat poverty and empower the powerless, as he did here on Phil Donahue’s show.

    Sanders’ progressive push for a government-run health care system is based entirely on the notion that health care and health insurance in the United States are controlled by for-profit companies preying upon citizens in an unrestrained free market. It’s an interesting theory, considering that exactly the opposite is not only true but demonstrably true.

    The United States does not have a free-market health care system. In a free market, a seller cannot raise prices with impunity. The existence of price signals and competition would allow consumers to choose alternatives, keeping prices down and service quality high.

    Only quibble: Milton was not, and Bernie is not, an "immigrant". (A comment I've subitted to the article.)


  • I've referred indirectly to a new hot Democrat debate tactic, and (at the Bulwark) Andrew Egger has noticed it too: "Republican Talking Points".

    The race to the left among the Democrats currently running for president reached a tipping point at the Detroit debate Tuesday night. The progressives and socialists of the field, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, didn’t just behave as though their policy proposals totally blowing up and overhauling everything from healthcare to finance were three-foot putts that moderate Democrats were just too weak-kneed to attempt. They actually dismiss the moderates’ objections as “Republican talking points.”

    When former congressman John Delaney, objecting to progressive proposals of single-payer “Medicare for All,” argued that many Americans were leery of the idea of losing their private insurance, Warren dismissed him out of hand, saying that “We should stop using Republican talking points” when discussing how to provide adequate health care for Americans. When moderator Jake Tapper mentioned that M4A would increase taxes on the middle class, Sanders laid into him with an accusation of bad faith: “Jake, your question is a Republican talking point . . . The health care industry will be advertising tonight on this program; they will be advertising with that talking point.”

    This sort of thing is silly on its face: Just because Republicans have made an argument doesn’t mean a candidate is absolved from addressing it. Whoever wins the 2020 nomination will be forced to defend these same policies in conversation with a very pushy Republican; you’d think the least they could do is get some practice in now. 

    It would also be nice if they could respond substantively to arithmetic-based criticism; otherwise people might get the impression that they're just dodging reality.

    And that impression would be totally accurate. Because…


  • … as Steven Greenhut points out at Reason: There’s No Such Thing as ‘Free Money’ or Meaningless Deficits.

    Most people probably have seen those TV advertisements featuring an obnoxious pitchman wearing a brightly colored suit covered in question marks. He jumps around frenetically, waving his hands, and announcing that the government is giving away lots of "free money." Matthew Lesko's websites help people tap into a sea of federal grants and loans. You can even talk to a "free money coach" to show you how to do it.

    That's probably a good business opportunity in a country where the government spends $4.7 trillion a year. That's trillion with a dozen zeroes. It's 1,000 times a billion, which is starting to approach real money. It could take thousands of years to simply count to 1 trillion. The Lesko approach—free cash for everyone—has long been the strategy of Democratic politicians, but now it's the official fiscal policy of Republican politicians, too.

    When there's "broad bipartisan agreement" that a problem will be ignored, the modern-day media go along because they can't fit the issue into their usual partisan-spat model, and voters can't get that excited about it either … well, that's trouble, right here in River City.

    Trouble with a capital "T".

    And that rhymes with "D".

    And that stands for "Deficit".


  • But at least our representatives are concentrating on the important problems. At AEI, James Pethokoukis looks at Senator Josh Hawley's SMART ("Social Media Addiction Reduction Technology") Act: We’re from the government, and we’re here to redesign your website. Example:

    The bill also delves into minutiae such as the look of consent boxes. For example: If a website operator “requests that a user accept or consent to terms, anything similar, by clicking an icon, the operator shall present the user with an option to decline by clicking an icon that is identical to the other  icon in terms of size, shape, font, and other visual or auditory design, except that the options need not be identical in color as long as the option to decline is conspicuously shaded differently than the immediate background color, and such option to decline shall be placed before the option to consent as measured by the direction the language in which the option is written is conventionally read.”

    I’m not making this up. The specificity here almost defies parody. It turns out that in America, as opposed to say Soviet Russia, government central planning is really more super, super annoying and inconvenient than truly oppressive. Or as TechDirt’s Mike Masnick puts it, “It basically seems to be Congress (via Hawley) appointing itself as the new product manager for all internet services. It’s taking what is a potentially reasonable concern that certain activities on various internet platforms may lead to addictive behaviors and then assuming that Congress must ban them outright.”

    Hawley's bill has no cosponsors yet. As I type. To maintain the pessimistic attitude for the day: I'm not hopeful that will last.