Posts Tagged ‘George Will’
WASHINGTON — There they go again. Like those who say climate change is an emergency too obvious and urgent to allow for debate, some proponents of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, aka the Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST), say arguments against it are nonexistent. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says any such arguments “no longer exist and truly cannot even be taken with a straight face.” Favoring condescension over persuasion, she ridicules people who she says think that because the treaty was negotiated under U.N. auspices, “the black helicopters are on their way.”
Clinton’s insufferable tone is not a reason for the necessary 34 senators to reject ratification. It is, however, a reason for enjoying their doing so.
LOST, approval of which is supposedly somehow suddenly imperative, emerged from the mists of U.N. deliberations that began in the 1950s. The result, three generations later, is pernicious when it is not superfluous.
For centuries there has been a law of the sea. There might be marginal benefits from LOST’s clarifications and procedures for resolving disputes arising from that law — although China and the nations involved in contentious disputes about the South China Sea have all ratified LOST, not that it seems to matter. But those hypothetical benefits are less important than LOST’s actual derogation of American sovereignty by empowering a U.N. bureaucracy — the International Seabed Authority, based in Jamaica — to give or withhold permission for mining, and to transfer perhaps hundreds of billions of dollars of U.S. wealth to whatever nation it deems deserving — “on the basis of equitable sharing criteria, taking into account the interests and needs of developing states, particularly the least developed and the land-locked among them.”
Royalties paid by nations with the talent and will for extracting wealth from the seabed will go to nations that have neither, on the principle that what is extracted from 56 percent of the earth’s surface is, the U.N. insists, “the common heritage of mankind.” And never mind U.S. law, which says that wealth gained from the continental shelf — from which the ISA would seek royalty payments – is supposed to be held by the U.S. government for the benefit of the American people.
LOST was approved by a U.N. conference in 1982, during the Reagan administration, which refused to sign it. In 1994, after some provisions pertaining to seabed mining were changed, President Bill Clinton sent it to the Senate, which has never brought it to a vote. LOST’s supporters say President Reagan’s objections have been met. Well.
Kenneth Adelman, a Reagan adviser, attended a National Security Council meeting at which Secretary of State Alexander Haig said LOST was undesirable but inevitable because it was the result of a process involving most nations. Reagan said: “Uh, Al, isn’t this what the whole thing’s all about?” Adelman says when those in the meeting seemed puzzled, Reagan said: Wasn’t refusing to go along with something “really stupid,” just because 150 nations had done so, what winning the 1980 election was about? Reagan was primarily, but not exclusively, concerned about seabed mining provisions that were slightly improved in 1994. His June 29, 1982, diary entry says: “Decided in NSC meeting — will not sign ‘Law of the Sea’ treaty even without seabed mining provisions.”
Five former Republican secretaries of state (Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, James Baker, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice) support LOST, saying in a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece, “we would strengthen our capacity to influence deliberations and negotiations involving other nations’ attempts to extend their continental boundaries.” But would such influence be wielded vigorously by some administrations? And would this influence be superior to existing U.S. influence, particularly that of the U.S. Navy?
Donald Rumsfeld, who is five times more persuasive than these former secretaries of state, opposes LOST because it “remains a sweeping power grab that could prove to be the largest mechanism for the worldwide redistribution of wealth in human history.” It “would regulate American citizens and businesses without being accountable politically to the American people.” Which makes it shameful that the Chamber of Commerce is campaigning for LOST through an organization with the Orwellian name The American Sovereignty Campaign.
If the Navy supports LOST because the civilian leadership does, fine. But if the Navy thinks it cannot operate well without LOST, we need better admirals not better treaties. Here is an alternative proposal for enhancing the lawfulness of the seas: Keep the money LOST would transfer to ISA and use it to enlarge the Navy.
The Washington Post
The story is that as Mark Twain and novelist William Dean Howells stepped outside one morning, a downpour began and Howells asked Twain, “Do you think it will stop?” Twain answered, “It always has.” The debt-ceiling impasse has, as things generally do, ended, and a post-mortem validates conservatives’ portrayal of Barack Obama and their dismay about the dangers and incompetence of liberalism’s legacy, the regulatory state.
For weeks, you could not fling a brick in Washington without hitting someone with a debt-reduction plan — unless you hit Obama, whose plan, which he intimated was terrifically brave, was never put on paper. In a prime-time spill of his usual applesauce about millionaires, billionaires and oil companies, he said, yet again, that justice demanded a “balanced” solution — one involving new revenue. His whistle into the wind came after Washington’s most consequential Democrat, Harry Reid, proposed a revenue-free solution.
By affirming liberalism’s lodestar — the principle that government’s grasp on national resources must constantly increase — Obama made himself a spectator in a Washington more conservative than it was during the Reagan presidency. By accepting, as he had no choice but to do, Congress’s resolution of the crisis, Obama annoyed liberals. They indict him for apostasy from their one-word catechism, “More!” But egged on by them, he talked himself into a corner. Having said that failure to raise the ceiling would mean apocalypse, he could hardly say failure to raise revenue would be worse.
As with his dozens of exhortations during the health-care debate, and his campaigning for candidates in 2009 and 2010, his debt-ceiling rhetoric was impotent. Still, the debt debate was instructive about recent history, the openness of America’s political process, and the nature of the American regime.
Regarding recent history: Panic-mongers warned, “Raise the ceiling lest the stock market experience a TARP convulsion.” Yes, the market declined almost 778 points when the House rejected the Troubled Assets Relief Program. But who remembered that after TARP was quickly enacted, in the next five months the market lost an additional 3,800 points?
Regarding the political process: There are limits to what can be accomplished by those controlling only half of Congress, but the Tea Party has demonstrated that the limits are elastic under the pressure of disciplined and durable passion. As Tom Brokaw said in Washington on “Meet the Press” last Sunday, the debt-ceiling drama ended as it did because the Tea Party got angry, got organized and got here.
Regarding the federal regime: Before this debate, who knew that the government sends more than 100 million checks or electronic transfers a month to employees, vendors and — much the largest group — entitlement beneficiaries, including 21 million households receiving food stamps?
During various liberal ascendancies, the federal spider has woven a web of dependencies. The political purpose has been to produce growing constituencies of voters disposed to vote Democratic. This disposition, a.k.a. the entitlement mentality, is triggered by making the constituencies constantly apprehensive about the security of their status as wards of government.
Obama’s presidency may last 17 or 65 more months, but it has been irreversibly neutered by two historic blunders made at its outset. It defined itself by health-care reform most Americans did not desire, rather than by economic recovery. And it allowed, even encouraged, self-indulgent liberal majorities in Congress to create a stimulus that confirmed conservatism’s portrayal of liberalism as an undisciplined agglomeration of parochial appetites. This sterile stimulus discredited stimulus as a policy.
Obama’s 2012 problem is that he dare not run as a liberal but cannot run from his liberalism. The left’s narrative for 2012 is that by not offering another stimulus, Washington is being dangerously frugal. This, even though his stimulus — including cash for clunkers, cash for caulkers, dollars for dishwashers (yes, there actually were money showers for home improvements and greener appliances), etc. — led downhill.
The economy’s calamitous 0.8 percent growth in the first half of this year indicates that the already appalling deficit projections for coming years are much too optimistic. The debt increases caused by anemic growth and job creation may dwarf whatever debt reduction results from the process initiated by the debt-ceiling agreement. This may portend a vicious downward spiral as increased borrowing and the burden of debt service further suffocate America’s dynamism.
America may be one-third of the way through a lost decade — or worse, toward a lost national identity. So, Republicans have their 2012 theme: “Is this the best we can do?”
Tuesday, February 22, 2011 By: George Will
Hitherto, when this university town and seat of state government applauded itself as “the Athens of the Midwest,” the sobriquet suggested kinship with the cultural glories of ancient Greece. Now, however, Madison resembles contemporary Athens.
This capital has been convulsed by government employees sowing disorder in order to repeal an election. A minority of the minority of Wisconsin residents who work for government (300,000 of them) are resisting changes to benefits that most of Wisconsin’s 5.6 million residents resent financing.
Serene at the center of this storm sits Republican Scott Walker, 43, in the governor’s mansion library, beneath a portrait of Ronald Reagan. Walker has seen this movie before.
As Milwaukee County executive, he had similar dustups with government workers unions, and when the dust settled, he was resoundingly re-elected, twice. If his desire to limit collective bargaining by such unions to salary issues makes him the “Midwest Mussolini” — some protesters did not get the memo about the new civility — other supposed offenses include wanting state employees to contribute 5.8 percent of their pay to their pension plans (most pay less than 1 percent), which would still be less than the average in the private sector.
He also wants them to pay 12.6 percent of the cost of their healthcare premiums, up from about 6 percent, but still much less than the private sector average.
He campaigned on this. Union fliers distributed during the campaign attacked his “5 and 12″ plan. He says his brother, a hotel banquet manager, and his sister-in-law, who works at Sears, “would love to have” what he is offering the unions.
For some of Madison’s graying baby boomers, these protests are a jolly stroll down memory lane. Tune up the guitars! “This is,” Walker says, “very much a ’60s mentality.”
He does, however, think there is sincerity unleavened by information: Many protesters do not realize that most worker protections, merit hiring; just cause for discipline and termination, are the result not of collective bargaining but of Wisconsin’s uniquely strong and century-old civil service law.
“I am convinced,” he says, “this is about money, but not the employees’ money.” It concerns union dues, which he wants the state to stop collecting for the unions, just as he wants annual votes by state employees on re-certifying the unions.
He says many employees pay $500 to $600 annually in union dues — teachers pay up to $1,000. Given a choice, many might prefer to apply this money to healthcare premiums or retirement plans. And he thinks “eventually” most will say about the dues collectors, What do we need this for?
Such unions are government organized as an interest group to lobby itself to do what it always wants to do anyway — grow. These unions use dues extracted from members to elect their members’ employers. And governments, not disciplined by the need to make a profit, extract government employees’ salaries from taxpayers. Government sits on both sides of the table in cozy “negotiations” with unions.
A few days after Obama submitted a budget that would increase the federal deficit, he tried to sabotage Wisconsin’s progress toward solvency. The Washington Post: “The president’s political machine worked in close coordination . . . with state and national union officials to mobilize thousands of protesters to gather in Madison and to plan similar demonstrations in other state capitals.”
Walker notes that in the 1990s, Wisconsin was a trend-setter regarding school choice and welfare reform. Obama, he thinks, may be worried that Wisconsin might again be a harbinger.
He also thinks Obama’s intervention demonstrates why presidents should serve apprenticeships as governors. He says that Obama, in the Illinois Legislature and the U.S. Senate, “was a liberal among liberals,” and liberals are his base, and his staff comes from it. Governors, Walker says, get used to considering the interests of broad constituencies.
Walker’s calm comportment in this crisis is reminiscent of President Reagan’s during his 1981 stand against the illegal strike by air traffic controllers, and Margaret Thatcher’s in the1984 showdown with the miners’ union over whether unions or Parliament would govern Britain.
Walker, by a fiscal seriousness contrasting with Obama’s lack thereof, and Obama, by inciting defenders of the indefensible, have made three things clear:
First, the Democratic Party is the party of government, not only because of its extravagant sense of government’s competence and proper scope, but also because the party’s base is government employees.
Second, government employees have an increasingly adversarial relationship with the governed.
Third, Obama’s “move to the center” is fictitious.
An election of historic significance
By GEORGE F. WILL
Voters seem to think Congress is like a weedy lot — that anything done to it will improve it — so they seem poised to produce something not seen since 1981-82. Then, for the first time since 1952, a majority of senators were in their first terms. This was the result of three consecutive, churning elections — 1976, 1978 and 1980.
There certainly will be new senators from 14 states: Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Utah and West Virginia. Furthermore, Alaska’s incumbent Lisa Murkowski, who the American Conservative Union ranks as the fourth-most liberal Senate Republican and who already has been rejected by Republicans in the primary, might lose her sore-loser write-in candidacy. Arkansas incumbent Blanche Lincoln is behind by 20 points in the RealClearPolitics average of polls. Wisconsin incumbent Russ Feingold is behind by an average of eight points. And Colorado incumbent Michael Bennet, appointed to the seat vacated when Ken Salazar became secretary of the interior, trails by a RealClearPolitics average of 4.3 percent.
So there could be at least 18 freshmen senators next January. And several other incumbents — all Democrats– could lose. Since popular election of senators became mandatory in 1913, the largest crop of freshmen, 20, resulted from the 1978 upheaval that presaged the 18 new senators produced by the 1980 election.
If senators in their first terms are a majority of the body in 2011, there might be an anomalous condition that would have perplexed and perhaps vexed the Founding Fathers: The average seniority of House members might be higher than the average seniority of senators.
The Senate, with indirect election of its members (by state legislatures) and six-year terms, was designed to be Congress’ more stable half. If there is a majority of first-term members in 2011, many new members will have won by expressing disgust with Washington’s mores. This will challenge even the formidable leadership skills of Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell.
After November, Republican eyes will turn to the prize of the presidency in 2012. Concerning which, McConnell sees cautionary lessons from three other years — 1946, 1954 and 1994. In 1946, President Truman’s party lost control of both the House and Senate. In 1948, however, Truman won an improbable re-election running against the “do-nothing 80th Congress.” In 1954, President Eisenhower’s party lost control of the House and Senate. But two years later, Eisenhower was resoundingly re-elected. In 1994, President Clinton’s party lost control of the House and Senate. In 1996, Clinton cruised to re-election, partly because of reckless behavior — e.g., the government shutdown of 1995 — by congressional Republicans.
Regarding House races, Jay Cost of The Weekly Standard notes that the Democratic Party has “an inefficiently distributed base of voters.” It “consists mostly of union workers, upscale urban liberals and minority voters, many of whom are clustered in highly Democratic districts.” In many other districts, Democratic candidates depend on “independents and soft partisans,” the very voters who have defected from the Obama coalition of 2008.
If Democrats lose control of the House by a small number of seats, this might be condign punishment for a practice they favor and that Republicans have cynically encouraged — racial gerrymandering. It concentrates African-American voters in majority-minority districts in order to guarantee the election of minority candidates.
On Nov. 2, there will be 37 gubernatorial elections. On Wednesday, Nov. 3, when the 15-month dash to the Iowa caucuses begins, Republicans may be savoring gains of eight or more governors, to a total of at least 31. They also may have gained 500 seats in state legislatures, mostly by retaking seats lost in the last two elections. This would expand Republican power over the redistricting that will be based on the 2010 census. Polidata Inc. estimates that states carried in 2008 by John McCain will gain a net of seven seats (and electoral votes) and states Barack Obama carried will lose seven.
Finally, Curtis Gans, director of the Center for the Study of the American Electorate, reports that this year, for the first time since 1930, more Republicans — nearly 4 million more — than Democrats voted in midterm primaries. This “enthusiasm gap” favoring Republicans may close somewhat by Nov. 2, but that may be too late for many Democratic candidates.
Voting began in seven states in September. By Nov. 2, almost 40 percent of all ballots will have been cast.
George Will’s e-mail address is email@example.com.
The definition of …
By George F. Will
George F. Will is a columnist for The Washington Post and Newsweek
Sunday, September 12, 2010
Looking back with pride, the British are commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, when Winston Churchill said of the pilots fighting the Luftwaffe:
Never “was so much owed by so many to so few.”
Looking ahead with trepidation, Americas are thinking:
Never have so many of us owed so much.
Actually, they owed slightly more when the recession began, when household consumer debt was $2.6 trillion. The painful but necessary process of deleveraging is proceeding slowly: Such debt has been reduced only to $2.4 trillion.
Add to that the facts that the recession has reduced household wealth by $10 trillion and that only 25 percent of Americans expect their incomes to improve next year. So they are not spending. And companies, having given the economy a temporary boost last year by rebuilding inventories, are worried.
Hence, rather than hiring, companies are sitting on cash reserves much larger than the size of last year’s $862 billion stimulus.
Democrats who say another stimulus is necessary for job creation — but who dare not utter the word “stimulus” — are sending three depressing messages:
• the $862 billion stimulus did not work
• the public so loathes the word that another stimulus will not happen
• therefore prosperity is not “just around the corner,” as Herbert Hoover supposedly said (but did not).
Consumers and businesses are responding to those messages by heeding Polonius’ advice in “Hamlet”: “Neither a borrower nor a lender be.”
Hoover — against whom Democrats, those fountains of fresh ideas, have been campaigning for 78 years — is again being invoked as a terrible warning about the wages of sin. Sin is understood by liberals as government austerity, which is understood as existing levels of government spending, whatever they are, whenever. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner recently said that Germans favoring reduced rather than increased state spending sounded “a little bit like Hoover.”
Real per capita federal expenditures almost doubled between 1929, Hoover’s first year as president, and 1932, his last. David Kennedy, in “Freedom from Fear,” the volume in the Oxford history of the American people that deals with the Depression, writes of Hoover:
“He nearly doubled federal public works expenditures in three years. Thanks to his prodding, the net stimulating effect of federal, state and local fiscal policy was larger in 1931 than in any subsequent year of the decade.”
Barack Obama has self-nullifying plans for stimulating the small-business sector that creates most new jobs. He has just endorsed tax relief for such businesses but opposes extension of the Bush tax cuts for high-income filers, who include small businesses with 48 percent of that sector’s earnings.
The stance of other Democrats seems to be that the Bush cuts were wicked in conception, reckless in execution — and should be largely, and perhaps entirely, extended.
Does this increase anyone’s confidence?
About as much as noting the one-year anniversary of the end of another of the administration’s brainstorms.
The used car market is an important mechanism for redistributing wealth to low-income persons: The price of a car drops when it is driven out of the dealership but much of its transportation value remains when it enters the used car market. Unfortunately for low-income people, the average price of a three-year-old automobile has increased more than 10 percent since last summer.
This is largely because the Car Allowance Rebate System, aka “Cash for Clunkers,” which ended in late August 2009, cut the supply of used cars.
Cash for Clunkers provided up to $4,500 to those who traded in a car in order to purchase a new car with better gas mileage but stipulated that the used car had to be scrapped. The Boston Globe’s Jeff Jacoby reports that a study by Edmunds.com shows that all but 125,000 of the 700,000 cars sold during the clunkers program would have been bought even if no subsidy had been available.
If this is so, each incremental sale cost taxpayers $24,000.
Even on environmental grounds the program was, Jacoby argues, “an exorbitant dud”: The reduction in carbon dioxide from removing older cars from the road cost, according to research at the University of California at Davis, $237 a ton (the international market prices carbon emissions credits at about $20 a ton) and the new higher-mileage cars mean a reduction of carbon dioxide emissions of less than what Americans emit every hour.
Obama is desperately urging consumers and investors to have confidence in his understanding of economics. They might, however, remember his characteristic certitude that “cash for clunkers” was “successful beyond anybody’s imagination.”