"I wish they would only take me as I am" - Vincent Van Gogh               "How Can I believe in God when just last week I got my tounge caught in the roller of an electric typewriter?" - Woody Allen              "Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake" - Henry David Thoreau              "I took a speed reading course and read 'War and Peace' in twenty minutes. It involves Russia" - Woody Allen            "When promulgating esoteric cogitations, eschew platitudinous ponderosities" - Mark Rowan, my father            "Up, sluggard, and waste not life, for in the grave there will be sleep enough" - Benjamin Franklin             "What really interests me is whether God had any choice in the creation of the world." - Albert Einstein            "Welfare's purpose should be to eliminate, as far as possible, the need for its own existence" - Ronald Reagan            "It's odd that you can get so anesthetized by your own pain or your own problem that you don't quite fully share the hell of someone close to you." - Lady Bird Johnson              "I still want to be the candidate for guys with confederate flags in their pickup truck" - Howard Dean

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Gov. Romney the steady Tortoise

From The Pollster
I have to add that Mitt Romney is looking like the steady tortoise to the other hares. His trend has remained steadily up despite a number of mistakes earlier. He hasn't enjoyed even a moment of Thompson's "surge", but he's also escaped downturns. His current Iowa and New Hampshire polling also looks good. He has a very far ways to go to emerge in first place, but this far out you might like that long term positive trend.
I know that Romney has been advertising in these markets, but he has been the clear winner of the three debates, is consistently polled to be the most likable, and as more people see who he is and what he believes, I think his support will grow.

George Will on the Economy

In High School I considered myself a Democrat, committed to compassionate pursuits. It wasn't until I began to understand the theory of tax cuts, and how it works to stimulate the economy--particularly the poor--that I began to become a Republican. In short order I was a free-marker Republican, and have been since. George F. Will's column from a few days ago reminds me of the stark contrast between the parties, and the primary reason why I chose to register as a Republican.
In 2002, when [the Bush] tax cuts kicked in and the economy began 65 months -- so far -- of uninterrupted growth, critics said: But it is a "jobless recovery." When the unemployment rate steadily declined -- today it is 4.5 percent; time was, 6 percent was considered full employment -- critics said: Well, all right, the economy is growing and creating jobs and wealth, but the wealth is not being distributed in accordance with the laws of God or Nature or liberalism or something.
Twenty-three months after the next president is inaugurated, the Bush tax cuts expire. The winner of the 2008 election and her or his congressional allies will determine what is done about the fact that, unless action is taken, in 2011 the economy will be walloped:

The five income tax brackets (10, 25, 28, 33 and 35 percent) will be increased 50, 12, 10.7, 9.1 and 13.1 percent, respectively, to 15, 28, 31, 36 and 39.6 percent. The child tax credit reverts to $500 from $1,000. The estate tax rate, which falls to zero in 2009, will snap back to a 60 percent maximum, and exemptions that have increased will decrease. The capital gains rate will rise, and the marriage penalty will be revived, as will the double taxation of dividends.
What is most notable about this is that the lowest-income tax bracket will undergo the greatest tax increase, by percentage.
Democrats ... can send their tax agenda to the president and dare him to veto it. They can, but they won't. Do you wonder why?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Are Republicans Dissatisfied with Presidential Field?

I've heard a lot about how Republicans are dissatisfied with the current field of GOP candidates, while Democrats are generally satisfied. This is based on polling data, and is often being presented as clear evidence that a Democrat will win the general election in 2008. A CBS News Poll found that 57% of Democrats are satisfied with their field, while only 40% of Republicans are satisfied. Newsweek found that77% of Democrats satisfied and only 52% of Republicans satisfied.

While I would agree that many Republicans are upset with their party as of late, I do not think that these are signs that this is necessarily the Democrats' election to lose. I am curious if the state of satisfaction has something to do with the diverse experiences that the Republican field has to offer.

At first glance at the two Presidential fields, I see a great deal of political diversity amongst the GOP field. The GOP field front-runners (Romney, Giuliani, McCain, F. Thompson) are comprised of a Governor, a Mayor, and two Senators. Outside of politics they are a successful businessman and Executive, a lawyer, a war-veteran, and an actor. The Democratic field (Clinton, Obama, Edwards) is comprised of lawyers turned Senator. Their stance on many big issues is very similar to one another(Nationalized health-care, out of Iraq, etc...). To this end, I see a wider range of choice in the GOP field, which may play some role in the dissatisfaction amongst Republicans.

In The Paradox of Choice, Barry Schwartz makes a compelling argument why more choice is not necessarily better. With an increased number of choices, we perceive a greater opportunity cost by not choosing one of the other options. Furthermore, Schwartz offers several examples of how when faced with more choice people are less satisfied, less likely to make a decision, and typically less satisfied with their decision! With such diverse choice for a Republican candidate, we would expect based on Schwartz' evidence that it would lead to dissatisfaction.

Testament to this is the countless head-to-head match-ups between Democratic front-runners and Republican front-runners. While the Democrat wins most of these match-ups, it is not by the same margin that they lead when it comes to satisfaction.

Price Gouging is REAL

...but it's not by big oil.

According to the USDA, 2007 tomato production was up from 2006 by 7.8%, from 35,854,000 cwt of tomato production in 2006 to 38,648,000 cwt in 2007. Yet, while production is up 7.7%, domestic per-capita use was essentially static. An increased supply without an increased demand typically serves to reduce costs, yet that is not what American tomato-eaters are seeing. In fact, tomato prices are up 8.6% from 2006, "Most of the state's packers have agreed to a $63 per ton price....The $63 price compares with the $58 base paid in 2006 and approximately $50 over the previous four years". The 2007 price is up 26% from the $50 per ton price from the previous four years.

It should also be noted that these crops are subsidized, up to $360,000 per farmer! Why is there no investigation into price-gouging and collusion among tomato farmers? Where is Chuck Schumer demanding a senate investigation?

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Should there be NO Foreign Trade?

Hillary Clinton apparently does not support a trade agreement with South Korea, saying it "would harm the U.S. automotive industry and put American jobs at risk." Strange. While American automakers that utilize union labor continue to be forced to layoff workers and are unable to compete with foreign companies, companies like Toyota are flourishing, despite doing a lot of their manufacturing in the US. Toyota continues to grow, to great benefit to the US economy. I'm certainly no expert, but it seems to me that union restrictions and demands seem to do more harm to the automobile industry than foreign trade.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Embryonic Stem Cell Funding

Today Congress has passed legislation easing restrictions posed on federal funding of Embryonic Stem Cell research, sure to bring about a Veto by President Bush who has opposed such funding since his Presidency began.
Spoiling for a veto fight, Congress cleared legislation Thursday easing restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.

The House vote to send the measure to President Bush was 247-176, short of the level needed to override a second veto in as many years on the issue....
The president made his position clear weeks ago when he said the legislation “crosses a moral line that I and many others find troubling.”
I have a great deal of difficulty taking a stand on one side or another of the moral issues involved with embryonic stem cell research, but that aside, I find it easy to take a strong position against any government funding for it.

There are many political issues with strong moral implications. These include embryonic stem cell funding, capital punishment, gay marriage, physician-assisted suicide, etc... While I often (not always) find my stance aligned with the Republican party's stance, I reach my conclusion on these issues from a different perspective. When moral issues are involved, it is my strong belief that the government should not involve itself, unless to impose restrictions. Funding for such programs implies that the government sanctions these potentially immoral acts. This is important because it implies that the government is speaking for those it represents, and that is a truly troubling scenario for those who hold a different moral opinion.

In the case of embryonic stem cell research, for example, I think it should be left to private industry to fund research. As soon as $1 of government money goes towards it, then every taxpaying American is complicit in funding this research, against the will of a great deal of people who may consider it highly immoral.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Nicolas Sarkozy, the French Ronald Reagan?

Not quite. However, it's becoming apparent that Nicolas Sarkozy, France's newly elected President, will be a strong leader for France. He is utilizing free-market ideals to reform a country in despair, and doing so with overwhelming public opinion. via National Business Review:
In addition to reforming the 35-hour policy, Mr Sarkozy has indicated that he wants to increase incentives for working overtime (via tax breaks), reduce income taxes across the board, and exempt much of the population from inheritance tax. He will also have to try to cut France’s fiscal deficit and lower the public debt-to-GDP ratio, which, at 66 per cent, exceeds the 60 per cent ceiling imposed by the European Union
Sarkozy plans on capping an individuals tax payments at 50%, and making mortgage payments tax deductible as well. Watch as France's productivity, tax revenue, and GDP all increase. Watch the unemployment rate--currently at 8.7%--plummet.

I don't know about you, but I feel like a croissant.

Shamnesty Bill

Charles Krauthammer writes in the Washington Post about the shamnesty bill that is, unfortunately, working it's way through congress despite opposition by a majority of americans.
Until now we've had a special category for highly skilled, world-renowned and indispensable talent. Great musicians, athletes and high-tech managers come in today under the EB-1 visa.

This apparently is going to be abolished in the name of an idiotic egalitarianism.I suspect this provision is a kind of apology for one of the few very good ideas in the bill -- taking skill, education and English proficiency into account rather than just family ties, thus cutting back on a chain migration system in which a Yemeni laborer can bring over an entire clan while the engineers and teachers desperate to get here languish in the old country.

The price for this lurch into rationality appears to be the abolition of the VIP fast track, which constitutes less than 2 percent of total immigration and, from the point of view of the national interest, is the most valuable. This staggeringly stupid idea is reason alone to vote against the immigration bill
As if there weren't already reason enough.

I agree with Mr. Krauthammer, that it is in our national interest to promote, invite, and fast-track the immigration of highly skilled immigrants. That's not to say we should deny immigration to the downtrodden who are seeking to come here for prosperity, freedom, and everything else that America has to offer. Too many in the debate discuss immigration as one-or-the-other, and that seems to be apparent in the decision to abolish the EB-1 visa that would put Albert Einstein right to the back of the line (thus the title of Krauthammer's op-ed).


Morris on State Vs. Federal Polls

Dick Morris has a great talent of predicting the future landscape of politics, and has an interesting take on interpreting the myriad of polls regarding the 2008 presidential race.
National surveys of the presidential races in each party have remained relatively consistent since early in the year. As soon as Giuliani announced his candidacy, he jumped out to a big lead in the Republican primary, an advantage he still enjoys, although recent signs indicate a possible tightening of the contest. John McCain continues to run second, with Mitt Romney mired in a distant third place
But the state-by-state surveys show a very different picture. Romney, buried in the national polls, not only shows the expected lead in his neighboring state of New Hampshire, but also leads the pack in Iowa, while John McCain shows unusual strength in South Carolina. On the Democratic side, Edwards runs ahead in Iowa and Hillary often polls a distant third.

So which set of polls is predictive — the national surveys or the polling in the early-primary states?
My bet is that the national will trump the local.
I have a lot of respect for Dick Morris, but I am not in full agreement. I see the disparate poll results on the GOP side as little more than an indication of name recognition. Rudy likely took the early lead predominantly because of name recognition, which is precisely the reason that Gov. Romney has lagged. However, Romney was able to take the lead in raising funds. When one is ready to donate money to a political campaign, they do so after reviewing all of the choices--the other candidates. Thus, those willing to donate money to any campaign are more informed than the average American. Romney's massive fund-raising is a sign that those who have done their research have come to the conclusion that Mitt has the best message and is most worthy of their money. At least, this is the conclusion I came to.