The recent surge in the stock price of GameStop has all the usual suspects commenting on “The Greater Meaning of it All”. As usual, very few of these recently minted experts know what they are talking about. Among the more mindless analyses being tossed about is a populist “narrative” that claims that Everyman has risen up to squeeze short selling Wall Street hedge funds. These hedge funds, it is alleged, have been stealing from the common man in a rigged game for years.
Among those making variations of this charge are: Ted Cruz, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC), Elizabeth Warren and Bob Frank. That these four are in rough agreement ought to be the first sign that something is seriously amiss. Consider for a moment the backgrounds of those who are busy defending Everyman against wicked elites. For instance Ted Cruz is a product of Princeton (BA in public policy 1992) and Harvard Law (magna cum laude 1995). Elizabeth Warren worked as a Law Professor both at the University of Pennsylvania and at Harvard Law School before becoming a Senator from Massachusetts. Hardly downtrodden.
AOC, who does not have the same pedigree, made a point of noting that the “solution” to the non-problem of GameStop is to tax the rich. Her reasoning being that taxing the rich is pretty much the solution every problem, real and imagined. Then there is the commentary of Robert Frank, a journalist at CNBC. His contention is that the Reddit inspired run up in GameStop is “calling attention to” the vast inequality of stock ownership in the United States. It has to be seen to be believed.
The interesting thing is that Frank has spent an awful lot of time writing books and columns about the horrors of inequality of outcomes, but apparently sees no relationship between savings, investment, risk-taking and financial reward.
Frank seems to be bothered by the fact that the upper 1% owns the lion’s share of financial assets. Well of course they do. That same 1% is the cohort that is an important source for risk-taking, innovation, investment and, not to put too fine a point on it, bearing an outsized share of the tax burden. The upper 1%, for instance, pays about 45% of all income taxes.
The population up and down the (ever changing) income scale makes choices about how to allocate its funds between consumption now, investment and deferred consumption. Nobody needs Bob Frank shouting audibles from the sidelines.
But let’s look a little further. Why would anyone who has the slightest clue of how the stock market works lament the fact that most retail investors are not involved in the GameStop fiasco? The undeniable fact is that a bunch of amateurs bought the stock not because it is a fundamentally good investment; they bought it because they thought they would profit from an old fashioned short squeeze. And a small minority will profit. But the vast majority of retail traders are now in the process of getting their clocks cleaned. And rightly so. They are in way over their heads.
As of this writing, GameStop is down 113 points or 50% from yesterday’s close, after yesterday’s 40% drop. All of which means that the stock market is doing what it’s supposed to do.
Despite all the anguished cries from the ignorati, the stock market is not broken. It is doing exactly what it is supposed to do. In the process it is separating fools from their cash. That is hardly a novel occurrence.
Within hours of President Biden’s call for civility, protesters went on a violent rampage in the Pacific Northwest, mostly in Portland Oregon. The protesters, according to the New York Times, marched through the streets, burned an American flag and smashed windows at Democratic Party Headquarters.
The protesters were not supporters of the now departed Donald J Trump. Nor were they from QAnon, the Proud Boys or other white supremacist groups. They were self-identified antifascist and racial-justice warriors, which is to say, fascists who like to call themselves antifascists. Their complaint was that Joe Biden’s promised reforms “won’t save us”.
Of course they won’t, primarily because they are not interested in being “saved”. They are simply nihilists who seek to smash and destroy. They could care less about the back and forth of democratic politics and the making of public policy. They seek to engender distrust and destroy democratic institutions, not to build on them.
If he means what he says, Joe Biden has a golden opportunity to take a large step toward restoring civility to the Republic and strengthening our democratic institutions. He can condemn the violence in Oregon without reservation just as strongly as he rightly condemned the violence fomented by Donald Trump at the Capitol on January 6. And he can seek to have the perpetrators brought to justice for their crimes, just as the perpetrators of the January 6 riots should be prosecuted for their crimes to the full extent of the law.
The choice is clear. It is a choice between violence and liberal government. Tolerating violence based on what “side” it favors is no justice at all. It is a fundamental attack on equality before the law and our democratic institutions. Vigorous prosecution of those who use violence to achieve political ends is a defense of the rule of law and democratic institutions.
President Joe Biden has a choice to make. He can defend the rule of law and democratic institutions. Or he can be just like Donald J. Trump and be politically selective about how the law is enforced.
That choice will tell us a lot about what Joe Biden is really made of.
“Drink coffee and do stupid things even faster” — Sign in a coffee shop.
Apropos the sign, an avalanche of stupidity is coming our way. Just 5 days away from his inauguration, President-elect Joe Biden has outlined the first part of his “American Recovery Plan”. It is virtually indistinguishable from the progressive wish list Nancy Pelosi has been going on about for the last 20 years or so. The only difference is that now progressives actually have a shot of getting what they have always wished for.
Consider just some of the proposals being put forward in the spectacularly misnamed American Recovery plan. To begin with, the price tag for this monstrosity is $1.9 trillion. That comes right after the $900 billion relief package Congress passed just last month. Not to mention the $2.2 trillion CARES act Congress passed in March of 2020. And this is only phase 1 of the Biden proposal. He promises more, fully backed by Bernie Sanders as the upcoming chair of the Senate Budget Committee.
If Congress approves the Biden phase 1 package it would amount to $5 trillion in additional spending thus far for Covid and Covid marketed relief efforts. That spending is over and above the normal appropriations for running the government, all passed in a 10 month period. And it’s all done with borrowed money.
So let’s look at some specific proposals. Among other things that have absolutely nothing to do with Covid, Biden plans to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour. If enacted, this is guaranteed to make things worse for the people who are the supposed beneficiaries.
The unemployment rate is highest for people with low incomes and relatively little formal training. Plenty of these people work in the hospitality industry, specifically restaurants, which are among the hardest hit by the pandemic. Recent survey data suggest that about 110,000 restaurants, about 17% of the total, have closed their doors permanently because of Covid.
The Biden solution is to raise the cost of labor for an industry in free fall. Very clever. Not only that, the restaurants that survive will simply switch their compensation systems to a European style one in which customer costs associated with tipping are built into menu prices (service compris) and tips are eliminated. The effect will be lost jobs and reduced employee compensation for those who keep their jobs. Oh, and the survivors’ tax bills will rise because, let’s face it, virtually nobody reports all their tips to the IRS.
Other goodies in the package include checks for $1,400 to round it up to $2,000. Schumer and Pelosi have indicated that they are enthusiastically on board. What this is supposed to accomplish beyond the buying of votes is left unspecified. And of course, this is to be financed, by more borrowing, because we are assured “there is plenty of money available”.
Another $350 billion or so is slated for “emergency” relief for state and local government finances. Translated into English, this means that the states that manage their finances well will be required to bail out predominantly blue state public pension plans that are underfunded to the point where in some cases, like Illinois, they are approaching insolvency. And not to put too fine a point on it, the sorry state of pension finance has nothing whatsoever to do with Covid. Bailing them out will just put off the day of reckoning until it gets worse.
Another $170 billion will be forked out “so that schools can re-open”. But of course, the schools didn’t need to close and stay closed in the first place. This is just a gift to the politically powerful teachers unions who have argued for closing the schools and keeping them closed.
Private schools have opened independent of the state. And not just the elite ones. The K- 12 Catholic schools in Massachusetts opened successfully and have had almost no Covid infections. In other places, relatively affluent parents (like here in Fairfax County) have hired private tutors to run learning pods for groups of children.
Needless to say, the teachers unions have opposed these efforts while fighting to keep the schools shut down for in-person learning. This is in spite of the fact that already the data clearly show a catastrophic fall-off in the academic performance of disadvantaged children. Let’s face it, the public schools are run for the benefit of the staff, not the kids. That’s why the kids are being sacrificed.
As more details of the Biden plan seep out, it will become clear to all with eyes to see that the Biden trajectory is simply Obama redux on steroids (or perhaps coffee). It will be all about centralization, command and control. The crushing hand of the state will weigh in on every decision. Fantasies aside; there is nothing moderate about it.
A little over 50 years ago James Burnham authored a book titled “Suicide of the West”. It was his thesis that the West had lost faith in its institutions and culture. As a result, the West, especially its intellectuals and culture shapers (with certain notable exceptions) were no longer willing to defend Western civilization and its culture. More than that, Wester civilization became the enemy. Well, here we are again.
Fortunately, the stupidity of that era didn’t last for long. But it didn’t disappear entirely, it merely went into hiding. Now it has come back with a vengeance.
Douglas Murray, author of several books including the recently published “Madness of Crowds” sat down with Peter Robinson of the Hoover Institution to discuss the current state of affairs, particularly the intellectual, political and cultural environments in which we now reside. It’s a long interview, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. It’s worth every minute. Please see the video of the interview below.
Every four years, right on schedule, we are told that “This election is the most important of your life.” And of course, it isn’t. Just like the one we are in the process of finishing wasn’t. Not by a long shot. The probable result is best described as a much needed victory for gridlock.
As of this writing it appears that the Republicans will keep their Senate majority, the Democrats will lose a few House seats and Vice President Biden may prevail with a small edge in the race for 270 Electoral College votes. But none of this is certain, and the final result will probably leave the losing side firmly convinced that “We wuz robbed.”
Whether that sentiment is justified remains to be seen. But it is important to note that the distrust is both widespread and long standing. Part of the problem is extreme polarization. That polarization has been stoked by the major parties which increasingly resort to emotional appeals rather than facts or logic.
Moreover, in addition to being an affront to the first amendment, campaign finance “reform” has left the major parties and their candidates dependent on large outside donors who increasingly influence Party agendas. Think Tom Steyer, Michael Bloomberg and Sheldon Addison. That hasn’t helped any either.
More importantly, the problem of distrust can be laid squarely at the feet of progressives who have spent the last 50 years or so attacking our governing institutions. In this they have been aided and abetted by (1) the mainstream press which is increasingly populated by woke “reporters” and (2) the public education system which has produced indoctrination factories but little learning.
When we are told on a daily basis that the U.S. is “systemically racist”; that the U.S. is “structurally racist”; that the police are in the business of hunting down black men to shoot; that the real founding of the U.S. was 1619 when African slaves were first brought to Jamestown, and that school curricula are being introduced based on that lie, why would anyone be surprised by public distrust of our governing and culture shaping institutions?
Why would anyone take the NY Times, MSNBC or CNN seriously when their reporters insist on discussing peaceful demonstrations while anyone can see the buildings behind them are on fire? Why would anyone trust the Washington Post with its slogan “Democracy Dies in Darkness” on its front page while it refuses to cover the Hunter Biden scandal, without doubt an important story.
Why would anyone believe the rhetoric of big city mayors and civil rights organizations when it is clear that they are bought and paid for by the Teachers Unions. Those big city public schools have failed minority children for generations and yet big city Mayors and civil rights organizations like the NAACP have long fought school choice and charter schools even though the evidence is crystal clear that they produce superior outcomes.
It is clear to anyone with eyes to see that what we have is a massive failure of government and governance. The failure is long standing and reaches into almost every area of American life. The affluent can afford this because it doesn’t affect them. But the average citizen can’t afford to pay $25,000 — to $50,000 a year to send their kids to private prep schools. Nor can the average citizen afford to pay for private security guards while activists insist on “defunding the police.”
Elites can afford to move to their summer houses in the Hamptons while calling for lock-downs while they work from home and ride out the Covid-19 virus. But the people who work in grocery stores, drive trucks and deliver their packages can’t afford to be locked-down. Nor can minority children afford to fall further back by being forced to resort to Zoom classes for grammar school.
When all is said and done, the election results represent a repudiation of the progressive elite. There will be no Green New Deal, Court Packing, defunding of police, elimination of the Senate’s legislative filibuster, Medicare for all, guaranteed outcomes, or dismantling of capitalism. That is all to the good.
Now the two political parties will have a few years to re-think where they are and where they would like to go. If the Democrats get the joke (always a doubtful prospect) they will head back toward their roots, put identity politics to rest where it belongs and begin to develop a framework for policy based on equality of opportunity rather than outcome. Don’t hold your breath.
The Republicans on the other hand are still going to be saddled with Trump partisans, with or without Trump. They are going to have to adapt conservatism (actually classical liberalism) to reform and strengthen, not eliminate, critical public institutions. They could start by ending the bureaucratic command-and-control mentality of federal agencies. Voluntary action and devolution of power to local institutions should be the preferred route. Whether they will head in this direction is anybody’s guess.
All in all the election results can be seen as gift allowing us to step back from the brink. If the two parties have any sense at all, they will develop sensible policy frameworks, engage in spirited substantive debate, defend free speech against cancel culture, rein in the bureaucracy, go back to enacting laws and policies and stop the virtue signaling.
That’s a tall order. We don’t have a lot of time to waste.
We are once again faced with the question of whether it is worth voting in the Presidential race and if so, for whom. Before considering any particular candidate, let’s have a look at the question of why vote at all.
Unfortunately, it seems that an awful lot of Americans have been stricken with the superstition that their vote matters in determining the outcome. This belief has taken hold largely for two reasons: (1) the innumeracy of the public which is in large part due to the sheer incompetence of mathematics education in the public schools; and (2) the interest of the two major political parties in propagating the myth.
So if your vote doesn’t matter, why bother to vote at all? The reason is straightforward. Your vote does matter—it just doesn’t matter in any meaningful sense in determining the outcome. Your vote represents your policy preferences. And that matters a lot—or at least, it should.
So let’s take a look at the choices on offer, which can be roughly categorized as (1) re-elect President Trump; (2) replace him with former Vice-President Biden, or (3) somebody else.
A question for Trump fans. Does anybody seriously think that Donald J Trump is suitable as president? It is beyond obvious that he is profoundly ignorant, mendacious and irredeemably narcissistic. He has coarsened an already coarse culture. He has no idea how government is supposed to work; nor does he care. Most of the good things that he has done (and there are some) represent standard Republican orthodoxy. Any Republican president would have done the same.
The policy initiatives that are uniquely Trump’s (like the trade war) represent zero-sum thinking. That approach to the world is the anti-thesis of liberalism, properly understood, and is based on the misconceptions that the Democratic Party has been enthusiastically marketing to the ignoratti for decades. After all, the I-win-you-lose mentality of zero-sum thinking is what is behind the nonsensical wailing about trade deficits. It is the thinly disguised foundation of the neo-Marxist grievance industries, cancel culture and odes to intersectionality.
One area does stand out where Mr. Trump has actually achieved some good. That is the Middle East. He appears to have succeeded in peacemaking where countless others have failed. Whether this success is due to his rather unique brand of diplomacy or a change in the correlation of forces, only time will tell. But it happened on his watch.
We have already had 4 years of Mr. Trump in the White House. We have more than enough evidence to see whether he has shed the ways of a recalcitrant adolescent and has miraculously developed into a mature adult. Unfortunately, he hasn’t; he remains like a petulant child unsuited for the responsibilities of the office.
And now for another question; this one for Biden partisans. Does anybody seriously think that Joe Biden would be a suitable president? He is a human gaffe machine; a bumbling old fool on his third presidential run. He is a man driven by a relentless ambition to become president but without an identifiable, much less compelling, raison d’être.
Who, this side of sanity, really believes that the Hunter Biden e-mails printed by the New work Post lack authenticity? The Biden campaign hasn’t denied their authenticity. Nor has it denied the various pay-to-play schemes detailed in them. Moreover multiple sources, including one of Hunter Biden’s partners, have vouched for them. The schemes may or may not have been illegal. But they provide evidence of corruption, rumors of which have long plagued the Biden clan. Moreover, for the umpteenth time they prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Joe Biden is a world class liar.
The issue of Hunter Biden’s e-mails goes way beyond Joe Biden’s corruption and his suitability, or lack thereof, for the presidency. It goes to the state of America’s institutions and their politicization. The mainstream press, for instance, has studiously avoided reporting the story. NPR’s managing editor of news, Terence Samuel, went so far as to say:
“We don’t want to waste our time on stories that are not really stories, and we don’t want to waste the listeners’ and readers’ time on stories that are just pure distractions,” Samuel said of its refusal to cover the Hunter Biden laptop story. “And quite frankly, that’s where we ended up, this was … a politically driven event, and we decided to treat it that way.”
Add to that the fact that Facebook, Twitter and Google have blocked access to the story in whole or in part, and it is clear that they, in conjunction with mainstream news organizations, are running interference for the Biden campaign. That is a level of institutional degradation that is likely to be far more damaging in the long run to the republic than the corruption of the Biden clan.
So what is the intelligent citizen to do? The answer should be obvious. Vote for somebody else. That’s where Ben Sasse, and a little political philosophy, come in.
First and foremost we need to recognize that politics has become way too important in American life. Partisans will immediately point to the other side and shout “It’s their fault”, which simply proves the point. Passions have overwhelmed reason. Each side, brimming with self-righteousness, is convinced of its own moral and intellectual superiority.
Maybe we should understand what being president entails, or at least is supposed to entail. The president is the country’s chief administrative officer. His principal duties, given by Article II of the Constitution are (1) to see that the laws are faithfully executed and (2) serve as Commander in Chief and oversee foreign policy.
He is not your friend, your confessor, your advisor; nor does he feel your pain. He does not “create jobs” high paying or otherwise. His is not going to solve your problems. He does not “run the country”. The country can run itself just fine, thank you very much.
The president does, however, represent the American people as a whole, both within the country and to the larger world. In that capacity he acts, or should act, as a (and not the only) leader of American civic culture dedicated to the proposition that certain Truths are self-evident. Namely, that All Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among them, Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, and that governments are created to secure those rights.
Securing these unalienable rights is the most important of presidential missions. Moreover, it is a mission that mostly depends on our civic culture. And so the president should seek to bolster and strengthen that civic culture, based on the values expressed in the Declaration of Independence.
This is a mission for which Senator Ben Sasse (R. NE) is particularly well-suited. With his BA in government from Harvard and PhD in history from Yale; his experience as Senator, and as an official in HHS; and with his tenure as President of Midland University, Senator Sasse has both the experience, temperament and intellect needed to do the job, and do it well. That’s why I have cast my early vote for him as a write-in.
But don’t take my word for it. Watch Senator Sasse on the video below concerning politics, civics and culture. Then ask yourself if he would be a better president than the major party candidates. I think the answer is self-evident.
Vice President Joe Biden, currently masquerading as a moderate, has been a gas bag for pretty much his entire career. But recently he has shown a remarkable reticence. He has refused to discuss where he stands on the Democrats’ threat to pack the Supreme Court, if they take control of the Senate after the November elections.
We hear a lot these days about how President Donald Trump violates norms. And for good reason: He does. That said, it is Mr. Biden who has taken a sledge hammer to political norms in a way that makes Trump look like a piker.
In response to a question about the voters desire to know his position in the matter of Court packing, Mr. Biden said to reporters “They’ll know my opinion on court-packing when the election is over”. He then went on to say “Now, look, I know it’s a great question, and y’all — and I don’t blame you for asking it. But you know the moment I answer that question, the headline in every one of your papers will be about that.”
Not content to leave it at that, days later Biden went on to say that the voters don’t deserve to know his position, complained that questioners were “probably Republicans” and in any event Trump’s nomination of Amy Coney Barrett for the Court was “non-constitutional”. The assertion that the President doesn’t have the Constitutional authority to nominate someone for an empty seat on the Court is simply astonishing, even by Biden standards.
So now we have a situation in which the allegedly “moderate” Democratic Presidential nominee (1) refuses to respond to questions about Court packing, a threat made by his own party, and a truly fundamental issue; (2) complains that if he were to answer the question reporters would write about it, and (3) claims to believe that the President’s nomination for an empty Court seat is “non-constitutional”.
In the meantime the left wing of the Democratic Party is chomping at the bit to pack the Court, end the legislative filibuster, add Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia as states and end the electoral college. All of this is for the purpose of transforming America into a one party state run by leftist ideologues.
Some discerning voters are curious to know what Mr. Biden thinks about all this. And up until now, Mr. Biden has made it clear that he has no intention of telling them.
Let us remember that a couple of short weeks ago, Mr Biden, in a burst of Trumpian grandiosity, proclaimed himself to be the Democratic Party. So why won’t the alleged moderate who is supposedly the personification of the Democratic Party unequivocally state his position on a matter that goes to the very foundation of the American republic? Perhaps it is because he is an institutional wrecking ball. Or maybe, just a coward.
Before being elected to the US Senate in 2008, Mark Warner (D. VA) served as governor of Virginia from 2002 to 2006. In 2014 ran for a second term against Republican Ed Gillespie, winning by just under 1% of the vote. During that race Senator Warner vowed not to run again.
Needless to say, Senator Warner is running for a third term.
This time Warner is running against Republican nominee Daniel MacArthur Gade. A retired lieutenant colonel, Gade lost his right leg in the Iraq war where he served as a tank company commander. He is a graduate of West Point and has both Master’s and PhD degrees in Public Administration from the University of Georgia. Prior to securing the Republican nomination for the Senate, Gade worked as Professor of Practice at American University in the School of Public Affairs.
Gade is no slavish follower of Donald Trump. In his October 3 debate with Warner at Norfolk State University he openly criticized Trump’s response to a question on white supremacy. In the Senate debate he said “If you are a white supremacist and you are watching — I don’t want your vote. I don’t want your money, and shame on your attitudes and disrespect. Now, the president badly fumbled that question.”
He has also called on fellow Republicans to join him in support of social justice for African American citizens. Importantly he makes a distinction between thought and action. He argues that racism is an internal belief; that it is not a domestic security threat unless it is acted upon. Senator Warner on the other hand believes (or pretends to believe) that the US is systemically racist. In response to a question he said “So do I think systemic racism exists? I do,” adding pointedly, “Black lives matter.”
Gade is a self-described conservative. He is strongly pro-life; is adamant about protecting religious liberty, does not support taxpayer forgiveness of student loans and is opposed to taxpayer funded education through college. He does not believe it is up to government to provide an income; nor is it a governmental responsibility to make sure everyone has health insurance. He is a strong defender of property rights and the free market system.
All in all it is fair to describe Dr. Gade as the type of conventional conservative that dominated the Republican Party during the Reagan era.
On the other hand it is also fair to describe Senator Mark Warner as hewing closely to the party line. He is a typical abortion rights fanatic. He supports abortion on demand and is a co-sponsor of S.1645 which, if enacted, would invalidate nearly all state and federal restrictions on abortion. He also voted against confirming Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
In general Senator Warner is a conventional businessman turned politician. He isn’t a member of the wild eyed crowd populated by the likes of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. But he is not about to lift a finger to protect liberty either. That is the crucial difference between challenger Gade and Senator Warner. Warner is a technocrat; Gade understands the importance of liberty. And that, in the end, is why Professor Gade is going to get my vote.