Republicans for the Big-Government Guy ( General ) by David Boaz

Do Republicans still support limited government? Don't laugh--there are still people around who would answer "yes." On this site we've spent plenty of time on Republicans spending like drunken Democrats, nationalizing education, expanding entitlements, declaring the president an absolute monarch, embracing Wilsonian foreign policy, and so on. The latest just adds insult to injury. A lead story in the New York Times is headlined, "G.O.P. Deserts One of Its Own for Lieberman." Yes, Republicans are actually supporting the Sore Loserman for reelection rather than their own nominee. More specifically, Lieberman is being officially supported by Connecticut's three Republican congressmen, Newt Gingrich, and William Kristol. The White House and the Republican National Committee are "staying out of this one." Gov. Jodi Rell and Sen. John McCain are endorsing "the Republican nominee" but not campaigning for him. (His name is Alan Schlesinger, by the way.) Sen. Norm Coleman says, "From America’s perspective, it would be a good thing for Joe Lieberman to be back in the Senate.” And that's because Lieberman supports the good old Republican principles of low taxes, less regulation, limited government, and a strong national defense, right? Well, not quite. He does support President Bush's floundering war in Iraq. But as Robert Novak pointed out last week:
Lieberman followed the liberal line in opposing oil drilling in ANWR, Bush tax cuts, overtime pay reform, the energy bill, and bans on partial-birth abortion and same-sex marriage. Similarly, he voted in support of Roe vs. Wade and for banning assault weapons and bunker buster bombs. His only two pro-Bush votes were to fund the Iraq war and support missile defense (duplicating Sen. Hillary Clinton's course on both). Lieberman's most recent ratings by the American Conservative Union were 7 percent in 2003, zero in 2004 and 8 percent in 2005.
I actually agree with him on a couple of those votes, though I wouldn't expect that conservatives would. The National Taxpayers Union says that he votes with taxpayers 9 percent of the time, worse than Chris Dodd or Barbara Boxer. Only if you believe that continuing to support the war in Iraq outweighs all other issues combined can a conservative reasonably support Joe Lieberman. And apparently a lot of Republicans and conservatives are willing to toss aside his commitment to high taxes, higher spending, more regulation, and entitlement expansion in order to get that vote for Bush's war.

Posted on August 19, 2006  Posted to Cato@Liberty

From Your Blog to God’s Ears ( General ) by David Boaz

Have blogs become part of the mainstream? Consider the evidence of a front-page story in Saturday's New York Times, which reports on reaction to the federal court ruling that the NSA wiretapping program is illegal. The first three legal experts quoted are bloggers; two of the quotes are from the blogs, one appears to be from an interview with a lawyer-blogger. Stop writing those law review articles, legal scholars, and get thee to Blogger.

Posted on August 19, 2006  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Labeling Dictators ( General ) by David Boaz

The Wall Street Journal's "Remembrances" column notes the death this week of Alfredo Stroessner this way:
Gen. Alfredo Stroessner, the military strongman who ruled Paraguay from 1954 until 1989. Among 20th century Latin American leaders, only Cuban President Fidel Castro has served longer.
Why is Stroessner a "military strongman" while Castro is "Cuban President"? Both came to power through bullets, not ballots, and ruled with an iron hand. Stroessner actually held elections every five years, sometimes with opposition candidates, though of course there was no doubt of the outcome. Castro dispensed with even the pretense of elections. Both ruled with the support of the army. In Cuba's case the armed forces were headed by Castro's brother, and indeed he has just turned over power to his brother who heads the military. So why does the Journal not give Stroessner his formal title of "president," and why does it not describe Castro accurately as a "military strongman"?

Posted on August 19, 2006  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Terrorism? Drugs? No, Backdating Stock Options ( General ) by David Boaz

From the Washington Post:
Former Comverse Technology chief executive Jacob "Kobi" Alexander was declared a fugitive by the FBI, which issued an alert calling for his arrest. An international manhunt was launched late last month, shortly before authorities unsealed a criminal complaint.

Posted on August 17, 2006  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Your Tax Dollars at Work ( General ) by David Boaz

Speaking of my claim yesterday that "people spend other people’s money far less efficiently than their own," this just in from the Associated Press:
The federal program that provides legal help to poor Americans turns away half of its applicants for lack of resources. But that hasn't stopped its executives from lavishing expensive meals, chauffeur-driven cars and foreign trips on themselves. Agency documents obtained by The Associated Press detail the luxuries that executives of the Legal Services Corp. have given themselves with federal money -- from $14 "Death by Chocolate" desserts to $400 chauffeured rides to locations within cab distance of their offices. The government-funded corporation also has a spacious headquarters in Washington's tony Georgetown district -- with views of the Potomac River and a rent significantly higher than other tenants in the same building.
Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, is upset. Maybe at last he can turn his attention from oversight of private charities and universities to his actual job, oversight of federal spending.

Posted on August 17, 2006  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Censorship Is Worse Than Fake News ( General ) by David Boaz

A big story on the front page of the Washington Post Style section is illustrated with a beautiful, stylized photo of new CBS anchor Katie Couric. In tiny letters almost invisible to the naked eye, the photo source is identified as CBS. In other words, it's a publicity photo, not a news photo. There's another glamorous CBS photo dominating page 8, where the story jumps. Would the Post print a corporate news release? Not likely, though smaller papers do. Is that different from using a corporate photo? Perhaps. Should the Federal Newspaper Commission look into the use of corporate photos and corporate news releases? Oh, right, we don't have a Federal Newspaper Commission, because we have a First Amendment. Why, then, is something called the Federal Communications Commission investigating the use of "video news releases" by television broadcasters (as reported on the front page of the Business section the same day)? Oh, right, because somehow the First Amendment doesn't give broadcasters the same free speech rights that newspapers enjoy. Prodded by the anti-free-speech lobby Center for Media and Democracy, the FCC wants to know if broadcasters clearly label "video news releases" produced by corporations when they are used on local news programs. CMD is well within its rights to criticize the use of VNRs. But when it calls for government regulation of what can and must be shown on news broadcasts, it's calling for censorship. And censorship is far worse than "fake news" about new products on local television broadcasts.

Posted on August 16, 2006  Posted to Cato@Liberty

If This Is Wrong I Don’t Want to Be Reich ( General ) by David Boaz

Pathological liar Robert Reich offers a commentary on Wednesday morning's "Marketplace Radio" (not posted yet) complaining that American companies are not lobbying for more spending on science and math education because they are unpatriotically opening labs and software design offices in India and China. So let's see . . . he's upset that the people of the world's two largest countries are finally entering the modern world, and he's upset that huge American businesses are not lobbying for more business subsidies. What a great liberal!

Posted on August 16, 2006  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Political Governance vs. Corporate Governance ( General ) by David Boaz

A New York Times columnist says it may be a mistake to try "to make government run more like a business." Citing research by Matthias Benz and Bruno S. Frey, summarized by Larry Yu, the Times says that government works better than the private sector:
The authority over government is split among the branches of government. In business, Mr. Yu writes, “even if directors have stepped up their governance in recent years, institutional norms still stack the deck in favor of C.E.O.’s.” And while chief executives and directors can serve forever, politicians need to face re-election regularly. When it comes to corporate governance, maybe there is something to be learned from governments.
Well, let's see. According to a Booz Allen study, dismissals of corporate CEOs have risen sharply in the past decade. Among the world's 2,500 largest public companies, "CEOs are as likely to leave prematurely as to retire normally. Continuing a pattern from 2004, in 2005 nearly half of all CEO departures were due to poor performance or mergers." Meanwhile, almost no members of Congress are removed from office involuntarily. As this chart shows, House reelection rates are approaching 100 percent. Does that mean that the U.S. government is performing so much better than the average company that there's no need for change? It seems unlikely that even the Times columnist would make that claim. No, if you read the links above from Booz Allen and the Washington Monthly, you can see some of the differences between politics and business: Business is competitive, to begin with. There are 2,500 large companies in the survey, all competing with one another and with millions of upstart challengers. If Sears and K-Mart don't stay on their toes, Target and Wal-Mart will take their business. Wikipedia lists pages and pages of defunct companies, all of which failed to satisfy customers. Executives lost their jobs, and shareholders lost their money, and those realities are a powerful incentive to executives and shareholders of other companies. Corporate boards are getting more aggressive, and different companies are testing different rules for governance -- outsider CEOs, separating the jobs of CEO and chairman, acquisitions, divestitures, going public, going private -- in an attempt to find the rules that will produce the greatest customer satisfaction and thus the greatest profits. Contrast that with government. Failed bureaucrats are almost never fired; indeed, the standard response to bureaucratic failure is to appropriate more money for the agency. Gerrymandering, campaign finance restrictions, and taxpayer-funded constituent service and propaganda make it almost impossible for a member of Congress to be turned out of office. People spend other people's money far less efficiently than their own. I think the Times got it backwards. It would be more appropriate to say, "When it comes to government, maybe there is something to be learned from corporate governance" -- such as the value of decentralization and competition, retirement ages or term limits, and real penalties for poor performance. Since those factors are unlikely to occur in political systems, the best lesson is to keep as much of life as possible in the private sector.

Posted on August 16, 2006  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Where Are the Conservatives? ( General ) by David Boaz

When the Education Department was created in 1979, many critics warned that a secretary of education would turn into a national minister of education. Rep. John Erlenborn (R-Ill.), for instance, wrote,
There would be interference in textbook choices, curricula, staffing, salaries, the make-up of student bodies, building designs, and all other irritants that the government has invented to harass the population. These decisions which are now made in the local school or school district will slowly but surely be transferred to Washington.
Dissenting from the committee report that recommended establishing the department, Erlenborn and seven other Republicans wrote, "The Department of Education will end up being the Nation's super schoolboard. That is something we can all do without.'' That's why Ronald Reagan promised to abolish Jimmy Carter's Department of Education in his 1980 campaign. And why House Budget Committee chairman John Kasich put abolition of the department in his budget proposal after the 1994 GOP takeover of Congress. But things changed. Instead of eliminating or at least reducing federal intervention in local schools, Republicans in 2001 decided to dramatically escalate it with the No Child Left Behind Act. And now Jeb Bush, whom some conservatives call the best governor in the country, writes in the Washington Post (along with Michael Bloomberg) that we should strengthen NCLB. Make it tougher, they write, with real standards and real enforcement. Create data systems to "track" every student. Create federal standards for teachers. If there's an earthquake this week, it may be caused by Madison, Taft, Goldwater, and Reagan turning over in their graves. Imagine it: the leading conservative governor in America, considered a pioneer in education reform, wants the distant federal government to come into his state's schools and impose tougher rules and regulations. And even the Wall Street Journal's redoubtable editorial page deplores "rampant noncompliance" with federal mandates and "lax enforcement" by Big Brother in Washington. In its new issue, American Conservative magazines asks two dozen leading intellectuals "What is left? What is right? Does it matter?" Not if leading conservatives have made their peace with federal control of local schools--and are demanding that the feds crack down on the locals.

Posted on August 14, 2006  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Another Fiscal Conservative Sighted? ( General ) by David Boaz

The Associated Press states as fact that Sen. Lincoln "Chafee is a fiscal conservative." OK, let's go to the tape. According to the National Taxpayers Union, Chafee voted to restrain taxes and spending only 33 percent of the time in 2005. He introduced 43 bills to raise spending and only two to cut spending. He voted against Medicaid cuts. He voted not to allow a cap on spending increases. He voted to increase spending on community development block grants, low-income heating assistance, education, and a package of welfare programs. What is the AP's definition of a fiscal conservative?

Posted on August 14, 2006  Posted to Cato@Liberty

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