Social Issues in the 2012 Election

Remember when Republicans thought that social issues, especially gay marriage bans, would help them win the 2004 election? There's good evidence that it wasn't true even then. But take a look at 2012. Even though President Obama and the Democratic platform have endorsed marriage equality, Mitt Romney and the Republicans are staying well away from the issue. And well they should. The Washington Post reported earlier this month:
In February, a poll by the [Des Moines Register] newspaper found that 56 percent of Iowans were opposed to legislative efforts to pass a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. That is consistent with other swing states: Voters back gay marriage by 21 points in Florida, 15 points in Ohio and nine in Virginia, new Washington Post polls found.
A September Post poll in the crucial state of Ohio found that by 61 to 30 percent, registered voters said they trusted Obama "to do a better job dealing with social issues such as abortion and gay marriage." A poll published Sunday found that in swing-state Virginia
Obama also enjoys a wide lead among likely voters (56 percent to 35 percent) on the question of social issues, such as abortion and same-sex marriage.
Post polls also found that nationally 63 percent of the tiny number of genuine swing voters support gay marriage. That sound you don't hear, the sound of Republican speeches and ads denouncing Obama for his support of gay marriage? That's the sound of social change. Much more on these topics in our new ebook, The Libertarian Vote: Swing Voters, Tea Parties, and the Fiscally Conservative, Socially Liberal Center.

Posted on October 29, 2012  Posted to Cato@Liberty

The Canadian Model for Fiscal Reform

In the Washington Post today, Brian Lee Crowley discusses the still little-known story of Canada's
tremendous budgetary turnaround achieved in the mid-1990s. Over just a few years, between 1995 and 1998, Canada transformed a $32 billion federal deficit, equivalent to 4 percent of its gross domestic product, into a $2.5 billion surplus. This achievement was followed by a full decade of surplus budgets, with debt, tax and poverty rates all falling as growth, investment and employment rose.
Crowley discusses the reasons the success happened, from bipartisan (actually multipartisan) agreement to rallying public support. He promises six reasons, but lists only five. Maybe that's part of the cutbacks. It's an inspiring story: if Canada could cut federal spending from 22 percent of GDP to 15 percent, why can't we? And it's a story you could have read in Cato Policy Report in May. Long-ago Canadian Chris Edwards, Cato's director of tax policy studies, wrote:
In just two years, total noninterest spending fell by 10 percent, which would be like the U.S. Congress chopping $340 billion from this year's noninterest federal spending of $3.4 trillion. When U.S. policymakers talk about "cutting" spending, they usually mean reducing spending growth rates, but the Canadians actually spent less when they reformed their budget in the 1990s.
And he offered this graphic depiction of the diverging fiscal picture in the United States and Canada: Members of Congress: take note. Washington Post readers: You could have read it here first.

Posted on October 29, 2012  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Does "Pro-Life" Mean Government Control? To Thomas Friedman It Does

Thomas Friedman of the New York Times has a column today provocatively titled "Why I Am Pro-Life." Of course he doesn't mean that he wants the government to protect life in utero. Instead he turns to a standard Democratic theme: How can you say you're "pro-life" and oppose welfare, environmental regulation, and every other government program? Friedman doesn't miss a beat: "common-sense gun control...the Environmental Protection Agency, which ensures clean air and clean water, prevents childhood asthma, preserves biodiversity and combats climate change that could disrupt every life on the planet.... programs like Head Start that provide basic education, health and nutrition for the most disadvantaged children...." But then he takes it a breathtaking step further:
the most “pro-life” politician in America is New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. While he supports a woman’s right to choose, he has also used his position to promote a whole set of policies that enhance everyone’s quality of life — from his ban on smoking in bars and city parks to reduce cancer, to his ban on the sale in New York City of giant sugary drinks to combat obesity and diabetes, to his requirement for posting calorie counts on menus in chain restaurants, to his push to reinstate the expired federal ban on assault weapons and other forms of common-sense gun control, to his support for early childhood education, to his support for mitigating disruptive climate change.
Thomas Friedman's vision of "pro-life" policies is, in every case, a network of bans and mandates forcing us to live our lives in ways that are pleasing to him and Mayor Bloomberg. No "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" for him. No, his pro-life vision is Ira Levin's dystopia in This Perfect Day, a world in which the state takes care of our every need. When Hayek, in his essay "Why I Am Not a Conservative," wrote about "the party of life," he described it as "the party that favors free growth and spontaneous evolution." Not Tom Friedman's party! And certainly also not the party that seeks to ban drugs, gay marriage, and the discussion of evolution in science class. In her book The Future and Its Enemies, Virginia Postrel wrote at length about "the party of life," and she didn't have in mind Friedman's crabbed view of a government that "protects life" by snuffing out liberty. Some years ago I wrote a column titled "Pro-Life," and I too had the Hayekian, not the Bloomberg-Friedman, view of life and liberty in mind. But long before that, as usual, Alexis de Tocqueville, in "What Sort of Despotism Democratic Nations Have to Fear," warned us that one day Thomas Friedman and Michael Bloomberg would come for our liberties:
Above this race of men stands an immense and tutelary power, which takes upon itself alone to secure their gratifications and to watch over their fate. That power is absolute, minute, regular, provident, and mild. It would be like the authority of a parent if, like that authority, its object was to prepare men for manhood; but it seeks, on the contrary, to keep them in perpetual childhood: it is well content that the people should rejoice, provided they think of nothing but rejoicing. For their happiness such a government willingly labors, but it chooses to be the sole agent and the only arbiter of that happiness; it provides for their security, foresees and supplies their necessities, facilitates their pleasures, manages their principal concerns, directs their industry, regulates the descent of property, and subdivides their inheritances: what remains, but to spare them all the care of thinking and all the trouble of living? Thus it every day renders the exercise of the free agency of man less useful and less frequent; it circumscribes the will within a narrower range and gradually robs a man of all the uses of himself. The principle of equality has prepared men for these things;it has predisposed men to endure them and often to look on them as benefits. After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp and fashioned him at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.

Posted on October 28, 2012  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Canadian Children Take American Jobs

This week on ABC's Nashville, viewers were treated to the musical debut of the daughters of country star Rayna Jaymes (Connie Britton). Actual sisters Lennon and Maisy Stella play Jaymes's daughters Maddie and Daphne Conrad. And on the show's third episode, they sing a song together at a school talent show, to rave reviews. Take a look: And just who are these darling, talented girls singing their hearts out in the heartland of America? Why, it turns out they're . . . Canadian. But you've got to go to the proud Canadian media to find out. Are there no little American girls who could play a country singer's daughters? They're taking our jobs! I grew up a hundred miles from Nashville. They may be taking jobs from my own relatives. (I made the same point back in 2007 about baseball player Daisuke Matsuzaka, who was clearly taking a job in the major leagues that an American could fill.) Notice how the American media, like Nashville station WKRN and the Wetpaint website, conceal the sinister Canadian origins of the young singers. Why do they hate American child singers? Seriously, of course, we all benefit from free trade and liberal immigration rules. Hollywood has been enhanced by Canadians Mary Pickford, William Shatner, Jim Carrey, Justin Bieber, and James Cameron. We all benefit from companies like Google, Intel, Yahoo!, eBay, Netgear, and YouTube, all started at least in part by immigrants. Though I do wonder about this from the Toronto Star:
Only one obstacle remained: the girls needed a green card. As Canadian citizens, they were still prohibited from working in the U.S. “They had the parts for Nashville already,” says Marylynne. “But in order to get their visas, they needed to get press. So we needed to get something in the local papers or local TV in Whitby or Oshawa, anything, to get anybody to say anything about them, so we could put it in the application for their visas.” To that end, she uploaded a new video, a rerecording of a song that the girls had performed at a local talent show, an a capella cover of “Call Your Girlfriend.” The clip exploded, “literally overnight,” marvels Marylynne. “It went so viral so fast, they got all the press they needed . . . and it happened all in one day. We posted the video on May 30, at about 2 o’clock in the morning, and the next day we were on Good Morning America in New York.”
The Star didn't finish the story. Did the girls get their green cards? Presumably. Did media attention help? That's the implication. Does the INS deliver green cards faster to popular celebrities? You'd have to ask them. Immigration rules should apply equally to everyone. But it's good to keep America welcoming talent from all over the world.

Posted on October 26, 2012  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Libertarian Vote Ebook Shows Libertarian Growth

Our new ebook, The Libertarian Vote: Swing Voters, Tea Parties, and the Fiscally Conservative, Socially Liberal Center, is No. 1 on Amazon's Practical Politics bestseller list (at least as of post time.) Get your own Kindle version at Amazon or a variety of formats (.epub, .mobi, and .pdf) at the Cato store. Last year Nate Silver of the New York Times wrote about rising libertarian trends on two questions regularly asked in CNN and Gallup polls:
Some people think the government is trying to do too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses. Others think that government should do more to solve our country’s problems. Which comes closer to your own view? Some people think the government should promote traditional values in our society. Others think the government should not favor any particular set of values. Which comes closer to your own view?
I was especially interested since those are two of the questions that David Kirby and I regularly use in our studies of "the libertarian vote." CNN asked the questions again in 2012, and the combined libertarian support rose again. Here's a graphic depiction of those poll results, from Cato's Jon Meyers, which you can also find in our new ebook, The Libertarian Vote.

Buy it now! Find all our studies, plus lots more colorful graphs.

Posted on October 26, 2012  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Europe’s Crisis on PBS

If you're looking for something scary to do on Halloween, check out Cato senior fellow Johan Norberg's documentary, “Europe’s Debt: America’s Crisis?” on PBS stations across the country. It's been running for awhile, and will be seen in Maryland and Michigan on Sunday night. But it will be seen in many markets, from Tampa to Fairbanks, next Wednesday, October 31. The Free to Choose Network, which produced the film, describes it this way:
Four investigative reports, shot on location in Greece, Brussels, California and Washington DC, highlight this in depth examination of Europe’s current debt crisis and its connection to the U.S. economy.  Narrated by Swedish author Johan Norberg, and George Mason University professor, Don Boudreaux, the investigative reports ask:  “Where did Europe go wrong” and “is the United States now repeating the same mistakes?”
Participants include Cato friends Jacob Mchangama and Tanja Stumberger, as well as such key players as former comptroller general David Walker, former European Commissioner Frits Bolkestein, and Ann Johnson, mayor of Stockton, California. For broadcasts in your area, check the listings here. For Johan Norberg's books and articles, click here.

Posted on October 26, 2012  Posted to Cato@Liberty

‘The Libertarian Vote’ — Now in an Ebook

What a long way we’ve come since David Kirby and I first started writing about the libertarian vote in 2006. Back then liberal blogger Matt Yglesias neatly summarized the conventional political wisdom: the libertarian vote is “zero percent,” “a rounding error in the scheme of things.” Why would anyone care what libertarians think? And National Review’s Ramesh Ponnuru suggested that Republicans would actually lose votes by appealing to libertarians. In our new ebook, The Libertarian Vote: Swing Voters, Tea Parties, and the Fiscally Conservative, Socially Liberal Center, Kirby, Emily Ekins, and I bring together our studies and other writings on libertarian voters, along with some spiffy new graphics. (That's the Amazon link; for multiple formats, go here.) Today, libertarians are an increasingly influential and accepted part of the political mix. Ron Paul went deep into the 2012 Republican presidential primary, drawing crowds of thousands of young people and 2.1 million votes; and his son Sen. Rand Paul is being joined by other libertarian-leaning members of both houses of Congress. Tea partiers have strong libertarian roots, as Kirby and Emily Ekins discuss in two articles in this ebook. The “Audit the Fed” bill passed the U.S. House 327 to 98; all but one Republican and 89 Democrats voted yes. In academia, social scientist Jonathan Haidt teamed up with scholars at UCLA, USC, and NYU to conduct the largest study ever on “libertarian psychology.” Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch write about a “libertarian moment” in their book Declaration of Independents. The latest Governance Survey from Gallup, earlier visions of which are cited throughout the book, finds 25 percent of respondents gave libertarian responses to two questions (“government is trying to do too many things” and “government should promote traditional values”), up from 17 percent in 2004, 21 percent in 2006, and 23 percent in 2008 and 2010. Analysts from GOPAC to Nate Silver at the New York Times have tried to measure the libertarian – or “fiscally conservative, socially liberal” – constituency. Read all about it in The Libertarian Vote. Those who doubt the relevance of the libertarian vote might consult the last commentary in the book, “The Real Swing Voters,” which finds evidence in an August 2012 ABC-Washington Post poll that the truly independent voters still up for grabs lean strongly libertarian.

Posted on October 25, 2012  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Money and Politics in the Tennessee Democratic Party

Buried inside a Washington Post feature on "America's worst candidate" is this revealing look on politics as it is played:
Tennessee Democrats, who’d watched their conservative voters drift to the GOP, finally lost the state House in 2010. That had been a financial lifeline for Democrats, since the legislature has broad powers over patronage. “That pretty much was the end,” said [Will T. Cheek, a Nashville investor who has been a member of the state Democratic Party’s executive committee since 1970]. “Because we have nothing left. In the other low points, we had the Election Commission, we had the Building Commission. .?.?. If you wanted to get state deposits into your bank, those were all ours. And that’s where you’d raise your money.” Losing those powers “really kicked the props out from under the financing of the party,” Cheek said.

Posted on October 23, 2012  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Politics Is Better as Fiction

If the season's got you thinking cynically about politics and politicians, TCM has the movies for you. It's running a series all this month called "American Politics on Film." You've missed classics like "A Face in the Crowd," but there's still time to catch "All the King's Men" this Thursday night, about a Southern reformer who becomes corrupted by power, and "All the President's Men" on Friday night, about an ambitious Westerner who was probably corrupt long before he got power. Also on Friday night: "Advise and Consent" and "Seven Days in May," made from the great political novels of the 50s and 60s. Whatever happened to great political novels, anyway? For movies about freedom, click here.

Posted on October 23, 2012  Posted to Cato@Liberty

RIP George McGovern

George McGovern, longtime senator and the Democratic nominee for president in 1972, has died at the age of 90. I recall a friend at Vanderbilt University telling me, "The night McGovern was nominated, the Republicans and the hippies partied together." Nixon won in a landslide, of course, as McGovern was accused of supporting "acid, amnesty, and abortion." Not to mention opposing the Vietnam War. Someone -- maybe Art Buchwald -- said it was McGovern's fault that Nixon was reelected, because if he had run unopposed he would have lost. Over at Reason, Jesse Walker and Nick Gillespie offer libertarian appreciations of McGovern. Quoting Bill Kauffman, Walker reminds us:
In the home stretch of the '72 campaign, McGovern was groping toward truths that exist far beyond the cattle pens of Left and Right. "Government has become so vast and impersonal that its interests diverge more and more from the interests of ordinary citizens," he said two days before the election. "For a generation and more, the government has sought to meet our needs by multiplying its bureaucracy. Washington has taken too much in taxes from Main Street, and Main Street has received too little in return. It is not necessary to centralize power in order to solve our problems." Charging that Nixon "uncritically clings to bloated bureaucracies, both civilian and military," McGovern promised to "decentralize our system."
Would that have happened, especially under a president elected by a party heavily populated and directed by the people who run those bureaucracies? Probably not. But it would be nice to try it one of these days. And the Wall Street Journal reminds us of what McGovern learned after he left the Senate and tried running a small business. If you're not a Journal subscriber, Google "George McGovern in the Journal" or "A Politician's Dream Is a Businessman's Nightmare," and you can probably find the article. But here's a taste:
But my business associates and I also lived with federal, state and local rules that were all passed with the objective of helping employees, protecting the environment, raising tax dollars for schools, protecting our customers from fire hazards, etc. While I never have doubted the worthiness of any of these goals, the concept that most often eludes legislators is: "Can we make consumers pay the higher prices for the increased operating costs that accompany public regulation and government reporting requirements with reams of red tape." It is a simple concern that is nonetheless often ignored by legislators.... In short, "one-size-fits-all" rules for business ignore the reality of the marketplace. And setting thresholds for regulatory guidelines at artificial levels -- e.g., 50 employees or more, $500,000 in sales -- takes no account of other realities, such as profit margins, labor intensive vs. capital intensive businesses, and local market economics.

Posted on October 21, 2012  Posted to Cato@Liberty

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