Two Boston area immigrants who fell under the spell of a radical ideology that espoused the use of bombs against innocents were allegedly behind the violent April 15 multiple murders.
But it’s not who you think it is. The year was 1920 and the two men were Ferdinando Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti. Aside from the date and the location, there are other parallels too. And they speak more about us than they do about either Sacco and Vanzetti or the Tsarnaev Brothers.
The nineteen-teens and twenties was a period of great tumult in the United States. After the First World War, which was widely viewed as disastrous mistake for having gotten involved, Americans rejected all things associated with the outside world. The aftermath of the Great War brought upheaval to Europe. Replacing failing empires and monarchies was Russian communism, German socialism, and varying amounts of anarchy seemingly everywhere else.
Today there is the ongoing collapse of the Euro and the demise of Middle Eastern strongmen, and so we fear radical islamism and economic contagion from Cyprus and Greece.
Eight decades ago the end of the war brought economic troubles too. High unemployment, which was widely and mistakenly thought of as a normal post-war adjustment to a lack of military demand and a surplus of returning soldiers, was actually just a result of the post-war continuation of the ongoing de-agriculturalization of the world economy. Regardless of the cause, greater unemployment turned American workers against more recent immigrants who were looking for work too. In 1917 America passed its first immigration restriction laws barring the entry of “idiots, imbeciles, epileptics, alcoholics . . . ” and Asians. Just a year before, an influential eugenicist wrote The Passing of the Great Race that became widely popular. By 1924 America had its first immigration quotas that attempting to freeze in place the country’s racial composition.
Today unemployment is higher than normal as the world deals with the fallout associated with becoming a post-manufacturing economy. Pat Buchanan hawks The Death of the West: How Dying Populations and Immigrant Invasions Imperil Our Country and Civilization. Politicians from all sides rail against “illegal” immigration but very often demagogue all immigration.
Both periods were characterized by big fights over petty tangential issues that many prudes insisted contributed to unrest and crime. The Volstead Act passed in the wake of the 18th Amendment gave us Prohibition, while today the President and many Democratic leaders want to outlaw guns. Were those laws to pass, more, not less, crime would be the result, just as more crime was the result of Prohibition too.
Certainly I could carry the parallels further, but let me just conclude with a few questions:
- Was it really necessary to quarantine an entire city to capture a couple criminals whose bombing victims numbered one-one-thousandth of those killed on 9/11?
- Does it not speak volumes about the limits of power and the power of people that the police were unsuccessful during their hours of uninhibited manhunt, but as soon as the house arrest was lifted a citizen found the suspect?
- Is it realistic to expect that among millions of immigrants there won’t be a few criminals, when we have millions of native Americans locked up here at home?
- Is not labeling violence as “terrorism” or “an act of war” just another form of “hate” crime, which attempts to characterize criminals by their thoughts instead of their acts?
- If three dead bombing victims is enough to rescind an American citizen’s constitutional rights, is two? Or one? Or none?
Now that the Supreme Court has ruled with Obamacare that the federal government is limited in what it can mandate that the states legislate, I’d like to see one or more of the states lower the drinking age back to 18 this year. If you are old enough to vote and old enough to serve in the military, you should be old enough to buy a drink.
Still on the subject of alcohol, I’d like to to see more states join Washington’s lead and remove the mandatory second tier of alcohol distributors that serve as legally required monopolies that raise prices and reduce the selection available to the wine-buying public in the other 49 states.
Not that I would like to see continued violence in the Middle East, but since it is a near certainty anyway, I’d like to see it happen in 2013 without any hint that America will get even remotely involved.
I’d like to see no calls this year for any sort of extension to American involvement in Afghanistan.
I’d like to see Congress and the White House continue to be at loggerheads throughout all of 2013. Since every meaningful compromise in recent decades has resulted in higher taxes, greater spending, bigger debt, and diminished freedom, doing nothing is Washington’s best course of action.
I’d like to see the Department of Defense deal seriously with sequestration by eliminating commands, agencies, directorates, and staffs instead of reducing either the number or effectiveness of ships, wings, and brigades.
I’d also like to see DoD kill a few hideously expensive major weapons programs this year–especially the F-35.
I’d like to continue to see the collapse of the legacy broadcast and print media. CNN, NBC, Time, and the New York Times each have brands far larger than their real contemporary influence; it only follows that the economics of that untenable situation will catch up to them–hopefully in 2013.
I’d like to see 2013 produce no viral videos that spark any more line-dancing crazes. The Chicken Dance, the Electric Slide, and the Macarena were each bad enough before Gangnam Style. Please, let’s not do this again. Ever.
And since I will have a college student in 2014, I’d like to see the higher education bubble burst in 2013.
If the deal is $1.2 T in new taxes and new spending now in exchange for $400 B in cuts ten or more years away, then Republicans shouldn’t walk away from “fiscal cliff” negotiations. They should run.
The alternative is to just let sequestration take effect. The biggest hit is to the Department of Defense. And I can tell you that the hit won’t be nearly deep enough.*
*Usual caveat about this being my view and not DoD’s, blah, and blah.
As polls begin closing in the Eastern time zone, I am actually rather complacent about the outcome. Yes, I voted for Mitt Romney, and yes, I want him to win. But I guess I have a fatalistic view about what happens regardless of which man wins tonight.
Here is what I envision over the next four years:
The bond yield is going to skyrocket as inflation begins to take hold. That will push up the deficit because of the increased interest the government will have to pay to its creditors. The effects of inflation will be horrible. We’ll do something stupid to forestall this, like feed even more debt to the Fed. It won’t work. Inflation will find our door. But if I’m wrong, and inflation doesn’t come, that is almost as bad, as it means another four years of super low interest rates and a corresponding dearth of interest income and saving. Four more years of baby boomers retiring with no increase in interest rates is very bad indeed.
Regardless of who is in charge, America will still be held back by the sclerotic state of the nation’s bureaucracy. As Meghan McArdle pointed out recently, there have been plans for hardening the essential infrastructure of the NY/NJ area for years. It would have been nice to have last week. Those plans are still in review. They will still be in review a decade from now. This, in a city that saw the Empire State Building go from a hole in the ground to completion in less than 14 months. Obamacare is just the latest circle of bureaucratic hell through which America’s entrepreneuers must wade, and even if Romney is elected, much of it, I am saddened to report, will remain intact. At some point our economic engines are like Napoleon’s troops invading Russia: supply lines were so long that there was no room for anything else in the carriage but the fodder for the horses pulling the carts. There was nothing left to do then but to eat the horse. I fear that we’re nearing that point.
An even bumpier economic ride is overdue overseas. China is on the edge of a cliff; its coming catastrophe will either be economic or cultural. Probably both. Japan is nearing the end of its free money holiday. With the highest debt load in the developed world as well as the oldest population, Japan is not just an economic mess, but serves as a warning to others who are quickly tracing the same path. Even more concerning is that China and Japan are both still very closed societies; they are unlikely to search earnestly and inwardly for blame or solution. It is easier to look outside for blame. And then there’s Europe: beset by unbridgeable divides, it will collapse with rippling economic, cultural, and perhaps even military effects upon the United States.
Unfortunately our competitors and enemies will not bide their time these next four years. Our foolishness in the Middle East and in North Africa has placed America in a damned if it does, damned if it doesn’t situation. But of the two, doesn’t–disengagement–offers the least potential downsides. Regardless of who is elected, we won’t disengage. Instead we will continue to reinforce failure overseas just as we have for years. As for Russia . . . enough said.
We are an nation divided evenly between two irreconciable ideologies. On the one side is the collectivist progressive who knows that by centralizing control in the hands of leaders empowered by special powers, that America will be a fairer place. On the other side is the rugged individualist who knows that if he were freed of extraordinary restrictions that he could accomplish extraordinary things and that will make America a stronger place.
This is not a new conflict. In fact, it’s the conflict that gave birth to our nation, when we left England and an anointed elite behind. But we didn’t leave it entirely behind. And by degree, collectivism has returned. For decades we have been able to paper over the differences between the two camps through the incredible surplusses that we have amassed. But those surplusses are soon to come to an end.
We could forestall that day, perhaps even reverse time. But unfortunately, even if Mitt Romney wins tonight, he will not win with a mandate for real change. Thus we will toddle down Japan’s path to our own end. At least that beats sprinting there.
Sara Hoyt: We’ve come to the end of cake
Read the whole thing.
The headline unemployment rate fell below 8% percent for the first time in nearly four years to 7.8%. Good news, right? Not really. Buried in the report is the reason for the decline:
” . . . total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 114,000, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today.
“The number of unemployed persons, at 12.1 million, decreased by 456,000 in September.”
Wait: How can unemployment fall by an amount equal to four times the number of newly employed people? Simple. If you stop looking for work, you’re not unemployed.
Because of population increases America needs to see between 150,000 and 180,000 new jobs added each month just to stay even. We’re nowhere near that:
“In 2012, employment growth has averaged 146,000 per month, compared with an average monthly gain of 153,000 in 2011.”
September job growth is below this year’s average, which has fallen slightly from last year’s average. Simply put: new jobs aren’t being created at a rate that sustains a vibrant economy. This is not a recovery. And it never has been.
Given the continued existence of Guantanamo, the expanded wars in the Middle East, not to mention, expanded war powers at home, it shouldn’t be surprising that once again Barack Obama has chosen George W. Bush as his role model.
This is the 2004 election all over again. An embattled incumbent struggles with his popularity due to the perception that he has badly bungled the nation’s most important crisis, albeit one that wasn’t his fault since he inherited it shortly after taking office. The perception is reinforced by the Presidents’ focus on issues thought to be tangential to the central crisis. In 2004 it was the opinion that the war against al Qaeda was the big issue while an unnecessary war in Iraq was a poorly planned fiasco that made the real problem worse. Today the issue is jobs, while the generally accepted view is that the two-year-long focus on a health insurance program was both distracting and counterproductive. Furthermore, this week’s Democratic convention shows that Obama’s re-election platform is vintage Bush: The incumbent promises four more years of the same. Only, instead of more troops and more money, it’s more spending and more money
On the challenger side we have parallels with 2004 as well. Both are unsympathetic rich men from Massachusetts whose past includes prominence in the arena of the central crisis where the incumbent has demonstrated none. It was Silver Star awardee John Kerry eight years ago and it is successful businessman Mitt Romney today. Even their foibles are similar. The etch-a-sketch metaphor for Mitt Romney is a virtual replica of John Kerry’s wind-surfing video. Meanwhile it’s hard not to hear echoes of “I was for it before I was against it” whenever today’s challenger tries to explain away his former support for statist health care. Even the vice presidential challengers are similar: youngish white men from long-shot, though still competitive states, and whose experience appeals to their party’s base: trial lawyers in 2004 and budget cutters today.
But there are differences. In 2004 George W. Bush didn’t have the luxury of being able to lose a few votes and still win re-election. He won the Presidency the first time around by the slimmest of electoral margins and actually lost the popular vote. Bush needed to pick up voters and states to win a second term. Barack Obama can still win even if he drops a point or two from his previous result and loses a few states he once won.
Still, that should offer the current incumbent little comfort. His campaign has lost electoral votes due to redistricting and has already conceded Indiana. North Carolina, which he barely won by 5,000 votes four years ago, is also all but gone. As for constituencies, there are many where Obama has lost support. Young voters support him in smaller numbers this time and appear far less enthusiastic than they did before. There is a real risk that the Democrat will fall under 50% with non-governmental labor voters. Additionally, polls continue to indicate slippage with Hispanics, Jews, and Muslims. As for blacks, exit polls four years ago indicated a level of support that was within the margin of error of 100%. There is no upside left. Joe Biden’s “chains” remark was calculated to ensure that blacks came out to vote in numbers matching 2008’s levels so that Democrats don’t lose those numbers.
Even more alarming to the Obama Campaign should be his overall standing in the polls. Since July his approval ratings have stayed below 50%. Eight years before George W. Bush dropped only once below that level in the last four months before the race.
Confronted with similar challenges, Obama looks to have employed Karl Rove’s plan: highlight social wedge issues to drive up his level of support among a large constituency generally predisposed in his favor. Bush targeted Evangelical Christians; Obama bases his reelection campaign on getting even greater support from childless women. And the central argument by which Obama means to make his case to women is abortion. To me, it appears to be an argument that is both patronizing and simplistic.
I’ve spent the last few months in Germany where, true to the stereotype, outdated American pop culture rules. Yes, David Hasselhoff is still popular here, as evidenced by the fact that his 60th birthday two months ago was a leading story in the German news. One fifteen-year old song currently making the rounds over here is Meredith Brooks’ Nothing In Between. “I’m a bitch, I’m a lover, I’m a child, I’m a mother, I’m a sinner, I’m a saint . . . ” she refrains again and again. Though somewhat crudely, she makes the rather obvious point that, just like men, women are complex beings irreducible to a single description or category.
But Obama has chosen a view of women opposite that of Ms. Brooks. To today’s Democrat, if you have a uterus, you must vote blue. Code Pink metaphorically represents this strategy. Dressed in giant vagina costumes, they have reduced womanhood to an organ. Yes, I find it more than a little ironic that the transgendered part of the GLBT community overwhelmingly aligns itself with the party that wants to categorize people solely on the basis of their plumbing.
We saw evidence of the Democrats’ strategy over and over in Charlotte where seemingly every speaker highlighted abortion. If Republicans are the party of God (and they are not), it’s as if Democrats have purposefully chosen to be the anti-God—even to the extent that they willfully created the spectacle of their rancor over any reference to God in their platform.
So now that both parties’ conventions are over we have the script for the next two months. Republicans have consolidated their base around deficit reduction while they attempt to win over independents with a focus on jobs that they say Obama has mistakenly ignored. Democrats meanwhile propose more of the same to fix the economy, while they focus on demonizing Romney and attempt to frighten its most ardent supporters into maximizing their turnout. It’s a plan that has a chance of working. Romney, like Kerry, has just enough deficiencies that he very well could lose to an unpopular president.
But it’s a plan with great risks. One difference from eight years ago is that today there are now roughly twice as many independent voters. Throughout 2004 those unsure whether or not they approved or disapproved of the incumbent hovered between three and six percent. This year opinion polls show that between six and nine percent of respondents are unsure about the president. These are undecided voters whom Romney has courted and Obama has ignored. The Democratic convention made clear that Obama isn’t trying to win their support so much as he wants to make Mitt Romney unpalatable.
Another risk is in the medium to long term. For one thing, building your organization’s core message around the childless isn’t exactly a model likely to yield inter-generational success. Secondly, pinning your party’s hopes on the most vocal advocates of a highly controversial social issue, when there is near universal agreement that other issues are more important, gives your party’s megaphone to those who are both extreme and irrelevant. Sandra Fluke is this year’s Terri Schiavo. For every already-Democrat she inspires to vote, she turns off at least one independent for the crime of insulting them by ignoring larger issues. Karl Rove’s plan to drive up Evangelical turnout in 2004, while it worked then, gave rise four years later to Mike Huckabee, who is perhaps the most demagogic and dangerous major presidential candidate to have run for office since William Jennings Bryan beclowned himself and his party in the late 19th century. It should have taken years for the GOP to disassociate its reputation from Huckabee’s form of Evangelical theocracy. Except now it appears that Democrats look ready to rush into their own version of anti-First-Amendment totalitarianism that, instead of forcing adherence to religious views, forces opposition to them. Most Americans hate both extremes of this tangential debate. If Obama does win, you can be sure that the most extreme pro-abortion voices will shriek even louder in 2016. That can’t be good for Democrats.
Returning to poll numbers, the President’s strategy appears to me to be less likely to work now than it did for Bush in 2004. Bush straddled 50% support almost throughout 2004. If you’ve got half the vote, you can afford to focus your efforts on turning out your base. Barack Obama almost never sees poll numbers that high. Particularly among likely voters, this President is mired around 46 to 48 percent. Coupled with 2008’s remarkably high turnout among usually low turnout youth and minorities, it’s hard to see him hitting 50%.
But give Obama points for consistency. After 2010’s complete Democratic collapse in the worst mid-term congressional landslide in at least a generation, there was much speculation that Obama would, like Bill Clinton before him, pivot to the center. He did not and still does not. Refusing to offer any significant legislation where he could meet Republicans on common ground, he has staked his future on the past two years of no accomplishments while he stokes his party’s disdain for the other side. I think that it is a strategy destined to fail.
But if he succeeds? I suspect that we’ll see yet one more Obama-Bush parallel: a slim-majority reelection of a mediocre president whose own party’s second-term support dissipates in the absence of an electoral challenge.
Starting tomorrow I will be going on active duty for the next four months. That means that my posts will probably be less frequent and will certainly be less partisan. When I come back in September I will return with a fresh up-close perspective on the European economy, Middle East politics, and Defense Department waste, as well as the upcoming presidential election.
And if I’m real lucky, I’ll be able to talk with you about a book.
BTW, this might be a good opportunity to reiterate that whatever opinions you read on this site are mine alone and are not to be construed as the opinions of the Department of Defense.
| Category: 2012
, 2nd Amendment
, Taxes & Spending
| Posted at: Thursday, 10 May 2012
I suppose I ought to say something about President Obama’s flip-flop on gay marriage. Instead, I’ll tell you what I wish Mitt Romney had said when he was asked about the President’s stance:
“That’s nice; now what about jobs?“
In fact, that should be Mitt Romney’s response every time he is asked about gay marriage, immigration, guns, Trayvon Martin, global warming, eating dogs . . .
Pretty much everything except the economy, taxes, and spending is a distraction from the issues that are really important. Mitt Romney should drive the point home that everything else is secondary and frivolous and that he is not going to allow the debate to come off that point.
P.S. If you’re really interested in what I think about gay marriage, here’s a couple recent posts that shed some light on that. But rather than expect you to read them, here’s a two-word summation: Don’t care.
MORE: Roger Simon concurs and offers a warning:
“The issue is a sideshow intended to distract. If our country goes the way of Greece – and writing this from the City of Los Angeles, it’s not so hard to imagine – you can forget any issue, whatever your favorite one is. You won’t be living in America anymore.”
UPDATE: Thanks to Ed at Insty’s Place for the links. While you’re here, this is a story that’s not directly about jobs, but I bring it around to that point: She deserves pity, not a punch in the throat. (There’s a bonus Blazing Saddles clip at the end.)
From the Bureau of Labor Services April labor report:
THE EMPLOYMENT SITUATION — APRIL 2012
Nonfarm payroll employment rose by 115,000 in April, and the unemployment rate was little changed at 8.1 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Employment increased in professional and business services, retail trade, and health care, but declined in transportation and warehousing.
Household Survey Data
Both the number of unemployed persons (12.5 million) and the unemployment rate (8.1 percent) changed little in April. (See table A-1.)
Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates for adult men (7.5 percent), adult women (7.4 percent), teenagers (24.9 percent), whites (7.4 percent), and Hispanics (10.3 percent) showed little or no change in April, while the rate for blacks (13.0 percent) declined over the month. The jobless rate for Asians was 5.2 percent in April (not seasonally adjusted), little changed from a year earlier. (See tables A-1, A-2, and A-3.)
The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks and over) was little changed at 5.1 million in April. These individuals made up 41.3 percent of the unemployed. Over the year, the number of long-term unemployedhas fallen by 759,000. (See table A-12.)
The civilian labor force participation rate declined in April to 63.6 percent, while the employment-population ratio, at 58.4 percent, changed little. (See table A-1.)
The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers) was essentially unchanged in April at 7.9 million. These individuals were working part time because their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find a full-time job. (See table A-8.)
In April, 2.4 million persons were marginally attached to the labor force, essentially unchanged from a year earlier. (The data are not seasonally adjusted.) These individuals were not in the labor force, wanted and were available for work, and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months. They were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey. (See table A-16.)
Among the marginally attached, there were 968,000 discouraged workers in April, about the same as a year earlier. (The data are not seasonally adjusted.) Discouraged workers are persons not currently looking for work because they believe no jobs are available for them. The remaining 1.4 million persons marginally attached to the labor force in April had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey for reasons such as school attendance or family responsibilities. (See table A-16.) [Emphasis added.]
This is what a stagnant economy looks like. The gain of 115,000 jobs is less than enough to keep up with population increases, and was below the median economic forecast for April. The only reason that the unemployment rate “fell” to 8.1% is because the labor force participation rate keeps dropping. If you stop looking for work, you aren’t unemployed. But you’re not employed either. You’re just “missing.” You don’t count.
Welcome to the country we now live in: the Stag-Nation.
Thanks to Glenn and Bruce for the links. While you’re here, check out the Obama Re-elect campaign’s latest ad: The Life of Brian.
Labor force participation rate drops by a staggering 522,000 to the lowest level since 1981. That, btw, was two years before Mr. Mom, a movie about the entry of women into the workforce, forced there by the bad economy. This economy is so bad that women are kicked out of the workforce to a rate not seen in over 30 years.
I wonder what Julia’s going to do now.