The WSJ’s Peggy Noonan lays out the known facts of the IRS case and concludes that it requires a special prosecutor. She’s right, and frankly, it’s amazing how in a week, the American media has pretty much come around from the question of if a special prosecutor is needed for the IRS investigation, to how broad should be the limits of the special prosecutor’s investigation?
But here’s where Noonan gets it wrong. Right in the last paragraph:
“Again, if what happened at the IRS is not stopped now—if the internal corruption within it is not broken—it will never stop, and never be broken. The American people will never again be able to have the slightest confidence in the revenue-gathering arm of their government. And that, actually, would be tragic.”
Actually it wouldn’t be “tragic” if the American people were not to have confidence in this or any arm of their government. It would be exactly what the Founders called for.
My favorite quotation from the entire 85 editions of the Federalist Papers is this one from Federalist 25 by Alexander Hamilton:
“The people are always most in danger when the means of injuring their rights are in the possession of those of whom they entertain the least suspicion.”
In fact, you could almost sum up the gist of the entire Constitution with that single statement, as the Constitution attempted to set up a system where no branch of government was in sole possession of the means of injuring our rights. How far we have strayed, however, when the wing of the government that determines how much of our labors are to be taken into the Federal trough also inquires about our associations, our religious practices, and soon, our medical care.
Peggy, you are right to call for a special investigator. But you are wrong to assert that it is a tragedy if, as a result of this scandal, we no longer have confidence in the IRS. The real tragedies would occur as a result of believing that any branch of government was deserving of our unsuspicious confidence.
One of the things that I did in November 2008 was to begin writing a novel. If I had to describe it in one sentence: Frances Mayes meets Ayn Rand.
It’s the story of a young man in the early 1970s who wants nothing more than to make great wine. So, not unlike the prospectors who travelled west a century before him, he went to California to find bottled gold. He succeeds. But that is when his troubles start. Success breeds envy and contempt from others and he finds himself engaged in political battles to try and maintain what he has built. That is when his political outlook begins to change. Oh, and I should mention that the protagonist is gay.
I’m only about half done. Life has a way of getting in the way. Plus, I’ve never written one of these novel thingies, so it’s entirely new to me.
One of the things I’ve done to help me research (beside the couple trips to California to meet with some legendary winemakers from that era) is to read more political philosophy. It helps me to understand my message better so that I can then distill it into ideas that I can put into the novel.
I say all this to say that Alert Reader Snorri Godhi commented on a recent post that she thought that in light of this week’s events that it might be a good idea for people to re-read a little Hayek. Snorri’s comment has inspired me to start this post.
What books can help people, first, to understand our current political/social/economic environment, and then, second, to help them to refute contrary arguments and win over undecideds?
Below is my first stab at a reading list that I pulled from my Kindle. What would you suggest to add/delete?
Bastiat, Frederic. Economic Sophisms
Bastiat, Frederic. Essays on Political Economy
Bastiat, Frederic. The Law
Friedman, Milton. Capitalism and Freedom
Goldberg, Jonah. Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left
Hamilton, Alexander, et al. The Federalist Papers
Hayek, F.A. The Road to Serfdom
Hobbes, Thomas. Leviathon
Mackay, Charles. Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds (first three chapters)
Mill, John Stuart. On Liberty
von Mises, Ludwig. The Theory of Money and Credit
Okrent, Daniel. Last Call: the Rise and Fall of Prohibition
The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinelhas a poll of Wisconsin out this afternoon. The top line has the race going from an Obama 1-point lead two weeks ago to an 8-point lead today. That’s a shift that defies common sense.
However, that doesn’t mean that they did the poll wrong. Let me explain.
A poll of about a 1,200 respondents in its sample will have a margin of error of about 3% at the 90% confidence interval. If the actual race is Obama 45 – Romney 45, and you select a hundred different random samples from the population, you would expect that 90% of those samples to give you a result of somewhere between Romney 42 and Romney 48. The other ten polls will be outliers of more than the margin of error of 3 percentage points.
I don’t see anything necessarily wrong in the demographices of sample polled. Nor did I observe anything done differently from the poll the J-S did two weeks ago. However, with little reason to believe that the race moved 8-points in Barack Obama’s direction, it is likely that either the earlier poll or this one is an outlier. Given where everyone else is showing the state of the race in Wisconsin, it is probably this most recent poll that is the outlier.
But my standard state poll caution applies: Be very wary of media and university polls of states that are not routinely performed time and time again. Polling at the state level can be very screwy and there are a lot of one-off polls performed with shady methodologies.
Finally, there is one odd thing about this poll. It shows a 100% likelihood of voting even as there are 51 respondents who report being unregistered. Now I believe that Wisconsin has same-day registration, so that might explain the unregistered but likely respondents. However, that wouldn’t explain the other issue. See the table below:
Either the J-S includes only those who say that they are absolutely certain to vote plus those who report that they have early voted in their likely voter sample, or some segment of this likely voter sample is lying about their intent to vote. Anyone know?
There are five new national level polls out today. The top line on them is R+3, R+3, R+3, R+2, and O+2. The lone outlier is the IBD/TIPP with its poll of 948 ”likely” voters from a pool of 1,091 registered, giving it a sample turnout of 87 percent. Of course that’s down from yesterday’s IBD/TIPP poll where the presumed turnout was 93%, which might explain why Romney gained a point since then.
But ignore the top line. As I’ve said before, the number to track is the President’s level of support. In those five polls Barack Obama sits at 45, 47, 47, 47, and 47. Even the poll showing him with a two point lead has him stuck at 47%. With ten days left in the 2004 race George W. Bush was fluctuating between 48 and 50 percent in most polls. Barack Obama isn’t that high in a single one of today’s results. Meanwhile Mitt Romney is tracking two points higher than John Kerry at this point in the race. And the trends aren’t working in Obama’s favor. The Gallup poll gave back some ground, but three of the others show Romney climbing–not to mention, three of them have the challenger sitting at 50%.
Something else you can also ignore: state polls. They are conducted less frequently and most are conducted less reputably. Small sample sizes with loose voter screens give unreliable results. (Less reliable than even the porous national level likely voter screens.) That’s why you see two and three point shifts in the national polls, but occasional shifts as large as ten points at the state level. If the margin of this race is greater than two points, it doesn’t matter what the polls in Ohio and Wisconsin indicate; the winner of the national popular vote will win the electoral vote too.
And that’s the danger for Barack Obama. 47% is disaster territory for an incumbent. After four years of introducing himself to the electorate, an incumbent doesn’t usually gain last minute support. His best chance now is that he can hold Romney’s vote down. But when you’re an incumbent starting with 53% of the electorate against you that means that you have to hamstring the challenger by at least four points just so that you can get the race close enough to eke out an electoral college win. Expect a lot of nastiness from the Obama camp the next ten days. But unless he can make something stick, it can easily backfire and lead to an erosion of his already anemic support.
There is still a little time for trends to reverse, but now that the conventions and the debates are over, there is less opportunity for an incumbent to control remaining events. For Obama, this is “hope time.” As in, I hope that Gloria Alred can produce a Romney scandal. Or I hope that next Friday’s BLS report comes out with a 6.5% unemployment rate. Or I hope that Mahmoud Ahmadenijad falls into a nuclear reactor and sets of an uncontrolled chain reaction in the core.
It’s getting bad for President Obama. His poll numbers are anemic–well under the magic 50% mark an incumbent needs. Swing voters have deserted him and don’t seem to be inclined to come back. Youth, Hispanics, and white women–demographics that strongly favored him in 2008 have fallen away, if not in the percentage that support him, in the percentage that is excited about actually voting. His fundraising is way down, his biggest backers are silent, his party’s elected officials increasingly are against him on his two biggest achievements: Obamacare and stopping domestic energy production. Even support from the media, his last holdout, is crumbling. Sure, there is a lot of time left, but the trends are not in his favor. Obama is in big trouble. He knows it and it shows.
Democrats, both behind the scenes, and in down-ticket races are scared. Sen. Manchin, who is up for re-election in a dark red state, has openly broken with him. He won’t be the last, as most of the swing states where the President will spend most of the next 200 days are represented by incumbent Democratic senators running for re-election. If they sense that Obama is a drag on them, they will throw him under the bus. A few more bad weeks is all that it will take for the open revolt to be apparent to all.
So how do Democrats save themselves? In 1980, they put Ted Kennedy up against Carter in the primary. Conventional Wisdom is that the intra-party contest hurt Carter. It didn’t. Carter was already mortally wounded when Kennedy struck his blows. His loss was pre-ordained by the economy and abroad, just as Obama’s loss is a fait accompli absent some remarkable and unforeseen outside force. But Democrats don’t have another option this year. Or do they?
Hillary Clinton is the logical choice, and I suspect that in quiet introspective moments when the lights are off and they’re along with their thoughts, that most Democrats wish that she were president now. They know that she would not have made Obama’s mistakes of incompetence.
So how do they pull it off? How do they make her the nominee without losing the almost one-quarter of the party that is black and will revolt at the attempted coup?
First, they have to plant the idea that President Obama is sick. Drudge helped them out a few weeks ago when he posted a series of photos showing the President looking unhealthy and gaunt. Then they have to let it be known that Hillary Clinton is done with politics. She has to be seen as Cincinnatus, and not as a usurper. Then, there has to be an announcement: something serious is wrong with the president; sympathy is the goal. Then there has to be the ask by the President himself, followed by reluctant acceptance and outreach, and the best way to achieve that is for Hillary Clinton to put Michelle Obama on the ticket with her. Blacks, women, and progressives. It’s an unbeatable combination that Mitt Romney could not overcome.
Is it a crazy plan? Yes. But it would work. And you know what they say: if it sounds crazy and it works, it isn’t crazy. After a few more bad weeks for the President, it won’t even sound crazy.
If you are going to use a sports analogy, you better know what you’re talking about.
Case in point: Nancy Pelosi, talking about this week’s Supreme Court proceedings to determine the constitutionality of Obamacare. She was asked, “Have you had any conversations or what have the conversations been between you and the White House or colleagues about what to do about health care if parts–significant parts–the individual mandate, or other parts of the health care law are struck down by the Supreme Court?
Nancy Pelosi: “This game isn’t over. In March Madness, what happens when your team doesn’t win one?”
Answer: You lose. Season over. Go home. And for many of your players, it’s the last time they will ever play the game.
“You can mark the point — page 14 — when the liberal justices decide Verrilli is screwing up and step in to make his argument for him.”
When Ezra Klein–Ezra Klein!–makes that observation, I don’t know who that damns more: Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, whose job it is to make the argument, or the “liberal justices,” whose role is to be independent.
Actually, that question answers itself. For the approved solution to this quandary, see here.