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25.9.08

Cazayoux misleading goes beyond ads to issues

In the rough and tumble of politics and with the First Amendment in place, you can’t ensure honest impressions will be conveyed about you as a candidate by anybody else. Then again, often candidates won’t in their campaigning convey honesty even about themselves.

State Sen. Bill Cassidy, Republican opposing Democrat Rep. Don Cazayoux for reelection, has a legitimate quarrel with the incumbent over an ad by the latter that states, concerning Cassidy’s support to privatize a small portion of funds for investing for Social Security, “His plan would cut guaranteed benefits.” But as Cassidy has made clear “his plan” is to guarantee benefits already promised. Cazayoux’s campaign is perpetuating a flat out lie, but one protected by our basic guarantee of free speech.

Rather than complain, Cassidy should cut his own ad pointing out Cazayoux’s mendacity and tie it to a larger pattern of dishonesty – the mirage that Cazayoux tries to perpetuate that he represents the views of the majority of the district. The fact is, Cazayoux is the lapdog of liberal Democrat Speaker Nancy Pelosi. If there’s some important legislation to be passed that is part of the liberal agenda, almost always she can count on his vote. The rest of the time, as a competent speaker will do, she’ll take his leash off and allow him to cast a few votes here and there to allow him to inoculate himself as a faux moderate or conservative to try to stay in office, but make no mistake, Cazayoux (as he first demonstrated in the Louisiana House) is a fraud on this account.

But more specifically on this Social Security issue, while Cazayoux’s criticizes, in concert with his southern Democrat playbook to shout the inoculating issues to the skies and ignore and obfuscate everything else he has no solutions or leadership for the coming funding crisis in Social Security that Cassidy addresses and addresses sensibly. Cazayoux’s official statement on the matter is he “believes that Social Security is a trust between the generations and we should do everything we can to protect it. He is against privatizing Social Security.”

That’s it, no plan or solutions present – because he doesn’t want to tell the public what he really will vote for, which is similar to what his other opponent, Democrat-turned-independent Michael Jackson stated he would do which is the plan supported by the Democrat leadership. They would raise taxes and force higher payments from some with no increase in benefits. It’s unlikely Democrats would have enough guts to try to solve the problem anytime soon precisely because they know their solution is unloved, but rest assured if it ever came to that Cazayoux would do whatever the liberal majority (assuming it and he were still there) wanted him to do.

If Cazayoux really believed in a different solution than what his party offers, he would say so. But he won’t because he doesn’t. It’s a dishonesty that extends past mere campaign ads.

24.9.08

Sterlization idea needs rethink to address attitudes

State Rep. John LaBruzzo has floated the idea of a new natality program designed to discourage births among those of lower socioeconomic status in the belief that this will reduce the number of people “trapped” in a cycle of poverty and thereby reduce welfare expenditures on them, simultaneously easing the tax burden on others. But the plan, something along the lines of paying $1,000 for voluntary sterilizations of women, fails both conceptually and practically.

LaBruzzo’s idea addresses logic known by mankind for millennia and less than a quarter century ago relevant to welfare policy was addressed empirically by Charles Murray’s groundbreaking Losing Ground: subsidize people who behave unproductively through receipt of welfare monies (as opposed to the deserving poor who use such funds for more productive means), and you get more of that behavior. In the 1970s in fact, Murray did find the welfare structure then did provide a small incentive for bringing children in the world precisely to acquire either separation from a family unit funded by government or to increase that funding.

But where LaBruzzo miscalculates is in that his proposal deals with the actual derivative behavior, not the attitudes behind it. Copulation by women to produce more children, or for its own sake with the consequences of having children reduced by assurance of a government payout (and with little consequence to the randy male), stems from a short-horizon desire that itself may be adjusted through appropriate government policy. That is, to cure the disease (inferior attitudes with behavioral consequences), you must attack the disease itself rather than it symptoms (the behavior).

LaBruzzo would do well to study Edward Banfield’s The Unheavenly City where the author differentiates between a “present orientation” and “future orientation” among individuals. Those oriented to the present essentially live only for today with little thought to their future lives and or to making sacrifices of short-term pleasure for longer-term security. Those oriented to the future are willing to make these sacrifices for much longer-spanning and more lucrative futures. The point Murray made was welfare policy as it existed then did little to encourage a future orientation. Since, while the welfare reforms passed in 1996 explicitly introduced mechanisms to encourage this, many have responded with such change although some have not.

Thus, practical policy changes which produced sharp declines in welfare caseloads have demonstrated the rectitude of both Banfield’s conceptualization and Murray’s empirical verification of them, and therefore if LaBruzzo wishes to optimize the reduction of welfare spending and of birthrates of those likely to produce children who also will end up on welfare, biological re-engineering does not in any way change the attitudes or even behavior of the targeted individuals. He must understand that copulating thoughtlessly stems from an attitude rooted in present orientation which thereby is connected to many other attitudes that lead to lack of productivity and therefore service to society. Thus, why not attempt to change all of these attitudes with policy intended to alter the basic mindset? That would produce the only effective long-term solution instead of policy that acts merely as triage.

The idea also betrays a mistaken understanding of human potential and social behavior – in other words, it fails to realize that someone on welfare at 20 inured to a present-oriented life by 30 or 40 may have a completely different outlook. What if the sterilization choice was made early on encouraged by this policy? Then either an expensive, medically invasive, and potentially impossible undoing of it would have to occur which may discourage some, or it doesn’t get done at all.

In these cases, LaBruzzo has defeated his own purpose: the more productive citizens would be unable to reproduce by his own policy intended to increase their proportion of births. He fails to appreciate the dynamism of free markets and production of policy to remove government as much as possible from them that coupled with appropriate welfare reform largely would obviate the formation of a large, self-perpetuating underclass. Again, while LaBruzzo’s proposal might increase the chances of a woman making it out of poverty without too many children dragging her down, it does nothing to encourage her to acquire the attitudes necessary to want to make it out of poverty without which she is unlikely to.

It’s good to think creatively about a large issue as this, for which LaBruzzo deserves credit, especially an issue that he notes few want to consider. Certainly he has done a much more honest job of this than the New Orleans Times-Picayune, which prefers ignorance (there is no “presumably” in “better-educated people who presumably pay more tax revenue to the government,” it’s a fact that higher-income individuals who pay the vast bulk of taxes typically are better-educated) and cheap shots (“His 81st House District … [essentially] is the same district that sent white supremacist David Duke to the Legislature in 1989”).

But it must be done in an informed fashion with proper understanding of the human condition and consequences of policy. His current iteration does not suggest this.

23.9.08

On sugar issue, McCain principled, Landrieu hypocritical

The issue of sugar subsidies does a wonderful job of confounding ideological principle in Louisiana and in this year’s federal elections of all the statewide-elected officials in the state, or the presidential tickets running statewide, that issue reveals the most principled of the bunch to be – Sen. John McCain?

If you’re a “maverick” as McCain styles himself, that means you would be most likely to buck your party and/or ideological principles on issues, and subsidizing sugar or any other commodity might seem like an easy reach. But on both sides of the spectrum – Republicans and conservatives Gov. Bobby Jindal, Sen. David Vitter, and Treasurer and Senate candidate John Kennedy; and Democrats and liberals Sens. Barack Obama and Mary Landrieu – McCain comes off the most principled by his opposition to sugar subsidies.

Like any commodity subsidy either where some quota is imposed to keep out imports or guarantees a certain amount of sales, or outright transfer occurs of taxpayers’ dollars into the pockets of producers to prop up prices, support programs that interfere with the marketplace have the deleterious effects of increasing prices on consumers, using taxpayer funds inefficiently, and causing undesirable spillover effects such as environmental degradation. For those reasons conservatives should oppose any of these, while liberals, who favor using government to reorder society to their ideological whims, would favor these as they increasingly adopt using alternative fuels such as ethanol from sugar under the cover of environmentalism to force inefficiency into markets as a prelude to greater government control of markets and peoples’ lives.

Yet Jindal, Kennedy, and Vitter speak in favor of controls favoring sugar, and Vitter gets special recognition for making the extra effort to justify why McCain too should be using the alternative fuels argument to endorse sugar support: if McCain generally favors alternative energy sources being subsidized by government, sugar he says should qualify on that account. But that misses the point that McCain consistently has been a critic of ethanol subsidies, besides the fact support of them violates conservative principles.

All of the Republicans mentioned venture into unprincipled territory on this because it does collect votes in Louisiana, even as the portion of those assisted makes up a small (but politically influential; Democrat Rep. Charlie Melancon’s previous occupation was leading the American Sugar Cane League) part of the population. Political considerations also explain why Obama is against sugar support as well.

Obama, the most liberal senator in Washington, needs an inoculation point to deflect attention from that record (note: liberals frequently use an “inoculation” strategy where, to avoid a politically-troubling labeling, they find an exception to their rhetoric and/or behavior and on that basis declare that his views on the whole becomes subrogated to that exception, i.e. a liberal who almost always votes for higher taxes makes one vote against them, et voilĂ , he’s a tax-cutter). Sugar support is a great out for him especially given that Obama is one of the biggest champions of subsidizing corn for ethanol-making purposes.

Landrieu’s lack of principle here comes not from her support of sugar support, consistent with her liberalism, but in how her view contradicts Obama’s. Here the award for thinking you are clever but making yourself look stupid in the process goes to Louisiana’s Democrat Party flack Brain Welsh, whose parent national organization had criticized Landrieu’s opponent Kennedy’s support which contradicts McCain’s, but who argued Landrieu really wasn’t being inconsistent because she didn’t support Obama as wholeheartedly as Kennedy did McCain.

Of course, this totally ignores the embarrassing retraction that Landrieu made when she had removed her name co-hosting an East Coast fundraiser for Obama when it became public knowledge. Nobody believes the claim it was a mistaken listing; these events are carefully planned and hosting mention is intensely fought for. Landrieu simply is a very intense backer of Obama’s (who did attend the interestingly named, in light of future developments, “Lipstick, Laughter and Libations” event) who knows that public perception will cost her votes back home and disingenuously is trying to distance herself from Obama.

The dust settles, and on this issue only McCain comes out principled, most of the others as unprincipled, and Landrieu as unprincipled and a hypocrite. McCain’s status on this issue may surprise some, but Landrieu’s machinations on it should surprise no one.

22.9.08

Rid Louisiana of elected judges system, but do it right

The Shreveport Times printed an interesting editorial arguing, as I have for many years, that Louisiana needs to rid itself of election of judges. Without going into too many details, it parallels my thoughts in that election simply provides too many opportunities for compromising justice with politics, running the gamut of aspects from contribution to accountability.

At the same time, a purely direct appointive system such as seen at the federal level would not be best either. Given, unlike at the federal level where criminal cases are relatively few and then only serious crimes, that at the state and local level most cases are criminal involving local people with generally little attention paid to them, it becomes too easy for a judge appointed for life during good behavior to interject personal or political agendas into the decision-making process.

But The Times’ suggestion, which is a judicial panel of supposed “experts” such as sitting lawyers to achieve merit selection, also would do harm to justice. In both Florida and Missouri ideologically politicized panels of lawyers have been able to subvert the process. The better means would be to remove direct political influence from an appointive process that otherwise could force the selection of individuals who adhere to a particular ideology.