Dear Mr. Colmes,

I appreciate what Alan Colmes wrote in his piece in the Wall Street Journal yesterday, How Democrats Made America Exceptional.

I disagree with it, but I appreciate it for a couple of reasons.

First, I appreciate it when someone supports their position with more than “because I don’t like the other side and you just can’t change my mind, so don’t even try!” It allows me to see if there’s something I’m missing and maybe, possibly have a start of productive conversation.

Second, I appreciate that a younger me may have been swayed by some of what Colmes wrote.

There’s much to debate in what Colmes’ piece. I thought this would be a good place to start:

 It was Democrats who fought to extend unemployment benefits during this difficult time. For every dollar in these benefits, the return is $1.64.

In the sentence previous to this, Colmes wrote about the multiplier effect. I’ll assume his ‘return of $1.64’ is a sloppy way to repeat multiplier effect without using the same words.

Still, $1.64 for a multiplier effect is heady.

If Colmes believe this to be the case, I see why he might support expansion of government policies.

If so, he believes government spending flows through the economy creating more economic activity as the recipient of the dollar spends it at the grocer, the grocer spends it to buy more goods, the supplier uses it to pay his workers, and so on.

I remember learning about the multiplier effect in my Econ 101 course and being impressed with it.

I also remember realizing, sometime later, that the magical government mystery dollar had to come from somewhere to begin with: taxes.

It could either be taxed now, in which case that dollar isn’t so magical. The taxpayer could have spent it and got it flowing, no?

Or, if those pesky taxpayers are just being stubborn and not investing their money when I think they should, the government spending dollar could be borrowed against future taxes. Which seems even less magical and strangely inconsistent coming from the crowd who uses future generations to morally justify many other actions.

Well, some of them say, we expect the economy to be humming again by then and our grandchildren won’t notice that teeny extra debt we passed on to them.

But, I wonder if Colmes knows this. If anyone knows him, please ask him for me. Thanks.

Update: Thanks to the comment from Sonic Charmer that made me realize I wasn’t clear on my point. Believing the multiplier is greater than 1 means ignoring, or greatly discounting, where that dollar came from.

The way I understand it, Keynesian folks believe that it’s okay to borrow a dollar from the future in a slack economy to get give GDP a boost now and repay that dollar when the economy is humming. Even in that scenario, the multiplier effect only applies to the current period. The multiplier over time, now and in the future when the borrowed dollar is paid back, is less than one because you have to account for repaying the debt.

Let’s assume that Keynesian logic is good for a short-term GDP boost. That’s still not sound reasoning for someone like Colmes to support ever expanding government on the mistaken belief that government spending is good for the economy because it forever and always has a multiplier greater than one. It does not. That ignores the day when those dollars will be repaid. That’s where Greece is now.

Alan Colmes on Election Results

I got a chance to watch some election coverage this morning.  I think Alan Colmes on FoxNews provides a typical example of the message from the left.  Here’s the video if you’d like to watch it.

Here are my observations on this.

First, the left seems to be putting up a feedback blocker to the real message voters sent.  Colmes, like some others, believe the problem that caused Republicans to gain big was a messaging problem from the Democrats.  For example,  “They [Democrats] didn’t tell us they gave us all tax cuts.”

I know it’s early still.  It took Republicans awhile to understand the message voters sent when they lost power in ’06 and ’08.  It took a grass roots effort and some weeding out of establishment politicians to recast the GOP for this election.

Here’s what I believe is the real message that voters sent yesterday:  This crop of Democrats is too far left. For many of us, this wasn’t a surprise.  But, for the moderates who were tired of Bush and Republicans, it was.  I remember my more moderate pals trying to convince me that Obama was a moderate, or would become moderate once elected.  I think moderates came to grips that they were wrong about that.

Second, Colmes provides a good example of a pundit who has an amazing lack of understanding of the opponents’ position.  Colmes said that he “sees no vision on the right.”  He seems to think that the main position of Republicans is just to oppose Democrats no matter what and not compromise just for the sake of opposing Democrats.

The current Republican vision seems clear to me.  Shrink government and reinforce freedom.  The reason Republicans wouldn’t “compromise” on so many things is not to simply oppose Democrats, but to defend what they think is right – limited government and freedom.

It’s like someone offering to buy your house for half what’s it’s worth.  You say, “It’s not for sell and that price is way too low.”   They say, “But, I want your house.  How about 75% of what it’s worth.”  Your response, “No.”

Then they blame you for not being willing to work with them and compromise.  It’s not that you didn’t compromise.  It’s that what they offered was so far away from what you’d be willing to do you didn’t bother.

I’m not sure if Colmes understands the Republican position and chooses not to acknowledge it or if he just simply doesn’t get it.  But, I’d find him much more interesting if he actually addressed the real arguments, rather than the straw men.

If he doesn’t think limited government and freedom are good ideas, tell us why.  He might be right.  But, pretending that those positions don’t exist befuddles me.