Annoying quotes

From David Henderson’s post, Quotations from Alice Rivlin, on EconLog, Rivlin said:

If we didn’t raise the debt ceiling and we actually defaulted, we’d have a hell of a crisis. If the Tea Party is strengthened in the next election, we might have a default.

This is like the old joke, “I have a drinking problem. I don’ have a drink.”

If you don’t get it, Rivlin is concerned about a default occurring because Tea Partiers may get in the way of letting government spending run rampant. In Rivlin’s view, we need to let government spending run rampant to avoid a crisis. That’s like staying drunk to avoid becoming sober.

Here’s a great comment from that post from Ken B:

If the Tea Party had been ‘strengthened’ in elections going back a couple decades I doubt we’d have the crisis she worries about.

What’s the tea party about?

One of the local evening drive time (self-described) “fiscal conservatives, social liberals” radio hosts attempted to describe the tea party earlier this week.

He said he thought it was about fiscal responsibility.

I think his description missed the mark. But, it made me think about it.

I think the tea party is generally people with libertarian sensibilities.

I believe the tea party is about liberty and restraining government, and others, from impeding liberty.

Fiscal responsibility is just one aspect of restraining government from impeding on liberty.  That made me think about what a “fiscal conservative, social liberal” is.  More on that in the next post.

Now this is enlightened thinking

I enjoyed this post from Russ Roberts at Cafe Hayek.

In it he contrasts the visions of how the world works between tea partiers and elites.

Tea partiers like freedom generally on moral grounds, principle and because it provides the most for the most.

The elites can’t see that.  They can’t see that their quality of life is dependent nearly every second of every day on someone else and, for the most part, these people provided what they needed and wanted through a decentralized system of prices. The enlightened elites can’t or don’t seem to want to fathom this.  Doing so might mean that we may not need them to tell us how to live.  Can’t have that.

“Why Liberals Don’t Get the Tea Party”

Writing in the Wall Street Journal Weekend Opinion section today, Peter  Berkowitz explains Why Liberals Don’t Get the Tea Party Movement.

He opens by giving a few examples of liberals who have made poor attempts at characterizing the movement.

For example, New York Times columnist Krugman in April ’09 calling them “AstroTurf (fake grass roots) events.”  Or fellow Times columnist Frank Rich alleging that the movement is not grass roots, but an “instrument of billionaires David and Charles Koch.”

Berkowitz blames higher education for the inability of highly educated people to actually address the tea party for what it really is.  The following paragraphs are excellent (emphasis mine).

This improved science of politics was based not on abstract theory or complex calculations but on what is referred to in Federalist 51 as “inventions of prudence” grounded in the reading of classic and modern authors, broad experience of self-government in the colonies, and acute observations about the imperfections and finer points of human nature. It taught that constitutionally enumerated powers; a separation, balance, and blending of these powers among branches of the federal government; and a distribution of powers between the federal and state governments would operate to leave substantial authority to the states while both preventing abuses by the federal government and providing it with the energy needed to defend liberty.

Whether members have read much or little of The Federalist, the tea party movement’s focus on keeping government within bounds and answerable to the people reflects the devotion to limited government embodied in the Constitution.

One reason this is poorly understood among our best educated citizens is that American politics is poorly taught at the universities that credentialed them. Indeed, even as the tea party calls for the return to constitutional basics, our universities neglect The Federalist and its classic exposition of constitutional principles.

For the better part of two generations, the best political science departments have concentrated on equipping students with skills for performing empirical research and teaching mathematical models that purport to describe political affairs. Meanwhile, leading history departments have emphasized social history and issues of race, class and gender at the expense of constitutional history, diplomatic history and military history.

Neither professors of political science nor of history have made a priority of instructing students in the founding principles of American constitutional government. Nor have they taught about the contest between the progressive vision and the conservative vision that has characterized American politics since Woodrow Wilson (then a political scientist at Princeton) helped launch the progressive movement in the late 19th century by arguing that the Constitution had become obsolete and hindered democratic reform.

Then there are the proliferating classes in practical ethics and moral reasoning. These expose students to hypothetical conundrums involving individuals in surreal circumstances suddenly facing life and death decisions, or present contentious public policy questions and explore the range of respectable progressive opinions for resolving them. Such exercises may sharpen students’ ability to argue. They do little to teach about self-government.

They certainly do not teach about the virtues, or qualities of mind and character, that enable citizens to shoulder their political responsibilities and prosper amidst the opportunities and uncertainties that freedom brings. Nor do they teach the beliefs, practices and associations that foster such virtues and those that endanger them.

Those who doubt that the failings of higher education in America have political consequences need only reflect on the quality of progressive commentary on the tea party movement. Our universities have produced two generations of highly educated people who seem unable to recognize the spirited defense of fundamental American principles, even when it takes place for more than a year and a half right in front of their noses.

Rep. Todd Tiahrt on the Tea Party

Here’s a letter to the editor published today in the Kansas City Star from Rep. Todd Tiahrt of Kansas.

Across the nation patriotic Americans are making their voices heard by protesting the largess of a federal government intoxicated with raising our taxes, spending our money and controlling more of our lives. Unfortunately, President Barack Obama and liberal members of the media have spent more time ridiculing the tea party movement than listening to it.

Instead of lecturing citizens for engaging in the political process, Washington leaders should be signing up for lessons to start learning why people from every walk of life are so angry about what is happening to our country.

Americans are outraged — and rightfully so. The liberal spend-and-control agenda of the Obama administration is dangerous and threatens to undermine many of our freedoms. I hope the tea party movement is just getting warmed up, because we desperately need an end to the “change” agenda being forced on us by the president.

We must continue making our voices heard and fighting against the establishment of a more intrusive bureaucracy. Then we need to do the necessary work of undoing the mess created in Washington and start building our economy from the ground up, not the government down.

Emphasis is mine.

Wall Street Journal editorial

I’m a little dumbfounded by Wall Street Journal’s editorial, The Violence Card:

No less a figure than Bill Clinton seized on the occasion of the Oklahoma City bombing’s 15th anniversary to lecture tea-party activists, first in a speech last week to the Center for American Progress Action Fund, then in a Monday New York Times op-ed. “Have at it, go fight, go do whatever you want,” he said in the speech. “You don’t have to be nice; you can be harsh. But you’ve got to be very careful not to advocate violence or cross the line.” In the op-ed, he wrote: “There is a big difference between criticizing a policy or a politician and demonizing the government.”

Taken strictly at face value, these statements are unobjectionable. Yet given that the tea-party movement has been peaceful and law-abiding, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that Mr. Clinton is engaging in a not-so-subtle smear campaign.

Mr. Clinton’s opposition to “demonizing the government” would be more credible had he been heard from on the subject during the first eight years after he left office—when, for example, Hollywood demonized George W. Bush by releasing “Fahrenheit 9/11,” or when Mr. Clinton’s own former Vice President railed against the man who beat him in 2000: “He betrayed this country!”

While I think the editorial was well-written and makes a good point, I have to take issue.

Clinton meant to take the attention away from the issues with his sleight of hand.  It’s about changing the subject.  The Wall Street Journal has done us a disservice by playing along and responding to and dedicating valuable space and energy to rebut Clinton’s nonsense.

Instead of spending the entire editorial building the case against Clinton’s credibility, why not take the first paragraph to call call out his unsubstantiated, change the subject technique.  Then the rest of the editorial could have been spent on highlighting the actual tea party issues, asking why other side relentlessly chooses to ignore those issues and rather chooses to use playground tactics to smear and change the subject?

Great Tea Party Podcasts

Catching up with my Dennis Miller podcasts from the past week, I came across three exceptional podcasts:

Go to iTunes.

Search for The Dennis Miller Show.

Download and listen to these three podcasts:

Andrew Breitbart Interview – April 13, 2010

John Stossel Interview – April 15, 2010

Greg Gutfeld Interview – April 15, 2010

Greg Gutfeld and Miller were discussing comments made by Ted Koppel about media.  Koppel apparently longs for the days of three networks.  Apparently, he doesn’t like the competition from the cable and internet.  As Gutfeld puts it:

You know what he actually said.  He said the real problem here is competition.  He’s saying “in the good old days when the three networks didn’t have to try, when we could just do whatever we wanted because there was nothing else.  And now, all these cable stations came in and now we have to work for a living.

Continue reading

It’s not about race

Syndicated columnist Leonard Pitts recently wrote a column entitled, Tea party fears a matter of race and more.

I had trouble following Pitt’s logic.  He’s responding to a Kieth Olbermann commentary that “scores the tea party movement as the outcry of people who haven’t yet made peace with the fact that their president is black.”

Pitts then goes on to argue that Olbermann has it wrong, or maybe not.  In Leonard’s mind, race isn’t a major factor:

The tea party people distrust Obama’s policies, his eloquence, his fierce intelligence and the fact that he is black then becomes the final straw, the difference maker and deal breaker. To put that another way: I doubt most of the tea partiers hate Obama strictly because he is black, but it sure doesn’t help.

So, Olbermann is wrong?   Not quite.  Pitts continues:

My point is not that Olbermann’s argument is wrong but, rather, that it is incomplete.

So which is it?

Yes, race is obviously a component, and a major component at that, of the reaction against the president.

And to support this point, Pitts writes:

The recurring use of racist imagery and language, the attendance at tea party events of a racist group like the so-called Council of Conservative Citizens, settles that definitively.

I don’t read Pitts often enough to know if he typically has this much trouble sticking to a point within the space of a few paragraphs.

It doesn’t matter much.  Either way he’s wrong.  So is Olbermann.

I’m currently reading Michael Steele’s excellent book Right Now.  I haven’t read as crisp of a communication of conservative principles since Reagan.

In the book, Steele contends that conservatives see society as a collection of individuals that they hold to their individual merits and liberals tend to see it as a collection of groups.  Pitts demonstrates the latter view in two ways.

First, he can’t accept the possibility that race is not an issue for tea partiers.  Maybe that’s because he views society as a collection of groups and can’t fathom that others don’t.

Second, rather than sit and talk with representative tea partiers and see if he can agree or disagree with their positions on merit, he’d rather brand the entire group unfit with a sophisticated form of name calling, without giving them the benefit of the doubt.  I find that strange, because he seems to be from the group that says we should sit down with our opponents to gain an understanding of their position.

As much of Olbermann and Pitts wishes race was the issue, it’s not. Race keeps them from seeing the real issues.

If you want to know what motivates tea partiers, I recommend reading Michael Steele’s book, or the books and columns written by economists Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams or the columns written by Star Parker.

The last three all write weekly columns that are available for free at  Star’s column appears on Mondays, Sowell’s on Tuesdays and Williams’ on Wednesday.  I look forward to reading each one every week.

If you read back through this blog, you will find that I hold these peoples’ opinions in high regards and I greatly appreciate their work as, I’m guessing, would a great many tea partiers.

All do a great job of explaining that conservatives believe in individual rights, voluntary interaction between individuals and that we should be skeptical of those who wish to use government power to force their visions onto these individuals and the degrading impact of government dependency.

I’d love to read Leonard Pitts address the issues these leading conservative thinkers write about.  That would make for much better reading than the glib name calling he seems to revel in.