Tea Party claims first victory in 2012

This hasn’t gotten much play yet, at least from I’ve seen, but Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-OH) lost her bid for re-election on Tuesday to Brad Wenstrup, a doctor who was supported by the Tea Party movement in the district. John Fund has the story:

The Tea Party is alive and kicking. House Speaker John Boehner can’t help but notice that Representative Jean Schmidt, one of his fellow GOP House members from the Cincinnati area, just went down to defeat at the hands of a political neophyte. Brad Wenstrup is a physician and Iraq War veteran whose only prior political experience was in a losing race for mayor of Cincinnati.

Jean Schmidt had a conservative social and economic voting record in her seven years in Congress, winning “zero” ratings from liberal groups and an 88 percent rating from the National Taxpayers Union in 2010. But she had vulnerabilities, including votes to raise the debt ceiling and for the Wall Street bailout, support for the pro-union Davis-Bacon Act, and a record of supporting tax increases when she was in the state legislature. She was also dogged by accusations she had accepted free legal help from a Turkish-American interest group, although she was cleared of wrongdoing by the House Ethics Committee. But the real mark against her was that she was a Washington incumbent.

Wenstrup hammered Schmidt from the right, and his opposition to pork-barrel spending and support for a flat tax won him the backing of the Ohio Liberty Council, a coalition of tea-party groups. But Schmidt still had an overwhelming financial advantage, outspending Wenstrup by three-to-one in the last Federal Election Commission report.

NRA backs Mourdock over Lugar in Indiana primary

As you know, Sen. Dick Lugar (R-IN) is facing a tough primary from Indiana Treasurer Richard Mourdock, who has received support from the Club for Growth, FreedomWorks, and other grassroots organizations. Now the Second Amendment has become a campaign issue as the National Rifle Association (NRA) has endorsed Mourdock over Lugar:

The National Rifle Association officially endorsed Indiana Treasurer Richard Mourdock (R) over Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) Wednesday morning, blasting Lugar for his “seeming contempt for gun owners in Indiana.”

The endorsement, first reported by The Hill, is a body blow to the longtime senator’s hopes of surviving a tough primary against Mourdock, who has Tea Party support.

“We haven’t engaged in many primary elections but I have to tell you, this decision was easy,” NRA political victory fund chief Chris Cox said on a conference call. “Richard Mourdock is a strong supporter of the Second Amendment and Richard Lugar is not. The choice could not be more clear.”

Cox said Lugar had a lifetime “F” rating from the NRA, which Cox said he got “the old fashioned way: he earned it.”

Rand Paul proposes budget for FY 2013

During the budget battle last year, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) proposed his own list of spending cuts totaling some $500 billion that would help restore some semblance of fiscal sanity in Washington. And while his proposal didn’t go anywhere, it provided conservatives with a good idea of where to start the budget slashing process.

But with the budget deficit expected to cross $1 trillion for the fourth year in a row and the government still running record monthly deficits, Sen. Paul has once again submitted a budget worthy of support from his colleages. Jim Antle has the breakdown of Sen. Paul’s budget proposal:

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has introduced a new FY 2013 budget. Unlike his last effort, which cut exclusively — though deeply — from discretionary spending in order to show much could be cut without touching entitlements, this one includes some entitlement reforms. Paul claims his budget:

Unsurprising Fact of the Day: Bailouts encourage risky loans

Many of us that opposed TARP, the 2009 bailout of financial institutions, for a couple of different reasons. The main reason being that bailing out business for is counter to the belief in free markets. In other words, we don’t believe in the concept of “too big to fail.”

The other reason being is that it was bad policy. Once you’ve put the concept of “too big to fail” into public policy, you’ve set that as a precedent for the future. It doesn’t discourage bad lending behavior, so when the next crisis comes along — and it will, taxpayer-funded bailouts will again be the answer for politicians. And this is what a new study from the Federal Reserve Board shows via James Pethokoukis:

The Troubled Asset Relief Program involved a major infusion of government funds into the U.S. banking system in an attempt to stabilize financial markets. The program was developed by congressional mandate; however, the purpose of the program was not entirely clear from the beginning. The program was originally portrayed as an effort to reduce the risk profile of banks by increasing bank capitalization.
However, the public response to the program also generated a significant push for banks to convert the funds into loan originations. Based on this purpose, banks were being encouraged to make more loans in an economic downturn which may have induced looser lending standards (Guner, 2008).

The results from the event study illustrate that the average risk rating at large TARP recipients increased more than at large non-TARP recipients following the capital infusions. Conversely, the risk of loan originations by small TARP recipients appears to have decreased relative to non-TARP recipients.

Delegate math clearly in Romney’s favor

The dust from Super Tuesday is still settling. Some conservatives are trying to downplay Mitt Romney’s wins and Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich are arguing about who should drop out of the race. But there is one common theme — observers are sensing that the writing is on the wall for anti-Romney candidates.

Despite being the conservative alternative to John McCain just four years ago, Romney has been their boogeyman in 2012. Some of the criticism is justified and understandable, specifically that dealing with RomneyCare and ObamaCare. But in the face of the criticism, Romney now holds a 1.2+ million vote lead in the primary and the delegate math says that he should coast to the nomination.

Of course, Romney path to the nomination may still have a bump in the road. As noted above, Santorum’s “super PAC” has called on Gingrich to drop out. He declined, and there is certainly a case to be made to backup his decision. But that doesn’t mean that Gingrich would deal with reality if he performs poorly next week and if Santorum does well.

Obama lobbies to kill Keystone XL

It looks like the economy is rebounding, though the recovery is missing many Americans. And while the good economic news is a boon for President Barack Obama’s bid for re-election, rising gas prices are a sticking point for many voters.

The White House has stood in the way of the Keystone XL pipeline, a project that would not only create thousands of jobs and make oil more readily available for production. But an effort by Senate Republicans yesterday to approve the pipeline was defeated after President Obama lobbied Senate Democrats to kill it:

Thursday’s squeaker of a Senate vote on the Keystone XL pipeline serves both as a warning to President Barack Obama that a majority of both houses of Congress supports the pipeline and as encouragement to Republicans to keep pushing the issue.

Obama had personally lobbied Senate Democrats with phone calls urging them to oppose an amendment to the highway bill that would fast-track the Canada-to-Texas oil pipeline. And as it turned out, he needed every bit of their help.In all, 11 Democrats joined 45 Republicans to support the pipeline. Only the fact that 60 votes were needed for passage saved the White House from an embarrassing defeat.
The 11 Democrats who crossed party lines to support the amendment were Max Baucus of Montana, Mark Begich of Alaska, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Kent Conrad of North Dakota, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Jon Tester of Montana and Jim Webb of Virginia.

How libertarianism can gain some steam

Libertarianism is becoming more and more popular.  Ron Paul’s relative success compared to four years ago is evidence that folks are starting to get turned onto the idea of liberty not being a dirty word.  However, as evidenced by Paul’s inability to win a single state thus far, there’s still a long, long way to go.

A couple of days ago, Jeremy Kolassa wrote a piece about some of the problems found in libertarian circles.  Honestly, he’s dead on correct on pretty much everything he said.  There’s more coming, and I’m not about to steal his thunder.  Frankly, I’m looking forward to the rest of the series.

No, instead I want to talk about something related, but slightly different and that is actually winning elections.

Libertarians don’t really win them. Oh sure, they score victories in local government - which admittedly does have a significant impact on people’s lives - but not at the higher levels.  There aren’t really any in Congress besides Paul and his son Rand (who only leans libertarian on some issues…not so much on others).  If we are going to have a prayer of accomplishing much of anything, we have got to figure out how to win elections.

Dennis Kucinich falls in Ohio

The Congressional career of Dennis Kucinich came to an abrupt end on Tuesday night as he became one of the first victims of redistricting in 2012.  With his district eliminated, he was forced to run against 15-term incumbent Representative Marcy Kaptur.  Kucinich never had much of a chance, losing handily.

Kucinich has long been one of the most interesting members of the House, if only because he was someone who actually seemed to have principles. He was known for taking positions that often raised the ire of not only Republicans, but his fellow Democrats.  And from a libertarian perspective, he was someone that could be both an fierce adversary, and a surprising ally.

Among the many issues that he and libertarians could find common ground on were the Iraq War, the War on Drugs, abolishing the death penalty, legalizing same-sex marriage, and repeal of the PATRIOT Act.  But there were plenty of issues where he could not be further apart - single-payer healthcare, strengthening gun control, many environmental issues, and opposing reform of Social Security.  On all these topics, though, he had defined positions and largely stuck to them.

So, I’ll miss Dennis Kucinich.  I will especially miss his support for ending the War on Drugs and his work on civil liberties. It’s not often to find someone in Congress who seems to care more about principles that going along with his party.  Even when I strongly disagreed with him, I respected him.  Best of luck in future endeavors, Dennis.

The language of freedom

Part of the problem with libertarianism is really just difficulty in communicating the essence of what we are talking about.  For some, they have boiled it down to property rights, the idea that “you own you.”  Of course, that’s very accurate.  However, many people just don’t grasp that concept.  For some reason, “property rights” makes them think of the Monopoly guy with his feet on his desk, looking at his financial empire…including all the property he owns.

Instead, I’m going to break it down into one word: choice.

Freedom ultimately boils down into the ability to make a choice.  If you ban guns, you no longer have a choice whether you own one or not.  If you ban certain kinds of speech, you no longer have the choice to say certain things.

Now, this assumes a law-abiding nature.  There will always be those who will do whatever regardless of legalities, but it’s not about them.  It’s about the law-abiding who are impacted by things like laws.

When governments pass laws, they are generally seeking to limit someone’s choices.  That’s just the simple nature of government.  Some choices should be removed, like you being able to choose to punch someone for no reason, since that choice impacts someone else’s choice to not be punched.  Other choices, not so much.

When the United States entered prohibition, the idea was to eliminate the choice for adults to consume alcohol.  Drug laws took away people’s ability to choose to use drugs, an act that in and of itself impacts no one else’s choices.  Laws banning prostitution limit individuals’ choice to sell sex for money.

However, choice has one significant advantage.  People like choice.  Just look at the variety of products available that, at least to many, have little appreciable difference.  People like the choice of being able to select product A over product B.  So how does that help in politics?

Joseph Kony and populist interventionism

While the political right has a well-earned reputation for favoring military intervention abroad, the truth is that the urge to spend blood and treasure in foreign adventures extends far beyond the hawks of the Republican Party.  The causes are often quite different, but the proposed solution is the same - sending American soldiers to some far-off land, whether in support of supposed American interests, or in order to fight some alleged injustice.

Enter the latest Internet meme - Joseph Kony.  According to a video produced by a group called Invisible Children circulating around the Internet (I won’t link to it, but it’s easy to find), Kony is a horrific Ugandan terrorist who uses child soldiers and commits all manner of atrocities.  Now, the underlying facts seem to be sound - it’s true that Kony is a terrible man.  But there are serious questions about the nature of the Invisible Children charity, and the campaign they are running.

Furthermore, there are significant problems with the whole tactic.  It’s a dangerous proposition to send troops and intervene in a foreign nation without deeply understanding the issues at hand.  The idea that we would ever make such a decision based on a viral web video is truly scary.  And, most crucially, it has yet to be shown in any way that our interests are at stake.  Myself and other non-interventionists shudder at the idea of committing troops simply as an act of do-gooderism.

It is a dangerous myth that American forces can, or should, be used as world police to fight every bad guy.  If there is one thing humanity has shown, it is excellent at producing monsters - and quixotic good guys who think they can stop them.  If one seeks to rid the world of all villains one would need an army of millions and untold trillions of dollars that simply do not exist.  We must stand strong and reject the call to take action abroad in all but the most dire circumstances, and only then as a last resort.

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