Archives for March 2012
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
My girlfriend Emily, fierce competitor and endurance athlete, celebrated her first “Whole Iron Woman” blog anniversary over the weekend — you can count that among one of many proud boyfriend moments!
While it’s a bit late for Valentine’s Day, gushing over one’s significant other is never out of style. Emily and I met several years ago when I was on hiatus from college and working as a bartender at a small, independent restaurant in Nashville. Unbeknownst to me, I waited on her and her family a time or two before we actually met. After being introduced by mutual friends, we went out a couple times (and by “went out” I mean I dragged her to my favorite dive bar, and then to my bi-weekly all-night poker game), and we eventually lost touch after she moved to New Jersey to work on statewide races.
Despite the heavy news coverage of the Republican primary race—known in these circles as “The Farce Seen ‘Round The World”—came news of Obama’s stance on Iran, and his statements to Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu of Israel in a meeting over the past week. From ABC News:
Amid rising concerns about the prospect of the Iranian government making a nuclear weapon, President Obama today assured Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that “the United States will always have Israel’s back when it comes to Israel’s security.”
In contrast to the tense Oval Office meeting of last May, when the president and prime minister were more focused on the stalled Israel-Palestinian peace process Obama and Netanyahu today sounded united, though behind the scenes they are working through some contentious issues on how to best discourage Iran from continuing with any plans to manufacture a nuclear weapon.
Echoing remarks he delivered Sunday to the influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Obama argued that diplomacy is the best way to resolve the issue but that all options, including military action, are on the table.
“We will continue to tighten pressure when it comes to sanctions, I reserve all options. And my policy here is not going to be one of containment. My policy is prevention of Iran obtaining nuclear weapons,” Obama said. “When I say all options are at the table, I mean it.”
We noted last week that former Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-NE) decided to make another run for his old job, after promises were made to him by Democratic leaders, after Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) decided not to seek re-election.
Kerrey’s candidacy means a tougher challenge for the GOP, but the state has been very strongly Republican in recent years, even more so during President Barack Obama’s administration. But if a new poll from Rasmussen is any indicator, the GOP should pick up Nebraska in the fall with either current Attorney General Jon Bruning or former Attorney General Don Stenberg.
Here is how the poll works out.
Bob Kerrey v. Jon Bruning
- Kerry: 33%
- Bruning: 55%
- Other: 4%
- Not sure: 7%
Bob Kerrey v. Don Stenberg
- Kerry: 34%
- Stenberg: 52%
- Other: 5%
- Not sure: 9%
Kerry, who is to the left of Nelson on many issues Nebraskans are concerned about, is underwater with his favorables — 51% view him unfavorably, while his potential GOP challengers are doing well, both over 50% in their favorables.