Recent Posts From Brian Lehman
Few expected Rick Santorum to do as well as he did in the 2012 Republican Primaries. Due to a confluence of events and a fair amount of stubborness on his part, he was the only serious challenger remaining against presumptive nominee Mitt Romney at the end. With the departure of candidates like Rick Perry, Herman Cain, and Michele Bachmann, Santorum became the last remaining “other than Mitt” in the race.
Apparently this bit of fortune has led Mr. Santorum, a true symbol of the worst side of conservatism if there ever were one, to think he has a shot in 2016. According to the Washington Examiner:
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who emerged as the conservative populist in the 2012 GOP presidential primaries, is already running for the 2016 nomination for president.
Santorum, who has been making the rounds at conservative media outlets, this week stepped deeper into the presidential pool when he said that he isn’t “doing anything inconsistent” with a 2016 campaign.
Say what? Now, I’m fully aware that there is still a sizable portion of the GOP that is perfectly fine with Santorum’s social views and willing to ignore his numerous sins against any notion of limited government. But it’s hard to see how Santorum could be a major player again in 2016. With the arrival of people like Marco Rubio and Rand Paul, it’s hard to see where he fits in. Both Rubio and Paul are social conservatives with unimpeachable pro-life bona-fides, and it’s clear that the tide has massively changed on the issue of same-sex marriage to the point where an anti-gay message in 2016 could prove even more anachronistic than it is today.
It has been clear for some time that Senator Rand Paul sees himself as far more than Kentucky’s junior senator. Paul has established himself as a truly national figure - any remaining doubt of that was shredded by his nearly 13-hour filibuster two weeks ago, where Paul successfully took over the Senate for over half a day. His actions that day won him the praise of many, and put his name on the lips of nearly every politically aware person — and many who aren’t. Speculation has understandably abounded about whether Paul will run for President in 2016 — and if he will give up his Senate seat to do so.
Fuel for the latter proposition was added this week when Senator Paul made a dramatic reversal of the immigration views he espoused during his Senate campaign and made clear he was open to a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants (though he did not use those words). As this Politico article points out:
The endorsement of any sort of legal status for illegal immigrants amounts to a remarkable reversal for Paul, who in his first month in the Senate proposed a constitutional amendment to end birthright citizenship. (On Tuesday’s conference call, Paul said a secure border would make the amendment unnecessary.) While running against an establishment pick in Kentucky’s GOP primary in 2010, he proposed building an underground electric fence along the length of the entire border.
Thanks to ObamaCare, you’re going to be paying more for your health insurance in 2014 - a lot more. According to health insurers, the provisions of the law that roll out next year could cause premiums to take a massive jump - up to doubling for some people. According to the Washington Post, the hardest hit will be those who buy their insurance on their own, and some small business:
…the biggest price hikes are expected to hit a group that represents a relatively small slice of the insured population. That includes some of the roughly 14 million people who buy their own insurance as opposed to being covered under employer-sponsored plans, and to a lesser extent, some employees of smaller companies.
Those of us with any sense have long predicted this would be the case. The law is expressly designed to make premiums higher for the healthy in order to make them lower for the unhealthy. This is literally the exact opposite of what “insurance” is supposed to do. Instead of charging based on an assessment of the insuree’s risk of incurring expensive costs, premiums will now be shifted in order to be more “fair”. Meanwhile, the taxpayer will be stuck with the bill for the subsidies given to help people afford these higher premiums.
Needless to say, this will have significant impact on the economy which is already not in great shape. And not much can really be done now. ObamaCare is here to stay for now, despite some Republicans’ efforts to repeal it. The law remains unpopular, but repeal is not going to happen now, and such efforts are a waste of time.
President Obama’s State of the Union address was nothing new. The President continued the same leftist rhetoric he used during his inaugural address, calling for even more spending and government. As Jason wrote, he absurdly claimed that he has CUT spending, attacked the sequestration plan that he himself proposed, and called for an increase in the minimum wage would would prove disastrous to job creation. In short, it was more of the same - big government, high taxes, and spending money we don’t have.
The official Republican response was fairly lackluster. Marco Rubio is a gifted speaker, but his speech was big on platitudes and slogans and small on substance. The real response came from Senator Rand Paul. It’s no secret that Senator Paul is a favorite of mine and of many libertarian-leaning folks, so there was much anticipation that he would offer a clear vision apart from both Obama and Rubio. For the most part, he did just that.
To begin, Paul went strongly after the President and laid out a clear idea of what he believes America is really all about:
Tonight, the President told the nation he disagrees. President Obama believes government is the solution: More government, more taxes, more debt.
What the President fails to grasp is that the American system that rewards hard work is what made America so prosperous.
What America needs is not Robin Hood but Adam Smith. In the year we won our independence, Adam Smith described what creates the Wealth of Nations.
It’s been obvious to many that modern conservatism has, to a large degree, become bereft of ideas and more about cultural issues, and opposing Barack Obama more out of personal dislike than principled opposition. On the right you’ll hear a lot of shouting and yelling, but almost no one is making a reasoned, optimistic pitch for why conservative ideas are better for actual people. It’s become all about firing up the base, which has been shrinking for years to the point where it is no longer enough to win elections.
But it’s one thing for a libertarian like me to say it. It’s another for Erick Erickson at the major conservative blog Red State to say it. I disagree with Erick most of the time, but he has just about nailed exactly what the current state of the Right is:
What I am finding is that among conservatives there is too much outrage, piss, and vinegar. It makes our ideas less effective. We have become humorless, angry opponents of the President instead of happy warriors selling better ideas. We are not even selling ideas.
Conservatives, frankly, have become purveyors of outrage instead of preachers for a cause. Instead of showing how increasing government harms people, how free markets help people, and how conservative policies benefit all Americans, we scream “Benghazi” and “Fast & Furious.”
Exactly. We see this all over the place. Obama is not simply just someone to disagree with, but someone to hate, to view as a literal traitor and evil person. Surely the left was guilty of this to some extent in the Bush years, but never to this degree. Frankly, the right has become exceedingly boring, and most of the country agrees.
When I first heard that Glenn Beck was going to relaunch his “The Blaze” as a libertarian-focused network, I was skeptical as I’m sure a lot of libertarians were. While Beck has called himself a libertarian for some time, he has spent the last few years peddling in conspiracy theories and general looniness that has served to be quite an embarassment. I used to listen to his radio show and watched his Fox News program for about a year before I became tired of his antics. So when his show was canceled and he moved to a pay-per-view format, I was glad to see him go.
But Beck has proven he knows what he is doing. He has been able to create a successful business outside the cable world. He is reaching a sizable audience, largely of the young folks that need to be won to the libertarian cause. These folks might already be leaning that way and would benefit greatly from hearing more libertarian viewpoints and analysis. And there are many more who simply never hear this perspective who might be getting it for the first time, or the first time by actual libertarians instead of cartoonish versions given by the regular media.
Despite having no faith of my own, I am fine with those who do. If you want to live your life according to the teachings of a holy book or religious leader, I’m fine as long as you cause me no harm. I honestly could not care less if you believe in no god or twenty, given none of those gods are telling you to hurt people. But it is a different issue entirely when you try to suggest that our laws should reflect the doctrines of your particular church.
The conservative argument against marriage equality has long been couched in talk about “harm to children” and “destroying traditional marriage”, but in reality it has always been based on a simple idea - my religion doesn’t approve of homosexuality, therefore our laws cannot condone it. As it has become more and more apparent that same-sex marriage causes no harm whatsoever, anti-equality forces have gotten more desperate.
Take this post at the Heritage Foundation’s Foundry blog. Ostensibly about a new marriage equality law in Illinois, the author mentions the actual law only in passing before launching in a defense of marriage buttressed only by the words of a Catholic priest (who, incidentally, had some interesting things to say when a gay pride parade was moved to pass by his church). Does this priest have any special knowledge on the subject of marriage? It doesn’t appear so. His expertise clearly lies in one thing - the teachings and doctrine of his church.
On October 14, 2012, Felix Baumgartner of Austria accomplished one of the most insane, unimaginably badass things I’ve ever seen. As part of a project called Red Bull Stratos, Baumgartner rode a balloon pod upwards of 24 miles above the Earth… then jumped off. During the descent, he reached speeds in excess of the speed of sound - up to Mach 1.24 - becoming the first human being to do this without any kind of engine power.
As I watched this unfurl with millions of others around the world, including most of my Twitter timeline, disbelief slowly turned into outright anxiety as the sheer insanity of the jump took hold. The Earth became smaller and smaller as the balloon rose to incredible altitudes. When Felix opened the pod and dangled his feet outside, it was almost hard to watch. If something went wrong, we all knew what could happen.
Yet, amazingly, the jump went off fine, even when Felix started spinning. He was able to regain control, and preliminary analysis suggests he broke three of the four records he hoped to - highest manned balloon flight, highest skydive, and first human to reach the speed of sound without a vehicle. It just goes to show that mankind can still accomplish incredible things - given the right motivations and the perfect combination of courage and insanity.
I’ll be honest - I haven’t read much of the “analysis” of the Newtown shooting because, frankly, it’s almost entirely useless. People on both sides of the political spectrum have used it to make their own points without any regard to whether said points fit the facts. We have liberals making the case for gun control, ignoring the fact that the killer stole guns legally purchased and in fact was stopped from buying a gun by strict Connecticut gun laws. And we have conservatives making the absurd argument that schools should be militarized with armed guards - even teachers packing heat. Neither of these ideas is helpful in the least. Meanwhile, I’ve spent the few words I’ve uttered on the subject trying to combat these two opposing extremes, lacking the knowledge or boldness (one could say arrogance) to say much of my own.
So far, the only piece I’ve seen that even attempts to make my own feelings clear was written by Megan McArdle at The Daily Beast. The problem with the post is that Megan, after starting off with some good points, then veers off course and takes a leap into what I will charitably call “unconventional ideas”. But before making that detour, I found myself agreeing with much of what she was saying - simply that all the obvious “solutions” are not solutions at all, and that we need to be realistic about what we can do to prevent events like the shooting. Megan notes:
Over the past several decades, it has become accepted that the cost of higher education will continue to rise every year, far outpacing inflation or any other category (save perhaps health care). Every year, more and more colleges raise tuition to ungodly levels, fully knowing that the federal government will cover the difference. There is little incentive for them to do otherwise. Quite simply, college is not anything close to resembling a free market. We have come to accept the idea that everyone should be able to go to college, including ones that are wildly overpriced, and that government - that is, taxpayers - should foot the bill.
And yet, even questioning this is akin to wanting poor kids to suffer. During the 2012 campaign, Mitt Romney, supposedly from the party that likes free markets, was a staunch defender of Pell Grants, one of the primary government programs used to subsidize college tuition. Romney even expressed a desire to expand the program. For those who don’t know, the basic principle of Pell Grants is that the government gives you money towards your tuition - with no obligation to pay it back. There are various qualifiers for this money, but it is basically a gift if you get it. So needless to say, when I heard this during the debate, one thing was clear - you’re not allowed to question the basic idea that government has an interest, even an obligation, to pay for college for those who cannot afford it.