ARC's 1st Law: As a "progressive" online discussion grows longer, the probability of a nefarious reference to Karl Rove approaches one

Friday, June 24, 2005

Insightful Political Diary in the WJS

Since Best of the Web is off today, they posted John Fund's Political Diary and it's extremely insightful. Click the link, but if it's expired, here's the text in full:

Shaw It All

We sat down with Rep. Clay Shaw, a Florida Republican, to talk about the deal to create private Social Security accounts that he helped hammer out this week. He's a soft-spoken man but what he had to say was explosive. The bill now moving forward in Congress would create the accounts by using Social Security's "surplus," the money paid in payroll taxes every year but not used to pay benefits. The program is going to remain in surplus until 2016. Asked if Republicans could pass this reform to the system on a party-line vote he answered simply, "Yes. We could roll Democrats on this."

This from the man who crafted his own Social Security plan earlier this year to create private accounts without scaring off all the Democrats. His plan was to leave the system intact and to create "add-on" private accounts of up to $1,000 a year with money from the general revenue -- in effect a new program. His confidence in moving forward now even without Democratic support stems from what he's hearing from his constituents back home. Social Security isn't the third rail in politics it used to be, but voters are still angry over Congress raiding the program and spending the surplus every year. The question Democrats now have to answer, he said, is: "What are they going to do with the surplus?"

He also believes that when it comes to a vote, as many as 30 or 40 Democrats will likely jump onboard for two reasons. One, this bill is going to be rolled into a larger package to include pension and other reforms aimed at helping older Americans. And secondly, Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid have put a "gag order" on their party, preventing members from saying anything positive about Republican reform proposals. [How democratic of them!!] "But you can't stay silent on a vote," he said.

What's more, this bill isn't the "exit strategy" everyone was looking for, "it's an entrance strategy," he said. Once the 130 million Americans who would be eligible start to see their personal accounts grow, "the comfort level" with private accounts will grow too. In other words, look for other, more sweeping reforms to come down the road. Not that Mr. Shaw hopes the Democrats will get rolled on every reform. On Thursday Rep. Charlie Rangel, a New York Democrat, was seen chatting with Rep. Paul Ryan, one of the key Republican architects of the recent deal, at a hearing and saying positive things about the plan. "I could do business with Rangel," Mr. Shaw told us.

-- Brendan Miniter

The Young and the Ripped-off

It was just about 35 years ago that the youth movement made one of its most famous imprints on American history when thousands of college kids and 20-somethings marched on the capital in Washington to protest the Vietnam War. The peacenik hippies commanded headlines by burning their draft cards and reciting the memorable chant: "Hell no, we won't go."

Well, the youth movement is alive and well in America, but this time the students aren't denouncing war, but taxes -- Social Security payroll taxes to be precise.

This Sunday, several thousand college-aged kids (Generation Y) and young professionals (Generation X) will participate in the Storm for Reform protest in Washington on Capitol Hill. Students will be bused in from across the east coast, from Pennsylvania to North Carolina. And how's this for a blast from the past: Instead of burning draft cards, these student protestors plan on shredding their Social Security cards. "Social Security is a miserable deal for today's young people," says event organizer Jessica Colon, director of Fix Our "My generation gets the joke that we will have to pay in all this money in taxes, and won't get anything out of it."

On a separate track, another youth group, Students for Saving Social Security, will be pounding on Senate and congressional office doors this week and next to demand a modernization of the system. Olympia Snowe's Senate office will be one of the first to be visited.

What these students want is large personal accounts for Social Security so they can invest the money themselves. As. Ms. Colon points out, today's youth are equally distrustful of big government and big business. "They're hostile to the idea of someone else controlling their money." The polls support this conclusion. By about a two-to-one margin, young voters support personal investment accounts.

Whether the voice of the young will be able to alter the dismaying direction of the Social Security debate is an open question. The political system is heavily titled in the direction of seniors because old people have a much higher propensity to vote than do their grandkids. But at least it's encouraging to learn that not all young people in America today are socialists who get their news from MTV and

-- Stephen Moore


After celebrating the Supreme Court's decision yesterday to effectively give local governments carte blanche to seize land for private development, some local officials began quickly moving to use their new unlimited authority. Officials in the beachfront town of Freeport, Texas, announced they would move forward with plans to commandeer property owned by two seafood companies in order to allow the construction of a 900-slip private marina. Freeport will even be loaning the developers $6 million to finance the project, and if it fails the town won't be getting its money back. What is certain is that the displacement of the two seafood companies will cost scores of jobs.

The Supreme Court's decision, by a narrow majority with Justice Anthony Kennedy as swing vote, has prompted state Rep. Frank Corte, a Republican from San Antonio, to propose a state constitutional amendment limiting the power to condemn private land for use by other private entities. He says the amendment is now necessary in order to "limit a local governmental entity's power of eminent domain, preventing them from bulldozing residences in favor of private developers." No doubt there will be similar moves in other states as voters wake up to the realization that the Supreme Court has granted revenue-hungry local governments more or less unlimited authority to seize homes and businesses in order to achieve a "higher use" of the property.

-- John Fund

Quote of the Day

"The question answered yesterday was: Can government profit by seizing the property of people of modest means and giving it to wealthy people who can pay more taxes than can be extracted from the original owners? The court answered yes... During oral arguments in February, Justice Antonin Scalia distilled the essence of New London's brazen claim: 'You can take from A and give to B if B pays more taxes?... That is the logic of the opinion written by Justice John Paul Stevens and joined by justices Anthony Kennedy, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer" -- Washington Post columnist George Will, writing on yesterday's Supreme Court ruling upholding a city's right to seize private property for the benefit of a private developer.

Myth Ohio

Remember the Internet conspiracy theories that President Bush had won Ohio -- and therefore the presidency -- through fraud? Those theories fueled a challenge to the certification of Mr. Bush's victory last January when Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer forced Congress to debate the issue when it counted the Electoral College votes.

Well, the conspiracy theorists are now accusing the Democratic National Committee of "surrender" for this week issuing a report that finds no support for claims that fraud caused the votes of John Kerry to be misallocated to George W. Bush. Perhaps in anticipation of their outrage, DNC Chairman Howard Dean tried to claim that the report nonetheless backed up charges that there was widespread "voter suppression" in Ohio involving long lines at polls due to a misallocation of voting machines and unlawful voter identification requirements.

Mr. Dean also indicated that the report backed up his belief that Republicans actively worked to suppress black voter turnout. "It's been widely reported over the past several years that Republicans do target African-Americans for voter suppression," he told reporters. "It's very clear here while there was no massive vote fraud, and I concur with the conclusion -- it's also clear that there was massive voter suppression."

But Mr. Dean's statement landed him in hot water when a scholar involved in writing the DNC report, Cornell University Professor Walter Mebane Jr., explained to the media that while the report had found numerous irregularities, it could not determine whether there was any partisan intent behind them. He also noted that county election boards in Ohio, which determine the distribution of voting machines, are bipartisan. Mr. Dean then had to return to the microphones to revise his remarks: "While we certainly couldn't draw a proven conclusion that this was willful, it certainly has the appearance of impropriety."

But William Anthony, a Democrat who is chairman of the Franklin County Democratic Party in Ohio's capital of Columbus, rejects any suggestion of voter suppression. "Most of the precincts that stayed open late because of long lines were in the suburbs," he told the Columbus Dispatch last November. Mr. Anthony, who is also chair of the Franklin County elections board, acknowledged that the high turnout and a ballot that involved more than 100 choices for some voters did create lines, but added that he was offended by allegations from "a band of conspiracy theorists" that voter suppression had occurred. "I am a black man. Why would I sit there and disenfranchise voters in my own community?" That, in turn, raises the question: Why do Democrats like Mr. Dean persist in inciting racial tensions with wildly exaggerated claims that black voters are being disenfranchised?

-- John Fund

great stuff...

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler