Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Obama's Deficit Doublespeak

What Obama really means when he says he'll cut the budget deficit in half within a few years, is that he's first going to quintuple it... then cut it in half.


It's worth noting that even the White House projections admit no hope of ever returning to the Bush deficit (let alone a balanced budget). Yet, Obama insists he inherited this debt and deficit. As you can clearly see in Saul Anuzis' chart above, Obama inherited a deficit which was "only" just over 400 billion. How anyone could justify quintupling that amount under the guise of "inheritance" is beyond me.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Telegraph.co.uk: Worst 10 Gaffes by Barack Obama and Joe Biden Since Inauguration

Top 10 gaffes by Barack Obama and Joe Biden
Posted By: Toby Harnden
Mar 20, 2009 at 16:35:26
TELEGRAPH.CO.UK

Perhaps Barack Obama was just trying to make Joe Biden feel better by dropping his clanger on Jay Leno. Whatever the President was thinking, 60 days into their new administration it's time for a post-election Obama-Biden Top 10, in reverse order:

10. Just after he's been sworn in by him, the newly-minted Vice President Joe Biden gets the name of Justice John Paul Stephens, "one of the great justices" of the Supreme Court, wrong by calling him "Justice Stewart":
9. Barack Obama jokes about Nancy Reagan having séances in the White House. He later called her to apologise after the AP noted that although she had consulted astrologers, "she did not hold conversations with the dead":

8. Joe Biden forgets the "website number" for the White House internet site designed to show how TARP money is being spent:

7. Barack Obama mixes up the windows and doors at his new home:

6. Joe Biden jokes about Chief Justice John Roberts fluffing the inauguration oath. The president is visibly annoyed with his veep and Biden later apologizes:

5. A Marine One double. First, on his maiden Marine One trip Obama breaches protocol and makes life uncomfortable for an enlisted marine by shaking the the serviceman's hand as he's saluting his commander-in-chief:

Then - Gerald Ford, eat your heart out. Barack Obama bangs his head as he boards his helicopter:

4. Joe Biden tells his wife that he had the choice of being either Secretary of State or vice-president - an offer that was news to Obama aides and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when Jill Biden spilled the beans on Oprah:

3. Gordon Brown presents the new President with: a pen holder carved from the timbers of HMS Gannett, a sister ship of HMS Resolute; the commissioning certificate of HMS Resolute; and a seven-volume biography of Winston Churchill. In return, the Prime minister gets 25 DVDS, which don't work in Britain.

2. Joe Biden tells a former Senate colleague who addresses him as "Mr Vice-President" to "give me a f---ing break":

1. The latest one takes the biscuit. Barack Obama jokes about the disabled on the Jay Leno show. Afterwards, he calls the head of the Special Olympics to apologize:

NB I've only included gaffes committed since the presidential election on November 4th. In October, I did this blog on the top dozen campaign gaffes, which features several from Obama and Biden.

Glenn Beck Explains This Week's 'Smokescreen'

Michael Steele's Rap Battle With Stephen Colbert

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Michael Steele's Rap Battle Response
comedycentral.com
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorMark Sanford

Obama Says Watching Him Bowl Is ‘Like The Special Olympics’



What a class act our president is...

This jab at the disabled came immediately following his appearance with California First Lady, Maria Shriver - whose mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founded the Special Olympics in 1968.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Pig Calling The Piggy Fat

Political Cartoon by Gary Varvel

Bush Kept America Safe After 9/11:
And I Have 20 Thwarted Terrorist
Attacks to Prove It


Have you ever made the point that President George W. Bush kept this country safe after 9/11, only to have a liberal respond: "Nuh-uh! You can't prove Bush kept us safe!" This fallacious posturing is rooted in the ridiculous assumption that, because terrorists have not conceded that Bush defeated them, we cannot not say "Bush succeeded in keeping America safe after 9/11." I reference Article I, Section 53 of The Holy Doctrine of Liberalism, which clearly states, "Insist everything George W. Bush ever did was wrong, or you run the risk of accidentally validating conservatism."

I'm here to tell you folks, this isn't just a bad liberal argument, it's a dumb one.

Bush actively and consciously engaged terrorism, disrupting it at every level, killing or capturing key leaders of the terrorist movement and cutting lines of communication and funding (a la the "Bush Doctrine). The Bush administration prevented another terrorist attack from succeeding on American soil. It's a causal fact. It's irrefutable. Terrorists promised to continue to attack America; Bush attacked the terrorists and instituted an array of policies and acts to defend America against terrorism; no terrorist attack has befallen American soil since the initiation of the War on Terror. Bam! The terrorists failed, Bush succeeded. Case closed, nothing more to see here.

Or so a rational person might think...

Liberals insist there's no "proof" that Bush's polices did any good in fighting terrorism. To hear a leftist talk about the matter, you'd think the terrorists forgot to attacks us, like maybe they called in sick for the past 6 years or just haven't been making an effort, like they fell asleep at the Jihad wheel. Or maybe it's just a "coincidence" they've been able to successfully execute attacks in several major countries across the world but not in America...

Wake up folks! Terrorist leaders have been promising additional terrorist attacks on American soil since the day those planes hit the trade towers. Yet no such attack has succeeded. Therefore, Bush succeeded in foiling the terrorists and keeping Americans safe after 9/11. Like him or not, agree with his policies or not, you cannot wipe this off his record with a poor semantic argument.

To help illustrate this point, let's look at the documented instances where specific terrorist plots were foiled under the Bush administration. The following is a list of known terror plots thwarted by the U.S. government since Sept. 11, 2001:
• December 2001, Richard Reid: British citizen attempted to ignite shoe bomb on flight from Paris to Miami.

• May 2002, Jose Padilla: American citizen accused of seeking radioactive-laced "dirty bomb" to use in an attack against Amrica. Padilla was convicted of conspiracy in August, 2007.

• September 2002, Lackawanna Six: American citizens of Yemeni origin convicted of supporting Al Qaeda after attending jihadist camp in Pakistan. Five of six were from Lackawanna, N.Y.

Click to view photos of suspected terrorists and attack sites.

• May 2003, Iyman Faris: American citizen charged with plotting to use blowtorches to collapse the Brooklyn Bridge.

• June 2003, Virginia Jihad Network: Eleven men from Alexandria, Va., trained for jihad against American soldiers, convicted of violating the Neutrality Act, conspiracy.

• August 2004, Dhiren Barot: Indian-born leader of terror cell plotted bombings on financial centers (see additional images).

• August 2004, James Elshafay and Shahawar Matin Siraj: Sought to plant bomb at New York's Penn Station during the Republican National Convention.

• August 2004, Yassin Aref and Mohammed Hossain: Plotted to assassinate a Pakistani diplomat on American soil.

• June 2005, Father and son Umer Hayat and Hamid Hayat: Son convicted of attending terrorist training camp in Pakistan; father convicted of customs violation.

• August 2005, Kevin James, Levar Haley Washington, Gregory Vernon Patterson and Hammad Riaz Samana: Los Angeles homegrown terrorists who plotted to attack National Guard, LAX, two synagogues and Israeli consulate.

• December 2005, Michael Reynolds: Plotted to blow up natural gas refinery in Wyoming, the Transcontinental Pipeline, and a refinery in New Jersey. Reynolds was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

• February 2006, Mohammad Zaki Amawi, Marwan Othman El-Hindi and Zand Wassim Mazloum: Accused of providing material support to terrorists, making bombs for use in Iraq.

• April 2006, Syed Haris Ahmed and Ehsanul Islam Sadequee: Cased and videotaped the Capitol and World Bank for a terrorist organization.

• June 2006, Narseal Batiste, Patrick Abraham, Stanley Grant Phanor, Naudimar Herrera, Burson Augustin, Lyglenson Lemorin, and Rotschild Augstine: Accused of plotting to blow up the Sears Tower.

• July 2006, Assem Hammoud: Accused of plotting to bomb New York City train tunnels.

• August 2006, Liquid Explosives Plot: Thwarted plot to explode ten airliners over the United States.

• March 2007, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed: Mastermind of Sept. 11 and author of numerous plots confessed in court in March 2007 to planning to destroy skyscrapers in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. Mohammedalso plotted to assassinate Pope John Paul II and former President Bill Clinton.

• May 2007, Fort Dix Plot: Six men accused of plotting to attack Fort Dix Army base in New Jersey. The plan included attacking and killing soldiers using assault rifles and grenades.

• June 2007, JFK Plot: Four men are accused of plotting to blow up fuel arteries that run through residential neighborhoods at JFK Airport in New York.

• September 2007, German authorities disrupt a terrorist cell that was planning attacks on military installations and facilities used by Americans in Germany. The Germans arrested three suspected members of the Islamic Jihad Union, a group that has links to Al Qaeda and supports Al Qaeda's global jihadist agenda.

And these are just the documented, unclassified instances where terrorism was thwarted. There's no telling how many near-disasters were avoided by the Bush administration's efforts. When you cite these specific instances to a liberal as proof that the Bush administration kept us safe after 9/11, be prepared for one of two arguments:

1) "Well, these attacks could have been thwarted with or without Bush."
2) "These are domestic attacks, and the war on terror had nothing to do with stopping them."

Both of these arguments can easily be shot down by the simple fact that many of the aforementioned thwarting was the result of information attained by the efforts in Bush's War on Terror. That's right folks, all that "invading" and "torturing" allowed us to avoid at least 20 documented terrorist attacks.

To which I imagine most liberals will reply, "But the war has had more casualties than any of those attacks would have had." This is probably true, but irrelevant given the fact that soldiers sign up to defend America precisely because they do not want innocent civilians to suffer from these types of terrorist attacks. Moreover, I can promise you, roughly 5,000 American soldiers have not given their lives in this war so that people could pretend like it hasn't made a difference, like it hasn't kept America safe.

Now you can argue against the aggressiveness with which Bush pursued keeping terrorism at bay, saying that his efforts have perhaps brewed international unrest with the US which might cause long term threats to our safety. But what is not debatable is that he kept American civilians safe after 9/11, because he absolutely did. The only reason liberals try to deny this fact is because they fear accepting it would invalidate their "righteous indignation" with the War on Terror.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Obama's First Casualties

Editorial Cartoon by Gary Varvel

American Thinker: What is Marxism?


What is Marxism?
By Steven Plaut
AMERICAN THINKER
March 16, 2009

Marxists claim that Marxism is a science. It is not. It is a sort of pagan religious cult. It is a theology. It is a form of superstition.

Marxists claim that Karl Marx understood capitalism and economics. He did not. They also claim that the entire validity of Marx's set of theories on all subjects rests ultimately on how valid Marxist economic thought is. Marxist economic thought was completely wrong.

Marx claimed that all products contain value that is directly proportional to the amount of labor embodied within them. He was wrong. All the rest of Marxism is based entirely on this mistaken and falsifiable premise.

Marxists claim that the operations of markets have a natural tendency to spawn monopolies. They call this "monopoly capitalism." In reality, markets have a natural tendency to break up and undermine monopolies. Almost all monopolies under capitalism are those set up by governments stifling and interfering in the operations of markets.

The most harmful monopolies in modern economies are the labor unions.

Marxists claim that corporate monopolies are growing in importance and in power. In fact, monopolies have been losing power and strength under capitalism for well over a century.

Marxists think that large corporations collaborate and operate power-sharing arrangements among themselves. They do not and cannot. Large corporations compete, undercut, and threaten one another's market shares every day. As one of many proofs, just look at the number of inter-corporate law suits.

Marxism is based on conflict between "social classes." But social classes do not exist at all. This is not to say that there are not richer folk and poorer folk all about. It only means that all the richer folk share no collective common interests, and the same is true for all the poorer folk.

Marxists claim that people's ideas and ideals are dictated by property relations. They are wrong.

Marxists and socialists in general care a lot about the distribution of material wealth. But they have no idea how to bring about the creation of the material wealth that they wish to redistribute. They just assume it all gets produced all by itself. That is why people in communist regimes starve.

Marxists claim that workers are oppressed in capitalist societies. Workers in communist societies always try to sneak out into capitalist societies. No one in South Korea is trying to sneak into North Korea. The Berlin Wall was not built to keep West Germans from sneaking into East Germany's collective farms. Cubans in Florida do not steal boats to seek asylum in Cuban collective farms.

Marxists claim that lower-income people support the Left and that higher-income people support the Right. Generally the opposite is the case. Let's not forget the Hollywood Left.

Marxists claim that capitalism creates "crises of surplus," where materials build up that cannot be sold. They are wrong. Surpluses just cause prices to drop.

Marxists claim that capitalists do not work and that workers do not own capital. That is why they comprise "social classes." But nearly all capitalists work, often in work days with very long hours. Meanwhile, a huge portion of capital is held by workers themselves through their pension funds and other institutional investment intermediaries.

Marxists claim that businesses are owned by a small closed clique of capitalists. Actually, most businesses are "public," meaning they are owned by shareholders and anyone at all can be a shareholder in them.

Marxists claim that capitalism cannot be democratic. But every single democratic society on earth is predominantly capitalist. Not a single communist regime was ever democratic. Communists take power via military coups and military conquest, not via elections.

Marxists claim that capitalists use violence to protect their perquisites and privileges. In truth, Marxists in power use violence to protect their perquisites and privileges. They use violence to suppress opposition wherever they manage to seize power, including violence against opposition groups of workers. It is conservatively estimated that 100 million people were killed by Marxism and by Marxists in the twentieth century.

Marxists claim that people are prisoners of their material circumstances and of their classes of birth. Tell that to the limousine Marxists, the endowment-fund Trotskyists, and the tenured socialists.

Marxists claim that all workers share common interests and shared goals, making them into a "class." In reality, they share nothing in common and have no common interests.

Marxists think that all capitalists share common interests and get together in large stadiums every few weeks to plan out a program to achieve those. In reality, if capitalists were ever to congregate in such a stadium, they could agree on absolutely nothing, not even on the price of the beer. There is no single issue in economic policy over which all capitalists have the same position or share the same interest.

Marxists claim that workers in capitalist societies feel "alienated." In reality, pampered children in capitalist society feel alienated because capitalism produces wealth, makes material comfort possible, and so creates the opportunities for idleness and leisure that lead to recreational feelings of alienation.

Marxists think that if you earn more money than me, it means you are exploiting me. In reality, it means you are more talented, harder working, better skilled, and luckier than me.

Marxists think that if one person has more wealth than a second person, it can only be because the first one stole the wealth of the second. Ditto for richer and poorer countries.

Marxists think that only things matter in economics, meaning tangible products, and so services do not. They believe that big products are more important than small products, big industries being more important than small industries. They also believe that consumer goods are superfluous and should not be produced much. All those ideas are why the quality of life and the standard of living are so miserable under communist regimes. In wealthy countries, small- and medium-size enterprises are the main engines for producing wealth.

Marxists do not see why workers should need to be allowed to vote. The interest of workers is always defined as whatever those claiming to speak in the name of the working class happen to support and desire.

Marxists think that socialism works. It does not. The only form of "socialism" that has not produced mass impoverishment and starvation is Scandinavian capitalism merged with a bloated "socialist" welfare state.

Marxists claim that most Marxists come from the working class. In reality almost all Marxists are the pampered children of middle class and wealthy parents. There are more Marxists today on the campuses of some American universities than in all of eastern Europe.

Marxists claim that under Marxism everyone receives according to his needs and contributes according to his capabilities. In reality, under Marxism everyone receives according to whatever the entrenched party apparatchiks decide their needs are, usually sub-sustenance levels of consumption, and the same people decide what are your abilities, generally assumed to be your ability to work endlessly at whatever you are told to do without getting paid much. To put this differently, in the absence of positive incentives, no one is capable of doing anything and everyone's needs are infinite.

Marxists think that "experts" can tell what needs to be produced. They cannot. That is why Marxist experts produce starvation. In some cases Marxist starvation has produced cannibalism. There is not a single Marxist scholar or expert on earth who could produce a pencil by himself.

Marxists think that efficiency in production can be achieved by terrorizing factory workers and communal farm members. While terrorizing them, it has never successfully achieved efficiency that way. People are always smarter than the terrorizing officials and manage to thwart them.

Marxists believe that economic incentives do not matter. That is why they think there is no need to pay people more for working hard or exerting effort. It is enough to appeal to their "class interests." That is why people starve under communism.

When a Marxist speaks of "dictatorship of the proletariat," he means he thinks he has the right to use violence to impose his own arbitrary dictatorship upon members of the working class and upon everyone else, without asking for their approval or votes.

Marxists claim that Marxism is fundamentally democratic. In reality it is always fundamentally anti-democratic.

Marxists pretend to be in favor of the working class collectively owning all property. In reality Marxists always steal the property of members of the working class and turn it over to well-paid party apparatchiks.

Marxists think that Marx understood economics. In fact, virtually all Marxist "theories" were completed debunked 160 years ago. Marx was wrong about virtually everything he wrote on economics. It is more difficult to say whether he was correct about anything in sociology, but that is more a commentary on the nebulous and muddled nature of sociological thinking.

Marxists see no need at all for "finance capital." That is why they always steal everyone's savings in communist societies. It is also why workers in communist societies hide their savings in banks in capitalist societies.

Marx did not have the slightest inkling about what determines wages of workers in markets. He had even less understanding of what determines prices.

Marxists use the term "concrete" whenever they do not know how to finish a sentence, or whenever they have no idea of what is being discussed.

Marxists think that women live better lives under Marxism. That is because they never speak with any women who grew up under communism.

There is not a Marxist on earth who has actually read and understood Karl Marx's tedious book "Das Kapital." You can read a summary of the book on Wikipedia, written by people who did not read it either. In reality, Marx had no idea at all even what capital is.

Marxists often want to abolish the family, but that is because they became Marxists in the first place as a way to antagonize and irritate mommy and daddy.

Marxists believe that people living under Marxism lose interest in religion. They do not.

Marxists believe that in every voluntary transaction, one side wins and the other loses, and so it is impossible for two sides to profit from it. That is why they think you should be told what to buy and how much you should pay for it.

Marxists claim that capitalist countries engage in imperialism. But since World War II the largest empires of imperialist conquest were those headed by Marxist regimes.

Marxists believe that there are no real conflicts of interest between the workers living in different countries and speaking different languages or coming from different cultures. That is without a doubt the very stupidest idea of all coming from Marxism. In any case, that is why Marxism is generally spread only via military conquest.

Marxists think that capitalism makes people greedy. Actually people living under communism become much greedier because they are poor and desperate.

Marxists claim that Marxism is a science. It is not. It is today little more than a form of mental illness.

Steven Plaut is an economist and teaches business administration.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

What the Presidential Election Says About Each State's Investment in The War On Terror

Liberals love to say, "When the rich wage war, it's the poor who die." The supposition, of course, is that the rich only want war because the poor do all the fighting. Certainly, if you look at each state's mean household income, 18 of the 25 states with the lowest median household income are also among the 25 states with the highest casualty rate per capita (estimated 2008 state population) in The War on Terror (Iraq + Afghanistan).

What liberals seem to misinterpret with the aforementioned bumper sticker argument, is that the median household income for the poorest state in the union is 36,338. The median expected salary for a typical E1 - Recruit for Basic Training (Army) in the United States is just $15,222. So it's not as if the military offers pay far and beyond the civilian opportunities available.

It's also important to note the source of this quote - Jean-Paul Sartre, who was drafted into the French army in 1939 during World War II. Therefore, his statement about the relationship between poverty and war speaks more towards the nature of drafts during his time than it does towards our current system of military enlistment - which is 100% voluntary.

As I type this, I can just picture one of my liberal readers furrowing his brow, pursing his lips and stomping his foot. I'm sure this liberal would make the argument, "It doesn't matter when Sartre lived or in what context he made the statement. You yourself just proved that the states with the lowest median household income have experienced the highest amount of casualties in The War on Terror."

And indeed I did make that point. The reason I mention the context of Sartre's statement is to point toward the distinction in his experience and the experience of American soldiers today. While he was forced to go to war, our troops volunteer. To which I imagine my phantom liberal would reply, "Yes, but the poor can be forced into 'volunteering' via socioeconomic pressure."

This is true also. The stats bare out the assertion that economically downtrodden states experience a higher per capita enlistment rate. What does not follow, however, is that these enlistees are unwilling participants of war. The 2008 election showed this liberal assertion to be absolutely false.

A Military Times poll released a couple weeks before the election found that American soldiers overwhelmingly supported John McCain - who advocated the Iraq war from the start, and who intensely supported the idea of staying in Iraq as long as necessary to ensure stability in the region - over Barack Obama by a margin of 3:1. This margin of preference for the Republican, pro-war candidate was consistent between both enlisted troops and officers amongst all branches of the military and duty statuses.

When a liberal is confronted with the incontrovertible fact that American soldiers are willing participants of The War on Terror and believe in the cause for which they are fighting and risking their lives, the typical response is, "Well maybe... but it's the families that suffer during war - the soldiers are brain-washed to believe what they are doing is right."

If such a platitude were correct, the states with the highest casualty rate per capita would have supported Barack Obama - who opposed the Iraq war from its offset, and who promised to set a 16 month time table for troop withdraw if elected - in the 2008 election. This was not the case. In fact, 16 of the 25 states with the highest casualty rates relative to state population voted for McCain.

So, it isn't the case that these soldiers are fighting against their will. It isn't even the case that the communities who have lost the most want the war to end. On the contrary, the states which have lost the most - the communities which have invested the most into The War on Terror did not support Barack Obama. Yet these communities which have lost so very much, will have their opinions ignored because Obama won 53% of the popular vote, and therefore feels he has a "mandate" for his liberal military agenda.

Doesn't it seem inappropriate that those who have invested the least in this war, now have control over it?

Jihad, USA: Homegrown Terror

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

NRO's 25 Best Conservative Movies


Below are National Review Online's 25 best conservative movies. I can't say I agree with their reasoning with each one of these picks, but they put forward some solid suggestions. I've hunted down and embedded a youtube trailer for each movie:
The Best Conservative Movies
February 23, 2009

Once in a blue moon, Hollywood releases a conservative movie, or at least a film that resonates with conservatives in a particular way. Because conservatives love movies — and especially debates about movies — we decided to produce a list of the 25 best conservative movies of the last 25 years. Our approach in selecting them doesn’t rise to the level of an actual methodology, but there was a method to it. We asked readers of National Review Online to submit nominations. Hundreds of suggestions came in, along with explanations and arguments. We considered each one, tallied them up, and consulted a number of film buffs and professional movie-makers.

We do not claim that the writers, directors, producers, gaffers, and key grips involved with these films are conservative. We certainly make no such assertion about the actors. Yet the results are indisputable: Conservatives enjoy these films because they are great movies that offer compelling messages about freedom, families, patriotism, traditions, and more.

— John J. Miller
1. The Lives of Others (2007):


“I think that this is the best movie I ever saw,” said William F. Buckley Jr. upon leaving the theater (according to his column on the film). The tale, set in East Germany in 1984, is one part romantic drama, one part political thriller. It chronicles life under a totalitarian regime as the Stasi secretly monitors the activities of a playwright who is suspected of harboring doubts about Communism. Critics showered the movie with praise and it won an Oscar for best foreign-language film (it’s in German). More Buckley: “The tension mounts to heart-stopping pitch and I felt the impulse to rush out into the street and drag passersby in to watch the story unfold.”

— John J. Miller
2. The Incredibles (2004):


This animated film skips pop-culture references and gross jokes in favor of a story that celebrates marriage, courage, responsibility, and high achievement. A family of superheroes — Mr. Incredible, his wife Elastigirl, and their children — are living an anonymous life in the suburbs, thanks to a society that doesn’t appreciate their unique talents. Then it comes to need them. In one scene, son Dash, a super-speedy runner, wants to try out for track. Mom claims it wouldn’t be fair. “Dad says our powers make us special!” Dash objects. “Everyone is special,” Mom demurs, to which Dash mutters, “Which means nobody is.”

— Frederica Mathewes-Greene writes for Beliefnet.com.
3. Metropolitan (1990):


Whit Stillman’s Oscar-nominated debut takes a red-headed outsider into the luxurious drawing rooms and debutante balls of New York’s Upper East Side elite. One character, a committed socialist, falls for the discreet charm of the urban haute bourgeoisie. Another plaintively theorizes the inevitable doom of his class. A reader of Jane Austen wonders what’s wrong with a novel’s having a virtuous heroine. And a roguish defender of standards and detachable collars delivers more sophisticated conservative one-liners than a year’s worth of Yale Party of the Right debates. With mocking affection, gentle irony, and a blizzard of witty dialogue, Stillman manages the impossible: He brings us to see what is admirable and necessary in the customs and conventions of America’s upper class.

— Mark Henrie is the editor of Doomed Bourgeois in Love: Essays on the Films of Whit Stillman.
4. Forrest Gump (1994):


It won an Oscar for best picture — beating Pulp Fiction, a movie that’s far more expressive of Hollywood’s worldview. Tom Hanks plays the title character, an amiable dunce who is far too smart to embrace the lethal values of the 1960s. The love of his life, wonderfully played by Robin Wright Penn, chooses a different path; she becomes a drug-addled hippie, with disastrous results. Forrest’s IQ may be room temperature, but he serves as an unexpected font of wisdom. Put ’em on a Whitman’s Sampler, but Mama Gump’s famous words about life’s being like a box of chocolates ring true.

— Charlotte Hays is co-author of Somebody Is Going to Die If Lilly Beth Doesn’t Catch That Bouquet.
5. 300 (2007):


During the Bush years, Hollywood neglected the heroism of American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan — but it did release this action film about martial honor, unflinching courage, and the oft-ignored truth that freedom isn’t free. Beneath a layer of egregious non-history — including goblin-like creatures that belong in a fantasy epic — is a stylized story about the ancient battle of Thermopylae and the Spartan defense of the West’s fledgling institutions. It contrasts a small band of Spartans, motivated by their convictions and a commitment to the law, with a Persian horde that is driven forward by whips. In the words recorded by the real-life Herodotus: “Law is their master, which they fear more than your men[, Xerxes,] fear you.”

— Michael Poliakoff, a classicist, is vice president for academic affairs at the University of Colorado.
6. Groundhog Day (1993):


This putatively wacky comedy about Bill Murray as an obnoxious weatherman cursed to relive the same day over and over in a small Pennsylvania town, perhaps for eternity, is in fact a sophisticated commentary on the good and true. Theologians and philosophers across the ideological spectrum have embraced it. For the conservative, the moral of the tale is that redemption and meaning are derived not from indulging your “authentic” instincts and drives, but from striving to live up to external and timeless ideals. Murray begins the film as an irony-soaked narcissist, contemptuous of beauty, art, and commitment. His journey of self-discovery leads him to understand that the fads of modernity are no substitute for the permanent things.

— Jonah Goldberg
7. The Pursuit of Happyness (2006):


Based on the life of self-made millionaire Chris Gardner (Will Smith), this film provides the perfect antidote to Wall Street and other Hollywood diatribes depicting the world of finance as filled with nothing but greed. After his wife leaves him, Gardner can barely pay the rent. He accepts an unpaid internship at a San Francisco brokerage, with the promise of a real job if he outperforms the other interns and passes his exams. Gardner never succumbs to self-pity, even when he and his young son take refuge in a homeless shelter. They’re black, but there’s no racial undertone or subtext. Gardner is just an incredibly hard-working, ambitious, and smart man who wants to do better for himself and his son.

— Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity.
8. Juno (2007):


The best pro-life movies reach beyond the church choirs and influence the wider public. Juno was a critical and commercial success. It didn’t set out to deliver a message on abortion, but much of its audience discovered one anyway. The story revolves around a 16-year-old who finds a home for her unplanned baby. The film has its faults, including a number of crass moments and a pregnant high-school student with an unrealistic level of self-confidence. Yet it also exposes a broken culture in which teen sex is dehumanizing, girls struggle with “choice,” and boys aimlessly try — and sometimes downright fail — to become men. The movie doesn’t glamorize much of anything but leaves audiences with an open-ended chance for redemption.

— Kathryn Jean Lopez
9. Blast from the Past (1999):


Revolutionary Road is only the latest big-screen portrayal of 1950s America as boring, conformist, repressive, and soul-destroying. A decade ago, Hugh Wilson’s Blast from the Past defied the party line, seeing the values, customs, manners, and even music of the period with nostalgic longing. Brendan Fraser plays an innocent who has grown up in a fallout shelter and doesn’t know the era of Sputnik and Perry Como is over. Alicia Silverstone is a post-feminist woman who learns from him that pre-feminist women had some things going for them. Christopher Walken and Sissy Spacek as Fraser’s parents are comic gems.

— James Bowman is a movie critic.
10. Ghostbusters (1984):


This comedy might not get Russell Kirk’s endorsement as a worthy treatment of the supernatural, but you have to like a movie in which the bad guy (William Atherton at his loathsome best) is a regulation-happy buffoon from the EPA, and the solution to a public menace comes from the private sector. This last fact is the other reason to love Ghostbusters: When Dr. Peter Venkman (Bill Murray) gets kicked out of the university lab and ponders pursuing entrepreneurial opportunities, a nervous Dr. Raymond Stantz (Dan Aykroyd) replies: “I don’t know about that. I’ve worked in the private sector. They expect results!”

— Steven F. Hayward is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.
11. The Lord of the Rings (2001, 2002, 2003):


Author J. R. R. Tolkien was deeply conservative, so it’s no surprise that the trilogy of movies based on his masterwork is as well. Largely filmed before 9/11, they seemed perfectly pitched for the post-9/11 world. The debates over what to do about Sauron and Saruman echoed our own disputes over the Iraq War. (Think of Wormtongue as Keith Olbermann.) When Frodo sighs, “I wish none of this had happened,” Gandalf’s response speaks to us, too: “So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

— Andrew Leigh is a screenwriter and producer in Los Angeles.
12. The Dark Knight (2008):


This film gives us a portrait of the hero as a man reviled. In his fight against the terrorist Joker, Batman has to devise new means of surveillance, push the limits of the law, and accept the hatred of the press and public. If that sounds reminiscent of a certain former president — whose stubborn integrity kept the nation safe and turned the tide of war — don’t mention it to the mainstream media. Our journalists know that good men are often despised by the mob; it just never seems to occur to them that they might be the mob themselves.

— Andrew Klavan is the author of Empire of Lies.
13. Braveheart (1995):


Forget the travesty this soaring action film makes of the historical record. Braveheart raised its hero, medieval Scottish warrior William Wallace, to the level of myth and won five Oscars, including best director for Mel Gibson, who played Wallace as he led a spirited revolt against English tyranny. Braveheart taught that freedom is not just worth dying for, but also worth killing for, in defense of hearth and homeland. Six years later, amid the ruins of the Twin Towers, Gibson’s message resonated with a generation of American youth who signed up to fight terrorists, instead of inviting them to join a “constructive dialogue.” Liberals have never forgiven Gibson since.

— Arthur Herman is the author of How the Scots Invented the Modern World.
14. A Simple Plan (1998):


A defining insight of conservatism is that whatever transcendent inspiration there may be to moral principles, there is also the humble fact that morality works. Moral institutions and customs endure because they allow civilization to proceed. Sam Raimi’s gripping A Simple Plan illustrates this truth. Bill Paxton plays a decent family man who lives by the book in every way. But when he’s cajoled into breaking the rules to get rich quick, he falls under the jurisdiction of the law of unintended consequences and discovers that simple morality is not simplistic, and that a seductively simple plan is a siren song if it runs against the grain of what is right.

— Jonah Goldberg
15. Red Dawn (1984):


From the safe, familiar environment of a classroom, we watch countless parachutes drop from the sky and into the heart of America. Oh, no: invading Commies! Laugh if you want — many do — but Red Dawn has survived countless more acclaimed films because Father Time has always been our most reliable film critic. The essence of timelessness is more than beauty. It’s also truth, and the truth that America is a place and an idea worth fighting and dying for will not be denied, not under a pile of left-wing critiques or even Red Dawn’s own melodramatic flaws. Released at the midpoint of Reagan’s presidential showdown with the Soviet Union, this story of what was at stake in the Cold War endures.

— John Nolte blogs at BigHollywood.Breitbart.com.
16. Master and Commander (2003):


This naval-adventure film starring Russell Crowe is based on the books of Patrick O’Brian, and here’s what A. O. Scott of the New York Times said in his review: “The Napoleonic wars that followed the French Revolution gave birth, among other things, to British conservatism, and Master and Commander, making no concessions to modern, egalitarian sensibilities, is among the most thoroughly and proudly conservative movies ever made. It imagines the [H.M.S.] Surprise as a coherent society in which stability is underwritten by custom and every man knows his duty and his place. I would not have been surprised to see Edmund Burke’s name in the credits.”

— John J. Miller
17. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe (2005):


The White Witch runs a godless, oppressive, paranoid regime that hates Santa Claus. She’s a cross between Burgermeister Meisterburger and Kim Jong Il. The good guys, meanwhile, recognize that some throats will need cutting: no appeasement, no land-for-peace swaps, no offering the witch a snowmobile if she’ll only put away the wand. Underlying the narrative is the story of Christ’s rescuing man from sin — which is antithetical to the leftist dream of perfected man’s becoming an instrument for earthly utopia. The results of such utopian visions, of course, are frequently like the Witch’s reign: always winter, and never Christmas.

— Tony Woodlief writes for World magazine and blogs at tonywoodlief.com.
18. The Edge (1997):


Screenwriter David Mamet uses a wilderness survival story about friendship, betrayal, and forgiveness to present a few truths rarely seen in movies: Knowledge has its limits, fortitude is a weapon against hardship, and honor can motivate even the shallowest man to great sacrifice. Some have interpreted the film as a Cold War allegory because it features a menacing bear. The main characters (played by Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin) understand that there is neither wisdom nor nobility in waiting for others to save them, and that they must take responsibility for their own lives and souls. Life is unfair, but to challenge life on its own terms is an exhilarating reward, no matter the outcome.

— Michael Long is a director of the White House Writers Group.
19. We Were Soldiers (2002):


Most movies about the Vietnam War reflect the derangements of the antiwar Left. This film, based on the memoir by Lt. Col. Hal Moore (played by Mel Gibson), offers a lifelike alternative. It focuses on a fight between an outnumbered U.S. Army battalion and three North Vietnamese regiments in the battle of Ia Drang in 1965. Significantly, it treats soldiers not as wretched losers or pathological killers, but as regular citizens. They are men willing to sacrifice everything to do their duty — to their country, to their unit, and to their fellow soldiers. As the movie makes clear, they also had families. Indeed, their last thoughts were usually about their loved ones back home.

— Mackubin Thomas Owens, a Vietnam veteran, is a professor at the Naval War College.
20. Gattaca (1997):


In this science-fiction drama, Vincent (Ethan Hawke) can’t become an astronaut because he’s genetically unenhanced. So he purchases the identity of a disabled athlete (Jude Law), with calamitous results. The movie is a cautionary tale about the progressive fantasy of a eugenically correct world — the road to which is paved by the abortion of Down babies, research into human cloning, and “transhumanist” dreams of fabricating a “post-human species.” Biotechnology is a force for good, but without adherence to the ideal of universal human equality, it opens the door to the soft tyranny of Gattaca and, ultimately, the dystopian nightmare of Brave New World.

— Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute.
21. Heartbreak Ridge (1986):


Clint Eastwood’s foul-mouthed Marine sergeant Tom Highway makes quick work of kicking Communist Cubans out of Grenada. And, boy, does “Gunny” hate Commies. Not only does he kill quite a few, he also refuses a bribe of a Cuban cigar, saying: “Get that contraband stogie out of my face before I shove it so far up you’re a** you’ll have to set fire to your nose to light it.” A welcome glorification of Reagan’s decision to liberate Grenada in 1983, the film also notes how after a tie in Korea and a loss in Vietnam, America can finally celebrate a military victory. Eastwood, the old war horse, walks off into retirement pleased that he’s not “0–1–1 anymore.” Semper Fi. Oo-rah!

— James G. Lakely is managing editor of InfoTech & Telecom News at the Heartland Institute.
22. Brazil (1985):


Vividly depicting the miserable results of elitist utopian schemes, Terry Gilliam’s Brazil portrays a darkly comic dystopia of malfunctioning high-tech equipment and the dreary living conditions common to all totalitarian regimes. Everything in the society is built to serve government plans rather than people. The film is visually arresting and inventive, with especially evocative use of shots that put the audience in a subservient position, just like the people in the film. Terrorist bombings, national-security scares, universal police surveillance, bureaucratic arrogance, a callous elite, perversion of science, and government use of torture evoke the worst aspects of the modern megastate.

— S. T. Karnick blogs at stkarnick.com.
23. United 93 (2006):


Minutes after terrorists struck on 9/11, Americans launched their first counterattack in the War on Terror. Director Paul Greengrass pays tribute to the passengers of United 93 by refusing to turn their story into a wimpy Hollywood melodrama. Instead, United 93 unfolds as a real-time docudrama. Just as significantly, Greengrass provides a clear depiction of our enemies. United 93 opens as four Muslim terrorists pray in a hotel room. Several hours later, the hijackers’ frenzied shrieks to Allah mingle with the prayerful supplications of United 93’s passengers as they crash through the cockpit door and strike a blow against those who would terrorize our country.

— Andrew Coffin is director of the Reagan Ranch and vice president of Young America’s Foundation.
24. Team America: World Police (2004):


This marionette movie from South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone is hard to categorize as conservative. It’s amazingly vulgar and depicts Americans as wildly overzealous in fighting terror. Yet the film’s utter disgust with air-headed, left-wing celebrity activism remains unmatched in popular culture. As the heroes move to stop a WMD apocalypse, they clash with Alec Baldwin, Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, Sean Penn, and a host of others, whom they take out with gunfire, sword, and martial arts before saving the day. The movie, like South Park itself, reveals Parker and Stone as the two-headed George Grosz of American satire.

— Brian C. Anderson is editor of City Journal and author of South Park Conservatives.
25. Gran Torino (2008):


Clint Eastwood directs and stars in the ultimate family movie unsuitable for the family. He plays Walt Kowalski, a caricature of an old-school, dying-breed, Polish-American racist male, replete with post-traumatic stress disorder from having served in the Korean War. Kowalski comes to realize that his exotic Hmong neighbors embody traditional social values more than his own disaster of a Caucasian nuclear family. Dirty Harry blows away political correctness, takes on the bad guys, and turns a boy into a man in the process. He even encourages the cultural assimilation of immigrants. It feels so good, you knew the Academy would ignore it.

— Andrew Breitbart is the proprietor of BigHollywood.Breitbart.com.

The Also-Rans
25 more great conservative movies

Air Force One, Amazing Grace, An American Carol, Barcelona, Bella, Cinderella Man, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Hamburger Hill, The Hanoi Hilton, The Hunt for Red October, The Island, Knocked Up, The Last Days of Disco, The Lost City, Miracle, The Patriot, Rocky Balboa, Serenity, Stand and Deliver, Tears of the Sun, Thank You for Smoking, Three Kings, Tin Men, The Truman Show, Witness

Obama’s Embryonic Straw Man

Obama set up yet another strawman argument yesterday in defense of his decision to federally fund the destruction of human embryos for research:
Obama’s False Choice
What the president could stand to learn from his predecessor on science policy.

By Yuval Levin
NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE
March 9, 2009 3:30 PM

Almost eight years ago, on the evening of Aug. 9, 2001, a new president addressed the nation about the complex challenge he confronted in deciding whether and how the federal government should support embryonic-stem-cell research. Rather than just announce the decision he had reached, George W. Bush took his national television audience through the process he had followed over the preceding months as he wrestled with that “complex and difficult issue.”

“Many people are finding that the more they know about stem-cell research, the less certain they are about the right ethical and moral conclusions,” Bush said. The promise of the research could be great indeed, and some of the nation’s top scientists had told him it might someday lead to treatments for the sick and suffering. Yet there was no getting around the fact that human embryos were human beings in the earliest stages of development, and the research would take their lives. “At its core,” Bush told the country, “this issue forces us to confront fundamental questions about the beginnings of life and the ends of science. It lies at a difficult moral intersection, juxtaposing the need to protect life in all its phases with the prospect of saving and improving life in all its stages.”

Listening that night, one could tell that Bush sought a way to champion science and ethics together, rather than force an impossible choice between them. And the policy he proposed carved out such common ground.

The federal government had never before provided funding to research that relied on the destruction of embryos, but some human embryos had been destroyed using private funds. The lines of cells derived from those embryos already existed, and the “life or death” decision, as Bush put it, had already been made and could not be undone. He decided to permit federal support for projects using those existing lines, but not for work that relied on the destruction of embryos in the future. “This allows us to explore the promise and potential of stem-cell research without crossing a fundamental moral line, by providing taxpayer funding that would sanction or encourage further destruction of human embryos,” he said.

At first, his policy was welcomed by research advocates because it provided federal funds for the first time, but opposition soon emerged and grew. Those who did not share the president’s concern about the morality of destroying human embryos for research argued that the science might advance more quickly if the ethical boundaries he established were brought down. Their complaints were soon amplified by politicians, especially Democrats who saw a potentially powerful wedge issue in stem cells. Rather than address the moral concerns at the heart of the debate, they argued that the Bush policy was “anti-science,” and worked to obscure its moral foundation and its practical achievements. Even as the policy supported thousands of experiments with more than $200 million in funding, and as American researchers remained the undisputed leaders in the field, Bush’s opponents sought to paint the policy as obscurantist and useless.

Soon the stem-cell debate overflowed with reckless hyperbole: claims that 100 million Americans were dying of terrible degenerative illnesses and only embryonic-stem-cell research could save them; that the funded cells were useless; that the policy was causing American scientists to fall behind their foreign counterparts; that Bush had banned embryonic-stem-cell research entirely, and on and on. It was mostly politicians, not scientists, who uttered such patent falsehoods, and they may well have believed their statements were true. But the effect of it all was to distort the debate, steering it clear of discussions about the humanity of the embryos involved and the profound ethical dilemma President Bush had described. By the time Democratic vice-presidential candidate John Edwards said in 2004 that “when John Kerry is president, people like Christopher Reeve are going to walk,” it was clear the debate had come to have little to do with the actual science of stem cells.

That actual science, meanwhile, has moved dramatically, and in a direction that actually tends to justify Bush’s hope that science and ethics would not have to conflict. There has been little progress toward therapeutic applications (if anything, the once common “personal repair kit” scenario seems far less plausible now), but it increasingly looks like whatever potential there is in embryonic stem cells can be harnessed without the destruction of embryos. Over the last three years in particular, a technique that transforms normal adult cells (like skin cells) into what appears to be the functional equivalent of embryonic stem cells has been sweeping the field, holding out the promise of not only a way around the ethical dilemmas but a source of genetically matched cells almost without end. Cells left over from fertility treatment have thus grown far less compelling on scientific grounds than they were when Bush made his decision, but no less problematic on moral grounds. Today, the case for funding them is weaker than ever.

Unfortunately, the political debate has yet to recover the kind of balanced understanding of the moral quandary that President Bush offered the country eight years ago, much less catch up with the scientific developments that shift the moral balance even further away from embryo-destructive research. President Obama, confronted with the same question as Bush was, has opted to sharpen the differences between science and ethics rather than seek common ground, and has for the first time put federal dollars toward funding the destruction of human embryos for research.

As he did so, Obama also chose to repeat the familiar cliché that the Bush policy was a betrayal of science. In his administration, he argued, “we make scientific decisions based on facts and not ideology.” The facts of the Bush administration’s funding of the research, its support for science funding more generally, and the emergence of alternatives to embryo destruction seem not to count. And the fact that every human embryo is a living human being seemed unworthy of mention.

Science policy is not a science: It must seek to use science to the benefit of the larger society, and also to restrain science in those rare instances when it threatens that society’s ideals. In hindsight, it seems increasingly clear that President Bush’s stem-cell-funding policy will stand as a model of how to strike a balance between these concerns. President Obama’s overturning of the Bush approach offers an unfortunate example of how fragile that balance often is.

— Yuval Levin is a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, senior editor of The New Atlantis, and author of Imagining the Future: Science and American Democracy.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Obama's Radicalism Is Killing the Dow


As I've asserted several times on this blog, the great danger of socialism is that it cannot coexist with fair representative democracy because socialism, by its very nature, is a system which aims at purchasing votes. Socialists confiscate money from the few highest wage earners and redistribute it to the many low wage earners; in effect, purchasing loyalty and buying votes. Democracy cannot flourish amongst such corruption.

Of all Obama's socialist tendencies, his tax structure says the most about the true nature of his intentions. Under his proposed tax structure, new and expanded refundable tax credits will raise the portion of taxpayers paying no income taxes from 38% to about 50%. Obviously, if 50% of the nation isn't paying income taxes, he and his liberal buddies won't have to work as hard come election time. Who's going to vote him out of office when he's handing them free money?

Unfortunately for America, as Margaret Thatcher pointed out, "The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money to spend." Eventually, the rich won't be rich any more, and all the temporary favor democrats have purchased will vanish along with our national wealth and high GDP. In the mean time, I fear we must all endure Obama's insufferable attempts to completely deconstruct the economic fundamentals of this country which have made America the most wealthy and most charitable of any in the world.

Below is another Wall Street Journal article which quantifies the negative effects Obama's radical agenda is having (and will continue to have) on the economy:
Obama's Radicalism Is Killing the Dow
A financial crisis is the worst time to change the foundations of American capitalism
By Michael J. Boskin
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

March 6, 2009- It's hard not to see the continued sell-off on Wall Street and the growing fear on Main Street as a product, at least in part, of the realization that our new president's policies are designed to radically re-engineer the market-based U.S. economy, not just mitigate the recession and financial crisis.

The illusion that Barack Obama will lead from the economic center has quickly come to an end. Instead of combining the best policies of past Democratic presidents -- John Kennedy on taxes, Bill Clinton on welfare reform and a balanced budget, for instance -- President Obama is returning to Jimmy Carter's higher taxes and Mr. Clinton's draconian defense drawdown.

Mr. Obama's $3.6 trillion budget blueprint, by his own admission, redefines the role of government in our economy and society. The budget more than doubles the national debt held by the public, adding more to the debt than all previous presidents -- from George Washington to George W. Bush -- combined. It reduces defense spending to a level not sustained since the dangerous days before World War II, while increasing nondefense spending (relative to GDP) to the highest level in U.S. history. And it would raise taxes to historically high levels (again, relative to GDP). And all of this before addressing the impending explosion in Social Security and Medicare costs.

To be fair, specific parts of the president's budget are admirable and deserve support: increased means-testing in agriculture and medical payments; permanent indexing of the alternative minimum tax and other tax reductions; recognizing the need for further financial rescue and likely losses thereon; and bringing spending into the budget that was previously in supplemental appropriations, such as funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The specific problems, however, far outweigh the positives. First are the quite optimistic forecasts, despite the higher taxes and government micromanagement that will harm the economy. The budget projects a much shallower recession and stronger recovery than private forecasters or the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office are projecting. It implies a vast amount of additional spending and higher taxes, above and beyond even these record levels. For example, it calls for a down payment on universal health care, with the additional "resources" needed "TBD" (to be determined).

Mr. Obama has bravely said he will deal with the projected deficits in Medicare and Social Security. While reform of these programs is vital, the president has shown little interest in reining in the growth of real spending per beneficiary, and he has rejected increasing the retirement age. Instead, he's proposed additional taxes on earnings above the current payroll tax cap of $106,800 -- a bad policy that would raise marginal tax rates still further and barely dent the long-run deficit.

Increasing the top tax rates on earnings to 39.6% and on capital gains and dividends to 20% will reduce incentives for our most productive citizens and small businesses to work, save and invest -- with effective rates higher still because of restrictions on itemized deductions and raising the Social Security cap. As every economics student learns, high marginal rates distort economic decisions, the damage from which rises with the square of the rates (doubling the rates quadruples the harm). The president claims he is only hitting 2% of the population, but many more will at some point be in these brackets.

As for energy policy, the president's cap-and-trade plan for CO2 would ensnare a vast network of covered sources, opening up countless opportunities for political manipulation, bureaucracy, or worse. It would likely exacerbate volatility in energy prices, as permit prices soar in booms and collapse in busts. The European emissions trading system has been a dismal failure. A direct, transparent carbon tax would be far better.

Moreover, the president's energy proposals radically underestimate the time frame for bringing alternatives plausibly to scale. His own Energy Department estimates we will need a lot more oil and gas in the meantime, necessitating $11 trillion in capital investment to avoid permanently higher prices.

The president proposes a large defense drawdown to pay for exploding nondefense outlays -- similar to those of Presidents Carter and Clinton -- which were widely perceived by both Republicans and Democrats as having gone too far, leaving large holes in our military. We paid a high price for those mistakes and should not repeat them.

The president's proposed limitations on the value of itemized deductions for those in the top tax brackets would clobber itemized charitable contributions, half of which are by those at the top. This change effectively increases the cost to the donor by roughly 20% (to just over 72 cents from 60 cents per dollar donated). Estimates of the responsiveness of giving to after-tax prices range from a bit above to a little below proportionate, so reductions in giving will be large and permanent, even after the recession ends and the financial markets rebound.

A similar effect will exacerbate tax flight from states like California and New York, which rely on steeply progressive income taxes collecting a large fraction of revenue from a small fraction of their residents. This attack on decentralization permeates the budget -- e.g., killing the private fee-for-service Medicare option -- and will curtail the experimentation, innovation and competition that provide a road map to greater effectiveness.

The pervasive government subsidies and mandates -- in health, pharmaceuticals, energy and the like -- will do a poor job of picking winners and losers (ask the Japanese or Europeans) and will be difficult to unwind as recipients lobby for continuation and expansion. Expanding the scale and scope of government largess means that more and more of our best entrepreneurs, managers and workers will spend their time and talent chasing handouts subject to bureaucratic diktats, not the marketplace needs and wants of consumers.

Our competitors have lower corporate tax rates and tax only domestic earnings, yet the budget seeks to restrict deferral of taxes on overseas earnings, arguing it drives jobs overseas. But the academic research (most notably by Mihir Desai, C. Fritz Foley and James Hines Jr.) reveals the opposite: American firms' overseas investments strengthen their domestic operations and employee compensation.

New and expanded refundable tax credits would raise the fraction of taxpayers paying no income taxes to almost 50% from 38%. This is potentially the most pernicious feature of the president's budget, because it would cement a permanent voting majority with no stake in controlling the cost of general government.

From the poorly designed stimulus bill and vague new financial rescue plan, to the enormous expansion of government spending, taxes and debt somehow permanently strengthening economic growth, the assumptions underlying the president's economic program seem bereft of rigorous analysis and a careful reading of history.

Unfortunately, our history suggests new government programs, however noble the intent, more often wind up delivering less, more slowly, at far higher cost than projected, with potentially damaging unintended consequences. The most recent case, of course, was the government's meddling in the housing market to bring home ownership to low-income families, which became a prime cause of the current economic and financial disaster.

On the growth effects of a large expansion of government, the European social welfare states present a window on our potential future: standards of living permanently 30% lower than ours. Rounding off perceived rough edges of our economic system may well be called for, but a major, perhaps irreversible, step toward a European-style social welfare state with its concomitant long-run economic stagnation is not.

Mr. Boskin is a professor of economics at Stanford University and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. He chaired the Council of Economic Advisers under President George H.W. Bush.

Conservative Brawler's Archive

Brawler's Search