Tuesday, July 29, 2008

What is a Conservative?

In the year 2000 and 2004, George W. Bush ran as a conservative. Promising to cut taxes, spur free markets, fight wars when necessary, slow government spending, and appoint pro-life judges, here was Reagan's child of conservative philosophy. That is until 9/11.

Did anyone realize that No Child Left Behind, and Prescription Health Care programs would be signed into law by this President? He cut taxes. He appointed the two most conservative judges to the Supreme Court. Yet, he vetoed nothing in six years, turned surpluses into gargantuan deficits, doubled the national debt to 9.5 trillion dollars, globally crusaded the world to reshape it for democracy. And these are supposed to be the policies of a conservative?

What would Russell Kirk, William Buckley, Robert Taft, or Ronald Reagan say?

"Et tu, Brute," Ceasar's last words to his best of friends, Brutus. Do not the same words dribble from the mouths of conservatives, soccer moms, local pro-lifers who fought, walked, and registered new voters in 2000 and 2004? President Bush ran as a conservative. He governed as a liberal, in so many ways.

As Republicans endure an existential crisis, questioning who they are, what exactly are we to say conservatives are to do? After all, if Bush #43 or John McCain's policies are the new policies of the Republican party, what are good conservatives to do with the party they have worked so dilligently shaping since the days of Goldwater, Reagan, and Gingrich?

Let us reaffirm the manifesto of conservativism-what is it exactly?

According to philosopher Dinesh D'Souzas, "Conservatives seek a social structure that helps to bring out the best in human nature and suppress man's lower or base impulses. Conservatives support capitalism as a way of steering our natural pursuit of self-interest toward the material betterment of society at large. Finally, conservatives support autonomy when it is attached to personal responsibility -- when people are held accountable for their actions. However, they also believe in the indispensability of moral incubators -- the family, the church, civic institutions such as the Boy Scouts and The American Legion -- that aim to foster civic virtue and show people how to use freedom well."

In a broad sweeping statement from the intellectual 20th century founder and giant of American political conservativism, Russell Kirk says,

"Conservatives generally believe that there exists a transcendent moral order, to which we ought to try to conform the ways of society. Conservatives uphold the principle of social continuity. They prefer the devil they know to the devil they don't know. Order and justice and freedom, they believe, are the artificial products of a long and painful social experience, the results of centuries of trial and reflection and sacrifice. Conservatives are chastened by their principle of imperfectability. Human nature suffers irremediably from certain faults, the conservatives know. Man being imperfect, no perfect social order can ever be created," in The Conservative Mind.

A more concrete definition of a conservative can be found in the Harvard University Institute of Politics:

"Conservatives traditionally stand for low taxes, a strong military, traditional values, and little intervention by government in everyday life." -- Harvard University Institute of Politics

John Derbyshire's bullet points (3) describing conservatives is as follows:

1. a deep suspicion of the power of the state.
2. a preference for liberty over equality.
3. patriotism.
4. a belief in established institutions and hierarchies.
5. skepticism about the idea of progress.
6. elitism.

Of course, no conservative dossier is complete without the bullet point lessons from the mastermind of the 20th century conservative movement, Russell Kirk. It is he, with his ten principles that articulated what would become the principles of Goldwater, Reagan, and Gingrich in the Republican Party in principle.

Kirk's principles of conservativism:

1) there exists an enduring moral order
2) adherance to custom, convention, and continuity
3) adherance to the principle of prescription
4) guided by the principle of prudence
5) attention is given to the principle of variety
6) conservatives are chastened by their principle of imperfectibility
7) belief that freedom and property are closely linked
8) uphold voluntary community; oppose involuntary collectivism
9) need for prudent restraints upon power and human passions
10) permanence and change must be reconciled to a vigorous society

Being a liberal is so much easier. Promise your constituents everything they want to hear. Then rant and rave on the Congressional floor and on the air waves about how unfair a place America is.

Conservativism, on the other hand, requires intelligence and discipline. Explaining to your consituents that Washington shouldn't meddle in the lives of Americans is difficult enough. Coming home without any pork while every other district in the nation has Senators and Congressmen returning home with Christmas gifts of pork is even more diffiicult.

The post Gingrich revolution has seen Repubicans become just like the Democrats in their spending habits. Even Democrats are a bit dispappointed. Most Democrats were, I'm sure, secretly missing their stodgy grey-haired conservative colleagues standing at the edge of the financial cliff waving stop signs before Democrats conjured up financial Armageddon.

Americans remain moderately conservative, by enlarge. Republicans and Democrats even run conservative campaigns knowing that is how to get elected. Once elected, conservativism is turned into Goodwill like an old coat for the plush appointments to committees and chairmanships.

The nation has seen revolutionary days before. The 5,000 Patriots who gathered in Boston Harbor in 1773 tossed 45 tons of tea off British boats into the harbor. Reagan had a revolution that lasted 30 years changing the course of America. Gingrich brought one to town in the 1990's giving us balanced budgets and surpluses.

Since the politicians aren't listening much anymore, isn't time for conservatives to gather the pitchforks? It's time for a new crop of conservatives who value individual liberty more than collective security and creativity more than government spending.

Why Wall Street Needs Sunday School?

First it was the tanking of Bear Stearns in March. Then it was the promise of Lehman Brothers. Fannie Mae's promises, Washington Mutual's promises, Indy Mac's promises, etc....

A trillion dollars in write-offs from the sub-prime crisis, and more looming ahead?

" When sorrows come - they come not single spies- but in battalions " says Shakespeare's Hamlet.

Then comes well respected CEO of Merrill Lynch John Thaine, who had virtually guaranteed in April that Merrill would need no capital assistance. Thaine emphatically repeated that Merrill would take one write-down of 6 billion dollars and had no need to dilute shareholder wealth again. Shareholders were assured the big problems were over! They had a respectable man's word and an expert analyst at markets working on their behalf.

What happened next? End of July after the markets closed, Merrill Lynch decided to give a bath to Merrill shareholders. Thaine surprisingly announced the need to raise 8 billion dollars, sell assets, and deliver 30 billion dollars of mortgage debt to a Dallas-based company for 6.7 billion dollars. Its over. Merrill now for sure has no further need to write down assets, or raise capital- right?

Why such a lack of transparent honesty? Men of character and quality are supposed to march up the ladder of corporate success. They aren't supposed to be cheaters and liars. To lie and cheat all the way up will sooner than later disembowel your career, it would seem.

How did we get to where we are? Where little guys are looking at the Captain's of Industry and Finance trusting each word from there mouth with the little guy finding out that he has been sold swamp land?

Where is the Sunday School that used to teach us right from wrong? Where conscience, God, meaning, purpose, and destiny could be aroused and counted on to lead our children through adulthood.

Benjamin Franklin's admonition, "Sell no virtue to purchase wealth".

Seeing Bernanke, Greenspan, Thaine, etc...walk a tight rope of American global finance, we see that virtue in modern day 21st century America indeed does have a price. Greenspan writes a book absolving himself of the housing and credit crisis that began under his watch. Bernanke bails out Bear Stearns midnight on a Sunday and states that all is structurally sound nonetheless in American finance. Apparently, there is a a price at which virtue can be sold. The result of such complete breakdown of honesty in America?

The financial system is distrusted. With the dollar teetering at all time lows wanting to break down completely, an economy having a drunken man's hangover from the eight year party, CEO's are forced to make gutsy decisions that will mark them for life.

Will these men of power tell the board, shareholders, and CNBC what everyone wants to hear? Or will truth come from their mouths?

Donald Tomnitz, CEO of DR Horton Homebuilders, stated that 2007 would "suck", expressing the poor outlook for the industry and company. No excuses. No glossing over the facts. No silver lining to hoodwink the investing public. The integrity of a man whose walk with Christ matters was most refreshing.

On the other hand, the multi-millionaire type John Thaines, Richard Thulds of Lehman Brothers, and Jimmy Caynes of Bear Stearns surely have Dante infuriated that he had not the chance to write about them concerning the inferno of eternity? Hoping for government bailouts or a Hail Mary pass, these men have failed their companies, their shareholders, and have destroyed their integrity for many days to come. Instead of coming clean, they waited. Better news...bail out...better markets...better prices...etc...it doesn't matter. They waited!

Trust is built brick by brick thousands of days at a time, but is destroyed in a single day.
Billions of dollars can come and go quickly. Trust and transparency cannot come and go so quickly.

Fixing the credit markets is much more than pricing assets that can't move. Credit markets demand honesty and transparency that has been little forthcoming. When the heroes of capitalism are known for truth more than shading the truth, buyers and sellers will buy and sell again.

With the S&P down 21% since October 2007 and putting in the worst single month performance of 11% down in June since the Great Depression, maybe a little bit of Sunday School honesty could go a long way to improving confidence in the markets?

Cursed is the man who has no crisis from which to grow. In the end, it is not money that we will be remembered for making, but character that we employed in the living of life.

Monday, July 28, 2008

When Liberals Convene a "Fix It" Summit?!?

The Senator freshly returned from an eight day world tour, gathered an impressive list of economic advisers together including high-powered Larry Summers and Robert Rubin for an economic council. And what did this team decide to tell Senator Obama about fixing America?

With the dollar having plummeted against other currencies, record foreclosures, the S&P down 21%, stagnant wages, federal deficits out of control, Senator Obama has answers to supply-siders and spenders in DC. Easy credit no longer easy to come by, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have received a discount window from the Treasury to back the untold trillion dollars of obligations held, the Senator has government sponsored solutions. Bear Stearns, Indy Mac, Lehman Brothers, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac are but examples of credit destruction and risk-reassessment.

The Senator's sparse record on Capitol Hill is one of gleeful spending. Far left of Kerry, Gore, Clinton, the Senator brings an "audacity of hope" to spend our way to fixing what President Bush has described "America's hangover".

Fixing America is Senator Obama's goal by "creating more fair economic opportunity" for all Americans.

Higher capital gains and dividend taxes on the rich, and no capital gains tax on the small business entrepreneur are part of his magic. From 35% to 39.6%, Senator Obama promises an income tax hike on the wealthiest of Americans.

The Senator's proposals seem modest, reasonable, and sensible, except that Washington already spends 2.9 trillion American dollars for the good of all Americans, right?

In addition, the supply-siders had their chance with President Bush. It is true that jobs have been created in his 7 1/2 year presidency. It is true that all Americans received tax cuts twice during the President's tenure. It is true that record numbers of Americans have created significant wealth through home ownership in the last 10 years. It is true that record numbers of Americans graduated from college, found better paying careers, and started more businesses than ever before.

Yet, Senator Obama promises to fix "the crisis" that impends upon Americans. After all, "the dream is slipping away" for most Americans according to the Senator.

Perhaps what is really slipping away is the truth about how Americans are doing across the United States.

Is it possible that Americans tire of elected officials promising to fix America? Yogi Berra once said, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it". And America ain't broke! Americans fear one thing about their government. That any politician would actually be able to employ lots of government solutions to fixing the America we all know and love.

The charade is clear for politicians. Get elected by promising to fix what isn't broke. Once elected, tell the electorate that the problem was more difficult than first imagined, but you've been working hard to fix the problem that the people didn't know they had. You, in fact, need four more years to solve their problem they didn't know that they had.

Wow! If only we could employ this stunt in the real world where performance is measured and pink slips are offered for failure?

Friday, July 25, 2008

President of the Europe?

Larry Sabato, national pollster, called it the "magical mystery tour". About 200,000 Berliners of Germany drank free beer enjoying the closest thing they know to Jesus' return which was witnessing Senator Obama's "Messiah Tour". Having met commanders on the ground in Afghanistan and Iraq for the first time, the Senator's second leg of the "Messiah Tour" planted him where Reagan said "tear down this wall".

So what propelled the Senator to take this world tour 100 days before his presidential election?

  • Shore up a sparse foreign policy resume'
  • look presidential
  • create a picture of inevitability back home
  • pretend his judgment is better than Senator McCain's

Will it work? It remains to be seen. But could Alfred Hitchcock have written a better twilight-zone script than to have an American candidate campaigning on European soil for the United States' Presidency?

Crowds by the hundreds of thousands, sit at Senator Obama's feet waiting to be fed promises from a politician promising to be different than all of the others. An entire continent of materialists congregating to draw spiritual nourishment seemingly. So what do good Europeans do to be fed? Dump the church, and look to Senator Obama in outdoor rallies for vitality and life. Of course, an American politician will give you answers and promises to make you feel better, right?

This kind of hope has not buzzed about in Europe in quite a while. Two bloody wars on European soil during the 20th century has destroyed what Os Guiness described as "Optimistic Humanism" that so boldy asserted itself in Parisian cafes in the early 20th century. Whatever hope remained in Europe after two world wars, intellectual European heroes destroyed by displacing theism with materialistic secularism. The pantheon of philosophers of Sarte, Camus, Nietsche, Voltaire, Hume, Marx, Rousseax, and Diderot were the death knell of hope.

That is until Senator Barak Obama.

In an "I can't explain moment" of quasi-religious fever, Europeans have thrown themselves at Senator Obama. Its as if Europe's spiritual vacuum has sucked up Obama's promises of better days...glory days...when America will be reduced and the world will become one. As Ezra Pound in the 1930's declared about the modern age of engineering, mathematics, and sculpture "Down with the old-in with the new!" Obama's visit is as close to a spiritual encounter with heaven Europeans have encountered since Whitfield and Wesley.

So what are Americans to take away from Senator Obama's royal tour of the Middle East and Europe? Are the American people to believe that Senator Obama will finally have the experience and judgment necessary to be President of the United States after touring the world meeting with Zarkosy of France, Merkel of Germany, Karzai of Afghanistan, Gordon Brown of Britan, etc...?

Or should Americans take heed when hardened Europeans flock to an American candidate to sit under his feet while they drink beer and listen to a political platitutes about unity, alliances, and togetherness?

This European love-fest is driven by Senator Obama's perceived one-world, all in it together, world order, new age politics that intends to scrap borders, transcend differences, emphasize commonalities, unify the world, and put America in her place. How exactly does the Senatory propopse to accomplish his vision? Josh Bolton, former ambassador to the UN for the Bush administration, is correct. We can only hope that the Senator's words are political posturing for European leftists, and not is actual position on issues.

The Senator first promises to restrain wild-eyed capitalism. Europeans, with double the unemployment rate and a significant deficit in productive ingenuity, cheer at the Senator's promises to regulate economic development. After all isn't it nasty capitalism that is responsible for the woes of modern day citizens? Tax the rich, re-distribute the wealth more evenly, reduce American military operations, scrap free trade agreements, hike taxes, and regulate like a good European central government planner-these are the tenets of European statism.

Why is this good for Senator Obama's friends in Europe who have concocted the EU and this "Citizens of this world" campaign? Lets beat the dead horse:

Europeans received a politician's promise from Senator Obama. He will reduce military operations worldwide. He will tax, spend, and regulate like a good European central government planner. Obama will restrain wild-eyed capitalism, of which Europeans are very disdainful. Obama will promise not to torture bad guys, sign Kyoto, scrap free trade, fight global warming, gut military spending, withdraw American forces, and drill for no oil.

Europeans have never had an opening to diminish American global superiority that has been undiminished since WWII. That is--until now.

What Adaneur, Kohl, and Merkel could not do, what Chirac, Kofi Anan, and Ahmadinejad could not do, European's have found their Trojan Horse in Senator Obama. Its not Russia or China that concerns the bulk of Europeans. Its the capitalist Americans setting boots on the ground whereever they please. Europeans have dreamed of redeeming themselves by riding into Washington D.C. to marginalize, reduce, and diminish America's global power and reach.

When Europeans applaud in unisone about an American candidate, be ware. The fact that Senator Obama has the verbal support of Hezbollah's ranking officials and has high level talks with this organization's leadership during the campaign ought to raise eyebrows. Iran's Ahmadinejad, has joyfully stated his desire to work with an Obama administration. In fact, the Senator is the one he has been praying for. And Lybia's Khadafy, ought to more than raise eyebrows amongst the American electorate. The Iranian leader has decided to pray for the Senator's victory becuase he believes Senator Obama is one with whom he can work with. Should this not make every American feel good about the direction of the Senator's foreign policy?

Strange to the ears of most Americans, Europeans fear American economic and military strength more than Osama Bin Laden's reign of terror. Even Reagan, a hero to millions of Americans to Europeans, was a shallow fear-mongering cowboy actor. Yet, this cowboy actor put Pershings into Europe, reduced taxes, unleashed American ingenuity, demanded the walls come down. He unifed Pope, democracy, and strength of conviction to overcome Soviet totalitarian shadows lurking over Europe.

Yet, these same Berliners and their children, who listened to Reagan's speech to "tear down this wall, Mr. Gorbacev", are the same ones who fear America today as an overpowerful bully on the world's stage causing trouble around the globe. What of Hu Juang's China? Medvedev and Putin's Russia? What of Bin Laden and Islamic extremism? The answer remains appeasement, Chamberlain, Socialism, New World Order, and "One World Government, No Borders, Citizens of the World, etc...America is the giant who must be restrained.

As soon as Senator Obama re-charts the course for America's future, the United Nations will be waiting for the Senator to chart their course as well.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Seven Years Later Tells the Story...

Said Rudyard Kipling,

"If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise"

Such are words to describe George W. Bush, our 43rd Commander-in-Chief. Seven years later and the Bush #43 story is all but told. Re-elected into office, our European allies gagged. President Bush, who stated that we will not be so arrogant as to nation build, decided to nation build post 9/11. Of course, fighting for good reason, right? Global democratic revolution and the Bush Docrine:

Afghanistan first, Iraq second, and Operation Democracy was on its way to overthrowing bad guys around the globe.

What exactly did seven years of GW Bush produce for America?

  • No terror attacks upon our soil post 9/11
  • Lower taxes for most Americans
  • Conservative judges for America
  • No Kyoto or Global Warming shenanigans

On the other hand, what cross will Americans bear attributable to the Bush adminstration?

"Guns and butter" policy of LBJ renewed itself. Butter for everyone on the kitchen table. War for patriotism, humanity, ignorance, and poverty was the devil's pact. Saddam and the Mushroom Cloud threat parallels LBJ's Gulf of Tonkin incident. The result:

  1. 1 trillion dollars of war spending (including future health care GI benefits)
  2. no vetoes in first 6 years of Presidential leadership
  3. run-away deficits, spending, and national debt
  4. plummeting dollar from a price of 120 in 2001 to 72 in 2008
  5. perpetual war for perpetual peace (unending war)
  6. indefinite deployment of combat troops
  7. Global democratic revolution gave us Hezbollah Lebanon, the PLO in Palestine, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and global recruitment of Islamic terror networks globally
  8. a mortgage crisis equal to the 1930's maybe?
  9. imported inflation stemming from a weak dollar and insatiable Congressional spending
  10. loss of global prestige, influence, and soft power

Call Bush #43 anything you wish. But a conservative he is not. These principles he tossed into the waste basket upon seeing the twin towers smoldering. The Bush doctrine replaced the humble foreign policy that he so promised Americans.

Standing upon the rubble in New York City with a bull horn, President Bush inspired Americans and all freedom-loving people around the globe with his grit and natural charm. "They will hear from us" about those who knocked these buildings down, said the President. They heard from us. Seven years later they (all nations) continue hearing from us.

Job approval ratings in the 30% range, allies extricating themselves from Iraq and Afghanistan, and an economic superpower's finances out of order have told us clearly that greatness does not await this President.

Rudyard Kipling's great lines come to mind in Monday morning quartebacking Bush #43's legacy:

"If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you

But make allowance for their doubting too,

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,

Or being hated, don't give way to hating,

And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise"

History will judge George W. Bush's effectiveness better than we do today.

Huckabee on Taxes