High-Paying Annuities for the Liberal Political Portfolio

© 2017 Steve Feinstein. All rights reserved.

As the lines separating popular culture and politics continue to blur to the point where they are nearly indistinguishable, some things remain steadfast and predictable to liberal politicians and their mainstream media sycophants. The word “cliché” is too mild to describe them. These tenets are more than mere dogma; they have become credenda, beliefs so firmly and deeply held that they are accepted on faith, unquestioned by their proponents. They are high-yield political annuities, guaranteed to pay major partisan dividends year after year.

We’ll look at two of the best examples:

  1. Conservatives are Racist

This one is easy for liberals. A consistent tack for liberals is to simply point out that most conservatives come out against race-based quotas and initiatives (preferring qualification and opportunity), so conservatives must be pro-white/anti-minority. In today’s fast-paced media environment—where shallow messages can easily make lasting impressions on casually-attentive swing voters—neither historical accuracy nor the actual functional aspects of a particular policy seem to count for anything. It’s all about appearances, as filtered by the liberal media. The casually-attentive get their news and form their impressions through liberal sources like the NY Times, CNN, Comedy Central, The View and Good Morning America. These sources are only too happy to continue the “conservatives are racist” storyline, since these media sources are actively in favor of helping Democrats win elections. Damaging a Republican’s image among the undecided voter pool is perfectly in keeping with their overall intent.

Donald Trump didn’t initially use the words “white supremacists” when denouncing the recent violence in Charlottesville VA. That fed the liberal media-driven narrative of anti-minority bias by Republicans, much to the delight of every liberal newscaster, reporter and opportunistic Democratic politician. The amount of sanctimonious, self-righteous pap that flowed forth from liberal sources in the ensuing days was truly extraordinary.

Barack Obama didn’t use the words “Muslim terrorists” for the entire eight years of his administration, even as Muslim terrorists wantonly attacked and killed hundreds of innocent people all over the world. Neither the liberal media nor his Democratic political allies had any problem with that. To them, it was “just words,” and Obama not using those supposedly needlessly incendiary words was merely further proof of his sophistication at handling a delicate situation. He catches a total break, gets a complete pass. President Trump (or any Republican) is cut no slack whatsoever.

Dr. Martin Luther King’s statement of an America “….where our children are judged by the content of their character, not by the color of their skin” has been long forgotten by today’s liberal orthodoxy. Instead, the current liberal playbook demands total acceptance of the doctrine of white blame, that white American culture is responsible for all the race- and ethnically-based problems in society. For today’s Democrats, “White America” equals “conservative.” After Hurricane Katrina disastrously struck New Orleans in 2005, inflicting major damage on the predominantly-black 9th Ward of the city, President Bush was accused of “hating black people.” He was Republican. He was white. Therefore, he hated black people and by implication, their struggles and misfortunes were his fault. So it is again, now, with President Trump. He’s white. He’s Republican. Therefore, all race-based problems and conflicts are eventually deemed to be his fault.

How widely-known is it that southern Democrats blocked the 1964 Civil Rights bill and it was the overriding votes by Republicans that assured its passage? A Democratic-led filibuster prevented the bill from being voted on for over 60 days. Democratic Senator Richard Russell famously said,  “We will resist to the bitter end any measure or any movement which would have a tendency to bring about social equality and intermingling and amalgamation of the races in our [Southern] states.” When the filibuster was finally broken, Republican Senate support for Civil Rights bill was 82%, while Democratic support was far lower, at 69%. That bit of factual, undeniable history is conveniently forgotten by today’s Democrats, although they do try to re-frame history by claiming that it was the Southern Democrats—from formerly Confederate states—who opposed the bill.

Democrats continually use the “conservatives are racist” storyline to their electoral benefit, even in the face of contradictory historical fact. Since the popular mainstream media favor the Democrats, this canard is a reliable influencer of the casually-attentive voter, a dependable political annuity for liberals time after time.

  1. 97% of Climate Scientists Believe in Anthropogenic Global Warming

This is a big one, a cornerstone of liberal doctrine. This is one that defines conservatives as being nothing more than anti-science troglodytes, willfully ignorant of unquestioned fact, naively beholden to the interests of profit-driven Big Business to the detriment of mankind. (Or is it personkind? Do we have to say personkind now?)

There is no single, overriding study that has produced the magical 97% figure so oft-cited by Global Warming hysterics, but the one that has garnered the most attention was published in 2013, based on research done between 1991 and 2011 by Australian scientist John Cook—author of the popular 2011 book Climate Change Denial: Heads in the Sand. This is the famous study that touts some 12,000 published reports by ‘climate scientists’ and that the findings were in 97% agreement about man being the cause of rising global temperatures.

Ooops. That darned fine print. If you read the study, it turns out that only 34% (4014) of the papers studied expressed any opinion about the cause of Global Warming. Of that 34%, 33% said, yes, man is the predominant cause. So 33 out of 34 delivers the much-prized “97%” you hear bandied about so often. 97% is indeed a far more impressive number than 33%, especially when there are conservatives that need to be criticized and exposed for being callously indifferent to the well-being of our precious, fragile planet.

Let it be stated in a most unequivocal manner that the verity of anthropogenic global warming is not being questioned here. It may be real, it may not be. There are indeed many studies supporting the hypothesis of anthropogenic warming. Choose your side. But what is undeniably real is the willfully disingenuous manipulation of research “statistics” for the purposes of political influence. That 97% figure in this particular study is a linchpin of the liberal argument that “conservatives are anti-environment.” It serves liberals well. It has likely become the most frequently-quoted number in the history of political debate. By any measure, the number “97%” delivers consistently rewarding political returns for the liberal side.

There are certainly other lucrative liberal clichés and mantras:

  • Conservatives give tax cuts to their rich donors
  • Conservatives side with Big Insurance against the ‘little guy’
  • Conservatives favor a military build-up over vital infrastructure improvements
  • Conservatives want to eliminate welfare and food stamps for the needy

Liberals use them all to their political advantage when the situation calls for it, buttressed by the ever-sympathetic mainstream media. But the two we’ve cited here—Conservatives are Racist and 97% of Climate Scientists—are their most steady, reliable political monetary devices. Those two generate guaranteed high returns, every time.

The problem isn’t really that President Trump has claimed that he dissolved the Manufacturing Council and The Policy and Strategy Forum, rather than the fact that the business leaders that until just a day or two ago made up its members, were resigning and were ready to fold it up. This is just another media gawk at a Trump induced dust-up with reasonably offended (and concerned about their brand in today’s red-hot climate) business executives. Another tiny scandal flowing from a much bigger problem involving Trump’s reaction to Charlottesville.

But the bigger problem in terms of business leaders is that the division, enmity and contempt merely within the conservative movement in America – and therefore the divisions between the White House and Congress, and within Congress and especially within the GOP itself – will make getting any meaningful legislation on tax reform and God forbid, healthcare, almost impossible.

And that sort of division and chaos will chip away at what is in fact a very solid economy, with strong job growth and growing consumer spending. Investment needs stability to be able to discount future profits in a predictable manner. And right now, it’s hard to predict much policy. If Congress had recently enacted a Reagan-style tax cut, and if some manageable reform, if not repeal, of the ACA had been signed into law, the economy could keep chugging along at a good clip despite the violence and division. But the chaos at the White House is starting to take a real toll now.

Is a recession around the corner? Not even close. There may not be a recession for a few years to come. But government spending and tax rates are a burden on America’s innovation and therefore it’s future. What can Congress do to bring some possibility for getting legislation passed when they come back to Washington? And if a debt-ceiling and budget crisis meet up with Federal Reserve rate hikes, then we have reasonable cause for concern. So what con Congress do when it gets back?

Mitch McConnell will still be and will remain Senate leader for some time. Trump’s complaints against him will likely strengthen his standing with his senate colleagues, who are the ones who will or would decide his future. Ryan should likely remain Speaker, but with the Senate unable to move on legislation he’s been handicapped badly.

The Supreme Court is now tipping towards a truly conservative court, but one can imagine Ginsburg or Kennedy delaying retirement given how they likely view this administration. And the Supreme Court is not about immediate policy concerns. It’s time frame is much longer.

Local governments can and are doing more, but in directly opposing ways that further divide America into self-selecting regions.

The roar around Charlottesville will lessen over the coming weeks, and the policies that America and Americans need to prosper will still be waiting to be implemented. But now they will have to fight against a narrative that says that not only are they the wrong policies – from a progressive, liberal economic perspective – but that they are also somehow evil policies. So if the GOP Congress thought it was tough to agree in June, wait till September comes.

Do you know what PMSC’s are? Private Military and Security Companies. Like Blackwater USA, which was sold by founder Erik Prince to an unnamed group of investors and is now called Academi. And while Blackwater was founded in the late 90’s, private armies have been around for ages, literally. But since the end of the Cold War they have played an increasing role in military conflicts around the world, sometimes providing logistics and support, sometimes providing more than just logistics.

In the early years of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there were apparently over a quarter million private contracted security personnel in use by the Bush 43 administration. And now we have Erik Prince himself, talking up on CNN no less, a proposal to privatize much of America’s commitment in Afghanistan. That would include everything from a private air force of dozens of aircraft to logistics to embedded contractors working with local Afghani troops.

What does this mean?

Apparently it means big savings: $10 billion a year versus $50 billion a year according to the Pentagon’s annual budget for Afghanistan. But it also means something else: freeing up American forces who may very soon be needed on or near the Korean peninsula should war break out with the DPRK.

If you believe former counsel to the DOD (in the last year of the Obama administration) Laura Dickinson, a surge in private contractor personnel in Afghanistan brings legal risks. The International Criminal Court has a prosecutor looking into America’s role in Afghanistan, but this is more a nuisance than a grave concern given the instability present in various parts of the globe. Dickinson also worries about blowback to American military forces if private contractors get involved in another shootout like in 2007’s Nisour Square massacre in Baghdad. It’s a reasonable possibility given that chains of command in private security forces are not as clearcut as those in the military.

But that brings us to Erik Prince’s point from the CNN interview. There have been yearly rotations of not just troops but top command since 2002 in Afghanistan. As Ben Domenech writing in The Transom puts it:

Afghanistan is not one war over sixteen years for us. It is sixteen one-year wars.


That may be a little over the top, but it hits home with the point that there has not been a consistent or perhaps even continuous strategy for U.S. Forces in that troubled tribal land. And while Erik Prince talking about a viceroy may be a little too Kipling-like, the comment can also be taken as a call for a steady hand over many years in order to bring order to Afghanistan. So he makes his point, when compared to the failed set of scrabbled policies America’s forces have pursued up to now in Afghanistan.

The problem with all this is that American foreign policy is prey to partisan politics. And thus subject to sudden policy twists and turns. How well will this play? How will this poll? Annoying perhaps, but in a democracy civilians run the military. Not vice versa. And beyond that, voters are weary of this long-running seemingly endless war, with no end in sight. Just as another war may be just over the horizon. Can Prince – who has close ties to Trump’s administration – convince enough Americans of his grand scheme for Afghanistan?

Reunification is such a beautiful concept, shimmering like a vision in front of the minds’ eyes of academics and diplomats. No, not reunification of South Asia, where partition in the 40’s led to the terrorist-sponsoring state of Pakistan and the flotsam of Bangladesh, two thorns in the side of the world’s largest – if flawed – democracy, India.

Rather reunification of the Korean peninsula, where a war in the legal sense was never fought. Where a “police” action caused American soldiers to endure some of the most brutal enemy attacks they had seen, as bad as what the Japanese did to Allied prisoners in The Philippines. Where a nearly 70 year stalemate has persisted, with the already brutal North Korean regime (just ask any vets that were captured by the North Koreans – assuming they survived) still in place: a Stalinist terror regime with the characteristics of a Latin American tinpot dictatorship from years gone by.

And this regime is led by a trio of crazed family members: grandpa Kim Il-Sung, daddy Kim Jon-il, and grandson Kim Jong-un. Each one crazier than the last as the decaying corruption of absolute power has turned the third generation leader into a true psychopath unconstrained by any of the tactical or strategic considerations that his father and grandfather apparently displayed at least a little of; this regime is the one that diplomacy will work it’s steady persuasive magic on.

Just ask Robert Gallucci, who is calling President’s Trump’s tough words crazed and irresponsible. Who negotiated the 1994 agreement that apparently froze the DPRK’s nuclear program for up to a decade. Who worked alongside Jimmy Carter on this deal on behalf of the Clinton administration. And who – at the George W. Bush Center’s website – says this:

The result is a call to action for governments, the private sector, and civil society, to work together to improve the human condition in North Korea … We advocate for a new U.S. policy that integrates the call for human freedom with denuclearization in our engagement and diplomacy with North Korea.
__
In other words, diplomats, wonks, trade, and ONG’s are going to solve the North Korean stalemate and standoff. Just like Germany. Like the Berlin Wall crumbling from within East Germany. Freedom rising up in the DPRK.

The problem is how do you negotiate with a madman and with one of the most brutal, crazed regimes the world has ever seen? And not only that, in an article in The Cipher Brief, Mike Chinoy – of long-lasting Asian correspondent fame – emphasizes how America must be careful not to annoy China and how China has its own set of interests which run against a reunified Korean Peninsula. And in a telling moment, Chinoy lets slip this phrase:

… the logic of boosting deterrence is clear. But that will do little to prevent the North from continuing to develop its nuclear and missle capabilities, which, even if not used in conflict, will give Kim Jong-un new leverage to apply in his ongoing contest with the capitalist South, and his long-standing hostile relationship with Japan.

The capitalist South?? He forgot to add “running dog”. Mike Chinoy has spent a little too much time surfing the bowels of Asian communist regimes it seems. He and Gallucci and the conventional wisdom of the policy wonks on North Korea can be summed up by Chinoy’s quote at the end of his piece in The Cipher:

Contrary to much of the conventional wisdom, Kim Jong-un is not crazy. He is a ruthless, cold-eyed dictator with a clear idea of what he is doing. The danger in the current situation is that he – like the rest of the world – cannot be clear what the Trump administration is aiming to achieve.
__
There you have it. Kim Jong-un is not crazy. President Trump is. This is what much of the foreign policy establishment truly believe. Like Stalin’s admirers who refused to see him for what he was: a psychopath. Maybe it’s time for exactly someone like Trump to shake up the foreign policy establishment’s cherished shibboleths and actually solve the Korean stand off. That doesn’t mean that conflict won’t be bloody. Nor does it mean that conflict is unavoidable. It means that a new approach is clearly needed, if Korea is actually to be solved by defeating the North rather than cozying up to it’s crazed, “cold-eyed” leader. And his soon to be ready nuclear missiles.

One can assume that the National Security Council had so-called kill lists long before the Obama administration formalized the process with the unnervingly named Disposition Matrix. What exact process within this Disposition Matrix gets someone on a kill list is not made public for very understandable security reasons, but apparently John Brennan had a lot to do with it. And yes, it’s supposed to unnerve people. That’s the whole point.

In view of the fairly recently developed Disposition Matrix – it was put together in 2010 – it is more than interesting that the apparent blood letting going on at the NSC has more than a little to do with an enemies list. But in this case the list in question has to do with the Trump administration’s enemies and not America’s most wanted enemies.

The battle is between General McMaster and Steve Bannon and by extension Bannon’s side seems to include General Flynn’s recently removed allies at the NSC as well. And the battle has heated up greatly in the past week with a series of articles out to damage McMaster, with a few asides aimed at General Mattis at DOD thrown in for good measure. And the battle is rumored to have started – if you believe the Daily Beast – over a disagreement over this list of internal enemies or Obama administration holdovers who were or are fundamentally hostile to much of Trump’s policies in places like Iran and Afghanistan and Syria, for example.

Bannon’s side wanted as many of these supposed political enemies fired as possible. McMaster has resisted and prevailed, so the narrative being leaked out by the bucketful at sites like The Daily Caller and Breitbart, claims. But wait, it gets much better. Breitbart has now claimed that McMaster was essentially on Soros’ payroll as a member of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) where he worked as a world leading authority on “global security, political risk, and military conflict.” The Ploughshares Fund seems to be a donor to the IISS, and Ploughshares is funded by Soros’ Open Society.

Hence, according to Breitbart, McMaster shares the views of Plougshares and is therefore anti-Israel and pro-Iran Deal. Maybe. Maybe not. President Trump has pushed back and expressed his support for McMaster, but one has to ask if Trump was truly wedded to his earlier views on the Iran Deal, or if his disinterest in policy detail means he is fine with McMaster’s purges of former Flynn aides at the NSC. And fine with a less disruptive Middle East policy than many of his voters had been expecting of the president’s new administration.

Will Chief of Staff Kelly put the dampers on this simmering feud? And how will he do it? Will Bannon once again be seen as heading for the exits? And if he does actually go, does he take much of Trump’s America First foreign policies with him? And leave it in the hands of the generals?

John Marini is professor of political science at The University of Nevada-Reno. He worries about Hegel and Bismarck, as it applies to America’s administrative state. Tom Nichols is a professor of national security affairs at the U.S. Naval War College. He worries about our current admiration for martial virtue as a bulwark against civilian instability, specifically regarding the cheers – by many of us – at John Kelly’s appointment as White House Chief of Staff. Between the two of them, one can see the outlines of what may be an emerging set of trends in America that may be cause for concern.

In Real Clear Politics, Marini talks about the emergence of the administrative state in America, as a consequence of Hegel’s belief back in Bismark’s Germany, that progress is rational and the result of the “cultivation of knowledge” as Hegel put it. In other words the state must become a huge corps of unelected bureaucrats and supposed experts that handle the details of much of the regulations that nowadays affect voters’ daily lives. Never mind natural rights on which the framers based the constitution. Never mind human nature as Aristotle and the Greeks did. It’s all about experts in their specific area of knowledge. So, we now have a Congress which has assumed a powerful but strangely unaccountable role as members of the House and Senate distance themselves from the nuts and bolts of policy making and act as “co-administrators in various parts of the apparatus.”

That means that Congress no longer really acts as a deliberative body. You want to know the details on how the ACA actually works and why the GOP Congress has been unable to repeal and replace? Talk to the federal and even state bureaucrats. That’s where the power increasingly is.

But it gets worse if you consider this. In Hegel’s and progressives’ vision, including current day liberals and progressives, the administrative state is politically neutral, managing and accumulating knowledge and guiding us poor uninformed deplorables upwards and onwards towards a socially just society where bathrooms are gender neutral and where identity politics is an ever expanding great blob crushing all who attempt to oppose it’s steady slimy creeping progress.

In other words, what happens when one realizes that this administrative state has never been neutral? When an overwhelming percentage of bureaucrats vote Democrat? You now have something approaching a one party state. Like in Eastern Europe a generation ago. For example. And the fact that cultural neo-marxism underlies much of the tenets of current day progressivism makes this outcome frighteningly inexorable.

Tom Nichols, on the other hand, is worried about a sort of soft praetorians, the preponderance of generals in President Trump’s cabinet, who are admired, even by some progressive commentators, for their martial virtue. And who, it is hoped, will bring some discipline to the White House. This crosses a red line marking the boundary between civilian spheres of action and military ones, according to Nichols. His concern, as he admits, may be exaggerated; from Eisenhower to Haig, to Scowcroft, Powell, Shineski, etc. there have been military men in politics for much of America’s history. But the concern is because of Trump’s indiscipline and Trump’s apparent respect for military men, to the exclusion of everyone else.

Here’s a thought: what if these two trends – a powerful politically partisan progressive administrative state, and a increasingly politicized military whose martial virtue is seen as a saving grace in an age of decaying morals – combine to share much of the power normally vested in Congress, The Executive, and The Judiciary in America? Even though right now, martial virtue – at least in Trump’s White House, leaving aside the intel community – seems to be on opposite sides to the administrative state. But what if they join sides? And what if that inevitably leads to the very corruption of martial virtue by the de facto one party administrative state?

That’s a very grim picture and one that seems a little too dramatic and dystopian to ever really come true. But it sure gives pause for thought, and makes one think of civics – as in family values and local grassroots organizations – as something we can scarcely afford to lose.

You can’t cut spending.

You can’t cut spending. Got that? Now go crazy on tax reform. You can call it tax cuts if you want. And maybe a few targeted taxes will actually get cut. As long as it’s revenue-neutral. Which means as long as it doesn’t add to the deficit. Which means that you have to raise taxes elsewhere to balance the tax cuts that are being promised. And without the Obamacare repeal lowering the revenue baseline, by eliminating some of the tax revenue, you have much less room to play with.

Why?

Because you can’t cut spending. To do that you’d be outside the safe zone of reconciliation, and that means wading into filibuster creek which can get quite deep and filled with … stuff. Which is exactly where the Democrats would love to put the GOP Congress: waist-deep in sludgy accusations of pandering to the wealthy. As that economic genius – Senator Wyden of Oregon – puts it:

We need sustainable, comprehensive, tax reform. Not a massive tax cut for the wealthy.

Well said Ron! Bravo! Because America has ridiculously low tax rates right now, especially for high-income earners. Oops, maybe not. Yes, the total burden of taxes in America, according to the Tax Policy Center, is about 26% of GDP. Which is fairly low relative to other OECD countries. But … that overall tax is mostly made up of taxes on income and profits, which at 48% (of income and profits not total GDP) is really, really high. Only Scandinavian countries and Australia are as high or higher.

Not good.

The world’s most innovate economy has come to the point where it is punishing income and profits, which tend to be the reward for hard work and smart work, and smart investing. And innovation underlies all of that. But any tax cut given current Congressional rules has to be revenue neutral. Which means more money has to be raised elsewhere.

Reagan would never have been able to put in place the tax cuts he did under these sorts of rules. Because Democrats today would never, ever agree to any spending cuts. Um, and a lot of Republicans are in the same boat. The ACA repeal failed in large part because of moderate GOP worries about curtailing the rate of growth of Medicare. Never mind actually cutting back on an entitlement. Because healthcare is being seen as a right, not as insurance for a costly, complex service.

So, if you want to cut spending and increase the deficit, you risk the filibuster. Could you cut spending, and cut taxes? Maybe? Please? No one is talking about cutting spending at this point. So one has to assume it’s off the table. You can’t cut spending.

Of course, one could also raise the goods and services taxes – the hated sales taxes – and cut the income taxes and taxes on profits. Reward innovation. Punish consumption. But careful, when consumer spending is something like 2/3’s of America’s GDP raising sales taxes is something most governors and senators would be dead set against. Ok, maybe not in California.

So as we move from the GOP blaming each other for the collapse – but not quite dead yet apparently – of the Repeal and Replace efforts, and on to tax cuts, one can’t be blamed for feeling cautious and not very optimistic that the GOP will be able to do any sort of meaningful reform of America’s tax code. It’s show me time for the GOP.

Because they’re not talking about tax cuts. What they’re talking about is tax shuffles.