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Americans Voting With Their Feet.
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Idea Majorities Matter.
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Unions Antithetical to Liberty.
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Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 231 -- Lower Taxes, Stronger Economy.

States Benefit From Lower State & Local Taxes-

In earlier Trivia Tidbits (#207: "Lower Taxes, Higher Growth" & #208: "State Income Tax Comparisons), WILLisms.com examined the policy ramifications of state income taxes, or the lack thereof.

The conclusions: states that lacked an income tax saw stronger economic growth, stronger personal income growth, stronger population growth, and stronger job growth, than states with the highest income tax rates. States without income taxes also, shockingly enough (not!), had fewer budget problems than the states with the highest income taxes.

But income taxes are just one part of the tax equation. Let's now turn to a comparison of the ten highest taxed states and the ten lowest taxed states. The Texas Public Policy Foundation crunched the numbers (.pdf), taking income taxes, sales taxes, property taxes, gasoline taxes, alcohol taxes, and all the other state and local taxes to determine the overall tax burden in each state.

Here are the numbers, including the superlative states, those with the lowest and highest state and local tax burdens (.pdf):


From 1994 to 2004, there is a stark contrast in the economic performances between these groups of states. Lower tax burden = better economic performance. Higher tax burden = worse economic performance.

Relative to the average of the 10 states with the highest total state and local tax burden, the average of the 10 lowest taxed states showed:

♦ Faster growth of gross state output (71.7% vs. 62.4%);

♦ Greater personal income growth (70.2% vs. 60.4%);

♦ A much greater increase in total population (12.8% vs. 6.4%), including a net inflow of residents into the 10 low-tax states from other states (3.3% of total population) vs. a net outflow of residents from the 10 high-tax states to other states (2.5% of total population);

♦ Much more rapid job creation (16.9% vs. 12.6%);

♦ Only a slightly higher personal income per capita growth (51.0% vs. 50.7%); and

♦ A slightly higher unemployment rate (5.0% vs. 4.7%).

Viewed another way (.pdf):


We're lucky in America to have 50+ somewhat distinct laboratories in which to compare and contrast actual ideas and policies. Ironically enough, it was once liberals who appreciated that states could be labs for economic and social experimentation. Today, it is (usually, but not always) liberals who seek standardization (via higher taxes and bigger, more powerful central government in Washington). It is now liberals who complain that federal tax/budget cuts mean that states must pick up an unfair proportion of the slack. This was even a common (erroneous, Krugman-esque) theme of the Kerry campaign during the 2004 presidential race:

"President Bush's tax cuts exacerbated the state and local fiscal crisis, forcing them to take steps like raising college tuition and property taxes while cutting health care for children.

This has resulted in a stealth tax increase -- and helped contract the economy."

If only it worked that way. If only states were true independent laboratories of fiscal policy. Federal taxes would be extremely low, liberal states could set their taxes at whatever levels they desire and offer lavish welfare and entitlement programs, and conservative states could keep their taxes relatively low and keep government spending low, accordingly.

Businesses, investors, and individuals themselves could then vote with their feet. States with fiscally-sound policies would flourish; states with untenable German-style fiscal policies would languish. The average American would then need to make a choice. It's difficult to imagine that pro-growth states wouldn't win that policy battle. After a few years or so, the odds are that, upon evaluating the stark contrasts between the high tax and low tax states, Americans would vote with their feet en masse.

And vote with their feet many Americans have done (.pdf):


Let the best policies win, in other words. We still do have this scenario in America to some degree, but the increasing "Washington, DC-ization" of government is diminishing the opportunity to test policies head-to-head.

And don't get me wrong, I don't want high tax states-- or the people in them-- to suffer. I am not advocating the destruction of states that make poor fiscal decisions, nor am I suggesting that we eliminate the federal government entirely. That's not the point.

Here is what would happen under the "50 state lab" concept:

After seeing their populations flee to states with more efficient tax-and-spend circumstances (which are flourishing in every which way), states with poor fiscal policies would quickly change their ways. In other words, state and local governments would form a kind of market. The best policies would rise to the top.

State and local governments with poor policies would copy "what works" to prevent getting left behind. We all know what works. We have pretty clear evidence of what works right in front of us.

Sure, people choose where to live based on more than economic policies and conditions. People may like the beach, or the desert, or the mountains. People may have deep roots in-- or connections to-- a particular part of the country. And some smaller states (Rhode Island, Connecticut, Delaware) don't exactly have a lot of room to physically grow, while larger states (Texas, Nevada, Arizona) do (and thus benefit). There are many reasons people choose to live where they do, and there are many reasons for growth or lack thereof.

But the evidence before us today indicates that the United States is a highly mobile society, and many Americans are willing to relocate wherever opportunities abound. And people are leaving states with high tax burdens and relocating in states with low tax burdens.

Just take a gander at the net flows of migration in and out of states from 1994 to 2004 (.pdf):


The green arrows indicate a negative net migration to other states. Notice that states with higher tax burdens are more likely to have more people move away than move in.

And it's not necessarily a Republican/Democrat dichotomy, but the trend is pretty clear. States with lower tax burdens are gaining people at the expense of states with higher tax burdens.

Imagine how these numbers might look under a "50 state lab" scenario. One has to believe that the real-world consequences of high or low taxes would become even more apparent than they already are.

Texas Public Policy Foundation (.pdf).


Previous Trivia Tidbit: Texas Economy.

Posted by Will Franklin · 30 November 2005 01:33 PM · Comments (7)

Wednesday Caption Contest: Part 33.

This week's WILLisms.com Caption Contest photograph:


The actual caption:

The warrior and the agent : A Mongolian dressed as a warrior rides his horse past a US Secret Service Agent standing next to a portable toilet during US President George W. Bush's visit to Ikh Tenger in Ulan Bator, Mongolia. (AFP/Luke Frazza)

Surely there's a better caption for this photograph.

Entries will remain open until 11:59 PM, Central Standard Time, Tuesday, December 6. Submit your captions in the comments section, or email at WILLisms@gmail.com.

Last week's photo:


Winners from last week:


Rob B. (extra points for Scientology humor):

As Bush removed his earphones, he was shocked to realize Tom Cruises' revelation that Xenu had only allowed for "999 points of light", not "1000."



Reacting to anti-American comments, former President George H. W. Bush bends a flexible metal bar with his bare hands while growling, "Don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry." To the astonishment of the conference attendees, he then ripped off his shirt and hurled a papier-mache boulder through a plate glass window before collapsing in exhaustion.


Jason Kallini:

Reporters await comments from Former President Bush on his opinion of Steven Wright's performance of 'The Vagina Monologues.'

Honorable Mention #1

Jim Rose:

Ahhh! Ashlee Simpson!!

Honorable Mention #2

Zsa Zsa:

Aaaaaaaaaaaay! Someone turn that down before I have to start reading everyone elses lips!

Honorable Mention #3


Former President George H.W. Bush reacts to discovering that former first lady Barbara Bush has secretly switched his iPod Shuffle selection from country-western fare to an all Ozzy Osborne format....

Captioning is a holiday favorite for the entire family.

Enter today!

Posted by Will Franklin · 30 November 2005 10:58 AM · Comments (30)

Some Call It A Bonfire (Or Carnival) Of Classiness...

We call it "Classiness, All Around Us."


Click to explore more WILLisms.com.

In no particular order, WILLisms.com presents (an expanded edition of) classiness from the blogosphere:


Bolton's Successes At The United Nations-


Jay Tea offers up an old Barry Goldwater joke and puts it in the context of the claims Democrats made about UN Ambassador John Bolton:

Last spring, when President Bush nominated John Bolton to be Ambassador to the United Nations, his critics all seemed to be singing from the same songbook. Bolton was too temperamental, too mercurial, too undiplomatic, too confrontational to be our representative to that august body. The only way real progress could be made at the United Nations was if the Senate refused to confirm him.

It looks like they were right: the Senate did, indeed, not confirm Mr. Bolton to be ambassador. And look at what's happened, just in the last couple of weeks:

Jay Tea then outlines four distinct and significant accomplishments of Ambassador Bolton over just the past couple of weeks.

Credibility. Democrats have very little of it these days, after making such flailingly absurd accusations and insinuations about Bolton, Roberts, and so many other of the president's decisions. When you claim the sky is falling, when you cry wolf, people eventually stop taking you seriously.


The Joy Luck Breakfast Blog Club-


The Media Lies blog explains what he'd do if he were a rich man:

.... I'd start a readers club. There would be charter members and sustaining members and we'd all fly somewhere, all expenses paid by me, once a year to spend a day or two (a long weekend?) discussing life and politics face to face over drinks. There would be plenty of time to relax, and each year some of my readers would be featured speakers, expounding on a subject of their choice.

I've often thought the same thing. It would be great to get together with a few of my readers and just chat about anything and everything. One thing I've noticed about my readers is that they are smart. Very smart, actually, with a great variety and quality and breadth and depth of life experience.


Entertainers & Politics-


Dean Esmay finds it hard to get worked up about those little Nazi pop star girls (called "Prussian Blue"), since he has been desensitized by years of pro-totalitarian entertainment:

By all means, let's kick around "Prussian Blue." Let's especially kick around their parents and their producers. These 13 year old twits likely have no idea what they're talking about, but the adults in their lives have no such excuse. But while we're doing it, let's remember all the other cases of covering up for, even romanticizing, hateful totalitarian ideologies. I think we'd be doing more good in the long run that way.

Indeed. There has been so much nonsense spouted from actual popular mainsteam (and thus influential) entertainers over the years that it's curious that this thoroughly irrelevant Prussian Blue duo would even get any ink.




The Confederate Yankee blog points out yet another success story out of Iraq:

139 terrorists killed. 256 terrorists captured. Operation Steel Curtain ends today as a success.

Did I mention that a substantial number of the soldiers fighting for the coaltion were locally-recruited Iraqis?


The Iraqi government goes forward, insurgents get killed as things wind down, and we leave Iraq with a democratically elected government.

Yeah, I can get behind that.

And that's the point. People need to remember that the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003. We're not even to 2006 yet. The progress in Iraq in such a short time frame has been nothing short of miraculous. It would be terrible to cut and run and make all the lives, treasure, time, effort, and other resources go to waste. We're so close. Let's not forsake the mission now, let's not sit down in the 20th mile of the marathon.


FDA Red Tape-


Different River blog explains how the quest for safe medical procedures and drugs may be preventing the kind of rapid progress technology and science could be giving us:

I’m sure most of the FDA’s employees are hard-working scientists, doctors, and bureaucrats who do the best they can with what they’ve got. But these are human beings we’re talking about. In addition to processing millions of pages of material for every new drug application, they have their own lives to live – they have to get their oil changed, mow their lawn, drive their kids’ carpools, take out the garbage, and do all sorts of other things that will not be the impacted in the least if some patient they never heard of dies because some piece of paper is sitting on their desks.

The problem is the fact that Congress and some bureaucrats decided a long time ago that people ought to die if those papers are still on those desks.

It's well-known that it takes many years for a drug to be approved by the FDA. Is this too long? I don't know. But it sure seems like it.


Fact Check-


IRIS blog notes that the media have been stealing/sharing each others' errors:

Set 1:

1. "Egypt, a political trendsetter that accounts for more than half the Arab population" (Oct. 19 Washington Post)

2. "Egypt represents more than half the population of the Arab world" (Nov. 13 New York Times)

3. "Egypt, which accounts for more than half the Arab world's population" (Nov. 13 Washington Post)

The truth is that Egypt represents about a quarter of the population of the Arab World's 22 countries. Anyone familiar with the Middle East, certainly a reporter who spent 12 years in the area, should have noticed these errors immediately. It's analagous to claiming half of Americans live in California. I e-mailed the Times on Nov. 13 and a correction was printed today.

It's amazing how many errors appear in mainstream journalism today. Sloppiness/laziness certainly plays a role. But often the errors drive some kind of agenda, and the corrections are often too little, too late.




Ankle Biting Pundits points out that billions spent by President Clinton on inner city job creation ultimately led to the loss of jobs:

If anyone thought that giving inner city governments (almost all of whom are controlled by Democrats) large block grants to "create jobs", with little or no oversight was going to lead to job creation, rather than corruption and local politicos having more "walking around money", then you must have been on crack. These handouts were nothing more than legalized bribery designed to keep the inner city governments, on whom the Democrats rely for support and encouraging turnout, happy.

Bingo. You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours.


Political Jiujitsu-


PoliPundit outlines a political strategy for 2006:

For the last several months, Democrats have done everything they can to bring about a speedy defeat for the United States in Iraq. To this day, they persist.


And, in 2006, we can use Democrats’ instinctive defeatism against them. I’m thinking of commercials like this one. Only a strong offensive will allow the GOP to gain the upper hand over the cut-and-run Democrats and their pals in the Lying Liberal Media. Otherwise, I fear for America’s future.

One can't help but think that the defeatist rhetoric from Democrats will eventually catch up to them... when people are actually paying attention again.


Good & Bad Lawyers-


Powerline blog offers a succinct summation of Ramsey Clark and Raed Juhi, noting the highs and lows:

Low would be Ramsey Clark, the lunatic lefty who has trafficked for forty years on the fact that Lyndon Johnson, in what Johnson described as his most appalling mistake, appointed him Attorney General. Clark has now showed up in Baghdad to volunteer his legal assistance to Saddam Hussein. Clark is one of those lefties who never met a dictator he didn't suck up to.

Useful idiots still abound, perhaps more than ever. Then again, maybe not.


The Elites-


Captain's Quarters blog explains the ramifications of the divergence of public opinion between the elites in academia, the media, the military, as well as the general populace, on Iraq:

Until the media starts reporting honestly from Iraq, the divergence will continue to grow as civilians continue to operate from ignorance, while the military operates from a position not only of intelligence but from experience. The real danger presented will be the self-fulfillment of the Starship Troopers (movie, not book) paradigm, where the only people qualified to control the military are the military themselves -- and the press will have created that atmosphere based on their short-sighted adherence to their anti-military and anti-Bush biases.

A great post. Let's hope that the upcoming elections are covered more thoroughly and fairly than the last round, which received almost no coverage whatsoever.


Media Distortions-


Speaking of unfair and unbalanced coverage of events, Ace has a great post on Dana Milbank:

RESOLVED: Partisan leftists like Dana Milbank hate Republicans so much that they'd rather see America lose a war than Republicans win a midterm election.

And this is starting to sink in with Americans. People realize that the criticisms from the left have become more about taking down the GOP than about what's in the best interests of America. It's just a shame that media hacks like Dana Milbank still wield so much power and influence in this country.


Fleeing Ohio-


BizzyBlog notes that Ohio's cities are actually losing population, and explains why:

When people “vote with their feet,” they do so even though it’s a time-consuming and costly process. Human inertia being what it is, most people want to stay where they are unless there are compelling reasons to go elsewhere. It’s clear that in the past 40 years, hordes of individuals and families have decided that Cincinnati’s poor schools, high crime, and high taxes have gone beyond the level of endurance (and similar hordes have decided not to move in for the same reasons).

And guess where those folks are moving? Mostly to low tax, pro-growth havens in the South and Southwest.


China's Environmental Fallout-


Publius Pundit explains the political ramifications of China's recent environmental disaster:

The big but unsurprising news out of China is that — golly gee! — the government tried to cover up the huge chemical spill in the Songhua River that has closed down water supplies for nearly four million people in the city of Harbin.


The problem for the government is that its unaccountable top-down power structure inherently prevents it from reforming quick enough to deal with issues; meanwhile, problems continue to be covered up by local officials who take bribes in exchange for their silence. It’s important to realize that this is more than an isolated event, and even more than a trend dating back to past the SARS coverup. This corruption is an epidemic that is quickly leading to the discrediting of the communist government in the eyes of the Chinese people themselves. What happens when 2010 rolls around?

Hopefully, China will embrace more than just the *ostensibly* market economy. Hopefully they'll begin to embrace human rights, democracy, and political freedom as well.

This country, China, recall, was not included in the now-infamous Kyoto agreement. Hmm, yeah.


French Delusion-


Clive Davis notes that French anti-Americanism is nothing new, and Benjamin Franklin even had to deal with it:

...I can't resist highlighting Berman's brief account of the theories of Buffon, 18th century godfather of anti-Americanism:

Buffon postulated that, in the New World, the Biblical flood had taken place much later than in the Old (which, by the way, is a notion that lingers on in Tocqueville, though he gives the deluvianism a positive spin). And, because the flood had taken place not so long ago, the New World was still a bit soggy. Animals and plants were feebler and less fully developed than in Europe. Trees were stunted. Dogs did not bark. Humans were hermaphroditically less sexual. Men's breasts lactated... All of nature degenerated in the disgusting sogginess, and people who came from Europe were bound to degenerate, as well.

So now you see where modern authors like Thierry Meyssan get their spiritual nourishment.

And how did Benjamin Franklin respond? In his characteristically no-nonsense style:

Franklin, at a dinner in Paris, asked all the American men to stand up, and likewise all the French men, in order to demonstrate that Americans were taller, not shorter, than the French--which was a devastating refutation of the naturalist theory of biological degeneration, and a genial display of American wit, to boot.

Benjamin Franklin is known as America's greatest diplomat... ever. Can you imagine how today's American media would frame Franklin's actions? Likely something like: "Franklin Wrecklessly Ruins Trans-Atlantic Ties."


Free Tookie-


GOP Vixen wonders whether Tookie Williams, the founder of the infamous "Crips" gang which ravaged generations of urban America (and also led directly to the creation of the "Bloods"), is manipulating people:

After reading these and other Tookie writings -- and reading between lines -- it leaves little doubt that he's used the same skills of manipulation that made him a successful gang leader to rally liberal activists to his cause.

Duh. The guy may be one of America's worst criminals ever, but he's not an idiot. And he knew what it would take to get a "FREE MUMIA" type of campaign on his behalf.


Also, don't forget to check out all the old Trivia Tidbits Of the Day, the Reform Thursday series, the Quotational Therapy sessions, the latest Pundit Roundtable, and the Wednesday Caption Contest (entries are due each Tuesday at 11:59 PM Central Standard Time).

Last Week's Classiness Certification from WILLisms.com:

*November 8, 2005.

WILLisms.com offers a classiness roundup as a bi-weekly feature, every other Tuesday, with 10 blog posts deemed classy. The criteria for submissions: incisive original analysis, quirky topics nobody else (especially the mainstream media) is covering, fantastic graphics, or other posts that took a lot of work. We love to spread the word on upcoming blogs, being that WILLisms.com also fits that description. If you would like to nominate a post on your blog or another blog for inclusion, email us at WILLisms@gmail.com. Write "Classy Nomination" in the subject. You can also utilize this page to make your submissions. The deadline is every other Monday at 11:59 PM Central Time.


Posted by Will Franklin · 29 November 2005 12:35 PM · Comments (6)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 230 -- Texas Economy.

Not Just Cattle, Oil, & Cotton, Anymore-

Back in high school in Midland, Texas (MHS Bulldogs), we had an annual prom dating back to 1929 called "Catoico." Catoico was short for "Cattle, Oil, & Cotton." In 1929, those three pillars dominated the Texas economy; even decades later, into the 1980s, those three pillars still dominated the Texas economy. When cattle, oil, and cotton did well, the Texas economy boomed. When cattle, oil, and cotton suffered, the Texas economy bonked.

But today, the Texas economy is as diverse, dynamic, and prosperous as nearly any in the country-- or the world, for that matter. Transportation, telecom, high tech, service, manufacturing, finance, real estate, insurance, health care, mining, retail, construction, education, agriculture, tourism... Texas is no longer a three-trick pony. The energy industry is still important in Texas, but not as important as it was a quarter century ago, when a spike in oil prices was great for Texas but bad for the rest of the country (Dallas Fed, .pdf):

In 1981, oil and gas economic output constituted 20% of the Texas economy; today, that number is only about 6%. In terms of employment, in 1982 oil and gas jobs accounted for 5% of Texas employment; today, only 2% of employed Texans work in the oil and gas industry.

But even economic diversity is no guarantee against cyclical downturns (.pdf):

High-tech production in Texas grew six times as fast as the state’s overall output. During the recession, Texas high-tech manufacturing lost 107,400 jobs, nearly a third of its employment. Even though California started with a higher base and therefore grew less in percentage terms, more jobs were created in Texas. During the buildup, total high-tech manufacturing jobs increased by 47,000 in Texas, while they rose by only 17,000 in California. In semiconductors, for example, California added 22,000 jobs, while Texas added 35,000. Texas also grew faster than the nation in telecom services, adding 50,000 jobs during the ’90s, then losing 30,000 during the recession.

9/11 also hit Texas particularly hard in the transportation sector (think airline headquarters). Of all the jobs lost in Texas in the brief recession earlier this decade, 62% were in either high tech or transportation.

Despite these setbacks, the Texas economy has generally outpaced the U.S. economy in recent decades:


Growth in population and income in Texas has outpaced growth in the United States in recent decades; however, Texas per capita income remains at 94% of the national average (up from 88% in 1969).

Interestingly, from April 2000 to July 2003, 44% (or, 699,685) of Texas' total population growth (1,259,945) was attributable to the natural cycle of more births than deaths. 34% (or, 430,048) of the growth, meanwhile, came from foreign immigration, and 10% (or, 130,212) resulted from migration from other parts of the United States. Texas' population growth over that 3-year period accounted for more than 13% of the overall population growth in the United States.

Diversification seems to have worked well for the Texas economy. Pro-growth, relatively low tax policies didn't hurt, either.

"The Face of Texas: Jobs, People, Business, Change" (.pdf)
Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, October 2005.


Previous Trivia Tidbit: Government Spending & GDP.

Posted by Will Franklin · 29 November 2005 08:29 AM · Comments (1)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 229 -- Government Spending & GDP.

Bigger Government, Weaker Economy-

The Brussels Journal has a great piece titled "The Myth of the Scandinavian Model," in which the correlation between government spending and economic growth is noted.

Indeed, in OECD countries over the latter half of the 20th century, the correlation was very significant:


This data is not terribly shocking, but it's worth saying, because the stakes are so high:

The higher the level of taxation, the lower the growth rate. The explanation for this phenomenon is as logical as it is simple. The higher the tax level, the lower the incentive for people to make a productive contribution to society. The higher the fiscal burden, the more resources flow from the productive sector to the ever more inefficient government apparatus.

Now, let's look at the rates of public spending in specific countries:


How interesting that 2004 GDP growth rates followed the graph rather well. Ireland grew the fastest, followed closely by the United States. European countries, with their large rates of public spending, meanwhile, grew much slower.

Now, let's take the United Kingdom and break it into separate economic pieces. One could argue that the UK is divided into "Wealth Creating Britain" and "Dependency Britain," all within the same country. The divide takes us back to the "health care, not wealth care" scenario.

Take a look at these important numbers:

Total government spending in Wealth-Creating Britain comes to only 32% of GDP, below even low tax-and-spend countries such as Ireland (34%), America (36%), Switzerland (36%) and Australia (35.5%), despite the fact that those are all usually considered to be low tax-and-spend economies. Indeed, according to a new report from London brokers Williams de Broë, if it were an independent country, the South-East of England would boast the ­second-lowest public expenditure burden in the OECD (after South Korea, where government spending is a mere 27.7% of GDP), while Dependency Britain Wales approaches Swedish levels of state spending (57% of GDP), as does the North-East of England (56%), which means these parts of Britain are essentially socialist economies. But über-Dependency Britain Northern Ireland exceeds them all: public spending has now reached a fantastical 64% of GDP in Northern Ireland, the kind of number associated with a miserable People’s Republic of the 1970s. By contrast the size of the state in Scotland (50% of GDP) and the North-West of England (47%) is more in the European social democratic mainstream – though there are pockets in both where the size of the state approaches Soviet proportions, such as Ayrshire, where government accounts for over 70% of GDP.

Not surprisingly, Wealth Creating Britain is carrying the load of the more socialist regions of the country:

Wealth-Creating Britain, which takes up only 16% of the British landmass, nevertheless generates 42% of Britain’s economic annual output with 35% of the population.

Meanwhile Dependency Britain threatens to drag the rest of the country down with it:

Scotland is a pretty good case study in how not to run a country, which probably explains why the rest of the world ignores the socialist excesses of its recently devolved parliament in Edinburgh. Last year the state employed 28.4% of the Scottish workforce, according to unpublished ONS Labour Force Survey data; on top of that 17% of Scots were either unemployed or claiming incapacity benefit – in other words almost 50% of the potential Scottish labour force depends on the state for its income. Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city and once such an industrial powerhouse it was known as “Second City of the Empire”, is now the undisputed capital of Dependency Britain. More than 50% of Glaswegian households have no earned income, the highest ratio in Britain and a new high watermark for the dependency culture. According to some estimates, state-financed health spending per head in Glasgow is now higher than any other city in the world.

Conservatives who seek smaller government aren't doing it arbitrarily. They understand that a smaller government will lead to prosperity. Want greater wealth and higher standards of living for everyone? Every day, we're seeing perpetually more proof that a socialist welfare state is not the answer. Shame on most Democrats and some Republicans for actively working to take us down the self-contradictory, untenable fiscal road of Old Europe.

Policies matter. Ideas matter. The United States no longer has the luxury of competing against a gargantuan Marxist dystopia, which masked the deficiencies our own big government tendencies. We now compete-- mostly amicably, of course-- against Ireland, China, India, Korea, Taiwan, Australia, Wealth Creating Britain, Singapore, and the rest of the emerging world. Even Russia could get right back in the game with the right policies, compounded over another ten years or so.

The bottom line is that the American economy must maintain its comparative advantage over the world. To maintain market share in the global economy, you've got to stay better, relatively, than the other countries. That means lower taxes and lower spending. That means Social Security reform. That means Medicare and Medicaid reform. America's future depends on it.


Previous Trivia Tidbit: Wasting Food.

Posted by Will Franklin · 28 November 2005 01:21 PM · Comments (0)

Quotational Therapy: Part 62 -- Newt Gingrich, On Medicaid.

Newt Gingrich, Battling With Actual Ideas-

With visits to New Hampshire and Iowa, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is leaving the door open for a 2008 run for president. Much like Hillary Clinton, though, he has almost no chance. His negatives are simply too high; his personal baggage is too cumbersome.

But I like Newt quite a bit. He's an idea guy.

Idea guys are rare in Washington. People actually willing to offer solutions to problems and explain them in depth are rare, indeed.

So, without further delay, here's Newt, on Washington, DC:

This is a city where everybody jumps up in the morning and their idea of real change is whatever the gossip is that relates to the politics of the personalities who are maneuvering to occupy seats. But if you come in and say now let's talk about real change, they rapidly shrink the concept to the smallest, narrowest, and, frankly, least relevant component. And so my underlying theme -- and you'll see it in this paper when you get it -- is to think of this city today as trapped in a box of 19th and 20th century institutions.

And Newt, on Medicaid:

I want to talk today about Medicaid. If you combine Medicare and Medicaid, there are at least 39,000 pages of regulations, not counting what we believe are 15,000 pages of waivers at the Medicaid level, and not counting 50 states full of laws and regulations.

And one of my challenges to the Congress is to get all the documents together in one room -- (laughter) -- because it will make the case on the -- you'll look at it and you'll say this is silly; it can't possibly work. We told the Soviets this for 70 years: large centralized command bureaucracies don't work. Guess what? We were right, they were wrong. They disappeared. (Laughter.) But we won't take our own medicine.

This point is so true. The United States won the Cold War for a reason, and now many folks want to forget the lessons of why America won.

Ideas have consequences, too:

...20 years ago, the average German earned 26 percent more than the average Irish. Today, the average Irish earns 28 percent more than the average German. That is a change of relative income of 54 percent in 20 years. And it's a sign that good policies work, and people have more money and more happiness and more take-home pay; and bad policies fail, and people are more miserable and more unhappy.

And so if we're going to compete with China and India -- and I think my grandchildren have no choice. If we want to be the leading country on the planet, we have to transform litigation, regulation, taxation, education and health. If we don't transform those five, we will not compete.

Read the entire August 21, 2005 speech on, among other things, Medicaid reform, here.


Previous Quotational Therapy Session:

Bush In Mongolia.

The right quote can be therapeutic, so tune in to WILLisms.com for quotational therapy every Monday and Friday.

Posted by Will Franklin · 28 November 2005 10:55 AM · Comments (1)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 228 -- "Do Not Call" Telemarketing Registry.

Stifling Telemarketers-

I get loads of telemarketing calls (at least 2 or 3 per day, sometimes more), and many of them are recorded calls, so I am unable to tell them to stop calling.

Apparently, the Do Not Call list is working:

A survey of U.S. adults found 92 percent of those who signed up for the Do Not Call registry had received fewer telemarketing calls since signing up.

Twenty-five percent said they had received no calls since signing up for the registry, the survey by Harris Interactive said.

I guess I should have signed up for the Do Not Call registry long ago.


Previous Trivia Tidbit: Wasting Food.

Posted by Will Franklin · 27 November 2005 04:15 PM · Comments (4)

Pundit Roundtable

Hi everyone, and welcome back to PUNDIT ROUNDTABLE, our weekly roundup of pundit opinions. I am your host, Ken McCracken.

I hope everyone had a turkeylicious holiday week.

Our topic this week is a vital one:

The Senate has recently voted on a non-binding resolution admonishing the White House to provide a clearer picture on the situation in Iraq, and for the prospects for pulling our troops out. Is the time right to begin reducing troop levels in Iraq? If not now, then when? What needs to happen there before the United States can pull out its military presence there?

Our first guest is a Roundtable newcomer, Dr. Steven Taylor, who operates a favorite blog of mine, Poliblog. Dr. Steven, what do you think?

While I have been paying attention to the general debate, I have not written much about the issue of withdrawing troops from Iraq. Indeed, I have only dedicated one post (here: http://www.poliblogger.com/?p=8726 ) to the subject in the last several weeks. That post pointed to the political games being played by both parties. If there is a theme that surrounds the entire situation it is that: politics (of an electoral nature). The pending 2006 elections, though almost a year from now, hang heavy in the air in terms of their effect on the political class.

I vacillate in my own mind as to what the appropriate troop levels should be. Part of me thinks that Senator McCain is correct—that we need more troops to contribute to stabilization. Another part of me thinks that a lesser prominent American presence might allow for more focus on the Iraqis, both militarily and governmentally.

However, I do not believe that the elimination of US troops will equal the cessation of violence, as some have argued. While one of al Zarqawi’s goals is the total withdrawal of US troops, I think that the larger goal is the destabilization of the nascent Iraqi state. Assaults on the government will simply intensify when the US leaves.

Witness that a large number of attacks have been aimed at Iraqi security forces, especially at men lined up to apply for jobs with the police. Also there was that attack a few weeks back on a restaurant known to be a police favorite. Such attacks are not about the presence of the Yankee Imperialist Infidels, but are aimed at the development of a key pillar of state construction: the basic security apparatus.

What I fear is that the politics of Iraq, and the need for the Republicans to say that there will be a phased withdrawal and the Democrats’ need to at least semi-call for a total, immediate withdrawal (a simplification of both positions, to be sure) is what is driving the agenda, such as the vote in the Senate, rather than good policy planning or proper military assessments. Sadly, the entire administration Iraq policy feels adrift at the moment and members of both parties in the Congress see it simply in terms of campaign politics.

Also, I would note that the term “withdrawal” may ultimately be misleading. I can foresee a drawdown of troops (i.e., a significant reduction in boots on the ground) but I continue to think that there will be some US military presence there for some time to come.

What I continue to be amazed by is the lack of a serious, publicly articulated plan from the Democrats. Indeed, that lack has baffled me for over a year and a half now. I am further baffled by the administration’s inability to articulate a clear policy beyond “staying the path.” Moreover, I do no understand why a more constant effort to articulate the importance of the policy isn’t being undertaken by the administration.

Our next guest is a previous Roundtable participant, Reliapundit of The Astute Blogger. What do you say, Reliapundit?
I agree with the Administration and the Pentagon that withdrawal has to be conditon-based and not time-based. Only when conditons are met can withdrawal safely occur. "Conditons" includes the general level and pace of attacks and casualties, as well as the numbers of Iraqi defense forces, border forces and policing forces which are independently operational. Also, conditions means progress on the political front. And these things interact.

Because questions (1) & (2) pose the issues in terms of TIME - "is the time right"/"if not now, when" - I'd have to say the questions are biased and propagandistic; as long as the question is posed that way - as long as the issue is framed that way - the anti-Bush Doves of the Left have a virtual win, because the Administration is put on the defensive in a debate which it should NOT have.

Question (3) frames the issue correctly, as a "WHAT" question and not a "WHEN" question.

What must happen is simple: The Iraqis - through their duly constituted and democratically elected government - must say that they are ready to start taking over.They should say this privately and withdrawal should not be publicized. As long as they want military help we should give it to them. DITTO financial aid.

LOOKIT: I was an anti-Vietnam War dove/Lefty, something I am ASHAMED of now. And my worst fear it that, IF EVER GIVEN THE CHANCE, the Dem/Left will abandon the Iraqis the way they did the Soouth Vietnamese and ther Contras. Prof of the is the constant quagmire refrian and the fact that the same scum is involved: Ellsberg, Hersh, Kennedy, Kerry, Chomsky, et al. They were wrong them and they are wrong now.

I still have a few Lefty dove friends, and whn I ask them how many US combat troops were in Vietnam when Saigon fell to the Vietcong they say between 500,000 and 100,000. In fact, there were NONE. The last US combat troops were withdrawn on 3/29/73 - A FULL TWO YEARS BEFORE SAIGON FELL. Vietnamization WORKED. The ONLY ONLY ONLY reason that the SVG fell was that the McGovernite Democrat Party which controlled Congress pulled the plug on financial aid to the SVG. They way they did to Contras 4 years later.

We all know the horrific repercussions of the fall of South Vietnam: Boat People, the Killing Fields, Vietnamese "re-education" camps... etc... (Ironcially/sadly, the Vietnamese government now wants NO BEGS for USA investment. Pity. The waste. Had the North Vietnamese NOT been a Marxist totalitarian tyranny, they could have had American investment for the last 40 years, and WITHOUT condemng 3 million of the own to die trying to stop that very thing!)

The Dem/Left will abandon the Iraqis - and Afghanis - the moment they get the chance. That's why 2006 is so EFF'N important. We mustn't let the Pelosi/Dean/Kennedy/Kerry crowd of Lefty McGovernite doves get control of either body of Congress. (Right now, the only Dem I would trust with our nation's defense - or the defense of the free World is Joe Lieberman. The rest of the so-called Democrat centrists are all PHONIES.)

That being said, I believe that withdrawals will begin by next spring. Things are going well there, now - have been for many months.

BTW: I have a relative who is being deployed for the first time. He is a fine man, well-trained and proud to serve. And we are proud he is serving. And worried. We pray EVERYDAY for his safety and for the success of his mission. And the mission of all our troops and the troops of our allies.

Ultimately it is the success of the mission which will determine our troop levels and NOT the calender - at least as long as the GOP has the final say. I MEAN THAT, AND I AM STILL A REGISTERED DEMOCRAT! Have been since 1974.

I saw an article today which sated that 70% of Iraq (geographocally) is now ONLY patrolled/policed by Iraqi forces. I believe that - based on current trends - that number will be 100% by 2007. Which is to say, based on current trends I would expect conditions allowing for complete withdrawal should be met by then.

THEN - with the best trained, best equipped and MOST BATTLE-HARDENED FORCE IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD - we can muster a more credible devastating threat against the remaining foes: Syria (if Assad has somehow managed to hold on), Iran and North Korea.

Reliapundit also adds this from a recent post of his:

Fellow blogger and frequent commenter PASTORIUS suggested I make this bit, from an earlier post, the lead (NYTIMES):

(NYTIMES) On Monday, Iraq's interior minister, Bayan Jabr, said American-led forces should be able to leave Iraq by the end of next year, adding that the one-year extension of the mandate for the multinational force in Iraq by the United Nations Security Council earlier this month could be the last, The Associated Press reported. "By mid-next year, we will be 75 percent done in building our forces, and by the end of next year it will be fully ready," Mr. Jabr told Al Jazeera, the pan-Arab news channel.

RELIAPUNDIT: Let's get this straight, President Talabani, Deputy PM Chalabi and the Interior Minister have NOW ALL GONE ON RECORD and all confirmed this goal. THAT'S GREAT. They feel that with the GREAT US help they're getting - in defending their nascent democracy and training them to defend themselves - they will soon be able to dio just that. GREAT: We must do whatever we can to make sure they meet it.

So, er... um... what the heck are the Murtha/McGovernite Dem-Lefties whining about!?

Dan Morgan of NoSpeedBumps.com is our next guest, making his second trip to the Roundtable. Dan?
The rush to make plans for a withdrawal from Iraq is misguided. It is understandable that people want to reduce American causalities, we all want this. But we are still in a war, and there are right ways to end wars and wrong ways. Consider some examples.

We invaded Germany and Japan and ended dictatorships there. We have kept bases in those countries for 60 years now. Germany and Japan have emerged as thoroughly democratic, their citizens are free, and by the end of the 20th century these countries had achieved the 2nd and 3rd largest economies in the world.

Now consider a country we left early: Vietnam. We withdrew in the midst of an unstable situation. We also then withheld critical U.S. military support that was promised, for example air support for the South Vietnamese army. The end result is that the Vietnamese have now lived for 30 years under a brutal dictatorship, citizens have no freedom, and the country has remained poor.

A hasty and complete withdrawal from Iraq will undoubtedly mean a drawdown of support in many areas, just like it did in Vietnam. A bloody civil war is a likely outcome - and a democratic government surviving this war is unlikely. The hopes for Iraq serving as a model for democracy for other countries in the Middle East will collapse. Autocrats in the region will then feel emboldened to re-tighten their grips on power. Thus, the oppression and economic corruption that fuels Islamic terrorism will all be left intact. A hasty withdrawal from Iraq will mean abandoning a key component in the war on terror - the component that is most directly dealing with the root causes of terrorism over the long term.

The appropriate strategy in Iraq is to maintain military bases there for as long as needed to assure a democratic Iraq. However, Iraqis must take over most patrols and ground operations against the insurgents. After the upcoming elections, American troops can gradually stay more on bases so that they are much more out of harm’s way. The U.S. troop levels stationed in Iraq can also gradually be significantly reduced.

But keeping U.S. bases in Iraq is critical because these bases will provide local air support, logistics help, intelligence support, advanced training, as well as making certain that Iraqis stay on the path to democracy. Within the protected zones, the U.S. and our allies can continue to provide help with on-going advising and training on how to nurture democratic institutions and advance the rule of law.

Like it or not, we will likely still have bases in Iraq five years from now. A key is to begin demanding that Iraqis take over security. The goal should be for the U.S. to gradually fade into a background role, just like we did in Japan and Germany. And some day, long after the anti-war protests have faded, we can finally withdraw.

Our next response is from Will Franklin, founder of this very blog. Will?
Watching Tim Russert and his clique on NBC this morning for the first time in a long time, it dawned on me just how difficult this situation is for President Bush. Essentially, everyone in the Washington media establishment has put unreasonable demands and expectations on the situation. No matter how much tangible, verifiable progress is made, when these folks get together, the consensus quickly moves toward the following: 1) the entire situation is a disaster; 2) Bush and his administration are exclusively to blame for the alleged disaster; and, 3) nothing can be done to solve this alleged disaster.

This media consensus is unfortunate, and it is the reason Democrats feel so emboldened lately on demanding the cut and run from Iraq, as well as the reason why many Congressional Republicans are distancing themselves from the GOP agenda more generally. It also demonstrates just how supremely influential the establishment media remain today, regardless of blogs and talk radio and so on.

Another unfortunate side-effect of this defeatist consensus is that pulling, say, 30 thousand troops out of Iraq in the next several months might indeed be the right tactical thing to do, as Iraqis are increasingly able to handle security. I don't know. But if President Bush brings 1/5 or 1/4 of the American troops home, it may appear like he is conceding to the media consensus, making him seem weak and unserious.

In two and a half weeks, Iraqis will go to the polls to send 275 members to the Iraqi Assembly. This election will not be any kind of panacea, but it will mark an important milestone, and it will move us closer to the mission of helping Iraqi democracy help itself. A little perspective is in order, too. The year is 2005. The U.S. first went into Iraq in 2003. Training Iraqi security forces and helping to set up a self-perpetuating, functioning democracy in 2-3 years is nothing short of miraculous. It seems unreasonable to give up so soon.

The host's last word: reducing troop levels now would be a mistake, if anything we should be sending more troops to Iraq, to ensure our mission succeeds. We simply must make this experiment work and see it through - this task is as important as democratizing Japan and Germany were after the end of World War II, perhaps even more so. This is our chance to revolutionize the entire region, and we have already seen some of this occuring in Lebanon, and in the kifaya revolutions in Egypt and elsewhere.

The necessary condition for a complete troop pullout from Iraq is nothing less than a complete paradigm shift in the middle east - but I do feel that we are much further along on that course than our defeatist media would have us believe. The arab street did not rise up to support Saddam again our 'neocon' adventure in Iraq - but the arab street has risen up against Bashar Assad in Lebanon, and against Zarqawi in Jordan. The arab street is becoming enthralled with the spirit of democracy, and the old paradigm of the strongman ruler playing on ethnic and xenophobic fears to maintain his power is falling by the wayside.

If we americans lose our faith in the ability of democracy to transform Iraq and the rest of the region, how can we expect the arabs, kurds and persians to keep the faith? Our experiment in Iraq is not simply about Iraq, but about the entire middle east. Perhaps we need the equivalent of a new NATO in the middle east, anchored by a permanent U.S. presence in Iraq, to ensure the continued stability of Iraq against the depredations of Zarqawi and a reactionary Tehran. Even more so, we need to overtly and covertly contribute to the downfall of the remaining anti-democratic states there (including Saudi Arabia) still trying to hold back the tides of history, and the inevitability of self-governance for all peoples in that region.

That's it! Thank you, pundits, and come back next week for our next installment of PUNDIT ROUNDTABLE!

Posted by Ken McCracken · 27 November 2005 01:01 PM · Comments (6)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 227 -- Wasting Food.

Taking What You Can Eat, But Eating What You Take-

I know I am sometimes guilty of this:

* The US Department of Agriculture estimates that 27 per cent of total food production in the US is wasted every year

* Timothy Jones, who conducted a ten-year study for the University of Arizona, estimates that the amount that does not get eaten is as much as 50 per cent

* A typical household wastes 14 per cent of all food purchased

* Fifteen per cent of that includes products still within their expiry date but never opened

* An average American family of four throws away meat, fruit, vegetables and grain products worth $590 (£345) a year

For me, it's difficult to buy exactly the right amount of food for the week (or sometimes longer). It's difficult to know how often eating out might happen.

I wonder what, if any, differences there are between and among generations. The generation(s) that lived through the Great Depression might be less likely to waste food, while those of us who have grown up in an era of plenty might waste more food, more often.

That's my guess, at least.

I also wonder about how the rise of women in the workplace has impacted these numbers. Less families today have full-time homemakers, whose duties include-- among other things-- running the kitchen. Busier lives and less family dinners might contribute to the wasting of food.

Finally, you have to wonder about the effects of the cheapness of food. Today, most staple foods are relatively inexpensive and readily available. Adjusted for inflation, many grocery items are actually cheaper than they were decades ago.

On the other hand, we have better storage techniques, technology, and expertise. We have better refrigeration (at every stage), better cleanliness (food workers wearing gloves, cleaning machinery, wiping down countertops with cleaning products, etc.), more efficient distribution networks (thanks to the our expanded transportation system and large box store chains), and better storage methods (air-tight plastics and single-serve packaging). We also have genetically modified and irradiated foods that last longer, not to mention more preservatives than in the past.

In other words, not everything about modern life contributes to the wasting of food. I'd be interested to learn about the rate of food wasting in the past, as well as the rate of food wasting in other cultures.


Previous Trivia Tidbit: Higher Taxes = Less Tax Revenues.

Posted by Will Franklin · 26 November 2005 02:16 PM · Comments (5)

Welcome, Duncan Wilson.

Duncan Graham Wilson, a law school student at Wake Forest, will now be contributing (stuff like this) occasionally to WILLisms.com. He's guest blogged a bit in the past. Glad to have him aboard. Here is the previous introduction of Duncan, back in early February.

Posted by Will Franklin · 25 November 2005 07:20 PM · Comments (2)

Quotational Therapy: Part 61 -- President Bush In Mongolia.

Bush, On Overcoming Communism & Islamic Radicalism-

Most of you don't know this, but when I was in high school, I would send out bloggish emails to some of my fellow high school students with-- among other things-- random Mongolian trivia that I'd find in books or on the internet. Nerdy? Oh, yeah. But everyone seemed to love those emails. Especially the Mongol trivia.

So this quotational therapy is particularly fun. Our President, George W. Bush, visited Asia last week, and one stop on his journey was Mongolia. When critics say the President has turned the world against the United States, they are really only referring to the once-relevant "Old Europe." Germany. France. Countries with their own domestic dysfunctions. But in the newly free world, George Bush is treated like a hero. Mongolia is one of those countries. The U.S. is forging unprecedented ties with nations around the world, gaining immense respect, gratitude, and loyalty.

President Bush spoke in Mongolia on November 21, 2005:

Like the ideology of communism, the ideology of Islamic radicalism is led by a self-appointed vanguard that presumes to speak for the masses. Like the ideology of communism, Islamic radicalism teaches the innocent can be murdered to serve their brutal aims. Like the ideology of communism, Islamic radicalism is dismissive of free peoples, claiming that men and women who live in liberty are weak and decadent. And like the ideology of communism, the ideology of Islamic radicalism is destined to fall because the will to power is no match for the universal desire to live in liberty.

Free people did not falter in the Cold War, and free people will not falter in the war on terror. We see the determination to live in freedom in the courage of Iraqi and Afghan citizens who defied the terrorists to cast their ballots. We see it in the bravery of ordinary Lebanese who waved cedar flags and drove an occupying power from their borders. And we've seen it in the daily courage of the Mongolian people who claimed their freedom 15 years ago, and are now standing with others across the world to help them do the same.

Read the entire speech here.


Previous Quotational Therapy Session:

Tony Blair.

The right quote can be therapeutic, so tune in to WILLisms.com for quotational therapy every Monday and Friday.

Posted by Will Franklin · 25 November 2005 05:49 PM · Comments (1)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 226 -- Higher Taxes, Weaker Government Revenues.

Higher corporate tax rate : Relatively less taxes collected from corporations :: Lower corporate tax rate : Relatively more taxes collected from corporations-

Need to raise money for entitlement programs, schools, national defense, and roads?

Just raise taxes, right? Wrong.

This concept will not surprise those who read WILLisms.com regularly, but the act of raising taxes is almost always a mere short-term fix. Higher taxes consistently drive down tax receipts in the medium-term and long-term.

When an additional unit of work (an hour, or day, or whatever) or output is taxed exorbitantly, it may not make much sense to do additional work or create output. High taxes also encourage creative accounting (usually totally legit) to avoid paying Uncle Sam.

Higher taxes also stifle economic growth. Lower economic growth means less commerce, less earning, less production. Ergo, lower levels of tax collections.

Interestingly, countries with higher corporate tax rates derive less of their overall tax receipts from those higher corporate taxes. Counterintuitively (for some), countries with lower corporate tax rates derive a greater share of their overall tax receipts from those lower corporate taxes.

Indeed, the Tax Foundation has the data (.pdf):

With the highest overall corporate rate in the OECD in 2005 (third highest in 2003), one would expect the U.S. to be collecting comparatively high corporate tax revenues and to be heavily dependent on them. This is not the case. In fact, during 2003 he U.S. ranked 15th in the OECD in corporate taxes collected as a percentage of total taxes collected.

The countries that rely most heavily on corporate tax receipts are Luxembourg (19.1 percent), Norway (18.5 percent) and Australia (16.7 percent). Interestingly, all three of these countries have below-average corporate income tax rates. The countries that rely the least heavily on corporate tax receipts are Germany (3.5 percent), Iceland (3.9 percent), and Sweden (5.0 percent).

Similarly, comparing corporate tax rates and corporate taxes collected as a percentage of GDP paints another picture of the inverse relationship between corporate tax rates and the robustness of corporate tax collections. Economists at the OECD demonstrated that countries with high corporate tax rates – such as the U.S., Germany, Japan, and France – tend to have lower corporate tax collections as a percentage of GDP than the OECD average.

When will this stuff stop being so surprising and counterintuitive?

The Tax Foundation (.pdf).


Previous Trivia Tidbit: Thanksgiving Factoids.

Posted by Will Franklin · 25 November 2005 11:00 AM · Comments (0)

Strict Constructionism

Originally published in the Wake Forest School of Law Hearsay

In our democratic republic, judges are entrusted with great power: the power to review the constitutionality of laws passed by the legislature. In many instances, they are the last line of defense to prevent a tyranny of the majority.

This power however, is not mentioned in the constitution. The document does not expressly provide for judicial review. Courts have reasoned that the power is implied from the very nature of the court system, but it stands to reason that the founders, in their wisdom and their affinity for limited government power, would have intended judicial review to remain a limited power. It further stands to reason that the founders would never have envisioned the courts would use the sweeping powers they exercise today.

Interpretation of the constitution based upon strict construction is far easier, much more reliable, and makes our nation much more secure. When judges usurp power it often leads to disastrous results. For example, in Dred Scott v. Sanford the court far overstepped its bounds to declare that even free blacks were not citizens and declared that congress could not regulate slavery in new territories.
The justices claimed that they were protecting the property rights of slave owners. The right to hold slaves is not mentioned in the constitution. The justices in effect manufactured a right where the constitution did not provide one, and it took a civil war and several amendments to undo the horrible decision made in Dred Scott.
Under a strict interpretation of the constitution the justices would have realized that congress can regulate commerce in federal territory, and at that time slavery was classified as commerce. They would have further held that finding a free man to be a non-citizen based on his skin runs counter to all aspects of the constitution. However, the justices in Dred Scott made their decision and then tried to shoe horn that decision into the law and the constitution, thereby making new laws. That is the very definition of an activist court.

Interpreting the constitution in a way that strictly adheres to what the laws say, not what the judges want the laws to say creates better legislation. It forces legislators to pass clearly worded laws, and thus puts issues back in the hands of the electorate. When a judge creates law people generally feel that it is beyond reproach, but when an elected official votes on a law, people are motivated to re-elect or replace that official.

Broad interpretation of the constitution has also been responsible for dreadful inaction. Allowing unconstitutional laws to stand is often worse than an activist court creating pseudo-rights. In Plessy v. Ferguson the Supreme Court upheld the separate but equal doctrine of segregation, despite the fact that segregation is squarely at odds with the constitution and the 14th amendment. If we are going to have laws, if this constitution is going to truly mean something, it must remain clear and interpreted as written. Judges must remain more dedicated to the constitution than to any cause.

If this had been the case, the court would have found that separate but equal could never have been constitutional. I’ve often heard that this is a nation of laws, not of men. Despite what any judge may personally feel, they should interpret laws and the constitution as is, not as they wish it were. Dred and Plessy were blatant examples of judges broadly interpreting the constitution to fit in with their or societal biases. Under strict interpretation there is no room for personal or societal bias, only the law. Laws should be made by legislatures, and then held accountable by the people. Broad interpretation disconnects the people from the laws that govern them, and that is unjust. Only under strict construction interpretations of the constitution is the maximum amount of liberty achieved.

Posted by · 25 November 2005 10:28 AM · Comments (0)

Happy Thanksgiving.


Happy Thanksgiving, from WILLisms.com.

Posted by Will Franklin · 24 November 2005 10:28 AM · Comments (6)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 225 -- Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving Trivia: By The Numbers-

256 million

The preliminary estimate of the number of turkeys raised in the United States in 2005. That's down 3 percent from 2004. The turkeys produced in 2004 weighed 7.3 billion pounds altogether and were valued at $3.1 billion. (Source: USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service)

44.5 million

The preliminary estimate of the number of turkeys Minnesota expects to raise in 2005. The Gopher State is tops in turkey production. It is followed by North Carolina (36.0 million), Arkansas (29.0 million), Virginia (21.0 million), Missouri (20.5 million) and California (15.1 million). These six states together will probably account for about 65 percent of U. S. turkeys produced in 2005. (Source: USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service)

More great Thanksgiving trivia at Political Calculations (U.S. turkey production and Thanksgiving By The Numbers).


Previous Trivia Tidbit: General Motors, Layoffs, Europe, America, Jobs, Capitalism, Health Care & Wealth Care.

Posted by Will Franklin · 24 November 2005 10:07 AM · Comments (1)

Social Security Reform Thursday: Week Forty-One -- Demographics & The Failing Pyramid Scheme.


Thursdays are good days for reform, because they fall between Wednesdays and Fridays. And reform is a long-haul process, not a fleeting event. So we're going to keep plugging along with the case for reform, even as the issue goes off the political radar screen.

That's why WILLisms.com offers a chart or graph, every Thursday, pertinent to Social Security reform.

This week's topic:

Unsustainable Demographics: Social Security Pyramid Scheme.

Another week, another Democrat-obstructed reform try.

The demographics have not changed. There are less workers paying for each retiree. Over the past several decades the answer has been to raise the payroll tax rate and expand the payroll tax base. With a pyramid scheme of funding crumbling underneath itself, Social Security required higher and higher taxes. In theory, a constantly growing base of younger workers would have paid for retirees.

Sort of a forced generational pact.

But it didn't quite work out that way, as the Baby Boom gave way to falling birthrates. The Boomer generational bulge is now beginning to retire. There just aren't enough workers to feasibly support all those tens of millions of retirees.

The demographics aren't getting any better, either. And they're not going away.


The pyramid scheme is crumbling.


It's time to do something about it.

It's time for reform.

The clock is ticking.


Previous Reform Thursday graphics can be seen here:

-Week One (Costs Exceed Revenues).
-Week Two (Social Security Can't Pay Promised Benefits).
-Week Three (Americans Getting Older).
-Week Three, bonus (The Templeton Curve).
-Week Four (Fewer Workers, More Retirees).
-Week Five (History of Payroll Tax Base Increases).
-Week Six (Seniors Living Longer).
-Week Six, bonus (Less Workers, More Beneficiaries).
-Week Seven (History of Payroll Tax Increases).
-Week Seven, bonus (Personal Accounts Do Achieve Solvency).
-Week Eight (Forty Year Trend Of Increasing Mandatory Spending).
-Week Nine (Diminishing Benefits Sans Reform).
-Week Ten (Elderly Dependence On Social Security).
-Week Eleven (Entitlement Spending Eating The Budget).
-Week Twelve (Benefit Comparison, Bush's Plan versus No Plan).
-Week Thirteen (Younger Americans and Lifecycle Funds).
-Week Fourteen (The Thrift Savings Plan).
-Week Fifteen (Understanding Progressive Indexing).
-Week Sixteen (The Graying of America).
-Week Seventeen (Debunking Myths).
-Week Eighteen (Debunking Myths).
-Week Nineteen (Reform Needed Sooner Rather Than Later).
-Week Twenty (Global Success With Personal Accounts).
-Week Twenty-One (GROW Accounts: Stopping The Raid).
-Week Twenty-Two (Millions of Lockboxes).
-Week Twenty-Three (Support for Ryan-DeMint).
-Week Twenty-Four (KidSave Accounts).
-Week Twenty-Five (Latinos and Social Security).
-Week Twenty-Six (AmeriSave).
-Week Twenty-Seven (Cost Of Doing Nothing).
-Week Twenty-Eight (Chile).
-Week Twenty-Nine (Entitlement Spending Out Of Control).
-Week Thirty (Reform Better Deal Than Status Quo).
-Week Thirty-One (Social Security As A Labor Cost).
-Week Thirty-Two (Social Security And Dependence On Government).
-Week Thirty-Three (Social Security, Currently A Bad Deal For African-Americans).
-Week Thirty-Four (Longer Life Expectancies Straining Social Security).
-Week Thirty-Five (Howard Dean & Salami).
-Week Thirty-Six (Growing Numbers of Beneficiaries Draining Social Security).
-Week Thirty-Seven (The Crisis Is Now).
-Week Thirty-Eight (Disability Benefits).
-Week Thirty-Nine (Broken Benefit Calculation Formula).
-Week Forty (German Social Security Disaster).

Tune into WILLisms.com each Thursday for more important graphical data supporting Social Security reform.

Posted by Will Franklin · 24 November 2005 09:52 AM · Comments (3)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 224 -- General Motors, Michigan, Health Care, & Wealth Care.

European Labor Conditions In America-

Almost immediately after GM's announcement yesterday that it was eliminating 30,000 jobs, the Democrat demagogue patrols pounced.

Because Democrats and leftists control the establishment media and Republicans and conservatives *ostensibly* control the government, there is rarely any sort of balance to reporting on America's robust, thriving economy. Anecdotal bad evidence (such as mass manufacturing layoffs) always trumps statistical good evidence (such as every economic indicator out there), even overwhelming good evidence.

Within hours of the GM announcement, my email box was cluttered with messages from liberals and leftists and Democrats and socialists and communists-- it's getting harder to differentiate anymore-- declaring that the General Motors layoffs were evidence of "Bush's failed policies" and of a struggling, terrible economy, caused by those heartless, greedy, fatcat Republicans.

Let's be serious, here, though. Layoffs are difficult to deal with for any community, or any family. These particular GM job cuts are concentrated in Michigan but will impact communities all over the country:

Click image for larger version, or go here and click the multimedia graphic on the lefthand side.

Republican politicians are rightfully wary of bringing up that whole Schumpeterian "creative destruction" thing, because in an era of diminishing and diminutive political soundbites, it's easy to be taken out of context. It's easy to be painted as a heartless, greedy fatcat, for deigning to suggest that a company should have the right to hire and fire as it sees fit.

The medium- and long-term forces of creative destruction, however, are amazingly powerful-- and positive:

Economist Joseph Schumpeter taught us years ago that gales of creative destruction generate more than usual growth, profits, and real wages, with lower-than-usual inflation and interest rates. Schumpeter’s gales are blowing.

In the United States, unlike in countries such as Germany or France, we have quite a bit of creative destruction. It goes on mostly under the radar screen. Companies make constant tweaks, hiring and firing, expanding and streamlining, and ultimately innovating. Innovation creates new jobs. It's no wonder that the U.S. has created tens of millions of jobs in the past couple of decades, while Europe has not.

America, relative to Europe, has unleashed the forces of creative destruction. In America, unlike, say, Germany, a company can fire an employee with relative ease.



Because that same company is willing to hire more readily, as well. Other companies are also willing to hire more readily. And bad, inefficient companies are replaced with good ones. The free enterprise system replenishes itself vigorously, like blood through the cardiovascular system.

Take a deep breath. No, really. Do it. Breath in as deeply as you can.

Feel the oxygen scattering frantically through your arteries, your veins, your capillaries, replenishing your muscles and skin with freshness.

Not to go all yoga instructor on you, but now imagine that it was harder to replenish those bits of fresh air in your bloodstream. Maybe there's a blockage somewhere in there. Maybe you promised those little oxygens they could stay in your body forever. You can't inhale, because you are not allowed to exhale.

Diagnosis: Eurosclerosis.

It's real. It's debilitating. It's not just a labored analogy. Eurosclerosis is caused by many factors, ones discussed here quite often, but stifling labor regulations that erect disincentives and barriers to the gradual, perpetual tweaks of creative destruction are a major cause of Eurosclerosis. Pie-in-the-sky promises on pensions and benefits, mortgaged to pyramid scheme funding structures, don't help much, either. "Safety net" job bank programs that pay idle employees not to work are reminiscent of some of the stories from the Soviet Union (workers paid to perform meaningless jobs as if they were actually contributing), and the costs of guaranteed employment are staggering:


Guaranteed employment is enticing, but the only real guarantee is that it will lead to an untenable financial situation for any company that allows labor unions to dictate such a silly policy. What's more, it costs GM roughly $1500 per vehicle to cover health care costs for its employees. Promises, promises.

Interestingly enough, non-union U.S. automobile plants are doing better than you might imagine (underlining mine):

While GM struggles, America’s automobile industry as a whole is doing quite well. Last year, American workers in U.S.-based automobile plants assembled 12 million cars and light trucks. That compares to an average of 10.6 million a year in the decade before enactment of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994. In the past decade, the total volume of automobiles and parts manufactured in the United States has grown by 40 percent, according to the Federal Reserve Board. All that means that production and jobs have not been shifting from GM to rival automakers abroad, but to its rivals inside the United States....

According to the UAW contract in force until 2007, GM’s hourly workers pay only 7 percent of their total healthcare costs, compared to 27 to 32 percent paid by the average U.S. salaried worker....

In contrast, most foreign-owned auto plants in the United States are non-unionized. Their workers are not as generously compensated as GM’s workers, but they are relatively well-paid with good benefits. And because their employers are not saddled with the uneconomic pension and healthcare costs of a UAW contract, they can produce cars at a more competitive price, creating more opportunity and job security for existing workers. Michigan-based GM’s toughest competition these days is not from Japan, but from Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, South Carolina and the other states where foreign-owned auto companies have established production facilities.

Let's make one thing clear. Creative destruction does not have to be so abrupt, bursting, painful, and dramatic. If, over the years, GM had not been overrun by union rules and regulations, it could have made more minor adjustments here and there, shedding unnecessary jobs, innovating, investing in itself, creating better products, capturing more market share, rolling in profits, and then adding other jobs (perhaps more and better jobs than were gradually shed before).

So what does all of this mean?

It means that bumper stickers like this one I snapped a couple weeks back while on a bike ride...


... incidentally, not found on an American brand of car...


... are completely clarifying.

This bumper sticker is trite, sure, but it sums up everything you need to know about Democrats and Republicans today.

Democrats wants us to become more like Europe, economically. Wealth, for Democrats, is bad. Making it. Nurturing it. Praising it. Bad. Bad. Bad. Wealth is icky.

But health care, presumably socialist universal health care, for Democrats, is awesome.

Paying for it? P'schaw. Whatever.

It never dawns on the Democrats that creating wealth, expanding wealth, extending wealth, and otherwise treating wealth like the good thing it is, could help pay for that health care. Wealth care is the best health care policy. Wealth care creates jobs. Wealth care creates innovation. Wealth care produces advances in technology and medicine. Wealth care makes health care more effective, more miraculous, and more accessible than ever before.

Some have claimed that the high costs of health care General Motors pays out should be picked up by the rest of us. If only GM had the government paying for those benefits, GM wouldn't have to send those jobs overseas (nevermind that those jobs aren't going overseas), to countries that have wonderful "free" health care. Many Democrats want this marvelous "free" health care not only for General Motors, though. They want it for everyone.

No, thank you. If we go down that road, as so many seem to want us to, we'll essentially be extending the GM/Europe model to the entire American economy, rather than the other way around, as it ought to be. We'll see Americasclerosis rather than the sort of vigorous job growth we've had in recent years. Health care will become less efficient, with less breakthroughs, slower advances, and an overall poorer standard of health care for most Americans.


Avoid. Avoid. Avoid.

Indeed, is it any wonder that over the past year, from October 2004 to October 2005, jobs were created all over the country (with the exception of Katrina-hit Louisiana and Mississippi), even manufacturing states, while lonely Michigan lost jobs (.pdf):


Lonesome, lonesome Michigan, where the unions roam free, where health care is more important than wealth care, where Democrats have reigned now for so long. How ironic that organizations principally devoted to improving the lives and jobs of workers have become the cause of such uncreative destruction.

Want a worker's paradise, with lots of jobs, high pay, good benefits, and decent job security? Thinking that more unionization, less trade, more protectionism, less free enterprise, and more Europeanism is the answer for America's economy in the 21st century? Think again. Just look at Michigan. More extremely, look at Europe. Even more extremely, look at Cuba and Angola and the former Soviet Union. We need to make America-- all of America-- more American. This country was and is great because of our free enterprise engines of commerce, not because of untenable European conditions.

Let's learn economic lessons from the evidence before us. Let's not import European labor rules and regulations into the whole of America, as Michigan did. Let's not focus on health care to the detriment of wealth care.

Let's instead continue to lower taxes, let's reform our government's entitlement programs (Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security), and let's encourage the kinds of policies that distinguish us from-- and set us above-- Europe.


Previous Trivia Tidbit: Dangerous & Safe Cities.

Posted by Will Franklin · 23 November 2005 03:28 PM · Comments (23)

Some Pre-Thanksgiving Ted Kennedy Humor.


Posted by Will Franklin · 23 November 2005 09:36 AM · Comments (1)

Wednesday Caption Contest: Part 32.

This week's WILLisms.com Caption Contest photograph:


The actual caption:

Former U.S. President George H. W. Bush puts on his headset during an event organised by the US charity group SmileTrain, which provide free surgery to Chinese children with clefts in Beijing 15 November 2005. The World Health Organization estimates there are approximately 35,000 babies born every year in China with cleft lip and or palate and there is a backlog of hundreds of thousands of Chinese who have never received reconstructive surgery for their clefts, as the majority of these children are too poor to ever afford the cleft surgery they desperately need.

Surely there's a better caption for this photograph.

Entries will remain open until 11:59 PM, Central Standard Time, Tuesday, November 29. Submit your captions in the comments section, or email at WILLisms@gmail.com.

Last week's photo:


Winners from last week:



I'll take George W. Bush for the block...


Jason Kallini:

Costa Rica's President Abel Pacheco looks around for Nipsey Russell as President Bush ponders Gene Rayburn's question, "Hillary Clinton is a 'blank.'"


V the K:

GWB didn't give a damn what the other jurors thought, The Juice was goin' down!.

Honorable Mention #1

Buckley F. Williams:

The new , more aggressive George W. Bush was on display at the recent Summit of the Americas.

This picture was snapped just moments before the American leader dispatched Costa Rican President Abel Pacheco with a reverse ridge hand strike to the throat for "looking at me funny."

Honorable Mention #2

Rodney Dill:

DRUDGEBREAKING: Video footage was released today showing background reference material used by Maureen Dowd in creation of her work, Are Men Necessary?"

Honorable Mention #3


Bush was slightly embarrassed when none of the other dignitaries would do 'the wave' with him.

Captioning is something to be thankful for.

Enter today!

Posted by Will Franklin · 23 November 2005 09:29 AM · Comments (22)


Busy times, these times, the holidays.

No Carnival of Classiness again this week. It'll return, though, hopefully next week. I know you are probably craving that classy goodness.

Posted by Will Franklin · 22 November 2005 04:31 PM · Comments (6)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 223 -- Most Dangerous/Safe Cities.

America's Most Dangerous/Safe Cities-

Most dangerous cities:

1 Camden, NJ

2 Detroit, MI

3 St. Louis, MO

4 Flint, MI

5 Richmond, VA

6 Baltimore, MD

7 Atlanta, GA

8 New Orleans, LA

9 Gary, IN

10 Birmingham, AL

11 Richmond, CA

12 Cleveland, OH

13 Washington, DC

14 West Palm Beach, FL

15 Compton, CA

16 Memphis, TN

17 Dayton, OH

18 San Bernardino, CA

19 Springfield, MA

20 Cincinnati, OH

21 Oakland, CA

22 Dallas, TX

23 Newark, NJ

24 Hartford, CT

25 Little Rock, AR

And the safest cities:

1 Newton, MA

2 Clarkstown, NY

3 Amherst, NY

4 Mission Viejo, CA

5 Brick Township, NJ

6 Troy, MI

7 Thousand Oaks, CA

8 Round Rock, TX

9 Lake Forest, CA

10 Cary, NC

11 Colonie, NY

12 Fargo, ND

13 Irvine, CA

14 Orem, UT

15 Dover Township, NJ

16 Warwick, RI

17 Sunnyvale, CA

18 Hamilton Twnshp, NJ

19 Parma, OH

20 Canton Township, MI

21 Greece, NY

22 Simi Valley, CA

23 Coral Springs, FL

24 Port St. Lucie, FL

25 Centennial, CO

Morgan Quitno.


Previous Trivia Tidbit: High Corporate Taxes In America.

Posted by Will Franklin · 22 November 2005 10:32 AM · Comments (6)

Quotational Therapy: Part 60 -- Prime Minister Tony Blair, On Freedom & Democracy.

Tony "T-Bone" Blair On Freedom-

On July 17, 2003, Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair addressed a joint session of the U.S. Congress. Here is a bit of what he said:

This is a battle that can't be fought or won only by armies. We are so much more powerful in all conventional ways than the terrorists, yet even in all our might, we are taught humility.

In the end, it is not our power alone that will defeat this evil. Our ultimate weapon is not our guns, but our beliefs.

There is a myth that though we love freedom, others don't; that our attachment to freedom is a product of our culture; that freedom, democracy, human rights, the rule of law are American values, or Western values; that Afghan women were content under the lash of the Taliban; that Saddam was somehow beloved by his people; that Milosevic was Serbia's savior.

Members of Congress, ours are not Western values, they are the universal values of the human spirit. And anywhere...

Anywhere, anytime ordinary people are given the chance to choose, the choice is the same: freedom, not tyranny; democracy, not dictatorship; the rule of law, not the rule of the secret police.

The spread of freedom is the best security for the free. It is our last line of defense and our first line of attack. And just as the terrorist seeks to divide humanity in hate, so we have to unify it around an idea. And that idea is liberty.

We must find the strength to fight for this idea and the compassion to make it universal.

Abraham Lincoln said, "Those that deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves."

And it is this sense of justice that makes moral the love of liberty.


And a bit more:

Tell the world why you're proud of America. Tell them when the Star-Spangled Banner starts, Americans get to their feet, Hispanics, Irish, Italians, Central Europeans, East Europeans, Jews, Muslims, white, Asian, black, those who go back to the early settlers and those whose English is the same as some New York cab driver's I've dealt with ... but whose sons and daughters could run for this Congress.

Tell them why Americans, one and all, stand upright and respectful. Not because some state official told them to, but because whatever race, color, class or creed they are, being American means being free. That's why they're proud.

As Britain knows, all predominant power seems for a time invincible, but, in fact, it is transient.

The question is: What do you leave behind?

And what you can bequeath to this anxious world is the light of liberty.

And just a little more:

We are fighting for the inalienable right of humankind--black or white, Christian or not, left, right or a million different--to be free, free to raise a family in love and hope, free to earn a living and be rewarded by your efforts, free not to bend your knee to any man in fear, free to be you so long as being you does not impair the freedom of others.

That's what we're fighting for. And it's a battle worth fighting.

And I know it's hard on America, and in some small corner of this vast country, out in Nevada or Idaho or these places I've never been to, but always wanted to go...

I know out there there's a guy getting on with his life, perfectly happily, minding his own business, saying to you, the political leaders of this country, "Why me? And why us? And why America?"

And the only answer is, "Because destiny put you in this place in history, in this moment in time, and the task is yours to do."

And our job, my nation that watched you grow, that you fought alongside and now fights alongside you, that takes enormous pride in our alliance and great affection in our common bond, our job is to be there with you.

You are not going to be alone. We will be with you in this fight for liberty.

We will be with you in this fight for liberty. And if our spirit is right and our courage firm, the world will be with us.

Read the entire speech here.


Previous Quotational Therapy Session:

Rumsfeld On Churchill On Letting Ourselves Win The War.

The right quote can be therapeutic, so tune in to WILLisms.com for quotational therapy every Monday and Friday.

Posted by Will Franklin · 21 November 2005 06:11 PM · Comments (1)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 222 -- U.S. Losing Its Low Tax Comparative Advantage.

The United States Needs To Lower Its Corporate Tax Rate-

Comparative advantage.

You may have heard of it.

Essentially, countries (or states, or cities...) compete with one another in the increasingly interconnected global marketplace, and those with advantageous business conditions relative to other countries tend to rise to the top. If goods or services can be produced more efficiently (cheaper, faster, better) in Zanbogo than in New Shariza, companies will choose to locate in Zanbogo. Zanbogo, all other things being equal, would have a comparative advantage over New Shariza.

It's not rocket science.

Let's think, then, about America's comparative advantages over other countries. Traditionally, the U.S. has had lower taxes, a highly skilled/educated workforce, proximity to our own thriving consumer market, an abundance of natural resources, a strong rule of law, less governmental corruption, and a variety of other advantages over other countries. On the other hand, America is a rampantly litigious society, with relatively strict environmental and labor regulations. These factors drive up the cost of doing business in the U.S.A.

But, as recently as a few years ago, relatively low taxes have been a defining trait of the American economy. Oddly enough, although President Bush has been fiercely committed to tax relief during his administration, the U.S. has slipped a bit in its corporate tax rate comparative advantage.

Other countries are catching on to the fact that globalization means economies do not exist in separate, sterile lab beakers. Countries must compete with each other, policy-wise, in order to lure (and/or keep) dynamic, job-creating, wealth-generating companies.

From 2000 to 2005, corporate tax rates around the world fell significantly, while remaining nearly unchanged in the U.S. (.pdf):

After cutting 12 percentage points off its corporate tax rate in 1986, the U.S. rate stayed below the world average until 1994. That was the first effective year of the tax hike President Clinton signed into law a year after his election, the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993, which added a new top rate of 35 percent. Since then, the top federal statutory U.S. rate has remained at 35 percent. Combined with an average state corporate income tax rate of 6.6 percent, which is deductible from federal taxable income, the overall rate of tax on corporate income is 39.3 percent in the U.S. Among our major trading partners, tax competition has driven the average rate down to 29.2 percent....

The clear trend among OECD countries is a move to cut corporate income tax rates to attract new investment. In fact, not one country
raised its corporate tax rate between 2000 and 2005. OECD countries have, on average, reduced their corporate tax rates by 13 percent
in this five-year period. Most notably, Germany, with the third highest corporate tax rate in the OECD, slashed its federal rate by 25.2 percent in five years. Other leaders in reducing corporate income tax rates include Ireland (a 47.9 percent rate reduction) and Iceland (40 percent).

To be sure, the U.S. has other advantages (even tax ones) over other countries, but do we really want to get left behind by the global corporate tax cuttimng phenomenon? Does the U.S. actually want to become a high tax haven?

The Tax Foundation (.pdf).


Previous Trivia Tidbit: Smoking.

Posted by Will Franklin · 21 November 2005 05:38 PM · Comments (0)

Pundit Roundtable

Welcome to our Thanksgiving edition of PUNDIT ROUNDTABLE. This is your host, Ken McCracken, bringing you some holiday thoughts from our pundits.

Here are our topics for this week:

Topic One: This week our nation celebrates Thanksgiving. Is this an outmoded, antiquated sort of holiday, or is it still relevant? What does it mean to you? What are you thankful for?

Topic Two: Smoking bans - is this a good idea, or a bad idea? Is it contrary to the concept of liberty, or does it support it? Is there a local ban that impacts you in any way?

Our first guest is now a Pundit Roundtable stalwart, Rob Port of Say Anything. Tell us what you think Rob!

Topic One: I think Thanksgiving is relevant. Sure it has religious overtones, but who out
there doesn't have things to be thankful about? It is a day for us to
stop and remember that we live in the most wonderful country on the face
of the earth and that it didn't get to be so wonderful by accident.

Topic Two: Smoking bans are a terrible idea. If smoking is really as terrible as
some would have us believe we should just ban the practice altogether
and be done with it. But that wouldn't work. It would be a replay of
the alcohol prohibition era all over again and the anti-smoking nuts
know it. So, instead of advocating for a sweeping ban the nibble away
at the edges by making cigarettes harder to get and making the places
where smoking is acceptable fewer and farther between.

Personally, I hate smoking. It smells bad, it makes me cough and it
gives me a headache. But just because it bothers me doesn't mean I'm
going to try and make people stop doing it. I recognize that an
individual has the personal freedom to engage in that sort of activity
if they choose, and that a property owner has a right to allow it on
his/her property if they want. I avoid problems by making some choices
of my own. Like not allowing smoking on my property and avoiding
stores/bars/restaurants that are really smoky. Unfortunately, that's
not good enough for some people who would rather force other people to
bend to their will.

The idea that private property owners should be forced to submit to
smoking bans is patently ridiculous and goes against the very ideals of
freedom, liberty and personal responsibility that America is supposed to
stand for. Next these same people will be wanting to ban unhealthy
foods from restaurants lest customers who can't control themselves

Our next two guests are not even human! But we don't discriminate here at Pundit Roundtable, and so we welcome Piper and Frisky, two feline friends of Laurence Simon -



I am thankful for my Mommy and Daddy cooking too much every
Thanksgiving. That way, I get lots and lots of turkey bits to eat!



Whenever I need a smoke, I go outside to smoke.

Here is the host's last word: the concept of having a national holiday devoted giving thanks to some higher being is about as outmoded a concept as you can have these days. That does not mean it is not relevant however. Sincere gratitude and thanks are two things that seem to be missing from today's world. We seem to take it for granted that we have homes, food, education and a chance to have a little fun. It need not be so - most of human history is a tale of misery and deprivation, and we are indeed lucky to be living in an age where these things are perhaps no longer seen as inevitable. I am not religious, so I do not know where to aim my particular gratitude, whether toward God, some other higher force, or just to fortunate circumstances. All I know is that I do feel thankful to something beyond myself for the freedom to create myself.

I am thankful for my health, the joy of being alive, the freedom to express myself, and for the love (and patience) of my relatives.

I am also thankful that turkeys taste so damn good.

Smoking bans? Hate 'em. Tobacco is a legal substance, and forcing a restaurant or bar owner to ban such a legal substance from their premises is a ham-fisted intrusion of government into the affairs of business owners. You don't like second-hand smoke? Don't go to a place that has it - you have no inherent right to patronize any and every establishment you want, and a bar owner does (or should) have the freedom of association to determine who and what comes into their place of business.

That is all for this Turkey Day edition of PUNDIT ROUNDTABLE! Come back next Sunday for still more punditry and prognostication!

Posted by Ken McCracken · 20 November 2005 09:23 PM · Comments (3)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 221 -- Smoking.

Smoking Down Overall, Up Among Young Males-

Smoking. It's gross. It's bad for your health. It makes clothes and curtains and furniture stink. These days, it's also less acceptable, socially, than it was in the 1920s or 1960s. No longer can people light up on airplanes, in theaters, in classrooms, and even many restaurants. More and more, the collective media display cigarette smokers as "dumb white trash," rather than glamorous and cool. And public perception has generally followed suit. It's no longer "lame" or "square" or unacceptable to give a nearby smoker a dirty look or cough conspicuously in disgust when one passes.

Many dozens of localities have subsequently passed stronger and stronger smoking bans over the years. And don't forget about the multi-billion dollar lawsuits against the cigarette companies, nor the restrictions on advertising and distribution.

Smokers, in many ways, have become second-class citizens, and most Americans seem to be pretty much okay with that. Smoking is just that obnoxious.

Smoking rates, thusly, fell dramatically in the 20th century:


Nearly every group has seen smoking rates fall:


This is good news.

Oddly enough, though, young males, and young white males in particular, have seen their smoking rates level off (and even rise) in recent years, following initial dramatic declines:


College-age white males now smoke more than any other demographic group.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Center for Health Statistics (.pdf).


Previous Trivia Tidbit: Hurricanes & NDP.

Posted by Will Franklin · 20 November 2005 09:59 AM · Comments (0)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day 220 -- Hurricanes & The American Economy.


Hurricane Katrina was far more destructive to the American economy than any other natural or man-made disasters in recent years, including 9/11. But destructive and disruptive are two separate concepts. 9/11 destroyed quite a bit of property and took thousands of lives, but it also disrupted the American economy, slowing economic growth itself in the short-term. 9/11 changed behaviors, nationally. Less travel, for example.

Katrina (thus far, at least), however, has not derailed American economic growth itself. The American economy is too strong.

Although GDP is the best measure of what the economy is producing, it is not the best measure of economic well-being in the presence of events like Katrina and Rita. To correctly measure economic well-being, it is necessary to consider what has been destroyed as well as what is produced. For this purpose, it is useful to look at net domestic product (NDP), which equals GDP minus depreciation of capital; depreciation includes destruction due to hurricanes and other disasters. Real NDP fell at a 7.3 percent annual rate in the third quarter, reflecting the destruction of $79 billion of capital by Katrina and Rita.

Also, notice the spike in NDP that happens each time, in the aftermath of disaster. We always rebuild, usually better and bigger than before.

Also encouraging is the fact that GDP growth is not too concentrated in one sector of the economy. It's a broad-based boom:


The Dallas Fed.


Previous Trivia Tidbit: "Fair" Gasoline Prices.

Posted by Will Franklin · 19 November 2005 12:05 PM · Comments (0)

Quotational Therapy: Part 59 -- Rumsfeld On Churchill.

Rumsfeld On Churchill-

I was reading a book last night, Winston Churchill, and he said the problem is not winning the war but persuading people to let them -- let him win the war, he said.

Department of Defense News Briefing.

The most dreaded enemy for any General, President, Prime Minister, or Secretary of Defense running a military operation in our modern media era is... the modern media era. The United States can and will win in Iraq, and do it within a reasonable time frame (1-3 years), but only if we allow ourselves to win.

For those who want to see democracy flourish in the Middle East, the most significant impediment is not Abu Musab al-Zarqawi or the Saudi royal family. It's the media. This isn't to say that we should begin censoring the media. Not at all. Our freedom is what makes us... us.

But I would be willing to wager a lot of money that the frequency and intensity of terrorist attacks would fall dramatically without any media presence in Iraq. It's happened on a micro-level, within Iraq itself. Journalists leave a town, the town settles down. Over and over.

Think about it. Clearly, the terrorists in Iraq have a strategy of making high profile attacks as close to the hotels of Western journalists as possible. It's just so obvious that the attacks are geared toward media coverage of the situation in Iraq.

Imagine if Churchill had to deal with today's media during World War II?


Previous Quotational Therapy Session:

Ronald Reagan.

The right quote can be therapeutic, so tune in to WILLisms.com for quotational therapy every Monday and Friday.

Posted by Will Franklin · 18 November 2005 04:11 PM · Comments (3)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 219 -- Perception Of Gasoline Prices.

What's A Fair Price For Gas, Anyway?-

What is a "fair" price on a gallon of gas, anyway? 1 dollar? 2 dollars? 10 dollars? Americans have come to expect cheap gas. It's their right and the world's obligation to give it to them, whereas in many other industrialized nations, people are not quite as demanding:


There's clearly a difference between "fair" and "what I would prefer to pay." In Europe, high energy prices are a fact of life. They've been a fact of life for many years. In America, we have gotten a little soft in this regard-- a little spoiled, even.

One wonders how many Americans realize just how cheap their gasoline really is, relative to much of the world.

Interestingly, gas prices and oil company profits beat out pretty much any and all other actual newsworthy news in the public square:


Alito? Never heard of him.

Libby? Who is that chick, anyway?

Oil companies making a profit? Yeeeaaaaaaargh!



Previous Trivia Tidbit: School Violence.

Posted by Will Franklin · 18 November 2005 09:44 AM · Comments (6)

Home Inspection Today...

No Reform Thursday or Trivia Tidbit today. Buying a house and doing the inspection today.


No, really.

We're buying our first home.

Posted by Will Franklin · 17 November 2005 09:38 AM · Comments (10)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 218 -- School Violence.

School Violence Down-

More from the good news files.

Crime at school is down:


Concurrently, fear at school is down:


And threats/attacks from students on teachers are down:


Maybe the world isn't going to hell in a handbasket after all.

NCES.ED.GOV (.pdf).


Previous Trivia Tidbit: Teen Births.

Posted by Will Franklin · 16 November 2005 02:02 PM · Comments (2)

Wednesday Caption Contest: Part 31.

This week's WILLisms.com Caption Contest photograph:


The actual caption:

President Bush, center, joins other leaders at the Summit of the Americas, as they wait for the start of opening ceremonies in Mar del Plata, Argentina, in this Nov. 4, 2005 file photo. President Bush's slumping popularity at home may be taking a toll on his ability to exert influence overseas. As Bush prepares to depart Monday Nov. 14, 2005 on a trip to Asia, questions abound about the global consequences of a U.S. president hobbled by domestic setbacks. On the bottom row from left to right are: Bolivia's President Eduardo Rodriguez, U.S. and President George W. Bush and Costa Rica's President Abel Pacheco. Top row, from left to right, are: Dominican Republic's President Leonel Fernandez, Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Patrick Manning, and Uruguay's President Tabare Vazquez. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite/File)

Surely there's a better caption for this photograph.

Entries will remain open until 11:59 PM, Central Standard Time, Tuesday, November 22. Submit your captions in the comments section, or email at WILLisms@gmail.com.

Last week's photo:


Winners from last week:



"In a sad reflection of just how shallow and self-referential the Democratic 'echo chamber' is, Al Franklin does his version of Margaret Cho's entire career... imitating her mother!"


Rob B.:




Taken just moments before the incident, Al Franken is simultaneously punched in the back of the head and slapped in the face for laughing at his own terribly unfunny joke. Station employees describe this as a daily event.

Honorable Mention #1


"Ladies and gentleman, I'd like to announce that our paychecks won't bounce this week! That's six straight weeks, thanks to those kids in New York. Hooray!"

Honorable Mention #2

atomic vomit:

General Tojo reacts to fellow war crimes defendant Tokyo Rose's claim that she too was supporting the troops.

Honorable Mention #3

Mr. Michael:

Al Franken, center, enjoys a moment of levity with both members of his listening audience Live in Studio.

Captioning is swell.

Enter today!

Posted by Will Franklin · 16 November 2005 10:08 AM · Comments (37)

Carnival Of Classiness.

In the middle of buying a house, my little sister's birthday... no Carnival of Classy this week. But it SHALL RETURN for a special extended edition, next week.

Posted by Will Franklin · 15 November 2005 08:00 PM · Comments (3)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 217 -- Teen Birth Rate.

Teenage Pregnancy-

In the good news department, teen birth rates are down (.pdf):


The abortion rate for teens also declined over the same period, interestingly enough.

The Freakonomics explanation would point to the relatively high abortion rate in the 1970s-1980s as the cause of all of this. Victims of abortion might have been more likely to have abortions, themselves, later in life. Victims of abortion might have been more likely to become teen moms, as well.

Also interesting: America's overall birth rate, unlike the birth rate in many industrialized countries, has actually risen over the same time frame, including very recently (.pdf):

In 2003, 4,089,950 births were registered in the United States, 2 percent more than in 2002. Births increased among non-Hispanic white, Hispanic, American Indian, and Asian or Pacific Islander (API) women but decreased among non-Hispanic black women.

The 2003 crude birth rate for the United States increased 1 percent from 2002, to 14.1 live births per 1,000 total population. The general fertility rate (GFR) also increased, to 66.1 live births per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years, 2 percent higher than the 2002 rate.

So, the falling teen birth rate is not simply part of a larger societal trend. And it's probably good news.


Previous Trivia Tidbit: Tax Cuts For The....

Posted by Will Franklin · 15 November 2005 11:02 AM · Comments (2)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 216 -- Tax Cuts For The...

Reagan Tax Cuts, Bush Tax Cuts: Some Surprising (For Some) Data-

The Joint Economic Committee of Congress notes that the wealthy pay the overwhelming majority of taxes in America (.pdf):


It'll be another year or two before the effects of President Bush's tax relief can be fully calculated and analyzed, but thus far, it appears as if the rich might actually pay a larger share now than before tax cuts.

But let's look at the Reagan years. How did Ronald Reagan's tax cuts impact these proportions?

Here are the facts about tax relief in the 1980s, from The Heritage Foundation (.pdf):


Although the highest marginal tax rates fell substantially, the wealthy actually paid a higher proportion of America's taxes by the end of the 1980s.

Counter-intuitive, right? It really shouldn't be anymore. In the vaguest sense, lower taxes produce faster economic growth. Faster economic growth then produces more tax revenues. When the highest tax rates came down in the 80s, it provided greater incentives to conduct business and engage in commerce.

But it wasn't just the 1980s.

Try on the 1920s for size (.pdf):


Or Kennedy's "tax cuts for the rich" in the 1960s (.pdf):


Lower taxes = higher tax revenues. This increase may not happen immediately, but it has happened within a short time frame, again and again, over the past several decades. It's not crazy talk, voodoo economics, or even right-wing delusion to claim that tax cuts pay for themselves.

Why is this information almost never reported on CBS, ABC, NBC, CNN, or the major newspapers around the country? Why do most Democrats and some Republicans fail to acknowledge these facts? Why are we repeatedly subjected to erroneous canards about "tax cuts for the rich" whenever a Republican fights for tax relief (typically for everyone)?


Previous Trivia Tidbit: Vince Young For Heisman.

Posted by Will Franklin · 14 November 2005 06:10 PM · Comments (0)

Quotational Therapy: Part 58 -- Reagan's "Tear Down This Wall" Speech.

President Ronald Reagan, Brandenburg Gate-

Behind me stands a wall that encircles the free sectors of this city, part of a vast system of barriers that divides the entire continent of Europe. From the Baltic, south, those barriers cut across Germany in a gash of barbed wire, concrete, dog runs, and guard towers. Farther south, there may be no visible, no obvious wall. But there remain armed guards and checkpoints all the same--still a restriction on the right to travel, still an instrument to impose upon ordinary men and women the will of a totalitarian state. Yet it is here in Berlin where the wall emerges most clearly; here, cutting across your city, where the news photo and the television screen have imprinted this brutal division of a continent upon the mind of the world. Standing before the Brandenburg Gate, every man is a German, separated from his fellow men. Every man is a Berliner, forced to look upon a scar....

In the 1950s, Khrushchev predicted: "We will bury you." But in the West today, we see a free world that has achieved a level of prosperity and well-being unprecedented in all human history. In the Communist world, we see failure, technological backwardness, declining standards of health, even want of the most basic kind--too little food. Even today, the Soviet Union still cannot feed itself. After these four decades, then, there stands before the entire world one great and inescapable conclusion: Freedom leads to prosperity. Freedom replaces the ancient hatreds among the nations with comity and peace. Freedom is the victor.

And now the Soviets themselves may, in a limited way, be coming to understand the importance of freedom. We hear much from Moscow about a new policy of reform and openness. Some political prisoners have been released. Certain foreign news broadcasts are no longer being jammed. Some economic enterprises have been permitted to operate with greater freedom from state control.

Are these the beginnings of profound changes in the Soviet state? Or are they token gestures, intended to raise false hopes in the West, or to strengthen the Soviet system without changing it? We welcome change and openness; for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace. There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace.

General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!

Read the entire speech here.


Previous Quotational Therapy Session:


The right quote can be therapeutic, so tune in to WILLisms.com for quotational therapy every Monday and Friday.

Posted by Will Franklin · 14 November 2005 10:43 AM · Comments (0)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 215 -- Vince Young Versus Reggie Bush.

The Heisman Trophy Race-

Okay, trash talk time.

The Heisman trophy is college football's most prestigious award. For that matter, it's about the most significant individual award anyone can win in pretty much any sport. It typically goes to the best player, perhaps the team MVP, of one of the top 5-10 or so teams in the country. The recipient, often a quarterback or running back, typically has the following on his resume:

I. explosive signature highlight or two;
II. an accumulation of eye-opening season statistics;
III. great individual-game effort(s) against top competition;
IV. a career of excellence (typically, the winner is a junior or senior in college);
V. a pattern of off-the-field success of some kind, academically or otherwise;
VI. leadership, other intangibles.

Texas Quarterback Vince Young (a junior) is unquestionably the best player in college football and the only serious candidate worthy of the Heisman trophy. USC all-purpose dynamo Reggie Bush (also a junior) is certainly fun to watch, and he's definitely important to his team, but his prodigious and ubiquitous Heisman hype in the media is entirely unwarranted.

First, a lot of NFL teams are drooling over the idea of drafting Reggie Bush next April. He's an excellent athlete and a great football player.

But he's no Vince Young.

Sure, it's difficult to compare statistics of athletes who play different positions (Bush plays five positions-- sort of-- while Young plays one), but let's give it a go. Both players have competed in 10 games, so that helps a little.


Reggie Bush
140 carries for 1104 yards (7.89 per carry), 11 touchdowns, and 110.40 yards per game.

Vince Young
117 carries for 774 yards (6.62 per carry), 8 touchdowns, and 77.40 yards per game.

For reference, Reggie Bush is ranked #19 in the country in rushing yards per game. Vince Young, not a running back, is ranked #58 in the country.


Reggie Bush
0 out of 2 (00.00% completion rate, 00.00 completions per game), with 0 interceptions, 0 yards (0.00 yards per toss; 00.00 yards per completion), and 0 touchdowns (0.00% TD rate). 000.0 Pass Efficiency Rating.

Vince Young
155 out of 244 (63.52% completion rate, 15.50 completions per game), with 8 interceptions, 2414 yards (9.89 yards per toss; 15.57 yards per completion), and 22 touchdowns (9.02% TD rate). 169.8 Pass Efficiency Rating.

Young is also #2 in the country in pass efficiency. Of the 100 best passers in the country, Vince has the highest yards per toss number, and the third highest yards per completion number. Reggie Bush, with only 2 tosses all year, is not ranked in pass efficiency.


Reggie Bush
28 catches for 315 yards (11.2 yards per catch; 31.5 yards per game), 2 touchdowns. His long: 40 yards.

Vince Young
NONE, he's the one throwing the ball.

Just for reference, Reggie Bush is nowhere near the national top 100 in receptions per game, yards per game, yards per reception, total receptions, total yards, or any other receiving statistic.


Reggie Bush
16 returns for an unspectacular 162 yards (10.1 per attempt), with 1 well-known touchdown. His long: 84 yards. Take out that one big return, and he's averaging 5.2 yards per return. Pedestrian at best.

Vince Young
NONE, he's a quarterback.

Just for reference, Reggie Bush is ranked #39 in the country in punt returns. Texas has a player, Aaron Ross, who is ranked #7 in the country, with 16.29 yards per return and two touchdowns.


Reggie Bush
15 returns for 244 yards (16.3 yards per return), with 0 touchdowns. His long: 30 yards.

Vince Young
NONE, he's a quarterback.

Just for reference, Reggie Bush is not ranked in the top 100 in kickoff returns.


Reggie Bush
201 total plays for 1825 yards (9.08 per play; 182.5 per game).

Take out special teams yardage (which is somewhat inflated, typically), and it becomes 170 total plays for 1419 yards (8.35 per play; 141.9 per game). Reggie Bush has 14 total touchdowns, plus one well-known *ahem* assist in the Notre Dame game.


Vince Young
361 total plays for 3188 yards (8.83 per play; 318.8 per game). Vince Young has 30 total touchdowns, and a bunch of hand-offs for touchdowns that he could totally take credit for at some level.

Reggie Bush's signature game is against Notre Dame. He had 3 touchdowns and 265 total yards, including 70 yards of punt and kick returns.

Meanwhile, it's difficult to pick just one signature game for Vince Young, but against Oklahoma State he had 506 yards (267 rushing, 239 passing) and 4 touchdowns. He also had 336 yards and 2 touchdowns passing, plus 56 yards and 3 touchdowns rushing against Colorado. Young also had 270 yards and 2 touchdowns passing, plus 76 yards rushing against Ohio State. I could go on. Nearly every game is a unique masterpiece.

But while the stats point to a strong VY advantage over Reggie Bush, it's the intangibles that are even more important. Vince Young just refuses to lose. Reggie Bush, again, is a great player, but on any given weekend one could easily make the argument that he's the 3rd or 4th or 5th best player on his own team, behind Matt Leinart, LenDale White, Dwayne Jarrett, and Steve Smith. There's no doubt that Vince Young is the best Texas football player on the field, every single week. You build a team around a player like Vince Young; USC would still be a great team without Reggie Bush.

Just to recap:


Vince has a ton more yards than Reggie.

And way the heck more touchdowns:


Reggie Bush might deserve to get an invite to NYC for the Heisman ceremony. Maybe. But Vince Young unequivocally and unamiguously is the best college football player this year. It's not a stretch to call Vince Young one of the elite players of the past several years. Finally, if VY returns for his senior year and puts up "Vince-like" numbers, he could go down as one of the very greatest college football players in history.

Vince is just ridiculous. And there's plenty of room on the bandwagon, so hop on. If I had a Heisman ballot, it would go something like this:

1. Vince Young (TEXAS)
2. Matt Leinart (USC)
3. DonTrell Moore (NEW MEXICO)
4. Brady Quinn (NOTRE DAME)
5. DeAngelo Williams (MEMPHIS)

Bush could still crack the top 5 on my ballot (which doesn't count for anything) with some explosive highlight-reel plays and solid statistical efforts. But the fact that Vince Young won't win this thing unanimously is absurd.


Previous Trivia Tidbit: Tax Revenues & Spending.

Posted by Will Franklin · 13 November 2005 11:59 PM · Comments (14)

Pundit Roundtable

Hi folks, and welcome back to PUNDIT ROUNDTABLE. I am your host, Ken McCracken, and this week we present an 'early election' edition of the Roundtable,looking forward to the elections of '06. The questions for our pundits this week are these -

On a scale of 1-100 (1 being unlikely, 100 being likely), what are the odds the Republicans lose the House and/or Senate in 2006? Why? What, over the next year, could potentially change that prediction?

Are there going to be any particularly hot races next year? Any especially critical contests?

Our first guest is a newcomer, Gerry Daly of Daly Thoughts. What do you think Gerry?

I think the chances of losing the House are relatively low, and the Senate even lower. I hesitate to give precise numbers because doing so makes it seem as if the numbers are somehow scientific, and in this case they are merely guesses based on the perceptions of the lay of the political land, but since you double-dog-dared me, I'll go with a 5% chance of losing the House and perhaps a 1% chance of losing the Senate. Both are possisble, neither would shock me, but neither is probable.

Even if there develops an anti-Republican/pro-Democrat groundswell by next November, there are counter-balancing forces which come into play. There are simply too many Gerrymandered seats in the House for there really to be an outstanding chance of the Democrats capturing the lower chamber. And people routinely underestimate the power of incumbency in Senate races. If Democrats are going to make substantial gains, the most likely place will be in Governorships and in state legislatures.

What could cause this estimation to change? A rash of retirements. That would be a sign of Republican panic, to be frank, and panic rarely amounts to anything positive. The 1994 takeover was presaged by a significant uptick in Representatives deciding to leave Washington for their homes.

Jim Hoft of Gateway Pundit is a returning guest. Jim, how do you see the prospects in '06?
The “chances” are very high that the Republicans will lose seats in the House and Senate. The chance that the Republicans would lose the majority is not as high for either. I am not the expert like the political gurus at Polipundit who pull political statistics out of hat. But, I don’t see the Republicans losing either the House or Senate at this point. And, frankly, this could very well be the low for the president as far as his approval ratings go. He made the move yesterday, finally to come out swinging. It was about time he did so. He was backed in a corner and had been there for quite a while. And it is confusing why he waited so long. There are loads of Republicans wondering that themselves today. Bush has many things going for him right now. Gas prices are coming down. Republicans should never allow democrats to score points on that after all of their votes against drilling, development, etc. The economy is chugging along. The stock market made gains this week despite a rough few months with hurricanes and gas prices and terrorist attacks. The hurricane season is ending. The situation in Iraq will only improve. Tom Delay will get off soon. Frist will get out of his charges (and not much has been said about this anyway). Rove is off the hook and it would be a surprise if there were more indictments from the investigation. Cindy Sheehan gets nuttier. Etc… Things look good for Bush.

But, he does not own the media. That is the only reason he is down now. If the media was halfway fair and balanced Bush would still have a positive approval rating. But the media is not, and so Bush has to fight for anything he can get. The media has yet to say anything positive about George Bush.

Congress is in a different boat. Both the House and Senate are going to have to work hard to get Republicans to bother voting in ’06. Right now there are too many disenfranchised conservatives and moderates. Both the House and Senate Republicans are going to have to work hard this year. The president’s approval rating is rock bottom but Congress has an even worse rating.

There are several races to watch. The Missouri Senate race comes to mind right away. Jim Talent is running against Claire McCaskill who just lost the governor’s race to Matt Blunt. She is a raging liberal but the media consistently paints her as moderate so it will be a tough race. If Talent can get out the Republican vote he will win. We will see. The media just loves Claire. She was supposed to win the governor’s race but we see where she is now.

The media spin machine will be a very hard obstacle for any Republican to overcome. We will have to continue to direct people to the great conservative blogs. One year is a long time but there is much work to be done. Republicans can’t play opossum any more.

Our next guest is newcomer Mark Coffey from Decision '08 (Because Its Never Too Early!). What's your prognostication Mark?
I’d like to handle the first part of that question (though I’d love to hear any feedback from you guys on hot races or critical contests) for now.

If the election were held today, I would put the odds of losing the House at 75-25 and the Senate at 60-40. For the first time in recent memory (in fact, for the first time since…1994), voter disenchantment has reached the point where even local incumbents are feeling the heat:

Talk about negative feelings, but according to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, this is the first time since 1994 that a majority of Americans — as a generation [sic] proposition — want to dump their individual Member of Congress. Question: In the 2006 election for U.S. Congress, do you feel that your representative deserves to be reelected, or do you think it is time to give a new person a chance? Answer: Re-elect My Incumbent - 37%,. Elect a New Person - 51%. That’s a very significant poll result, because usually voters say throw the bums out - but keep my bum, he’s doing a good job.

Unlike many of my fellow Republicans, I take no comfort from polls that show that, if anything, Democrats are held in even lower esteem than (or just as low as) Republicans. We’re marginally less unpopular than our opponents is not a very stirring campaign theme.

However, I put the real odds of the Republicans losing the House at 50-50, and the Senate, at 40-60. There are several things that will close the gap somewhat between now and the elections. One is another election, the one taking place in a month in Iraq. Once more, the world will see the spectacle of Iraqis voting freely in an exercise in true democracy, this time with the highest Sunni turnout yet. It will become increasingly hard for Democrats to shove the ‘Iraq is a disaster’ meme down the throats of the voters when the country is so clearly moving forward, despite the best efforts of the terrorists. Also by this time next year, Saddam’s trial will have begun in earnest, reminded the world of what a butcher he was and how much better off we are with him deposed.

The leadership within the party (as opposed to the often disastrous leadership provided by Congressional Republicans) also gives me cause for optimism. The RNC is in the capable hands of the great Ken Mehlman, and is steadily outperforming its Democratic counterpart in fundraising (and kudos to Mehlman for bringing Patrick Ruffini back on board and reaching out to the blogging community).

The final reason that I remain cautiously optimistic is that the Democrats have yet, 5 years into the Bush presidency, to define a rational policy in opposition to Bush. Most Democrats are more than happy to pile on Bush during this season of woe, but they hardly (the responsible ones, anyway) dare to call for a withdrawal of troops from Iraq, since they know full well the stakes. The economy remains strong, despite the oil shock and Katrina, and the anti-war movement as personified by kooks like Cindy Sheehan has no mainstream attraction.

Further, the current push to investigate the ‘lies and manipulated intelligence’ that led us to war can’t possibly have any long-term traction, since the plain fact is that the entire world believed the intelligence, not just the Bush administration. All of these factors lead me to believe that 2006 will be a better year than 2005 for Republicans…that, and the fact that it could hardly be any worse…

Our final guest this week is also new to the Roundtable, Reliapundit of the Astute Blogger. What are your predictions for '06 Reliapundit?
think that the GOP will retain majorities in both bodies of Congress. I give this a degree of certainty of about 75%.

I think that this will happen because I belive that the "facts on the ground" will be good:

(1) gasoline will be between 2.15 and 2.35/gallon

(2) the DJI will be just over 11,000

(3) Iraq will be going well in ways the MSM cannot ignore: their troops will be doing better, we will bring home about 35,000 troops; and the Iraqis will have a well-functioning popularly elected democratic government. Bush might address thei parliament. CAN YOU IMAGINE THAT!

(4) We will kill or capture Zarqawi and /or Binladen and/or Zawahiri

(5) The Dems are a left-of-center party. The reason Bush and the GOP APPEAR weak is because RIGHT-of-center republicans are unhappy. Therefore, more liberal Democrat candidates CANNOT POSSIBLY WIN many more seats UNLESS GOP VOTERS STYA HOME. The fabulous GOTV effort of the GOP will not let this happen.

IF the Dems were smart, then they run right-of-center candidates, and they MIGHT WIN MORE SEATS - as they MIGHT in PA against Santorum. But this would make their "MOVEON.ORG base" unhappy. Therefore, they will not do it. This helps the GOP.

The GOP really has to listen more to their base. I expect them to make their base happier from the SOTU to Novermber 2006.


If #'s 3-5 of my predictors fall short, then the GOP could loses some seats in either/both bodies. The chances of this happening are not good. If it did happen then the chances that the GOP holds the Congress goes down to 35.

If #1 & #2 fall short, then the Dems can pick up some seats - but not enough to gain a majority in either body.

If all 5 fall short, then the Dems could pick up at least one body. I am CERTAIN that this would happen.


Failing to get ANWR drilling into law by 2006 would be BAD. Failing to cut spending would be BAD. Failing to pass permanent tax cuts would be bad.

BUT I get the feeling that the House members/leaders of the GOP are afraid of losing votes if they pass these measures.

THE OPPOSITE IS TRUE. They will lose their base if they do not.

The reason they fear this is because Bush is low in many polls. They think this bodes badly for them. They think this is because Bush is losing the cemtrist vote. IT IS NOT. The real reason Bush is falling in the polls is because he has been too centrist/liberal. I assert that Bush's drop in the polls is because he is losing is losing right-wing support not centrist support.


Alito getting confirmed and a good SOTU could set the stage for a very strong campaign for the GOP - which i expect. If Bush delivers a very good SOTU - with a legislative plan whgich makes ther base happy, then I feel 85% certain the GOP will do well in the fall.


I expect Syria to go our way - with either Assad caving in or going into exile. But he and Iran and the jihadoterrorists they support will be working overtime to create widespread havoc in the Middle East to make Bush look bad and to elect Democrats who would be more likely to appease them and abandon Iraq's and Afghanistan's emerging democracies - like Zapotero did; like the Democrats did to the South Vietnamese and the Contras.

The Axis of Evil will try to effect the election - directly by increasing casualties and regional instability and indirectly by raising the price of oil/gasoline.

That's why I expect major offensives - both military, diplomatic, and covert - tio occur in the late spring.

Some might argue that Bush would play it safe before the election, and not tyr any bold moves - not wanting casualties or missteps which could make him look worse.

I say that Bush is MORE likely to try bold moves if he is down in the polls. WHY?! Because he is a bold leader deeply committed to the spread of democracy and freedom. If he senses that the Democrats might retake a body in Congress, then he might decide that he has to win whatver he can WHILE he can - (like Lincoln did in October of 1864. Lincoln, fearing he would lose the election, and that "President McClellan" would either let the Confederacy stand or let them back in with slaves - urged his War cabinet and genrals to pull out all the stops and get victory before March - when he feared McClellan would be sworn in. The result was that Grant&Co. defeated the Confederacy by April. Thank God.) Bush will put the "GWOT" ahead of his own and his party's needs. Therefiore he will authorize bold moves in th Spring and Summer and the result will be further gains in the "GWOT." tThis will be good for the nation, the world - and the GOP in the election of 2006.

Finally, though Bush's pesonal numbers are falling it is NOT becasue of anything personal. The facts on the ground control that too. If Iraq is going well (and if gas is cheap) - and IF the people KNOW that Iraq is going well - (which means the Bush Adminstration has to stay on the PR offensive that they've FINALLY started) - then people won't care about whether Bush used "WMD hyperbole" to get us into war - and the personal trust numbers will reflect that, too. Results count.

A couple of other things MIGHT happen to make me feel better: Bush could CHOOSE to replace Scott McClellan with Tory Clarke; and he MIGHT get another nominee to the court - and pick a CONSERVATIVE like Roberts or Alito. These would help.

The biggest wild card is this: Avian Flu might break out this January-June - killing millions - mostly in the Third World of Asia and Africa, but also here. And then ALL BETS ARE OFF.

BTW: I am a registered Democrat - a Zell Miller Democrat who is sickened by the fact that my party has been taken over by the McGovernites. I thought that Bill Clinton - who originally ran as a centrist "New Democrat who would change welfare as we know it" - put that sad chapter of our party behind us, but he did not. As long as the Democrats are controlled by this crowd I will vote GOP. I cannot trust the Democratic Party with my nation's defense or with the defense of the Free World. Like I said before: they'll do to the Afghanis and ther Iraqis what they did to the South Vietnamese and the Contras. God forbid.

The host's last word: the chances of the Democrats regaining either the House or the Senate next year are remote, I give it about a 20 on the scale of 1-100. There just are not enough Republican seats at real risk for the Dems to take advantage - they would need to sweep nearly all of the 30-something at-risk seats in the House to regain power for example, and that just isn't going to happen barring some fresh huge disaster for the nation. And Bush is at his nadir I think, his poll numbers and stature is all uphill from here. I think Jim Hoft and Reliapundit hit on it best - gas prices are going to continue to drop, and the Republicans chances will have a strong inverse relation to the price of oil. I really think gas prices are the number one gripe with the economy. Everything else looks strong, including an unprecedented string of quarterly growth in the GDP.

The big race to watch will be Jeanine Pirro v. Hillary Clinton in Hillary's bid for reelection as Senator for New York. Pirro's campaign has had a few 'hiccups' and she is not expected to seriously challenge Hillary, but there will be a lot of focus on this race nonetheless and it will tell us a lot about how Hillary has or has not matured as a politician and campaigner, and whether she has what it takes to run for President in '08.

If Pirro corrects some things, starts raising money and gets some support, she could really muss up Hillary through early opposition research and tactics, and Hillary's victory in New York could be a pyrrhic one, ruining her for the nomination in '08.

Or not.

You heard it here first! Come back again next Sunday for our next installment of PUNDIT ROUNDTABLE!

Update: Actually, I will give Will Franklin the last word -

Although this was a bad week for Republicans, the chances of Democrats taking back the House and/or Senate are maybe 30-40% at best, if only because there are so few competitive races these days. Furthermore, Tuesday's elections are entirely meaningless for the next election. In 2001 (when Bush's approval numbers were astronomical), Democrats won governorships in Virginia and New Jersey, yet GOP picked up 6 House seats in 2002. Surely I am not the only one who remembers Terry McAuliffe and his media soldiers declaring that Democrats had seized the momentum and were rejecting "tax cuts for the rich" and so on.

But Congressional Republicans still need to snap out of it. Word that a couple dozen "moderate" House Republicans were killing ANWR drilling in order to get those 50 billion dollars in spending recissions was irritating. Then, when that compromise didn't even produce results on the cuts, it became comical. How boneheaded. Word that the President's tax relief may be scaled back due to the objections of "moderate" Senators George Voinovich and Olympia Snowe, however, was not so funny. These failures, on top of the failure to reform Social Security, on top of so many other bits of stupidity we've seen from the GOP this year, could very well mean that Republican voters stay home in 2006.

While Tuesday's elections truly were meaningless, if Republicans learn the wrong lessons, they may very well become a harbinger of the disaster lurking around the corner. Congressional Republicans seem to be trying their best to create a self-fulfilling prophesy of doom and gloom, running from core GOP principles. If Congressional Republicans fail to snap out of it, AND SOON, they are cruising for a political bruising-- and it won't have anything to do with President Bush, one way or the other.

In terms of specific races to look for, I am looking forward to Minnesota, West Virginia, Maryland. I also wouldn't mind seeing Rhode Island's Lincoln Chafee getting knocked off, one way or another.

Posted by Ken McCracken · 13 November 2005 11:55 AM · Comments (1)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 214 -- Government Revenue Growth Continues To Outpace Spending Growth.

Spending Up, Revenues Further Up-

The Treasury Department this week released its first monthly statement for Fiscal Year 2006 (FY06). As was the case last year, Uncle Sam's earnings continue to increase faster than expenses.

In October 2004, which was the first month of Fiscal Year 2005 (FY05), the U.S. government had the following receipts and outlays (in millions):

Receipts- $136,836
Outlays- 194,196

In October 2005, which was the first month of Fiscal Year 2006 (FY06), the U.S. government had the following receipts and outlays (in millions):

Receipts- $149,488
Outlays- 196,718


Compared to last year at this point, revenues are up 9.2%, while spending is up 1.3%. This is particularly good news, as revenue growth outpaced spending growth last year, as well. So this is good news compounded on top of good news.

Sure, it's just one month, but it is a continuation of a trend that is encouraging for those who want to see an end to big budget deficits. It is also a continued vindication of President Bush's tax relief, which actually boosted government receipts to all-time highs.

The budget deficit fell last year from $412.8 billion to $318.6 billion, after being projected to rise substantially. If the trends hold up, we'll see a budget deficit in the two-hundred-something billion dollar range. With a 12+ trillion dollar economy, a $200-something billion deficit would, believe it or not, be historically very low.

Treasury Department (.pdf).


Previous Trivia Tidbit: Military Demographics.

Posted by Will Franklin · 12 November 2005 10:37 AM · Comments (4)

Bush Calls Out His Revisionist War Critics.

Today, the President finally called out his critics on Iraq (underlining mine):

And our debate at home must also be fair-minded. One of the hallmarks of a free society and what makes our country strong is that our political leaders can discuss their differences openly, even in times of war. When I made the decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power, Congress approved it with strong bipartisan support. I also recognize that some of our fellow citizens and elected officials didn't support the liberation of Iraq. And that is their right, and I respect it. As President and Commander-in-Chief, I accept the responsibilities, and the criticisms, and the consequences that come with such a solemn decision.

While it's perfectly legitimate to criticize my decision or the conduct of the war, it is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war began. Some Democrats and anti-war critics are now claiming we manipulated the intelligence and misled the American people about why we went to war. These critics are fully aware that a bipartisan Senate investigation found no evidence of political pressure to change the intelligence community's judgments related to Iraq's weapons programs.

They also know that intelligence agencies from around the world agreed with our assessment of Saddam Hussein. They know the United Nations passed more than a dozen resolutions citing his development and possession of weapons of mass destruction. And many of these critics supported my opponent during the last election, who explained his position to support the resolution in the Congress this way: "When I vote to give the President of the United States the authority to use force, if necessary, to disarm Saddam Hussein, it is because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a threat, and a grave threat, to our security." That's why more than a hundred Democrats in the House and the Senate -- who had access to the same intelligence -- voted to support removing Saddam Hussein from power.

The stakes in the global war on terror are too high, and the national interest is too important, for politicians to throw out false charges. These baseless attacks send the wrong signal to our troops and to an enemy that is questioning America's will. As our troops fight a ruthless enemy determined to destroy our way of life, they deserve to know that their elected leaders who voted to send them to war continue to stand behind them. Our troops deserve to know that this support will remain firm when the going gets tough. And our troops deserve to know that whatever our differences in Washington, our will is strong, our nation is united, and we will settle for nothing less than victory.

Read the entire speech here.

The Political Teen has the video.

President Bush now needs to go on the offensive on the economy, as well. It's absurd that so many people could view this booming economy and call it a recession.

Posted by Will Franklin · 11 November 2005 02:35 PM · Comments (4)

Quotational Therapy: Part 57 -- Eisenhower.


Neither a wise man nor a brave man lies down on the tracks of history to wait for the train of the future to run over him.

Brainy Quote.

More great Veterans Day quotes here.


Previous Quotational Therapy Session:


The right quote can be therapeutic, so tune in to WILLisms.com for quotational therapy every Monday and Friday.

Posted by Will Franklin · 11 November 2005 12:25 PM · Comments (0)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 213 -- Miltary Demographics.

U.S. Military Demographics-

Recently, WILLisms.com took a look at military demographics, bunking the notion that the military is a repository for poor folks with no other options in life.

More interesting facts on military recruitment and enlistment:


9/11 had a subtle-but-interesting impact on military demographics.


The racial makeup of military recruits is not that far from the population as a whole. The average African-American individual, however, is more likely to become an officer and spend an entire career in the military than the average white individual.

Put simply, the current makeup of the all-vol­untary military looks like America. Where they are different, the data show that the average sol­dier is slightly better educated and comes from a slightly wealthier, more rural area. We found that the military (and Army specifically) included a higher proportion of blacks and lower propor­tions of other minorities but a proportionate num­ber of whites. More important, we found that recruiting was not drawing disproportionately from racially concentrated areas.

Perhaps more could be done to dismantle the claim that an all-volunteer military relies dispro­portionately on ignorant, black, poor, urban young citizens in America, but the evidence already clearly shows this claim to be hollow.

Nevertheless, the Army is facing a shortage of new recruits for the recruiting year that ended in September. The shortage is minor—about 7,000 less than the goal of 80,000 new recruits—in a mil­itary with over 1 million members, but it will fuel ongoing calls for a military draft. Policymakers should remember that recruiting was also difficult in 1999 (when the economy was strong), but not so difficult in 2002–2004, in the immediate wake of the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. The Department of Defense reported 352,839 appli­cants for active component enlistment in fiscal year 2003, and it accepted 176,408.

Logically, this suggests that if terrorists strike America again, young Americans will be more— not less—willing to volunteer for military service. We can also anticipate that successful terrorist attacks will result in a resurgence of popular sup­port for a draft. All Americans hope that day will never come, but if it does, Congress needs to remain steadfast in opposing coerced conscription and expose the myths of racial and class exploita­tion in military recruiting.

Some interesting research that doesn't quite fit with the insinuations and allegations of the media-cultural-industrial complex.

Read more here.


Previous Trivia Tidbit: Oil Tax Government Revenue Train.

Posted by Will Franklin · 11 November 2005 11:11 AM · Comments (0)

Social Security Reform Thursday: Week Forty -- German Social Security Disaster.


Thursdays are good days for reform, because they fall between Wednesdays and Fridays. And reform is a long-haul process, not a fleeting event. So we're going to keep plugging along with the case for reform, even as the issue goes off the political radar screen.

That's why WILLisms.com offers a chart or graph, every Thursday, pertinent to Social Security reform.

This week's topic:

German Disaster: Where We're Heading.

Germany's economy is in very real trouble, drowning in a sea of socialism. Its Social Security system is, in large part, to blame. If we don't fix ours A.S.A.P., we could end up the same way.

Check out the German equivalent of the American payroll tax rate:



Now, notice the rise of public debt in Germany:


It would be a cop-out to focus on German reunification too much here. Look at the trends before 1991. Already unhealthy.

Now, notice the rise of unemployment (not rate, but numbers of people):


And it has only gotten worse over the past two years, reaching above 5 million earlier this year.

And there's no relief in sight for Germany. Social Security already consumes an inordinate amount of Germany's GDP, and the projections don't look good:

Germany will increase its social security spending by 50 percent between now and 2017, the Financial Times Deutschland reports....

Germany, which paid 53.9 billion euros ($65.6 billion) into its public pension plans in 2003, is set to pay 76.5 billion euros ($93.2 billion) in 2017, the Financial Times' analysis of an internal German Finance Ministry document indicates.

German Finance Minister Hans Eichel has already complained every third dollar he spends goes to social security funds. Eichel has said the large cost of public pensions is a drain on German finances.

Something to look forward to here in America, sans Social Security reform.

Interesting is the fact that Social Security's pay-as-you-go pyramid scheme is a Prussian invention. Otto von Bismarck came up with that one.

Way to go, Otto. Classy move.


It's time for reform.

The clock is ticking.


Previous Reform Thursday graphics can be seen here:

-Week One (Costs Exceed Revenues).
-Week Two (Social Security Can't Pay Promised Benefits).
-Week Three (Americans Getting Older).
-Week Three, bonus (The Templeton Curve).
-Week Four (Fewer Workers, More Retirees).
-Week Five (History of Payroll Tax Base Increases).
-Week Six (Seniors Living Longer).
-Week Six, bonus (Less Workers, More Beneficiaries).
-Week Seven (History of Payroll Tax Increases).
-Week Seven, bonus (Personal Accounts Do Achieve Solvency).
-Week Eight (Forty Year Trend Of Increasing Mandatory Spending).
-Week Nine (Diminishing Benefits Sans Reform).
-Week Ten (Elderly Dependence On Social Security).
-Week Eleven (Entitlement Spending Eating The Budget).
-Week Twelve (Benefit Comparison, Bush's Plan versus No Plan).
-Week Thirteen (Younger Americans and Lifecycle Funds).
-Week Fourteen (The Thrift Savings Plan).
-Week Fifteen (Understanding Progressive Indexing).
-Week Sixteen (The Graying of America).
-Week Seventeen (Debunking Myths).
-Week Eighteen (Debunking Myths).
-Week Nineteen (Reform Needed Sooner Rather Than Later).
-Week Twenty (Global Success With Personal Accounts).
-Week Twenty-One (GROW Accounts: Stopping The Raid).
-Week Twenty-Two (Millions of Lockboxes).
-Week Twenty-Three (Support for Ryan-DeMint).
-Week Twenty-Four (KidSave Accounts).
-Week Twenty-Five (Latinos and Social Security).
-Week Twenty-Six (AmeriSave).
-Week Twenty-Seven (Cost Of Doing Nothing).
-Week Twenty-Eight (Chile).
-Week Twenty-Nine (Entitlement Spending Out Of Control).
-Week Thirty (Reform Better Deal Than Status Quo).
-Week Thirty-One (Social Security As A Labor Cost).
-Week Thirty-Two (Social Security And Dependence On Government).
-Week Thirty-Three (Social Security, Currently A Bad Deal For African-Americans).
-Week Thirty-Four (Longer Life Expectancies Straining Social Security).
-Week Thirty-Five (Howard Dean & Salami).
-Week Thirty-Six (Growing Numbers of Beneficiaries Draining Social Security).
-Week Thirty-Seven (The Crisis Is Now).
-Week Thirty-Eight (Disability Benefits).
-Week Thirty-Nine (Broken Benefit Calculation Formula).

Tune into WILLisms.com each Thursday for more important graphical data supporting Social Security reform.

Posted by Will Franklin · 10 November 2005 11:37 AM · Comments (3)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 212 -- The Oil Tax Government Revenue Train.

Exorbitant Oil Taxes-

With oil executives on Capitol Hill yesterday, it was a time for Senatorial grandstanding. Is it just me, or does nearly every Senate hearing with compelled, grilled witnesses resemble, stylistically, the Army-McCarthy hearings of half a century ago? Windbag pontificators blustering and pontificating and looking foolish. Badgered witnesses, no matter how objectionable to the public, become the victims.

Anyway, I kept hoping one of the oil company bigwigs would point out some of these facts:


Between 1977 and 2004:

...the 29 largest domestic energy firms earned a collective $630 billion after adjusting for inflation. These profits varied dramatically—from a low of $7.9 billion in 1995 to a high of $42.6 billion in 2004—based upon world market demand, supply, and international events.

In contrast, the taxes paid or remitted by domestic oil companies have been consistently far greater than their profits and now total more than $2.2 trillion (adjusted for inflation) over the past quarter century. The largest share of those taxes is federal and state gasoline excise taxes. In 2004, governments collected $58 billion in gasoline excise taxes. Overall, governments have collected $1.34 trillion in gasoline excise taxes since 1977.

Today, U.S. consumers pay an average of 45.9 cents per gallon in gasoline taxes. The federal gasoline excise tax is 18.4 cents per gallon while the average state and local tax is 27.5 cents. The vast majority of these taxes are levied at a flat rate per gallon—regardless of whether a gallon of gas costs $1.49, $2.49, or $3.49. Thus, the effective rate of these taxes can vary wildly, from roughly 31 percent in the former case to 13 percent in the later.

Federal and state governments also collect a substantial amount of excise tax from the sale of diesel fuel. In today’s dollars, governments have collected $160 billion in diesel fuel excise taxes since 1977.

Oil companies also pay taxes to governments for the right to extract oil from public lands and waters. For example, the federal government has collected a total of $48.8 billion in royalty payments from oil companies in exchange for their ability to explore and drill in the U.S. outer continental shelf. Oil companies also pay severance taxes to state governments for the right to drill on state lands. Unfortunately, complete data on state severance tax collections for the period is not available at this time.

In contrast to excise taxes, corporate income tax payments vary as widely as industry profits. As mentioned above, domestic energy companies earned a total of $630 billion in post-tax profits between 1977 and 2004. Tax Foundation economists estimate that companies paid $518 billion in corporate income taxes to federal and state governments during the same period. These payments varied from a low of $5.1 billion in 1995 to a high of $40.4 billion in 1981.

Taxes on the energy industry are the money train the government rides to pay for all of its fun and exciting projects.

Interestingly, a windfall profits tax (also called an "excess profits tax") would be a bad idea for many, many reasons.

...the windfall profits tax had the effect of decreasing domestic production by 3 percent to 6 percent, thereby increasing American dependence on foreign oil sources by 8 percent to 16 percent. A side effect was declining, not increasing, tax collections.

Who would've thought that implementing an exorbitant tax on top of already high taxes would create negative incentives for companies? Who would've thought that ridiculously high taxes would increase our dependence on foreign sources of oil? Who would've thought that outrageously high taxes would backfire, eventually producing less tax revenue? Oh, just anyone who has any knowledge whatsoever of basic Econ 101.

Want to goof up the booming economy? A windfall profits tax is a good place to start.

Incidentally, I have a theory on why much of the political establishment feels good about going after the oil companies:

According to America's most accurate pollster, 1/3 of Americans believe the U.S. economy is in a recession, and only 42% say the economy is not in a recession. These numbers, remember, coincide with Americans consistently expressing confidence in their own personal financial situations. People just happen to think the nebulous American economy, out there somewhere, elsewhere, is performing poorly.

Americans hear about oil company profits and assume that the energy industry is the only industry making any money, while the rest of the economy is assuredly in the tank. Ergo, it's perfectly acceptable to go after the oil companies, because they must be doing something immoral, unethical, or illegal.

Democrats swiftly step in to demagogue the issue. The establishment left-leaning media collectively echo the demagoguery. Republicans cower and concede the fight, knowing it's not politically astute to defend "big oil" in an era of 6 second soundbites.

One of the more stunning political developments of the past few years is the ability of anti-Bush folks (Democrats, the media, special interest groups) to talk down this roaringly awesome economy-- and succeed.

One would think that 4 straight years of economic growth, explosive productivity growth, relatively low inflation (even including rising energy prices), a booming housing market, more than 4 million new jobs over the past couple of years, and so on, would begin to sink in with the American people.

If more Americans realized the economy is not in the tank, Bush's approval ratings would justifiably rise to around 60%, there wouldn't be this awkward impetus for a windfall profits tax on those scoundrel oil companies, and Republicans in Congress might not feel so insecure about Social Security, drilling in Alaska, and tax reform.

The Tax Foundation.


Previous Trivia Tidbit: Abortion Stats.

Posted by Will Franklin · 10 November 2005 10:58 AM · Comments (2)

The First Mainstream Melee.


It's a non-blog adventure.


The Washington Times: "Four years of economic expansion"

Super Succinct Synopsis-

A great, almost sarcastic op-ed that lays out the facts on America's unknown booming economy.

Super Succinct Snippet-

Admittedly, the current expansion took some time to take hold. But once it finally gained strength during the second quarter of 2003, it established itself as arguably the most steady, non-volatile expansion in 60 years.

Yay, economy.



The New York Times: "House Shelves Alaska Drilling in Budget Fight"

Super Succinct Synopsis-

Who would have thought the HOUSE, rather than the SENATE, would have done this? Too many "moderate" Republicans bought the hype about a Democrat resurgence, learning the wrong lessons entirely from Tuesday's elections, which shouldn't have meant much of anything. Republican voters stayed home because of this sort of squishiness.

Super Succinct Snippet-

In dropping the drilling plan and a second provision, on coastal exploration, the leadership was trying to win over moderates in the party to enhance the chances of winning initial approval on Thursday of more than $50 billion in spending cuts demanded by House conservatives. But the decision is likely to meet objections from the Senate, where senior lawmakers are insisting on the drilling plan, a priority for President Bush.

The last-ditch effort by the leadership to avoid an embarrassing legislative defeat was the latest symptom of party unrest arising from instability in the leadership and anxiety about the 2006 elections. Those concerns were heightened by election results on Tuesday that Democrats and some Republicans said exposed the party's vulnerabilities and threatened its policy agenda.

Bad idea jeans.



The Wall Street Journal: "GOP Wake-Up Call"

Super Succinct Synopsis-

Or not.

Super Succinct Snippet-

All in all, after several bad years, Tuesday was the Democrats' turn to smile. And if Republicans in Congress now start to splinter and look out only for themselves--instead of fighting for the ideas that won them power--the same could happen next year.

Hmm. Wrong lessons indeed.



Der Spiegel: "European Wine Fighting for Survival"

Super Succinct Synopsis-

A symbol of European culture, American wine is replacing European wine in and on the global marketplace.

Super Succinct Snippet-

Experts predict that 2005 could be the first year in which Europe imports more wine than it exports. So what should European producers do? Conform or resist?

Just flow with it, baby.



The Washington Post: "Grassley: No Soc. Sec. Change Before 2009"

Super Succinct Synopsis-

Hmm. So, again, what have Republicans learned from the relatively meaningless elections Tuesday? Apparently, "panic." Seemingly, "abandon ship."


Super Succinct Snippet-

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley said he's "very pessimistic" that lawmakers can overhaul Social Security during the president's second term in office. Upcoming midterm and presidential elections will get in the way, he said.

"Probably, the next bite at the apple of Social Security will come in 2009," the Iowa Republican told an audience at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday.

Who needs Democrat obstructionists, anyway, when we have perfectly good cowards on our own side who accomplish the same end result.


WILLisms.com and many other blogs sometimes focus too much on our fellow bloggers, while excluding well-done professional journalism from our posts.

The Mainstream Melee is a quick survey of five non-blog sources, coming atchya at completely random intervals. The stories are either underreported, particularly well-written, or otherwise important to the big picture. But generally there will be a theme of some kind in the choices.

Posted by Will Franklin · 10 November 2005 09:50 AM · Comments (1)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 211 -- Abortion Statistics.

Parental Notification Fails In California-

Arnold Schwarzenegger's reform agenda, on which he ran in 2003, lost bigtime last night in California. Republicans stayed home, as Arnold distanced himself from President Bush and failed to capture the imagination of conservatives (who do indeed exist in California).

Governor Schwarzenegger also was overwhelmed by every major special interest group in the entire state banding together to defeat... everything.

And playing to the "moderates" didn't work, because, really, there are none.

Redistricting reform: failed.
Teacher tenure reform: failed.
Public union dues reform: failed.
Spending reform: failed.

Another proposition that failed, somewhat surprisingly, was the parental notification measure. Proposition 73, which would have required minors to notify their parents before receiving an abortion, failed 52.6% to 47.4%.

So here are some facts on abortions in America:

There were 1.29 million abortions in the U.S. in 2002, the most recent year for which figures are available. Since abortion became legal in 1973, more than 42 million abortions have occurred in the U.S.

* Women under the age of 25 have 52 percent of abortions; teenagers have 19 percent.

* Black women are more than 3 times and Latino women are 2 1/2 times as likely as white women to have abortions.

* Two-thirds of all abortions are had by women who have never been married, and more than 60 percent are had by women who have one or more children.

* 43 percent of women having abortions are Protestant; 27 percent are Catholic.

* Each year, approximately 13,000 women have abortions after being the victims of rape or incest.

Interesting. Rape and incest abortions account for roughly 1% of American abortions each year, yet they often take center stage in the abortion debate. People dwell on the minor and peripheral exceptions, because they tug at the heartstrings more than the facts.

Also interesting is the "abortion gap" between conservative and liberal states:


In general, states with the highest abortion rates happen to be states that vote for Democrats. States with lower abortion rates tend to be Republican states. I singled out a few of each, just to illustrate that point.

Part of the difference is demographics and ideology. People practice what they preach. Conservative Republicans have less abortions than liberal Democrats.

But another part of the difference lies in the abortion laws. Parental notification laws are one way to reduce the numbers of abortions in a state without banning abortion entirely. California rejected parental notification yesterday, which will likely translate into a continuation of an abortion rate much higher than the national average.

Guttmacher Institute.


Previous Trivia Tidbit: Fundraising.

Posted by Will Franklin · 9 November 2005 12:37 PM · Comments (5)

Wednesday Caption Contest: Part 30.

This week's WILLisms.com Caption Contest photograph:


The actual caption:

He pioneered mock television news 30 years ago and wrote a satirical book about becoming the 44th president of the United States. So when comedian Al Franken says he is considering a run for U.S. Senate you have to ask -- is he serious? Al Franken is seen in this file photo, during broadcast of a radio show in Washington. Picture taken February 10, 2005. (Larry Downing/Reuters)

Surely there's a better caption for this photograph.

Entries will remain open until 11:59 PM, Central Standard Time, Tuesday, November 15. Submit your captions in the comments section, or email at WILLisms@gmail.com.

Last week's photo:


Winners from last week:


Rodney Dill:

As Harry Reid comes in touch with his feminine side, he realizes in shock that he can't stop touching it.



Harry Reid is loses his train of thought as Schumer unpredictably continues their game of "Hide the Index Finger."



"I felt such a relief coming out in front of my colleagues in the Senate today I realize now I made a terrible mistake asking for a closed session to do it in. Now I'm making it official! I'm Harry, I'm here, I'm queer, get used to it!"

Honorable Mention #1


Darth Schumer - "You have failed me for the last time, Admiral"

Honorable Mention #2

Jim Rose:

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid spoke to reporters from the mainstream media Tuesday evening imploring them to, "Help me, help you! Help me, help you!"

Honorable Mention #3


Inside Schumer's head: Look at me Harry....I know you want me... I know you love me...look at me...come on...you know you want to look...you dirty old man...

Captioning is neat.

Enter today!

Posted by Will Franklin · 9 November 2005 09:00 AM · Comments (31)

Some Call It A Bonfire (Or Carnival) Of Classiness...

We call it "Classiness, All Around Us."


Click to explore more WILLisms.com.

In no particular order, WILLisms.com presents classiness from the blogosphere:


Hilariously Weird Korean Propaganda-


One Free Korea blog points out some crazy Korean propaganda:

Must see to believe. Given the way U.S. troops are being treated in South Korea today, one is entitled to question what kind of future a U.S.-Korean alliance still has, and what values and interests these countries share. I admit that I had to see this thing to actually recognize the sheer depravity of it.



Blogging Blues-


Wunderkraut chronicles the frustrations of being a blogger:

Maybe all bloggers go through this at some point. This must be where most give up, while others stick it out. You reach a point where you have written about the things that most interest you and you feel like you are repeating yourself. What more is there to say? How many more times can one point out the bias in the MSM? How many more times can you point out the hypocrisy of the Democrats in Congress concerning the war in Iraq? How many times can you bash Republicans for selling their souls and spending like drunken Democrats? How many times can you criticize President Bush for failing to use the bully pulpit to explain his positions on the war and on Social Security?

How many times?

Blogger burnout affects all of us, especially in odd-numbered years. No elections to pick apart. The same media lies and errors and omissions, over and over. Sometimes current events can become a broken record, but eventually-- and sometimes suddenly-- blogging becomes fun and interesting again.


War On Terror-


Vodkapundit explains that we've all failed to really articulate what will be required to win the war on terror:

Four years into the Terror War, "What's the most important element for victory?" is a question long overdue. It's also a question our national leadership, nearly all of our intellectuals, and none of our mainstream media have yet to answer....

Our public thinkers – pundits, intellectuals, whatever you want to call them – are the people we should most rely on for guidance in times such as these. However, they've come up short even using the pathetic standard by which this blogger measures them. Too many of our intellectuals are caught in the past, real or imagined.

Ultimately, Vodkapundit is right on about this war being a media war. And our media don't quite yet get it.


Secret Agent Girl-


Right Wing News points out a collection of quotes pointing to the face that Valerie Plame's covert CIA identity wasn't exactly a secret:

...there are now multiple people on the record saying that they knew Valerie Plame was a CIA agent before Robert Novak's original column revealed that fact to the world. Quite frankly, if it had been widely known that the press, Valerie Plame's neighbors, and even people Joe Wilson blabbed to in the Green Room at Fox News all knew about her "secret identity," a special prosecutor would have never been appointed in the first place.

Valerie Plame's CIA status was clearly common knowledge. And entirely relevant to the Joe Wilson trip to Africa. It was either a botched hatchet job against the president, or an odd case of nepotism and incompetence. Either way, the CIA looks terrible.


Tax Cuts Making Jesus Cry-


Patterico explains how a church's left-wing political activism was framed favorably by the Los Angeles Times:

Reasonable people can debate whether the IRS should be going after this church — or whether the government should be in the business of granting and denying tax exemptions based on speech so intertwined with the First Amendment.

But let’s not make it seem like it’s all about a church supporting peace over war, L.A. Times editors. There’s a leetle more to it than that.

Mixing up your church into the business of crass partisanship is never a good idea, especially when your tax exempt status is on the line.


Riot Party-


Asymmetical Information blog offers a different take on the Muslim riots in France:

Let me suggest another possibility: Muslim youth are rioting in France because breaking windows and setting cars on fire is fun.

Everyone who has ever taken their .22 out to the back forty and shot up a line of old bug spray cans knows this. Seeing things break, disintegrate, or explode, at absolutely no personal risk to yourself, lights up some primitive reptilian part of our brain with searing glee. I've often thought there would be big money for the firm that figured out how to build an adult recreation center where frustrated Americans could go to have a beer, take a sledgehammer to a used computer, and throw some glassware at the walls.

She may be onto something.


Dodging Responsibility-


The normblog blog takes on liberal hawks who supported the Iraq war but now claim that the execution of the war has been flawed:

It is not an effort at serious discussion, but a rhetorical blaming move. So, I do not regret the positions I took and have again summarized here. On the contrary, I will always be glad that I knew from the beginning which side I was on in this particular battle.

In recent months and even years, we've seen supporters of the liberation of Iraq backtrack. They've given various excuses and justifications for the changes of heart, but almost all have been weak cop-outs.


Handy French Travel Phrases-


The neo-neocon blog offers a few French phrases that may come in handy. Here are one of each:

A phrase to use-

In my next life I hope I am French.
Pour le future J' espere etre francais.

A phrase to avoid-

California wine is better.
Le vin de California est le meilleure.

Or vice-versa. Whatever.


Tax Cuts For The...-


The Skeptical Optimist fills in the blanks:

Like Pavlov's dog, we've been successfully trained by our politicians how to fill in that blank. It requires no thought; it's a reflex. It fits on a bumper sticker, it evokes powerful emotions, it's a mental shortcut for sorting our politicians into the good guys and the bad guys, and it supposedly fingers the culprits responsible for the cancerous, grandchildren-eating deficit.

For those of you who have been vacationing incommunicado in Antarctica for the last twenty-five years, the word that correctly fills in the blank is “rich.” More specifically, “Tax cuts for the rich” is the politically correct answer. It's part of our culture.

A nice examination of the economically correct reality versus the politically correct perception.


The Elites-


Political Calculations blog notes that, "It is scandalous that urban intellectuals, living privileged lives, want to stop people from getting out of poverty....":

While Fareed Zakaria's words apply specifically to India, how hard is it to find domestic equivalents of Zakaria's "urban intellectuals" in your country? In your state? In your city?

Something to think about....

Precisely. Rich white liberals clearly do not have the answers to the problems of poverty.


Also, don't forget to check out all the old Trivia Tidbits Of the Day, the Reform Thursday series, the Quotational Therapy sessions, the latest Pundit Roundtable, and the Wednesday Caption Contest (entries are due each Tuesday at 11:59 PM Central Standard Time).

Last Week's Classiness Certification from WILLisms.com:

*November 1, 2005.

WILLisms.com offers a weekly classiness roundup as a weekly feature, every Tuesday, with 10 blog posts deemed classy. The criteria for submissions: incisive original analysis, quirky topics nobody else is covering, fantastic graphics, or other posts that took a lot of work. We love to spread the word on upcoming blogs, being that WILLisms.com also fits that description. If you would like to nominate a post on your blog or another blog for inclusion, email us at WILLisms@gmail.com. Write "Classy Nomination" in the subject. You can also utilize this page to make your submissions. The deadline is each Monday at 11:59 PM Central Time.


Posted by Will Franklin · 8 November 2005 03:20 PM · Comments (3)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 210 -- Fundraising.

The NRSC Lags For A Reason-

For all the talk of looming political trouble in 2006 for Congressional Republicans, the major GOP committees are out-raising their Democrat counterparts. And it's not just a handful of ultra-wealthy individuals contributing the big bucks, either. It's grassroots success. Lots of small and medium contributions.

Despite troubling polling numbers and overwhelmingly biased news coverage cooked up by the media, and despite a few targeted grumbles here and there from the GOP base, Democrats have failed to offer anything but shameless demagoguery, scandal-mongering, and seething hypocrisy.

Thus, Republicans have maintained their fundraising advantage across the board.


Across the board, with one glaring exception: the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC).


Weak fundraising for the GOP committee responsible for maintaining and/or expanding the Republican majority in U.S. Senate is not difficult to understand. Of the 55 Republicans in the Senate, several are "mavericks," "moderates," or just plain hostile to President Bush and red state values. Rhode Island Republican Lincoln Chafee, for one, is up for reelection in 2006, and the NRSC has made a point of supporting the liberal Republican, prominently and unconditionally.

As long as the NRSC supports folks like Lincoln Chafee, who constantly side with Democrats and perpetually undermine Republican initiatives, fundraising will suffer. And I am not the only one to notice this phenomenon, either. Nope, a lot of folks have noticed the negative ramifications of NRSC attacks on a true Republican candidate, Steve Laffey.



Previous Trivia Tidbit: Military Demographics.

Posted by Will Franklin · 8 November 2005 11:35 AM · Comments (1)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 209 -- Who Is In The Military?

Military Demographics-

With the war on terror persisting around the world, many folks have made assertions and insinuations, worthy of the Vietnam era, alleging that the military is recruiting poor minorities to fight the war of "the man."

Democrat Congressman Charlie Rangel of New York, who has repeatedly called for a military draft in America, asserted erroneously that:

“... [a] disproportionate number of the poor and mem­bers of minority groups make up the enlisted ranks of the military, while most privileged Americans are underrepresented or absent.”

Michael Moore, in his grotesque, error-filled "documentary" Fahrenheit 9/11, painted the military recruitment process as some sort of high-pressure, predatory exploitation of poverty-stricken African-Americans with no other options in life.

This "fortunate son" scenario is just not backed up by the facts.


According to the 2000 Census, national median income for all U.S. households was $41,994 in 1999 (all figures use 1999 dollars), compared to a mean household income of $41,141 for homes of recruits of that year. We calculate recruit income by using the median household income of the five-digit ZIP code of the recruit’s home of record. Because more recruits came from high-income neighbor­hoods in 2003, the mean income rose to $42,822. There were proportionately fewer recruits (18.0 per­cent) from the poorest quintile of ZIP codes in 1999, as well as fewer from the richest quintile (18.6 per­cent). The income distribution of new recruits after September 11, 2001, is remarkably different. In 2003, only 14.6 percent of military recruits came from the poorest quintile, while the wealthiest quin­tile provided 22.0 percent.


In 1999, 98 per­cent of all enlisted recruits had at least a high school education, compared to the national average of 75 percent among citizens who are 18–24 years old. In 2003, no three-digit ZIP code area had a higher graduation rate among its population than among its recruits. After September 11, 2001, the educational quality of recruits rose slightly.


In 2003, blacks made up a higher percent­age of Army recruits (15 percent) than the adult population (11.3 percent) for a recruit-to-popula­tion ratio of 1.44. However, the recruit-to-popula­tion ratio of white recruits was 1.01, meaning that blacks did not displace whites. Rather, the racial groups with disproportionately low recruit-to-pop­ulation ratios in 2003 were Asians, Hispanics, and individuals who declined to identify a race. Regard­ing the issue of disproportionate recruiting from black neighborhoods, we found that the 100 three-digit ZIP code areas with the highest concentration of blacks had 14.63 percent of the adult population but provided 16.58 percent of 1999 recruits and only 14.09 percent of 2003 recruits.

The Heritage Foundation.

Moreover, it's been well-documented that African-Americans, despite being overrepresented in the military relative to the overall population, participate in combat operations proportionally less than their white counterparts.

Some might be tempted to chalk up these trends to lagging overall military recruitment, but this would also be a mistake. The U.S. Army, for example, that both new recruitment and reenlistment are strong. Overall, military recruiting is much stronger than many want us to believe.

More on the urban versus rural recruitment situation.


Previous Trivia Tidbit: State Income Taxes.

Posted by Will Franklin · 7 November 2005 12:40 PM · Comments (0)

Quotational Therapy: Part 56 -- Winston Churchill.

Churchill, On Appeasement-

"An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile — hoping it will eat him last."

TIME magazine.
Also spotted at The Right Place.


Previous Quotational Therapy Session:

Elie Wiesel.

The right quote can be therapeutic, so tune in to WILLisms.com for quotational therapy every Monday and Friday.

Posted by Will Franklin · 7 November 2005 10:25 AM · Comments (1)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 208 -- State Income Tax Comparisons.

States Benefit From No State Income Tax-

Alaska, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming have no state income taxes.

New York, California, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Ohio, New Jersey, Maine, and Hawaii have the highest state income taxes.

Notice a pattern?

In 2004, Bush won 7 of 9 of the states with no income tax, but just 1 of 9 of the states with the highest marginal income tax rates.

There are more patterns at play than mere politics. How about economics?

States with no or low-rate personal income taxes also tend to have more stable budgets and fewer revenue shortages, a seeming paradox which is simply the natural result of the combination of tax progressivity (or lack thereof), politics and human nature....

These trouble signals, all of which are often the result of revenue streams that are volatile and difficult to forecast, consist of: i.) mid-year budget cuts to an already-passed budget, ii.) legislated increases in taxes and/or fees, and iii.) year-end “rainy day” balances as a percentage of expenditures below the U.S. average....

In each and every case, for all four years examined, the nine states with the highest personal income tax rates experienced many more budget difficulties than did the nine states without personal income taxes.

So often, we hear from liberals here in Texas that our occasional budget troubles (and the creative ways to deal with them) would all go away with a simple, magical state income tax. They would smooth things over and allow us to finally become a first rate state, like... California.

While the 9 states with no income tax do experience "warning signs" or "trouble signals" from time to time, indicating budgetary crises, the 9 states with the highest income taxes experience these problems FAR MORE.

The government will always spend the money it receives from taxpayers. It will often spend more. Giving the government more just means it will spend more-- and then some, obviously.

So no more talk about how states with no income tax NEED the income tax in order to prevent deficits, stave off after-the-fact budget cuts, or prevent siphoning off some of the rainy day fund.

No more.


Texas Public Policy Foundation (.pdf).


Previous Trivia Tidbit: Lower Taxes, Faster Economic Growth.

Posted by Will Franklin · 6 November 2005 10:02 PM · Comments (0)

Pundit Roundtable

Hello again, and welcome back to PUNDIT ROUNDTABLE. I am your host, Ken McCracken, bringing you another power-packed panel of pundits. Here are our topics this week:

Topic 1: This has been a rough last few weeks for the Bush administration. Maybe this is a good time to ask: what will be history's verdict on the Bush administration? Will it be that of a decisive administration that cut taxes and prosecuted the War on Terror, or that of a dishonest regime that lied to get us into a war of opportunity? Will it be seen as a success, or failure?

Topic 2: How should the Democrats play the Alito nomination to get maximum political gain? Should they fight tooth and nail and Bork him, filibuster the nomination, or just let it slide? What, if any, benefit can they get out of a nomination fight to go into the 2006 elections?

We have a new guest this week, Jay Tea of the mighty Wizbang! blog. What do you think?

I have always thought of historians as having a smidgen of a lazy streak, and I suspect that many future analysts of the Bush '43 administration will take the easy approach and draw many parallels between it and the Reagan administration. To wit:

1) The only Republicans to serve two full terms since Eisenhower.

2) Both were seen as intellectual lightweights.

3) Both campaigned on a promise to cut taxes, and did so.

4) Both had undistinguished, easily-mocked military careers during wartime.

5) Both had to deal with a highly-unconventional war against a monolithic opponent.

6) Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, and several other high-ranking Bush administration officials also served under Reagan.

7) Both had been governors, as well as dabbling in the business end of professional sports.

8) Both embraced the ranching life, and often retreated to their ranches during their administration.

9) Both strongly espoused family values, yet had "black sheep" relatives they kept at arms' distance (Reagan and his children, Bush and Neil).

But that is, as I said, the lazy approach to the situation. How will Bush be judged by history?

I think it's still too early to tell, but I get the feeling that I will not be allowed to weasel out. So, with the option of simply deferring the question taken off the table, and forced to actually express an opinion, I think that Bush '43's legacy will be much like Reagan's; seen as spotty at best when it ends, growing more and more respected as time passes.

One of the key elements of any president's legacy is the economy. Under Bush, the economy has grown significantly, with most of the indicators showing positive signs. The bubble of the 90's seemed destined to end in a crash, much like an aneurysm keeps expanding until it bursts, often killing the patient, but Bush managed to deflate it safely and resume steady, sustainable growth.

But the defining characteristic of the Bush administration will be the war on terror.

I've often said that Bush seemed to run for office with no clearly defined goals, just to "be president" out of some sense of obligation or entitlement. He didn't seem to have any single defining issue of his own, no great goal or objective that drove him to seek the office. (It was a feeling I had again last year, in the form of John Kerry.) I voted for him anyway, because Gore seemed even more so, except he intended to drift along in the general direction of Clinton's administration, and I'd had enough.

But sometimes when we lack purpose, one is provided for us. For George W. Bush, that was 9/11.

That attack energized him, gave his presidency something to fight for. (I've seen some people say that God made sure Bush was president because he was best equipped to fight the war on terror. I'm an agnostic, and don't put any stock in Providence micromanaging matters to that degree, but it seems a hell of a lot more probable than God steering hurricanes based on how much money people send Pat Robertson.) He saw the circumstances that over 20 years of appeasing terrorism had left us in then, Alexander-like, took out his sword and unraveled the Gordian Knot. Overnight, he redefined American policy towards terrorism and those who sponsor it, and did what no other nation in history had done: invaded and overthrew the Afghani government. And did it with such efficiency and effectiveness that the world was stunned.

Then he began the truly revolutionary part of his campaign: he started working towards replacing the Taliban regime with a democratic government. And it seems to be working.

People often talk about democracy as a "tree" or some other form of plant, and I'm going to run with that metaphor for a bit. Tyranny can be seen as a great dam, holding back freedom and staunching liberty. But no dam is perfect, and they all have their tiny cracks. These are not enough to substantially weaken the dam, but they are there. In this metaphor, democracy is a seed of a tree. The seed falls into one of these cracks, and starts growing. Eventually, it will outgrow the confines of the crack, and widen it. Eventually, the crack will become a crevice, and then -- if all goes well -- will eventually lead to the crumbling of the dam, and the release of the liberty.

(The metaphor falls apart here, as the tree often doesn't survive the death of the dam, but no metaphor is perfect.)

After the fall of Afghanistan, many would have been content to say that 9/11 had been avenged. Indeed, it had. But 9/11 wasn't an isolated incident. It was the culmination of a series of attacks by Al Qaeda, beginning in 1993 with their first attempt to bring down the World Trade Center. More importantly, it was the single most successful of a long line of terrorist attacks, all motivated by Islamist drives and their desire to re-establish the Caliphate, and to drive out all the unbelievers (meaning Christians, Jews, Animists, Buddhists, and the "wrong" type of Muslims) from the Lands of Islam. That would be followed by the expansion of the Lands of Islam until the whole world was united under Allah -- more specifically, His chosen leaders, the Islamists.

Bush could easily have called it a day after Afghanistan, contenting himself to hunt down the last remnants of Al Qaeda and said the battle is over. And he would have been right -- that battle was won, and won handily and decisively. But battles are not wars. We never lost a single battle in Viet Nam, but we didn't win the war.

The seeds of democracy growing in Afghanistan were working wonders, but they were too far removed from the center of gravity of the conflict. More seeds had to be planted, in the heart of the Arab world, if the war was to be won.

And that brings us to Iraq.

Much has been made about the "pretext" of our invasion of Iraq. I'm not going to go into that here, but I'm simply going to discuss it in the context of the greater war. The Arab world has stagnated for far too long, a motley collection of monarchies, tyrannies, and other forms of dictatorships, eagerly exporting terrorism and unrest and death around the world, fueled by Islamist radicalism and the great good fortune of sitting atop a huge percentage of the world's oil. It was a status quo that had stood for far too long, and needed to be shaken up -- but no one had had the right combination of nerve and vision to attempt anything radical enough to succeed.

Until Bush.

Iraq represented the "perfect storm," the confluence of events, circumstances, geography, history, politics, economics, and a host of other factors needed to trigger cataclysmic change throughout the Middle East.

1) It had a brutal dictator with a history of initiating wars of aggression.

2) It had repeatedly violated the terms of its surrender from the first Gulf War, giving us a pretext for attacking.

3) It had a minority faction tyrannizing the population, including an oppressed majority and a persecuted minority.

4) It was geographically near the center of the Islamist movement, with borders with Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia -- all noted sponsors of terrorism.

5) It had borders with two reliable allies, Kuwait and Turkey.

6) It had significant oil of its own, to fund the reconstruction and development of a democracy, but because of sanctions was not allowed to sell it freely, minimizing the impact on the world's day-to-day oil supply.

7) Its military was still debilitated by its defeat in the first Gulf War, and had not been allowed to regain its former strength.

8) Saddam had repeatedly refused to comply with sanctions, on the one hand insisting that he had no weapons of mass destruction nor programs to develop them, while on the other hand denying inspections and hinting strongly to his neighbors that he, indeed did have them, to keep them at bay.

9) He had long been a supporter and sponsor of terrorist acts and groups. He gave bounties to the families of suicide bombers in Israel, had several training camps for terrorists, and had frequent contacts with Al Qaeda itself both before and after 9/11.

With all that, the idea of invading Iraq, removing Saddam, and establishing a democracy in his place seemed the perfect solution. And it seems to be working -- despite the best efforts of Saddam and the countless people he bribed to stave off our attack. (See George Galloway, France, Kofi Annan, Russia, and Germany for examples.)

The invasion and conquering of Iraq, and the beginnings of a democracy to take its place, are already showing signs of progress outside Iraq's borders. Libya's Qaddafi might not have "seen the light," but he felt the heat, and he promptly surrendered his entire nuclear program, kit and kaboodle, to the United States. Lebanon, inspired by the Iraqi people's own efforts towards freedom, started stirrings of their own to remove the Syrian yoke they'd worn for decades. And when Syria clumsily tried to crack down on the movement, it exploded into a full-fledged national drive towards freedom. Syria itself is now finding themselves on the hot seat over Lebanon, with the United Nations coming down on them for their actions in Lebanon. And Pakistan, who helped spread nuclear weapons technology throughout the Muslim world, is now seeing India as less of a threat than its own Islamist extremists, and is starting to crack down on them and ease the tensions with their fellow nuclear power just to their east.

The question remains, though -- will this hold? Will Bush's efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq actually continue to send reverberations of freedom throughout the world, shaking tyrants and dictators out of their sinecures and letting loose the tide of freedom?

I honestly don't know. The critics of Bush's policies raise some valid points -- we are stretched very thin, militarily, and the general sentiment of the world seems to be pretty strongly against his efforts. It's still a very questionable thing, which way the matter will be resolved. It's still questionable of whether Bush's plan could ever have worked.

I sincerely hope it does. And I hope that history will judge it to have been the right action at the right time, and that Bush will be one day regarded with the same respect and admiration as Reagan, both Roosevelts, Lincoln, and Washington.

For while Bush will accept the judgment of history, the rest of us will have to live with the consequences of his legacy. And I would much rather have that be a successful one, than a failure.

Our next guest is also new to Pundit Roundtable, Robert Mayer of Publius Pundit. Robert?
Topic 1: At the moment I really don't think there's much lower that the Bush administration can get in terms of its domestic agenda, though at times I've felt confused as to just what exactly that is. This makes it the perfect time to get back up on its feet and push forward with much needed reforms. I think the Alito nomination has definitely been the event needed to fire up the Republicans and, afterward, that energy can be projected on other issues like reform of the tax code, immigration, and entitlement programs.

History will judge the Bush administration based on whether it has been able to live up to its promises or not. If President Bush succeeds in creating a democracy in Iraq, he will be judged as successful. If the opposition outmaneuvers him and forces a pullout, and Iraq fails, then Bush will be judged as a failure. The same goes for his domestic policies, but up until this point, he has generally failed at implementing them. Let's see if he can do that, and if he does, then history will judge him as a visionary leader.

Topic 2: I don't really believe that the Democrats have much to gain from either. If they don't fight it, their base will be incredibly disheartened and want a leadership change. Their only chance is to fight, and the merit of their fight in the eyes of the people is what will help or hurt them at the polls.

But aside from the polls, the reason the Alito nomination is so important is because it will draw the Supreme Court closer to the right. And, as we know, the Supreme Court is one of our three most powerful institutions which could take the Democrats decades to get back if they lose it. They'll want to do everything in their power to ensure that a candidate as close to the center as possible is placed in that position.

Now, back to the polls. A fight for the Democrats will liven up their base, but like I said, the merits of their fight will determine whether or not the American public sides with them. They'll need to brand Alito as a far-right ideologue prone to judicial activism. Then they can attempt a filibuster. However, the Republicans seem lined up and ready to support Alito, and they realize the powerful impact of swinging the court to the right, so they'll defeat a filibuster under any circumstances.

The way this could be bad for the Republicans is if the Democrats campaign against Alito and the Republicans don't step up to the challenge of disproving their accusations, something the Republicans are known to be bad about. If they step up, not only will they get their candidate in, but they won't take a hit at the public opinion polls and the Democrats will come out empty handed.

Besides, I think that our electoral districts are so hopelessly gerrymandered that any turnover will be minimal. In a roundabout way, this relates back to my answer about President Bush's legacy. The only way that the Republicans could lose seats at this point is if their supporters stay home on election day, which makes the Alito nomination the starting point for getting the Republicans to come back out and vote in 2006. Otherwise, the Democrats might actually make some gains.

Next we have Rob Port of Say Anything, a return panelist to Pundit Roundtable. Rob?
Topic 1: I don't think Bush's regime will be seen as a failure, but he's always going to be a "bogeyman" to a certain kind of person. Justlike Reagan is now. To this day the mere mention of Reagan's name is enough to set some people off on a rant. I think Bush's situation will be the same for a few decades after his administration. Once we get thirty, forty years out from his term though a lot of the controversy from his administration will fade from memory and he'll be remembered more for what he accomplished. For the most part that will be the liberation of Afghanistan and Iraq and (now I'm speculating about the future) the positive, stabilizing effect that will have on the troubled middle-east region. To a lesser extent he could also be remembered for some fundamental changes to our Social Security program and the tax code, if he ever gets around to those things in his second term. One legacy that will undoubtedly be felt in this country for decades to come is Bush's re-shaping of the federal judiciary. Once Alito is confirmed (and I'm quite confident that he will be) the President will have succeeded in appointing a fair number of judges with an originalist bent. Depending on the cases that come in front of these judges, there is no telling how important this could be. If some terrible rulings like /Roe/ or /Kelo /get overturned a lot of the thanks should go to Bush.

On a negative note, he'll also probably be remembered as the President who signed the Medicare prescription drug entitlement program and the McCain/Feingold campaign finance legislation into law, both of which will undoubtedly be causing problems for us in the next decade or so.

Really, though, it's hard to say what Bush's legacy will be. The media and Hollywood /hates/ Bush, and they (more than anyone else) will be responsible for how we remember his administration. It's been said that history is written by the victors, but in the modern political environment history (for the average citizen) is whatever the media and Hollywood tells us it is. One need look no further than the people who think that JFK was murdered by the CIA because they saw Oliver Stone's movie to see proof of that.

Topic 2: I think that Alito is a bit of a hot potato for the Dems. He was appointed to his current position by a unanimous vote in the Senate, many of those votes coming from some very, very partisan Democrats who are still in the Senate today. It's going to be hard for the Democrats to paint Alito as an "extremist" who is unfit to sit on the Supreme Court after getting that kind of partisan support. And if they want to take a step as extreme as filibustering a Supreme Court nominee (something that has never been done before in the history of this country) they're going to /have/ to try and paint him as an extremist or else look like a bunch of foolish, sniping idiots.

If they fight the Alito appointment with cries of "extremist" and threats to filibuster I think it will end up hurting them in 2006. If they offer some token resistance and then let him pass it won't matter, outside of some resent from the more extreme (read: NARAL, et. al.) wing of the lefty base.

And now we turn to Dean Esmay of Dean's World, also a return guest. Dean, what's on your mind?
Topic 1: The most reliable barometer of a pundit's worth is how reticent he is to pronounce on the verdict of history. The truth is that every President (and most Governors) go through pretty good periods and pretty bad patches. That doesn't even correspond to where they are in their Presidencies. Harry Truman was massively unpopular for a while but rallied to a great election victory in 1948 against Dewey (the famous "Dewey wins!" year). But by the time he left office almost no one liked him, including most in his own party. Now he's viewed as a great or near-great President. Woodrow Wilson was popular and admired much of his time in office but is generally viewed as a failure today. Ronald Reagan had poll numbers this bad during a couple of periods in his presidency and now almost no one even remembers those days.

What will the verdict of history be on Bush? Too early to say, but trying to guess based on how surly voters feel about him at the moment is foolish--just as it would have been dumb to judge him based on his 80-90% approval ratings a few years ago.

Topic 2: Were I advising the Democrats I'd tell them to do the honorable thing and behave as Republicans did when Ginsberg was nominated. An extended fight on this may please some donors but will alienate a lot of others. There comes a point when you tell your donors to pick and choose their battles--even if Roe v. Wade is overturned it doesn't mean abortion becomes illegal and they know it. A big fight on this will NOT make them look good to most moderate voters, and is only likely to result in the "nuclear option" being used anyway.

Here is the host's last word: man, I hardly know what to say after that, those are some great responses. One of the benefits of getting the last word is I get to cherry pick one of the great points made and run with it. I agree with Dean Esmay that the lens of time has made Harry S Truman look like the true hero he is, instead of the unpopular failure he was perceived to be during his tenure as president. I don't detect quite the same breadth of disaffection with Bush, though certainly the disaffection that's out there is deeper, more vehement, and damn-near psychotic in some cases. But, like Truman, I firmly believe that Bush will be vindicated by history,and that the liberation of Iraq will be seen as the turning of the tide that pulled the middle east into the community of nations. Right now, most middle eastern countries resemble bandit clans with seats at the UN, rather than legitimate and responsible nation states, and I think the Iraq War will do more than anything in our lives to change that, both for our benefit and for the benefit of the downtrodden middle eastern masses.

As for the Alito nomination, I hate to say it, but I think the Democrats need to put up a big fight short of a filibuster if they want to have a chance in '06. The Dems constituency needs a fight to whip up the troops and get them in line, and to bring home some big tasty donations. If the Dem leadership didn't at least put up some token resistance, the more heated elements of their base would never forgive them, and who knows, they might even turn to the Green Party. If the Dem leaders aren't there to fight Chimpy McBushitler at every turn, what are they there for?

Finally, I am so glad we got Jay Tea on board, I was persistent with him and it paid off. I have to apologize to him and the other pundits for sending out questions on Saturday. From now on, it's Friday so people have a better chance to respond. Also, Will Franklin could not make it this week, because he is busy changing the spark plugs on his Playstation 2, and I think we all know how involved that can be. He will be back next Sunday though, for our next edition of PUNDIT ROUNDTABLE!

Posted by Ken McCracken · 6 November 2005 11:01 AM · Comments (2)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 207 -- Lower Taxes, Higher Growth.

States As Economic Laboratories-

Alaska, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming have no state income taxes.

New York, California, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Ohio, New Jersey, Maine, and Hawaii have the highest state income taxes.

Notice a pattern?

In 2004, Bush won 7 of 9 of the states with no income tax, but just 1 of 9 of the states with the highest marginal income tax rates.

There are more patterns at play than mere politics. How about economics?


An interesting set of facts:

Relative to the average of the nine states with the highest marginal taxes on personal income, over the course of a decade the average of the nine states without a personal income tax demonstrated:

♦ Faster growth in gross state output (79.7% vs. 62.5%);

♦ Greater personal income growth (77.2% vs. 60.2%);

♦ A much greater increase in total population (17.8% vs. 7.8%), including a net inflow of residents into the nine no-tax states from other states (4.1% of total population) vs. a net outflow of residents from the nine high-tax states to other states (2.2% of total population)

Oh, but there's more.


Yet more important facts:

Relative to the average of the nine states with the highest marginal taxes on personal income, over the course of a decade the average of the nine states without a personal income tax demonstrated:

♦ Much more rapid job creation (22.9% vs. 12.8%);

♦ Only slightly higher personal income per capita growth (50.9% vs. 48.7%); and

♦ Only a very slightly lower unemployment rate (5.1% vs. 5.2%).

Hmm. So... why doesn't each and every state eliminate its state income tax, and why are some folks pushing to add income taxes to the states without them?

Well, there are varying reasons, including the misguided belief that implementing state income taxes will lower sales and/or property taxes. But it mostly just comes down to the addiction to government programs. Politicians are addicted to them. Constituencies are addicted to them. Individuals are addicted to them. And they want more, more, more.

That's just the wrong answer. Taxes do not have a neutral impact on economies. In the short term, it may be tempting to raise taxes to pay for x, y, and z. But that's a great way to drive Americans away, from high tax states to states with lower tax burdens.

More on this to come, including more than just state income taxes.

Texas Public Policy Foundation (.pdf).


Previous Trivia Tidbit: Paris Burning.

Posted by Will Franklin · 5 November 2005 05:11 PM · Comments (1)

Eleanor Clift Gets It Right(?)

Eleanor Clift is one of the more obtuse pundits out there. I cannot recall a single prediction of hers coming true - for example, her bold prediction that John Kerry would win the election last fall, in the face of all polls showing to the contrary, was a typical bit of Clift wishful thinking triumphing over cold hard facts.

Reading Clift columns is very useful though for trying to get a handle on the thoughts of that mushy liberal base of the Democratic Party that thinks Michael Moore goes a little too far, but also thinks Ted Kennedy is a moderate. From Real Clear Politics (the most well-trodden link in my bookmark arsenal) we find this piece from her today entitled Pick Your Battles that outlines some of the self-deluding smugness going on among Dems today. Surprisingly, Clift says the Democrats should forego a scorched-earth attack on Alito, saving the Stalingrad offensive for the fight to replace 85 year-old arch-liberal John Paul Stevens. I give her points for actually being right about this - and I hope her squishy readers approve.

Clift makes a lot of questionable claims in her piece, such as Harry Reid 'shamed' the Republicans by invoking Rule 21 earlier this week. I am not so sure that 'shamed' is the first emotion Republicans felt when Reid pulled this stunt. I think the phrase 'seething outrage' would have been more apt, Eleanor (and 'pathetic desperation to stop Bush momentum' would accurately describe Reid's motives).

Clift also described the Plame Affair as a 'crisis of government', which, if true, must be the quietest and best-hidden crisis any government has ever had to undergo. Again, wishful thinking prevails.

Finally, she invokes the obligatory ghost of Watergate (but oddly forgot Vietnam) to describe the ultimate liberal wet dream: impeachment. Sorry, you can gin up all the outrage you want over the 'lies' that led us into Iraq, but the (yawn) Plame Affair is hardly a cancer on the presidency, and Iraq is not Vietnam.

How odd it is to think that liberals would actually be comforted by a repeat of the Watergate/Vietnam era. Makes you wonder where their priorities lie.

Posted by Ken McCracken · 5 November 2005 09:16 AM · Comments (5)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 206 -- Riotous French.

What Is Behind Those Parisian Riots?-

No doubt by now you've seen the pictures. Paris remains in a state of chaos, after several days and nights of Muslim youth rioting.

So what the heck is going on? Isn't France a bastion of tolerance, understanding, and... free health care? Didn't France oppose the Iraq war and support Saddam Hussein? Doesn't France oppose Israel at every turn? What on earth could be the problem?

Well, unemployment, for one:


Unemployment, however, is more of a symptom of what ails France than a cause of what's going on. Not only are France's socialist economic policies failing, but its pie-in-the-sky social model is crumbling. Muslims keep pouring into France, and France has responded by compartmentalizing them, rather than assimilating them. They've done this in the name of respecting every culture, equally, all the time, no matter what. It means Muslim enclaves run things much the way they were run back home.

"Because that's their culture."

But it's not just a matter of accepting it. It's a matter of endorsing it, of promoting it, with a lavish welfare state.

And the cycle has fed off itself, creating radical demographic changes over the past few decades:

France’s Muslim population, estimated at 5 million, is Western Europe’s largest.

What comes next?

Backlash, most likely, from France's far right. That's not going to be pretty, either.

It's a tricky, embarrassing situation France finds itself in today. It's also sad to see into the future of Europe, if Europe continues to pursue its failed agenda of economic and social experimentation.

Incidentally, the U.S. unemployment rate now stands at 5.0% (.pdf).

This is down from the post-9/11 peak of 6.3%:


And yet, Democrats want to talk about the American economy like we're some sort of third world country. We need to be more "progressive," they say. They want to move us closer to the French social model.

How L'Dumb.


Previous Trivia Tidbit: Laffer Curve.

Posted by Will Franklin · 4 November 2005 12:09 PM · Comments (2)

Quotational Therapy: Part 55 -- Elie Wiesel, On Indifference To Evil.

Elie Wiesel, On Indifference-

"The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference."

-Elie Wiesel.


On April 12, 1999, holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel spoke on the perils of indifference to evil in the world:

We are on the threshold of a new century, a new millennium. What will the legacy of this vanishing century be? How will it be remembered in the new millennium? Surely it will be judged, and judged severely, in both moral and metaphysical terms. These failures have cast a dark shadow over humanity: two World Wars, countless civil wars, the senseless chain of assassinations (Gandhi, the Kennedys, Martin Luther King, Sadat, Rabin), bloodbaths in Cambodia and Nigeria, India and Pakistan, Ireland and Rwanda, Eritrea and Ethiopia, Sarajevo and Kosovo; the inhumanity in the gulag and the tragedy of Hiroshima. And, on a different level, of course, Auschwitz and Treblinka. So much violence; so much indifference.

What is indifference? Etymologically, the word means "no difference." A strange and unnatural state in which the lines blur between light and darkness, dusk and dawn, crime and punishment, cruelty and compassion, good and evil. What are its courses and inescapable consequences? Is it a philosophy? Is there a philosophy of indifference conceivable? Can one possibly view indifference as a virtue? Is it necessary at times to practice it simply to keep one's sanity, live normally, enjoy a fine meal and a glass of wine, as the world around us experiences harrowing upheavals?

Of course, indifference can be tempting -- more than that, seductive. It is so much easier to look away from victims. It is so much easier to avoid such rude interruptions to our work, our dreams, our hopes. It is, after all, awkward, troublesome, to be involved in another person's pain and despair. Yet, for the person who is indifferent, his or her neighbor are of no consequence. And, therefore, their lives are meaningless. Their hidden or even visible anguish is of no interest. Indifference reduces the Other to an abstraction.

Read and/or listen to the entire speech here.

These comments go right along with the "never again" attitude toward genocide and evil all politicians profess to have. How many have the courage to do something about it?


Previous Quotational Therapy Session:

Good People With Bad Ideas.

The right quote can be therapeutic, so tune in to WILLisms.com for quotational therapy every Monday and Friday.

Posted by Will Franklin · 4 November 2005 08:25 AM · Comments (0)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 205 -- Laffer Curve.

Laffer's Laughing Somewhere, Because He's Right Again-

If you are a frequent reader of conservative publications, blogs, and such, this tidbit probably isn't for you. It's not that you won't appreciate it, it's just that this phenomenon is not at all surprising or shocking.

For most people, though, it may come as a shock that even after all of Bush's "tax cuts for the rich," revenues coming into Uncle Sam's house are WAY THE HECK UP:


The revenue strength has produced an interesting, little-reported fact:

The deficit is now down to 2.57 percent of GDP — a clearly manageable level and far lower than other war-time budget situations.

Do you remember all of the budget hand-wringing during last’s year’s election? “Exploding deficits as far as the eye can see,” the “Rosy scenario,” the alleged suppression of the fiscal impact of the Medicare drug benefit, and the “exploding” cost of the Iraq war, which we were reminded again and again had “not yet been factored into the budget.”

This, of course, is good and bad all at once. But mostly good, obviously. It proves that the booming economy isn't all in our heads. It shows that business activity is thriving. It shows that more people have jobs-- and higher paying ones.

But it also might play into that terrible ratcheting up effect that happens in government. It makes bigger government-- the leviathan-- somehow "okay."

And when revenues decline again one day (and they will decline), it makes the pain of deficits even worse than they would have been.

Again, it's likely that you, the WILLisms.com reader, already knew all of this, or at least had a vague idea about it, but it's time we reach a national consensus on the benefits of tax relief (a national acknowledgment of the booming economy itself would also be nice).

Indeed, if and when we reform our tax code, we should not pretend that changes would have a neutral effect on the economy. We should also avoid "revenue neutral" silliness, which really just means cutting here and raising there. So often media folks and politicians fall into the trap of saying things like, "we will lose x amount of revenue with these tax cuts."

Well, maybe. For a year or two.

But after the tax relief produces growth in the economy, the revenues will pour in at an even greater rate. Over a several year period, tax cuts almost always produce greater revenues than would have been collected with no cuts.

It's not brain surgery or anything, but it is counter-intuitive for many. That's why we have to continue to get this news out there.


Previous Trivia Tidbit: Split Ticket Voting.

Posted by Will Franklin · 3 November 2005 02:48 PM · Comments (1)

Social Security Reform Thursday: Week Thirty-Nine -- Broken Benefit Calculation Formula.


Thursdays are good days for reform, because they fall between Wednesdays and Fridays. And reform is a long-haul process, not a fleeting event. So we're going to keep plugging along with the case for reform, even as the issue goes off the political radar screen.

That's why WILLisms.com offers a chart or graph, every Thursday, pertinent to Social Security reform.

This week's topic:

Dual-Income Families & Retirement Benefits.

The Social Security benefit formula is outdated. Even as more American couples both work, the system is often biased toward single income earners.

For example, note these two families, one with a single income, the other with two incomes, making the same income (.pdf):


The American Institute for Full Employment (.pdf).

If that money had been in a private investment account, there would be no weirdness such as this. Money is money, earnings are earnings, and as long as two families put the same investment amount into same personal account plan, there is no such thing as "well, did this couple earn the money separately, or did only of them one earn it?"

If you'd like, you can play with the official Social Security benefit calculators at SSA.gov. See for yourself just how confusing and unfair the benefit formula can be.

A reformed Social Security system would allow Americans to maximize their retirement dollars, not according to the arbitrary and complicated calculations of any government bureaucrat, but through the power of the free enterprise system.

It's time for reform.

The clock is ticking.


Previous Reform Thursday graphics can be seen here:

-Week One (Costs Exceed Revenues).
-Week Two (Social Security Can't Pay Promised Benefits).
-Week Three (Americans Getting Older).
-Week Three, bonus (The Templeton Curve).
-Week Four (Fewer Workers, More Retirees).
-Week Five (History of Payroll Tax Base Increases).
-Week Six (Seniors Living Longer).
-Week Six, bonus (Less Workers, More Beneficiaries).
-Week Seven (History of Payroll Tax Increases).
-Week Seven, bonus (Personal Accounts Do Achieve Solvency).
-Week Eight (Forty Year Trend Of Increasing Mandatory Spending).
-Week Nine (Diminishing Benefits Sans Reform).
-Week Ten (Elderly Dependence On Social Security).
-Week Eleven (Entitlement Spending Eating The Budget).
-Week Twelve (Benefit Comparison, Bush's Plan versus No Plan).
-Week Thirteen (Younger Americans and Lifecycle Funds).
-Week Fourteen (The Thrift Savings Plan).
-Week Fifteen (Understanding Progressive Indexing).
-Week Sixteen (The Graying of America).
-Week Seventeen (Debunking Myths).
-Week Eighteen (Debunking Myths).
-Week Nineteen (Reform Needed Sooner Rather Than Later).
-Week Twenty (Global Success With Personal Accounts).
-Week Twenty-One (GROW Accounts: Stopping The Raid).
-Week Twenty-Two (Millions of Lockboxes).
-Week Twenty-Three (Support for Ryan-DeMint).
-Week Twenty-Four (KidSave Accounts).
-Week Twenty-Five (Latinos and Social Security).
-Week Twenty-Six (AmeriSave).
-Week Twenty-Seven (Cost Of Doing Nothing).
-Week Twenty-Eight (Chile).
-Week Twenty-Nine (Entitlement Spending Out Of Control).
-Week Thirty (Reform Better Deal Than Status Quo).
-Week Thirty-One (Social Security As A Labor Cost).
-Week Thirty-Two (Social Security And Dependence On Government).
-Week Thirty-Three (Social Security, Currently A Bad Deal For African-Americans).
-Week Thirty-Four (Longer Life Expectancies Straining Social Security).
-Week Thirty-Five (Howard Dean & Salami).
-Week Thirty-Six (Growing Numbers of Beneficiaries Draining Social Security).
-Week Thirty-Seven (The Crisis Is Now).
-Week Thirty-Eight (Disability Benefits).

Tune into WILLisms.com each Thursday for more important graphical data supporting Social Security reform.

Posted by Will Franklin · 3 November 2005 09:27 AM · Comments (3)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 204 -- Split Ticket Voting.

Polarization Is Real-

In 2004, there was less ticket splitting than in any election since 1944 (.pdf):


America is indeed becoming more geographically and culturally polarized. Increasingly, voters are clustering together in ideological and partisan enclaves, both left and right.

Interestingly, the fastest growing enclaves also happen to be some of the most Republican-leaning. What is puzzling is how much of the polarization is people actually moving to places where they can feel at home, and how much of it is people taking on the values of those around them.

One thing is pretty clear, though: 2004 was an election that made people think about their values and ideas. It was an election that made people choose sides. No longer were the two parties "indistinguishable," as some argued in the years preceding 2004. No longer were the two parties appealing strictly to the great American center. No longer were the messages and platforms quite so muddled.

No, people had a choice, and they made their choice.

Thus, it was an election that should have meant something, policy-wise. It remains to be seen whether the mandate will indeed be actualized.


Previous Trivia Tidbit: Medicare Crisis & Solution.

Posted by Will Franklin · 2 November 2005 08:40 AM · Comments (3)

Wednesday Caption Contest: Part 29.

This week's WILLisms.com Caption Contest photograph:


The actual caption:

Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) (R), speaks about a rare closed Senate session to protest what Democrats decried as the Republican-led body's inattention to intelligence failures on Iraq and the leak of a CIA operative's identity, as Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) listens on Capitol Hill in Washington November 1, 2005. Invoking a rarely-used rule, Democrats temporarily shut down television cameras in the chamber, cleared galleries of tourists and other onlookers, forced removal of staff members and recording devices and stopped work on legislation. REUTERS/Jim Young

Surely there's a better caption for this photograph.

Entries will remain open until 11:59 PM, Central Standard Time, Tuesday, November 8. Submit your captions in the comments section, or email at WILLisms@gmail.com.

Last week's photo:


Winners from last week:


Mr. Right:

Presenting the cover art for the upcoming album, "Flabbey Road"!

Due to his being barefoot and out of step with the others, this photo soon began a series of "Sakamoto is dead" rumors.


Gaijin Biker:

Sumo loincloths: The only outfit guaranteed to stop New York subway-platform cops from searching you.



Edwin grinned in frustration as he realized that he, once again, had worn a white mawashi after Labor Day.

Honorable Mention #1


Three suspected Islamic militants are released from Guantanamo Bay's "Camp X-Ray," an American run detention facility that Amnesty International has described as a "modern Gulag" where the food is "barely fit for human consumption."

Honorable Mention #2

Rodney Dill:

Fred was suddenly embarrassed and became afraid he would stick out in the crowd, when he realized he'd forgotten his sandals.

Captioning is way more awesome than pretty much anything else.

Enter today!

Posted by Will Franklin · 2 November 2005 12:19 AM · Comments (32)

Some Call It A Bonfire (Or Carnival) Of Classiness...

We call it "Classiness, All Around Us."


Click to explore more WILLisms.com.

In no particular order, WILLisms.com presents classiness from the blogosphere:


Why Communism Could Never Work-


Viking Pundit offers a quick anecdote on Halloween and Communism:

Tonight I sat on my front porch with a large bowl full of candy. When kids came, I extended the bowl and they usually took one, maybe two pieces. Then, before we sat down for dinner, I filled the bowl to the top and placed a sign: "take one." Midway through dinner, the bowl was empty; this was repeated ten minutes later. Basically more candy was taken in 20 minutes than in the previous (supervised) two hours.

From each, according to his abilities; to each, according to his candy cravings.


Blame France-


By Dawn's Early Light blog explains that India and Brazil should be irritated with the Europeans, not the Americans, for farm subsidies:

The European Union, by French veto power, is the stumbling block in making major agriculture trade reform. This apparent arrogance directly impacts Brazilian and Indian farmers and should be a good reminder of where French interests lie: with Chirac's short-term best interests. France's actions are like a spoiled child who has been indulged for far too long. The US, Eastern European farming nations, Brazil and India, along with the African nations, should continue to apply pressure on France to reform its farm policies and rightfully link other issues of international relations to produce change.

Free trade is, by definition, a multi-lateral act, essentially requiring unanimous and simultaneous dropping of barriers. It's interesting that, yet again, France is the unilateral spoiler in an important global economic reform.


Unhinged Liberals-


Michelle Malkin has written a book (Unhinged: Exposing Liberals Gone Wild) that I will be picking up ASAP (you can buy it by clicking here), chronicling the outrageousness of liberals:

The views of unhinged liberals are no longer relegated to the private remarks of a few Democrat politicians or the bloviations of a few fringe figures on the far Left. The syndrome is far more pervasive, intense, and sanctimoniously self-delusional than anything on the Right.

And she's absolutely correct. Sure, both sides have bad apples at nearly every level, but the brazen viciousness from the left has gotten way out of hand in recent years.


Borking Alito-


Ace of Spades HQ blog tells those with visions of borking Samuel Alito "thanks for trying," but it's not going to fly:

If liberals are going to contend that how they read the constitution is all but inevitable -- simply reading the words and putting them into action -- then the American public can say, "Well, if all of this interpretation so unavoidably flows from simply reading the Constitution, why can't a well-qualified and intellectually-capable judge of a conservative bent do just as good a job as Ruth Ginsberg?" That is, if, as liberals claim, Constitutional interpretation allows for precious little political shenanigans -- which they claim when they say the Constitution commands this or that -- then there's little harm of letting a conservative, well-qualified judge with a long appellate history interpret it. After all, isn't the Constitution terribly clear about the right to abortion, for example?

Alito, like John Roberts, was a pick that reasonable people will have quite a difficult time opposing. If Democrats want to make this a party-line vote, they'll merely be exposing themselves as an entire party of unreasonable individuals.


Gifts Of Life-


Quid Nimis explains her support for the Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD) Gifts of Life program:

I want my money to go to the needy, not to line the pockets of charity functionaries and bureaucrats. I do not give to the International Red Cross or to any UN-based charity like UNICEF. I also rule out the Heifer Project, whose concept is very similar to parts of the ERD campaign described above. My objection to HP is entirely subjective: their catalogue is full to the brim of cloying pictures of Hollywood stars hugging little animals and endorsing the this charity. The first red flag is that they have a glossy, highly produced catalogue that they send out in a mass mailing. The second, for me, is the trendiness appeal ("Look, all of these cool celebrities are giving to this charity!"). My scepticism hits stratospheric levels when I note which stars are adorning the pages, hugging baby goats and bunnies: Ted Danson, Mary Steenbergen, Ed Asner, Susan Sarandon, et al. It looks like a Who's Who of Hollywood's Outspoken Leftist Has-Been Club.

A nice post, and something to remember when disaster strikes. Some of the better charities and relief organizations out there have no advertisements, no celebrity endorsements, and no prominent league-sponsored promotions during the NFL or MLB.


Lincoln Chafee, Worst Republican Senator-


Ankle Biting Pundits notes that, once again, Lincoln Chafee has hurt the Republican Party and the American people while siding with Democrats to kill legislation to streamline the building of new refineries:

There he is folks, Lincoln Chafee a profile in courage.

I would actually have more respect for Chafee if he offered an amendment outlining how he thought the problem could be solved. Such an amendment would include a tax increase on energy, a ban on exploration and raising fuel-economy standards to a point where the average Joe couldn't afford an SUV. At least then there would be a debate in which we could engage him, and win....

Most people who claim to be in the "middle" are really people with no real positions on anything - other than "concern".

The NRSC (National Republican Senatorial Committee) committed a blunder by prominently featuring Lincoln Chafee as an example of a Republican Senator in need of our help. The man is terrible. In another several years, we can only hope that the GOP will have picked off all those Democrats from conservative states. If that happens, the GOP can banish idiots like Lincoln Chafee, rededicate itself to core principles, and watch the fundraising and grassroots support take off.


Sheehan's 18th Minute-


Babalu Blog notes that Cindy Sheehan is going to be teaming up with a certain anti-American pseudo-dictator from Venezuela to protest President Bush:

...Cindy, Hugito and Diego, all together at fidel's behest.

Turns out these three lowlife will be protesting President Bush's arrival in Argentina later this week, just as castro planned.


It's a little bit funny just how much respect this Cindy Sheehan character received over the summer. What a joke she always was. Now, maybe some of her more reasonable defenders will finally see just how ridiculous she is.

Incidentally, one of my favorite t-shirts is this one sent by Babalu (Val) a couple months back.


Schumer & Rosa-


Matt May notes that Chuck Schumer has sunk to new lows, even for him:

It shouldn't be a surprise anymore, yet statements like Sen. Schumer's never cease to amaze and shock, nor does the general behavior of the Democratic Party. They should be ashamed, but that would require a conscience and that seems to have slipped away from this party a long, long time ago.

I happened to catch the statement live on television, and my jaw dropped a little bit. Schumer kept saying "Rosa Parks," over and over, in prepared remarks, asserting that Samuel Alito would use his position to reverse the things Rosa Parks "sat" for.

It was just vile.

And, more importantly, it was just so over the top that it is difficult to imagine anyone actually nodding in agreement.


Jay Tea & Rosa Parks-


Speaking of Rosa Parks, Jay Tea of Wizbang has a thoroughly classy tribute to the woman:

Rosa Parks is not a black icon. She was not the liberator of a race. She was an American legend, and she helped free an entire nation of a toxic system. And as one who stood to inherit some small part of the power structure she helped topple, as one who may have led a life of privilege if it hadn't been for her, I will be eternally grateful.

See, Senator Schumer, this is how you do it.

And Jay Tea makes a great point. It would be unfortunate for Rosa Parks to be treated as an exclusively black hero, compartmentalized into history lessons in the month of February. It would also be unfortunate for Senators like Charles Schumer to continue treating Rosa Parks, and all that she represents, as his own party's property, exploiting her memory for the sake of making a cheap political speech.


The Nuclear Option-


Right Wing Nut House is sick of liberals treating mainstream conservative jurists as enemies of America:

It will be interesting over the next few weeks to watch as liberal special interest groups try and hold Democratic Senators’ feet to the fire on filibustering this nominee. If they wish to make their Senators walk the plank by trying to block someone that anyone with more than a passing interest in current events will be able to see is well qualified to sit on the Supreme Court, let them have at it. The old political axiom “Never get in the way of your opponent when they’re in the process of destroying themselves” should be in effect for next November’s mid terms.

Funny enough, Harry Reid is now predicting that, because of Bush, Democrats are going to take back the United States Senate in 2006.

Yeah, good luck with... all... that.


Also, don't forget to check out all the old Trivia Tidbits Of the Day, the Reform Thursday series, the Quotational Therapy sessions, the latest Pundit Roundtable, and the Wednesday Caption Contest (entries are due each Tuesday at 11:59 PM Central Standard Time).

Last Week's Classiness Certification from WILLisms.com:

*October 25, 2005.

WILLisms.com offers a weekly classiness roundup as a weekly feature, every Tuesday, with 10 blog posts deemed classy. The criteria for submissions: incisive original analysis, quirky topics nobody else is covering, fantastic graphics, or other posts that took a lot of work. We love to spread the word on upcoming blogs, being that WILLisms.com also fits that description. If you would like to nominate a post on your blog or another blog for inclusion, email us at WILLisms@gmail.com. Write "Classy Nomination" in the subject. You can also utilize this page to make your submissions. The deadline is each Monday at 11:59 PM Central Time.


Posted by Will Franklin · 1 November 2005 12:32 PM · Comments (2)

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 203 -- Medicaid.

Medicaid Reform-

Republican U.S. Representative Joe Barton of Texas has an important op-ed in the Washington Times:

Here are the basics: Medicaid is a unique federal-state partnership designed to provide health care for poor people. It is welfare, not an earned benefit like Medicare or Social Security. Nobody ever paid a tax into a Medicaid trust fund and then was repaid with a benefit. The federal taxpayer pays about 57 percent of the tab, and states pay the rest. Medicaid currently covers 50 million people and costs $300 billion. It is already the biggest item in many state budgets, exceeding even K-12 education.

Between 2000 and 2005, the national Medicaid caseload increased by 40 percent. Federal and state costs have risen 56 percent over the past six years.

Read the entire thing. He's got solutions, as well. Solutions are awesome!


Previous Trivia Tidbit: George Bush Cares About Black People.

Posted by Will Franklin · 1 November 2005 08:49 AM · Comments (0)