What do Sept 11 and ObamaCare have in common? Both were “game changers.” In neither case should we blame the politicians responsible for the events leading up to those “game changers” overmuch. In the aftermath of Sept 11, many pundits blamed Pres. Clinton for failing to act decisively on the issue of Islamic Terrorism. Andrew Sullivan wrote the most comprehensive such critique of the Big Creep, “An AWOL President.” My attitude toward these things has never been one to blame Clinton or as some on the Left would do, blame George W. Bush. My attitude has been this: in retrospect, Clinton and his predecessors should have done more and they look foolish in retrospect, and had they known what would happen they would have done more. They didn’t know and they shouldn’t be overly blamed (nor overly praised) for missing something that very, very few saw. The real failure is the failure to react to the event intelligently after it happened. In this, Sept 11 was not like the run up to World War II, which any prudent statesman could see coming and should have acted to prevent. I do blame Neville Chamberlain, but I do not blame Bill Clinton.
ObamaCare is similar. Conservatives might have embraced the individual mandate in one form or another before the passage of ObamaCare. That mandate was always connected to a much different, more market-based solution to health care reform. So I can’t blame them for embracing it as a solution to the “free rider problem” of people not buying health insurance and then abusing the system after sickness arrives. Mitt Romney was the “conservative” candidate in 2008, but ObamaCare changes things and he is the “somewhat conservative” or “moderate” candidate in 2012 because of this game changer. Rick Santorum backed Romney in 2008 and called him “conservative” in doing so; but ObamaCare “changes everything” in this respect and once Romney decided to defend much of the basic structure of ObamaCare, it was difficult to call him the “conservative” candidate.
I must confess to thinking Romney the Richard Nixon of this election. He may be able to win, but what he will do as President may be to validate Obama’s Presidency in much the same way that Nixon ran against the Great Society and then validated it and expanding it. That would not be something for conservatives to fight for. Romney may and would have been perfectly acceptable in 2008; his “acceptability” is much less today because he is the pre-ObamaCare candidate.
One argument against Rick Santorum’s candidacy is that he was shellacked in the 2006 election in his home state. First, Bill Clinton and George Bush had both lost elections in their lives—as had Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson and other luminaries. It is not that Santorum lost that matters; it is that he was shellacked and, so the argument goes, only a loser is shellacked.
Santroum won election in 1994, among many Republican Senators in that wave election for Republicans. Republicans won states that they have no business winning in that year. Santorum won Pennsylvania (49%-47%) against incumbent Harris Wofford (though Pennsylvania hasn’t voted for a Republican President since 1988). Spencer Abraham won Michigan (52%-43%), though Michigan wouldn’t vote for t Republican President since 88. Mike DeWine won Ohio (54%-40%) in a state that hadn’t had a Republican Senator at that time for over 20 years; John Ashcroft won an open seat in Missouri (60%-36%). Let’s say that these senators are the Midwest contingent of 1994 senators that were somewhat surprising winners and would have a relatively difficult time holding their seats. No one would have a more difficult time than Santorum and Abraham, neither of whom had been elected statewide before as Ashcroft (a former governor) and DeWine (a lt. governor) had. (This makes them akin to someone like Mark Begich of Alaska today for the Democrats).
Only Santorum and DeWine survived 2000 among these senators. Santorum defeated Rod Klink (a Congressman) 52%-46%, even while George W. Bush was losing the state 51%-46%. Abraham lost to Debbie Stabenow 50%-48%, , while Bush was losing Michigan by 51%-46%. Ashcroft lost a nail biter to former Gov. Mel Carnahan (who died in a plane crash a week before the election) 51%-49%, while Bush won Missouri 50%-47%. DeWine won 60%-36%, while Bush was winning 50-46%. Both Santorum and DeWine won by running ahead of the national ticket, while the losers fell behind the national ticket.
2006 saw the decisive defeat of both Santorum and DeWine. Santorum lost 59%-41% against Attorney General Bob Casey Jr., son of fabled governor and someone who professed to be conservative on many of the issues Santorum was conservative on. DeWine lost 56%-44% to a very left-wing representative Sheldon Brown. Santorum’s total went down 11%, while DeWine’s went down 16%. 4 Republican incumbents went down in the House in PA, while 1 seat switched from Rep to Dem in Ohio. Ed Rendell was winning a 60%-40% victory over Lynn Swann in PA, while “Red” Ted Strickland was winning a 60%-37% over Ken Blackwell in OH.
Santorum’s 2006 defeat must be weighed against his 2000 victory. 2006 was a horrible year for Republicans, and Santorum ran as a candidate doubling down on the war in Iraq (not trimming, as DeWine did). Perhaps this was not smart politics. Perhaps Santorum knew that he could not run from his positions on this and tried to make a virtue out of necessity. Perhaps, and I think this most likely, he really believed in 2006 that the war on terror is an important public policy just as he really believes that repeal of Obamacare is really important today. He is good on this issue, I think, and I think that that issue will prove more popular with the public than his stance on terror was in 2006.
In any event, he lost badly, though he survived pretty long in a tough environment and did not do as badly as many. He met the perfect Democratic candidate for the state and was trounced. Is Barack Obama as good a fit for the US as Bob Casey appeared to be for PA in 2006? Is Santorum more a fit candidate for the US in 2012 than he was in PA in 2006? Those are the questions. To put this another way, and less charitably: Santorum did get whooped in 2006, but it was not as big a fall anyways. He was never that popular in Pennsylvania to begin with and he lost to someone ideally situated to beat him.
Does not tonight show that Newt’s candidacy is toast? Sure, he did win Georgia decisively, but he is finishing either third or fourth in every other (or nearly every other) primary or caucus. Why stay in the race? Does he have pet causes significantly different than the other candidates (like Ron Paul does)? If not, it’s time to go back home and re-assess your candidacy, which is a euphemism for leaving the race.
Why do we still have affirmative action programs? I should be clear that I do not think that affirmative action programs violate the Constitution and I am not opposed to affirmative action in principle (for the right reasons). Congress has been given broad enforcement powers under the 14th Amendment to secure the privileges and immunities of citizenship. Sometimes, taking race into account could be necessary to secure those privileges and immunities. For instance, it would have been difficult for a freedman to get a fair trial in South Carolina in 1875 if the jury consisted entirely of white men; in this case, a fair trial might very well require the presence of racial quotas on the jury so that a black man could not get railroaded due to racial prejudice. Affirmative action might well help remedy present discrimination in certain circumstances, that is. We will always have to get down to particulars in figuring out whether affirmative action is required in any situation; I think that few such circumstances exist today. (It is notable that this argument does not even make the top 9 arguments for affirmative action as listed by one scholar.)
This is also NOT the argument that contemporary advocates of affirmative action make. They emphasize “diversity” mostly in public and see affirmative action as a remedy for past discrimination mostly in their academic writings. Neither argument is particularly good. William Voegeli brings his usual wit and learning to these questions.
Let us begin with the idea that Americans generally–conservatives and liberals–believe that everyone deserves a fair chance. Perhaps affirmative action supporters could link their policy to this laudable goal. Or perhaps not. As Voegeli writes,
We – as a society, not just through public policies – should do so through good schools, safe and cohesive neighborhoods, strong families, voluntary organizations that deepen an ethos of caring and sharing, a vigorous economy that expands opportunities, and by strengthening the ties of affection and respect that bind Americans as Americans closer together by transcending race, class, faith, and ethnicity.
Affirmative action policies, however, do not contribute to this outcome. In fact, study after study show that affirmative action ends up over-placing underrepresented groups at colleges and universities where they will be less likely to succeed and where they end up in less rigorous majors. This does the institution no good and it does the student no good.
When push comes to shove, the diversity argument and the compensatory justice argument conflict with one another and defenders of affirmative action have to choose. This argument has been made clearly by Ilya Somin here and here. If it is about diversity, then it is entirely possible that American blacks will be underrepresented in admissions processes. This happened years ago at Harvard, when, in the view of the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. (don’t laugh) too many black immigrants from the West Indies and Africa itself were being admitted. Affirmative Action, said the Rev. Jackson, was a program designed for those previously consigned to the children of servitude who suffered moral turpitude. Or he said something like that. Diversity should include many ethnic groups that are not currently included or who are overrepresented, such as Japanese Americans. Ignoring these groups shows that the diversity argument is not the real argument–the real argument is about compensatory justice.
On their own terms, defenders of affirmative action must ask themselves the following questions. ”How big a head start should blacks be given now to make up for the discrimination blacks endured for many years? How long should that head start be given to them? With deference to the late Whitney Houston How will we know when affirmative action has succeeded and can be retired?”
More later on the compensatory justice argument. Voegeli’s piece is great, though it is not the final word.
The Oscars bore down upon us like a ton of bricks (at least in my house), and there is nothing like a theater full of rich people showering themselves with allocation and applause to remind us of public policy. One of the films nominated is A Better Life, which chronicles the life of an illegal immigrant and his son. Now, I’m no Gene Siskel, but the film as a film is very good. It also addresses many of the themes that surround immigration policy. I recommend it with two thumbs up.
Most public policy evokes some degree of emotion, and immigration policy is no exception. Emotion is not an illegitimate form of decision making. Anectodotal experience is often a driver of policy. In my work on immigration policy, however, I try to take the anecdotes and put them in the larger picture; look for empirical evidence. Its the difference between individual analysis and institutional analysis. I’m not suggesting either one is more correct than the other, it’s simply the lens that I use.
One of the greatest challenges of doing research in the field of immigration policy and management is the inability of decision makers and policy entrepreneurs to articulate terms. What does the term, “immigration,” mean? To some, immigration connotes a threat or change to the social and/or political fabric of America. To others, immigration may be synonymous with the economic environment, that is to say, immigrants are either a vital component to the open market model, or have an adverse effect on the economic balance of supply and demand. If these competing explanations are NOT clearly articulated, useful policy discussions tend to digress into pithy debates with policymakers or citizens talking past one another.
To deal with these challenges, I have adapted a framework I call the Optimal Immigration Framework. The basis of the framework is in the economic construction of costs versus benefits. Without often saying it, most people who are concerned with immigration are concerned about costs and benefits. In a word, illegal immigration either costs the country millions of dollars in lost revenues and payment for social services, or benefits the country by keeping costs low and competitive, providing a workforce that is willing to do work otherwise undesirable. In this podcast, I explain the nuts and bolts of the Optimal Immigration Framework, and some of the potential for it’s use. I also introduce some systematic analysis of the perceived costs of undocumented students and lack of empirical evidence to support the claim that as the number of undocumented students increases, test scores go down. The full manuscript with our complete analysis is available here.
There is much work to be done in both the applied and theoretical immigration policy arenas. We are introducing the beginning of what will be, hopefully, an exhaustive research project.
I was almost reduced to tears at the acquittal and exoneration of the Brewer’s slugger and reigning National League MVP Ryan Braun. A great player, wonderful teammate, and man of character. I am not going to say I told you so to my SoG colleague, but. . well. . .I think that I predicted this. Oh heck. I told you so!!
Might there be a new consensus forming on the problems associated with the decline of marriage and family life?
Charles Murray’s recent book, captured in an article here, argues that America is becoming a caste society. There are no permanent or legal barriers between the upper classes and the poorer classes, but there is a dramatic cultural difference between the two. Those cultural differences related mostly to marriage and family life. Considering only whites, 84% of women in our new upper class are married with children, while merely 48% of the women in our new lower class marry. These numbers are connected with other numbers—the upper classes are more religious and attend church weekly; single parenthood is still very much out of the norm among the upper classes (6% of children are born out of wedlock), while the national rate is 44%; the upper classes work and find fulfillment in work.
Not surprisingly, the amazing decline of fatherlessness is connected with great social pathologies such as crime,lack of educational achievement, drug use, poor family life for the children (perpetuating the cycle), dependence on government programs, excessive television and video game playing, poor reading and writing skills, and so on.
For those who pay any attention to family sociology, none of these findings are particularly new or surprising. Kay Hymowitz has shown this is true in her Marriage and Caste in America; David Blankenhorn in his Fatherless America; David Popenoe in his Life without Father. My book is also not silent on these matters.
Now we have a new shooter, the New York Times. The upper classes practice an easy-going relativism in theory—they say that all forms of family life are equal or whatever floats your boat—but in reality or in action, they live according to a pretty well laid out plan—college, marriage, children. The lower classes value family life much more (perhaps because they lack it), but practice what the upper classes preach. This is our situation as presented in the Times’ article. The discrepancies are worse among blacks and Latinos. The basic trend has been in this direction for the past thirty years: children and adults need families to thrive and many children and adults still do thrive today in marriage and family life; but the legacy of this institution are being progressively lost among the lower classes. This intractable problem cannot be solved by government programs nor by the easy going relativism of the upper classes. Just what will it take?
Prof Yenor will be the featured speaker at the Ada County Lincoln Day event on Thursday February 23rd. Come one, come all and experience the wisdom or whatever.
Professors Scott Yenor and Greg Hill are beginning a blog about governmental affairs and politics. Why? It’s not illegal, and we have lots to say. Prof. Yenor is currently the chair of political science and Prof. Hill is chair of public administration at Boise State University. Yenor earned his PHD from Loyola University Chicago, and Hill from Texas A&M. Yenor is the bald one; Hill the one with hair.