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Posts Tagged ‘George Will’
July 9th, 2013 at 7:05 pm
Resistance, on the Grapevine
Posted by Troy Senik Print

Make what you will of the fact that the most provocative stories in the Washington Post come from the Style section, but this one is a doozy:

KERMAN, Calif. — In the world of dried fruit, America has no greater outlaw than Marvin Horne, 68.

Horne, a raisin farmer, has been breaking the law for 11 solid years. He now owes the U.S. government at least $650,000 in unpaid fines. And 1.2 million pounds of unpaid raisins, roughly equal to his entire harvest for four years.

For what offense has our scofflaw earned the contempt of the state? I’ll tell you, but you should probably take a moment to get any sharp objects out of your immediate vicinity:

He said no to the national raisin reserve.

“I believe in America. And I believe in our Constitution. And I believe that eventually we will be proved right,” Horne said recently, sitting in an office next to 20 acres of ripening Thompson grapes. “They took our raisins and didn’t pay us for them.”

The national raisin reserve might sound like a fever dream of the Pillsbury Doughboy. But it is a real thing — a 64-year-old program that gives the U.S. government a heavy-handed power to interfere with the supply and demand for dried grapes.

It works like this: In a given year, the government may decide that farmers are growing more raisins than Americans will want to eat. That would cause supply to outstrip demand. Raisin prices would drop. And raisin farmers might go out of business.

To prevent that, the government does something drastic. It takes away a percentage of every farmer’s raisins. Often, without paying for them.

This, by the way, is not a novel approach for the feds. Back in 2007, George Will noted the practical realities that had galvanized the otherwise moderate (then)Senator Richard Lugar to oppose farm subsidies:

Time was, Riley Webster Lugar, a Hoosier farmer, vociferously disapproved of the New Deal policy of killing baby pigs to control supply in the hope of raising prices. When his son Marvin ran the family farm, if a cashier giving him change included a Franklin Roosevelt dime, he would slap the offending coin on the counter and denounce the New Deal policy of supporting commodity prices by controlling supply — by limiting the freedom to plant.

Today, Marvin’s son Dick is carrying on two family traditions — running the farm and resenting the remarkable continuity connecting today’s farm policies with the New Deal’s penchant for economic planning. The grandson, now 75, is again trying to reform what Franklin Roosevelt wrought.

Lugar is gone from the Senate now, but let’s hope that members of Congress taking up a monstrosity of a farm bill can find the time and will to carve up all provisions that irrationally demand artificial scarcity as a means to abundance.

January 17th, 2013 at 8:02 pm
Questions for Hagel

George Will has some excellent questions that should be put to Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel in the latter’s upcoming confirmation hearings.  Here are my three favorites:

●Do you agree with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s judgment that cuts under sequestration would “hollow out the force”? Can you give examples of procurements or deployments that justify your description of the Defense Department as “bloated”?

●Congress’s power to declare war has atrophied since it was last exercised (against Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary on June 5, 1942). Should Congress authorize America’s wars?

●Speaking of the imperial presidency, do you believe that the use of drones to target specific individuals means presidents have an unreviewable power to kill whomever they define as enemies? Do you favor “signature strikes,” wherein drones attack not identifiable individuals but groups of young males whose characteristics match the “signature” of terrorists?

Read the whole list here.

July 2nd, 2012 at 12:08 pm
No Silver Linings
Posted by Troy Senik Print

As the pessimist-in-residency at CFIF, I have to unhappily report that I find it virtually impossible to muster an interpretation of the Supreme Court’s ObamaCare decision as optimistic as the one that Tim notes below from George Will.

My thoughts track most closely with those of my friend and podcast partner John Yoo (you can hear me lead John and Richard Epstein in a discussion of the ObamaCare decision here). Here’s John, writing over the weekend in the Wall Street Journal:

Conservatives are scrambling to salvage something from the decision of their once-great judicial hero [Chief Justice Roberts]. Some hope [The ObamaCare ruling] covertly represents a “substantial victory,” in the words of conservative columnist George Will.

After all, the reasoning goes, Justice Roberts’s opinion declared that the Constitution’s Commerce Clause does not authorize Congress to regulate inactivity, which would have given the federal government a blank check to regulate any and all private conduct. The court also decided that Congress unconstitutionally coerced the states by threatening to cut off all Medicaid funds if they did not expand this program as far as President Obama wants.

All this is a hollow hope. The outer limit on the Commerce Clause in Sebelius does not put any other federal law in jeopardy and is undermined by its ruling on the tax power … The limits on congressional coercion in the case of Medicaid may apply only because the amount of federal funds at risk in that program’s expansion—more than 20% of most state budgets—was so great. If Congress threatens to cut off 5%-10% to force states to obey future federal mandates, will the court strike that down too? Doubtful.

Worse still, Justice Roberts’s opinion provides a constitutional road map for architects of the next great expansion of the welfare state. Congress may not be able to directly force us to buy electric cars, eat organic kale, or replace oil heaters with solar panels. But if it enforces the mandates with a financial penalty then suddenly, thanks to Justice Roberts’s tortured reasoning in Sebelius, the mandate is transformed into a constitutional exercise of Congress’s power to tax.

John, I fear, is right. Finding conservative principles in the constitution has zero cash value when they don’t effect the ultimate outcome (though they admittedly did, in limited fashion, with the Medicaid expansion). As for banking on them paying dividends in the future? That depends on the deference that future incarnations of the Court are willing to give to the Roberts decision. And that’s a reed too thin to bear the weight that conservatives are attempting to load upon it.

May 19th, 2012 at 1:41 pm
The Frightening Power of Tyrannical Government

And yes, it is right here in these United States. George Will’s column is a must-read for anybody who cares about liberty. This is sickening stuff we are seeing, and most Americans keep marching toward the executioner.

Writing about a motel owned by one Russ Caswell, a law-abiding citizen, here’s Will:

The U.S. Department of Justice intends to seize it, sell it for perhaps $1.5 million and give up to 80 percent of that to the Tewksbury Police Department, whose budget is just $5.5 million. The Caswells have not been charged with, let alone convicted of, a crime. They are being persecuted by two governments eager to profit from what is antiseptically called the “equitable sharing” of the fruits of civil forfeiture, a process of government enrichment that often is indistinguishable from robbery.

Scary stuff. The government increasingly has become evil.

December 20th, 2011 at 8:49 pm
Thomas Sowell Endorses Newt Gingrich
Posted by Troy Senik Print

Newt Gingrich has had a rough time of it the past week or so. The press is all over him for his hard-line stance on the federal judiciary (including abolishing the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals), his poll numbers are slipping, and some of the brightest lights in the conservative commentariat (including Charles Krauthammer, Mark Steyn, and George Will) have been taking him out to the rhetorical woodshed.

Newt’s due a little holiday cheer then, and it comes in the form of Thomas Sowell’s new column, which essentially provides an endorsement from one of conservatism’s leading intellectuals. Sowell begins with the premise I expressed in an October column. I wrote at the time:

It represents a healthy political idealism for Republicans to search for the second coming of Ronald Reagan. But it’s a bit tiresome when they become inconsolable at his absence. Reagan was of a class alone, not only in his combination of political skills and ideological bearings, but also in the way that his abilities uniquely met his moment in history.  Cursing the whole enterprise just because you can’t find his carbon copy is akin to writing off a Super Bowl win because you didn’t have a perfect season.

Sowell applies this principle to the Gingrich candidacy:

Do we wish we had another Ronald Reagan? We could certainly use one. But we have to play the hand we were dealt. And the Reagan card is not in the deck.

While the televised debates are what gave Newt Gingrich’s candidacy a big boost, concrete accomplishments when in office are the real test. Gingrich engineered the first Republican takeover of the House of Representatives in 40 years — followed by the first balanced budget in 40 years. The media called it “the Clinton surplus” but all spending bills start in the House of Representatives, and Gingrich was Speaker of the House.

Speaker Gingrich also produced some long overdue welfare reforms, despite howls from liberals that the poor would be devastated. But nobody makes that claim any more.

Did Gingrich ruffle some feathers when he was Speaker of the House? Yes, enough for it to cost him that position. But he also showed that he could produce results.

In a world where we can make our choices only among the alternatives actually available, the question is whether Newt Gingrich is better than Barack Obama — and better than Mitt Romney.

Sowell is certainly an outlier amongst the right-leaning intelligentsia. The question now is whether he’ll also be in the minority when it comes time to vote.

December 12th, 2011 at 12:11 pm
Candidate X… or Candidate J

Talk is heating up about the need for a new entrant in the Republican presidential sweepstakes, with not only The Weekly Standard keeping up its long-running and always-thoughtful drumbeat now called the Valentine’s Day Option, but George Will saying as much on Sunday, after Rhodes Cook of the Sabato Crystal Ball explained why it is still definitely feasible.

A name I am increasingly hearing is that of Bobby Jindal, subject of glowing reviews in the past three or so months by Fred Barnes, Jim Geraghty, Michael Barone, Chris Cillizza,  and Yours Truly.

Here’s the key thing: There is not an elected official in the country who knows health care policy as well as Jindal, and once the Supreme Court decides the Obamacare case, health care will be front and center in the campaign. Why does Jindal know so much about it? First, he was the wunderkind Secretary of the Louisiana health department, where he flat-out saved the state budget from disaster while completely and successfully renovating its Medicaid program (after explaining Medicaid’s rules to the federal Medicaid officials who didn’t even understand them as well as Jindal did). Second, he was executive director of the Breaux-Thomas entitlement commission in the late 1990s that not only pushed the idea of premium support (the heart of Paul Ryan’s Medicare plans), but got several Democratic senators to buy in to the concept.  Third, he worked on health care in the private sector, for McKinsey and Company.  Also, (from Wikipedia), “as a Rhodes Scholar. He received an M.Litt. degree in political science with an emphasis in health policy from the University of Oxford in 1994 for his thesis “A needs-based approach to health care”.

He also served as the Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

If Republicans want somebody who not only will oppose Obamacare (that’s an easy thing to do), but also to be able to outline a positive alternative and explain it understandably, nobody, not even Paul Ryan, can do it better than Bobby Jindal.

December 18th, 2010 at 7:40 pm
Political Labels are an Act of Civic Candor

No one is better than George Will at puncturing the self-serving equilibrium of excessive political correctness.  His most recent column is no exception.  Taking aim at a confab calling itself “No Labels” and for an end to partisanship, Will fires back with this defense of partisanship:

No Labels, its earnestness subverting its grammar, says: “We do not ask any political leader to ever give up their label – merely put it aside.” But adopting a political label should be an act of civic candor. When people label themselves conservatives or liberals we can reasonably surmise where they stand concerning important matters, such as Hudson’s ruling. The label “conservative” conveys much useful information about people who adopt it. So does the label “liberal,” which is why most liberals have abandoned it, preferring “progressive,” until they discredit it, too.

For the entire column, click here.

August 12th, 2010 at 7:17 pm
Bibi Redux
Posted by Troy Senik Print

Back in March, after his speech to AIPAC, I offered the notion that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was the last statesman left in the Western world.

Unfortunately, nearly six months later, nothing much has changed. Iran continues to develop its nuclear capacity, the United States continues to toothlessly chide the mullahs, and Israel continues to gird itself for a task that is only palatable in light of the alternative: to attack the regime in Tehran rather than to risk annihilation at its hands. Throughout all the world, only one man is treating this threat with the gravity it deserves. That man is the Prime Minister of Israel.

Netanyahu is tough, smart, and morally courageous: three things that you don’t see much of in politics these days. He deserves your respect and should gain even more of it in light of George Will’s profile of him in today’s Washington Post. From the coda of a piece that begs to be read in its entirety:

Arguably the most left-wing administration in American history is trying to knead and soften the most right-wing coalition in Israel’s history. The former shows no understanding of the latter, which thinks it understands the former all too well.

The prime minister honors Churchill, who spoke of “the confirmed unteachability of mankind.” Nevertheless, a display case in Netanyahu’s office could teach the Obama administration something about this leader. It contains a small signet stone that was part of a ring found near the Western Wall. It is about 2,800 years old — 200 years younger than Jerusalem’s role as the Jewish people’s capital. The ring was the seal of a Jewish official, whose name is inscribed on it: Netanyahu.

No one is less a transnational progressive, less a post-nationalist, than Binyamin Netanyahu, whose first name is that of a son of Jacob, who lived perhaps 4,000 years ago. Netanyahu, whom no one ever called cuddly, once said to a U.S. diplomat 10 words that should warn U.S. policymakers who hope to make Netanyahu malleable: “You live in Chevy Chase. Don’t play with our future.”

June 29th, 2010 at 6:17 pm
Who is Ron Johnson?
Posted by Troy Senik Print

Answer: quite possibly, the margin of victory for Republicans in the United States Senate.

According to a new report from Public Policy Polling today, the largely unknown Johnson (a plastics manufacturer from Oshkosh) is within two points of the Badger State’s liberal stalwart, Senator Russ Feingold.  If the Wisconsin seat flips, it puts Republicans very close to retaking the Senate. Here’s the succint explanation.

Republicans currently have 41 seats in the Senate. Since the tie-breaking vote in the Senate belongs to the Democratic Vice President, Republicans would need a net pickup of 10 seats to retake the majority — an extremely high threshold.

To start with, that means having no Republican incumbents get beat. That shouldn’t be too hard. There aren’t many GOP incumbents around these days, and the ones that are are fairly safe. Only North Carolina’s Richard Burr looks vulnerable this year and he’ll probably be able to ride it out.

The next step is hanging on to the seven open GOP seats: one due to a Republican primary in Utah, the other six owing to retirements in Kansas, Ohio, Kentucky, Missouri, Florida, and New Hampshire. Utah, Kansas, and New Hampshire look very safe right now. Kentucky will be close and will likely hinge on how cautious Rand Paul can learn to be. Florida has scrambled into a three-way race with Charlie Crist’s decision to run as an independent, but look for Marco Rubio to make a strong showing as the year continues. Ohio and Missouri will likely stay tight up through election day.

Assuming a perfect defense, then, Republicans will still need to pickup 10 seats on offense. There are a few pieces of low-lying fruit: North Dakota Governor John Hoeven will almost certaintly win the seat being vacated by Byron Dorgan. The odds also look quite favorable for Dan Coats in Indiana and Mike Castle in Delaware to pick up open seats, and for John Boozman in Arkansas to defeat incumbent Blanche Lincoln.

Factor in those wins and Republicans still need six seats for a majority. And with the Wisconsin race competitive, they now have seven prospects. In addition to Johnson’s challenge to Feingold, there are also serious threats to Democratic incumbents in California, Nevada, Colorado, and Washington. With Republicans competitive for open seats in Illinois and Pennsylvania, the Wisconsin race actually gives the GOP an ever-so-slight margin of error for taking back a majority come election day.

And who is this great white hope of the upper midwest? George Will’s profile in the Washington Post last month provides some insight. If he’s right, this may be one more member of an exceptional senate class in 2010. To wit:

The theme of his campaign, the genesis of which was an invitation to address a Tea Party rally, is: “First of all, freedom.” Then? “Then you’ve got to put meat on the bones.” He gets much of his meat from the Wall Street Journal’s opinion pages. And from a Wisconsin congressman, Paul Ryan, whose “road map” for entitlement reform Johnson praises. Health care? “Mitch Daniels has the solution.” Indiana’s Republican governor has offered state employees the choice of consumer-controlled health savings accounts, and 70 percent now choose them.

“The most basic right,” Johnson says, “is the right to keep your property.” Remembering the golden age when, thanks to Ronald Reagan, the top income tax rate was 28 percent, Johnson says: “For a brief moment we were 72 percent free.” Johnson’s daughter — now a nurse in neonatal intensive care — was born with a serious heart defect. The operations “when her heart was only the size of a small plum” made him passionate about protecting the incentives that bring forth excellent physicians.

This sounds like a conservative who nows how to connect first principles to daily governance. Dare we dream such a thing?