Tuesday, October 27, 2009
As the City of Chicago's $500 million budget gap has come to the forefront, eyes have begun to peer behind the curtain of the somewhat bewildering subject of the City's TIF Districts. There is a lot of money out there somewhere. The reasoning is that it should be reallocated to help cover the budget gap. The Chicago Reader calls the TIF program Mayor Daley's Shadow Budget.
The City of Chicago has indeed posted a tremendous amount of information about its TIF Districts on its website. The problem, as with most government websites, is that the data posted is not open source, meaning that it's not readily usable by the public. All 162 TIF districts are on the City's site, all with audited financial statements and summary level reports provided by the Department of Community Development. Each TIF district's funding agreements that are in place are also posted. These are the agreements whereby money is allocated to redevelopment projects. The issue with the City's website is that it is confusing, some links are broken, and everything is posted in PDF format. The City has also commissioned a myriad of different accounting firms to perform the audited financial statements on each individual district. As such, there is no congruent, master financial data provided. This takes a lot of browsing through a confusing website structure, and a lot of downloading and compiling of data. The Windy Citizen did it in 2008 (for Fiscal Year 2007) and created a great informational tool in its TIF district map. Now, I've compiled the data for FY2008 in Excel. The story that data tells is intriguing to say the least.
We recently came into possession of hard evidence of what we've long argued: that the city produces two annual budgets, one released to the public, covered by the media, and debated by the City Council, and the other forged behind closed doors by the Daley administration, shared only in pieces with certain aldermen, and never fully disclosed to citizens. Both budgets are funded by taxpayers.
For the last few years, we've been trying to force the city to open up that shadow budget, which is funded by property taxes diverted into Chicago's tax increment financing program. As regular readers know, the TIF program is a complicated system in which property tax dollars in designated districts are collected in special accounts that are supposed to be used to eradicate blight and bolster development where it might not otherwise come.
Daley administration officials insist that the program has been a huge success and that everything the public needs to know about it is available on the city's Web site. But many aldermen have started to disagree publicly with the administration—a rarity these last 20 years—and in April the City Council unanimously passed an ordinance requiring that additional documents and data showing the use of TIF money be posted online.
Focusing on the Department of Community Development's summary level reports, one finds that in 2008, the TIF collected $545,753,147 in revenue, and spent $468,631,911. The fund as a whole therefore recorded a gain for the year of $77,121,236. The summary level reports also portray each TIF district's net balance. This is the total money in the bank, as it were, that each district has on hand. At The fund as a whole showed a total net balance of $1,249,217,223. In its summary level reports, the Department of Community Development also addresses the TIF's "Planned Minimum Expenditures." Each district's summary report tells how much money is intended to be spent. The assumption behind this is that agreements are either already in place, or are close to being in place. The Reader's Shadow Budget article bears this out:
Planned minimum expenditures total out to $1,304,671,279. These committed costs put the City of Chicago's TIF fund $55,454,056 in the red. And this is before any new TIF agreements that might have been made since this data was all prepared and published in June 2009. As a best-case scenario based on this data, the City would expect another net gain of $77 million, and would not commit any new costs, and the fund would find itself about $22 million ahead at the end of 2009.
Many of the items in the TIF budget seem to be pretty far along. Most are categorized as "appropriated," meaning the expenditure has already been approved or finalized, or "committed," meaning it's "locked in" or expected to be shortly, according to community development department spokeswoman Molly Sullivan, who provided written answers to our questions about the documents after her department declined our FOIA request. Fewer projects are listed as "pending," meaning they've been proposed.
"The designations are informal and used only for budgeting and planning purposes," Sullivan wrote. "There is nothing binding about the terms in this context; they are in fact determined by DCD TIF staff as a way to prioritize potential expenditures."
But that's not substantially different from the way it works with the city's official budget, which the mayor publicly introduces as a set of "recommendations" and which changes throughout the year depending on how closely projections meet reality.
When Alderman Thomas Allen asked the simple question about plugging the budget gap using TIF funds, he was told that "it can't be done."
ALLEN: Why can't we take resources that are in the TIF districts, income, and use it to plug this hole. Why do we give this money to private developers? Let's give it to the citizens. That can't be done, according to a city spokeswoman. She says state law does not permit Chicago to spend TIF money on general expenses.
After Mayor Daley spoke about the budget on October 21st, Progress Illinois had a simple question for him.
Indeed, Anna Tarkov quipped, "The silence from the 5th floor is deafening."
Listening to his speech, you'd never know that the TIF network is the single largest tool that the city has at its disposal to balance the budget and jumpstart the local economy.
So why the silence?
With a $500 million shortfall in the general budget, and a supposed billion dollar slush fund apparently running another $55 million in the red, it's no wonder you can hear a pin drop.
Monday, October 26, 2009
The City of Chicago finds itself, like much of the rest of the country, in dire financial times. The glimmer of hope on the horizon was, at one point, the 2016 Olympics. The Mayor (and nearly everyone else in politics) seemed certain that the games would call Chicago home seven years from now. So sure were the City's politicians of the imminence of the games and their being carried out successfully, that the City Council passed an unanimous ordinance to guarantee the games financially. Billions were going to flow into Chicago, and all would be well. "Pay no attention to the $500 million budget gap behind the curtain!" bellowed the Great and Powerful Daley. Then the hammer fell. A woman in Copenhagen gasped. Chicago was eliminated first from Olympic contention. Immediately eyes began to peer behind the curtain. How would Mayor Daley close such an enormous defecit in the City's budget? Credit where it's due, the Mayor refuses to raise property taxes.
Spoken like a true fiscal conservative.The charge levied that the City must become a smaller, efficient, responsible government is something one might expect a libertarian to charge a government with doing. If only the Mayor's actions actually bore this philosophy out in practice, he might not find himself in such dire straits, both financially and politically (the budget gap has contributed to Daley's lowest approval rating ever, 35%).
"You can't [raise property taxes] ... That would hurt people tremendously," Daley said.
"You can only take so much. People are being laid off on a daily basis. People are getting cut back. They don't have the money anymore. Government has to look at itself and find out what they can live with and what are their priorities. Simple as that."
The truth behind why a property tax hike won't happen would appear to have nothing to do with how much the government is willing to take from its citizens. As Ben Joravsky and Mick Dumke at the Chicago Reader have worked tirelessly to shine light onto Mayor Daley's shadow budget created by Tax Increment Financing, it becomes abundantly clear that a property tax hike would do little to affect operating budgets, while pouring more money into what ultimately amounts to a personal slush fund for the mayor to utilize to play favorites among clout heavy developers, politically powerful alderman, and to throw a little corporate welfare in for good measure.
As Joravsky and Dumke point out, "When the City Council creates a TIF district—and in all our years of observing, it's always at Mayor Daley's urging—it typically freezes the amount of property tax dollars that the schools, parks, county, and other taxing bodies get from that area for 24 years. Any extra tax revenue generated during that time flows into the TIF account."
This works as the values of properties increase. If a TIF District is created with a base assessed value of $1 million, then for the next 24 years, schools, parks and other city entities that might draw on property taxes for operating revenue, receive revenues as taxed on $1 million. This isn't even indexed for inflation or cost of living, so that as teachers get paid more, or materials simply cost more over time, each of these disctricts necessarily has less money to rely on. Costs go up, but incoming revenue remains the same. The schools and parks and other agencies find themselves in a precarious position. They must raise taxes to remain operating, but if they raise taxes too much, people will simply leave. This is the same position Mayor Daley finds himself in with the City's operating budget on the whole.
According to research done by the folks at The Windy Citizen, TIF Districts now cover over 30% of the City's physical area. Most importantly, they cover the areas of Chicago that generate the highest amounts of taxable revenue. For an example, one need look only as far as one of the most recently retired TIF Districts, the Central Loop District.
When it was created in 1984, the Central Loop District had an estimated assessed value of $985 million. It's estimated assessed value in 2005 was $2.6 billion. Over those 21 years, the value of the property in the Central Loop increased by 163%.
What this really illustrates is that a property tax hike would do little good. If the property tax rate was raised by 1%, the amount of additional money going into the City's operating budget would increase by 1% only on the original $985 million, an increase of $9.85 million in operating revenue. In conjunction, the TIF would see its revenues increase by 1% on the additional property value. That would be 1% on $1.615 billion, or $16.15 million to the TIF, rather than to the City's operating budget. Where this money goes is largely at the discretion of the Mayor himself.
Mayor Daley is talking the talk of smaller, responsible government, in lieu of pillaging his citizens by raising their property taxes. With light beginning to shine on his shadow budget slush fund, his true purpose may be to divert as much attention away from TIF as possible. If he sounds responsible, perhaps Chicago won't find out just how shadowy he is. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.
Monday, October 19, 2009
Under the policy spelled out in a three-page legal memo, federal prosecutors are being told it is not a good use of their time to arrest people who use or provide medical marijuana in strict compliance with state law.
The guidelines being issued by the department do, however, make it clear that federal agents will go after people whose marijuana distribution goes beyond what is permitted under state law or use medical marijuana as a cover for other crimes.
The memo advises prosecutors they "should not focus federal resources in your states on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana."
The new policy is a significant departure from the Bush administration, which insisted it would continue to enforce federal anti-pot laws regardless of state codes.
"It will not be a priority to use federal resources to prosecute patients with serious illnesses or their caregivers who are complying with state laws on medical marijuana, but we will not tolerate drug traffickers who hide behind claims of compliance with state law to mask activities that are clearly illegal," Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement.
Unfortunately, while this is a step in the right direction, it's not really changing things in the way of the federal government backing off of states rights.
And while the policy memo describes a change in priorities away from prosecuting medical marijuana cases, it does not rule out the possibility that the federal government could still prosecute someone whose activities are allowed under state law.
The memo, officials said, is designed to give a sense of prosecutorial priorities to U.S. attorneys in the states that allow medical marijuana. It notes that pot sales in the United States are the largest source of money for violent Mexican drug cartels, but adds that federal law enforcement agencies have limited resources.
So we're giving our prosecutors some "priorities" about who to go after. This is a nice token gesture in promoting some freedom with regard to marijuana use for medical purposes. It's hardly a groundbreaking step in federal overstepping of bounds, however.
Friday, October 16, 2009
HAMMOND, La. (AP) - A Louisiana justice of the peace said he refused to issue a marriage license to an interracial couple out of concern for any children the couple might have. Keith Bardwell, justice of the peace
in Tangipahoa Parish, says it is his experience that most interracial marriages do not last long.
"I do ceremonies for black couples right here in my house," Bardwell said. "My main concern is for the children."
Bardwell said he has discussed the topic with blacks and whites, along with witnessing some interracial marriages. He came to the conclusion that most of black society does not readily accept offspring of such relationships, and neither does white society, he said.
"I don't do interracial marriages because I don't want to put children in a situation they didn't bring on themselves," Bardwell said. "In my heart, I feel the children will later suffer."
If he does an interracial marriage for one couple, he must do the same for all, he said.
"I try to treat everyone equally," he said.
Really? Because it seems to me you're certainly not treating interracial couples equally to other couples. I don't know, just an observation.
And another observation. What the hell kind of explanation is it that this is for the good of their potentially future children? The last time I checked, there are quite a few people that get married that never have children. And quite the opposite, there are plenty of people that have children without ever being married.
This moron denying these two people their rights protects nothing. If they want kids, they'll have kids, whether they're married or not. If they don't want kids, now you've denied them the right to marry on behalf of an entity that simply does not exist.
This is pure ignorance. And this is true racism.
There is a phenomenal article posted today at Mises.org about the state of politics in the United States. The commentary on the state of party politics, and the reactionary tendencies of both the Right and the Left is spot on. The state of both sides simply trending toward differing forms of authoritarianism is also right on the money, and the state of our Corporatist (not Capitalist) economy of huge entrepreneurial businesses in bed with their favorite government officials is scary accurate. The article is titled "The Death of Politics." The following is a good excerpt, but please read the whole thing. Oh by the way, Karl Hess wrote the article 40 years ago.
Political parties and politicians today — all parties and all politicians —question only the forms through which they will express their common belief in controlling the lives of others. Power, particularly majoritarian or collective power (i.e., the power of an elite exercised in the name of the masses), is the god of the modern liberal. Its only recent innovative change is to suggest that the elite be leavened by the compulsory membership of authentic representatives of the masses. The current phrase is "participatory democracy."
Just as power is the god of the modern liberal, God remains the authority of the modern conservative. Liberalism practices regimentation by, simply, regimentation. Conservatism practices regimentation by, not quite so simply, revelation. But regimented or revealed, the name of the game is still politics.
The great flaw in conservatism is a deep fissure down which talk of freedom falls, to be dashed to death on the rocks of authoritarianism. Conservatives worry that the state has too much power over people. But it was conservatives who gave the state that power. It was conservatives, very similar to today's conservatives, who ceded to the state the power to produce not simply order in the community but a certain kind of order.
It was European conservatives who, apparently fearful of the openness of the Industrial Revolution (why, anyone could get rich!), struck the first blows at capitalism by encouraging and accepting laws that made the disruptions of innovation and competition less frequent and eased the way for the comforts and collusions of cartelization.
Big business in America today and for some years has been openly at war with competition and, thus, at war with laissez-faire capitalism. Big business supports a form of state capitalism in which government and big business act as partners. Criticism of this statist bent of big business comes more often from the Left than from the Right these days, and this is another factor making it difficult to tell the players apart. John Kenneth Galbraith, for instance, has most recently taken big business to task for its anticompetitive mentality. The Right, meantime, blissfully defends big business as though it had not, in fact, become just the sort of bureaucratic, authoritarian force that rightists
reflexively attack when it is governmental.
The Left's attack on corporate capitalism is, when examined, an attack on economic forms possible only in collusion between authoritarian government and bureaucratized, nonentrepreneurial business. It is unfortunate that many New Leftists are so uncritical as to accept this premise as indicating that all forms of capitalism are bad, so that full state ownership is the only alternative. This thinking has its mirror image on the Right.
It was American conservatives, for instance, who very early in the game gave up the fight against state franchising and regulation and, instead, embraced state regulation for their own special advantage. Conservatives today continue to revere the state as an instrument of chastisement even as they reject it as an instrument of beneficence. The conservative who wants a federally authorized prayer in the classroom is the same conservative who objects to federally authorized textbooks in the same room.
The President plans to make the wildfire understand that our difficulties are shared difficulties, that it's not man against fire, but man and fire working out their differences.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
I wonder what school officials will do when they find out that kids use some of even the most common-to-school objects to attack each other. I jumped on Youtube for about 45 seconds and found five items used every day in every school across the country that would all be more damaging "potential weapons" than a six year old child's Boy Scout fold out spoon/knife/fork.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
|CNN Leaves It There|
Monday, October 12, 2009
In a recent TED Talk, Evgeny Morozov, founder of the news aggregator Polymeme (now on hiatus) and leading thinker on the political implications of the internet, makes that very assertion. This is a fascinating video, wherein Morozov implies that dictatorships and other authoritarian regimes deftly utilize the internet to create the illusion of free speech, relegating it to the role of a new opium for the masses.
Hat Tip: THL
Friday, October 9, 2009
Help our President win the Heisman Trophy!
Nissan has a promotion through ESPN that will create a "people's vote" for the Heisman Trophy. You can write in Barack Obama and give him a vote.
Hat Tip: Freddoso
I've waited until the President could address the issue in his own words to comment. Now that he has addressed the issue, I am furious.
Obama himself sought to put some distance between himself and the ward, saying, “I do not view it as a recognition of my own acomplishments, but a recognition of the role of American leadership” in the world.
“To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures” who won in the past, Obama said at the White House.
My question goes directly to the President's credibility after this statement, directly to his honor. It is simple. If you don't feel you deserve the award, why are you accepting it?
If you don't feel like you've accomplished anything that deserves reward, you should step aside from accepting the award. After the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Al Gore for tenuous reasoning, at best, many around the world began to view the award as having lost its credibility. This award has long stood as the highest honor a man or woman could receive for either a lifetime of hard effort toward promoting peace, or a monumental achievement in promoting world diplomacy.
Woodrow Wilson won the award for leading the establishment of the League of Nations, and shaping the Treaty of Versailles. Teddy Roosevelt won the award for negotiating the end to the Russo-Japanese War. The Dalai Lama won the award for a lifetime of promoting Tibetan freedom through peaceful resistance to the iron fist of an oppressive government. These are all phenomenal accomplishments that were capable of carrying the weight of one of the highest honors in the world.
If the man selected to win the award cannot reasonably conceive of any reason that he should have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the only reasonable thing he can do to allow the award to hold its legitimacy is to graciously refuse to accept the award. There are surely other people who have devoted themselves to promoting peace around the world through major accomplishments. Two better qualified candidates listed by the Globe and Mail come to mind:
Denis Mukwege, Medical doctor
Seeing pregnant women arrive at the hospital on a donkey and dying during childbirth encouraged Mukwege to study gynaecology and obstetrics. Noticing that so many women had been sexually abused, he later founded the Panzi hospital in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Hundreds of thousands of female sexual violence victims have been helped so far.
Handicap International and Cluster Munition Coalition
These organizations are recognized for their consistently serious efforts to clean up cluster bombs, also known as land mines. Innocent civilians are regularly killed worldwide because the unseen bombs explode when stepped upon. Thirty-four nations are known to have air-dropped cluster bombs from the 1970s to the 1990s.
The President giving up an award he himself does not feel he deserves, for the sake of allowing it to be awarded to a person or group far more deserving would not only restore legitimacy to the Nobel Peace Prize, but would also shine a glowing light on the works of many other individual candidates and groups who are working every day to promote peace world wide. His rejection of the award would do more for these organizations in one fell swoop in terms of them receiving new volunteers or donations than they might ever expect otherwise.
Unfortunately, it appears he will accept anyway, as he spews more useless rhetoric.
“I will accept this award as a call to action, a call to all nations to confront the common challenges of the 21st Century.”
Thursday, October 8, 2009
When men and women with sound, attractive political philosophies begin coming to the forefront, and infiltrating the major parties, once again giving people something to vote for, rather than against, we will find the parties moving again more toward respectability. Pragmatism for infiltration seems paramount for moving the country forward in a realistic manner. While fragmentation appears attractive, infiltration practiced by men and women of principle will get the job done much more quickly.In his follow up, Damon responded that if you compromise from the outset, you'll be compromised in the end.
The aim and goal of third party and independent activism is not fragmentation as such, but more effective representation. Arguably, theOn the way to arriving at his summation, Damon examines my arguments that we are seeing somewhat successful campaigns from the likes of Peter Schiff and Rand Paul, who are opting to run very libertarian-minded campaigns by going for their respective Republican nominations. His argument against them running for Republican nominations is where he arrives at his idea that the two-party system is structurally incapable of representing the diversity of our interests.
two-party system is structurally incapable of representing the diversity of interests to be found among the people of the United States. If "fragmentation" is what results from the smashing of the two-party state, then everyone should have a sledge hammer.
Damon argues that, in this case, these libertarian candidates running as Republicans are marginalized by the likes of the RNC as the cranks they would be marginalized as anyway. The article he cites regarding Rand Paul's campaign goes on at length about how Rand Paul needs to better "get with the program" if he wants to be accepted by the GOP. He argues that he is therefore being marginalized even in competing for the position he seeks, that this does no good since while he may win the position, he will not really be accepted by the party. He also argues in going against my position that the likes of Paul and Schiff find their funding outside of any party affiliation anyway, so that my point about more readily accessible assets in joining ranks with the GOP is moot.
Finally, the infiltration strategy usually entails running an insurgent primary campaign, likely against the candidate favored by the party establishment, who will seek to marginalize such upstarts in any way possible.
Though he's working "within the system," his effort is still marginalized as if it were a third party or independent campaign. Further, Rand Paul has demonstrated that he is capable of raising tons of money independently of the Republican Party fundraising apparatus. What were the advantages of working within the GOP again?
In his argument in favor of infiltration, Paul at OE remarks that: "The majority view of third parties in general remains that they are full of cranks who bring nothing of substance to the table." The same could be said of the majority view regarding the Democratic and Republican Parties, and that would be a particularly nice way of putting it.
First, pertaining to access to financial assets, let us remember that the examples of Peter Schiff and Rand Paul are outside of the ordinary. Peter Schiff has become a star of the economy on television and Youtube. Rand Paul is Ron Paul's son, and therefore has instant notoriety. Not to say that he is not his own man, but needless to say, there are thousands of doctors or lawyers (ugh) or businessmen, I'm sure, with political aspirations, who have not had the inside track to political notoriety that he has had. These are the candidates, without an inside track, that would find better access to financial resources by infiltrating an existing major party.
Moving on to the argument surrounding potential, let's call it crank-ism, I believe Damon has essentially argued the point to a standstill. His argument in this aspect is resource-based, resources being people. He argues that in order to strengthen a third party, all available resources should be thrown into that third party's efforts. He argues that since these people are going to be marginalized as cranks anyway, they may as well be marginalized as cranks while moving a third party forward, by allocating all resources to the third party. The obvious question to follow with, then, is if they are cranks in both cases, and their objective is to best represent their constituents, why not chase the opportunity that allows them to achieve some progress once elected?
Now, given Damon's previous arugments, he will respond with something like "they will just become subjects to the parties' pay masters at some point anyway; big labor on the left, or big military business on the right." He will relegate their campaigns to being mere rhetoric to mask their subjectivity to said pay masters, as he has regarding even the likes of such movement figureheads as Reagan, Goldwater and McGovern.
I don't think this argument holds water. I think people of principle will act on their principles no matter their party. Similarly, men and women lacking in character to such an extent that they would abandon their principles and fall into corporatist corruption would do so no matter their party. While more parties would theoretically make it harder for corporations to influence politicians via influence over parties themselves, the politicians are ultimately responsible for their own actions. Sell outs are going to sell out no matter what. Likewise, men and women of principle will hold fast to their principles no matter what. I don't envision someone like Peter Schiff, if he's elected, becoming subject to anyone, for example. While he is already famous the world 'round with regular people, we should remember that nobody in Washington cares. His access to the Republican machine would immediately give him easier access to committee functions in the Senate than he would have from a third party standpoint, where he would no doubt be ostracized. He would then be able to work and act on his principles, without compromise.
Now, my initial theory was that it would be possible to infiltrate both parties, while creating a third that would ultimately become a fallback for a fragmentation of a major party. I am working on elaborating this argument, and should have a follow up in a few days. Until then, feel free to comment. And check out Poli-Tea. Damon has some fantastic thoughts. And the debate is back in his court.
Today, Peter Schiff posts a great video that helps to clarify a lot of the why's behind the demise of the dollar. Enjoy!
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Rickards discusses the idea that we, as a world economy, will likely be moving to the International Monetary Fund's Special Drawing Rights as a the reserve currency. Pay particular attention to his explanation of exactly why this is necessary. Basically it boils down to the fact that the Fed as inflated us to such a great extent, that we have no option but to go broke as a country. Pushing our inflated dollar off onto the IMF is the only possible option the Fed has to deflate the dollar quietly enough in the background to avoid completely destroying the economy. There is no heed paid to the notion that the IMF will use SDR's, backed by nothing, printed out of thin air, to run the world economy. Sound familiar?
The only other option he feels the Fed has is to further inflate the dollar by another 50% over the next 14 years. That means if you have a dollar today, it's only worth 50 cents fourteen years from now. The problem with this is that if the market gets ahead of the inflation, and people begin buying commodoties like gold, it could cause a full on collapse of the dollar.
Will we risk destroying the dollar and our economy, or will we trade our nations sovereignty for stability? I think that's a question that's easily answered. We have yet to see anybody with our government or the Federal Reserve make the hard decisions and carry them out correctly since Volcker presided over the last deflationary Fed. I doubt we'll see the hard decision made now.
Remember this video, and remember these upcoming events happening around the dollar. We are in the process of trading our country's sovereignty for the comfort of the world's banking elite.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
New Anti-Smoking Ads Warn Teens 'It's Gay To Smoke'
Monday, October 5, 2009
I wrote the other day about challenging the two-party system of electing our governmental representatives. My interest in the subject was piqued by W.E. Messamore's post at the Humble Libertarian asking whether libertarians should work within the two-party system, or whether we should work harder at strengthening a true third party. My response was that I felt we could do both. Specifically, I mentioned that "I see no reason that we cannot infiltrate BOTH parties, WHILE growing a third party that stands ready to inherit the crumbling pieces of a failing major party."
I was rebutted both in the comments, and in a subsequent post by Damon Eris of the blog, Poli-Tea. Damon focuses very hard on arguing against our current duopoly. He feels, very rightly in my opinion (which I will elaborate on at another time), that our current system detracts from our values of freedom and liberty. To my statement that I see no reason why we cannot do both, Damon responded unfavorably:
One reason might be limited resources. However, as I've noted before, the argument in favor of infiltrating the duopoly parties refutes itself: infiltration shares many of the drawbacks of a third party or independent effort and has none of the advantages; one moment, the would-be infiltrator plainly states that the Republican and Democratic Parties are hostile to the very idea of liberty itself, and then urges that we join up with them in the next; if it is better to work within an existing party than to build a new one from scratch, there are any number of already-existing third parties that would be a better vehicle for political reform than either of the duopoly parties etc.
I would like to respond to Damon's first point first. He claims that infiltration shares many of the drawbacks of a third party independent effort, but has none of the advantages. I disagree. First and foremost, for a libertarian to win the hearts and minds of a republican district by working within the Republican Party, he/she is immediately capable of accessing the resources (read: money) of the Republican Party. To be sure, there is more money available if said libertarian-Republican candidate is going to be competitive in the race, but such will be the case for any Republican Party candidate. If it's a 100% of the time Democratic constituency, it likely makes little difference, since the GOP rarely funds any candidate heavily that it deems cannot at least compete. However, in either the competitive case, or the losing case, the access to re$ource$ being higher presents the opportunity to the would-be candidate to educate the people of the district on libertarian values, moreso than does running from an outside party. Furthermore, the opportunity presents itself to have a larger campaign staff than one might otherwise assemble, thereby bringing more libertarian-minded people into the fold of the major party.
Damon's statement that infiltration shares many of the drawbacks of a third-party effort is also slightly off in my opinion. The majority view of third parties in general remains that they are full of cranks who bring nothing of substance to the table. When discussing liberty and freedom, however, this is truly not the case. Federal level libertarian candidates in the upcoming elections, for example, include the likes of Peter Schiff and Rand Paul, who offer some of the most intriguing ideas to the political spectrum. Both are running for the Republican nominations, rather than for third-party nominations, wherein they would most assuredly be horrendously marginalized. Winning the Republican nominations would find these two high profile libertarian minds running strong races, with GOP funding to back their messages of sound money, liberty, freedom and integrity. Running on a third party ticket, meanwhile, would find them "fighting the good fight," expending enormous time and energy merely to be heard at all.
Responding to Poli-Tea's post "Infiltration or Independence," commenter Samuel Wilson offers the following observation about the argument I've just made:
The infiltrationists act on a belief that the major parties can be converted into exclusive ideological parties that can ignore the imperative to practice "big tent" politics in order to win national elections. They're encouraged in their belief by histories that teach them that it's been done before: by conservatives within the Republican party in 1964, 1980 and arguably in 1994, and by progressives within the Democratic party in 1972. The fallacy is the identification of parties with men: Republicans with Goldwater, Reagan or Gingrich; Democrats with McGovern. Infiltrationists will declare victory if they nominate the right person without acknowledging the structural imperatives that will compromise any victory
Wilson's commentary seems to me to be backwards. He claims that infiltrationists act on a belief that the major parties can be converted into exclusive ideological parties. It seems to me that this is exactly what the people attempting to create prominent third parties are out to do. Where would conservatism have gone had Goldwater and Reagan broken off into new, more ideologically pure parties? Likely nowhere. Where would progressivism have gone under the banner of a McGovern-led third party? Likely alongside Teddy Roosevelt's Progressive "Bull Moose" Party compartment in the dustbin of history.
Wilson incorrectly posits that "infiltrationists will declare victory if they nominate the right person without acknowledging the structural imperatives that will compromise any victory." He claims that we make the mistake of identifying parties with men. The problem with this statement is again, that the premise is backwards. Voters identify with political philosophy. Men have political philosophies. Parties do not. Parties assume the political philosophies of the men that comprise them. When the men with the most attractive political philosophies are chosen to lead the parties, we find great swings in the historical attitude of their corresponding political movements. This is why we remember McGovern, Goldwater and Reagan. They all stood for their political philosophies, and brought their respective parites with them. This is why we do not remember Republicans from 1994. They did not stand for a political philosophy. They argued specifically against what was going poorly. We have been entrenched in a vicious cycle of the political "anti" ever since, culminating in the election of Barack Obama, who was so anti, that people actually thought they were finally voting for something again.
When men and women with sound, attractive political philosophies begin coming to the forefront, and infiltrating the major parties, once again giving people something to vote for, rather than against, we will find the parties moving again more toward respectability. Pragmatism for infiltration seems paramount for moving the country forward in a realistic manner. While fragmentation appears attractive, infiltration practiced by men and women of principle will get the job done much more quickly.
Saturday, October 3, 2009
I might suggest we look to history and the demise of the Whig Party, which was replaced by the Republican Party. The Whigs were torn apart from within over slavery when the anti-slavery faction actually stopped the renomination of its own party's incumbent President. The party fractured and most of the base went to the Republican party.
I think we are very much seeing candidates begin to come to the forefront who have more libertarian ideals than we have seen in some time. Peter Schiff and Rand Paul obviously immediately come to mind at the forefront.
Even at the state and local levels, the energy in politics is altogether different than I can recall in my (albeit short) lifetime.
Overall we seem to have an issue at hand that is nearly every bit as divisive as was slavery. And that is the Economy.
If we recognize that neither the Republican Party or the Democrat Party have been stewards of honest money and a sound economy, but have rather taken turns expanding their preferred areas of big government (military on the right, social welfare on the left), then we find the wedge to drive into the fissure in the Republican Party.
GOP faithful are still incredibly belligerent to the idea that one might ever suggest decreasing military operations. It's a debate worth having, without even concerning the middle east at all. We still have tens of thousands of troops each in Germany, Korea and Japan, and who knows where else. Many of them could easily have been reallocated to the middle east, thereby reducing demand for new troops and new expenses. It could still be done as a way of reducing military expenses.
At some point, we have to be able to acknowledge that, while unfunded liabilities in Social Security and Medicare are without question the biggest strains on our federal government's purse strings, War is the next biggest item. Every dime of all things beyond normal operations is funded by borrowing and monetizing the debt through the Federal Reserve.
There is the fissure. There will be Republicans who continue on ignoring the issue of a sound economy, and there will be libertarians in the Republican Party who do not. Ultimately, the survival of the Republican Party is going to depend on how many libertarian-minded people end up in it. Otherwise, I feel they will by default fall by the wayside as did the Whigs, and the voter base will go to the Libertarian Party.
Understanding that, I think it is important that we take a lesson from the progressives' "long, slow march" through the educational system. We all complain that nobody understands or has been taught libertarian ideas, much less things like Austrian Economics. Well it's because nobody teaches it. We need a long, slow march of our own, not only through the educational systems, but through the political systems. Libertarian thought resonates with a lot of people, because it is all about common sense freedom.
I see no reason that we cannot infiltrate BOTH parties, WHILE growing a third party that stands ready to inherit the crumbling pieces of a failing major party.
Friday, October 2, 2009
The rest of the voting saw Tokyo eliminated 3rd. It's down to Madrid and Rio, with voting completed and to be announced around noon.
So much for the celebrity train to Copenhagen, and our President's efforts. Almost a slap in the face to America itself.
Time to sit down with the generals for a whole second time, I guess.
Thursday, October 1, 2009
For future reference, any of them paying attention may want to step up the effort on the audio. This thing sounds like it got recorded over the phone.
Hat Tip: Marathon Pundit