Monday, December 27, 2010

Tequila for the GOP

The newest thing to hit the newspapers is the Tequila Party. No, it’s not some college drinking game, but an incipient grassroots political movement. Modeled after the Tea Party (in structure, not agenda), it aims to mobilize Hispanic voters to push for immigration reform.

Its founders threaten to break the Hispanic vote off from the Democrats, where it has long served as a bastion of support. The Tequila big-Shots argue that the Democrats have taken the Hispanic vote for granted and have thus done little to meet their needs. This undoubtedly true, but unsurprisingly the heavy-hitting and xenophobic fringe of the GOP has prevented the Republican Party from peeling off the Hispanic vote. Until maybe now. The Tequila Party is yet another sign of the need for realignment in the political landscape. The GOP should do everything it can to promote the free movement of the Hispanic vote.

The logic behind this strategy is clear. First, as the Tequila Party displays, there is growing dissatisfaction in Latino communities at being a rubber stamp for Democratic candidates. This opens a prime window for the GOP to step in. Second, due to demographic changes, the Latino population is becoming increasingly important in many electoral districts. This has been compounded by redistricting following the 2010 Census, where Hispanic-heavy states such as Texas, Florida, Arizona, and Nevada, all gained seats in the House or Representatives (and Electoral College). As The Washington Post expounds, “Much of the population growth is attributed to Hispanics, who tend to vote Democratic. As a result, Republican candidates won't necessarily have a lock on all of the seats created.”

These ‘logistical’ issues alone demand Republican attention; however, Hispanics often make natural allies for the GOP on many issues. For instance, many Hispanics share traditional, family-oriented values that are endemic on the Right. However, due to the Democrats’ success, aided by a small but vocal far-right, at portraying Republicans as anti-Hispanic, the Left has been successful at minimizing the rightward drift of the Hispanic vote. This has chiefly, although not exclusively, been an issue in the immigration debate.

The GOP needs to change tack quickly. The new Congress should come out leading on immigration reform and attempt to set a tone and agenda that displays a pro-Hispanic sentiment. This does not mean discarding the principles of border security, legality, and fair-play that have been staples of the Right’s position, but redefining the battle with the Left to not only display a new image but to show those Hispanics who have blindly followed the Democrats that there is another perspective that can speak to their interests.

First, anti-illegal immigration has to be separated from anti-immigration. The GOP must come out strongly in support of legal immigration. Not only is our nation built on this open model, but continued immigration is necessary for America to maintain its primacy. Democrats have done a phenomenal job at muddling the two issues, which has done the GOP much disservice. Rhetorically, for every attack on illegal immigration from the right and every labeling as anti-immigrant from the left, Republicans must respond with acclamations of support for legal immigration. Words, however, are useless alone and must be complemented with proposals to facilitate easier and fairer immigration for both skilled and un-skilled workers.

Second, the GOP needs to demonstrate that playing by the rules is in everyone’s interest. While seemingly obvious on its face, this point often gets lost (or drowned) in the hubbub of politics. In particular, it needs to be shown that having clear-cut and enforced rules for immigration benefit not just non-Hispanic Americans, but legalized Hispanic-Americans as well. Secure borders and fair-play (not cutting the line via amnesty) are necessary for all Americans to get the most out of this country. Playing by the rules is not an excuse for exclusionary action but the structure that is necessary for a functioning society.

Third, Republicans need to offer a solution to the immigration issue that reconciles the need for immigration (pro-market and pro-Hispanic family) with the needs for rule-of-law and security. This is something that is easily achievable if Republicans simply take the initiative. Immigration reform is essentially a political problem that can be solved under fair, conservative principles. Aside from the far-left open-border type and the far-right xenophobes, a solution could be designed that would satisfy most Americans. The underlying principle that costs to illegal immigration need to be sufficiently high, while costs to legal immigration sufficiently low is the logical starting ground.

Immigration reform should be the first area where the GOP begins its efforts. It is clearly the most volatile and emotional issue. Republican leadership (and justice) on this issue will create significant advances into a community that can serve as a strong electoral base. While the Tequila Party may not end up being the ideal vehicle for GOP inroads into the Hispanic population – its platform is still largely unclear, if not non-existent – the message it brings is resounding – the Hispanic population is a prime and necessary demographic which the GOP needs to start courting.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Class Warfare and the Social Yard-Stick

Class warfare is becoming a full-blown storm on Capitol Hill. It is not really anything new – a time-tested strategy frequently relied upon by the left, but also used by the right. President Obama’s latest deployment was during his announcement of the bipartisan tax deal with Republicans.

Presumably, such a cross-aisle deal is a time to rejoice at actually finding middle ground in the exceedingly divisive Congress. Instead, the “class card” was thrown about. Obama likened the deal to one made with hostage-takers [Can a deal really be enforceable if made under duress?!]. He stated, “I’ve said before that I felt that the middle-class tax cuts were being held hostage to the high-end tax cuts. I think it’s tempting not to negotiate with hostage-takers, unless the hostage gets harmed.”

Now, the merits of Republican tactics aside, the interesting issue is the continued desire of American politicians, particularly on the left, to sow the seeds of class warfare. The storyline is familiar – greedy fat cat CEOs, those over $250k not “paying their fair share,” and “tax-cuts for the rich.” Republicans feed right into this game, defending the economics of high salaries and bonuses (needed to incentivize performance), arguing for low tax rates (high rates stifle economic growth), claiming that some “rich” just really are not all that rich, and pointing to all the good that some wealthy do for the community.

All of this is probably true and these arguments need to be made. However, they miss the fundamental point and allow the political game to be dictated on far-left terms. The left loves class warfare. It plays into a multitude of arguments defending wealth redistribution and increased government involvement in the lives of private citizens. But it rests on a fundamental misunderstanding of what income’s purpose is.

The left looks at income as a sort of social yard-stick, a tool to measure one’s value to society. By this logic the more one makes, the more good they should bring. However the argument goes, there is quite a bit of injustice in the system! Greedy CEOs do not help the country and yet they get rich, while struggling laborers barely make ends meet! The natural solution? Take from those who undeservingly make a lot of money and give to those who deserve it, but do not get it.

Implicit in this argument are at least two assumptions. The first is the particular standard regarding who deserves what. The left has come up with some arbitrary criteria of what is “deserving” and thus how wealth needs to be redistributed. Enter the Republicans – who try to challenge the left’s definition of “deserving.” This is where the class warfare is generally fought. Republicans, for instance, argue that CEOs, for better or worse, do deserve at least some of their recompense.

However, by playing the game of “what social value do [insert: CEOs, top 5% of income earners, those who make over $250k, etc] have,” Republicans are tacitly acknowledging the deeper assumption in this leftist [daresay socialist] argument – that there is even a relationship between social value and income.

The fact of the matter is that income is a measure of one’s services in a given line of work. It is the market’s determination of what value an individual provides for a certain occupation. Income, like the price of nearly every other good, is motivated by a host of factors, including, of course, supply and demand.

However, it is not – and should never be – a measure of one’s value to society. This is too arbitrary of a claim. Society – government in particular – has no right to pass judgment on an individual’s value or their associated income. [Beyond the issue of right – government simply has no, non-arbitrary means to determine value outside of the market-mechanism.] The rich are no more or less deserving of their wealth, than the poor are of their dearth. “Deserving” just simply is not a concept that the government is fit to act upon.

It is time to cut the class warfare. It is far too divisive and harmful for our country. Not only does it lead to strife between individuals and groups, but it creates an environment where the government feels even more compelled to meddle in the private affairs of citizens. One may not like that someone else makes more than him, but that never justifies arbitrarily taking it from him. Why should it be any different for the government?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

WikiLeaks and a Middle East Peace on

The post, WikiLeaks and a Middle East Peace?, originally written on ANR is now an expanded article on  Check out the Security and Anti-Terrorism section for the full article, now called "WorthyLeaks?:  Could WikiLeaks Have Some Positive Results?"

The article discusses a possibility of the WikiLeaks disclosures having some positive effects on diplomacy - in particular in the Middle East.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Budget, Entitlements, and Government

In today's Washington Post, Robert Samuelson wrote a poignant editorial on the much needed buget cuts.  He argues that government benefits, once lavished upon the electorate, are largely (politically) unremovable, becoming in the eyes of the people "property rights."  Coupled with the desire to minimize taxes this creates an untenable budgetary mess.  Samuelson correctly argues that partisan interests - whether farm lobbies, the elderly, or others receiving undue government support - should recognize a moral need for change and put aside their self-interest for the national interest.  In other words, he calls for a rewriting of the social contract.

The thrust of the argument is on the areas of the welfare state (or benefit state to construct it more widely in order to include agricultural subsidies and the like) that need to be slashed; however, he does tepidly venture into the more philosophical realm of the role of the state when he discusses the defense budget.  Samuelson argues that cuts to defense should not be treated the same as cuts in other areas of the national budget because "[n]ational security is government's first job."  He, unfortunately, does not take this to the next level, namely by opening a discussion on what the proper role of government is.  Government's role within society has expanded enormously and if America is to not only solve its budgetary issues but also resolve the government's wayward drift, the people need to pin down what, philosophically speaking, the purpose of government is.