Posts Tagged ‘Wall Street Journal’

30th April
2010
written by Sean Noble

Peggy Noonan has a great column about our current illegal immigration problem, and more specifically, the problem with our southern border, that will run in this weekend’s edition of the Wall Street Journal.  It is worth the read, and the entire piece follows.  I have been a huge fan of Noonan even before I knew it.  She was a speechwriter for President Ronald Reagan and has a beautiful way with words.  As is demonstrated in this column, she always makes you think.

We are at a remarkable moment. We have an open, 2,000-mile border to our south, and the entity with the power to enforce the law and impose safety and order will not do it. Wall Street collapsed, taking Main Street’s money with it, and the government can’t really figure out what to do about it because the government itself was deeply implicated in the crash, and both political parties are full of people whose political careers have been made possible by Wall Street contributions. Meanwhile we pass huge laws, bills so comprehensive, omnibus and transformative that no one knows what’s in them and no one—literally, no one—knows how exactly they will be executed or interpreted. Citizens search for new laws online, pore over them at night, and come away knowing no more than they did before they typed “dot-gov.”

It is not that no one’s in control. Washington is full of people who insist they’re in control and who go to great lengths to display their power. It’s that no one takes responsibility and authority. Washington daily delivers to the people two stark and utterly conflicting messages: “We control everything” and “You’re on your own.”

All this contributes to a deep and growing alienation between the people of America and the government of America in Washington.

This is not the old, conservative and long-lampooned “I don’t trust gummint” attitude of the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s. It’s something new, or rather something so much more broadly and fully evolved that it constitutes something new. The right never trusted the government, but now the middle doesn’t. I asked a campaigner for Hillary Clinton recently where her sturdy, pantsuited supporters had gone. They didn’t seem part of the Obama brigades. “Some of them are at the tea party,” she said.

None of this happened overnight. It is, most recently, the result of two wars that were supposed to be cakewalks, Katrina, the crash, and the phenomenon of a federal government that seemed less and less competent attempting to do more and more by passing bigger and bigger laws.

Add to this states on the verge of bankruptcy, the looming debt crisis of the federal government, the likelihood of ever-rising taxes. Shake it all together, and you have the makings of the big alienation. Alienation is often followed by full-blown antagonism, and antagonism by breakage.

Which brings us to Arizona and its much-criticized attempt to institute a law aimed at controlling its own border with Mexico. It is doing this because the federal government won’t, and because Arizonans have a crisis on their hands, areas on the border where criminal behavior flourishes, where there have been kidnappings, murders and gang violence. If the law is abusive, it will be determined quickly enough, in the courts. In keeping with recent tradition, they were reading parts of the law aloud on cable the other night, with bright and sincere people completely disagreeing on the meaning of the words they were reading. No one knows how the law will be executed or interpreted.

Every state and region has its own facts and experience. In New York, legal and illegal immigrants keep the city running: They work hard jobs with brutal hours, rip off no one on Wall Street, and do not crash the economy. They are generally considered among the good guys. I’m not sure New Yorkers can fairly judge the situation in Arizona, nor Arizonans the situation in New York.

But the larger point is that Arizona is moving forward because the government in Washington has completely abdicated its responsibility. For 10 years—at least—through two administrations, Washington deliberately did nothing to ease the crisis on the borders because politicians calculated that an air of mounting crisis would spur mounting support for what Washington thought was appropriate reform—i.e., reform that would help the Democratic and Republican parties.

Both parties resemble Gordon Brown, who is about to lose the prime ministership of Britain. On the campaign trail this week, he was famously questioned by a party voter about his stand on immigration. He gave her the verbal runaround, all boilerplate and shrugs, and later complained to an aide, on an open mic, that he’d been forced into conversation with that “bigoted woman.”

He really thought she was a bigot. Because she asked about immigration. Which is, to him, a sign of at least latent racism.

The establishments of the American political parties, and the media, are full of people who think concern about illegal immigration is a mark of racism. If you were Freud you might say, “How odd that’s where their minds so quickly go, how strange they’re so eager to point an accusing finger. Could they be projecting onto others their own, heavily defended-against inner emotions?” But let’s not do Freud, he’s too interesting. Maybe they’re just smug and sanctimonious.

The American president has the power to control America’s borders if he wants to, but George W. Bush and Barack Obama did not and do not want to, and for the same reason, and we all know what it is. The fastest-growing demographic in America is the Hispanic vote, and if either party cracks down on illegal immigration, it risks losing that vote for generations.

But while the Democrats worry about the prospects of the Democrats and the Republicans about the well-being of the Republicans, who worries about America?

No one. Which the American people have noticed, and which adds to the dangerous alienation—actually it’s at the heart of the alienation—of the age.

In the past four years, I have argued in this space that nothing can or should be done, no new federal law passed, until the border itself is secure. That is the predicate, the commonsense first step. Once existing laws are enforced and the border made peaceful, everyone in the country will be able to breathe easier and consider, without an air of clamor and crisis, what should be done next. What might that be? How about relax, see where we are, and absorb. Pass a small, clear law—say, one granting citizenship to all who serve two years in the armed forces—and then go have a Coke. Not everything has to be settled right away. Only controlling the border has to be settled right away.

Instead, our national establishments deliberately allow the crisis to grow and fester, ignoring public unrest and amusing themselves by damning anyone’s attempt to deal with the problem they fear to address.

Why does the federal government do this? Because so many within it are stupid and unimaginative and don’t trust the American people. Which of course the American people have noticed.

If the federal government and our political parties were imaginative, they would understand that it is actually in their interests to restore peace and order to the border. It would be a way of demonstrating that our government is still capable of functioning, that it is still to some degree connected to the people’s will, that it has the broader interests of the country in mind.

The American people fear they are losing their place and authority in the daily, unwinding drama of American history. They feel increasingly alienated from their government. And alienation, again, is often followed by deep animosity, and animosity by the breaking up of things. If our leaders were farsighted not only for themselves but for the country, they would fix the border.

11th August
2009
written by Sean Noble

 It is said that when Walter Cronkite returned from a trip to Vietnam and reported that the war was unwinnable, President Lyndon Johnson said, “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost America.”

Conservative holdouts in the Arizona Legislature, who oppose the budget deal because of the sales tax referral, may be in the same position.  The editorial page of the Wall Street Journal has for years been the conscience of fiscal conservatism and the leader in reducing taxes.  They have editorialized that the deal is a good one, particularly to retain and attract business to the state by reducing business and personal income tax and property tax reform.  They reason that those are easy trades for referring the sales tax to the ballot.

The operative paragraph reads:

Republicans control both houses of the Arizona legislature, and as we went to press the main obstacle to passing the reform was the Arizona Senate’s antitax conservatives. They oppose the higher sales tax. These Republicans should look to one of the triumphs of the Reagan Presidency, the 1986 tax reform, which broadened the tax base but substantially lowered tax rates and thus sustained the 1980s expansion.

When you’ve lost the WSJ editorial page, you’ve lost your leverage. 

 

Arizona’s Budget Breakthrough

An alternative to California’s tax and spend model.

Perhaps states are starting to learn the right fiscal lessons from the red-ink blowouts in high-tax California and New York. Today, the legislature in Arizona will vote on a tax reform designed to entice more employers and high-income taxpayers to the state. Sponsored by Republican Governor Jan Brewer, the plan would cut state property taxes, the corporate tax and personal income taxes, in exchange for a temporary rise in the sales tax.

Most economic studies agree that states have more jobs and higher income growth when they tax consumption rather than savings, investment and business profits. This explains why most of the nine states with no income tax at all—such as Texas, Florida and Tennessee—have been economic high-flyers in recent decades.

Ms. Brewer’s proposal reflects this economic logic. Effective January 1, 2011, her plan would reduce the state’s corporate income tax rate to 4.86% from 6.97%, which would be one of the largest business tax cuts in the nation in recent years. The proposal also cuts all personal income tax rates by 6.6%, thus lowering the top marginal rate to 4.24% from 4.54%. A hated statewide tax on commercial and residential property would also be abolished.

Arizona has been hit especially hard by the housing slump, and its budget woes were compounded thanks to former Governor Janet Napolitano’s spending spree before she joined the Obama cabinet. On her watch the budget grew by more than 50% in five years—to $10.2 billion from $6.5 billion in 2004. The state now has a $1 billion budget gap, and to close it the legislature will also vote on a one percentage point increase in the sales tax to 6.6% in 2010 and 2011; in the third year the sales tax would fall to 6.1%, and in the fourth year would revert to its current 5.6% rate.

We’d rather see the legislature cut more spending than raise the sales tax, but on the other hand the sales tax would only take effect if it is approved on the November ballot. The political class is giving voters a say in the matter. The sales tax increase also has the advantage of a built-in expiration date, while the tax cuts are permanent.

Democratic opponents are calling this a tax giveaway to big business. But lawmakers needn’t apologize for trying to retain Arizona’s status as a business-friendly state—particularly when jobs are so scarce. Small employers also benefit from the lower property tax rates and the personal income tax reductions. Lower tax payments will enable them to reinvest more in their enterprises.

The opponents should consult a new study of state business taxes by former U.S. Treasury economist Robert Carroll for the Tax Foundation. He examined 50 states and found that states with lower corporate tax rates have higher wage gains and more productivity over time. This tax cut sounds like a high-return investment.

Republicans control both houses of the Arizona legislature, and as we went to press the main obstacle to passing the reform was the Arizona Senate’s antitax conservatives. They oppose the higher sales tax. These Republicans should look to one of the triumphs of the Reagan Presidency, the 1986 tax reform, which broadened the tax base but substantially lowered tax rates and thus sustained the 1980s expansion.

Arizona has the chance to be the anti-California, closing the budget deficit by growing the economy, not by raising taxes. We hope legislators don’t blow it, because the U.S. desperately needs an alternative to the tax, spend and tax again philosophy of Sacramento and Albany.

24th December
2008
written by Sean Noble

The term “burying the lede” refers to news reports which put the most important news deep into a story, rather than the first paragraph.

The Obama team has essentially done the same thing, only through timing. They released the “independent” audit of the transition teams’ contact with Blagojevich related to Obama’s Senate seat yesterday, so it hit newspapers today, Christmas Eve. I would venture to guess that Christmas Eve is in the top three of days with lowest newspaper readership.

One of the better stories today, which very few people will read, is here in the WSJ.