Politics SHOULD Be Local

It is ironic that a city the President used to demonstrate his capabilities as a leader is nearly out of cash.  Democrats endlessly touted the auto bailout as the lifeline that “saved Detroit” during the 2012 campaign season; however, the city itself is in trouble!  According to a December 3 Wall Street Journal op-ed, the city is near bankruptcy.  Lifelines from the state, which are tied to requirements to correct fiscal problems, are being opposed by City Council.  As of April, the expected annual budget shortfall was at $265 million.  A big chunk of that shortfall is from the city’s retirement liabilities, amounting to roughly $11 billion.  The city will spend up to $160 million this fiscal year on retiree benefits.  Note that the size of the general fund in April 2012 was only $1.2 billion.

The problem the city has is that the rubber meets the road in local politics.  Cities and states have a direct connection to their citizens, unlike the federal government.  They have to educate children, provide sanitation, offer first-response emergency services, etc.  On the national scene, politicians can make grandiose promises but usually do not directly provide government services to constituents.  This is part of the reason why limiting federal government and strengthening local government was so important to the founders.  Local leaders (or their predecessors) cannot easily escape the consequences of poor decisions.  Detroit is hampered by previous decisions to cater to powerful unions who demanded favorable retirement benefits, such as the ability to draw retirement when workers reached their 40s in some cases.  There is no escape for the local politician – the city cannot escape the costs of such decisions.

Contrast this with federal government.  Of course, members of Congress and the President have to go home and periodically face the electorate, but if poor stances are taken, members of the federal government are mostly protected from the local consequences of their decisions.  Consider the case of the Obama administration and one of its former members, Rahm Emanuel.  Emanuel was part of an administration that politically supported unions, particularly the NEA and AFT, and their $50 million of contributions to the Obama 2008 campaign.  Ironically, when Emanuel went from Chief of Staff in Obama’s White House to running the city of Chicago as mayor, he ended up in a labor dispute with Chicago Public School teachers that caused a strike at the start of the 2012 school year.  As President (or a member of the president’s administration), leaders do not have to worry about such local issues and can make political claims or politically-based decisions with little ramification; however, on the local level, leaders have to deliver.  That is why we saw the switch in Emanuel to union-busting – when you have to educate the children of a city, you do not have the same latitude to play politics as a national politician does.

Whenever you find a federal government infringing upon the daily responsibilities of those local or state entities, problems persist.  This is one of the many problems with Obamacare.  The original statute had required states to expand Medicaid programs to cover individuals up to 138% of the poverty level or risk losing Medicaid funding.  Even with some additional federal funding, this requirement would have heavily burdened already financially-strapped states.  Apparently, the non-local politicians did not fully discuss the ability of individual states to meet the expanded Medicaid mandate.  Fortunately, the Supreme Court ruled the states cannot be forced to follow suit, but consider how such an edict from Washington – a town that cannot balance a budget (the federal government spent 144% of tax revenue in fiscal 2012) – would affect states that cannot print money and monetize their debts.

Perhaps Obamacare would have been written differently if its authors would have to find all the money to pay for the massive program, like their state and local counterparts have to do.

Not Just More Post-Election Platitudes

Just like all of the people that call themselves conservatives or those that identify with the Republican Party, I was very disturbed by the outcome of the election earlier this month.  Election Day was very difficult.  First, Obama won Ohio which sealed his re-election.  After that, I woke up to the news that an exciting, young, energetic Mia Love was defeated in Congress and Allen West was in major trouble in Florida (he would eventually concede).

Pundits on the left and right filled the airwaves with their thoughts on why the GOP lost the way they did with the Obama White House presiding over a lethargic economic recovery.  Mitt Romney was not conservative enough … women were scared away from the GOP … minority outreach was hopelessly lacking in the RNC agenda.  I took opportunities to give my thoughts in some places, but I also took some time to just listen to the discussions to get a wider perspective.

I offer two critical observations from the election.  First, we have Mitt Romney’s post-election comments that sparked so much controversy.  Romney blamed Obama’s garnering of so many votes from the young, women and minorities on their desire to get free stuff.  Volumes of commentary have been written explaining the factual flaws in Romney’s words, so I will not cover that here.  In focusing on the African-American community, I will say that a figure much smaller than 100% of the African-Americans that voted for Obama voted for him because they wanted free stuff.  Similarly, a small percentage of African-Americans would vote against giving those that need support from the government to vote for someone that dismisses all votes against him as a quest for freebies.  I do not wish to point out that the GOP needs to purge irresponsible generalities from its vernacular; there is plenty of commentary about that.  I prefer to talk about what outreach means.  While not every African American needs government to survive, the GOP must answer the question of how those people who are in need would survive if programs are to be cut.  Unlike when Mitt Romney fumbled over his poor and safety net comments, the GOP has to make it clear that 1) conservatives want to lead in empowering those that are in need to move from consuming tax dollars to producing them, 2) conservatives believe that most African-Americans that are in need do not want to be and 3) the “big 3” – Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid – will bankrupt the nation and the insolvency of those programs will affect those that are in need worse and sooner.  There is a myth that all who vote Democrat are dependent on government in some form and are willingly dependent; this myth must be eliminated from any GOP approach to outreach.  If the GOP is to truly attempt outreach, there has to be a dialogue to understand what the true needs of minority communities are, not just “hip hop” a message that does not address the needs of those communities.  We have to discuss how people with no healthcare will get care.  We must discuss how truly educating kids – not worrying about saving school administrations – will lead to ending generational legacies of government dependence.  Conservatism holds the answer to prosperity for all communities.  The key need is someone with the commitment and eloquence to express this vision without giving in to so many negative stereotypes.

Another critical observation is more general.  It is around the entire 2012 Election process. It was very troubling to see the relatively small amount of attention paid to critical issues during the election.  If you were excited about Obama’s victory because you are dedicated Democrats or you hate Romney and Republicans, consider why you voted.  Did you vote for a comprehensive fixing of our education system, considering your President has come out against No Child Left Behind?  That’s troubling since no detailed plan was broadcast to replace NCLB.  Did you vote for fiscal reform that would lead to a balanced budget during Obama’s second term?  That’s troubling since no plan presented by the campaign balanced the budget during Obama’s second term.  Did you vote for someone that explained why the stimulus did not work as intended?  Did that candidate then show you either how those shortcomings would be fixed or how another approach would be utilized for economic recovery in Obama’s second term?  That’s troubling – all the Obama campaign offered was that the GOP played obstructionist in Obama’s first term.  While making Obama a victim may work for sympathy points, it does not reveal a plan to fix our economic problems.  Just less than half the country voted for Romney – the GOP still has some power.  What specific efforts will be given towards bipartisanship?  Are all Republicans going to be rounded up and shot?  While that may be tempting to some Democrats, it is not feasible.

What haunted me about this election was that we spent too little time challenging specific plans and visions from either candidate.  After considering all that happened, I remain convinced that conservatism holds the answers despite the missteps along the way.  I can live with the majority of the country looking at the evidence presented by each campaign and coming to another conclusion.  I am haunted by the idea that the country did not get to consider such evidence when making their decisions.  The war on women, Romney’s misstatements fostered by underlying stereotypes, and the inability of the media to avoid salaciousness and discuss substantive issues (consider the amount of time spent regurgitating polls versus time spent discussing education plans) lead me to believe conservatism did not get a fair shot with the young, minorities and women; these are the groups that decided the election.  I am convinced that Mitt Romney lost this election more so than Obama won it, but there is still a lot of work to do on the conservative side anyway.

The $847B Debacle

The following is an abstract for a white-paper TOC submitted to the RNC on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.  The white paper investigates the so-called stimulus and challenges African-Americans to reconsider its relationship with the Democrat party considering the party is such a poor steward of taxpayer resources:

African-Americans and the $847 Billion Debacle

Author:  Hughey Newsome (Move-On-Up.org and theobjectivecitizen.com)

The purpose of the piece “African-Americans and The $840 Billion Debacle” is to illustrate that the wasteful spending in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 is actually an opportunity for the Republican Party to reach out to blacks and find common ground.  The piece starts by demonstrating that blacks are not at parity with other ethnic groups, and, because of that, blacks need to focus on closing those gaps (in wealth and education).  With the fiscal health of our nation, the paper argues that blacks should have a special interest in closing these gaps and reducing overall dependency on government that will eventually have to reduce its expenditures and cut redistributive spending.  Because blacks are disproportionately dependent, the only logical conclusion is that blacks must pay more attention to right-sizing of government, making sure every dollar government spends provides maximal value and more focus is placed on closing the aforementioned gaps blacks have instead of providing programs that allow blacks to adapt to these gaps.

After establishing this premise, the paper introduces the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act as an example of a value-destroying government program that did not achieve its goal.  The analysis starts with a thorough explanation of the size of the program with an attempt to scale it down to numbers that average Americans can appreciate.  The fact that no business case, an analysis any company would have to create for a large investment, seems to exist for the stimulus is also discussed.  The 8% unemployment target was reluctantly given by the administration, but little explanation was revealed as to how that figure was calculated.  From there, the paper begins to strike down myths about the program’s success.  It reveals how GDP began to grow again before the most significant spending started, hinting that GDP growth was not due to the stimulus, but instead to either confidence reestablished in the financial system via TARP or just cyclicality in the economy.  As further argument that the stimulus was not the cause of the recovery that we have seen since GDP began growing again in 2009, the analysis continues by revealing many of the sectors that received stimulus spending lagged the overall job market in terms of employment rate increase.  A stimulus is supposed to put money into productive sectors of the economy and have that money then flow to the other sectors.  If the stimulus worked, why do we not see this trend in the numbers?  Even more evidence can be found in the labor participation figures.  There has been virtually no recovery in labor participation since the recession started, so how can one argue that the stimulus worked if fewer people are in the labor market.

Once the lack of success of the stimulus is analyzed and presented, the paper presents an alternative approach of creating wealth and reducing unemployment.  It contrasts the way the private sector makes investment decisions and manages the resources of shareholders and investors to the way government manages taxpayer funds.  The conclusion that is drawn is that African-Americans should not want to continue to be disproportionately dependent on an institution that does so poorly managing resources.  It also concludes by challenging blacks to consider how much money was spent on pet projects versus how much money was spent to close gaps between African-Americans and other groups.  The only logical conclusion one could draw is that Republicans and African-Americans clearly have common ground.

Voter Suppression – An Alternate Perspective

Lately, the airwaves have been filled with accusations of GOP voter suppression. Certain states are pushing laws requiring onerous ID requirements, registration requirements and deadlines that are supposedly aimed at stopping minorities, specifically blacks, from voting. The argument is that blacks are disproportionately poor, so any additional requirements are more difficult for blacks to meet. Such accusations have created a firestorm for the left; they are claiming that such efforts are reminiscent of the poll taxes and Black Codes of the early 19th century.

Obviously any effort to suppress a group’s vote instead of earning it is unacceptable and indefensible; however, TOC would like to offer some counter arguments to the conversation.

First, if it is true to say that onerous registration and ID requirements disenfranchise the poor and are racist because blacks are disproportionately poor, is it not fairer to say that such laws disenfranchise the poor? In other words, who is more disenfranchised, the black middle class man who has a passport or the poor white elderly woman who does not drive anymore? The answer is clear, so is the left saying that no blacks are in the middle class? Why call these policies racist when the term anti-poor would be more fitting? All societies have rich and poor, that has a limited taboo. Saying a policy is racist stirs up the emotional pain and stigma from a dark era in our country. It unearths a deep distrust in the black community, but is it a fair accusation, or is it manipulative in order to gain political power? The charge of racism is a very powerful one. The Fed recently announced it would buy a massive amount of securities and would work to keep interest rates low. Blacks are relatively more dependent on fixed incomes (social security, for example) and are less likely to be in a position to benefit directly from the Fed’s purchasing program (invested in a financial services companies or financial securities, for example). Since blacks could be disproportionately negatively affected from the Fed’s actions, does that make the Fed racist?
Second, what is more damaging, voter apathy or voter suppression? The voter turnout for blacks in the 2008 election was a relatively high 65%, compared to prior years (according to the Pew Research Center). That rate is an improvement against the 60% figure for 2004 and the 54% figure for 2000 (according to the Census Bureau). While this rate has been increasing over the last three elections, it still leaves a lot to be desired. If this data is correct, in an election where the first black president was to be elected, blacks still failed to vote at an equivalent rate as whites (66% according to the Pew Research Center). Of course, there is a large effort every election cycle to mobilize black voters, but as TOC discussed in a previous entry, a voter that is not taking the effort to become aware of the issues and forming an opinion on his own or her own is not actually voting. That person is just ceding his or her vote over to whoever is pushing that person to register in the first place. We do not just need more than 65% of our people voting in every election, including local elections and off-year elections, we need many more people engaged with issues and challenging politicians. Not getting engaged due to lack of resources is one thing, but TOC finds it hard to believe that 35% of all voting-age blacks lack the resources to vote and lack the resources to be informed.

TOC presents the above counterpoints as further consideration to the charges of voter suppression; however, TOC does believe that conservatives must do far more to gain the vote of blacks. The struggle of the black Conservative and black Republican is to do just that. While it remains unclear to me personally whether or not there is a systematic effort to prevent blacks from voting in the next election, TOC remains resilient that conservatism is best for blacks in the long run. The challenge is to communicate this message clearly and effectively. One thing is certainly clear, until the other side is forced to clearly explain how its programs and ideology will close the gaps between blacks and other groups in this country, we will never have the dialogue necessary to close those gaps. The other side does not need to do such if it can wield accusations of racism (merited or unmerited).

Let us all do everything to make sure this conversation takes place.

Who is Artur Davis?

This article is written in anticipation of MOU’s fundraising event on September 19. The headliner is Artur Davis, a new member of the Republican Party and a solid African-American leader. These words are meant to ensure everyone has an understanding of who Davis is in order to appreciate the decisions he has made.

When Christopher Arps, founder of Move-On-Up, first announced that Artur Davis would be the headliner for the major MOU event for CBC week, TOC admits that he was not terribly familiar with Davis’s history. I knew that Davis had recently switched parties (from Democrat to Republican) and was considering returning to politics in Virginia, but I was not aware of much more than that. I have to admit that I was a bit cynical at first when Davis switched parties. Was this the African-American version of Arlen Specter, the US Senator from Pennsylvania that switched sides just to save his career? Further research provided a much different picture, a picture of a man that stands on principles and a story that gives a microcosm of what is wrong with politics, but also, a glimpse of what true leadership looks like.

Davis is a graduate of the Harvard Law School. After graduating and servings as a US attorney, he ran for US Congress in Alabama’s 7th Congressional District and lost in 2000. He ran again in 2002 and won the seat. He would go on to win the seat again in the 2004, 2006 and 2008 elections. It was Davis that was an early endorser of Barack Obama for President – even before the Iowa primary, before a majority of the CBC membership jumped on the endorsement bandwagon and before Barack Obama was even considered a viable pick to beat Hillary Clinton for the nomination. Davis clearly felt that Obama was endorsable based on principle, not the usual quid pro quo that comes in politics. During this time, Davis also saw his stature in the US House rise, gaining several key appointments and assignments. He also played a pivotal role in the 2008 National Convention, providing the seconding speech for then-Senator Obama’s nomination for President. Davis’s star was rising in the Democratic Party, and many began to compare his path to that of Obama.

While it is clear that Davis’s previous politics did not line up with those of the conservative, it is clear that he was driven by his principles. These principles sometimes are a double-edged sword. They can bring fortune as well as attack and scorn. After the election of the President, that is exactly what happened. What makes Davis special is that he never abandoned his principles, even when doing so would have been beneficial to his campaign.

After the inauguration of President Obama, Davis decided to not support the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. Davis had no other possible motivations for doing this other than his principles, his belief that supporting the bill would not be beneficial to the people of the 7th Congressional District of Alabama or the country as a whole. This created a rift between him and his party. Of course, this is the same party that “promotes” diversity of thought and states that it is for the African-American. If that is the case, why was this particular African-American not allowed to vote his conscious? He had no other reason to vote against the bill, as it would not have been beneficial for him politically. Davis’s troubles with the Democratic Party continued when he announced his candidacy for Governor of Alabama. Davis was abandoned by the Democratic Party as they backed the more liberal Ron Sparks for the Democratic nomination. This point is critical: The Democratic Party, which is supposedly the party of civil rights, chose to abandon the capable Davis, an African-American, for Ron Sparks, a white man. Imagine how strong of a symbol it would have been for an African-American hold the same office as the avid racist George Wallace. The party was willing to give up supporting an African-American to hold that position in order to enforce unquestioned loyalty to party. For me, this alone proves that the Democratic Party manipulates race and racial disparities for its gain. The hypocrisy of not supporting Davis in such a symbolic endeavor because he did not “fall in line” is incredible.

Davis, after his defeat by Sparks for the nomination, announced he was switching parties and retiring. That is another shame in all of this. Just as I covered in a previous post, Democrats have no problem ending the political careers of prominent African-American up-and-comers that do not fall completely “in-line.” How could this even stand when Democrats make all of their claims of being the party for African-Americans? In that previous discussion, I discussed another moderate Democrat, Harold Ford Jr. from Tennessee who moved to New York and floated the idea of running for Kirsten Gillibrand’s US Senate seat. Due to his lack of complete support for the pro-choice position of the party, he received no support from the Obama White House (which instead made it clear they would support Gillibrand).

Principles are doing what you feel is right, even if doing so will not benefit you personally. That is the story of Davis (and of Ford, Jr.). The party that claims it promotes African-Americans now has lost one of its best future leaders and has forced another one to watch from the sidelines. As a conservative, TOC is more than pleased to see Davis, a man of integrity, move to the right side of the aisle. Davis has played with the idea of getting back into politics and was a big hit at the 2012 RNC. TOC had two opportunities to hear him speak there and was deeply moved. Now that I know the story of Davis, I feel blessed that he is still involved and look forward to following his journey from this point forward.

When a Gaffe is not a Gaffe

Some statements made by politicians are just gaffes.  We are all human, no matter how polished of a politician some of us may be.  Obama’s 57 states statement and Joe Biden’s misstep of asking North Carolina to help win the campaign (while stumping in Virginia) are all such blunders that were mostly ignored by the media and rightfully so.

Some statements are reflective of candidates’ views on policy or politics, that, when taken out of context by the media (either right-wing conservative talk shows or “main-stream” network or cable news), seem to show that the candidate is reckless or dangerously out of touch.  Mitt Romney’s “I like to fire people” and “I am not concerned about the very poor” or President Obama’s “You didn’t build that” are examples.  Of course, Romney either cares about the poor or is not stupid enough to admit he does not.  Also, it should be clear that Romney believes everyone should be accountable for his or her work (or lack thereof), and it is good for the “buyer” of someone’s services (either customers in the private sector or taxpayers in the public sector) to be able to choose to look elsewhere if needs are not being met.  Similarly, President Obama was saying the public infrastructure used to move goods to and from a business, the education system used to educate skilled workers that a business needs and any other value-adds provided by the public sector are necessary for businesses to thrive.  Of course, entrepreneurs built their businesses and deserve rewards, but they have an advantage in being in America with all of our structural advantages over nations like, say, Zimbabwe (doubters should try starting a new software business in Harare).

An objective citizen should not want to focus on the extreme views from out-of-context statements.  TOC disagrees with President Obama on many things, but he does not want to disagree with Obama on a position Obama clearly is not taking.  We need a debate on the level of government’s involvement in private enterprise, but it does no good if positions are misrepresented.  The same goes for the role of government in charity and provision of individual needs.  Mitt Romney made it clear that he wanted to focus on policies to help the middle class and that he felt the “safety net” for the poor is “fine” (and he would consider strengthening it if needed).  Arguing that Romney wants poor people to starve is a stretch; misrepresenting his position takes away an opportunity to have substantive debate.

Some statements are reflective of candidates’ views on policy or political approach without any misrepresentation and are dangerously out of touch or are very questionable.  We recently saw two examples with Vice President Joe Biden and US Senate nominee Todd Akin.  When Joe Biden mentioned that Mitt Romney wanted to put “y’all back in chains,” it revealed, at best, insensitivity towards a race Democrats take for granted.  For those who disagree, consider how often Biden has insulted the LGBT community or the Latino community.  One would expect Biden’s “innocent gaffes” to be spread across different groups if they truly were oversights.  Clearly, these gaffes are calculated; otherwise, how could a near-billion dollar campaign allow them to happen by accident?  Perhaps they are meant to be a distraction.  If so, it is appalling that the Obama campaign wants to distract from material issues and uses such divisiveness.  Perhaps they indicate Biden’s lack of sensitivity for African-Americans –similar to his opinion on Obama’s candidacy in 2007If so, someone must hold him responsible for such words.   Perhaps it is an attempt to excite the emotions of African-Americans with allusions to slavery by using subliminal messaging.  If so, shame on this campaign for stoking such emotions and cheapening that history for votes.  Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” comments are just as bad, but they raise a key question:  How can someone with these views become a major party nominee for US Senate?  Contrast the decision to choose Paul Ryan, a conservative with the skills to communicate the virtues of conservatism, to Akin, with his irresponsibility in speaking to abortion limits for rape victims.  Regardless of one’s opinion on abortion, the term “legitimate rape” is unacceptable to women, husbands of wives, or fathers of daughters.  These words are indicative of Akin’s indefensible feelings.

This view, or some indication of such, should have been exposed during the nomination process.  Akin clearly was hidden in a bubble, which allowed his politics to go unchallenged or unchecked.

Bubbles limit our society’s ability to come to common ground and lead to the polarization we see today.  Of course, Akin had clearly trapped himself in a bubble, but was there not also a similar bubble that Biden saw?  Perhaps Biden sees African-Americans as trapped in the past (with everyone else moving on) and that they will vote based on an evil that ended 150 years ago in lieu of effective policy. That belief would be despicable, but what other conclusion should one draw?

In closing, TOC returns to something he sees as very important.  African-American conservatives have the challenge of winning over more African-Americans.  Plus, there are too few to hide in bubbles – we will always have to defend our positions at family events and in our communities.  We cannot rely on “what is good for the country” arguments since so many African-Americans are struggling.  I will not care about China overtaking the US in GDP in 2017 if I cannot feed my kids today.  Explaining the virtues of conservatism is tough, but we know EVERYONE benefits by limiting the role of government in our lives.  At least, let’s challenge the other side to elevate the conversation and explain why their approach is better.  Let’s make sure the debate is based on the merit of arguments and not on cheap plays to emotions.  Most importantly, let’s continue to challenge all African-Americans and not let them hide in bubbles either.

The Challenge for Romney, Ryan and the Black Conservative

TOC used to critique conservatives for the apparent worship of President Reagan until just recently. Ronald Reagan was the dream of conservatives – one who truly believed in the power of the private sector while having the charisma to draw people to the concept.  This characteristic seems to be in short supply for recent GOP leadership.  Mitt Romney, the 2012 GOP nominee for President, has seemed defensive when talking about his wealth and success.  As TOC has said before (see Regretfully Rich), the fact that Romney is rich should be compelling – not repugnant.  We have someone in Romney that has turned failing companies into juggernauts.  That is far more fascinating than someone who can slow-jam the news.  Fortunately with his VP choice of Paul Ryan, Romney seems fully dedicated to addressing the need to embrace conservatism in the general election rather than shy away from it.  Ryan has a history of being tirelessly dedicated to fiscal conservatism and limited government.

Like Reagan 32 years ago, Ryan and Romney must now explain how limiting government and cutting taxes is not just “helping the rich,” but putting money in the private sector so that the private sector can produce value.  Government has never created anything on its own other than services the Constitution mandates.

To a passive citizen, such may be counterintuitive.  For some, the poor should be helped by the largest entity in our society (government).  For some, Barack Obama needs to take from the “evil” rich people to fund government.  For some, we need to take better care of the environment, so it makes sense to allow the government to force citizens to buy clean-burning ethanol.  Clearly, we need to put more money into our education system when we have schools that do not graduate half of their students.  Last but not least, when we are running budget deficits consistently over $1T, the rich should pay their “fair share,” and it is certainly not fair that the ultra-rich pay lower tax rates than the “working man.”

Ryan and Romney must explain the error in this logic.  Yes, you can give to the poor, but you risk creating a cradle-to-grave welfare system that destroys incentive for people to unlock their potential and contribute to (not take from) society.  Yes, you can take from the “evil” rich and give to government, but that means you are taking money from some that have a proven track record of creating value from resources and giving those resources to a less-productive government.  We hear all the time that we need to raise taxes to build roads and bridges and fix schools.  Why is it that “bridges are falling apart” and we are falling behind the world in education while spending has been increasing every since 1965?  What has all this money been spent on?  Who knows, but TOC does know that government is failing to deliver the things we all agree it needs to deliver, but not because of a lack of spending.  Nobody wants a dirty environment, but forcing people to buy ethanol leads to overconsumption that increases corn prices and hurts the poor but does nothing to improve the environment overall.  Perhaps we need to consider a voucher system so we can have competition in order to force schools systems to improve themselves.  Consider Detroit Public Schools (DPS) as an example of why pouring money into a system alone does not work since you do not compel the administrators to make improvements.  At DPS, kids and teachers have suffered as administrators robbed and plundered.  If a poor, inner-city mother does not like the toy she buys from Wal-Mart, she can take it back, but if her child is not getting educated, what recourse does she have?  All of this is in light of Democrats demanding the rich pay their fair share.  Turning back to “Regretfully Rich”, the argument that “rich man pays lower tax rate than not-rich man” does not take into account that a) the capital gains tax is assessed on money you invest after you have already paid income taxes –for example, if you earn $100,000 on a $1M dollar investment, you may already have given the government another $1M in income taxes to earn the $1M to invest – and b) when you increase the capital gains tax, the rich will not just continue to behave the same.  They will decrease certain activities, leading to less investment in businesses while the additional money seized by government will be spent on who-knows-what (for doubters, please walk me through a business case for the $840B investment known as the stimulus – the next time TOC sees that business case will be the first time).

We as black conservatives face a similar challenge as Romney and Ryan – leading other blacks to the virtues of conservatism.  Democrats approach blacks with a simplistic argument that the government is here to help you and you need help (with the implicit message that blacks are not capable of across-the-board success given the right resources).  As evidence, it took President Obama almost four years to create some bureaucracy, via executive order, to “help” black students.  On the other hand, it took Obama just a few months in office to expand entitlements, such as lengthening unemployment to 99 weeks.

The biggest, but most immediate hurdle we have is explaining to blacks that conservatism is not “racist” as the Democrats have pushed for generations.  The argument that smaller government is racist because shrinking government will disenfranchise blacks is a racist statement itself.  Again, there is an implicit message that blacks inherently need government to survive – this is offensive and unacceptable.  The conservative message of giving our children school choice so they can receive an education, kick the need of government assistance, invest in themselves and – eventually – thrive in a small-government environment (not suffer from it) is a central part of the black conservative’s vision.

TOC hopes more of us continue to accept this challenge.

Plantation Politics and the Voter Suppression Fight, Part II

Out of curiosity, TOC recently attended a Voter Education event at a local church.  Of course, since the church has a mostly black membership, the event was more catered to community activism around getting out the vote.  Even though it was fairly clear from the conversation that most participants supported Democrats, no lines involving disallowed endorsements of candidates were crossed.

 

Because of the non-profit status of the church, this particular forum was not appropriate for discussing policy positions of candidates; however, a broader question should be raised.  While there are many organizations working to make sure certain populations (the elderly, the poor, the young) go out and vote in the black community, how many organizations are working to make sure blacks are engaged with the issues to the point they can make an educated voting decision?  Another question is how do these same people who give their vote get to the position to hold politicians accountable?  With all of the ‘get out the vote’ groups working to do just that along with other civil rights groups fighting voter ‘suppression’ laws, I wonder which of these groups are arming their target communities so that they can charge politicians with expectations and hold them accountable. TOC has yet to hear that story.

 

Perhaps these groups expect blacks to vote for Obama because he is black or because the GOP is “racist”.  Sadly, just voting for these reasons will not increase the percentage of black males that graduate from high school (less than 50%) or change the fact that one in three black males aged 20-29 are under some form of criminal supervision (per Wikipedia), or change the trajectory of the incredibly high murder rates in Chicago and New Orleans. (Besides, if Obama had a plan to address these issues that disproportionately affect blacks, it seems he would have laid such plans out at the NAACP annual convention this summer. He skipped it, but I digress).

 

If the left wants to drive voter participation, it is for nothing more than the left’s political gain unless these voters are empowered to demand something for their vote. Similar to what was discussed in Part I (what good is having political power when I do not have the economic empowerment to participate in this economy) it does me no good to have the political power of a vote when I do not have the tools of knowledge to ensure my vote will be good for me.  All I am doing is giving a blind vote to whatever political organization decided to convince me to vote, helped me fill out the voter registration card, or offered me a ride in the first place.  Why else would they work to get me to vote?  Blacks vote for Democrats “just because” (TOC still wishes someone would explain what the “because” is), but that does not turn into specific gains for blacks.  Since LBJ’s war on poverty the country’s poverty rate – which disproportionately affects blacks – has seen little improvement. TOC has his own theories on why.  Some argue it is due to plantation politics.  Regardless of intent, Democrats have held the White House or some branch of congress for all 21 congressional sessions since 1969 except 3, yet the poverty rate since 1969 has varied little.  Even worse, Democrats controlled everything in Washington from January 2009 until January 2011, but only passed an entitlement-ridden stimulus and a health care bill they cannot get away from fast enough.  Black youth unemployment is as high as 35%.  How does that increase black empowerment? How does that close the wealth gap? The health gap?  The education gap?  Is anyone planning to hold Democrats accountable in November?

 

The even more important question is how do we – en masse – make sure Democrats are fighting to close these gaps if they want our votes?

 

As a conservative, my personal belief is that Democrats cannot earn our votes, so they use Ebonics, race baiting and Obama’s blackness. The other side of the coin is, what do we, as black conservatives, do to explain how conservatism can make things better for the black community. We know the answer but it is far harder to explain to someone suffering through poverty that economic freedom is better for them and their kids IN THE LONG RUN than economic dependence. We have to take that charge.

 

Someday, get out the vote drives need to be good for more than the political strategy of helping manipulative democrats.  That would be good for all of us in the LONG RUN.  Perhaps then, getting out the vote drives will be just as beneficial for the GOP as for the Democrats.  That would be a sign that someone in Washington would finally have to actually care.

 

When Did Romney Leave Bain, and Other Nonsense to Sidetrack the Election Conversation

It is arguable that this election is one of the most critical ones we have seen in more than a generation.  The stakes are extremely high, as America is at a crossroads in terms of its ability to lead the world economically.  Fundamental questions persist as well, particularly around the role of government in health care, education and our banking system after one of the most disastrous financial meltdowns in history.

With this in mind, TOC’s concern is around how we choose a President.  While it is true that shenanigans happen on both sides of the aisle, the lead political stories of last week seem more troubling than normal.  Total disclosure, TOC is a supporter of Mitt Romney and feels he is more than qualified to be President.  With that being said, I struggle to reconcile the attacks the Obama campaign has levied against Romney.  Although TOC deserves an explanation for why Obama’s $840B stimulus package has done little to turn around our economy – as it was supposed to do – the campaign seems little troubled to provide one.  It is even more troubling that the campaign has not only failed to provide such an explanation but has also failed to lay out a specific detailed plan for how we will get out of this economic quagmire in a second term if Obama is re-elected.  Instead, we have been told that Romney is an outsourcer and his plan is more of the same we saw under Bush.  The latest version of the attack comes from Stephanie Cutter of the Obama campaign, who stated that Romney was either lying about when he left Bain or was guilty of a felony since some documents from Bain had his signature after his supposed departure from the company in 1999.  A bipartisan report has already stated that Romney did not serve in any decision-making capacity for Bain after 1999, when the supposed outsourcing took place.

A concerned citizen may now be asking what does all of this have to do with getting unemployment back under 6%, and TOC would agree with that concern.  Even if you are a die-hard Obama supporter, you should still prefer to have the President explain to you what you can specifically expect in his second term.  Electing Obama should not be an end, but instead a means to some end that you clearly understand.  Unfortunately, that is not what we get when we turn back the dial 12 years to the end of 1999 and spread accusations about felonies.  None of us win.

This instance presents a fundamental question for America.  How are we to choose our leaders, particularly those to fill an office as important as President?  Compare the way our last couple of elections have been conducted compared to, say, a job interview.  In recent elections, there has been limited attention paid to what would be a critical job interview question:  what did you accomplish in your last role?  Indeed, we never talked specifically about Senator Obama’s time as a senator.  TOC is not just thinking of the voting record of the then-senator, but also of his exemplifying himself as a leader.  We never got to that point in discussing him or Senator McCain, for that matter.  We have a great way to test to see if people are great politicians, but how do we assess their leadership?  Going back to 2008, the fact that Senator Obama had no distinguishing record as a Senator was considered an asset by some high-ranking people within the Democratic Party.  Interviews from PBS’s Frontline – The Choice 2008 reveal that several high-ranking people, including former Senator Tom Daschle, thought that it was better to have a less-experienced Obama run for President due to the fact there would be no record for people to attack.   While this may work in politics, is it really good for a party to select a nominee primarily because of his lack of a record (inexperience) so he does not have to answer questions from his interviewers (the electors)?

Let us fast forward to 2012.  We find the same President Obama now attacking his opponent on his record while an executive at Bain Capital.  The irony is incredible, but such a review is appropriate if fair.  We should have that opportunity to interview Mitt Romney – the same opportunity we did not get with then-Senator Barack Obama.  Unfortunately, the conversation to-date is very lacking.  We have seen misrepresentations of what private equity really is, which have been refuted by the likes of key Democrats like Corey Booker and Bill Clinton.  We have also seen what seems to be a focus on events at Bain that took place when Romney was not there.  Of course, the back and forth is good for the Sunday morning talk shows, but the electorate remains distracted and confused with all of the noise and name-calling.

It is ironic that President Obama, who was elected with the benefit of a razor-thin executive record, now unfairly attacks an executive that has a long, distinguished record to attack.  All the while, we still do not have a clear understanding of why Obama’s $840B stimulus package missed the mark so badly and what Obama would do differently if elected.  That would be the first question TOC would ask in an interview!

Is this any way for us to elect a President?  Is this any way for an incumbent to present his plan for the future?  When do we get our chance to stop selecting politicians and start finding leaders?

How NOT to develop African-American Leaders

While almost all of the attention of the political world was dedicated to the Supreme Court last week, Charlie Rangel quietly won the Democratic primary for New York’s 13th Congressional District. Rangel’s primary fight, along with those of Eddie Bernice Johnson in Texas’s 30th district and John Conyer’s upcoming primary in Michigan’s 13th district, are among the most noteworthy involving African-American US House Representative incumbents.
These three representatives are indicative of a troubling trend in the area of leadership in the African-American community. The next generation of political leaders is not being groomed from generation to generation. Indeed, the average age of the members of the CBC in the US House of Representatives is 61 – 4 full years above the average for the general population in the House. Unfortunately, there are no African-Americans currently serving in the US Senate. Outside of the White House (and several mid-tier positions in the executive branch), there is a stark absence of fresh African-American leadership in Washington. The members of the CBC are getting older. The President has fewer African Americans in his first term cabinet that can vault to prominent political careers (perhaps Eric Holder and Lisa Jackson) versus the cabinet of George Bush (Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powel, Rod Paige, and Alphonso Jackson).
TOC writes this in the spirit of bipartisanship – as in it is not meant to be a direct criticism of one party and a promotion of the other. Of course, as a conservative, TOC laments the stark discrepancy in the number of African-Americans that choose to be Democrat versus Republican. Numerous pieces have been written about the discrepancy in numbers between African-American conservatives and Democrats; I would prefer not to tackle that here. With that said, there is no question that African-American Democrats must do a much better job of developing their next generation of leaders. Conservative African-Americans disagree with Democrats on how to solve the health gap, wealth gap and education gap from which so many African-Americans suffer, but we hopefully are steadfastly focused on that end. That end should be just as important to African-American Democrats. It requires grooming the next round of political leaders and knowing when to surrender power and allow these leaders to develop. The seeming unwillingness of some African-American Democrats to do so is disturbing. It makes one suspect that these Democrats are paying lip service to helping their constituencies and are actually far more concerned with their individual legacies.
TOC came to this conclusion by following Eddie Bernice Johnson’s primary fight in South Dallas. The race started with a young, well-groomed Taj Clayton and a state senator from Texas – Mallory Caraway – vying to oust Johnson. Johnson had just ridden her way through several scandals (links here and here). How is it that Johnson, who violated the terms of a foundation scholarship, could survive and get 70% of the vote in the primary against a well-groomed Harvard-educated lawyer with close ties to the 2008 Obama campaign? There are some political realities, as the non-Johnson vote was split between Clayton and Caraway, but together they only received 30% of the vote. It definitely did not help that Barack Obama swooped in and endorsed Johnson, more than likely for political reasons (a new Democrat in that seat would have less seniority in the House and Johnson gave Obama unquestioned loyalty, allegedly). Why else would Obama give a campaign-ending endorsement against such a well-polished up-and-comer? In Michigan, John Conyers has been mostly quiet on the biggest scandal hitting his political family – the indictment of his wife Monica Conyers for bribery. Despite Conyer’s age and family’s legal troubles, Obama endorsed him as well. As far as Charlie Rangel is concerned, the 82-year-old was not endorsed by President Obama, but the White House gave no clear signal about not supporting the censured congressman. Maybe prudent politics call for sitting on the fence when Clyde Williams has a scandal-free experienced political background, without the name recognition to win.
President Obama has been troublingly ineffective in this area. The aforementioned endorsements of aged CBC members in lieu of up-and-comers are dreadful enough, but it gets worse. In a move that got far too little conversation in national and African-American circles, the Obama White House gave early support to New York Kirsten Gillibrand over Harold Ford, Jr., another up-and-coming young and incredibly potent African-American Democrat. Why would an Obama White House go so far out of its way to support Gillibrand even before Ford announced a run against her? Political pundits concluded that Obama was swayed by Ford’s centrist social views, but in light of the subject of this post, the Obama administration clearly was not concerned with supporting who could have been only the fourth African-American elected US senator (remember that Roland Burris was appointed) since Reconstruction. How could a President who so heavily depended on African-American votes be so ineffective in grooming the next generation of African-American leaders? The supposedly-racist George Bush had more senior African-American advisors (as stated earlier), and this administration goes out of its way to impede the development of the next generation of African-American leaders. Unfortunately, this is a trend for which Obama may never have to answer.
In closing, TOC will repeat something very important. The end needs to be bigger than political careers. There is no question that, no matter what side of the political aisle one lies, closing the gaps African-Americans face as a community is a multi-generational task. It seems this task is secondary for some. If Democrats believe social justice and entitlements are part of the solution, we can agree to disagree as conservatives; however, I am troubled that the John Lewises, Jim Clyburns, John Conyerses and Charlie Rangels of the world are too worried about their own power to let someone else lead while the Obamas of the world are too worried about politics as usual – almost to the point that our mutual end is reprioritized off of their radar screens.