Friday, February 20, 2009

The Real Heroes

Cross posted at The Next Right

photos: World War II shelling of cities

A key issue for the nation is how to win wars and military conflicts.

My uncle, a medic in World War II, was talking about real military heroes. His view is that the US military of today has an immensely harder task than World War II troops did. Today's troops are true heroes.

The US and its allies probably would have lost World War II if we had been operating under the current climate of criticism. For example, in World War II cities were shelled irrespective of civilians--sometimes to intimidate civilians and allow free passage of troops and produce complete compliance with military orders. The purpose was to win the engagement--not to keep casualties and damage minimal. And, of course, the press was supportive rather than critical of the war effort and the troops.

The military men and women of today are required to shoulder not only the danger of military combat with those trying to kill them, but they have to do so under the glaring eye of a hostile press and politicians who care about their own political careers more than victory. Only heroes fight under that kind of crushing load. Only great military commanders, like General David Petraeus, can pull together a winning strategy against such a stacked deck.

Victor Davis Hanson gives a military historian's insight here and here.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Being Green Hits Skids

Cross posted at The Next Right

From Natural Resource Report:

Being Green Hits Skids
: Once thought to be the first green industry, recycling is the first environmental business to suffer the US economic recession. US manufacturers that use recycled materials don’t need much because US consumers are buying less. China & India have nearly stopped buying scrap paper and metals. The result is huge surpluses and low prices for recycled materials nationally. Wastepaper selling for $110/ton in Oct. has dropped below $20, metals have dropped by 80%, and plastics down by 90%. And because some states (incl. OR) prohibit landfilling recycled material, stockpiles are growing, collectors are losing money, and future markets are in trouble. So-called “forest protection” will likely suffer the same affordability problems as recycling. Because such a severe economic slide has not occurred since envoronmentalism rose in the 1970s, Americans will be tested to see at what cost “being green” will be sustained.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Palin Urges Caution on Stimulus Bill Funding

Cross posted at The Next Right

Not creating private sector jobs, "alarming increase" in the national debt and state sustainability problems were some of the major red flags that Alaska Governor Sarah Palin pointed to in the recently passed federal stimulus package.

Believing a federal stimulus package was necessary, Palin supported a package that would have included:

- federal spending for infrastructure
- tax breaks for individuals and small businesses
- measures to address the housing collapse

Palin praised Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski’s critique of the current bill that noted a large portion of the stimulus package included spending that was neither timely, targeted at the private sector nor temporary.

Palin urged Alaska legislators and officials to be cautious about integrating stimulus funds into the state’s operating budget for projects that cannot be sustained by the state.

“We can’t start new spending obligations with federal dollars that at some point would have to be picked up by the state, especially when we’re already looking at a budget shortfall. It’s not fair to Alaskans to create expectations about programs that wouldn’t be sustainable, so we’ll need to look at the federal funding on a case-by-case basis.”

Saturday, February 14, 2009

One Way to Make Sure the Stimulus Bill Is Really Helping

Cross posted at The Next Right

Patterico put me on to a site where anyone can add important pork--er projects--to the Stimulus Bill. Click here if you want to help this bill achieve real transparency on at least some of the funds--those you have requested.

You can see my request here. In line with my real life work, I've asked for funds to help needy children around the world.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Portland "Duh" Factor

Cross posted at The Next Right

From the Portland Tribune:
Commissioner Nick Fish said he was surprised by how quickly the economy had deteriorated.

“When I ran for office, the discussions were about how we were going to divide the surplus,” said Fish. “A year later we’re looking at budget cuts and there are no good answers.”

Compare this attitude from Portland's liberal Democrat leadership with what has happened in Alaska. While Commissioner Fish and his colleagues were thinking about spending the Portland surplus, Governor Sarah Palin was socking away billions of Alaska's surplus. Consequently, Alaska now has $6.6 billion in savings--equivalent to half Alaska's yearly budget needs.

In my previous post I noted that even though Oregon has five times as many people as Alaska and a state budget four times larger, Oregon's state savings are equal to less than 2% of Oregon's annual budget needs. In contrast, under Palin's short two year tenure as governor Alaska's savings have grown to equal more than 50% of Alaska's annual budget--from $2.3 billion in 2007 to $6.6 billion in 2009.

Run-of-the-mill government leaders, like Portland's and Oregon's, dream of spending surpluses. Exceptionally wise government leaders, like Palin, save surplus monies for times of need--whether it be a recession, depression or other major need that unexpectedly appears.

Elections have consequences, and Portland and Oregon now face life in toughening times with leaders not smart enough to have put aside significant savings when times were good. Instead they were dreaming of how to spend the surplus.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Levin, Commentators, Vision and Palin

Cross posted at The Next Right

Yuval Levin has written a long (3,700 word), insightful essay on many aspects of American political life illuminated by the vice-presidential candidacy of Sarah Palin.

Levin skewers commentators on the left for telling outright lies about Palin and chastises those like David Brooks who scorned Palin as anti-intellectual, while being anti-democratic and "provincial" themselves.
"The reaction of the intellectual elite to Sarah Palin was far more provincial than Palin herself ever has been, and those who reacted so viscerally against her evinced little or no appreciation for an essential premise of democracy: that practical wisdom matters at least as much as formal education, and that leadership can emerge from utterly unexpected places. The presumption that the only road to power passes through the Ivy League and its tributaries is neither democratic nor sensible, and is, moreover, a sharp and wrongheaded break from the American tradition of citizen governance."

(One can see the same provincial intellectualism in anti-Lincoln sentiment in his day because Lincoln didn't have the formal education of other major political figures and didn't talk like them. This is echoed by many anti-Palin commentators today. Lincoln said things like "heered" instead of "heard" and talked with a folksy, backwoods cadence and used non-intellectual metaphors and anecdotes to illustrate his thinking.)

Besides raking conservative and liberal commentators over the coals, Levin gives some points of departure for future conservative success.

First, he notes the striking success of the Palin candidacy. She drew a double digit spread more than she lost (though Levin seems to have missed the meaning of the spread).
"About 60 percent of those interviewed in the exit polls said McCain’s choice of Palin had been a factor in their vote. Of these, 56 percent voted for McCain while only 43 percent voted for Obama. In other words, she appears to have helped McCain more than she hurt him, but not by much, which is as it should be; we were voting for a President, after all. In the face of unprecedented attack, Palin succeeded where almost no vice-presidential candidate ever has before in winning sustained support for the ticket."

Among 60% of presidential voters, 13% more voted for McCain than would have without Palin. As Levin notes, Palin's VP vote-gaining impact is unparalleled in US political history. No other VP candidate has had that kind of positive impact.

But, the lack in the McCain campaign was too deep to allow Palin's striking success as VP candidate to bear fruit.
"The striking thing about the last two months of the 2008 presidential race was not Palin’s inability to turn things around decisively for McCain, but her success in giving McCain a lead for even a short while. She seized the imagination of the public in a way that scared the Left, and rightly so. It is not Palin’s fault that McCain was incapable of harnessing the phenomenal response to his running mate to his own advantage."

Levin sees the path to Republican victory as a "combination of cultural populism and social conservatism" along with articulating "a broader vision for American families, American prosperity and freedom, and American security".

Levin leaves up in the air whether Palin is the candidate who can bring that all together. Certainly good governance in Alaska in trying times will help.

My state has 5 times as many people as Alaska and a state budget 4 times bigger. Yet, our state savings is equal to less than 2% of the state annual budget. In contrast, under Palin's short tenure as governor Alaska's savings have grown to equal more than 50% of Alaska's annual budget. Alaska's savings have gone from $2 billion to $6 billion in just two years. Which state is better governed? Which state is more likely to make it through 2, 3 or 4 hard economic years without major problems in funding police, education, roads, and other essential services?

Broadening the picture, has any other governor or major office holder done as well in preparing their state or the US for hard times? Certainly not California. The normal political bent is to spend surplus monies and gain present acclaim rather than save them up for your successors and future rainy days.

Alaska's fiscal discipline and wisdom under Palin is a big step towards giving a "broad vision" for future American prosperity, freedom and security.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Gov. Palin Criticizes Stimulus Bill, Lowers Alaska State Spending

Cross posted at The Next Right

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin expressed concern about the massive growth in the federal deficit caused by the stimulus bill, and noted that it will not only increase the federal deficit, but require state government spending.
“Much of the stimulus plan we've seen focuses on spending for government programs that would be a burden on states to continue funding, and doesn't focus enough on spending that actually does put people back to work and stimulate the economy.”

In terms of the stimulus bill's impact on state programs, she noted that the bill punishes good state planning and rewards poor state planning.
"Worst of all, the stimulus package rewards states for not planning when it comes to prioritizing for things like education, as Alaska has planned ahead by forward-funding 21 percent of our General Fund dollars for this very important priority. It appears only those states that did not plan ahead with education will benefit. States like Alaska should not be punished for being responsible; yet that's what the plan means for Alaska right now.”

Underlining the need for Alaska to lower state spending as revenues fall, Palin cut $268.6 million from her budget request.

“With changing market conditions and declining oil prices, our state agencies have been working hard to find savings and still provide needed public services. Through savings targets we implemented at the beginning of the fiscal year and by efficiently managing our programs, we have been able to reduce the current budget and minimize supplemental funding. The more we reduce now, the less we will have to draw from savings at the end of the year.”

Palin is asking the legislature for authorization to tap into savings to cover the estimated $1.36 billion shortfall that may occur even after the proposed budget reduction.

Alaska’s state income and savings reserves increased dramatically under Palin, who in 2007 pushed for ACES (Alaska’s Clear and Equitable Share), a petroleum profits tax plan that emphasizes transparency and increased state revenue. Palin called for ACES as a reworking of the 2006 Petroleum Profits Tax legislation marred by bribery and corruption convictions.

Palin made it a priority to increase the state’s Constitutional Budget Reserve. When Palin took office in 2006 Alaska’s financial reserves stood at $2.15 billion. Current budget reserves are triple that figure: $6.59 billion.