Man Without Qualities

Monday, July 26, 2004

Two Wall Street Journal Items
A front-page item in today's Wall Street Journal leads with:

As Democrats gather in Boston this week to nominate a presidential candidate, the two big issues of the 2004 campaign -- the war and the economy -- are playing out precisely the opposite way both parties expected just a few months ago.

Republicans, despite their history of scoring better on national-security issues -- and with a war president in the White House -- are now playing up the economy. Democrats, who watched their historic advantage on lunch-pail issues slip as the economy improved, are uncharacteristically turning to foreign policy to put Republicans on the defensive.
It is certainly correct that some Democrats are talking about foreign affairs and terrorism. There may even be a few Congressional districts where those considerations may make a critical difference in November, such as the one around Storrs, CT that is misleadingly selected as a good example of the national dynamic in the Journal article despite the fact that that district contains the very un-exemplary main campus of the University of Connecticut. The curious timing and make-up of the  Democratic convention has created a micro-climate having an atmosphere thick with the swamp vapors of foreign affairs. The coincidental release of the September 11 Commission report on the very eve of the Convention opening guarantees that media coverage and even the polls are paying much more attention to the the terrorism issue than will likely be the case in more than three full months. And convention delegates  and media operatives are much more focused on foreign affairs - and much more negative on the war and the incumbent's approach to foreign dealings generally - than the population, the electorate, the Democratic Party generally or even the candidates-to-be. Those skewed views further skew media coverage. Even John Kerry has recently mused publicly about possibly emulating the last time a Democrat captured the "national security" issue: John Kennedy's success in his 1960 run, a success effected only by Kennedy's exploitation of his huge "missile gap" lie.  That's quite a feat for Senator Kerry to want to emulate.  But House  Democrats, especially, who think that foreign policy considerations are likely to put them in office are in for a very rude awakening in the months ahead.

But what are the smart Democrats with some room to choose their own agendas thinking and writing about right now? Well, Senator Hillary Clinton is right over there on the today's Journal's Op-Ed page with a "think piece" about - of all things - the domestic economy. In fact, Senator Clinton is back to considering "outsourcing."

While her choice of topic is revealing, the substance of her approach is hardly worth serious consideration. She pronounces certain sectors of the American economy to be "competitive" - and concludes that they therefore require more government subsidies and assistance and attention than we had thought. 

Ah, yes. Is a sector weak? Rush in the government subsidies and assistance and attention! Is a sector more competitive than thought? Better rush in more government subsidies and assistance and attention! The Senator is nothing if not consistent. I particularly like what she calls her co-sponsored legislation to create a 10% tax cut for manufacturers. Think of that: All manufacturers would get a nice government subsidy. And who would pay for that subsidy? The Senator doesn't say - but the economy has only one other big sector: services. Services are supposed to be America's relative strength in the world economy. And the Senator wants to tax them to subsidize manufacturing. Forward, into the past!

And the Senator does not stop there. She pushes on into more advocacy of destructive government economic meddling, and informs us:

We also need a national broadband policy. It is inexcusable that the U.S. ranks 11th globally in broadband penetration per household. I have introduced legislation to enhance access for rural and underserved areas that would accelerate the transformation to a digital economy.

Yes, yes, everybody loves to have access to broadband. It's just that few want to pay what broadband actually costs, so nothing significant is going to come of the Senator's proposals, as the New York Times reports:

Presidential campaign proposals to build a national broadband network may be difficult to sell to the American public, according to a survey conducted jointly by CNET and Harris Interactive.

The nationwide poll, which surveyed more than 1,000 people with Internet access, found that 72 percent of respondents support government efforts to make high-speed Internet access universally available. But backing for the activist policy has stalled on the question of who pays--and how much.

"People are in favor of many things, until you put price tags on them," said Blair Levin, a telecommunications analyst at financial firm Legg Mason Wood Walker. "As most folks in Washington want to have their cake and eat it, too, why should consumers thinking about broadband be any different?"

President Bush earlier this year called for universal broadband connections throughout the United States by 2007 and ordered federal agencies to accelerate the process of granting broadband providers access to federal land. He has also strongly advocated the extension of a ban on Internet access taxes.

Democratic challenger John Kerry also backs the idea of universal broadband access, likening it to the government's program to provide electricity to rural areas in the 1930s. Kerry proposes a 20 percent tax credit for companies investing in "next generation" broadband networks and, like Bush, supports the use of more wireless spectrum for the high-speed technology. ....

[B]y a margin of 56 percent to 44 percent, [poll respondents] opposed any government plan to directly subsidize the extension of broadband access to rural areas or for low-income citizens. Similarly, nearly 70 percent was against paying higher access fees to fund the expansion of broadband to those areas.

In this case the public is a lot wiser than Senators Clinton or Kerry. But it won't matter - her tract is only intended to be remembered as indicating her concern for the domestic economy, not to be actually understood by voters in its silly details. Senator Clinton's understanding of - and actual care about - the substantive welfare of the economy are not her strong points. She's an economic loon from that standpoint. Good grief, we're talking about someone who wanted to essentially nationalize about 1/6 of the economy.

But she is shrewed and capable of learning in her area of competence: political calculation. Today, as her Party's convention opens in a crapulous fog of foreign policy blatherings, such calculation has her writing feel-good economic buzz-words on the domestic economy in the Wall Street Journal.

The reader, in my opinion, should remember that.

Comments: Post a Comment