Monday, June 4, 2012

On Wisconsin

Tomorrow's recall election in Wisconsin is arguably the most important political event this year aside from the presidential contest in November. Governor Scott Walker is being challenged by Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett in a recall attempt because Walker has stripped the public employees unions of a lot of their power to extort ever-increasing benefits from the taxpayers of the state of Wisconsin.

As a result Walker has in two years turned the state from economic infirmity to fiscal robustness. John Fund at National Review summarizes Walker's accomplishments:
Walker can claim to have wiped out a $3.6 billion deficit without raising taxes or seeing service cutbacks. Indeed, property taxes fell statewide by 0.4 percent last year, the first time they’ve fallen since 1998. The average homeowner’s property tax bill would have been about $700 higher if the previous rate of increase had continued. The state now expects to have a surplus of $150 million at the end of the current budget cycle.

Voters can see Walker’s reforms working at the grassroots level as well. Brown Deer, a suburb of Milwaukee, is saving $1 million in pension and health-care costs. More flexible work rules enabled the city to make changes in teacher schedules. “We had many teachers tell us, let’s save everybody’s job,” Brown Deer superintendent Deb Kerr told the Chicago Tribune. “We didn’t cut programs. We didn’t raise class sizes. And we maintained our level of staffing.”

At least 52 local school districts are saving an average of $220 per student because they can now shop around for health insurance for their employees. Before the reforms, unions forced the schools to do business exclusively with WEA Trust, the group run by the state’s largest teachers’ union.

The jobs picture is also improving. Last year, the state added 24,000 new jobs. Chief Executive magazine reported in 2010 that Wisconsin ranked 41st out of 50 states in terms of the ease of doing business. In its new survey, the state has jumped to 20th place, the fastest surge in the history of the magazine’s survey.

Separately, the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce survey just found that 62 percent of the members it surveyed plan to create jobs in Wisconsin by year’s end. A full 95 percent of CEOs surveyed said the state is headed in the right direction. “The word is out from Main Street to Wall Street that Wisconsin is the place to create jobs and expand,” says Kurt Bauer, the president of WMC.
So why are the Democrats trying to recall him after only two years of his term? One of the things Walker has reformed is collective bargaining (See here for a summary of what's in the new law). Another is that public employees will now have the freedom to choose whether they want to belong to a union or not. Both of these reforms have outraged liberals who believe that union membership should be compulsory for public employees like government workers and teachers and that unions should have the right to bargain for perks and benefits with the same people to whose political campaigns they contribute.

Both of these practices are unjust and Walker has shown a lot of courage in ending them. Now he's paying the price for that courage by possibly being booted out of office by those who feel entitled to demand that taxpayers pay for benefits far in excess of anything anyone in the private sector enjoys. It's the same mindset that was on display so obscenely in the GSA scandal.

If Walker wins tomorrow, and polls have consistently shown him to be ahead, the defeat of the progressives will reverberate across the national political landscape. This is why the left is so angry that President Obama declined to campaign for Mayor Barrett. There's a lot at stake and the leader of their cause was AWOL. If Walker wins, buy some popcorn, sit back and watch the recriminations fly.

China's One-Child Policy

The plight of the courageous blind activist Chen Guancheng has confronted the world with some uncomfortable facts with which it would rather not have been confronted. One of these is the repressive nature of China's one-child policy. Some liberals in the West would rather not have to talk about it because it's a form of population control to which they're not altogether opposed themselves, at least in theory, but which is in practice extremely cruel.

Robert Zubrin summarizes the history of the policy in an article in the Washington Times:
In June 1978, Song Jian, a top-level manager in charge of developing control systems for the Chinese guided-missile program, traveled to Helsinki for an international conference on control-system theory and design. While in Finland, he picked up copies of "The Limits to Growth" and "Blueprint for Survival" - publications of the Club of Rome, a major source of Malthusian propaganda - and made the acquaintance of several Europeans who were promoting the reports' method of using computerized "systems analysis" to predict and design the human future.

Fascinated by the possibilities, Mr. Song returned to China and republished the Club's analysis under his own name (without attribution), establishing his reputation for brilliant and original thinking. In no time at all, Mr. Song became a scientific superstar.

Seizing the moment to grasp for greater power and importance, he pulled together an elite group of mathematicians from within his department and, with the help of a powerful computer to provide the necessary special effects, issued the profoundly calculated judgment that China's "correct" population size was 650 million to 700 million people - which is to say, some 280 million to 330 million less than its actual 1978 population.

Mr. Song's analysis quickly found favor at top levels of the Chinese Communist Party because it purported to prove that the reason for China's continued poverty was not 30 years of disastrous misrule, but the very existence of the Chinese people. Paramount leader Deng Xiaoping and his fellows in the Central Committee were very impressed by the pseudo-scientific computer babble Mr. Song used to dress up his theory and even more impressed by the possibilities that arrogating the power to permit or deny children would provide to the state.

Thus began the most forceful population-control program since Nazi Germany. Qian Xinzhong, a Soviet-trained former major general in the People's Liberation Army, was placed in charge of the campaign. He ordered all women with one child to have a stainless steel IUD inserted and to be inspected regularly to make sure they had not tampered with it. To remove the device was deemed a criminal act. All parents with two or more children were to be sterilized. No pregnancies were legal for anyone under 23, whether married or not, and all unauthorized pregnancies were to be aborted.

Women who defied these injunctions were taken and sterilized by force. Babies would be aborted right through the ninth month of pregnancy, with many crying as they were being stabbed to death at the moment of birth. Those women who fled to try to save their children were hunted, and if they could not be caught, their houses were torn down, and their parents thrown in prison, there to linger until a ransom of 20,000 yuan - about three years' income for a peasant - was paid for their release.

Babies born to such fugitives were declared to be "black children," illegal non-persons in the eyes of the state, without any right to employment, public schooling, health care or reproduction. Millions have been confiscated from their mothers and placed in "orphanages" where, if not adopted in short order, they are left to expire without food in "dying rooms."
Zubrin has more details at the link. I can't vouch for the accuracy of his claims, but I know Viewpoint has a few Chinese readers, and I invite them to weigh in on the matter via the "Contact Us" key.

Bad News on the Doorstep

May was a disastrous month, both for the economy and perhaps for Mr. Obama's reelection prospects. Larry Kudlow writes about it at National Review:
You would think $1 trillion in spending stimulus and $2.5 trillion of Fed pump-priming would produce an economy a whole lot stronger than 1.9 percent GDP, which was the revised first-quarter number. And you’d think all that government spending would deliver a whole lot more jobs than 69,000 in May.

But it hasn’t happened.

The Keynesian government-spending model has proven a complete failure. It’s the Obama model. And it has produced such an anemic recovery that frankly, at 2 percent growth, we’re back on the front end of a potential recession. If anything goes wrong — like another blow-up in Europe — there’s no safety margin to stop a new recession.

And that brings us to the grim May employment report, which generated only 69,000 nonfarm payrolls. It’s the third consecutive subpar tally, replete with downward revisions for the two prior months. It’s a devastating number for the American economy, and a catastrophic number for Obama’s reelection hopes. All momentum on jobs and the economy has evaporated.

Inside the May report, the data is just as bad. The unemployment rate rose slightly from 8.1 to 8.2 percent. The so called U6 unemployment rate, tracking the marginally employed or completely discouraged, increased to 14.8 percent from 14.5 percent. And labor earnings are barely rising at 1.7 percent over the past year, almost in line with the inflation rate. In fact, through April, after-tax, after-inflation income is scarcely rising at 0.6 percent for the past year.
"Don't blame me. It's all his fault."
Why is the news so bad? One reason is fear of a massive tax increase when the Bush tax cuts expire in January:
If all the Bush tax rates go up, incentives will go down and liquidity will leave the system. You can’t pick up a newspaper these days and not find a story about how the fiscal cliff is elevating uncertainty and slowing U.S. growth. House Speaker John Boehner asked Obama for help in extending the Bush tax cuts this summer. But Obama said no. Instead, he wants to raise marginal tax rates on successful upper-income earners, capital gains, dividends, estates, and many successful corporations.

A business tax cut would help enormously, but it’s nowhere in sight. Neither is the Keystone Pipeline, which is a surefire job-creator.

A second uncertainty facing businesses is the Supreme Court decision on Obamacare due in a few weeks. If all those crazy tax-and-regulation mandates are deemed unconstitutional, it’s Katy bar the door as businesses put profits to work and hire. But they’re not going to move until they see that court decision.

Then there’s the whole European mess with the threat of banking contagion from Spain, Greece, and Italy. That could blow up the whole world economy if it goes completely sour. The Europeans should guarantee all bank deposits, interbank loans, and bank debt until this story is straightened out. But they’re not. So the problem festers.
The President's policies - his intention to raise taxes, to prevent energy development, to impose Obamacare - are like a clog of matted hair in the economic pipeline. The president is determined to establish Eurosocialism on our shores and gives the impression that he cares little what price must be paid to achieve it.