Saturday, July 21, 2012

Unintended Consequences

There are two things liberals desire (well, more than two, but...). One is to create a highly taxed, highly regulated state, and the other is to eliminate as far as possible the gap between rich and poor. What they often don't seem to understand, though, is that these two goals are mutually exclusive. An anecdote in the August/September issue of First Things (subscription only) illustrates why.

The piece notes that in California, the most highly taxed, highly regulated state in the union, the middle class is fleeing. Wealthy individuals and large businesses can absorb higher taxes and regulations, and big corporations, in fact, sometimes welcome them because they tend to drive out the competition, which is exactly what's happening in California.

The taxes and regs are forcing mid-level businesses out of the state and with them are going many of their middle class workers. This leaves behind two groups: the wealthy who can still afford to live there and the poor who can't afford to leave even if they wanted to. From 2000 to 2009 1.5 million more people left the state than have entered it. They're heading for states like Utah and Texas where they can find jobs and afford to buy a house. This makes California a far more class-divided society than the national average, and the gap is continuing to widen as the middle class continues to flee.

None of this seems to matter to the liberals who have a hammerlock on California politics, however. They're convinced that taxes and regulations on business are good things. That they're in fact counterproductive to, and incompatible with, the classless society for which they yearn simply eludes their comprehension.

What will happen ten or twenty years from now if there's scarcely any middle class left in the state? In order to support all of their manifold social programs California will need to raise more revenue, and the only place they'll be able to get it is from the wealthy and big corporations. Eventually, taxes will rise to the point where these, too, will be driven away, and then all that'll be left of the Golden State will be a blighted ghetto where teeming masses of poor live in third world squalor.

At some point Californians will have to realize that taking from the rich to give to the poor really helps no one in the long run and just winds up hurting everyone.

Syria Falling

News reports indicate that the government of Syrian tyrant Bashar Assad is about to fall as rebel forces are growing stronger and more competent by the day.

Strategy Page has this analysis:
In the last 24 hours the security forces have killed over 300 civilians and rebels. This was believed to be in retaliation for yesterday's bombing of a meeting of senior security officials. President Assad has not been seen or heard from since the fighting began in the capital. Rebels are firing machine-guns and mortars at military bases in the city and attacking security forces in new areas of the capital.

Five days of fighting in the capital intensified as gunfire was heard near the presidential palace. More combat units, including tanks and other armored vehicles, have been seen moving towards areas of the capital where most government buildings are. The rebels and their weapons are getting into the city, to join the growing number of residents who are joining the revolution. Thousands of civilians are fleeing the capital, many of them apparently government supporters.

Turkey reports that yesterday there were 246 Syrian refugees, including several officers (a general, five colonels, four majors, two captains, and one lieutenant) along with dozens of lower ranking soldiers. Many of the military defectors brought their families.

Desertion in the security forces is increasing, despite orders to shoot suspected deserters on sight. Commanders have also been ordered to immediately kill any soldiers who refuse to fire on civilians. Apparently many commanders are refusing to carry out that order.
If Assad's regime crumbles it's likely that a bloodbath will ensue as the majority Sunnis who've long been tyrannized by the minority Alawites decide to settle old scores. The Alawites know this and will surely fight to the bitter end to keep that from happening.

Russia and China, two nations which have thrown in with Damascus, provided it with weapons and other support, and have blocked any attempt in the U.N. to condemn Assad, are going to appear to be on the wrong side of both history and morality. Perhaps the fact that both nations tried to prop up a brutal man responsible for the murders of thousands of Syrians, and in some ways facilitated those murders, won't matter to the rest of the world, but it might, and it could take a long time to bleach out the stain. Russia also has a naval base in Syria which it'll probably lose as a consequence of its support of Assad.

Another loser if the rebellion is successful will be Iran which is the third major sponsor of Syrian oppression and perhaps their biggest economic backer.

A major concern for the U.S. is Syria's vast stockpile of chemical weapons which many fear Assad will use against the rebels in a desperate attempt to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. How this can be prevented is not at all clear. Even so, it seems that by staying out of the fray, at least overtly if not covertly, the U.S. has played it just about right.

Whatever our role in Syria has been it'll be interesting to see, once Assad falls, whether President Obama will take any credit for what might in fact be a foreign policy success. Recall that after our special ops forces killed Osama bin Laden Mr. Obama wasn't shy about having his surrogates give him the credit, but now that he's instructed American businessmen that they deserve no credit for their accomplishments because they're the economic beneficiaries of what others actually did, I'm sure he'll recognize that the principle applies to him as well and that he deserves no credit for either the bin Laden success nor that in Syria, nor, for that matter, any other perceived success of his administration.