Monday, February 26, 2007

2008 Update: Obama Trailing in African-American Vote

(Originally published on the Rebirth of Freedom Foundation blog)

As a partaker to the irony of politics, public darling Barack Obama still hasn't garnered a majority of support from black voters. Political analyst and former Clinton advisor Dick Morris reports:

Obama needs to carry the African-American vote overwhelmingly, while Hillary just has to hold her own to blunt the edge of Obama's challenge. As one New York black political leader put it, "Obama needs 85 percent of the black vote. But Hillary only needs 35 percent."

Early primary state South Carolina, where blacks cast more than a third of the vote, looms large. If Obama can't produce big African-American majorities there, his overall ability to win the black vote will be in doubt - leaving him without any obvious base, and in free fall.

Of the democrat's big three (Clinton, Obama, Edwards), Clinton still holds a double-digit lead with likely voters according to the latest Fox News Opinion/Dynamics poll. The similar situation in the GOP with Giuliani creates an intriguing match-up for minority voters. The Clinton years are favorably remembered, and Giuliani is one of the rare pro-affirmative action republicans. In the historically strong-democratic constituency of likely minority voters, this could offset the otherwise possible shift towards even heavier democratic support for Clinton.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Moving Toward Single Payer Health Care - Libby Trial

The Wall Street Journal reports, as I previously stated, health care spending is rapidly moving towards government involved.

As pressure grows for the government to pick up more of the nations health-care tab, new data show the governments contribution is already at 45%and is expected to approach 50% within 10 years.
Journal attributes this to new Medicaid drug benefits, state children's health insurance, and other measures.

Libby Trial:

Monday, February 19, 2007

CEOs Saddled Up with HillaryCare? - Plus Schwarzenegger Pushes for Universal Coverage

The Wall Street Journal's on top of a story regarding Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott hooking up with labor unions to promote "universal health care."

As previously reported on this blog, hiking health care spending tends to do do more to the detriment of the bourgeois pocketbook than it helps (Conover, et al). The OJ juries of media and convenience fail to pass judgement on the deceptively appealing plan of Hillary Care.

WSJ explains:

But any money government spends on health care has to come from somewhere (read: taxpayers). Health care is a big reason that the overall tax burden is as high as it is in most of Europe. According to the OECD, the "tax wedge" as a share of all labor costs was only 29.11% in the U.S. in 2005. It was above 40% in most of Europe, and above 50% in France and Germany. These countries spend little on defense, so "national health care" and other social services explain the high tax burden. We haven't noticed these economies being especially "competitive" of late.

Before deciding that corporations that are symbols of private enterprise such as Wal-Mart inherently understand market effectiveness and capability, thus giving them deistic authority on health care, some facts should stay in the back of our minds. Primarily that a major cost to these businesses is health care benefits, and what's more convenient than the idea of dumping it on the taxpayer.


As Oxford Analytica explains, there are three commonly attributed advantages to Universal Coverage: access, less free-riders, and less adverse selection; while having two disadvantages: affordability and financing. Noble as it sounds (perhaps with shaky redistribution morals), sustainability is non-existent.

The most attention-grabbing Hillary Care issue of late is Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's (R-CA) push for universal coverage in California. David Gratzer, M.D. a Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute and author of The Cure: How Capitalism can Save American Health Care issued a must-read critique of the plan a couple of weeks ago. He explains that the Schwarzenegger plan regulates how and how much providers spend on their policies, institutes outrageous physician fees, and hikes taxes. Perhaps one of the most enlightening observations goes beyond revealing plan failures, and back to examining how the status quo is portrayed.

The uninsured are depicted in popular culture as lost and forgotten--the single mother in the emergency room struggling to make ends meet for her three children. But the uninsured are a heterogeneous group. Drawing on Census Bureau data, the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association found in a 2003 report that a third of the uninsured have family incomes of more than $50,000 a year, and for 16% of the uninsured, incomes exceed $75,000 a year. A Health Affairs study on nonpoor uninsured Californians pegs their average annual health spending at $200 per person. Many people have done the math and have decided not to get coverage. In addition, a third of the uninsured already qualify for Medicaid or some other type of program. Of the remaining third, many are without insurance for only a brief period, usually less than a year.

To be sure, there are 8 million Americans who slip through the cracks, unable to get coverage. But that's far fewer than the commonly quoted disaster figure of 46 million.

Dr. Gratzer explains that only six states have more service mandates than California. Plans cover acupuncture, in vitro fertilization, chiropractors, and so forth while repealing measures that protect providers from competition. He also spends time explaining the necessity of Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), which I have long advocated. He also laments the folly of poorly structured tax incentives while maintaining the need for giving breaks to those who can't acquire care.

California needs to allow businesses to provide plans to cover catastrophes, it should engage in HSAs, adjust the tax code, and maintain innovation with accessibility. This won't happen by using tax dollars to provide coverage to families earning $60,000 annually, or by divorcing choice from consequence in health care.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Malpass Takes Aim at Trade Grumblers

The US has a powerful, growing economy, yet we project the "wrong path" of an aging society drowning in debt and burdening the world with risk. This gloomy fiction distorts our domestic and international economic policy-making. We should reject it and launch a more energetic vision of global prosperity built on economic freedom and dynamism.
Thus David Malpass, chief economist at Bear Stearns & Co, opened his FORBES column "The Triple Deficit Paralyzes Policy Vision" last month. Being a big fan of Steve Forbes (I wish he'd landed the White House if he could have been remotely electable), this is very similar rhetoric.

The trade deficit is a terribly convenient avenue to take pot shots at free trade. Wavering support creates a notably hostile climate for free traders, as was evident in the last election. Along with other issues of baiting economic ignorance--such as previously addressed tax cuts, "negative savings rates," and "skyrocketing deficits," protectionism baits the fears of American blue-collar workers, and quickly gains clout.

While protectionism certainly wasn't a hot-button issue, there are more than a couple of disturbing signs. The Wall Street Journal reports, "Pew Research data show the sense of vulnerability among workers. A recent poll shows low-skilled U.S. workers are over 40% more likely to believe their jobs could be sent offshore."

Malprass continues:
The US is the world's biggest producer, exporter, seller, saver and innovator. On average it adds 30% more to global GDP each year than does all of Asia (45% more in 2006), with one-tenth the population. US employment, wages and profits are at record levels. We're the biggest source of foreign aid, and the only major source of its most effective component: private donations.

Despite dire fiscal predictions the federal budget is on a trend that could bring it into balance at the end of the decade, with a debt-to-GDP ratio well below the Clinton Administration's average. Talk of our recklessly low "savings rate" circles the globe yet arbitrarily excludes the economy's trillions of dollars of compound gains. Calculated properly, US households have more financial savings--and in mos years add more-- than the rest of the world combined.

The loudest hue and cry is over our trade deficit, which is blamed for dragging down our economy, as well as everyone else's. Yet the view that our trade deficit costs jobs and adds to global financial risk can't be reconciled with our 4.5% unemployment rate and the eager flow of long term, low-cost foreign capital into US investments.

Fear of fiscal, trade and savings deficits as crippled domestic policy-making..."
(emphasis added)

Steve Forbes also explains:
Anti-free-trade sentiment is being fueled by our record trade deficits. Congress is full of destructive proposals... While most economists know well the virtues of free trade, they are still tied to the notion that trade deficits or surpluses matter. A surplus is equated to a country's turning a profit and a deficit to a nation's running at a loss. But nations don't trade with each other; individual sand entities do.

FORBES has had a deficit with its paper supplier for more than 89 years. Yet this 'imbalance" persists because each side thinks the transaction is beneficial... CNN has a deficit with Lou Dobbs, it pays him far more than anything he actually buys from the network General Motors similarly has a deficit with CEO Rick Wagoner Yet the red ink continues because the parties find it advantageous for it to continue. CNN and GM each get the services of the individual employed, and each individual gets cash and other forms of compensation in return...

While preaching free trade, the economics profession helps undermine it with this zero-sum mentality focusing on so-called balance of trade. Remember, this year marks the 400th anniversary of the settlement in Jamestown, Va. Since that time, America has run trade deficits for all but some 50-odd years. Just look at what all that economic sinning has done.
Simplistic? Perhaps. True? Let me know.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Economic Freedom and Poverty - Biden's Blowout

"I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that's a storybook, man." So ended, on the day if its launch, the presidential aspirations of Sen. Joe Biden (D-Delaware). It was something like shooting for the moon with a slingshot anyway, but it was devastating nonetheless.

Here's the irony of it- the strength of Biden's campaign, according to focus group chap
Frank Lunt, was that he was articulate. Except when he'st talking.

GMU Econ Professor Walter E. Williams, Ph.D. (best known for his occasional fill-in on the Rush Limbaugh show and his syndicated column) made an astute observation this week:

If you're looking for a map of world poverty, check out the "2007 Index of Economic Freedom" jointly published by the Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal. You might think that's a strangely titled source for a poverty map.


Hong Kong and Singapore, as they have for 13 years, rank as the world's two economically freest countries, with freedom scores of 89 and 86 percent free. Rounding out the top 10 most free economies are Australia (83), United States (82), New Zealand (82), United Kingdom (82), Ireland (81), Luxembourg (79), Switzerland (79) and Canada (79).

At the other end of the list are the least free countries. Ranking 157th, North Korea, with a freedom score of 3 percent, is the world's least free country. Ranking 156th is Cuba, 30 percent free, and in ascending order are: Libya (34) Zimbabwe (36), Burma (40), Turkmenistan (42), Congo (43), Iran (43), Angola (43), and Guinea-Bassau (45).

The "2007 Index of Economic Freedom" displays a color-coded map showing countries that are free, mostly free, moderately free, mostly unfree and repressed. Guess where one finds the world's most miserably poor people? If you guessed the mostly unfree and repressed countries, you guessed correctly.

Some people claim that some countries are rich because of abundant natural resources. That's nonsense! Africa and South America are probably the richest continents in natural resources, but are home to some of the world's poorest people. By contrast, countries like England, Japan and Hong Kong are poor in natural resources, but their people are among the world's wealthiest. Hong Kong even has to import its food and water. Some people use the history of colonialism as an excuse for poverty. That's also nonsense. The United States was a colony. So were Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong, but they're rich countries.

The reason some countries are rich while others are poor is best explained by the amount of economic freedom its peoples enjoy and the extent of government control over economic matters. Don't make the mistake of equating economic freedom with democracy. After all, India, politically, is a democracy, but economically it is mostly unfree and poor, ranking 104th in economic freedom. There are countries on the economic freedom index that do not have much of a history of democracy, such as Chile, ranking 11th, and Taiwan, 26th, and yet these countries are far wealthier than some of their more democratic counterparts. Why? It's because their economic systems are free or mostly free, which is not guaranteed by a democratic political system.

The economic development lesson is clear: Have a system of economic freedom and grow rich. Extensive government control, weak property rights and government corruption almost guarantee poverty. A country's institutional infrastructure is critical to its economic growth and the well-being of its citizens. The most critical are protection of private property, enforcement of contracts and rule of law.

Indeed, the WSJ/Heritage Foundation Index of Economic Freedom is a wonderful resource, and certainly worth checking out.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

New York Times: Most Women Are Single?

According to a New York Times story, most women in America just don't get married. Shocking? Well, when you fudge the numbers and definitions at least. Dr. Thomas Sowell explains:

The latest in a long line of New York Times editorials disguised as "news" stories was a recent article suggesting that most American women today do not have husbands. Partly this was based on census data -- but much more so on creative definitions.

The Times defined "women" to include females as young as 16 and counted widows, who of course could not be widows unless they had once had a husband. Wives whose husbands were away in the military, or in prison, were also counted among women not living with a husband.

With such creative definitions, it turned out that 51 percent of "women" were not living with a husband. That made it "most" women and created a "news" story suggesting that these women were not married. In reality, only one fourth of women have never married, even when you count girls as young as 16.

Oh, alright, so most American women haven't rejected marriage. Family is a fading novelty, says Dr. Sowell:

Negative depictions of marriage and family are common not only in our newspapers but also wherever the left is concentrated, whether in our schools and colleges or on television or in the movies -- most famously, in the "Murphy Brown" TV program that Vice President Dan Quayle criticized, provoking a fierce counterattack from the left.

The New York Times was not the first outlet of the left to play fast and loose with statistics in order to depict marriage as a relic of the past. Innumerable sources have quoted a statistic that half of all marriages end in divorce -- another conclusion based on creative manipulation of words, rather than on hard facts.

Shocking! Oh, well, maybe not.

Happy 96th Birthday President Reagan

(Published at Rebirth of Freedom)

"Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free."

-Ronald Reagan

Today would be the ninety-sixth birthday of President Ronald Reagan. The man who applied the philosophical principles of Burke, Kirk, Friedman and Buckley to the needs of Jack and Jill. The ideology that developed individual freedom, private enterprise, limited government, traditional values, strong national defense, individual responsibility, and free markets into cornerstones of policy.

On the domestic front, he understood proper role of government, but also he understood how to pick his battles. He was a neo-socialistic democrat who vigorously defended The New Deal in the forties, but by the sixties he had made an ideological shift. He began to find a "new moral grasp" on issues like role of government, abortion, and defense posture. Ideas that would define his presidency. He worked with a democratic congress to get things done. Sadly, the Democrats failed to cut spending as drastically he wished for them to, and failed to eliminate useless waste as he advocated, but his tax cuts weathered strong. His stand for life, choice, and opportunity was eloquent and passionate. His optimism characteristic.

On the foreign affairs front, where he is remembered best, he defined his own strategy. He added imploding to containment. He's best remembered for missile defense (which we likely wouldn't have today if it wasn't for Reagan) and walking away from the negotiations with Gorbachev when the Soviet leader demanded Reagan give up Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). Gorbachev offered to roll back nukes if the US would alleviate buildups, and made several more concessions to which Reagan agreed. Finally, Mikhail said Reagan would have to give up missile defense, and Reagan turned him down, likely turning down a Nobel Prize. He defined his negotiations with the pretext, "The Soviets make promises, they don't keep them." A historically (viewing Truman, Nixon, Ford, and Carter dealings) correct assertion. He's also remembered for massive buildups in US arms, choking the Soviets who couldn't keep up.

Reagan always believed the Soviet economy to not be much larger than the state of California's. He waged economic warfare on all fronts, urging the Saudis to jack up oil supply, driving down prices thus crippling the Soviet oil market. A wide array of actions infuriated investors and likely led to the mid-'80s mild recession. The economy recovered with a boom, however, and the damage to Russia was done.

The USSR obviously crumbled, but its shadow covered a number of small issues and nuances. Few remember how courageously and brilliantly Reagan handled Grenada. Few remember the endearing stories from nurses in the hospital after his assassination attempt. Few remember his work in the fields of education reform. But almost all remember his wit, honesty, and charisma.
Of course, he made his fair share of mistakes. Most notably Iran Contra (in which he relived too heavily on some advisers, and didn't pull back fast enough), the '83 tax hikes, the vigilance with which he prioritized the war on drugs, and the space station.

But in the grand scheme of things, it's dwarfed

Reagan had some incredible staffers and advisers, and most of their writings are excellent. Some people to look into (roughly in order of importance):

Edwin Meese III
Jeane Kirkpatrick
Richard V. Allen
Judge William P. Clark
William J. Casey

Any conservative today likely remembers Peggy Noonan (author of When Character was King among many greats), and her happy birthday column ran Friday.

"I've spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don't know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind swept, God blessed and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace, a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity, and if there had to be city walls the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here... And how stands the city on this winter night? More prosperous, more secure and happier than it was eight years ago. But more than that; after two hundred years, two centuries, she still stands strong and true on the granite ridge, and her glow has held steady no matter what storm. And she's still a beacon, still a magnet for all who must have freedom, for all the pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness, toward home. We've done our part. And as I walk into the city streets, a final word to the men and women of the Reagan revolution, the men and women across America who for eight years did the work that brought America back. My friends: We did it. We weren't just marking time, we made a difference. We made the city stronger, we made the city freer, and we left her in good hands. All in all, not bad. Not bad at all. And so, good-bye. God bless you, and God bless the United States of America." —Ronald Reagan

Monday, February 5, 2007

UN Climate Change Report and Cartoon Bombs

Top stories tonight on every network: UN Climate Change Report and three key Senate resolutions hailing a vote.

The UN report was cited as the "end of the global warming debate," but I only know of one network (Fox News) that bothered to stress it was not the scientific report. Rather, This one was written largely by politicians and UN Bureaucrats, furthermore the scientific report is due in coming months. The Wall Street Journal summed it up nicely:

The document that caused such a stir was only a short policy report, a summary of the full scientific report due in May. Written mainly by policymakers (not scientists) who have a stake in the issue, the summary was long on dire predictions. The press reported the bullet points, noting that this latest summary pronounced with more than "90% confidence" that humans have been the main drivers of warming since the 1950s, and that higher temperatures and rising sea levels would result.

More pertinent is the underlying scientific report. And according to people who have seen that draft, it contains startling revisions of previous U.N. predictions. For example, the Center for Science and Public Policy has just released an illuminating analysis written by Lord Christopher Monckton, a one-time adviser to Margaret Thatcher who has become a voice of sanity on global warming.

Take rising sea levels. In its 2001 report, the U.N.'s best high-end estimate of the rise in sea levels by 2100 was three feet. Lord Monckton notes that the upcoming report's high-end best estimate is 17 inches, or half the previous prediction. Similarly, the new report shows that the 2001 assessment had overestimated the human influence on climate change since the Industrial Revolution by at least one-third.

The Democrat's anti-troop surge resolution, written with the help of a couple of flickering Republicans (most notably John Warner [R-VA]), is struggling to get the sixty votes necessary for passage. The GOP is blocking the vote until the Democrats allow two GOP-authored resolutions to come to a vote. The first is a McCain resolution supporting the troop surge that is destined to fail, and another is a key vote to forswear cutting Iraq funding before 2008. The latter will certainly pass with a bi-partisan majority, and it would be most embarrassing for the democratic resolution to pass by a smaller margin, or even fail.

"Report bombs, not cartoons." One should watch at least the last forty seconds of this video:

2008 Buzz

Forbes gave my #2 pick a nice rundown in the last issue.

Dick Morris has made two interesting forecasts in the past week. The first is that the dark horse candidates trying to catch up by spending Senate time campaigning will have it haunt them. Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan) has missed a whopping number of votes, while Sens. Clinton and Obama have near-perfect records.

The second prediction is in regard to the fading McCain and booming Giuiliani. Rudy has come a step further to candidacy, and the latest Fox News Opinion-Dynamic has him substantially ahead of McCain. Additionally, Morris is very degrading to the odds of Mitt Romney (my pick), and favors Huckabee of the dark horses.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Deficit and Savings Rate

110th's Deficit Worries As I've mentioned before, I remain a sharp critic of excessive spending, the federal debt, and the deficit. Glaringly simple plans such as the Republican Study Committee's "Contract with America: Renewed" present decent methods of balancing the budget over the next five years without hiking taxes.

Nonetheless, the deficit isn't going to strangle the economy anytime soon, and while numerically it's "skyrocketing," what I've repeatedly pointed out is that the quantitative examinations aren't sufficient. Taken in context of GDP growth, this year's deficit will be economically insignificant.

Heritage called the rhetoric last week, and CATO was doing it several years ago. Brian Riedl (Heritage):
  • The public debt now stands at 37 percent of GDP, which is below the post-war average of 44 percent of GDP and lower than every year during the 1990s. By historical standards, the public debt is small. The much larger threat is the trillions in future costs associated with Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.TheThe
The real problem, and what the research was focusing on, lies in the entitlement tsunami and general spending growth. I addressthatedseds to place more focus on working its way out of entitlement disaster and hashing spending than tax hikes to alleviate the deficit.

Negative Savings and Stagnant Wages
After exhausting all other alternatives (most recently the death of "tax cuts for the rich") the criticisms have moved largely to lack of wage growth and a negative savings rate. They have a bit of a point about wage growth, it has been stunted in a statistical classification sense, yet one needs to remember the booming role of benefits in total compensation. Productivity and compensation are both substantially up, and when I'm earning more money I don't particularly care if the wealthy are earning faster.

As for the savings rate, Neil Cavuto, while a bit more of entertainer than an economist (though I still want him to run for President) summed it up succinctly and informally:

It [the negative savings rate figure] leaves out retirement plans, pension plans, 401(k) plans, stocks, mutual funds and a myriad of other investments. It leaves out the simple fact fully seven out of 10 Americans are invested in the stock market.

And it leaves out their homes — for many, an enormous source of equity, even with the recent downturn in prices. I'm not saying we Americans are wonderful savers. We're not.

But I'll tell you what: We're apparently a heck of a lot better savers than workers in France. According to an AXA Equitable Global retirement survey out this week, we save twice as much as they do.

Ditto Italy and Germany. And nearly 10 times what they do in China.

In all, we're putting away about 700 bucks a month.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

2008 Update and Other Thoughts

Weird Al? In what I predict is the dying breath of blockbusted Air America, famous political satirist and democrat Al Franken-stein has announced his show will be officially over on Valentines Day. Speculation in Minnesota and Washington is that Franken will seek the democratic nomination to senate to run against Senator Norm Coleman (R-Minn) in 2008. Sen. Coleman is seen as one of the most vulnerable senators up for re-election next year.

Mitt and Mike. I've lamented before about the gaping hole in the list of potential GOP candidates in 2008 that creates a vacuum for a Reagan Republican to fill. Given the current slate of candidates, and my current knowledge about them, I'm halfwittedly contemplating support of Fmr. Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA). In a field with severely limited options, he's perhaps about all there is. A solitary issue is preventing me from announcing my support of Romney in the given field of candidates, and that is gun control. I've given a verbal rundown of the election to a number of you, thus I suppose I might as well post it here.

Rudy Giuliani is a hawk democrat. Anti-gun, anti-traditional marriage, pro-abortion, etc. He's a grand American, excellent on defense, school choice, spending, and tax cuts. Sadly, not someone I'm going to go all out for. I'd vote for him slated against Edwards, Clinton, or Obama, but I wouldn't put a bumper sticker on the car or donate. Minimal support other than a vote from me, no support in the primaries.

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) will always remain the unpredictable rebel. While he would be decent on defense and more than likely land pro-life, my Irish Alzheimer's (where you forget everything except your grudges) brings back memories of opposing tax cuts, McCain-Feingold, and Gang of 14 like a lost eBay bid. The tax cuts are the one major economic bragging point of the post-2000 GOP, McCain Feingold is the single greatest suppression of free speech to come of of "reform" legislation for twenty years, and Gang of 14 effectively shot a major campaign leverage tool for us (while sacrificing valuable appointees). His opposition of the marriage amendment will damage his appeal with "values voters" to boot.

Fmr. Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) has potential to pull a Reagan 1960 and lurch right. At this point, he's probably my slight favorite. He's either making a move away from overbearing government and liberalism to '94 conservatism, or he's plotting a move for base appeal. Reagan went from being FDR's best defender to a radical Goldwater Republican in twenty years, based solidly on conviction and ideological reform. Peggy Noonan explained it thus, "You knew he was a good man and you knew he meant it. So you understood how he could be the biggest supporter of FDR and the New Deal in 1944, and the most persuasive voice for Barry Goldwater in 1964. He'd thought it through and changed, not overnight but in time and with effort. He could change his mind on abortion in the same way, and not because he feared the base. Reagan was the base." Whether or not Romney can deliver in the same way, I don't know, almost assuredly it won't be as dramatic. Some similarities would include he's a fabulous orator, a red governor in a blue state, and he keeps people relatively happy when they disagree. Obvious differences include, most notably, he has yet to recognize and develop the philosophical depth, understanding, and passion Reagan exhibited so classically. Romney's stand against the grain on Massachusetts marriage was admirable, his health-care plan (while often misunderstood and highly controversial) was probably the best he could possibly do in his circumstances, plus he has proven himself a reasonable spending hawk and, while no Steve Forbes, a fair advocate of tax reform. The lone issue that has me withholding support, however, is gun control. When, thank God, the federal assault weapons ban expired, Romney promptly signed a state ban with his admonition that the ever arbitrarily labeled "assault weapons"* served no purpose. While he would likely be at least coerced into opposing a UN handgun ban, it wouldn't be aggressive opposition.

Major concerns: Being a Mormon won't help him any in the primaries. It shouldn't hurt him too much if he keeps cooing the AFA/Focus on the Family groups. Abortion keeps coming back with Romney. I was fairly convinced with the Paul Gallagher bit that everyone changes, and accordingly Romney had completely flopped on abortion--notably, as I mentioned, just as Reagan did-- until I saw The Weekly Standard report that in 2002 Romney answered a Planned Parenthood survey by indicating he not only supported Roe, but additionally supported allowing Medicaid funds to cover abortions for low-income women. The preposterous liberal diatribes have whined about such funding for years, but it quite shocked me for a Republican in 2002 to say that when he's running in '08. A pair of 2005 Romney vetoes on life measures were reassuring, though.

Bottom line: he's my top pick, though I wish I could support him even more.

Senator Sam Brownback (R-KA) Sen. Brownback is a fine senator. In the senate. One of the better ones there. The Senate chamber, that is. I hope he can stay there for many years to come. Legislating. That's different than the executive branch, you know. Brownback has proven himself as a senator. In the senate. Participating as a legislator. In the senate. With other senators. Doing things that senators do. In the senate. Good, Godly, honorable, proud senator. (You thought I was going to say, "In the Senate" again, didn't you? Ha!) He's my favorite guy running, but he's not going to land the Oval Office. It will be a lovely thing if I'm wrong.

Fmr. Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR) If I resided in any state other than Arkansas, my vehement support would be thrust behind him. I'll preface this by assuring all people, if Huckabee is a driving force in the primaries and pulls away as the conservative, I'll throw everything I have behind him. If he wins the nomination, I'll work on his campaign harder than Bush/Cheney '04, probably donate, et cetera. His platform is impeccable with the notable exceptions of amnesty in immigration and school choice. If one is to read his budget and taxes issue page, they will find him quoting Milton Friedman and Ronald Reagan. Fabulous rhetoric and specific ideas. If I may border on violating Reagan's 11th, I have to agree (being from Arkansas) with some of The Club for Growth's criticisms of Huckabee on taxes. He's slick, and has viable excuses, but some of it is difficult to alleviate.

Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) A libertarian icon and the Buddha of John Stossel dittoheads (of which, by the way, I'm a loose member), Rep. Paul gave the libertarians a shove after his presidential bid under them that flopped like an OJ Book, and decided to give those darn egalitarian republicans a try. I adore his loathing of government, and adamantly support his economic policies centered around Von Mises and the Austrian school of economic thought, but he has no comprehension of how to combat islamofascism and the global threats we have today. His foreign isolationist policies would be disastrous. His repeated calls to impeach Bush deeply disappointed me. Impeachment over USA PATRIOT? Does he really want President Dick Cheney if he has such a gripe with Bush? A bloody shame.

Fmr. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-GA) Newt is perhaps the ideal President, and a lousy candidate. The profile picture of the 1994 Revolution, a dynamic speaker, and a deep understanding of the issues doesn't always translate into election success. As the Sir Galahad's fallacy of politics goes, "I will win because I am right" always fails. Perhaps Rudy should run with Newt as his running mate, then resign the day he is sworn in... Just as a note, he has to be dreading a little roadblock with what should be a key constituency, the "religious right." They'll have a hard time wondering if he's doing any better with this wife than the last few ones that didn't quite work out.

Tommy Thompson (R-WI) is a George W. Bush with a couple of slightly more right slantings, and he isn't a cowboy. Nothing impressive.

Duncan Hunter (R-CA)...uh...Chuck Hagel (R-NE)...yeah right...George Pataki (R-NY)....yeeeeow!

If I could appoint someone
President of the United States, it's interesting to ponder who it would be. If I could have anyone, I think I would go Neil Cavuto/Brit Hume. From this list, it might be a Gingrich/Brownback administration. Others I would like to see include Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) who pretty much gone, and Steve Forbes (I love that guy! Why did he have to be a political dud). JC Watts who would have to get back in politics first, or he would be excellent.

Regardless of the current circumstances, 2008 is going to be a fun run.

*"Assault Weapons" could just as easily be translated, "Guns that Dianne Feinstein finds scary."