Out of the Storm News
Remember the video that President Obama cited as the reason behind the attacks in Benghazi? The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has voted 2-1 to order the video be taken down from YouTube–though not for the reasons you may expect.
The court ruled that YouTube must take down Innocence of Muslims, the (rather poorly made) “documentary” about the religion of Islam, not on the basis that it was anti-Muslim, but because of a copyright violation. The plaintiff in the case, Cindy Lee Garcia, claims that she was hired to work on a totally different film, and was misled about the nature of the final product. Indeed, her short appearance had her own voice dubbed over by another actor. On top of this, Ms. Garcia claimed she was receiving death threats for her part in the film.
Ms. Garcia is asking to have the video taken down because of her copyright claim, even though she was barely in the video itself and constituted a very small role in its production with no control over shooting, writing, or post-production. Are we now going to allow bit players the power to take down an entire production? What about the other actors and personnel involved in the production? What if they disagree with the removal of a production, as it may infringe on their rights to their performances (and potential royalties)?
Marvin Ammori notes that this ruling creates a host of a thorny legal questions. Indeed, people won’t even need to sue to take things down; DCMA takedown notices will expand greatly. He also notes that uncertainty over who owns copyright will increase, which will make it harder to actually produce anything. He brings up tragedy of the anti-commons, which really is a tragedy when it involves speech.
Corynne McSherry at the Electronic Frontier Foundation also makes a great point that Ms. Garcia’s copyright claim is on very shaky ground:
Second, the merits of this case are indeed doubtful. Very doubtful. Garcia is claiming a copyright interest in her brief performance [5 seconds from a 13 minute production], a novel theory and one that doesn’t work well here. After all, Garcia herself admits she had no creative control over the movie, but simply performed the lines given to her. There may be a context where an actor could assert some species of authorship, but this doesn’t seem to be one of them. Movie makers of all kinds should be worried indeed.
This is, of course, before we get to the elephant in the room: the First Amendment. The majority opinion asserts there is no problem with this because the First Amendment doesn’t protect copyright infringement, but we’re talking about a controversial video inextricably linked to a event of great historical significance, as well as one explicitly promoting a particular opinion and viewpoint. Do copyright questions override these? That would seem to put free speech on rocky ground in the United States.
This is certainly not a clear cut issue by any means. We cannot forget that Ms. Garcia was allegedly misled by the video’s producer into working for what was essentially another production, that was recut and redubbed into Innocence of Muslims. But at the same time, couldn’t there have been alternative solutions? Did the video really need to be taken down (and necessitate a court order forcing YouTube to “take all reasonable steps to prevent further uploads”)? Could Ms. Garcia really claim a copyright when she was just performing a set of instructions for an incredibly tiny part in this production? What sort of Pandora’s Box are we opening with this decision?
Read the full court opinion here.This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
From National Journal:
At this morning’s briefing, Congressman Daines and Attorney General Fox were joined by Phil Bond, executive director of We R Here, a nationwide coalition of small businesses and entrepreneurs opposed to the Internet sales tax bill. Attendees at the briefing also heard from Andrew Moylan of R Street, who discussed polling indicating 57% of Americans oppose an Internet sales tax.
From the Times-Picayune:
Andrew Moylan, senior fellow at the R-Street Institute, a conservative advocacy group, said both Republicans and Democrats feel pressured to act to protect their candidates running in the fall mid-term elections. It is clear that congressional leaders from both parties don’t want constituents taking out their frustration over higher flood insurance premiums on their candidates in the fall elections, although they’d be happy if they blame their political opponents.
A prime mover of the flood insurance debate, Moylan said, is the Louisiana Senate race with Democrats wanting to show that Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., “is doing the most to stop premium increases” and Republicans wanting the credit for congressional action to go to Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, her leading Republican challenger.
Political considerations, he said, led House Majority Leader Eric Cantor to take the unusual move of removing authority over the flood insurance issue from House Financial Services Committee Chair Jon Hensarling, R-Texas., who opposes major changes in the 2012 law.
Other races influencing Cantor’s decision, he said, include the New York Congressional race in which Republican Michael Grimm is fighting for his political life in a district full of homeowners who suffered major losses during Super Storm Sandy; and a special Florida House race in which both the Democratic and Republican candidates are vowing to fight large premium increases. Grimm is the lead sponsor of the new House flood insurance bill.
”It’s all about the politics,” said Moylan, who contends that groups pushing for congressional action are exaggerating the extent of rate increases and pushing for legislation that undermines the Biggert-Waters goal of making the program more sustainable.
Cassidy said he’s unperturbed by R-Street’s contention that his and others’ fight against flood insurance rate hikes is being aided by political considerations of congressional leaders.
“Good policy is good politics and this is good policy,” Cassidy said. “I’m fighting for the interests of Louisiana. I am not bothered by the ‘inside-the-beltway’ crowd that does not understand the needs of Louisiana families facing unfair flood insurance rate hikes. Also, this isn’t just for Louisiana, this helps Americans across the country.”
WASHINGTON (Feb. 26, 2014) - The R Street Institute welcomed news that the credit union tax exemption is protected in the latest draft of the House Ways & Means Committee’s tax reform bill.
Credit unions are not-for-profit, community-based organizations that serve members with a common bond. Throughout their history, they have serviced segments of the population and small businesses that have had difficulty obtaining credit from traditional bank channels.
“The committee should be commended for recognizing that the tax exemption for credit unions is vital to ensuring that credit unions can continue to provide the same level of service and competitive lending rates that customers have relied on for generations,” said R.J. Lehmann, senior fellow at R Street.
There are currently about 7,000 credit unions with roughly 96 million members in the United States. Recent research by the National Association of Federal Credit Unions finds that eliminating the credit union federal tax exemption would result in $17 billion in lost economic benefits.
From the Weekly Standard:
Of course, raising the minimum wage is not the only, and certainly not the most efficient way to increase the value of work. There is the Earned Income Tax Credit, which rebates employer and employee payroll taxes to low-wage workers, and which Eli Lehrer and Lori Sanders of the R Street Institute described in these pages (“Let’s Move,” February 10, 2014) as providing “virtually perfect incentives. . . . [I]t’s also entirely portable . . . [but] remains quite modest.” There is also a negative income tax. I leave it to others to devise ways to make work pay more, the funding to come from the savings in the benefits programs or from part two of a conservative back-to-work policy: accelerated growth.
From the Washington Examiner:
That will be a constant threat, especially in an era of fiscal tightening, for the relatively young program, said Eli Lehrer, president of the conservative R Street Institute.
“Age certainly affects it, because when you’ve been around a while, you’ve built a constituency,” Lehrer told the Washington Examiner. “So zero-funding [the National Science Foundation], the national labs or DARPA is unthinkable. But ARPA-E gets talked about all the time.”
From the St. Petersburg Tribune:
Influential conservative groups such as the Heritage Foundation, Americans for Prosperity and the R Street Institute have written editorials and lobbied members of Congress to oppose changes to the 2012 Biggert-Waters Act, which was broadly supported by both parties two years ago.
Political races are likely driving some elected officials in coastal states such as Louisiana and New York to go against principle to appease constituents who are angry about the premium hikes, says Andrew Moylan, senior fellow at the R Street Institute.
“Everybody knows what the right thing to do policywise here is and they are actively choosing not to do it because of the political situation,” he said in a conference call Wednesday.
Moylan was joined by Rob Moore, of the Natural Resources Defense Council environmental group, who said continuing to offer rates that don’t reflect true risk only creates more peril for people in flood zones.
From the Wall Street Journal:
An unlikely coalition of conservatives, environmental groups and the insurance industry has opposed the latest legislative proposals to blunt the premium increases.
The House bill “represents a fundamental betrayal” of free-market principles, said R.J. Lehmann, senior fellow at R Street Institute, a Washington, D.C. think tank. Still, the proposed legislation leaves open a potentially substantial role for private-sector reinsurers, he noted.
February 25, 2014
Dear Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor,
We the undersigned organizations and individuals are extremely disappointed in the addition of a poison pill amendment to H.R. 1123, the Unlocking Consumer Choice Act, and urge you to pass companion legislation that restores the full rights of all consumers to freely own,
unlock, use and sell their phones and other wireless devices.
Cell phone unlocking allows consumers to keep their cellphone, change carriers, or sell their phone after their contract has expired. It’s a critical part of how a dynamic and competitive mobile market functions. This technology was lawful from 2006-2013, when the Librarian of Congress effectively made phone unlocking a crime. Since then, the White House and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) have come out in opposition to this ruling, even pressuring major wireless carriers to promise to unlock their mobile devices. But it is the
responsibility of Congress to permanently fix the problem, not rely on executive agencies and rule-making bodies.
Last summer, the House Judiciary Committee passed the Unlocking Consumer Choice Act, which made the first step toward reversing the ban on phone unlocking, and received support from many of the undersigned organizations. Not a single organization formally came out against the legislation, including representatives of the Competitive Carriers Association (CCA) and The Wireless Association (CTIA) collectively representing the entire wireless industry.
Then, last week when Congress was out of session, lobbyists added a poison pill to legislation that had already passed committee. This incredibly duplicitous move undermined the legal nature of phone unlocking and singled out small businesses through a ban on “bulk
unlocking.” What is the threshold? No one even knows – that will be decided later.
Copyright is designed to protect content owners and creators, but it can be a powerful weapon when allowed to be a tool by special interest lobbyists to protect their market models. Copyright should not be used to stifle innovation, hurt consumers, or prohibit market models.
Yet this is precisely what this new language does. This new language uses “copyright infringement” as a justification to exclude certain business models from emerging. Unlocking is an activity completely removed from violating copyright. Why should individual unlocking
and resale be legal, but illegal for a small business?
We implore House leadership to bring to the floor the original version of HR 1123 without the poisoned section on “bulk unlocking.” The original supporters and members of the House Judiciary Committee deserve an honest vote.
Norm Singleton, Vice President of Policy – Campaign for Liberty
Derek Khanna, Yale Law Fellow – Information Society Project
One of President Obama’s defining convictions is that he is the most reasonable man in our nation’s capitol. He seems to view opposition to his agenda as a reflection of intellectual or moral failures (my opponents don’t understand the underlying issues well enough, or their hearts aren’t big enough) or as a product of naked cynicism (my opponents are dishonest and they will do anything to defeat me). To prove his point, the president will occasionally tout an idea from the other side of the aisle, or rather an idea he imagines to be from the other side of the aisle. And when his political opponents don’t embrace the idea, well, that means that they are acting in bad faith.
So I was delighted by the news that the Obama administration is changing its tune on Social Security in its forthcoming budget proposal. Last year, the president included a Social Security reform compromise in the budget proposal he presented to Congress. This year he has decided not to do so. But the truth is that the president’s Social Security compromise wasn’t a compromise at all. His decision to jettison it is a refreshing change of pace. And while the reforms aren’t officially part of the 2015 budget proposal, they remain relevant because Obama is treating them as a concession he’ll make if Republicans agree to raise taxes.
According to the president and his allies, the White House was only willing to compromise on Social Security, by cutting benefits, if Republicans were willing to give a little too, by agreeing to higher taxes. The problem is that his idea for cutting Social Security benefits is actually pretty bad, and it would also raise taxes. In other words, the president’s offer to the GOP is, “hey, why don’t you share the blame for this thing that will make Social Security worse for seniors and raise taxes, and in return for my generosity you’ll let me raise taxes even more?” You will be shocked to learn that Republican lawmakers were not thrilled by this idea.
Specifically, the White House called for changing the index used to both calculate cost-of-living adjustments for Social Security payments and set tax brackets in its budget for the 2014 fiscal year. This new method for gauging consumer price inflation (“chained CPI”) is considered more accurate than the federal government’s standard Consumer Price Index (“CPI”). But the appeal of chained CPI is not just that it’s more accurate. It just so happens that chained CPI is expected to yield inflation rates around 0.3 percentage points lower than old-school CPI.
This is where the magic happens. By using chained CPI instead of CPI, Social Security benefits would grow at a somewhat slower rate over time, thus containing the Social Security system’s cost as baby boomers exit the workforce. If the only thing Republicans cared about was cutting Social Security spending, this would make the new index pretty appealing.
Yet many Republicans, believe it or not, also want to protect the economic security of older Americans. And there is a real danger that chained CPI might cause problems for the oldest retirees, who in some cases are decades away from leaving the workforce, when their initial benefit levels were set. In fairness, champions of chained CPI tend to advocate building in some added protection for the oldest of the old, to keep them from falling into poverty.
But as Andrew Biggs, a Social Security expert at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, has argued, it would make far more sense to lower the initial retirement-benefit level to encourage workers right around retirement age to keep working, while actually allowing retirement benefits to grow faster by pegging them to overall wage growth.
Biggs also reminds us that chained CPI would also cause tax brackets to change more slowly, and thus would represent a substantial tax increase for middle-income households over time. If the inflation rate is 1 percent a year but average wages increase at a rate of 2 percent a year, you will hit the dollar amount that puts you in a higher tax bracket faster than you will hit the dollar amount that puts you in a higher income percentile. Over the long run, this “bracket creep” from chained CPI will raise more revenue than Social Security benefit cuts will yield in spending reductions. How is this a compromise again?
There are Social Security reforms that Democrats and Republicans could get behind, at least in theory. Andrew Biggs has proposed cutting or even eliminating the Social Security payroll tax for workers over the age of 62, a step that would reduce payroll tax revenues, but increase other tax revenues as older workers choose to work longer hours and to retire later in life. This tax cut wouldn’t quite be a free lunch, but it would come pretty close. Charles Blahous and Jason Fichtner of the libertarian Mercatus Center have suggested cutting Social Security payroll taxes for households with children, while raising them for households without them, a controversial step that would give low- and middle-income working families a big economic boost.
But as journalist Ezra Klein has observed, presidents are ill-suited to forging legislative compromises. Rather than bring partisans together, they tend to polarize them. Instead of offering pseudo-compromises in his budget proposal, the president should stick to laying out his vision for America’s future, in which higher taxes, higher spending and more onerous regulations will lead us to the promised land. The Republicans should do a better job of laying out their vision as well. And then, come November, in House and Senate races across the country, voters will decide which vision they prefer.
In a debate near the end of her premiership, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was faced with a questioner who complained that while “the prime minister has achieved substantial success with the economy…the gap between the richest ten percent, and the poorest ten percent in this country, has widened substantially.” Thatcher shot back with sneering disdain, “What the right honorable gentleman is saying is that he would rather the poor were poorer provided the rich were less rich.”
It’s hard not to read that precise sentiment in Sean McElwee’s recent article in the Huffington Post. McElwee, best known only for transparently tendentious articles on how to convince one’s presumptively crazy conservative uncle to become a liberal, apparently takes umbrage at the GOP’s attempt to speak in the language of upward mobility. To quote McElwee:
The only way to increase upward mobility is more government spending[…] Republicans want a strong, upwardly mobile middle class and a weak government, but the two cannot coexist.
Never mind that small government and weak government are not the same thing, for that’s the least of the problems with McElwee’s essay. Or that the entire piece is almost too contentless to rebut. Its sophomoric analysis is just simply too lazy to pass unremarked upon.
It would be very easy to nitpick McElwee’s article by questioning his statistics or defending the policy analysts he dismisses out of hand. For the sake of argument, I’ll even concede some of McElwee’s points, just to show where they lead. Let’s stipulate that he is correct that:
- Government spending increases upward mobility.
- Redistribution props up the middle class.
- Inequality hinders upward mobility.
With respect to the first point, we do have to ask, government spending by whom and on what? Most of the sorts of programs McElwee favors – expanded spending on education, daycare, etc. – are, in our system, state responsibilities. Republicans largely agree that such state programs require additional support, but they propose offering that support via block grants, which McElwee opposes. He argues that “if you’re not increasing spending, you’re just shifting around authority at best and sneaking in cuts at worst.”
Moving on to redistribution, McElwee cites programs like the Home Mortgage Interest Deduction, the employer-provided healthcare tax exclusion, Social Security and Medicare as examples of good redistributive policy. Ironically, none of these represent particularly progressive policies. The mortgage interest deduction only helps those who itemize deductions and provides disproportionately more relief to those with bigger homes and those in the higher income tax brackets. The employer-provided tax exclusion only applies to those who have employer-provided health care, and similarly provides disproportionate benefits to those in the upper income tax brackets. As for Social Security and Medicare, an argument can be made they are deeply regressive, given that they take money from millennials (a relatively poor generation) in order to fund Baby Boomers (the richest generation currently living, if not in history).
When it comes to the negative impacts of inequality, McElwee deploys some of his strongest rhetoric:
Mobility in many parts of America is abysmal. In some cities, children born in the poorest quintile have a less than 3 percent chance of reaching the top quintile. Across the country, a child born in the poorest quintile has a 60 percent chance of staying in the bottom two quintiles.
It’s a two-part problem. First, there is opportunity hoarding at the top, wherein the wealthy invest heavily in their children’s education and job prospects, while also passing their wealth on to their children. Then there is stagnation at the bottom, caused largely by reverse trends, economic and racial segregation, awful schools and poor parents without much money to invest in children.
Notice that McElwee doesn’t make the case for equality being a good thing, in and of itself. It’s solely important insofar as it increases mobility. This effectively means that he’s conceding the premise that Republicans start from, even if he thinks their policies won’t get us as far as we need. That’s an awfully big concession for someone who claims to care so much about inequality.
Imagine a society where everyone’s wages were legally mandated to stay exactly the same until they were 30, at which point their wages were mandated to increase by, say, $5,000. This would surely be both an extremely equal society and an extremely upwardly mobile one, because 100 percent of the bottom quintile would inevitably reach the top quintile, yet one doubts that it would be particularly prosperous.
What if you had a society where some people were working at subsistence level and others were working at just slightly above subsistence level? I would wager that upward mobility between the top and bottom of the income distribution would be very high, not because people would be getting meaningfully better off, but just because there would be such a small distance to travel in terms of incomes. By McElwee’s standard, this would be a preferable society to the one we have now because it’s more equal and more mobile. In short, better to have the poor poorer, provided the rich are much less rich.
There is little doubt that in our increasingly globalized, technological world, America faces challenges in maintaining a vibrant middle class. The fact that Hollywood and Silicon Valley dominate American exports is surely a mixed bag. While both industries carry the potential for volcanic mobility, they are also two of the last hotbeds of Darwinistic competition. The rise of the machine-like efficiency of outsourced workers has rendered the cozy entitlements of a union job increasingly obsolete, and America’s education system is still desperately playing catch-up. These are economic problems, but they are also hard and complicated cultural, social and generational ones, and not likely to yield to the partisan reductionism of unserious, pedantic redistributionism.This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
From Bay News 9:
Opponents like R Street Institute said, “less than two years after passing landmark reforms to fix the National Flood Insurance Program, which remains $25 billion in debt to American taxpayers, lawmakers appear poised to gut just about all of those reforms, all to score cheap political points.”
The attorneys general of 42 states have signed a letter supporting efforts in Congress to enact comprehensive patent reform legislation. The letter emphasizes the need for increased transparency, curbing demand letter abuse, litigation reform that would undermine the patent troll business model, and clarification of federal supremacy when it comes to what the states can do. Read the letter in full here.
It’s worth emphasizing the importance of clarifying the law when it comes to how states can crack down on demand letter abuse through consumer protection powers. I moderated an R Street organized panel at ALEC’s last winter meeting on what states can do about patent trolls, following the Vermont model. Listen to the full panel, or read more about it here.This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
From the Palm Beach Post:
“This bill represents a fundamental betrayal of the free-market principles and fiscal responsibility the House leadership claims to embrace,” said R.J. Lehmann, a senior fellow at the Washington, D.C. public-policy research group R Street Institute. “Less than two years after passing landmark reforms to fix the NFIP, which remains $25 billion in debt to American taxpayers, lawmakers appear poised to gut just about all of those reforms, all to score cheap political points.”
From Miami Herald:
“Less than two years after passing landmark reforms to fix the NFIP, which remains $25 billion in debt to American taxpayers, lawmakers appear poised to gut just about all of those reforms, all to score cheap political points,” said R.J. Lehmann of R Street Institute, a free-market group. (Private insurers say they cannot compete with government-subsidized rates.)
It would also repeal would repeal entirely the section of the flood insurance reform law that calls on the Federal Emergency Management Agency to update its maps, according to R.J. Lehmann, a senior fellow at the R Street Institute…
…Lehmann voiced disappointment. He says the bill represents a “fundamental betrayal of the free-market principles and fiscal responsibility the House leadership claims to embrace.
“Less than two years after passing landmark reforms to fix the NFIP, which remains $25 billion in debt to American taxpayers, lawmakers appear poised to gut just about all of those reforms, all to score cheap political points.”
WASHINGTON (Feb. 25, 2014) – With the federal Terrorism Risk Insurance Program set to expire at year’s end, the R Street Institute urged members of Congress to act promptly to consider reforms that would move more of the program’s risk onto the private sector.
This morning, the Senate Banking Committee hosts a hearing on reauthorizing the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act beyond its Dec. 31 expiration. However, with a witness list consisting entirely of representatives of the insurance industry and major commercial insureds, the input the panel is receiving is limited to those who wish to extend the program under its current terms.
“We’re concerned that Congress appears to be polarized between those who wish to see the program sunset and those who refuse to consider any improvements, no matter how small,” R Street Senior Fellow R.J. Lehmann said. “There are a variety of options that should be considered to shrink the federal government’s footprint in terrorism insurance, just as has happened in each of the prior two reauthorizations, but we’d much rather see those ideas considered through thoughtful deliberation, rather than hammered through in a hasty last-minute rush.”
In testimony last November to the House Financial Services Committee, R Street Associate Fellow Ernest Csiszar— a former president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners —proposed raising the program’s $100 million loss trigger significantly, perhaps to as much as $20 billion or $25 billion, to keep the TRIA program in line with industry loss warranties in the private markets.
He also recommended raising the industry’s horizontal deductible to 40 percent of the past year’s direct earned premium for commercial lines subject to the law, from its current 20 percent, as well as raising the quota share cost-sharing arrangement for insurers to 25 percent of losses that exceed an insurer’s deductible, from the current 15 percent. Csiszar also recommended the U.S. Treasury begin charging a risk-based price for the reinsurance coverage it extends to the industry, and to invest those premiums in risk transfer, including reinsurance, catastrophe bonds or other vehicles.
Lehmann added that Congress could also consider separate terms and conditions for different lines of commercial insurance. Given its mandatory nature, requirement to cover nuclear, chemical, biological and radiological risks and potential impact on the still-fragile jobs recovery, the workers’ compensation insurance market may require additional support not granted to commercial property coverage, Lehmann said. On the other hand, an argument could be made that commercial liability insurance could be dropped from the TRIA program altogether.
“As believers in pragmatic free-market solutions, we recognize that some federal program is likely still necessary to encourage private capital to participate in the market to insure terrorism risk,” Lehmann said. “At the same time, we think it is appropriate that Congress recognize that more capacity has entered this market since the last reauthorization and look for ways to encourage capital formation to better protect taxpayers. The time to find such solutions is running short.”
Late in season two of House of Cards (spoiler alert!), the show’s protagonist, Vice President Francis Underwood, is confronted with a thorny and uncharacteristically human problem when Freddy, owner of Francis’ favorite BBQ joint, appears certain to lose his livelihood and reputation. Freddy’s problems are partly the result of Francis’ war with billionaire Raymond Tusk.
After explaining to Freddy that he has to distance himself due to damaging revelations that Tusk has uncovered, Francis offers to give Freddy enough money to keep the restaurant he’s worked years to build.The response is not favorable
“I don’t want your guilt money,” Freddy spits bitterly, preferring to sell his restaurant for a paltry $45,000 than to sacrifice his pride, even to a powerful friend of 20 years.
Republicans – especially the sort who complain about the party’s hard-edged rhetoric – could learn a lot from this scene.
Virtually no serious observer of the American political scene believes the GOP’s political approach can persist in its present form, either rhetorically or substantively. Yet recognizing the necessity of change says very little about the content of that change. Many would like the GOP to double down on its most conservative elements, believing attempts to water down its principles have only made the party sound incoherent. Others believe the GOP needs either to sacrifice its more callous principles or reformulate the language it uses to sell them. Among those who subscribe to the latter view, there is special concern that the GOP simply sounds uncaring, or deaf to the plight of others. As Arthur Brooks wrote recently in Commentary.
Mitt Romney’s unfortunate claim that “47 percent” of Americans “believe that they are victims [whom] the government has a responsibility to care for” and that they could never be persuaded to support his campaign did little to combat misconceptions. And the caricature of Republican callousness has been repeated so often that conservatives can even fall into a kind of political Stockholm Syndrome. In a 1999 study, researchers at UCLA found that subjects viewed liberals as generous and conservatives as “somewhat heartless,” without regard to their own political views.
While I agree that GOP rhetoric needs to change, you can color me unconvinced. Despite Brooks’ accurate diagnosis of GOP woes, his prognosis for political messaging strikes me as appealing to the wrong moral foundation.
In his book “The Righteous Mind,” political scientist Jonathan Haidt identifies five different foundations – care, fairness, loyalty, authority and purity – that shape our moral calculus. While liberals tend to be very much concerned with the first two – care, or the desire to prevent harm, and fairness, or the desire for equality and/or justice and fairness – conservatives have a more balanced diet, and care about all five, though less strongly than liberals care about the first two.
Brooks tells us that conservatives should stress their desire to prevent harm. But today’s progressive rhetoric – unlike in the “I feel your pain” Clinton era – tends to be grounded in fairness, or “justice.” In fact, it’s a rare liberal cause that isn’t sold using the language of justice.
Left-wing college activism these days is carried out under the banner of “social justice.” Elizabeth Warren rails against the big banks not for their wealth, but for their ability to avoid prosecution for what she portrays as financial crimes. Crusaders for student debt forgiveness argue that subjecting an already economically struggling generation to a lifetime of loan repayment is fundamentally unjust. Discussions of income inequality and the minimum wage center on the idea that people have not been fairly rewarded for their increased productivity. Even President Obama’s infamous “you didn’t build that” gaffe was an accusation against the rich of unfairly hording wealth that they didn’t completely deserve.
The claim Democrats are making is not that they want to give money and power to the dispossessed because they care, it is that they want to return money and power to the dispossessed that is rightfully theirs. In short, they are appealing to peoples’ pride, rather than their sense of deprivation.
Contra Brooks, this narrative is much, much easier to adapt to Republican ends than one based on caring. Federal entitlements that take money from dispossessed millennials and give it to the richest generation alive offers one example. Another is the federal government’s egregious profiting off of inescapable student loan debt. The number of dying, noncompetitive industries that the federal government props up with subsidies scarcely bears repeating.
In short, the solution to conservative messaging woes is not a return to the discredited idea of “compassionate conservatism.” Rather, it is to internalize, as liberals have ironically done superbly, the words of Rush Limbaugh: “Compassion is not a substitute for justice.”This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
WASHINGTON (Feb. 24, 2014) – The R Street Institute welcomed news of the introduction of H.R. 4033, the American Worker Mobility Act, sponsored by Reps. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., and Tony Cárdenas, D-Calif.
The goal of the legislation is to help long-term unemployed Americans move from high unemployment areas to areas where unemployment is lower and companies are seeking qualified applicants for open jobs by providing them with relocation vouchers worth up to $10,000.
R Street has previously advocated for similar legislation, most recently in an article that appeared in the Weekly Standard earlier this month. In that column, R Street noted “[T]he federal government ought to do what it can to encourage people to move from places that lack opportunities to those that offer them in abundance.”
“Declining geographic mobility has been an important development in the American economy over the last few decades and has been accelerated by the recession,” said Lori Sanders, outreach manager and policy analyst at R Street, and co-author of the Weekly Standard article. “This bill is a creative attempt to help solve one of our economy’s underlying problems, and it does so in a responsible way by setting strict parameters for who is eligible and when.”
The legislation allows participants to self-select into the program, identifying strong candidates who may be otherwise unable to leave one area. Under the law, job seekers would have a new alternative to welfare or disability after unemployment benefits run out.
“It’s encouraging to see a bi-partisan effort to address these issues,” Sanders said. “Reps. Mulvaney and Cárdenas should be commended for their efforts and we hope to see many more co-sponsors sign on to the bill.”
Over time, observed Eli Lehrer…there was “continued erosion of premiums intended to get more people into the program coupled with the program’s long term financial deterioration.” Congress regularly cut premiums. By 1982 two-thirds of participants received a subsidy, which in turn “attracted people who took greater risks,” further increasing deficits. Although private companies administered the program, Uncle Sam covered the risks.