The GOP and the Fiscal Cliff

Here is a crazy and bold prediction: à la the 1994 government shutdown, no matter what happens with regard to the "fiscal cliff", the GOP will get the blame. Just as the right was fingered as the culprit for the housing bust even while they were sounding the alarm about the need for more regulation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, so too they will be blamed for any detrimental effects of the fiscal cliff. Republican options for dealing with this issue include:

  • stay true to their values and pledges of smaller government and lower taxes;
  • put forth reasonable solutions such as the Ryan Plan;
  • agree to return to the full panoply of the Clinton era taxes;
  • put forward the Simpson/Bowles plan as a compromise;
  • just vote "present" and let the Dems march forward unresisted;
  • leave DC and hole up at the Best Western Clock Tower Resort in Rockford, Illinois;

But, it doesn't matter what the GOP does short of registering as Democrats and feeding grapes to Nancy Pelosi, they will be castigated by the Dominant Liberal Establishment Mass Media (DLEMM) and those on the left as obstructionist and intransigent.

And this will happen even though the left boldly proclaims their intransigence on a daily basis:

  • Before the election, Harry Reid said, "Mitt Romney's fantasy that Senate Democrats will work with him to pass his 'severely conservative' agenda is laughable."
  • Harkin and Rockefeller asked Obama to "reject changes to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security that would cut benefits"
  • The Congressional Progressive Caucus said that entitlements are off the table
  • Durbin, the Senate Majority Whip, said in a speech that under no circumstance would there be any entitlement reform.  
  • Krugman says, "Mr. Obama should hang tough, declaring himself willing, if necessary, to hold his ground even at the cost of letting his opponents inflict damage on a still shaky economy. And this is definitely no time to negotiate a 'grand bargain' on the budget that snatches defeat from the jaws of victory. So stand your ground, Mr. President, and don't give in to threats. No deal is better than a bad deal."
  • A pundit opines, "The president can win, without doing anything. He does not have to give an inch. Not an inch!"
Are these the voices of bipartisanship and compromise?  

The left sets up a situation where "negotiation" means something like 'You can choose any color you like as long as it is blue," and then accuses the right of stonewalling if they desire any color other than the shade of blue that the Dems are promoting. They are all for compromise so long as it is the GOP that does the compromising.

However, If the GOP compromises here - and by compromise I mean choosing the preselected, preauthorized positions of the left that are not open to compromise - they will just be yielding more ground to the all-encompassing entitlement state and will be part of the problem.  They will fix nothing and only slightly mitigate the slowing economy, higher taxes on everyone and increased debt. But worst of all, if there is even a trace of GOP DNA on the deal - GOP good intentions notwithstanding - the DLEMM and the left will pin all negative outcomes on the right and the GOP will bear the political consequences of failed policies no matter who authored them (e.g., housing bubble).

Since most agree that we are approaching the cliff at a high rate of speed, the GOP should let the left own the 'solution'. Many on the right argue against this because of the inevitable destruction resulting from leftist policies. But since our Thelma and Louise moment is nigh, will nudging the wheel so that we enter the atmosphere at an angle somewhat less than 90 degrees change the outcome? Will insisting that the windows remain rolled up before we sail off the cliff make the car any more drivable once we reacquaint ourselves with terra firma?

How could the GOP let the Dems own the solution? First, the GOP should set forth details about what they would do if they had control of all three branches. Second, they should propose Obama's own budget and tax plan with a nice acronym like AIRBORN, or FORWARD and vote "present". Lastly, the GOP should then let the Dems propose anything they like and vote "present".

The first move would establish a benchmark.

The second would, as much as possible, remove the ability of the DLEMM and the left (but I repeat myself) to blame and demagogue the right's attempts to inject sanity. And there is little likelihood of passage since Obama's plans have gone down in flames before. 

The last move would allow the Dems to wholly own the solution by letting them propose solutions without resistance. By removing the resistance, the Democrats would be forced to realistically deal with their own proposals. It is very likely that without a great Satan to battle against, the Dems would self-moderate rather than relying on the GOP to provide the moderation for them (as well as a scapegoat) and come to rest on something like Simpson/Bowles. A self moderated outcome may share many aspects with the Republican benchmark and the GOP could enjoy an 'I told you so' moment. But even if the Dems don't moderate their extreme positions, by voting "present" on anything the Dems propose the right gets absolution - not from the DLEMM or the left, but from their base and their conscience.

GOP moderation and compromise only serves to prolong the inevitable. Just as Democrats often stand in opposition to and protest against economic reality, we may be at the point where Republicans are standing in defiance of Schumpeter's reality, and they should, if reluctantly, step aside and allow creative destruction to do its work.


The Infinite Womb

An IEET article observes that Juntendo University researcher Yosinori Kuwabara "predicts that a fully functioning artificial womb capable of gestating a human fetus will evolve in the near future." Cornell University's Dr. Hung-Ching Liu who has successfully implanted and grown mouse embryos in a lab-created uterine lining says it could be as soon as 2020 for animals and 2030 for humans.

The article notes that "In an unusual twist, this technology offers justification to pro-lifers in the abortion debates." How so? A few weeks ago, a Facebook friend asked the following question:
Let’s say we build a machine that’s a perfect simulation of a womb. It can take a human egg and sperm and replace the need for a woman to carry it. However, the machine is scalable, so that it can carry the human through the entirety of its development, all the way to the point where the cells naturally break down and stop working (i.e., through adulthood, old age and death). If the human never leaves the womb, and goes through all the same phases of development that you and I do, at what point do we consider it alive? Do we ever consider it alive?
http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/pelletier20121113The current state of affairs is a strange moral place where the worth of the fetus is determined solely by the mother. If she wants to keep the baby, the fetus is infinitely precious and you can be prosecuted if you harm the "child in utero". However, if the mother decides she doesn't want the child, the fetus is determined to be no more important than a wart.

It is an odd thing that this one person determines the worth of another living thing. Even a dog's worth is not determined by its owner - just ask Michael Vick. Right, wrong or indifferent, this situation is certainly odd and unique.

But my FB friend's question calls attention to the 'magical birth canal' sophism - i.e., there is something magical about the infant leaving the birth canal and taking a breath that validates its sanctity or humanity or its life. This is presumably why some docs can perform partial birth abortions because so long as the face is not exposed and a breath is not taken the child is not considered fully human and the activity is not considered infanticide.

If this current way of thinking is applied to the artificial womb scenario, it would appear the object growing in an artificial womb would not be considered human or 'alive' unless and until it took a breath of outside air or the mother deemed it so.

Applying the current ethos to the artificial womb reveals how ridiculous the current thinking on this matter can be. Add to that the potential to more readily observe the fetal development - albeit maybe not as transparently as the womb galleries depicted in the image provided with the article - and the likelihood of earlier and earlier application of the 'life' or 'baby' moniker increases. Just as ultrasounds affect the way a mother now views the developing fetus within her womb, so seeing the developing human form would certainly affect future observers.

However, one suspects that abortions could become increasingly rare for those using artificial wombs as the purposefulness of the sans-sexual insemination process would move it ever closer to former Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn Elders' wish that every child be a wanted child. If women could harvest eggs and store them for future artificial insemination in artificial wombs and be rendered functionally sterile with birth control, the need for abortions due to accidental pregnancy could theoretically be eliminated. And it is difficult to imagine a couple purposefully initiating the artificial womb process and then pulling the plug at some later stage of development - that is, those who were careful and purposeful.

One can just as easily imagine a world in which individuals desire the natural birthing process, careless partners not preventing pregnancy, or those without access to birth control still using the "dark and dangerous place" for gestation.

However, having the parallel option of artificial wombs would certainly bring clarity to the double standard that is debated even today. On the one hand it would be easy to understand that a vandal who removes the fetus from the life giving sustenance of the artificial womb could be easily charged with murder. What would not be so easy to understand is why the woman who separates the fetus in her womb from her life giving sustenance would not be so charged. If those two cases are not equivalent, then one is tacitly stating that an artificially produced child has more right to life than a naturally gestated fetus.


Big Government Means Bigger Business

Newsflash: The rich are already rich. Higher tax rates don't prevent them from being or becoming rich. The wealthy are less concerned with higher tax rates because they will avoid taxation by shuffling their wealth around and by collaborating with government to ensure their position. Higher tax rates will not prevent GE and the Hollywood effete from acquiring wealth – they have already ascended. Large corporations are natural allies of heavy handed fiscal policy because they are better positioned to influence government in their favor and better able to reposition themselves financially and globally in order to skirt or avoid taxation. Big business is the natural ally of big government.

Tax rates do, however, have a mitigative effect on those moving through the economic continuum. In free societies people are not restricted to the class into which they are born. Unlike most economic systems throughout the world, capitalism allows for infinite mobility through the economic spectrum. But onerous tax regimes – and worst yet, being told that the system is rigged against you – can have profound and devastating effects on those trying to climb the economic ladder.

One of the better aspects of the 'creative destruction' of capitalism is the possibility of unseating the power structure. If the influence and control by the government is relatively weak then there is less ability for a group that has the policing power of the state to influence, collude and control. At the very least, corporations can be toppled by the next guy with a better mouse trap. Simply put, if WalMart is functioning in ways that offend your sensibilities, you can spend your dollar elsewhere. If government is doing a poor job, good luck trying to change that.

When a controlling bureaucratic labyrinth exists, the rich and powerful will seek to impose their will with the force of law. The small guy doesn't have the same ability to influence the heavy hand of government as the wealthy. Sure the little guy gets one vote. But the wealthy get that same vote plus a lobbyist. This is the impetus that motivates those with the notion of smaller government. It is mystifying that so many vote for larger government to control the economic and social reigns while thinking it will lessen the influence peddling.

Ironically, those who seek to lessen the shipping of jobs overseas, the consolidation of power and wealth into the hands of a few and reign in corporate behavior with taxation, caps, restrictions and regulation often make the problem worse. One must be careful when ceding power to the government or imposing one's will via government mandate to not just intend to do good.