The Gilded Age of Clinton: or how I learned to stop worrying and love the Benghazi hearings

Photo Credit - AP

Photo Credit – AP

Yesterday the House Oversight Committee held yet another hearing on the immediate US response to the September 11th 2012 attack on the US diplomatic compound in Benghazi.  Many on the left have characterized the hearings as politically motivated, which is about as insightful as announcing the discovery of one’s own belly button.  And, indeed most of the hearing featured committee members having a spirited match of rhetorical ping pong over who was at fault (if you were guessing the whistleblowers were the ping pong balls).  Commentators taking the longer view of the political effects of the Benghazi tragedy suggest it will have a chilling effect on a Hillary Clinton run at the White House in 2016. Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State during the attack and ultimately it is unseemly for her to walk too far away from taking responsibility for the fiasco. That said, you can make a case that taking Clinton down a peg or two could actually be good for the Democratic Party in 2016.

Clinton is seen as a “field clearing” candidate for 2016. If she were to run, the deep Clinton network of donors and her trademark tenacity would ensure a long drawn out primary.  Democrats who are keen on protecting Clinton now to help her in 2016 should look closely at her prospects as a general election candidate and consider her effects on the rest of the Party’s bench.

Presidential primaries help develop talent and expose charlatans. Second tier candidates  often become valued communicators after elections season has ended and debates (if not too numerous) help develop ideas and themes for the campaign. Primaries can make eventual nominees more extreme, but that is more common in statewide races.

The trouble with a “field clearing” presumed mega nominee, like Clinton, is that you limit opportunities for party growth. Promising younger candidates might sit the race out and those that don’t would feel pressure to put on the kid gloves during the debates.

Furthermore, political favor moves in cycles and no one stays on top for more than a year or so.  Democratic operatives gaming out a Clinton response to Benghazi for 2016 might want to start looking for another horse because the current gilded age of Clinton will come to an end sooner rather than later.

I think Hillary Clinton is national treasure, but if Benghazi is what forces her to go out on top rather than get coaxed into being dragged through the mud based on overconfidence than I will side quietly with the Republican witch-hunt. Keep in mind that a party needs heroes as much as it needs quarterbacks, but heroes have to go out on top.


Heritage Foundation has a new standard for citizenship, low wage workers need not apply

Jim Demint heads the Heritage Foundation, authors of a sketchy report on the fiscal effects of immigration reform.

Jim Demint heads the Heritage Foundation, authors of a sketchy report on the fiscal effects of immigration reform.

As the Senate’s Gang of Eight prepares to bring their immigration plan up for a vote, the usual players are coming out of the woodwork to scare lawmakers into voting no. Chief among them is the Heritage Foundation, which released a report today that uses some rather crude accounting to claim that immigration reform would add $6.3 trillion to fiscal deficits over the next several decades. Major economists on both the left and right beg to differ, but the report’s bad math is small potatoes compared to its troubling view of the average American taxpayer.

Let’s start with the basics.  Heritage looks at the average value of government benefits received by undocumented, lawful immigrant and low-education households and compares it to the value of the tax receipts those households pay. Many of those households, on paper, receive more in government benefits than they pay in taxes. Heritage looks at projected demographic changes caused by immigration reform over the next fifty years and does some basic multiplication to come up with the $6.3 trillion number. It gives the impression that immigration reform would be the nail in the coffin for U.S. fiscal policy over the coming decades. Luckily we have some smart people on both sides of the debate telling us that it is total bunk.

In 2006, the Congressional Budget Office scored an earlier Senate proposal that contains many of the same policies as actually reducing the ten year fiscal deficit by $12 billion. David Bier at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a major free-market public policy group, recently concluded that a more ambitious immigration program that actually allows more guest workers into the country would “boost the economy [and] protect American businesses,” and he isn’t alone.  The right-leaning Manhattan Institute for Policy Research has put out a report that argues, “Embracing a more flexible legal immigration system can dramatically improve” the country’s fiscal situation.

So with so many smart people arguing for the economic benefits of immigration, what is driving the Heritage report?  It has a lot to do to with contempt for the average American taxpayer, regardless of their immigration status.

“Following amnesty, the fiscal costs of former unlawful immigrant households will be roughly the same as those of lawful immigrant and non-immigrant households with the same level of education. Because U.S. government policy is highly redistributive, those costs are very large.”

In essence the problem isn’t immigrants – it’s poor people.

In the view of Heritage, most households are “net tax consumers” and take in more in benefits than they provide in taxes. They argue these people are a drag on the economy and that reducing the number that come into the country is a good thing. However, using Heritage’s methodology, these immigrants are economically identical to “non-immigrant” households, i.e. existing citizens.  It stands to reason that shipping these people out of country would be good for the economy, as well.  Of course that is absurd. Shrinking populations generally are not good for growth – just ask Russia and Japan. But that’s the logical conclusion of the Heritage’s reasoning.

So the report isn’t really about immigration as much as it’s a rehash of Heritage’s existing concerns with mainstream fiscal policy. That said, I’d encourage the Heritage staffers to submit their tax returns so we can evaluate whether or not they are worthy of legal status.