Morning Report: Big change in the market’s forecast for rate hikes 7/18/16

Vital Statistics:

Last Change
S&P Futures 2158.0 5.0
Eurostoxx Index 338.8 1.0
Oil (WTI) 45.3 -0.6
US dollar index 87.4 0.1
10 Year Govt Bond Yield 1.57%
Current Coupon Fannie Mae TBA 103.3
Current Coupon Ginnie Mae TBA 104.2
30 Year Fixed Rate Mortgage 3.52

Markets are higher this morning despite the coup attempt in Turkey over the weekend. Bonds and MBS are down.

We have a relatively data-light week coming up, at least as far as market-moving data. We will get a lot of housing related data however, with the NAHB Homebuilder sentiment, housing starts, building permits, the FHFA House Price Index and existing home sales. We will also get earnings from Pulte, D.R. Horton, and NVR.

The Republican National Convention kicks off today in Cleveland. The #NeverTrump crowd is still trying to find a way to derail his nomination, but without a candidate it looks impossible. Mainstream Republicans are largely avoiding the convention altogether, so expect a bunch of celebrities to kill time with speeches. The protests from the left will probably be the most interesting part, as “law-and-order” promises to be the big theme of the convention.

Bond yields rose 17 basis points last week as US economic data came in stronger than expected, and global yields rose. The German Bund hit 0% late last week after starting the week at a yield of -18 basis points. As people realize Brexit didn’t cause the end of the world, risk appetites returned and with it, expectations of a rate hike. The Fed Funds futures are now pricing in a 44% chance of a rate hike this year, from 20% a week ago. That is huge, and indicates this is more than just a pull back in a market that went too far too fast.

That new forecast for rate hikes makes next week’s FOMC meeting all that more important. A week ago, I would have said it wouldn’t be market-moving. Now I am not so sure.

Are we in danger of living in a new housing bubble? Not really. Housing is expensive because inventory is tight, not because of loose lending standards.

Homebuilder sentiment slipped in July to 59 from 60 the prior month.

Gay Conservatives Denied ‘Official’ Spot at Texas GOP Convention

From KUT in Austin I heard the following.

The Texas Republican Party has denied the Log Cabin Republicans a space at next week’s state convention. Log Cabin Republicans represent gay conservatives and supporters of marriage equality in the party.

Log Cabin Republican Executive Director Gregory Angelo says the state party denied the group’s application for a booth at the convention because, as homosexuals, they disagree with a plank in the party platform. The plank reads, in part, that “homosexuality tears at the fabric of society.”

“It was our obligation to let the voters of Texas know and to let members of the Republican Party in Texas know that that language is in the party platform and it is being used to intentionally exclude gay Republicans from formal participation in the state GOP convention,” Angelo says.

A state party is not purely a private club.  We learned that early in the civil rights struggles for black Texans.  In Smith v. Allwright (1944), the Supreme Court ruled on a challenge to a 1923 Texas state law that had delegated authority to state conventions of political parties to make rules for their primaries. It ruled that the law violated the protections of the Constitution because the state allowed a discriminatory rule (no “negroes”) to be established by the Democratic Party.  However, homosexuals are not being excluded here per se – in fact, the Log Cabin Rs who were elected delegates will be in attendance and will be voting.  They will not be allowed a “booth”.

My own view of this bolded language in the Texas Republican platform is that it is wrong as a matter of fact and deeply prejudiced as a matter of practice. It is prejudiced as a matter of practice because no individual homosexual could be judged upon her own gifts and graces if her self-identification as a homosexual tears at the fabric of society.

The plank will not scare off any Rs in TX.  Those who disagree with it will think it is a low priority and those who agree with it will strongly approve.  There is a difference of enthusiasm here.

QB noted those of us who don’t think consenting private sexual conduct is a moral issue do so by reason of a libertarian slant.  He made the case that while he did not believe there should be legal consequences for CPA sex, same sex marriage was not itself private conduct.  This plank morally condemns private conduct and, I think, even status.  While codifying this moral condemnation into law is not a requisite, I think it would be a natural result, because it happened historically.

Imagine yourself on the platform committee of the Texas Republican Party.  Do you vote for or against this plank?  Do you argue for or against it, and if you do, do you argue on moral or political grounds?  Do you think it is an important plank or a throwaway?





Open Thread Plus Bites & Pieces

I’m still catching up from last week’s news and propaganda but I did read a couple of pieces that I thought were pretty interesting.

This was from the AP Friday.

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Abortion is still legal but getting one in many states will be difficult if laws passed this year are upheld by the courts. In a march through conservative legislatures, anti-abortion Republicans passed a wave of new restrictions that would sharply limit when a woman could terminate a pregnancy and where she could go to do so.

The push brought the anti-abortion movement closer to a key milestone, in which the procedure would become largely inaccessible in the three-fifths of the country controlled by Republicans even if still technically legal under Roe vs. Wade.

But rather than continuing to roll across the GOP heartland in synch with the pro-life movement’s plan, the effort may now be hitting a wall. The obstacle comes not from opposing Democrats but from GOP leaders who believe pressing further is a mistake for a party trying to soften its harder edges after election losses last year.

The resisting Republicans include governors and top legislators in more than a half-dozen states, including some of the largest and most politically competitive in the party’s 30-state coalition. They are digging in to stop the barrage of abortion proposals, hoping to better cultivate voters not enamored with the GOP’s social agenda.


This one’s a little long but a fascinating read on our 40 year war against marijuana.  I don’t indulge but it’s pretty clear, I think, that it’s time to change our policies.  I loved this Nixon quote.

President Nixon had already made up his mind. In May 1971 he told H.R. Haldeman, “I want a goddamn strong statement about marijuana. Can I get that out of this sonofa-bitching, uh, domestic council? I mean one on marijuana that just tears the ass out of them.” And Nixon told Shafer directly, “You’re enough of a pro to know that for you to come out with something that would run counter to what the Congress feels and what the country feels, and what we’re planning to do, would make your commission just look bad as hell.”


I’m pretty sure this isn’t going anywhere but it’s the thing I’ve been talking about since 2009…………..jeeze.  Medicare for all.  Here’s the money quote that makes it dead on arrival.

“Paradoxically, by expanding Medicare to everyone we’d end up saving billions of dollars annually,” he said. “We’d be safeguarding Medicare’s fiscal integrity while enhancing the nation’s health for the long term.”

Friedman said the plan would be funded by maintaining current federal revenues for health care and imposing new, modest tax increases on very high income earners. It would also be funded by a small increase in payroll taxes on employers, who would no longer pay health insurance premiums, and a new, very small tax on stock and bond transactions.


And since we have peppers coming out of our ears (garden) here I thought I’d post my Baked Jalapeno Poppers recipe.

I use a combination of whatever peppers we have in the garden.  I can usually get about 15 to 18 poppers from this recipe.

Slice peppers in half lengthwise and remove seeds and membrane.  I like to leave part of the stem on.


8 oz cream cheese

1 1/2 cup mozarella, jack or pepper jack cheese

1/2 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp or less cayenne

Stuff peppers with cheese mixture.

Bowl one:  1/2 cup seasoned flour

Bowl two:  2 eggs

Bowl three:  1 cup seasoned bread crumbs (I use plain bread crumbs and season them myself)

Seasoning:  salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper and Mexican oregano to taste.  I just wing it and add to both flour and bread crumbs.

Roll peppers in flour, then dip in egg and finally dredge with bread crumbs.  Refrigerate several hours and then bake in a 350 oven for about 1/2 hour……………..yummy

Let’s do something strange and use science!

It is an article of faith among those on the political left and in the media (but I repeat myself) that the Republican party has moved significantly to the right in recent years. Depending on who you are talking to and what purpose they have at the moment, the alleged radicalism of the right either began with GWB (Bush shunned the UN on Iraq!) or has actually occurred in reaction to Obama’s rise to power (those insane Tea Partiers, don’t you know). As I have mentioned, I think this alleged movement is largely a myth, and that by any objective measure both the Republican party and the politics of the nation have actually been trending to the left for pretty much nearly a century.

But that discussion got me to thinking just what kind of objective measure might there be for such a thing, and how can we go about measuring it? It is actually quite a difficult question, kind of like objectively defining pornography. What is right and left can mean all kinds of different things, and is ultimately determined relative to the point of view of the determiner himself. To someone like Noam Chomsky, Bill Clinton was probably a rightwing fascist, while to Jonah Goldberg actual fascists were in fact members of the left. So you can see how this might be a problem.

But after thinking about it, the first measure that I came up with was government spending. We can easily see what kind of things the federal government has spent money on throughout history, and so if we can allocate various federal programs as favorites of the political left or right, and see how spending priorities have changed over time, that might give us some clue as to the direction in which the government itself, if not the political parties individually, have been trending.

This site is somewhat useful for this purpose. We can look at government spending broken down into various categories like defense, education, welfare, pensions, and interest, for various years going back all the way to 1792. Further breakdowns are possible as well.

Defense spending has, of course, long been a sacred cow for Republicans. This is not to say that D’s have no interest in defense, but trying to get R’s to agree to defense cuts has been virtually an impossible task. So it seems reasonable to me to categorize defense spending as a right wing priority. How has defense spending fared since, say, 1950 to pick a year somewhat randomly? Well, in 1950 defense spending comprised 54% of the federal budget. By 1970 that had dropped slightly to 48%. By 1990 it had dropped to only half of what it was in 1950, to 27% of the total federal budget. And by 2010 it had dropped further, albeit slightly, to 25%.

Welfare spending, on the other hand, has long been a priority of Democrats. Again, this is not to say that R’s have no interest in supporting welfare spending, but I think it is fair to say that it is a higher priority for the left than the right. So how has spending on welfare programs changed over the last 60 years? In 1950 spending on welfare programs made up 3.6% of all federal spending. By 1970 it had risen to 5.2%. By 1990, it had risen to 8%, and by 2010, it had nearly doubled again to 15%. (Go here for a more detailed view of what constitutes “welfare” on this site.)

So we see that since the middle of the last century, spending on a right-wing sacred cow, defense, has steadily decreased by roughly 50%, while spending on a left-wing sacred cow, welfare, has increased by more than 400%. So is this indicative of a national politics that has moved to the left, or the right? To me the data speaks for itself.

Of course defense and welfare spending are not the only possible spending measures, and spending itself is just one possible measure of political trends. Which gets me to the real point of this post. If we were to attempt to devise a scientific (who doesn’t like science?) and objective analysis of political trends, left or right, in the nation over the last 50 to 100 years, what type of measure would you all suggest?

What the Hell is a Moderate Anyway?

I enjoy reading political writers who have both a sense of humor and ask thought provoking questions.  When I read this brief piece by booman, it resonated with me.

What constitutes moderation in Democratic politics? Which policies of mainstream Democrats are simply unacceptable to South Dakotans, for example? I think these are questions that need to be empirically tested. South Dakota clearly preferred Mitt Romney to Barack Obama, but it isn’t entirely clear why they felt that way. While Republicans absolutely dominate on the local level, the Democrats have done very well in recent years on the federal Senate/House level. Why is that?

These same dynamics have played out in North Dakota and Montana, where Democrats have over performed in Senate contests. Senators like Max Baucus, Jon Tester, Byron Dorgan, Kent Conrad, Tim Johnson, and Tom Daschle have certainly been frustrating at times, but it’s hard to find all that much commonality between them in terms of their apostasy from the party platform. I suppose they have probably been less environmentally friendly than your average Democrat. They’ve been cozy with the banking and credit card industries. They’ve been a bit more socially conservative than their peers.

If I had to name something really out of whack, it’s been their obsession with the deficit. Because the other stuff is easily explainable by the fact that they represent sparsely-populated states with a lot of mining and financial services activity and not much religious or ethnic diversity, their love of austerity sticks out.

Opposition to big spending seems to be a requirement in these northern plains states. Is that the key ingredient for success? Or is it possible to use a different playbook? How much of a role does personality play? Jon Tester and Max Baucus don’t seem much alike but they both have success. Kent Conrad struck me as quite a bit more conservative than Byron Dorgan, who could be quite openly partisan at times.

I understand the urge to find a candidate who is seen as moderate, but I can’t pinpoint what moderate really means.

I’m working with a group trying to find a congressional candidate to support who will run against our very conservative congressman here.  The last time we came close to beating him was in 2008 and we had a pretty progressive candidate who barely lost.  In 2010 the same candidate lost by a larger percentage.  And 2012 was awful.  We lost by 25 or 30 percentage points I think, but we’re not sure if it was from redistricting or because of a new and relatively unknown candidate.   Both worked against us of course, but which played the larger part?

We’re a very conservative district, perhaps even more so now, and so I’ve been arguing for a more moderate candidate but I think I’m being out voted.  It’s a pretty liberal group so they want the most progressive candidate we can find.

One of the aspects of politics today that I’ve been fascinated watching is the apparent growing split in the Republican Party between the more ideologically driven members of the base or Tea Party and more traditional or moderate conservatives.  As I’m sure everyone has already heard Bob Dole had a few things to say about today’s Republican Party.

“Reagan couldn’t have made it. Certainly, Nixon couldn’t have made it because he had ideas,” he pointed out. “I just consider myself a Republican, none of this hyphenated stuff. I was a mainstream conservative Republican. It seems to be almost unreal that we can’t get together on a budget or legislation,” Dole said, comparing today’s Congress unfavorably with the institution in which he served for decades. “We weren’t perfect by a long shot, but at least we got our work done.”

Another example, of course, would be John McCain’s criticism of the small group of Senators who appear to be blocking budget negotiations.

I consider myself a moderate on some issues and a progressive on others but I’d still rather be represented by a Democrat than a Republican so I’m willing to compromise a bit.

It’s funny, when Kevin picked the name for this blog, I told him I wasn’t a moderate but now I’m not so sure what that even means or if it matters.

I’m also wondering if any of the conservatives here worry about the same things I do.   Are they being too driven by the base, or political purity, when they might have a better chance at winning more elections if the moderates, or more traditional members of the party had a little more influence?  Or is winning with moderates some sort of cop out?

Post Romney Options

To start the Romney campaign postmortems a little early, I’ll throw this out:

Romney was a horrible candidate for small government conservatives because everything he targeted in the budget for cuts was either insignificant symbolism (PBS) or what a majority of people consider a core government function (FEMA). That coupled with holding entitlements sacrosanct and increasing defense made his plans implausible to begin with.

No where in a Romney campaign speech was the fact that the average senior takes out three times as much as they have paid in to the entitlement system (here meaning Medicare & Social Security combined) and that is unsustainable. This campaign was not about making tough budget choices.

How Lifetime Benefits and Contributions Point the Way Toward Reforming Our Senior Entitlement Programs

However, the Republicans do have a candidate available to make this argument, and it’s Chris Christie. This piece from the NYTimes magazine is worth a reread:

“How Chris Christie Did His Homework
Mark Peterson for The New York Times
Published: February 24, 2011”

How Chris Christie Did His Homework

If anyone can sell entitlment reform, he can:

“Christie, it turns out, has a preternatural gift for making the complex seem deceptively simple. Last month I saw him hold forth at a town-hall meeting in Chesilhurst, a South Jersey borough of about 1,600. Chesilhurst is about half African-American, and I sensed more curiosity than enthusiasm among the racially mixed crowd as it flowed into the little community-center gymnasium. An unusually large number of folding chairs were empty. About 20 minutes after the program was supposed to start, there came over the loudspeakers the kind of melodramatic instrumental that might introduce a local newscast, or maybe an Atlantic City magic show, and in came Christie, taking his position in the center of the crowd. The theme of the week was pension-and-benefits reform, and in his introductory remarks, Christie explained the inefficiency in the state’s health care costs not by wielding a stack of damning statistics, as some politicians might, but by relating a story.

When he was a federal prosecutor, Christie told the audience, he got to choose from about 100 health-insurance plans, ranging from cheap to quite expensive. But as soon as he became governor, the “benefits lady” told him he had only three state plans from which to choose, Goldilocks-style; one was great, one was modestly generous and one was rather miserly. And any of the three would cost him exactly 1.5 percent of his salary.

“ ‘You’re telling me,’ ” Christie said he told the woman, feigning befuddlement, “ ‘that no matter which one I pick, the good one or the O.K. one or the bad one, I’m going to pay 1½ percent of my salary?’ And she said, ‘Yes.’

“And I said, ‘Then everyone picks the really good one, right?’ And she said, ‘Ninety-six percent of state employees pick the really good one.’

“Which led me to have two reactions,” Christie told the crowd. “First, bring those other 4 percent to me! Because when I have to start laying people off, they’re the first ones!” His audience burst into near hysterics. “And the second reaction was, of course I would choose the best plan,” Christie said, “and so would you.

“Now listen, I don’t think this is groundbreaking stuff,” Christie added. “I don’t think this means that instead of being governor, you know, I should be at NASA, working on the space shuttle. I’m no genius. Just seems to me that if you give people an option to get something for nothing, they’ll take it.” Scanning the nodding faces around me, it seemed there wasn’t a person in the gymnasium, at that point, who wouldn’t have voted to make state workers and teachers pay more for the better plan.”

Republican Convention Open Thread

You’re welcome, Don Juan!  🙂


Are you quite sure you don’t want to become an author with full rights and privileges for starting arguments?

MiA adds: Every time someone double posts, if I catch it, I trash one. All of us but one are following on a comments thread and the double posting is annoying. The “one” should learn to use this site.

Every time someone posts without a category (uncategorized), I jam it into one, if I catch it. KW used to do it for us, and sometimes Lulu did. Brent, look at the categories list, click the Most Used tab, and you will be surprised to find Morning Report as the second most used.

Now we wait for WMR to make his speech. If any of you watch it, please report in the comments.

Republican Convention Rundown

I spent last evening channel flipping between CNN and MSNBC in an attempt to catch a smattering of speeches amidst the punditry. The theme of the night was We Built This, a topic honored more in the breach, at least among the televised marquee speakers. Here in semi-random order are my day-old impressions of some of the speakers.

Bob McDonnell/Rick Scott/ John Kasich served up a round robin of feel-good pep talks on how great their economy was doing despite the best efforts of the Democrats to torpedo them. Every single one had hair that was perfect. The future of Romneytron Enterprises is assured with new models rolling off the assembly line with industrial precision.

Nikki Haley at least gave some visual relief for not being a lily-white male but her schtick was the same. Her one distinguishing remark was a passage where she union bashed Northerners and bragged of the low-cost right-to-work airplane factory she sniped from Washington State.

Artur Davis, DINO turned Republican, provided a little color, both literally and figuratively. Last time around the Republicans were able to snag Joe Lieberman as their token turncoat. Davis’s lackluster soundbites showed just how far the GOP has fallen in its outreach programs. He also wins lame musical call-out (barely beating out Christie’s Springsteen allusion) with his “Somebody that I used to know” reference.

Rick Santorum provided the red meat portion of the evening puffing on a dog whistle until his cheeks turned red by cramming as many instances of “work” and “welfare” as possible into a single sentence. He also went on a long extended handsy metaphor which ended is some sort of uplifting tale of his special needs daughter. By Santorum standards it was a well-thought out speech but it just seemed out of place given the other speakers.

Ann Romney was one of two featured speakers who made it to prime time coverage. Stepping onto the stage directly from the set of “Father Knows Best” she started off with a tribute to the recently departed Phyllis Diller with five minutes of man bashing. In it she outsapped Hallmark with her tribute to the mothers and wives who really make this country run. By the end of it I was ready to vote her PTA president. She must run a heckuva bake sale. Less convincing were her tales of deprivation as the spouse of a starving college student. She was aiming for touching but it just came off as phony. Having to eat tuna fish instead of caviar. How demeaning. She sure loves that affable lug Mitt and it showed even through all the scripted folksy gushing.

Chris Christie was the most anticipated speaker of the night and like a Chris Farley SNL sketch the dramatic tension was to see just how outrageous he would get. After his seeming de riguer tribute to his immigrant parents (a theme far more prevalent than the official one), he laid into to his trademarked schtick about how he stood up to the bullies in the teacher union and their cushy low-to-mid five figure incomes.  The Twitter game (which I indulged in) was to see how long he could speak with out actually saying the name Mitt Romney. Quite a while as it turns out, fifteen to twenty minutes depending on who was holding the stopwatch.

His speech was far less the keynote of the 2012 Republican National Convention than the kick-off of the 2016 Christie Presidential Campaign. Even by the standards of New Jersey blowhards, this was a monumentally self-aggrandizing performance.

Mitt Romney managed to say not a word the entire evening. After being introduced by his adoring wife, he rushed her off the stage so quick that if you blinked you missed it. My hopes for an Al “Get A Room” Gore display of public affection were completely dashed. The rest of the evening he sat as stiffly and uncomfortably as the victim of a Friar’s Club roast.

The conventions are carefully scripted spectacles but I had no idea who the target audience was. Romney was rarely mentioned by any of the speakers. The inspirational tales of constitutionally mandated state budget balancing were tepid at best. Even the conventioneer hats seemed oddly subdued. The entire evening was completely skippable and if it weren’t for bourbon and internet snark it would have been unendurable.

John/BannedAgain’s Post on Paul Ryan

The Ryan you see today is not the man who for years has appeared as a guest on CNBC. That guy was a “moderate”, nuts and bolts on facts and figures, a charismatic wonk if you will. However not at all, ideologically speaking, on the side of the budget that now bears his name Here’s what I think happened.

The GOP in 2006-08 was an old party, especially in the national leadership, people in their 60s and older. It was full of politicians who had cut their teeth in the Reagan years. The back to back defeats damaged the brand so to speak and paved the way for the sea change that occurred in 2010. Suddenly, much more suddenly than men like Boehner were expecting I’m sure, the GOP was younger, angrier, more ideological and conservative.

As in any civil war, everybody has to choose sides. Ryan being a politician first and a wonk second, chose to run with the upcoming big dogs of his own generation as it were, rather than stay a moderate. He capped this off by putting his name on a budget that was a terrible mistake, because it was another one of those “symbolic” pieces of legislation that had no possibility of passage and which are by their very nature works of faith , not reason.

He’s stuck with the “Ryan budget” now in which the numbers don’t work, but which he’ll have to defend. It’s probably career suicide for him

Incidentally and hopefully the same sea change is about to occur for the Dems in 2014-16. They are an exceptionally old party at the leadership level, notwithstanding the president. Men and women who came to the fore in the Clinton years and who are now in their 60s and 70s. In the next two elections, all the Reids, Bidens, Clintons, Hoyers, Dingells Levins and Rangells will retire or be swept out by a younger generation of Dems, hungrier, more combative, more liberal in a watershed move.

May we all live in interesting times.

Posted on behalf of bannedagain because he doesn’t have the capability of creating a post himself, which is his own damn fault.

Sense and Nonsense, and David Frum

I’m going to post this with the same kind of pre-excuse that I don’t allow associates to use on the job:  typed up quickly to throw it on the table. I find Frum’s ongoing project to redefine conservatism and marginalize Republicans confused and flawed (and, frankly, annoying) in so many ways that it is hard to capture them. But it is an important topic, and I’m in a busy time at work, so this is the best I’ve got right now.

David Frum continues to make noise about the supposed Republican lurch into radicalism, speaking as what he claims is the lone (or nearly lone) voice of authentic conservatism, much to the delight of liberals, Democrats, and other sworn enemies of conservatism. His latest apologia, fittingly dispensed in the pages of the New York Times, claims that the Republican Party lost touch with reality and abandoned conservative positions across the board.

Poppycock. Frum, whatever he once was or believed, is speaking the gospel of Big Government, Progressive Republicanism, the sort that was justly described back in the days of authentic conservatism for which he longs as an acquiescence in the role of “tax collector for the welfare” state, and defeatist “go-along-get-along” politics. This is conservatism as Liberalism Lite. In Frum’s world, conservatives do not stand for a worthwhile, positive vision but serve only to throw themselves on the gears of the modern state in hopes of slowing its advance down the road to serfdom–just a little. They should not be combative or even assertive but should know their place as the perennial losers fighting an eternal rear-guard action. We should accept defeat nobly and with dignity. Surrender, in other words.

How do we know that it is Frum who either abandoned conservatism or never believed it in? It is as simple as reading his own words and what he identifies as badges of “conservative” governance. He complains that “It was not so long ago that Texas governor Bush denounced attempts to cut the earned-income tax credit as balancing the budget on the backs of the poor,” while today GOP thought leaders criticize a system under which nearly half of earners pay no income taxes. But George Bush was never a conservative. He never claimed to be. And an income tax system that excuses nearly half of income earners from taxes never was a conservative policy. It is more nearly the opposite of a conservative tax policy, particularly in the era of the modern welfare state.

Frum also inveighs: “In 2000, candidate Bush routinely invoked churches, synagogues, and mosques. By 2010, prominent Republicans were denouncing the construction of a mosque in lower Manhattan as an outrageous insult.” A few did. But does Frum really expect us to pretend that 911 did not happen, and that it was not the dominant event of the past decade?

“In 2003, President Bush and a Republican majority in Congress enacted a new prescription-drug program in Medicare. By 2011, all but four Republicans in the House and five in the Senate were voting to withdraw the Medicare guarantee from everybody under age 55.” Does Frum really expect anyone to believe that this massive new entitlement was a “conservative” innovation? Real conservatives opposed it at the time, as they always would have. Why and how did Frum come to define conservatism as the policy agenda of George Bush, rather than recognizing his old boss for what he was and is, a nonconservative? Was Medicare Part D part of the Contract with America? Or the Reagan platform? Or was George Bush a deviation from Republican governance since Reagan? And is this condemnation of Republican efforts to rein in Medicare costs really contained in the very same column in which he condemns them for profligate spending? Really, David? This is your best?

“Today, the Fed’s pushing down interest rates in hopes of igniting economic growth is close to treason, according to Governor Rick Perry, coyly seconded by TheWall Street Journal. In 2000, the same policy qualified Alan Greenspan as the greatest central banker in the history of the world, according to Perry’s mentor, Senator Phil Gramm.”

Let’s just overlook whether Phil Gramm spoke for all conservatives in 2000 or whether Rick Perry does today. Is Frum again unaware of any difference in economic conditions in 2000, before the tech bubble burst, let alone before 911, and the current economic situation?

“Today, stimulative fiscal policy that includes tax cuts for almost every American is socialism. In 2001, stimulative fiscal policy that included tax cuts for rather fewer Americans was an economic-recovery program.” We should be allowed to expect more integrity in argument than this from Frum. He’s factually wrong, to begin with; the Bush tax cuts cut taxes for virtually everyone who pays taxes, and took many completely off the rolls. But, that aside, which Republicans have said that tax cuts included in Obama’s stimulus package were socialism? We’ll go ahead and mark you down as a doctrinaire Keynesian who treats lower taxes purely as “stimulative” demand manipulation, David. But please don’t try to tell us that your position is the conservative one.

Frum massages history in strange ways. He says that Republicans are respsonsible for all our current problems because “Republicans held more power for longer than at any time since the twenties,” while completely excusing Democrats for any responsibility even for their current failures. Let’s see now, George Bush, a moderate liberal domestic President, had slight majorities in Congress for part of his eight year term. In the Senate, he scarcely ever had a majority, and Democrats decisively took over both houses in 2006. By contrast, Democrats had decisive control in 2009-10. Just as Bill Clinton did until he overreached. Just like Jimmie Carter had. And Johnson. But while Democrats have enjoyed much greater–indeed incomparable–control, they have no responsibility in Frum’s world. Only Republicans do.

And at the same time that he condemns Republicans for the results of their statecraft under George Bush, he holds up that period as the reflection of true conservatism that he claims to represent. Did I miss something here, David?

I’m not even sure what to make of statements like this one:

“The Bush years cannot be repudiated, but the memory of them can be discarded to make way for a new and more radical ideology, assembled from bits of the old GOP platform that were once sublimated by the party elites but now roam the land freely: ultralibertarianism, crank monetary theories, populist fury, and paranoid visions of a Democratic Party controlled by ACORN and the New Black Panthers.” [I don’t know how to block quote.]

Notice the ease with which he adopts the scornful rhetorical style of a partisan liberal, and equally how dismisses doubts about the Democratic Party of Obama. (Conservatives are crackpots for having raised alarms over Obama’s radical past? Does Frum understand that that past is real?)

The reality is that conservatives repudiated much of the “Bush years” while they were happening. That is true of real conservatives, at least, as opposed to people who were helping write speeches about “compassionate conservatism” and promote a huge new Medicare program. The government, the debt, the budget– all of it is much bigger now than at the beginning of the “conservative” Bush years. So you are darned right that conservatives have decided that we have reached a point where going along and getting along are no longer viable. Serious people like Paul Ryan have tried to start providing the conservative leadership we need to right our course and get through this time when our very survival sometimes seems at stake. But it is precisely this sober leadership that Frum seems to despise is radical kookery.

There is much else in Frum’s column with which to take issue. When he is at odds with 99% of conservatives, perhaps, just perhaps, it is he who is not what he claims to be. I’m happy for Frum that he has his blog with a little crowd of liberal “Republicans” to tell him how smart and honest he is. But he is not relevant to conservative Republicans except to continue to remind us of what has been most wrong with the party for many years:  lack of principle, self-doubt and even self-hatred, liberal elitism, resignment to surrender as the noble course.

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