Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Thune for President?

Could the dragon slayer of 2004 become a dragon slayer again in 2012? Hmmm....

With speculation growing that he’ll join the wide-open 2012 Republican presidential field, South Dakota Sen. John Thune plans to roll out a sweeping proposal Tuesday to remake the congressional budget process.

Thune’s budget plan would create a joint House-Senate panel on cutting government spending, call for a line-item veto and mandate that 10 percent of the deficit be cut each year until it is eliminated.

As he tries to build up his policy credentials, Thune is also stepping up his political travel, headlining a Republican Party of Virginia event on Wednesday, to be followed by trips to Arkansas, California and Ohio on behalf of GOP Senate candidates. With Thune in heavy demand on the campaign circuit, more such trips are expected soon.

Thune’s political travel and his efforts to make a name for himself on budgetary matters has his Senate colleagues, both publicly and privately, offering encouragement if Thune decides to enter the 2012 presidential race. Never mind that his budget ideas will never see the light of day in a Democratic Senate — they help raise Thune’s policy profile within the Republican Party.

“I think he’d make a great candidate,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. “The party would be well served by having someone like him.”

Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said Thune “has all the qualities [for president].”

“John’s future is in his own hands,” Cornyn added. “It depends on what he wants to do.”

In an interview with POLITICO, Thune wouldn’t say whether he is serious about 2012, but he wouldn’t rule out a presidential run.

Thune said his “near-term goal” is to get through Election Day while helping elect more Republicans to Congress, and he declines to discuss his plans after that.

“Like everybody else right now, we’re focused on trying to help elect more [Republican] senators and create some checks and balances with the November 2010 elections,” Thune said. “I have the time and opportunity, so I’m going to go out and help some other candidates.”

Thune would be in a strong position if he wants to make a White House run. Handsome, articulate and very popular among conservatives and evangelical Christians, Thune is unopposed in his bid for a second Senate term, an unprecedented position for any Senate candidate in South Dakota history.

He also has $6.9 million in cash in the bank for his Senate reelection fund, according to his June 30 report with the Federal Election Commission, money that could be used to jump-start a presidential campaign.

“I think this is a very critical time for this country. It’s a difficult time,” Thune added. “One of the reasons I think this whole budget debate plays into that is because that’s what most Americans have in terms of their agenda for Congress to be dealing with front and center.”

Thune’s viability for 2012 is openly acknowledged by top Democrats. Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, the Democratic National Committee’s executive director, told a gathering of progressive activists last week that Thune was a potentially difficult opponent for President Barack Obama to take on.

“This is personal, but John Thune is somebody that I have nightmares about,” O’Malley Dillon said at the Las Vegas event, though DNC officials later tried to walk her comments back a bit. “I’ve worked for Tim Johnson and Tom Daschle, and he is just a guy you can’t ever count out. He has his head down and is doing some policy stuff. [You’ve] just got to start looking at him.”

Thune’s new budget-slashing plans may also give him some credibility with the tea party movement, which is heavily focused on deficits and spending cuts. As part of his budget plan, the South Dakota Republican wants to beef up pay-go budget rules, require Congress to adopt a two-year rather than an annual budget, institute a line-item veto and return unspent stimulus funds to the Treasury.

Few of these ideas are groundbreaking — most have been bouncing around Republican circles for some time — but in packaging them into one major policy proposal, Thune is trying to show he’s got a mind for budget issues.

While Thune voted for the Troubled Asset Relief Program — probably his biggest liability among conservatives and tea party activists — he has since switched positions and tried to end the program.

A source close to Thune said the senator now believes the bank bailout vote “was a bad vote,” an acknowledgement aimed at limiting the political fallout with the anti-government-spending faction of the GOP.

Some Republicans find Thune appealing because they think that everyone on the current list of GOP presidential wannabes — Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, Mitch Daniels, Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee and Haley Barbour, among others — has serious vulnerabilities.

“I’m worried about the slate of candidates likely to run,” said a Senate Republican, speaking on condition of anonymity. “It’s hard to see any of them giving Obama a real challenge. But John could do that.”

But a major hurdle for the 49-year-old Thune is convincing potential supporters, big donors and party honchos that he has the “fire in the belly” to take on better-known figures within his own party and then square off against a sitting president backed by tons of cash and an experienced campaign team.

“It’s not a question of whether [Thune] can win” the Republican nomination, a GOP strategist said. “It’s whether he really wants to do it, really go for it. I think he has to show people that, if he runs, he’s really serious and not looking to be a [vice presidential] option or just get some headlines.”

“If he runs, John will be a first-tier candidate. Don’t mistake him as a dark horse,” said Curt Anderson, a longtime GOP political consultant. “He is the complete package — smart, savvy, telegenic, and he has a national fundraising base ... that he developed from defeating Democrat leader Tom Daschle.”

Jonathan Martin contributed to this report.

Friday, July 16, 2010

How to Win a Lawsuit

Did you guys hear about Apple being sued? If I could make class-action lawyers stick it where the sun don't shine, I would.

But here is a simple tutorial on how to win a class-action lawsuit:

Thursday, July 15, 2010

More From the Calorie Cops

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I'm sick of the government thinking it knows what's best for me. I understand that burgers, salt, BBQ wings, beer, pop, and ice cream are all bad for me. Our shoddy public schools taught me that much at least. But I want the freedom to use those things in moderation if I choose to. If I die 5 months sooner because I enjoyed some of those things throughout my life, well then so be it. That's my choice.

"But Brandon," my liberal friends will say, "when your health care costs go up, we all pay for it." Socialism's a bitch, ain't it? Perhaps if we had a health care system reliant on personal health savings accounts rather than shared (socialized) risk through insurance, people would be responsible for, pay for, and take an interest in their OWN health without imposing costs on their friends and neighbors.

What brought all this up was one of the more ridiculous headlines I've read in a while. From Politico.com, the headline Childhood Obesity: A Security Issue jumped out at me. Apparently many of our military recruits are a tad overweight and aren't qualified for service.

I think it's a bit of a stretch to extrapolate fat kids to a national security risk. We have plenty of people qualified for the military, and those who don't make it that want to join will probably get after their weight problems so they CAN join.

But manufacturing a "security risk" is certainly grounds for taking away freedoms, isn't it? Higher taxes on foods deemed bad for you--in the name of national security--are on the way. Just another excuse for the government to control your life and take away your choices. Don't think it can happen? British school systems are already severely limiting the things that kids can eat/bring to school. And don't forget the girl in Texas who got a week of detention for having a single Jolly Rancher.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Ketchup and Capitalism

Over the Fourth of July weekend, I was reminded of some reasons why free market capitalism is the best system out there.

If any of you just happened to visit a Walmart and saw the pre-Fourth of July insanity--I literally saw two separate Walmart parking lots COMPLETELY full--then you might have seen a little of what I'm talking about. Even with the crazy amounts of people buying everything in sight to stock up for their weekend adventures, I still managed to buy all the staples that I, and everyone else, needed to celebrate. Never was Walmart sold out of what I needed.

A keen eye probably would have noticed that the prices were probably a little higher than usual, although I failed to pay attention because I was hungry looking for chips. One of the great features of the free market is the ability for sellers to raise prices in times of high demand. Some may use the terms "gouging" or "profiteering", but who is hurt in the exchange? Yes, I paid a higher price...but did so willingly, of my own accord, because I needed my Fourth of July kicks more than I wanted the money I gave the cashier. These free market mechanisms also gave me an added benefit: since they were able to raise their prices, I was able to actually find what I needed, and there were few shortages/empty shelves.

Smart shoppers would have realized that prices will be higher leading up to the 4th, so they'd check through their cupboards for the lost ketchup bottle, bag of chips, or can of baked beans. Which points out another free market benefit: efficient use of scarce resources. There's nothing efficient about buying a higher priced ketchup when there's a perfectly good bottle already purchased sitting in your cupboard. Raising prices helps guide consumers in making these decisions, reducing shortages by creating efficiencies.

Another free market benefit shows itself AFTER the 4th. I found myself wandering into Walmart again. Since the store stocked up heavily so they could make a killing profit-wise for the 4th, many things were over-stocked. Surplus 4th of July goods were a fraction of the price they normally are any time of the year. I got a 40 ounce bottle of Heinz ketchup for only $1 dollar. I also noticed baked beans, chips, pop, paper plates, beer, etc. etc. were all dirt cheap as well. Less demand for the cliche 4th of July goods coupled with over-supply makes for some great deals.

To give another example, look at gas prices before/after hurricane Katrina. Leading up to one of the worst hurricanes ever, gas prices steadily increased in anticipation of broken oil rigs, higher travel, etc. Conventional wisdom says we should hate oil companies for doing such a thing, but the unseen side is that oil companies were stocking up barrels in warehouses (reducing pre-Katrina supply) in anticipation of shortage problems post-Katrina. Just as there was no shortage of ketchup in Walmart, after Katrina, which involved essentially evacuating entire states, gas was soon available after the hurricane. There were massive shortages, yes, but that shows the magnitude of the hurricane was beyond even the most risky oil speculators' wildest dreams. But to get things back to normal, allowing prices to do what they wish was the key; using price caps would only have resulted in massive shortages. Hell, I'm sure oil companies would have air-lifted entire gas stations into New Orleans if they knew they could make $120/gallon on gas. But when you're fleeing for your life, I'll buy gas for that much. People fleeing for their lives prior to the hurricane had to pay high prices for gas, but luckily for the "greed" of oil companies trying to make a profit, the most people possible were able to fuel their cars for evacuation with the fewest shortages.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Real Leadership

Recently elected New Jersey governor Chris Christie answers a reporter's question quite bluntly. I think this is what a lot of people would prefer from politicians. One of the biggest elements of leadership is following through with what you said you were going to do. Telling people what they want to hear might get you reelected in the short term, but it's not leadership in the long run, and people catch on to that. The GOP has been struggling for leadership for a while now, and hopefully more people like Chris Christie can turn that around. I like this guy.