Sobering Thoughts

Comments on politics, the culture, economics, and sports by Paul Tuns. I am editor-in-chief of "The Interim," Canada's life and family newspaper, and author of "Jean Chretien: A Legacy of Scandal" (2004) and "The Dauphin: The Truth about Justin Trudeau" (2015). I am some combination of conservative/libertarian, standing athwart history yelling "bullshit!" You can follow me on Twitter (@ptuns).

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Friday, April 29, 2016
Excellent advice for political candidates (and others managing crises)
Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert, says that Donald Trump doesn't need to persuade people that his controversial statements about women are correct, but reframe the question to the women's issues on which he agrees with most people. This is sound advice: reframe, don't persuade. It is hard to change someone's mind; it is easier to get others to look at something a little differently. There is obviously room for persuasion in political discourse, but reframing is better for managing a crisis.
Adams also notes that Trump isn't particularly nasty to women, he's nasty to all his opponents. That sort of reframing probably isn't what Adams has in mind.

Boehner vs. Cruz
Former House Speaker John Boehner called Senator Ted Cruz "Lucifer in the flesh." He elaborated: "I have Democrat friends and Republican friends. I get along with almost everyone, but I have never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life." Senator Mike Lee was not happy with Boehner's remarks, noting the former Speaker doesn't call out Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, or Hillary Clinton, but he rails against the Texas senator. Lee said it "was appalling" and Boehner should apologize." Radio host Mark Levin said he's never heard Lee so angry. NRO also weighs in with an editorial, stating: "Boehner’s attitude is widespread among Republican insiders who are foolishly allowing personal ill will to cloud their reasoned judgment about who, among the candidates left in the GOP race, is the best representative of conservative principles and policies, and about who would be the best candidate in the upcoming general election."

Women (and maybe men) who don't have kids should get maternity leave: childless author
NRO's Katherine Timpf:
Meghann Foye, recently came out with a book titled Meternity — the fictional story of a woman who fakes a pregnancy to get maternity leave. In an interview with the New York Post, Foye explained that even though the story in her book is fictional, it is rooted in her very real belief that childless women should get maternity leave, too.
Yep. Foye told the Post that she was 31 years old and working as a magazine editor when she started feeling like it wasn’t fair that the people who had kids got to, like, leave early to pick up those kids and take off time to have them.
“The more I thought about it, the more I came to believe in the value of a ‘meternity’ leave — which is, to me, a sabbatical-like break that allows women and, to a lesser degree, men to shift their focus to the part of their lives that doesn’t revolve around their jobs,” Foye said.

Thursday, April 28, 2016
Resist Remain fear-mongering
In the Brexit vote, Remain campaigners are painting an economic worse-scenario that takes effect immediately if the United Kingdom decides to leave the EU. Daniel Hannan, MEP for South-East England, provides some clarity for what a Leave vote means:
A referendum is best understood as voters instructing their government, rather as a client instructs his barrister. Voting to leave means giving ministers a mandate: we’d be telling them to negotiate our departure on the best possible terms.
Remain campaigners don’t want us to understand this. They want to make the prospect of withdrawal seem as abrupt and as scary as possible. Hence their suggestion that a Leave vote on 23 June would somehow start a countdown, that we’d have two years to negotiate a new deal and that, if no agreement were reached within that time, we’d in some unspecified way be outside all trade arrangements.
A moment’s thought reveals how absurd all this is. A vote to leave won’t start any countdowns. Ministers would simply be under instruction to find departure terms that suit Britain – and, indeed, that suit the rest of the EU.

Boris has been a great mayor
Writing at Conservative Home, Chris Philp, Conservative MP for Croydon South, says the British capital has thrived under Mayor Boris Johnson:
From 2010 to 2014 we saw economic growth of 15.9 per cent in real terms compared to 8.2 per cent nationally.
London has confirmed its place as a leading international financial hub. The brightest and best French financiers flock in their thousands to London, much to the disgust of the French socialists who have driven them away. Boris Johnson should take huge credit for this renaissance.
Economic strength and resilience starts with a strong and flexible workforce. The employment rate in the capital increased from 67 per cent in 2010 to 73 per cent in 2015, which is pretty much at the highest rate since records began. With Boris as Mayor and George Osborne as Chancellor, London has got back to work.

Damned if the government does, damned if they don't
The Globe and Mail editorial on paying ransoms for hostages is tough and fair, raising important points about how Canada has, despite denials, paid for the safe return of citizens abroad. It also raises vital questions:
Mr. Trudeau must take a firm and unequivocal stance – in public. But a blanket refusal to negotiate is not always the right response. The evidence suggests that our government has actively worked in the past to free Canadian hostages, and was willing to let ransoms be paid.
Which raises a troubling question: Why did the efforts to free Mr. Ridsdel fail? Could the Trudeau government have done more to save him, the way previous governments apparently saved others? Or did a new intransigence on this government’s part doom him?
This is a difficult issue. Most people, I would guess, have a visceral reaction either against rewarding hostage-takers (and incentivizing further hostage-taking) or in favour of saving the lives of hostages. Any political leader who makes this call can't win: pay and save a life, and get criticized for rewarding hostage-takers and making it more likely that more hostages would be taken in the future, but don't pay and the hostage dies, the leader will be criticized for not acting to save the life.
This would be one of the hardest issues any prime minister faces; it makes sense that as the Globe notes, Gar Pardy, a former director general of Canada’s consular affairs bureau, strongly suggests that whatever the public policy might be, in reality Canada pays ransoms. Still, when hostages are killed, prime ministers are going to be second-guessed.

Liverpool and the Tories
ConservativeHome's Paul Goodman has an essay that looks at the long-term trend of the Conservative decline in Liverpool, which began before Thatcher and culminated with Cameron as the Tories lost their last seat in the city. Furthermore, the party does not have a single city councilor. However, I'm hesitant to endorse Goodman's suggestion that Michael Heseltine be given responsibility to win back Liverpool to the Conservative side of the political ledger.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016
New Cruz website
CruzCarly replaces the old website.
FiveThirtyEight had a chat about the Carly Fiorina announcement (she's Ted Cruz's veep nominee in case you haven't heard), and this is noteworthy from Julia Azari: "So other than the gender angle, I don’t think this is totally about Trump. This is about attention in the news cycle." That will be short-lived and probably can't really change California.

2016 watch (Donald Trump foreign policy agenda)
Donald Trump gave a speech outlining his broad foreign policy principles. It is nothing new, providing a relatively coherent litany of all the ways Trump has promised to get tough with not only American enemies but allies and friends. What might be surprising is how The Donald marries the two strains of Republican foreign policy thought, realism (interests) and neo-conservatism (hawkishness in the service of certain classical liberal ideals).

Monte McNaughton's manufacturing crusade
I have ten tweets on Ontario Progressive Conservative MPP Monte McNaughton talking about the crisis in Ontario manufacturing.

Brexit vote and David Cameron's future
Matthew d'Ancona has a column in The Guardian that goes against the convention wisdom: "Whether it’s Brexit or remain, David Cameron is not going anywhere." Prime Minister David Cameron has already said he would step down before the next election in May 2020, but the conventional wisdom has the PM resigning if he loses the Brexit vote (he supports Remain). d'Ancona concludes his column:
What is he up to? I think I have a hunch. Remember how Cameron’s leadership was born: he arose from the ashes of the Tories’ 2005 defeat, empowered by Michael Howard’s determination not to stand down as leader until an alternative to David Davis had been groomed.
If Cameron stepped aside immediately after defeat in the referendum, Johnson would be the strong favourite to succeed him. He might well remain so. But time is the enemy of all frontrunners: if the present Tory leader delayed his own departure, other candidates could arise and flex their muscles. At the very least, the range of potential successors would broaden. It would be a big mistake to imagine that Cameron is indifferent to who follows him. As the chess-playing president Josiah Bartlet used to say in The West Wing: look at the whole board.
d'Ancona is uncannily good at understanding Cameron's strategic moves -- enough so that I assume he has terrific sources among Cameron's brain trust -- so this is not merely an attempt at a clever argument for the sake of offering a clever argument. The person most likely to continue on the path set out by Cameron and formerly his most likely successor, Chancellor George Osborne, has taken a hit in the polls since his unpopular budget last month. Home Secretary Theresa May, another loyalist in recent years, doesn't seem to have the chops for a successful leadership bid, although she's hungry for the job. There was a falling out between Cameron and Michael Gove, the Justice secretary who ably served as Education secretary. If Britain leaves the EU, Boris Johnson's stature only increases and Cameron probably can't stomach having the London Mayor replace him as Tory leader and Prime Minister; there is just too much history, both personally and in various political and policy battles. d'Ancona is probably correct to predict (or presumably know something about) Cameron not leaving Number 10 any time soon.
The one point that d'Ancona does not give enough credence to, that Jay Elwes of Prospect magazine pointed out last week, is that not only will Cameron have lost a referendum that he initiated and which represents the most important issue of his ministry, but that about a third of Cameron's caucus will have opposed their leader's stance on the issue (d'Ancona concedes that 50, or about 15% of the caucus might ask for a leadership review). I would add that many in the pro-Remain camp may not be happy with their leader if they lose.
The most recent ORB poll has Remain at 51% and Leave at 43%, but once you manipulate the polls for expected turnout it turns into a five-point gap, with about one-in-five respondents either undecided or open to changing their mind. Leave voters are slightly more likely to see they will definitely vote.

The uselessness of Kasich
Theory gone wrong. Of course, most pundits thought that John Kasich would look like a credible candidate at some point as the field was winnowed. Apparently not.

Patrick Brown permits greater freedom for his PC caucus
Progressive Conservative MPP Randy Hillier praises party leader Patrick Brown in a guest column in the Toronto Sun:
The fundamental change that has happened with the PC Party under Patrick Brown’s leadership is this: Freedom to represent those who elect us, liberty to discuss policy, and respect for voting independence by PC MPPs. Brown has ushered in a new era for our democracy; it cannot, and must not, be overlooked ...
Although many people believe that politicians always say one thing and do another, Patrick Brown made a commitment to caucus that free votes would be not only permitted, but welcomed, and he has followed through with his commitment.
Hillier then shares three specific examples from the last year in which he was free to speak his mind and vote his conscience.
Other MPPs have told me that Brown lets everyone have their say and is respectful around the caucus table, and that while they might not win the argument they feel they are being heard. This is a huge improvement over the last several Tory leaders, and Brown is to be congratulated for fulfilling this important leadership campaign promise.

The permanent state of emergency
The Globe and Mail editorializes:
At least three times in the past few years, Attawapiskat has declared a state of emergency. Reserves in northern Ontario seem to be especially prone to emergency conditions. In fact, there are now 28 active states of emergency in Ontario – with some reserves having more than one reason for declaring the status.
In 2013, the federal Auditor-General published a report on reserves’ states of emergency. It recommended what it called a “risk-based all-hazards approach” with “prevention, preparedness, response and recovery.” The federal government agreed with the recommendations, but the large number of declarations of states of emergency on reserves persist.
The state of emergency has become a chronic condition in many First Nations, especially in Ontario. Some appear to lurch from crisis to crisis. However, in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Quebec and the Atlantic provinces there are currently no reserves with an active state of emergency.
The “risk-based all-hazards approach” with prevention and preparedness would suggest that, at least in some regions of Canada – places where the state of emergency has become endemic – there should be some kind of co-management between the band councils and the federal government. Provincial governments help with emergencies, but that’s because they may have equipment or personnel nearby; they generally don’t have any constitutional obligation to help.
Both band councils and the federal government have failed those living on reserves, so it's unclear why it would be different now.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016
Getting tough on crime vs. getting smart about crime
Alex Tabarrok makes the case for police over prisons:
Our focus on prisons over police may be crazy but it is consistent with what I called Gary Becker’s Greatest Mistake, the idea that an optimal punishment system combines a low probability of being punished with a harsh punishment if caught. That theory runs counter to what I have called the good parenting theory of punishment in which optimal punishments are quick, clear, and consistent and because of that, need not be harsh.
We need to change what it means to be “tough on crime.” Instead of longer sentences let’s make “tough on crime” mean increasing the probability of capture for those who commit crimes.
Implicit in Tabarrok's argument is that criminals are rational and take into account probabilities of capture and harshness of punishment, and while certainly they do to a point it seems foolish to make too much of a case for it.* Still, Tabarrok is probably correct. Conservatives focus too much on punishment (see the focus on mandatory-minimum sentences in both Canada and the United States) while liberals tend to dislike both punishment and policing; the first comment is from Steve Sailer: "The Obama Administration’s actions in recent years have certainly infused law-abiding young men with confidence that if they choose a career in police work they won’t be turned into a hate object by the federal government and prestige press."
* That said, this from Peter Orszag: "Raising that probability seems far more likely to deter crime than longer prison sentences do. After all, most people, let alone most criminals, seem more motivated by near-term consequences (the chance of arrest) than long-term ones. Boosting the perceived threat of capture may even reduce crime sufficiently to lower both the number of crimes and the number of people in jail."

Cowen and Paglia
Tyler Cowen interviews Camille Paglia and it is, of course, self-recommending. You can listen, watch, or read. It is nearly 90 minutes or 15,000 words, and worth every minute invested even if the discussion on Spenser's "The Faerie Queene" brought back some of my worst university memories.
This might be my favourite part:
COWEN: If you could travel to one place you haven’t been, where would it be and why?
PAGLIA: I’m like Huysmans’s aesthete, des Esseintes. I am not a great fan of traveling. I just feel like it’s become too onerous. No, I’m a mind traveler.
A close second is her discussion of criticism:
The British Film Institute asked me to write on a film and I said, “How about The Birds?” and I did. I wrote this book, and it was universally panned by the film journals, which said about it, “This book does nothing. This book does nothing.” By which they meant that it wasn’t poststructuralist, it wasn’t postmodernist.
There wasn’t a lot of theory ...
I’m just trying to inspire graduate students to rebel against this horrible fascism that forces theory onto them before they expose themselves to everything that’s wonderful and imaginative in the history of literature and art.
I believe that paying minute attention to the actual work itself is the mission of criticism. I am hopelessly old-fashioned. Because that’s not what you’re supposed to do. You’re supposed to mention Foucault 59 times in one paragraph, et cetera.
And this, as part of a magnificent rant:
You have all these people thinking Foucault was some sort of innovative figure in the history of modern sociology or intellect, and he wasn’t. It is a disease in these people. Everywhere, every single university in the United States, every single gender studies department, they’re impregnated with Foucault. That’s why we have graduates who know nothing.

Monday, April 25, 2016
2016 watch (Presidential qualifications edition)
Donald Trump says that John Kasich shouldn't be president because he's a "disgusting" eater.

Government logic
Reason's Jacob Sullum reports that Colorado is considering on a ban on marijuana edibles in the shape of fruits, animals, or people but not THC-infused candy shaped like moons, hearts or marijuana leaves. Why? I don't think Sullum is quite being fair when he says, "This bill is more about eliminating products that make legislators uncomfortable than it is about preventing accidental ingestion," although there isn't a good reason offered by the ban's advocates.

Smart cities of the future will be privacy-destroying snoops
The Wall Street Journal reports:
Now Singapore may soon be known for something else: the most extensive effort to collect data on daily living ever attempted in a city.
As part of its Smart Nation program, launched by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in late 2014, Singapore is deploying an undetermined number of sensors and cameras across the island city-state that will allow the government to monitor everything from the cleanliness of public spaces to the density of crowds and the precise movement of every locally registered vehicle.
It is a sweeping effort that will likely touch the lives of every single resident in the country, in ways that aren’t completely clear since many potential applications may not be known until the system is fully implemented. Already, for instance, authorities are developing or using systems that can tell when people are smoking in prohibited zones or littering from high-rise housing. But the data collected in this next phase—and how it’s used—will go far beyond that ...
The centerpiece of Singapore’s effort is a kind of digital crystal ball that acts as a superpowered, X-ray version of Google Maps. Sensor data will be fed into this system, which will store exact dimensions of buildings, placement of windows and types of construction materials used.
The information will be used to provide better public transportation and design more efficient buildings. But it could also be used for policing:
Any decision to use data collected by Smart Nation sensors for law enforcement or surveillance would not, under Singapore law, need court approval or citizen consultation. If the network is somehow hacked, criminals could potentially access a trove of data about citizens’ lives.
Singapore has its unique political and economic features, but city planners -- who are actually central planners -- everywhere will want to follow suit in order to design cities according to their personal preferences and boss people around (for their own good, of course).
Bonus Singapore fact: "government- or state-owned companies own or control many aspects of daily life, including public transport networks and housing. More than 80% of Singapore’s 5.5 million people live in government housing."

Politics is just a numbers game
Conservative Review on the math behind the deal between Ted Cruz and John Kasich:
Trump currently has 849 delegates. If he adds 135 tomorrow, that would put him at 984 delegates, 253 delegates short of the nomination. After tomorrow there will be 502 delegates left. Trump would need to win just over 50 percent of them. It has become increasingly tough to keep Trump under 1,237 because out of those 502 delegates, 406 of them are winner-take-all either statewide or by congressional district. Indiana accounts for 57 of the delegates. This is why the deal is important.
Indiana awards its delegates in a winner-take-all primary statewide and by district. The statewide winner receives 30 delegates; 27 delegates are split three each per district. The primary is next Tuesday, May 3, 2016. The person with a plurality wins the delegates.
The current Real Clear Politics polling average for Indiana is 39.3 percent Trump, 33 percent Cruz, and 19.3 percent Kasich. A little over eight percent are undecided. This polling puts Cruz within historical striking distance of Trump, even with Kasich in the race. If Cruz failed to win statewide in Indiana and gain the vast majority of the delegates, it would be devastating. If Cruz won statewide and in seven of the congressional districts, he would receive 51 delegates, keeping those from Trump.

2016 watch (Countering Trump's 'rigged' complaint edition)
Correct tweet is displayed now.

2016 watch (Donald Trump nicknames himself edition)
The Hill reports, ""An election between Crooked Hillary and Wonderful Donald, it'll be the biggest, most incredible vote getting election in the history of our country," he said during a campaign rally in Hagerstown, Md." Wonderful Donald. Good grief.
For what it's worth, he also vows "We will beat her so badly" in the general election.

I get political fundraising is supposed to speak to the base but ...
This is really, really lame. I think these criticisms are where many Conservative voters are at in how they think about Justin Trudeau but if Tories don't take the policy differences between themselves and the government more seriously, they'll never effectively engage anyone who isn't already on the party's email list.
(Link fixed.)

Finally, a deal between Cruz and Kasich to stop Trump
Reuters reports:
Republican White House rivals Ted Cruz and John Kasich announced a deal on Sunday to stay out of each other's way in some upcoming state primaries in hopes of blocking front-runner Donald Trump from winning the party's presidential nomination.
Cruz's campaign said in a statement he would focus on the Indiana and give Kasich a clearer shot in Oregon and New Mexico, states where the Ohio governor expects to do well. Kasich, in turn, agreed to shift resources west and away from Indiana.
The Indiana primary is on May 3, Oregon's is May 17 and New Mexico's June 7.
It might be too late and it is inexcusable that this deal wasn't made earlier. Kasich's ego got in the way and he must bear some of the responsibility if Trump edges out Cruz in the early balloting at the Republican convention. #NeverTrump welcomed the announcement:
"Whether you support Ted Cruz or John Kasich, a second ballot at the Convention is imperative to stopping Donald Trump. We're happy to see the Kasich and Cruz campaigns strategically using their resources to deny Donald Trump delegates where they are in the strongest position to do so," said the group's senior director, Rory Cooper.
Of course, Donald Trump tweeted his reaction: "Wow, just announced that Lyin' Ted and Kasich are going to collude in order to keep me from getting the Republican nomination. DESPERATION!"
Here are the John Kasich and Ted Cruz announcements regarding the agreement between the two. Kasich's organization said, "we will shift our campaign’s resources West and give the Cruz campaign a clear path in Indiana," and called for independent third parties to follow the lead of the two candidate's campaigns. The Cruz campaign said: "we would hope that allies of both campaigns would follow our lead. In other states holding their elections for the remainder of the primary season, our campaign will continue to compete vigorously to win.”
This strategy is based on the Cruz gamble that he has enough delegates to win on the second ballot.

Sunday, April 24, 2016
What I'm reading
1. Cold Fire: Kennedy's Northern Front by John Boyko. I didn't think there was much too add to the existing story of JFK's relationship with Canadian prime ministers Lester Pearson and John Diefenbaker, but there are plenty of new interesting anecdotes. I don't buy Boyko's attempts to make Kennedy more conservative than he was.
2. Inventing American Religion: Polls, Surveys, and the Tenuous Quest for a Nation's Faith by Robert Wuthnow. This book came out last fall and I'm only getting around to it now. It is precisely what the subtitle suggests it is.
3. Prisoner of Hope: Lyndon B. Johnson, the Great Society and the Limits of Liberalism by Randall B. Woods. Just started but it looks more like a policy-oriented biography of LBJ than an examination of the limits of liberalism.
4. Fluke: The Math and Myth of Coincidence by Joseph Mazur. A lively look at the statistical probabilities of seemingly unlikely events. It is in the early running to be among the best books of the year.

Kids in short pants and the Conservative Party
Conservative commentator David Krayden wonders whether the "kids on short pants" are still running things at the Conservative Party. It's a complex issue (what's happening and why), and I have neither time nor inclination to get into it all right now, but Michele Austin's Policy Options article on the Federal Accountability Act describes how federal rules restricting career opportunities and paths for political staff contributes to the problem of younger and less experienced people holding senior positions in government. Over time, it will afflict the Trudeau government, too.

2016 watch (Democrat veep speculation edition)
Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post very briefly examines the cases for and against five possible candidates to become Hillary Clinton's running mate. There's no way Clinton is picking Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren, but the list could include less high-profile ticket-balancers such as Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar or Labour Secretary Tom Perez. I'm in agreement with Cillizza that the most likely pick is HUD Secretary Julian Castro:
Julian Castro: Castro, on paper, is the person Clinton would like to pick. Why? He is a telegenic 41-year-old Latino from Texas. He complements her in virtually every way, demographically speaking. My working belief has long been that Castro was picked to be secretary of housing and urban development in the Obama administration at least in part so he would have the experience and profile to be part of a national ticket. Castro will absolutely be vetted; whether he passes that vet remains to be seen.
Clinton officials say a woman will be among those considered for the vice presidential nomination. Cillizza says, "Klobuchar fills that slot for now as an up-and-coming star in the party who represents a state — Minnesota — where Democrats would be favored to hold a seat in the Senate. But this could be Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) or former Homeland Security secretary and Arizona governor Janet Napolitano — or a woman we are not even thinking about right now." I go back-and-forth on Clinton making a bold, unpredictable pick or choosing a safe, predictable running mate. HRC is a pretty conventional candidate, so the latter seems more likely. Napolitano might bring slightly more to the ticket than Sheehan or Klobuchar.

Saturday, April 23, 2016
2016 watch (Cruz or bust edition)
The Wall Street Journal's interview this weekend is with Ted Cruz, supposedly the last man standing between Donald Trump and the GOP nomination and Hillary Clinton and the White House:
This turn is somewhat awkward too. Mr. Cruz, the populist who exalts participatory democracy, will need to convince the delegates that choosing the runner-up is not disenfranchisement. He must also, after running a campaign that targeted the most conservative and religious segments of the electorate, win the support of people who identify as somewhat conservative or moderate, as well as the so-called establishment. And after working so adeptly for years to polarize true believers and their backstabbing elected officials, he must now try to put the party back together.
Mr. Cruz seems to appreciate at least a few of these ironies, and he’s more reflective and off-script than normal. With pitiless logic, he rattles off a proof for his candidacy:
This election is one of those “inflection points in history that change the direction of nations.” A Clinton presidency could leave the U.S. economically irreparable when “we are perilously, perilously close to that point.” Her Supreme Court appointments would leave the Constitution “unrecognizable.” National-security threats would “continue to metastasize.”
There is, he suggests, a single choice. “Where we are right now, if Donald Trump is the nominee, Hillary wins. I think, looking at the numbers, that is all but indisputable,” Mr. Cruz says. “And the only candidate who can beat Donald Trump is me. I recognize there are probably some folks around the table who, in a perfect world, would prefer a John Kasich, would prefer a Paul Ryan, would prefer a long list of other individuals, none of whom I believe have any possibility of defeating Donald Trump.”
If the businessman closes the deal by June, Mr. Cruz says, “the election is lost and I don’t think there’s a thing that can be done to save it at that point.” Ergo, for anyone who isn’t ready for Hillary, he’s the only option. Q.E.D.
I do not agree that Donald Trump can't win; in fact, I lean toward fearing a Trump victory more than the GOP losing to Hillary Clinton. But Cruz is taking advantage of the #NeverTrump campaign, so he has to make every anti-Trump argument he can. Still, Cruz has so much more to offer. He's a Reagan Republican, or National Review conservative, who, for better or worse, checks all the appropriate boxes a conservative Republican is supposed to. I'd really like to hear more about the case for Cruz than the case against Trump or Clinton. For example, we need to hear more about Cruz's tax plan:
Mr. Cruz also says that he wants his tax plan to “credibly” speak to the economic worries of average Americans. He explains that “the distributional component was quite important, and that’s a complicated thing to do.” His team worked through a lot of permutations, “but the problem is every time you ran those numbers, your distributional tables were garbage. Basically, you were preparing a tax plan that, with predictable certitude, everyone would scream is a massive giveaway for the rich and does nothing for the middle class and for the people who are struggling.”
Some conservatives have been skeptical of a VAT because it is such a money machine for government. “It is very efficient in raising revenue,” Mr. Cruz grants, “although I think an economist would say you want a tax to be efficient.” In particular, he says, his plan would eliminate the payroll tax, which “dwarfs the income tax in terms of what people are paying. And so by eliminating the payroll tax, we’re able to have a plan that generates real after-tax income gains at every income level.”
He continues: “One of the potent virtues of the simple flat tax is its simplicity and universality.” Eliminating progressive taxation, that is, handcuffs the political class, because a tax hike for the rich would be linked to a tax hike on the poor.
I'm not a fan of sales taxes unless they are accompanied by a constitutional amendment outlawing income taxes. I fear politicians will fiddle with both taxes. But Cruz's tax plan taps into his anti-Establishment because it would limit Washington's ability to fiddle with tax codes and favour this or that group. Americans should hear the case for serious, game-changing tax reform, and only Cruz is in a position to that right now.
One last point about Cruz vs. the Establishment (whatever the heck that is). While many pundits say he is going to need to compromise to become acceptable to the Establishment, it is also true (or more true) that it will have to compromise to accept Cruz.