December 13, 2015

Robert Reich vs. Ted Cruz: Me vs. Both

By In Articles, Politics

On Facebook, Bill Clinton’s Secretary of Labor Robert Reich issues a multi point hit list against Ted Cruz. This is a perfect opportunity for me to clarify some things about politics and public policy as it is. Here is what you need to understand before I consider Reich:TedCruzBouie

There is a narrative in the political world that is somewhat different than what most people think when they think of the “media’s narrative.” Many conservatives assume that the media is “biased toward the left” and in constant attack against Republicans. Therefore, they think their natural ally is with the Republicans. This is an intentional, and brilliant, strategic move. Conservatives play right into the GOP’s hands. It provides a common enemy.

But there is an historical reason for this paradigm of “media biased toward the Democrats.” Historically, the media was owned and well-connected with the “Old Money” establishment and the political power-centers in New York, Connecticut, and the North East. I, following Carl Oglesby, call this group the “Yankees.” This “Establishment” was the result of the political-economic achievements accomplished beginning in the Progressive era and culminating at the end of World War Two as the American Empire succeeded the British Empire as Great Britain committed suicide by escalating it’s conflict with Germany and France. The Yankee Establishment was literally both parties.

Then, in the 1970’s a group of former Trotskyites who were politically aligned with the Democrats and especially with the pro-war, global interventionist Washington Senator “Scoop” Jackson, began to find frustration with the rise to the anti-war democrat in relation to Vietnam (remember, before the Hippie movement, the Democratic Party was pro war –and it still is, it just had to re-design its message to appeal to the anti-war left.). This group, who kept their leftist Wilsonian core, migrated into the Republican Party and began to set up the foundations for their eventual takeover of both the GOP and of Washington foreign policy altogether. This group, today known as the Neoconservatives, are to be thought of as belonging to the “Cowboy” faction of the Yankee-Cowboy political battle for power (though to be clear, the neocons are only one faction of the “Cowboy” group. This paradigm transcends the Democrat-GOP narrative.  The Neocons had to overcome the Establishment’s stronghold on the media; and they certainly did. Not only are they far more powerful on outlets like talk radio, but they also control very powerful think tanks and other non-television sources (except Fox News of course). The next time you hear a GOP politician say that the “media” is biased toward the left, understand what that means in the above context. The GOP has their own biased media empire. But we should understand that both GOP and Democrats are using their media as a means of control and influence, so that they each can gain power positions in politics.

The reason I mention all this is because when Robert Reich takes to Facebook to take down Ted Cruz, the reaction of many liberals is to say: “yeah the conservatives are a bunch of capitalist extremists!” And the conservatives rush to defend capitalism and Ted Cruz. But this is a mistake. For Ted Cruz’s –and the GOP, Tea Party, etc– problem is not that they are too capitalistic or too free market, but rather that they are hardly even close to capitalistic or free market enough! In other words, we challenge the “Ted Cruz vs. Robert Reich” paradigm; instead choosing the “Statist vs. liberty” paradigm, with Cruz and Reich merely being two flavors of the former. Reich attacks Cruz as a “right-wing” extremist, but (assuming for the moment right wing means extreme capitalist or advocate of liberty), in reality, Cruz is not at all that. Nor is the GOP. Ron Paul is, and therefore we support him.

Now then, Robert Reich:

Ted Cruz is on a roll. He’s now leading in Iowa according to several polls, and is gaining momentum primary states. Pundits are predicting he’ll soon displace Donald Trump. But what does Cruz stand for? Here are ten [I’m only including nine– CJE] Cruz missiles:

1. He supports a Constitutional amendment mandating Congress pass a balanced budget. It’s a terrible idea that would eliminate fiscal policy as a tool to balance the economy during recessions.

Against Reich: A balanced budget amendment is a bad idea because it gives Congress an excuse to make sure they find new ways to fund the federal government instead of focusing on the actual problem: resources being directed to Washington’s control. Also, fiscal policy, when used as a tool during recessions (recessions being caused by monetary policy, not fiscal policy), actually prolongs recessions and makes their effects worse.

Against Cruz: Cruz should not support the amendment, but should focus on the actual problem: spending. here is a better idea for a bill (and this is just for starters): “eliminate the power of the federal government to expend more money next year than last year.” Cruz won’t do that, of course. Because he has supported bills that increase government spending.

See Murray Rothbard, Chapter 65 (page 236) here.

Reich:

2. He wants to cut corporate tax rates to 15 percent. Another bad idea. Corporations don’t need a tax cut, and the cuts would have to be made up by individual taxpayers.

Against Reich: Corporations do need a tax cut. The US has the largest corporate tax rate in the world. And it is completely unjust for the Federal Government to steal money from a company just because it has claimed itself the authority to do so. The cuts do not need to be “made up” by individuals because this falsely assumed that the Federal Government simply “must” have the revenue in the first place. In fact, it would be great if the taxes were slashed and the individuals also paid less. Nobody needs to make anything up. The government needs less money.

Against Cruz: Not only has Ted Cruz advocated eliminating loopholes and cancelling deductions during his effort to “cut taxes,” but he has done so in order to defend the revenue level for the Federal Government. There is a phrase in public policy called a “revenue neutral” tax cut in which the tax cut is such that it allegedly stimulates growth to such a degree that the government actually ends up receiving the same amount of revenue. This is not praiseworthy, even though “conservatives” like Cruz embrace it. We want the government to have less money, not the same. And for similar reasons, eliminating loopholes and cancelling deductions as part of the tax plan package, is terrible. As Mises once stated: “capitalism breathes through loopholes.” Long live loopholes!

3. Cruz wants to repeal the Common Core education standards from the federal government. Why? They’re already voluntary and provide good benchmarks.

Against Reich: Common Core’s “voluntary” status includes the suspiciously left-out aspect that the Federal Government incentivizes states with grants and opportunity for subsidies. So obviously states love the free money (paid for by other people of course– nothing voluntary about that). In any case, the Department of Education shouldn’t exist, so then Common Core shouldn’t exist either. Whether they are “good” is subjective and should be decided by the market (funny how such standards never developed except by government bureaucrats– how “good” can they really be?).

Against Cruz: This is an example where Reich and the left want to make Cruz out to be this horrific extremist capitalist, but we libertarians scoff. For if Cruz really were a capitalist, free market guy, he would hold to the opinion that not only should the Department of Education be eradicated tomorrow, but so should state level public school agencies. School should not be socialized. Here is what Cruz might respond with: “I agree, we need school vouchers.” Problem: school vouchers are public subsidies paid for by taxpayers. No, education should be private, voluntary, and provided on the free market.

4. On immigration, he’d block any current effort that lets undocumented immigrants legally remain in the U.S. He’d triple the number of border patrol agents and quadruple their equipment. Another stupid idea that would break up families and fail to deal with the underlying issue of how to regularize the immigration status of millions who have been in the United States for many years.

Against Reich: While it is not really present in this paragraph, Reich’s position on the immigration issue is that there is nothing wrong with government subsidizing immigrants and providing them with welfare. He also assumes that immigration issues and “regularization” processes should be taken care of at the Federal level when it is far more reasonable for localities (ideally, private landowners) to make these decisions.

Against Cruz: This is one of the several very obvious examples of Cruz having nothing in common with a limited government philosophy. Using fear to manipulate, Cruz has the tendency to desire a Federal Government subsidized increase in the “security” of the border, which essentially boils down to the fact that Cruz wants to continue the path toward a totalitarian society full of armed guards and an extremely Orwellian border control. Both Cruz and Reich view the issue as one for the Federal Government, rather than for the property owners to decide.

5. Repeal Obamacare. As he showed in his 2013 23-hour speech on the Senate floor, he’s adamantly opposed to the new health care law and wants it repealed in entirety.

Against Reich: There’s not much to say against Reich on this one because he is right that Cruz wants to end Obamacare. Obviously Reich likes Obamacare, which is a ludicrous position to have.

Against Cruz: Cruz rightly wants Obamacare gone, though I don’t hear him complaining about Bush’s Medicare part D program, which was the largest expansion of Medicare since it was created by LBJ. And neither does Cruz have any principled argument against the other myriad socialistic medical programs in the United States, such as the VA. Cruz therefore seems to have picked up his arguments against Obamacare simply because it was a Democratic program. This is not good enough. Cruz should be advocating, like Ron Paul did, and completely privatized system directed by market forces.

6. Leave it up to states to decide whether to allow gay marriage. He says only the four states specifically named in the Supreme Court decision on gay marriage Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee) must abide by the ruling, and other states should ignore it. That’s nuts. The Supreme Court decision was intended to have national scope.

Against Reich: Reich, like all Progressives, wants to demand cultural uniformity at the Federal level. For the Progressive, there is no room for dissent, no room for a smaller political unit opting to go a different direction. That is why he places such authority in the Supreme Court and essentially argues that they have the authority to determine the marriage definition in every US jurisdiction. This wholly contradicts the tenth amendment.

Against Cruz: Cruz is right to hold that the states should ignore the ruling. This type of dissent is healthy and encouraged. It can be seen from the fact that Cruz only holds this position on some issues and not others, that he has no philosophical, principled case against Federal uniformity. He picks and chooses when to “let the states decide.” Obviously he wouldn’t hold this position on drug policy, for instance. Besides this, Cruz also fails to understand the far more libertarian position that marriage as such is not a matter for the state unless and until a contract or need for arbitration enters the equation. And even then, the consistent libertarian position is to let non-state governance bodies aid in contract enforcement or arbitration services.

7. He thinks there should be strict limits on abortion. Cruz has staunchly supported bans on any taxpayer funding of abortion and bans of so-called partial birth abortion. This is a big reason why evangelicals love him.

Against Reich: This one is just too obvious and easy. It is in no way morally defensible to advocate the legality –much less the taxpayer funding– of murder.

Against Cruz: Cruz’s position on this is the correct one. Although I will say something I have never said on this blog (and I know it will be controversial). The abortion issue is one that GOP politicians use to manipulate people into supporting the party and putting hope in politics. Abortion is wrong. Period. Let no one doubt my position on this. But in my estimation, the GOP emphasizes this in such a way so as to leverage it to put their own into power. Not only was nothing done about abortion when the GOP had Congress and the Presidency during the Bush years, but it just so happens that so-called “pro-life” candidates are horrific on the war issue and have supported murderous crimes that are arguably just as evil as abortion. Moreover, supporting a politician “just because he is good on abortion” has led to all sorts of socialism that came directly from the GOP’s policies. Of course, we should never support a candidate who supports ending the life of unborn children; but we must always consider how a politician’s correct position on one issue can lead to the state gaining power overall as we continue to elect those who support the expansion of the state. (I’m going to get emails after this one).

8. Elect the Supreme Court. He wants to abolish lifetime appointment to the court and subject justices to periodic election instead. This would require a Constitutional amendment, of course, and it’s nuts. The Court has to be independent of politics. It’s already too politicized.

Against Reich: “The Court has to be independent of politics. It’s already too politicized.” Right. The Court is not independent of politics. Keeping things as they are does not change that.

Against Cruz: I actually think this is a bad idea. Putting the masses in charge of the Supreme Court will probably make matters worse (have you seen the masses?).

Both sides of this debate miss the point: the Courts have far too much power. This is how it has been since the very first Chief Justice. Rather than questioning the means by which the Justices will attain power, we need to address whether such power should exist. It shouldn’t.

9. Cruz wants to move toward a flat tax. This would increase the tax rates of the middle and lower-middle class and reduce them for the rich. He also wants to abolish the IRS.

Against Reich: Of course we should abolish an agency which specializes in securing other people’s assets against their wishes. And of course we should reduce taxes for the rich, who, in a free market society, are the innovators, job creators, and capitalist investors ensuring that the standard of living goes up for all those who are influences by their activity. It would be ludicrous on both economic and moral grounds to argue otherwise.ron-paul-halfway-there

Against Cruz: Reich is correct in noting that Cruz wants both to end the IRS and move toward a flat tax. This exposes Cruz’s fraud. Remember Ron Paul, when people asked him what he would replace the income tax with if he got his way in ending the IRS? Answer: nada. No replacement. We aren’t going to cut out the cancer and then replace it with another cancer. Sorry Charlie.

Reich is also right that the flat tax would increase the rates of the middle and lower-middle class. Cruz’s type is concerned that people aren’t paying their fair share. The liberty perspective is that this is statist egalitarian hogwash. We don’t equalize theft in the name of “fair share.” We extend loopholes, we make it more difficult for the state to fund itself, we encourage “tax cheats.” Ultimately we eradicate the income tax and take a stand against anyone who goes around saying he’s going to replace it with something else.

Written by C.Jay Engel

Editor and creator of The Reformed Libertarian. Living in Northern California with his wife, he writes on everything from politics to theology and from culture to economic theory. You can send an email to reformedlibertarian@gmail.com