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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Cruising the Web

Hillary Clinton, multi-millionaire and recipient of millions from Wall Street, is attacking CEO pay. Yeah, that sort of populism is totally believable. And when she attacks hedge-fund managers, is she also attacking her daughter Chelsea who, with no experience at all, joined a hedge fund that was a big contributor to Democratic Party campaigns? Or what about Chelsea's husband Marc Mezvinsky who founded and managed a hedge fund that lost millions by betting on Greece's economic recovery? Betting on Greece's economy - who knew that would be a bad idea? Are those the sorts of politically-connected hedge-fund managers that Hillary is condemning? Hillary's hypocrisy seems to grow every day. Does anyone besides Republican partisans care?

Ed Morrissey expands on why Hillary Clinton is exactly why Hillary is the wrong spear-carrier for the inequality message.
Hillary is the wrong banner carrier for the message by any measure. First, she takes in six times the annual average household income per hour for her speeches, at $300,000 a pop. It would only take her 50 speeches to get to the same 300x metric she decries here. Furthermore, Hillary signed a deal in 2013 for a $14 million book advance for the memoir she released last year, which sold unimpressively for such a marquee advance. On top of that, she’d already received an $8 million advance for her first memoir, “Living History.” That totals $22 million in advance of any work at all, or roughly 440 times what average American households gross in a year. In the years since the Clintons left the White House, they’ve earned well over $100 million. And unlike CEOs at that level, they don’t employ many people, and don’t produce anything except income for their own benefit.

This provides an odd parallel to Mitt Romney in the 2012 campaign. The issue that most fired up the base was opposition to ObamaCare, and Romney had overseen the launch of its predecessor in Massachusetts. The conundrum left the base uninspired, and despite coming close to Obama in a lower-turnout election, Romney could not get enough of the vote out to the polls to bridge the gap. Having Hillary front the issue of CEO pay as irrational and unfair would be almost delicious for its hypocrisy.

So what is the likelihood that Hillary can maintain the Obama coalition? She not only has to overwhelmingly win black and young voters, but get them to turn out at something like the unprecedented levels that they turned out for Barack Obama. So can she make up any losses there by increased numbers from women voters.
But even here, it isn't clear that she can improve substantially on Obama's performance. In both of his campaigns, Obama already did better among female voters than almost any other Democratic candidate since data are available in 1976. In 2004, Kerry only won women by 3 points, but Obama won them by 13 points in 2008 and 11 points in 2012. The one candidate who did better was Clinton in 1996, who won women by 17 points that year. However, once again, it's unclear how the Perot factor may have affected this margin.

Victor Davis Hanson runs through several suggestions of why Hillary Clinton is even running for president. It's not enough to say there is no one else and that it's her turn. She can raise lots of money. She can't run on her record as Secretary of State or on carrying on Obama's record which too many Americans don't like. All that is left is her gender and the ensuing attacks on Republicans who dare to oppose her.
What is then left? Actually one motif.

Hillary is both a victim and trailblazer. Her disastrous record of unethical and illegal activities — shaking down foreigners for donations to her foundation while secretary of State, creating her exclusive server for a private email account, destroying all her emails after admitting that she was judge and jury of what were and were not government records — is instead proof of right-wing McCarthyism.

Those who attack her are afraid of a woman president and what she represents — an inclusive social agenda that protects gays, women, and minorities from right-wing hooliganism and religious bigotry, fire-and-brimstone anti-abortionists who want entrance into our bedrooms and to erect glass ceilings to thwart feminists, reincarnations of Bull Connors and Lester Maddoxes who would put blacks back in chains, nativists and restrictionists who hide their racism by faux calls for border enforcement, and greedy speculators and stock manipulators who care little for the 99%.

That is Hillary Clinton’s past, present, and future. There is nothing more. No record — ever — of success, no innate charm, eloquence, brilliance, or campaign savviness. And given her iconic female candidacy, her turn, her money — and the lack of an alternative — Hillary Clinton needs no agenda, whether a past one to defend or a future one to rally to.

The agenda is simply that Americans are not doing well because of all sorts of illiberal enemies who conspire to thwart them due to their class, race, and gender — and the nation’s first woman president will make it all nice.

Don’t laugh. It may well be a winning formula in the present-day United States.

Lauren Fox of the National Journal looks at the moments that made Marco Rubio stand out as "more than just another freshman senator." Are there any moments like that for either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton in their Senate careers?

The 77 cents pay gap myth is exposed once again.
Proponents of the wage-gap myth like to claim that the patriarchy pushes women into those less lucrative careers. That's a sad commentary on their way of thinking — their notion that women are simply too dumb or weak to think for themselves and choose the career they actually want. I think the numbers show that women are choosing the careers they prefer but those careers just aren't as lucrative as those chosen by men. There's nothing wrong with that. Do what makes you happy.

Mark J. Perry of the conservative American Enterprise Institute has also taken apart the myth, showing that different lifestyle choices made by women contribute to the wage gap. For instance, married women and women with children tend to make less on average than men. Again, proponents say this is patriarchal discrimination that allows women to make as much as men only if they never marry or have children. I see no discrimination, only women choosing to work less or choosing more flexible careers that let them care for children.

Lisa Maatz, a spokeswoman for the American Association of University Women, confirmed my suspicion years ago. When asked how much of the gender-wage gap is due to discrimination, Maatz — whose organization is one of the biggest proponents of the myth — responded: "We're still trying to figure that out."

Translation: Despite decades of pushing this number, they still have no evidence that discrimination is the reason.

Mark Perry added a new twist on workplace wage gaps this year, pointing out that men account for nearly all fatal occupational injuries. This is due to men choosing (or maybe being forced by the patriarchy?) more dangerous careers like logging and fishing (think Deadliest Catch).

"The higher concentrations of men in riskier occupations with greater occurrences of workplace injuries and fatalities suggest that more men than women are willing to expose themselves to work-related injury or death in exchange for higher wages," Perry wrote. "In contrast, women more than men prefer lower risk, family-friendly occupations with greater workplace safety, and are frequently willing to accept lower wages for the reduced probability of work-related injury or death."

Those who perpetuate the myth of the 23-cent wage gap myth do so even though they know the real reasons for the gap. President Obama continues to claim women earn less than men even though, using the same statistics to arrive at the 77 or 78-cent figure, his administration has its own wage gap. When that was pointed out, the administration responded by saying it was because there are more women in the administration but they hold lower-paying jobs, which skews the average. A side-by-side comparison of men and women working the same jobs found no such wage gap.
The sad thing is that I see so many of my students totally buying into this myth because they've never heard what baloney it is.

On tax day, here's a story guaranteed to irritate you.
The Internal Revenue Service spent millions of dollars on public opinion polling, office furniture and other items last year, including an $8,000 stair climber, and Thomas the Tank Engine wristbands.

The Senate's top tax lawmaker, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, sent a letter to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, calling out the expenditure in the wake of complaints by the agency that it lacks the funding to provide adequate customer service and prompt refunds.

"Since your agency continues to have problems prioritizing the use of its budget, which has reduced slightly in recent years after historic growth late in the last decade, I write to offer some courtesy suggestions on spending that might be curtailed," Hatch wrote to Koskinen.

The spending borders on the ridiculous — including plush animals, toy footballs, kazoos, bathtub toy boats, and Thomas the Tank Engine rubber wristbands for managers' meetings.

It also includes very costly expenditures, including $4.3 million on market research and public opinion polling and $4 million on office furniture, in addition to the stair climber.

The letter to Koskinen comes in the wake of news reports that the IRS has been unable to respond to the flood of pre-tax day customer service calls and a threat that refunds could be delayed thanks to reduced funding at the agency.

Peggy Noonan ponders the upcoming election and the role of the media.
Two points on the general feel of the 2016 campaign so far.

One is that in the case of Mrs. Clinton we are going to see the press act either like the press of a great nation—hungry, raucous, alive, demanding—or like a hopelessly sickened organism, a big flailing octopus with no strength in its arms, lying like a greasy blob at the bottom of the sea, dying of ideology poisoning.

Republicans know—they see it every day—that Republican candidates get grilled, sometimes impertinently, and pressed, sometimes brusquely. And it isn’t true that they’re only questioned in this way once they announce, Scott Walker has been treated like this also, and he has yet to announce. Republicans see this, and then they see that Mrs. Clinton isn’t grilled, is never forced to submit to anyone’s morning-show impertinence, is never the object of the snotty question or the sharp demand for information. She gets the glide. She waves at the crowds and the press and glides by. No one pushes. No one shouts the rude question or rolls out the carefully scripted set of studio inquiries meant to make the candidate squirm. She is treated like the queen of England, who also isn’t subjected to impertinent questions as she glides into and out of venues. But she is the queen. We are not supposed to have queens.

Second point: We have simply never had a dynamic like the one that seems likely to prevail next year.

On the Republican side there is a good deep bench and there will be a hell of a fight among serious and estimable contenders. A handful of them—Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Rubio, maybe Bobby Jindal—are first-rate debaters, sharp advancers of a thought and a direction. Their debates, their campaigning, their oppo geniuses, their negative ads—it’s all going to be bloody. Will the American people look at them in 2016 and see dynamism and excitement and youth and actual ideas and serious debate? Will it look like that’s where the lightning’s striking and the words have meaning? Will it fortify and revivify the Republican brand? Or will it all look like mayhem and chaos? Will the eventual winner emerge a year from now too bloodied, too damaged to go on and win in November? Will the party itself look bloody and damaged?

On the Democratic side we have Mrs. Clinton, gliding. If she has no serious competition, will the singularity of her situation make her look stable, worthy of reflexive respect, accomplished, serene, the obvious superior choice? Or will Hillary alone on the stage, or the couch, or in the tinted-window SUV, look entitled, presumptuous, old, boring, imperious, yesterday?

Will it all come down to bloody versus boring?

And which would America prefer?

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Oh, gosh! Is there any human being in the United States who was yearning for a George Pataki candidacy for president?

This chess grandmaster's visit to the bathroom was not as successful as Al Pacino's in The Godfather.

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