August 27, 2012

Posted by orrinj at 9:54 PM

CAN'T SEE THE BODY FOR THE WINGS:

On Foreign Policy, An Enigma (David Ignatius, August 26, 2012, Washington Post)

The case that Romney (and the Republican Party, in general) has been captured by the neocons is made by Robert Merry, editor of The National Interest, a magazine that is a voice for the "realist" camp. Merry argued in his 2005 book "Sands of Empire" that modern Republican foreign-policy thinking has had three wings: the pragmatists, represented by such figures as Brent Scowcroft and James Baker; the nationalists, embodied by hawks such as Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld; and the neoconservatives, whose prominent voices included Paul Wolfowitz, Elliott Abrams and Eliot Cohen.

What happened after Sept. 11, 2001, Merry explained in an interview, was that the nationalists and the neocons joined forces, creating a foreign policy that was at once idealistic and militaristic, which led to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This ascendancy of what Merry calls the "militant Wilsonians" seemed to have been reversed during Bush's second term, but with Romney they seem to be back, stronger than ever. "No doctrine that counters the neocons had any sinews in the GOP, so it became a default position," contends Merry.

Of course, the problem for folks who would prefer a Realist foreign policy--one where we ignore totalitarianism, since it keeps the natives quiet--is that the overwhelming bulk of the GOP is simply Christian and takes the words of the Founding seriously. It is the sinew of the Party that the neocons latched onto.

Posted by orrinj at 5:41 AM

PICKING ON THE RICH AND POWERFUL:

The huge cost of public unions : Spending we can't sustain (MICHAEL MARLOW, 8/24/12, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)

[R]esearch I recently completed finds a solid empirical relationship between public sector unions' concentration and the size and cost of state government, suggesting that what's good for the public sector employee goose might not be good for the taxpayer gander.

Over the last three decades, union membership in the private sector has fallen precipitously, from 24.2% in 1973 to just under 7% in 2011. Over the same period, public sector union membership jumped by 14 points, from 23% to 37%.

The different directions of these trend lines have much to do with the nature of public sector employment. For instance, unlike the private sector, public sector wages that exceed an employee's productivity don't directly threaten employment -- if you need proof of this point, head down to your local DMV office.

The excess cost of overpaid public employees is deflected onto taxpayers. Many states, including my home state of California, are learning the hard way that there's a limit to this tax-and-spend cycle.

The stability of public sector employment is reflected in Bureau of Labor Statistics job tenure data, which find that median tenure for a government employee is anywhere from 37% to 97% higher than in the private sector. And recent research published in the Journal of Economic Perspectives concluded that the salary and benefits of state and local government employees is as much as 21% higher than of private sector employees doing similar work.

And the political power of public workers is undeniable: The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees spent $87.5 million in the 2010 election, leading all independent groups.

Tenured, well-paid and politically powerful -- all would suggest a link between union concentration and the size and cost of government. My study tested this hypothesis, and over the period of 2003 to 2010 found that a 10% increase in public union membership expands government by as much as 4.25%.