Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Giving Credit Where Due...

My last essay, and let's be honest, a great many of my posts to this blog, was an attempt to call out an example of what I consider to be one of the basic flaws of conservatism.

Yet, I have always hoped that my positions on issues are not mere partisan hack-ary. There are reasonable and intelligent conservative people and ideas that I respect, admire, and agree with. I have conservative friends that I enjoy talking issues with because they are thoughtful, they recognize nuance, and they are as willing to consider ideas that don't come from their "side" as I feel I am.

So, after railing against the Logic (or lack thereof) of the Conservative in my last post, here I am to promote the reasoned commentary, and yes - logic - of a conservative, David Brooks. In his NY Times op-ed column yesterday, Follow the Fundamentals, Brooks made some excellent points that I agree with - yet are conservative in nature. Exerpts follow:

Once upon a time, the fact that hundreds of millions of people around the world are rising out of poverty would have been a source of pride and optimism. But if you listen to the presidential candidates, improvements in the developing world are menacing. Their speeches constitute a symphony of woe about lead-painted toys, manipulated currencies and stolen jobs.
In the first place, despite the ups and downs of the business cycle, the United States still possesses the most potent economy on earth.
Second, America’s fundamental economic strength is rooted in the most stable of assets — its values. The U.S. is still an astonishing assimilation machine. It has successfully absorbed more than 20 million legal immigrants over the past quarter-century, an extraordinary influx of human capital. Americans are remarkably fertile. Birthrates are relatively high, meaning that in 2050, the average American will be under 40, while the average European, Chinese and Japanese will be more than a decade older.

The American economy benefits from low levels of corruption. American culture still transmits some ineffable spirit of adventure.
Third, not every economic dislocation has been caused by trade and the Chinese. Between 1991 and 2007, the U.S. trade deficit exploded to $818 billion from $31 billion. Yet as Robert Samuelson has pointed out, during that time the U.S. created 28 million jobs and the unemployment rate dipped to 4.6 percent from 6.8 percent.

That’s because, as Robert Lawrence of Harvard and Martin Baily of McKinsey have calculated, 90 percent of manufacturing job losses are due to domestic forces. As companies become more technologically advanced, they shed workers (the Chinese shed 25 million manufacturing jobs between 1994 and 2004).
Absolutely. Whether it is on the right or left, Demoratic or Republican presidential hopefuls - there is an irrational fear being preached of America's ability to compete in a world market. We can compete anywhere, anytime, in any arena - and politicians and commentators shouldn't grasp for the low-hanging fruit in order to scare people into votes. We don't need to be reactionary - we need to be leading.

Are there perils and downsides to globalization? Absolutely. But nothing that America cannot deal with - especially if we deal with it in a prudent, progressive way. But to bury our head in the sand and scream "It's Mexico's fault" or "It's China's fault" is no answer. As Brooks closes:
I’m writing this column from Beijing. I can look out the window and see the explosive growth. But as the Chinese will be the first to tell you, their dazzling prosperity is built on fragile foundations. In the United States, the situation is the reverse. We have obvious problems. But the foundations of American prosperity are strong. The U.S. still has much more to gain than to lose from openness, trade and globalization.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

The Logic of the Conservative... is a highly influential and widely read blog of the Movement Conservative wing of the conservative movement. Redstate is an excellent place to go read what it is that conservative extremists really think or feel.

Anyway, I read Redstate on occasion to learn what it is conservative extremists are focused on. A significant portion of the time, it's pretty much just about how Hillary is the most terrifying woman in the world, and on a completely different topic how Hillary is the biggest threat to the future of the United States.

Hey, at least they believe in variety.

Occasionally, they write about things other than an irrational fear of Hillary Clinton, and that is often when you can really get to see what it is that the extreme right-wing is thinking. See the logic that they use. And here is an excellent example of how fundamentally flawed conservative thought is today:

Exxon-Mobil's Net Income Declines

This is a post that decries the unfair negative impression the American people have had of the oil industry over the past several years. It is a defense of Big Oil, who are just struggling to get by - at least by the sound of this article. Look at some examples:
It's earnings season in the oil patch. While you might think this is news you could easily get in a lot of different places, there's a reason to call it out here, in a political forum.

That's because Exxon-Mobil's earnings sucked in the third quarter, and oil companies only make mainstream news when they do well.
Prices of refined products like gasoline, kerosene and diesel fuel did not increase as much as crude oil prices. That puts a hurt on the other half of Exxon's business, which is refining and marketing. As a result, Exxon's net income in the third quarter was more than $1 billion less than it was in the third quarter of 2005.
And of course there are huge political implications to all of this. Remember a year ago, when Exxon (and others) were making record net income? What did the sainted tribune of the American people, Hillary Clinton, have to say about that? That's right, she felt that the government should help itself to some of Exxon's obscene profits, which they obviously stole from the pockets of you and me. I don't even want to remember all the boneheaded diaries we had to wade through here at RedState from people who believe that downstream operators in the US form a cartel that can set prices as they see fit.

So now that things aren't looking so obscenely good for Exxon, what is Dame Hillary going to be saying about it? My prediction is nothing.

(See, they can't stop talking about Hillary, even when they are not talking about Hillary.)

Anyway, doesn't that sound awful? Exxon is really struggling. We should really feel sorry for them, right?

Only by applying the logic of the extremist conservative. Why? Look:

Net income fell to $9.41 billion, or $1.70 a share, from $10.5 billion, or $1.77, a year earlier, Irving, Texas-based Exxon said in a statement. Revenue rose 2.8 percent to $102.3 billion, an all-time high.

No. You are not reading that wrong. Net income for XOM in the third quarter was 9.41 BILLION DOLLARS. Yes, that was lower than last year - but it is still 9.41 BILLION DOLLARS.

To the right-wing nutjob apparently: $9.41 billion = things not looking good financially.


I simply believe that conservatism is fundamentally flawed. And this is an example of that. The (lack of) logic that must be engaged to equate $9.41 billion to poor earnings is simply foreign to us average, normal - dare I say THINKING - Americans.

Now, to be clear, I am a believer in the free market. Exxon-Mobil was able to make obscene profits in the third quarter - if that's what the market says, then more power to them. What I do NOT understand, is why our federal government continues to give Big Oil subsidies, when a down quarter for them is only $9.41 billion.

Why don't we use some of that subsidy money to increase medical research, increase education funding, or hey, why don't we do something crazy like fund SCHIP???

Nope, the conservative says. We can't afford to provide healthcare to 10 million children in our nation, because XOM had such a bad quarter, only $9.41 billion after all, they need those subsidies, and probably more.

That's the logic of the conservative.