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The official blog of the National Center for Public Policy Research, covering news, current events and public policy from a conservative, free-market and pro-Constitution perspective.

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Voter Intimidation

Various talk radio hosts have spent a lot of time today talking about claims by some interest groups that the 2004 election will be stolen by one side or another.

Project 21 was on this story a month ago.


Paying for Social Security Partial Privatization

During last night's debate, President Bush was asked how the federal government would find the funds to pay current retirees' Social Security benefits if younger workers were to be permitted to privately invest some of the funds they presently pay in Social Security taxes.

The New York Times has asked the same question. I have taken a stab at answering it:

The New York Times complains that President Bush did not explain how he would pay for partial privatization. Perhaps not for the first time, it is thinking backwards. Partial privatization is designed to reduce the draw on the federal treasury, not to expand it.

Workers today are contributing more money than Social Security needs. The excess tax funds are spent on other things, such as National Public Radio, U.N. dues, the National Endowment for the Arts and other federal expenses that the New York Times supports, but conservatives often do not.

Enacting partial privatization now would reduce the amount of dollars available for discretionary programs the New York Times likes, but workers could pay less Social Security taxes now without current retirees losing a penny in benefits.

What if today's workers continued to be taxed the same 12.4 percent, but the excess amount, or some similar sum (such as 3 percent of payroll), was conservatively invested for the worker's own use after retirement? The answer: Even without benefit cuts, workers wouldn't need so much money from Social Security.

Maybe Social Security, which many people now believe is destined for bankruptcy, needn't be insolvent after all.


Women and Equal Pay

During last night's debate, it was alleged that women in the U.S. are not receiving equal pay for equal work.

This helps set the record straight:

The left-wing has complained about so-called 'pay equity' for years. As the U.S. Senate's Republican Policy Committee has pointed out, however: 'The average wage gap between men and women is 26 cents (and falling). But this figure does not account for factors unrelated to sex discrimination that affect income: age, education, occupation, number of years in the workforce, and experience. Controlling for these factors shows women are actually paid 98 cents for every dollar earned by a man. The remaining 2-cent adjusted wage gap could be caused by sex discrimination, but it could also be caused by measuring errors, unaccounted for differences between men and women, or a combination of these factors. The 2-cent adjusted wage gap could also be more than made up for by the non-monetary benefits of female-dominated jobs, including better supervisors, fewer risks, easier commutes, and more flexible hours. Former Congressional Budget Office Director June O'Neill writes, 'When earnings comparisons are restricted to men and women more similar in their experience and life situations, the measured earnings differentials are typically quite small.''"


Patti Davis on Stem Cells

Patti Davis, Ronald Reagan's daughter, writing in Newsweek:

"I wonder if President Bush could look into the eyes of Christopher Reeve's family and tell them that it's because he values life so deeply that he is preserving clusters of cells in freezers -- cells that resulted from in-vitro fertilization and could be used for embryonic stem cell treatment -- despite the fact that more people will die as a result of his decision."
If Patti Davis can prove that statement, she should stop wasting her time writing for Newsweek and put her talents to work as a research scientist. She also should stop waiting around for federal funding for embryonic stem cell research and show her proof to private financing sources, who, business being business, will gladly fund a sure thing.

The fact is that no one knows if federal funding for additional embryonic stem cell research will ever save even one life.

An additional fact is that embryonic stem cell research beyond the stem cell lines eligible for federal funding is not illegal in the U.S. Davis apparently wants Newsweek readers to believe Bush has made it so. He couldn't even if he wanted to -- he doesn't have the authority.

Davis concludes:

"...never let anyone call our hopes 'false.""
Maybe not her hopes. But her writing sure is.


American Digest and the Bleat

American Digest says readers of James Lileks's The Bleat don't sufficiently appreciate the fullness of that website.


Clinton Scandals Continue

The Clinton-era scandals continue.

Hat tip to Michelle Malkin, who has more related links.


Battleground Poll Results Perplexing

In the newest Bush v. Kerry Battleground Poll, which no doubt will receive much publicity today, I noticed something odd that won't be in many headlines.

Likely voters polled said Kerry would do better at "creating jobs," but said Bush would do better at "keeping America prosperous."

Maybe Battleground respondents were thinking of non-prosperous jobs and/or a prosperous economy without new jobs...?

Sometimes poll results make no sense at all.


U.S.-Canadian Relations: Non-Supportive Without Being Helpful

Since I have written about Canada this week, I'll stick with a theme and recommend a piece on the subject of U.S.-Canadian relations by the incomparable Mark Steyn.

Money quote:

...the two nations of North America are on diverging paths. Take, for example, missile defense. This is an American issue tailor-made for Canadian politics in that it requires absolutely nothing from Canada. It's going to happen anyway, it's got the support of both parties south of the border, and because by "national defense" Americans generally mean "continental defense" we'll get the benefits of it - as we do from the U.S. nuclear deterrent - without putting up a dime. In that sense, it's almost a textbook definition of U.S.-Canadian "cooperation": we get to be supportive without being helpful. Indeed, we don't even have to be supportive. We just have to refrain from being non-supportive. And in return some of that great gushing torrent of Pentagon gravy will come the way of Canadian defense contractors.

But sorry, even that's too much to ask...


NCPPR Director Shot

From the lucky guy himself, David W. Almasi:

In what seems like an annual event, the medical community is not prepared for flu season. This year, because of potential contamination of the vaccines, the number of available shots is currently half of what is expected to be needed.

I was lucky. I went out to the grocery store on Saturday, before the news broke, where I was one of about ten people waiting for shots and the probably the only one under 60. At the time, the nurse administering the shots praised me for being wise beyond my years.

Now, these same people and government officials are asking people my age to willingly forgo being prepared. With the dearth of doses, they are calling for voluntary rationing. Clinics are being cancelled and the ones that aren't closed have people lining up long before they open the doors.

If the American people are acting this way about flu shots, what does this say for the way they will react if our health care system is further liberalized and involuntary rationing of more important procedures are the norm?
The always thought-provoking Galen's Log examines the question: Is the shortage in flu vaccine supply a market or government failure?


Russia's Economic Liberalization Faces a Bear in the Woods

National Center executive director David W. Almasi reports on his experiences at the U.S.-Russian Investment Symposium:

In the 1984 presidential race, Ronald Reagan's campaign wasn't afraid to talk about the bear in the woods. At the time, the bear represented the Soviet Union's strategic threat to world freedom. In the famous commercial, it was noted that not everyone wanted to acknowledge the problem of the bear and asked voters if they felt America should be strong enough to counter its threat. Overwhelmingly, Americans supported Reagan and his policies led to the demise of the Soviet Union.

A relative of the old bear seems to be back. Despite years of reform, the rule of law in Russia is in decline. Elections are suspect, if allowed at all. Restrictions have been placed on the press. There is a climate of fear with regard to the government, and allegations of corruption are rampant.

At the U.S.-Russian Investment Symposium held this week in Washington, everything seemed nice and sunny. Business, government and policy leaders were all smiles. Despite the decline in the rule of law in Russia, this new bear went largely ignored.

During a question-and-answer session, I asked the Russian minister of information technologies and communication, Leonid Reiman, this question:
Despite the best efforts of the business community, the continuing decline of the rule of law in Russia serves to discourage foreign investment. What would you say to those interested in investing in the telecom sector in Russia who are worried about allegations of government corruption and the systematic erosion of the rule of law?
The room became tense. Reiman smiled and tried to laugh it off. He acknowledged the bear of corruption exists but said it is becoming less and less of a problem. The solution? Clear-cutting the forest. He says new moves towards transparency in government will make corruption harder to hide.

Transparency in a country where the broadcast media is controlled by the state and the other media is looking over its shoulders?

My concerns seemed to be shared by speaker Philip Merrill, the chairman and CEO of the Export Import Bank of the United States. In a panel held earlier, he recognized the bear as an impediment to investment. Merrill says the problem is getting worse. To paraphrase him: In Russia's recent past, liberalization of the economy and progress toward dull democraticization could be described as two steps forward and one step back. Today, it is one step forward and two back.


If There Is a Bear

Via Stop the Bleating!, which credits The Volokh Conspiracy: A website featuring old political TV ads.

It has my #1 all-time favorite political commercial, the Reagan-Bush 1984 "Bear in the Woods." (Go to the website's 1984 GOP section and click on the picture of the bear.) The same section also has the classic "Morning in America" commercial (click on the newspaper carrier on a bicycle photo) and another Reagan-Bush '84 classic, "Train." That one still sends chills down my spine.

The 1988 section has one showing former President George H.W. Bush with his grandchildren. Children then; but we are seeing many of them all grown up on the campaign trail now.

So you don't have to ask, they do have the infamous 1964 LBJ "Daisy" commercial.

A note to those who don't like 9-11 footage in their political commericals: Eisenhower's 1952 "The Man from Abilene" makes plenty of use of WWI footage. But if you go to the Ike '52 section, don't watch the commercial labeled "Ike for President" unless you are willing to have his jingle in your head all night...


The Millionaire Next Door

Did John Kerry just tell an audience he can tell that none of them make over $200,000 a year just by looking at them?

I suggest he read this book.

Addendum: Michelle Malkin noticed the same thing.


Putin, the EU and Kyoto: A Double-Cross in the Making?

National Center Senior Fellow Bonner Cohen is attempting to decipher Vladimir's Putin's strategy on Kyoto. He's just written a piece for newspapers nationwide. The Ft. Wayne News-Sentinel is the first paper to publish it.

Money quote:

The wily former spymaster may well be setting Kyoto's proponents up for one of history's grandest double-crosses by signing the treaty and grabbing the billions of dollars in promised payoffs with no intention of ever living up to its terms.

After all, the only way for the European Union or the United Nations to really determine if Russia is complying with Kyoto is to site thousands of monitors on the ground in a vast territory that spans six time zones - or to rely on Russian self-certification.

The first option is not likely to be granted by the xenophobic Russians, while the statistics generated by the second are likely to be doctored beyond all credibility.


The Washington Reagans

Speaking of Canadian resources, Washington Post reporter and columnist David Broder thinks the new Washington D.C. baseball team should be named the "Washington Reagans."

Works for me. (But I'm still going to root for the Pirates.)


The Heritage Foundation, Defense Spending and the Blame America Firsters

You've got to hand it to those Blame America Firsters -- even in the most improbable circumstances, they can find a way to Blame America First.

Consider what this Canadian says in a story appearing in Britain's Independent about the Canadian submarine that has been stranded in the North Atlantic for the last three days:

Steven Staples, a defense analyst at the independent Ottawa think-tank the Polaris Institute, said: "There is no clear reason why we needed these subs. One theory is that the Canadian Navy has come under severe pressure from the United States to have subs so that they could play 'the enemy' in exercises. It has been disastrous for us."
Would this fellow have the world believe that Canada is so weak it can't even handle the role of pretend enemy?

I seem to have a higher opinion of Canada than that fellow, but let's face it, when it comes to self-defense, Canada sits complacent under our nuclear umbrella, not pulling its own weight. Canada spends 1.1 percent of its GDP on defense, compared to 3.4 percent for the United States (2002 figures; source: U.S. Defense Department). The U.S. in 2002 spent $350 billion on defense, Canada, $8.17 billion.

Even when it comes to multinational peacekeeping operations, something you'd think would be a little more to the pacifist taste, Canada still doesn't outclass the U.S. The U.S. spent $669 million on this in 2001-2002, while Canada spent $47 million (as a percentage of GDP, the two nations' contributions were roughly equivalent, at .75 and .76 percent respectively).

To put that $47 million figure in perspective, Canada spent less on international peacekeeping in 2002 than The Heritage Foundation, a conservative DC think-tank without a penchant for taking taxpayer dollars, took in in revenue that same year ($52 million). What's more, can anyone doubt that Heritage staffers could kick %$#@ if necessary in a foreign land?

Canada can be a better steward of its own national security. And the Polaris Institute should stop whining. What goes on in the Canadian Navy is the Canadian Navy's responsibility, and no loyal Canadian should want to have it any other way.

(P.S. For a quick guide to which nations have backbone and which would need help to take on even a think-tank, click here.)

Addendum: All in good fun, a Heritage staffer responds here.


Dick Cheney and Cheryl Tiegs: More Alike Than you Might Think

Visit BeldarBlog for a funny story about the vice presidential debate... and supermodel Cheryl Tiegs.


Leonid Reiman and the Russian Business Climate

One of the featured speakers at two prestigious symposiums in Washington this week on ways to promote new U.S.-Russian investment and business is a Russian government minister around whom allegations of corruption swirl.

Since the rule of law is a cornerstone of economic prosperity, this transcends irony. In fact, it is pitiful.

Specifically, Leonid Reiman, the Minister of IT and Communications of the Russian Federation, has landed prominent speaking roles at this week's sessions of the U.S.-Russia Business Council and the U.S.-Russian Investment Symposium. (Other participants at the latter event include two cabinet Secretaries, Commerce Secretary Don Evans and Energy Secretary Spence Abraham. U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage is associated with the former, as is Secretary of State Powell himself, who attended the U.S.-Russia Business Council's 2002 meeting.)

Rumors are rampant that numerous journalists are investigating allegations that Reiman has used his senior position in the Russian government for his own benefit.

Some of these rumors have made it into print:

Leonid Reiman, a key member of the St. Petersburg FSB group, deprived two leading Russian mobile phone companies of their frequencies so as to benefit a company favored by him. Fortunately, his decision was reversed by the government after public uproar.

-A Window on Russia Commentary by Anders Aslund, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
International investors will not have confidence in Russia unless and until they are convinced the corruption and abuse of the legal system are in its past and that abusers are dealt with. We Americans do our best service to Russia -- a nation with which we potentially could become fast friends -- when we model the behavior that leads to a just, thriving market economy. We can start by limiting our more prestigious invitations to those who have a reputation for advancing the principles under which prosperity and democracy thrive.


The AFL-CIO and Overtime

Via Instapundit comes a link to a story and video of AFL-CIO members attacking Bush-Cheney offices in Orlando and Miami, apparently to voice complaints over the Bush Administration's new overtime rules.

Gotta love the softly nuanced way organized labor expresses its leadership's point of view. (Not.)

Here is the truth about the new overtime rules, explained for your convenience without even a dollop of violence.

Addendum: A note from reader "EB": Being a student of history (I've lived a lot of it) and not to put too fine a point on the comparison; the behavior of some of the unions in this election is reminiscent of the brown shirts of the '30s and the communist goon squads of the '50s.

A well-argued and factual defense of one's position will always be more persuasive than this bully-boy, "I aint't got a brain in my head" activity. The rad-libs, like the silent Islamic majority, need to get up off their backsides and loudly deplore such behavior. It's just plain un-American.


Why Are Medical Costs High?

I presume it is because of the VP candidates' debate Tuesday night, but for the last hour or so we've been getting a lot of hits on one of our newsletters from last year, probably because of the lead article, "Why Are Medical Costs So High? Courtrooms Are a Culprit."


Putin, Wanniski and Dixie Lee Ray

It is fair to say that I am not a huge fan of all the opinions expressed on Jude Wanniski's website,, but I did enjoy Wanniski's open letter to Vladimir Putin on global warming posted there today.